Announcing Guelph’s Official Bird…

The Black-Capped Chickadee has been chosen as Guelph’s official bird. Honorable mentions go to Chimney Swift and Green Heron.

A bold, inquisitive bird, the Black-Capped Chickadee can adapt to almost any environment and may even feed from friendly “human” hands. Small and short-billed with a black cap and throat, the chickadee communicates with its flock-mates using fifteen different calls. The best known is the chickadee-dee-dee that gives the bird its name.

The Black-Capped Chickadee is also the provincial bird of New Brunswick and state bird of Massachusetts and Maine.

Here are ten more interesting facts:

1. Chickadees usually mate for life.

2. These birds build nests in holes, mainly dead trees or rotten branches.

3. The females lay six to eight white eggs, marked with reddish-brown spots. Eggs are incubated for 12 to 13 days, until they hatch. Chicks grow quickly and fledge in 14 to 18 days.

4. Their wing beats are about 27 times per second. In comparison, a hummingbird’s wing beats are 80 beats per second.

5. The chickadee possesses excellent spatial memory. During the warmer months, it hides seeds and other foods in different spots. The bird can remember the hiding places a month after catching the food.

6. These birds observe and adapt the food-finding behavior of successful flock-mates. Unproductive activity is ignored.

7. On cold winter nights, the chickadees can reduce their body temperatures by as much as 12 degrees Celsius (from their normal temperature of 42 degrees Celsius) to conserve energy.

8. A frequent visitor to bird feeders, the chickadee is a ravenous eater, especially just before dusk. It can gain as much as ten percent of its body weight each day.

9. Research has shown that the survival rate of chickadees doubles when they have access to feeders during cold weather. In the winter, these birds require twenty times more food than they do in the summer.

10. Their favorite foods: sunflower seeds, suet, and coconut.

Virtual Book Tour: My Dearest Miss Fairfax

I’m happy to welcome author Jeanette Watts. Today, Jeanette shares ten important rules about dancing and her new release, My Dearest Miss Fairfax.

Here’s Jeanette!

I am a dance teacher. I teach belly dance, and swing, and tango, and foxtrot, and waltz, and polka, and any number of other historical dances. I started a French Cancan troupe and ran it for 20 years (it is now under the direction of one of the dancers from the troupe, and still going strong!). I adore moving to music, and I adore the process of teaching people to dance. It’s a beautiful, powerful process of self-discovery that everyone goes through when they learn to dance.

Every single one of my books has some dance references snuck in them. Which was really fun for my current book, “My Dearest Miss Fairfax,” because Jane Austen’s “Emma” spends a lot of time and attention to scenes that talk about all the decision-making that goes into throwing a ball. I laughed with recognition as I was re-reading the discussion about where to put the food, and will the hall be big enough, and where do we put the music, and who will be able to come/did we give the people on the invite list sufficient notice? I have those same conversations, all the time.

So, here is my contribution:

10 Important Rules About Dancing

1. Unless you really like performing, you can ignore all that “Dancing with the Stars” nonsense. Dancing is for everyone. It is something you do WITH people, not AT them.

2. The whole point of dancing is to create moments of meaningful contact with other people. It has been said over and over again: “no one cares if you dance well. Just get up and dance.” It’s true. Better to get up and try than to sit there like a lump and refuse to participate. It is actually spelled out in dance manuals in the early 1800s, “If you are not inclined to dance, don’t come to the party.” (Notice how that contrasts with Mr. Darcy’s behavior at the ball where we first see him! He is in violation of the social code of the time, and Lizzie’s indignation is more than just her injured vanity.)

3. Stop agonizing over mistakes. Dancing is done in the moment. The music goes on, so the mistakes are almost immediately part of the past, not the present. When something goes wrong, shake it off with a smile or a laugh and let it go. (Unlike Mr. Collins, who makes his dancing worse by constantly apologizing for the last mistake – which contributes to him making another one!)

4. A smile for your partner is worth more than you can imagine. If you are a beginner, there is nothing wrong with admitting to your partner that you are new at this, and a smile makes partners much more charitable to you than a frown. If you have been dancing a long time, remember what it was like to be a beginner who needed some reassurance. Go out of your way to make new dancers feel welcome: they will become your favorite dance partners soon, if they keep coming back. They won’t come back if you scare them away with a frown.

5. If you are going to a dance (English Country Dance for Jane Austen-era dances), try to get to the class ahead of time. If you are a beginner, you will feel much more comfortable having a preview of the material. If you are not a beginner, it is a kindness to go to the class anyway. Beginners learn faster with more experience points on the dance floor. And even for experienced dancers, it can be good to learn what the local dialect is. (Yes, dances have local dialects!)

6. Wear appropriate shoes. This is for safety as well as comfort. The wrong shoes get in your way while trying to dance, and it is easy to injure yourself while trying to dance in a pair of gym shoes. If your foot stops but your knee or ankle doesn’t, it’s not going to go well. Dance shoes slide along the floor as you push your foot along it. But you also don’t want something too slippery. Sliding so much that you are out of control is a great way to slip and fall and injure yourself in a different way.

7. There are lots of kinds of dancing in the world. Again, “Dancing with the Stars” and Arthur Murray studios don’t even begin to touch on the great, wide dance universe. Irish dancing means you get to dance to that fabulous bouncy Irish music, with minimal physical contact with other dancers, just shaking hands. Salsa dancing, and bachata, and Brazilian Zouk, and blues has a lot more physical contact. The last two are kind of like very, very fancy prom dancing. Give your partner a hug (who doesn’t want to go hug people after two years of quarantine!), now stay there and do some dancing. Scottish and English Country dancing, and their American cousin, contradance (the dances from Jane Austen’s books) are figured dances. Some footwork required, but less complicated than Irish dancing. The focus is on the figures. A line of couples go through the figures of the dance, and you dance with several people in the course of one dance. Each dance is a new configuration of usually 4-6 figures. Then you find a new partner, form new lines, and start a new dance.

8. Leading and following are two mechanical parts of a whole, not a judgement. Our modern world is a weird place. I have heard and read many a biased commentary upon leading and following. Generally, the idea is that following is a subservient role. This prejudice is often embraced as truth, and I’m sorry, that’s a completely ignorant attitude. No one says a musician is subservient because they are following the conductor.

There are simply two skill sets in partner dancing. The lead makes suggestions, the follow interprets them. Historically, the expectation was that men lead and women follow. But watch an episode of American Bandstand in the 1950s: there are plenty of girls dancing together. One of them is leading, one is following. They can even decide to trade roles in the middle of the dance. (One of my lovely dance friends from Massachusetts and I will trade roles back and forth many times over the course of one dance! It’s heaps of fun. Of course, it helps that he and I are both perfectly comfortable with both leading and following – we’ve both been dance teachers for a long time.)

Following is not in the least a passive skill set. You don’t just hang on and let your partner drive. You have to have a good frame, good footwork, and think quickly. Every small gesture might be a signal to lead a move. It is like playing defense in basketball. You are anticipating signals and body language and comparing what information you have available against all the dance vocabulary in your head, and making a decision upon how you intend to respond. You are doing this every 6 or 8 beats of music.

Leading means listening to the music, listening to your partner’s responses, and also checking the list in your head of all known dance vocabulary and selecting which ones fit the occasion. But just because you’re driving the car right now doesn’t mean that you are master and commander and your partner’s only job is to obey. You are making suggestions, not orders, and you are constantly adapting to this partner’s responsiveness. Dance is a PARTNERship.

9. Be courteous. This can take all kinds of forms. Don’t talk while the teacher is trying to teach. The person you are talking to probably wants to hear what the teacher is saying. If you are swing dancing, don’t do aerials in a crowded room. Save that kind of showing off for performances. No one will be impressed with you when someone gets hurt. Watch for “wallflowers.” I don’t care what gender role you are following; even if you are at a Vintage dance dressed in a hoopskirt and trying to be historically accurate with ball cards (which were not used yet in the Regency era), if someone has sat out two dances, go over and ask for a dance. Or send your spouse/significant other over to go ask that person for a dance. As a Vintage dancer myself, I like to use the phrase, “Are you sitting out on purpose, or would you care for a dance partner?” because I am living in a world full of gentlemen who will dance with me, even if their feet hurt and what they REALLY want to do is sit this dance out. I like to give them an “out” if they want it. It’s part of being courteous.

10.All dance communities are not the same. There are great dance communities full of wonderful, people, who are great playmates, and your life will be richer for having them in your world. But I have seen many, many toxic dance groups. I have watched dance teachers insult their students, tear down their egos, and then slowly give a little bit of praise now and then, making their students eager for those little nuggets of approval. Those students can pay a fortune in dance lessons, just to earn those little bits of praise that eventually rebuild their ego. It’s horrifying. I always warn my dance students to watch out for those kinds of groups and teachers. You don’t need to take that kind of abuse. It’s NOT you, it’s them. Walk away. Find someplace else to go dancing.

The most important thing that matters is finding a dance community that meets YOUR needs. If you want to perform, find dance groups that perform. If you don’t want people watching you dance, you don’t need to be on a stage. If you go to a swing dance, or an English Country dance, no one is watching you dance. Everyone is busy dancing. The people sitting on the side? They are wishing they were on the dance floor but they don’t have a partner. If you are competitive, studio ballroom and Irish dancing has a lot of competitions. If you are NOT competitive (that’s me. I do not acknowledge that anyone out there has the right to judge dancing. Get off your butt and dance, jerk!), there is a ton of dancing that’s done for fun, not levels and medals.

Blurb

How much would you gamble for true love? Jane Fairfax dreaded her future as a governess. But genteel solitude seemed her fate. Then handsome, charming, rich Frank Churchill asked to marry her – IF his rich aunt agreed. If their secret engagement was discovered, Jane would be ruined. Frank seemed worth the risk; but the stakes got higher when the aunt refused her consent!

Excerpt

Mr. Churchill caught the end of one of the long ribbons from her bonnet, which were flying madly in the strong breeze. He toyed with it for a long while, then looked up into her eyes. “Do you believe in love at first sight?” he asked.

“No, I don’t suppose I do,” Jane answered. Her heart started beating harder. That was a lie. Maybe her breath was catching in her throat because she was lying: she fell in love with him the moment she saw him, rescuing the poor store clerk. Or maybe it was because he was standing so close to her, just on the other end of her bonnet ribbon. She felt her cheeks growing warm, and tried to talk herself out of blushing. He was not standing any closer to her than when they danced together, or sat on the same bench at the pianoforte. Why should it fluster her that he was wrapping the end of her bonnet ribbon around his fingers like that?

“Neither did I.” He tied a knot into the very end of the ribbon, then caught the other flying ribbon, and did the same to its end. “I thought love requires mutual respect and understanding, and complementary temperaments that can only be discovered with a judicious application of time and conversation.”

Jane hid her trembling hands inside her muff. She wished there was a way to hide the fact that she was trembling all over. “I understood you from the first moment I saw you,” she admitted, her voice little more than a whisper.

Author Bio and Links

Jeanette Watts has written three Jane Austen-inspired novels, two other works of historical fiction, stage melodramas, television commercials, and humorous essays for Kindle Vella.

When she is not writing, she is either dancing, sewing, or walking around in costume at a Renaissance festival talking in a funny accent and offering to find new ladies’ maids for everyone she finds in fashionably-ripped jeans.

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads | Pinterest | Instagram | Amazon

Giveaway

Jeanette Watts will be awarding a crazy quilt tea cosy to a randomly drawn winner via Rafflecopter during the tour. Find out more here.

Follow Jeanette on the rest of her Goddess Fish tour here.

10 Interesting Facts About My Protagonist – Chloe McIntyre

I’m happy to welcome back multi-published author Linda Bradley. Today, Linda shares ten interesting facts about the protagonist of her new release, Unbranded.

1. At the age of seven, Chloe McIntyre first appeared in my debut novel, Maggie’s Way. Chloe was a supporting character with a mission to make friends. She was also a supporting character in Maggie’s Fork in the Road, Maggie’s Montana, and A Montana Bound Christmas. In my new release—Unbranded, Chloe has grown into a determined young woman and is the star.

2. Chloe can ride and wrangler better than any hired hand.

3. Chloe would rather spend her life wrangling and ranching than being married and having a family.

4. Chloe was raised by her father and her grandfather on the family’s 617 ranch. Her relationship with her mother is rocky, and they rarely see each other. Chloe is everything Montana. Her mother is pure Hollywood. The two women spend more time trying to change each other than appreciating unique differences.

5. Chloe is like the Doctor Dolittle of her grandfather’s Montana ranch. There isn’t an animal that doesn’t love her.

6. Chloe is as close to the ranch foreman, Trout as she is to her father and grandfather. Their relationship consists of lively banter, honesty, and life lessons.

7. Chloe was not a strong reader growing up, but thanks to neighbor, Maggie Abernathy, now stepmom, Chloe loves reading and has developed an interest in poetry.

8. Chloe’s desire to be independent drives her ambition.

9. Chloe does not accept coming in second very well. Her box of childhood rodeo trophies is proof.

10. Chloe’s habit of taking in strays included taking in broken people. Despite her father’s request to limit the animals, Chloe’s heart does the talking when she meets an animal with purpose.

Blurb

Threatened by the unexpected, a devoted rancher refuses to compromise her ambition or her legacy.

CHLOE MCINTYRE is determined to become the co-CEO of her grandfather’s Montana ranch, but her father isn’t ready to become partners—yet.

Jaded memories of her parents’ shotgun wedding gone wrong cloud her attraction for best friend Matt Cooper when she discovers she’s pregnant—with his baby. Chloe believes raising a child isn’t in her genes, and she doesn’t expect a marriage proposal. She keeps her condition a secret to hold her position on the ranch and continue what she does best: wrangling strays and working alongside hired hands.

After her father announces his first choice for co-CEO, a wild ride jeopardizes the pregnancy, and Chloe questions life choices. Will the cowgirl grit she has inherited from her grandmother be enough to rein in her disappointment, or will she walk away from everything that could flourish into love?

Endorsement

“Linda Bradley’s magical manipulation of words creates a symphony in the reader’s mind, building lasting impressions to savor. If you love young women with grit and determination, then this is the story for you.” – Roni Hall, author of Montana Wild and Third Man on the Left

Buy Links

Amazon US | Amazon CA | Amazon UK | Amazon AU

Author Bio and Links

Linda’s inspiration comes from her favorite authors and life itself. Her character-driven stories integrate humor found in everyday situations, family drama, and forever love. Her distinct voice creates memorable journeys and emotion.

Linda’s been a finalist in the Booksellers Best Contest and Romance Reviews Readers’ Choice Awards. Linda lives in Michigan with her artist husband, sons, and rescue dog. Linda loves art, animals, and stories with hope and heart.

Website | Facebook Author Page | Book Bub | Amazon

More Artwork by Linda Bradley

A Unique Perspective on Camping

I’m happy to welcome back bestselling author Liz Flaherty. Today, Liz shares her perspective on camping and her new release, Life’s Too Short for White Walls.

Here’s Liz!

1. I don’t do it. But don’t think too much of that—I wish I did it. However, I’m at a time of my life that I want the hardest work I do on “off-duty” times to be deciding where we’re going to have dinner.

2. Camping creates the most beautiful memories. Decades after many camping weekends with my friend Shirley and her parents, I remember hayrides, firesides, cute boys, instant friends we walked campgrounds with, square dancers, and the most wonderful food.

3. Camping creates community. Shirley’s parents made and kept friends from among other campers. My daughter and son-in-law have done the same thing.

4. If you are camping in a tent a long way from restrooms, the first thing you will need to do when you lie down in your sleeping bag is go to the bathroom.

5. Campgrounds are fun to create for fiction titles. Believe me, everyone will want to go to Banjo Creek Cabins and Campground after they read Life’s Too Short for White Walls.

6. Glamping is a wonderful alternative to camping. Other than the fact that I think it would be a pain to haul or drive your house around with you, motor homes and travel trailers have lovely amenities to recommend them. I am frankly horrified at how much they cost, but then, I’m horrified by motel prices “in season,” too.

7. There is intimacy to camping. I’m a “heart on my sleeve” girl anyway, but sharing a campfire with girlfriends (and wine) must surely be one of the most therapeutic things in the world. My only experience with this is gathering around a fireplace at a writers’ retreat, but it was wonderful. Crickets in the background and a circle of lawn chairs would only make it better.

8. This may be a stretch, but I think a campfire creates a level playing field. Everyone smells like smoke. Designer jeans, sweatshirt, and windbreaker don’t look any better than the ones off the clearance rack at Walmart. If it’s rained—which it usually does while camping, doesn’t it? —everyone’s hair is frizzy and hastily applied lipstick looks the same whether it cost $25 or $3.99 a tube.

9. You don’t have to like hot dogs or marshmallows to like roasting them, nor do you have to like s’mores to enjoy squishing them together for a kid waiting anxiously for you to hand it to them.

10. The lyrics to Cole Porter’s “Don’t Fence Me In.” Yes, those. I was so surprised when the setting of Life’s Too Short for White Walls was a campground. It was intended to be Joss’s grandparents’ farm, but somewhere between her adolescence and her search for a safe place half a lifetime later, it became a campground owned by a retired helicopter pilot and college professor Ezra McIntire. I was also happy. I love their story. I hope you do, too.

Blurb

Still reeling from her divorce, Joss Murphy flees to Banjo Bend, Kentucky, where she’d been safe and happy as a child. The family farm is now a campground. Weary and discouraged, she talks owner Ezra McIntire into renting her a not-quite-ready cabin.

With PTSD keeping him company, Ez thrives on the seclusion of the campground. The redhead in Cabin Three adds suggestions to his improvement plans, urging color and vibrancy where there was none.

Neither is looking for love, yet the attraction they share is undeniable. Can the comfort of campfires, hayrides, and sweet kisses bring these two lost souls together?

Buy Links

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Apple Books

Author Bio and Links

Liz Flaherty is rather bewildered by where she’s at in life. She doesn’t feel…er…elderly, but the truth is that she is. The Magnificent Seven grands have grown up on her, her own kids are all now older than she is, and her husband Duane has the same firm hold on her heart he’s always had.

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Newsletter Signup

Giveaway

Liz Flaherty will be awarding a $5 Amazon gift card to a randomly drawn winner via Rafflecopter during the tour. Find out more here.

Virtual Book Tour: horse/man

I’m happy to welcome equestrian and author Julia Merritt. Today, Julia shares equine tips and her debut novel, horse/man.

1. Horses are wonderful creatures with far more intelligence and ability than they have been given credit for. There’s new research coming out every day that illuminates difference facets of their capabilities, and a growing number of equestrians who want to honour and work with horses as partners using their language and perspective.

2. Horses are a mirror of ourselves, and they will teach the humans that interact with them – whether the humans want to learn or not! If you become involved in horses, make sure you invest in some serious self-reflection. The journey is very rewarding.

3. There’s a discipline for everyone! Whether you prefer the adrenaline rush of galloping over fences cross-country, or having a quiet walk together, there are a multitude of option. You don’t even have to ride to be involved and find great joy in them.

4. There are many ways to participate as an athlete, and you don’t have to own a horse to do it. You can take lessons and book extra practice rides, lease a horse owned by someone else, or even find an arrangement to trade stable work for riding time.

5. Horses may seem like a thing of the past, but there are millions in North America, and there’s undoubtedly a community of horse people near you. If it’s not the discipline you like, they can probably refer you to the right people in the area.

6. The financial costs of being involved in horses are scalable to many levels of income. The glittery photos from the top levels of the sport may look intimidating, but there are many ways to contain the costs – and having to count our pennies is more common than you may think.

7. Horse people can be a little eccentric, often preferring animals to humans. If you find someone who’s unfriendly or bad at business, don’t let it spoil your whole experience of the sport. There are many people who are trying to make the sport more welcoming, so pay the crusty ones no mind and find someone who cares about new riders.

8. Equestrian sport is something that a person of any age or ability can do. Riders can be eighty years old, have a physical disability, be two years old, or anywhere in-between. Not every horse or stable can help every rider, but once you find the right match, it is a wonder. The horse equalizes and unites us.

9. Horses are livestock, not house pets. They have physical and mental needs that are very different from dogs and cats, and these must be respected. When people ignore those needs, the animals struggle.

10. Horses will captivate you. You can spend a lifetime learning about them. They will delight you and break your heart, but the effort is worth it.

Blurb

What happens when your entire identity revolves around a way of life that is becoming obsolete?

In the 1920s, as Canada progresses through the Industrial Revolution, horses are still the rural engines of survival. As a child Adam lives this reality on his family’s farm in the Ottawa Valley, planning to take over one day and have a family of his own. When his parents die during the Great Depression, nineteen-year-old Adam is disinherited in favour of his brother and is forced to move to the city to find work. Without a formal education his choices are few, yet he finds a place to use his horsemanship skills in the dwindling forces of the Canadian cavalry based near Montreal. There he finds pride in being a mounted soldier, and friendship with his fellow dragoons. But the cavalry units are mechanized by the beginning of World War Two, and when Adam is sent to Europe, he must abandon his equine partners for trucks and tanks. In the catastrophic experience of war, he will lose everything once again.

Broken in body and spirit, he returns to Canada where he must confront the question of survival in a world that doesn’t seem to have a place for an injured soldier. Full of poetic reflections on what it means to work with horses, horse/man is a powerful story about a man searching for dignity and connection in the face of a rapidly shifting world.

Excerpt

Adam got onto his knees for a better view, holding on to the side of the wagon.

The car revealed itself to be a shiny Model T. Perhaps the driver, like the horses, could not resist the lure of moving in the sunshine. Adam watched the car bump slowly over the ruts, advancing towards them. Grey smoke wisped behind it.

Ciaran slowed the team to a walk, and they could hear the engine, a hum that grew to a rumble. Pete and Jack jerked their heads as it got close, banging into each other.

“Go on, get up,” Ciaran growled. The horses’ ears twisted sideways and forwards, trying to decide between the driver or the instinct to flee. The wagon’s tongue rattled as their legs jostled.

The car driver slowed and lifted his hand as he passed the wagon. Ciaran raised his hand in response, the other clenched on the lines attached to Jack and Pete’s gaping mouths. When the car had gone safely by, he reached over, picked the buggy whip out of its holder, and smacked each rump with the corded lash.

“Go on, trot!” he commanded, loosening the lines. The team straightened out and carried on with their jobs. Adam stared at the receding vehicle, wrinkling his nose at the stench of the fumes.

Buy Links

Amazon US | Amazon CA | Indigo | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository | Smashwords

Author Bio and Links

Julia Merritt has been captivated by horses ever since she could see out of the car window. Then she grew up and became a public library CEO and certified animal bodyworker. She lives in Ontario, Canada, with her thoroughbred horses and smooth collie dogs. This is her first novel.

Connect with Julia Merritt:

Website | Facebook | Instagram | TikTok | Goodreads

We’re giving away 100 e-copies of horse/man, the new historical fiction novel by Julia Merritt. Don’t miss your chance to win! Click to enter here.

Giveaway

Julia Merritt will be awarding a $15 Amazon/Barnes & Noble gift card to a randomly drawn winner via Rafflecopter during the tour. Find out more here.

Happy April!

This month’s name comes from the Latin “aperire” which means “to open.” An appropriate choice for a time of revival after a cold winter season.

Here are 10 interesting facts about April:

1. Originally the month had only 29 days. A 30th day was added when Julius Caesar established the Julian calendar.

2. During April, birds migrate north and smaller animals come out of their burrows.

3. The month’s birthstone is the diamond, a stone well-known for its longevity, strength, and beauty.

4. There are two birth flowers for April: the daisy and the sweet pea. The sweet pea signifies bliss and pleasure while daisies represent childhood innocence, loyalty, and purity.

5. People born between April 1 and April 19 fall under the sign of Aries, and those born later in the months are under Taurus. Aries are seen as passionate and independent trailblazers while Taureans are often ambitious and trustworthy.

6. Famous people born in April include Sir Alec Guinness (April 2), Marlon Brando (April 3), Bette Davis (April 5), William Wordsmith (April 7), Loretta Lynn (April 14), Leonardo DaVinci (April 15), Queen Elizabeth (April 21), and William Shakespeare (April 23).

7. After a 1500-year break, the first Olympics of the modern era took place on April 16, 1896 in Athens, Greece.

8. One of the most well-known dates of the month is April Fools’ Day. Some believe the date was inspired by Geoffrey Chaucer’s story, “Nun’s Priest Tale,” in Canterbury Tales. The whole month celebrates comedy: April is National Humor Month.

9. April has also been designated as Alcohol Awareness Month, Financial Literacy Month, National Autism Awareness Month, National Parkinson’s Awareness Month, National Volunteer Month, and Stress Awareness Month.

10. Earth Day is celebrated on April 22. Other April observances include National Peanut Butter and Jelly Day (April 2), National No Housework Day (April 7), National Hug Your Dog Day (April 10), National Garlic Day (April 19), and International Jazz Day (April 30).

Honoring Madeleine Albright

A woman of great passion and intelligence, Madeleine Albright served as the first female Secretary of State in American history. During her tenure (1997- 2001), she worked to advance human rights, curb nuclear weapons, enlarge NATO, and mend Arab-Israeli relations. A fierce advocate for democracy, she received many awards and accolades, including the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Madeleine Albright passed away yesterday (March 23, 2022) at the age of 84.

My favorite quotations from Madeleine Alright:

It took me quite a long time to develop a voice, and now that I have it, I am not going to be silent.

Our collective experience has shown that when women have the power to make their own choices, good things happen.

I have very set and consistent principles, but I am flexible on tactics.

I was taught to strive not because there were any guarantees of success but because the act of striving is in itself the only way to keep faith with life.

Whatever the job you are asked to do at whatever level, do a good job because your reputation is your résumé.

There is a special place in hell for women who don’t help other women.

The difference between humans and other mammals is that we know how to accessorize.

The best book, like the best speech, will do it all—make us laugh, think, cry and cheer—preferably in that order.

History is written backwards but lived forwards.

The real question is: Who has the responsibility to uphold human rights? The answer to that is: Everyone.

Beyond Spilled Milk

Today is National Don’t Cry Over Spilled Milk Day, a day set aside to move beyond past disappointments and setbacks.

In its oldest form, the proverb was “No weeping for shed milk,” first coined by James Howell in 1659. While the proverb has evolved, it still retains its original intent: One cannot change what is done and crying over it serves no purpose.

Here are my Go-To quotations whenever I encounter setbacks:

You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream. Aristotle

When we focus on our gratitude, the tide of disappointment goes out and the tide of love rushes in. Kristin Armstrong

Life is all about setbacks. A life lived without disappointment is a life lived in a cocoon. People have recovered from far worse setbacks. Tony Clark

Our greatest weakness lies in giving up. The most certain way to succeed is always to try just one more time. Thomas Edison

We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope.
Martin Luther King

The size of your success is measured by the strength of your desire, the size of your dream, and how you handle disappointment along the way. Robert Kiyosaki

What do you do when disappointment comes? When it weighs on you like a rock, you can either let it press you down until you become discouraged, even devastated, or you can use it as a stepping-stone to better things. Joyce Meyer

The beauty is that through disappointment you can gain clarity, and with clarity comes conviction and true originality. Conan O’Brien

You may be disappointed if you fail, but you are doomed if you don’t try.
Beverly Sills

Disappointment to a noble soul is what cold water is to burning metal; it strengthens, tempers, intensifies, but never destroys it. Eliza Tabor

Do you have a Go-To quotation? Please share in the comments.

Ten Favorite Travel Destinations

I’m happy to welcome back Wild Rose Press author Margot Johnson. Today, Margot shares her favorite travel destinations and her new release, Let it Melt.

Here’s Margot!

Let it Melt is book Two in the Merilee Tours series.

Merilee reinvents her boring life by launching a tour business which leads to fun adventures and surprising romance. In Let it Snowball, she takes her guests to bakeries in three different towns to sample Christmas cookies. In Let it Melt, she hosts a Valentine’s Sweetheart Tour to a country restaurant and to a café in another town for dessert.

Merilee’s tours are based around the fictional town of Goldview, Saskatchewan, the Canadian prairie province where I live. Like Merilee, I love to visit different places whether close to home or farther afield.

Here are ten of my favorite travel destinations, many of them in SK, Canada’s sunniest province!

1. Moose Jaw, SK – a city with a small-town feel, I set my first book, Love Takes Flight, there. Legend has it that Al Capone hid out in tunnels under the city, and it has a great mineral spa for a relaxing soak.

2. Waskesiu, SK – This touristy town sits on the shores of a lake in Prince Albert National Park in northern Saskatchewan. Our family visits every year to breathe the fresh, pine-scented air, hang out at the beach, and watch for wildlife. Elk often cruise the town, and you might see a bear along the road.

3. Madge Lake, SK – Another beautiful lake setting in Saskatchewan where our family has started an annual holiday tradition.

4. Eastend, SK – This small town is best known for the nearby discovery of a Tyrannosaurus Rex skeleton nicknamed “Scotty” in 1994. We stayed in a country cottage and had fun exploring the area.

5. Niagara Falls & Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario – The falls and scenery are amazing, and the area is full of tourist attractions, historic sites, and quaint shops.

6. Quebec City – My daughters and I holidayed there and soaked up some history, sampled poutine, and practiced our French.

7. Prince Edward Island – I only made a short stop there partway through a business trip, but I’d love to return. It’s the setting for the Anne of Green Gables books, and it boasts distinctive, red soil.

8. New York City – Rick and I honeymooned there, and I’ll never forget the excitement of attending Wicked and Jersey Boys on Broadway and seeing all the famous sights in person.

9. Disney World, Florida – Because who doesn’t love nonstop fun—with or without kids.

10. Nuevo Vallarta, Mexico – There’s no better place to escape winter than this peaceful area with its beautiful beaches and perfect weather. I can’t wait to book tickets when it’s safe to travel.

Blurb

How on earth did Jill, a single divorcee, land on a romantic Valentine’s Sweetheart Tour for couples? Worse, she’s paired with Jack, her daughter’s brash father-in-law, and everyone thinks he’s her valentine. Stranded in a Canadian prairie blizzard, how soon can she kiss this awkward evening goodbye?

Long divorced, Jack would love to charm Jill with his toned body and dynamic personality, but his wisecracks and obsession with fitness get in the way—especially when he nabs a post at the same school where she teaches.

Even the most romantic month of the year can’t melt their differences and sweeten Jill’s feelings…or can it?

Read/Buy Links

Amazon | Barnes and Noble | Kobo | Goodreads

Author Bio and Links

Margot Johnson writes feel-good stories of dreams, family, and romance.

She is the author of two sweet romance novels, LOVE TAKES FLIGHT and LOVE LEADS THE WAY, and two novellas, LET IT SNOWBALL and LET IT MELT. Her characters can’t possibly find their happy endings…or can they?

Before turning her focus to the fun writing life, Margot held leadership roles in human resources and communications. Her motto is “Dream big and work hard.”

When not writing, she loves to connect with family and friends, volunteer with SK Writers Guild, and walk at least 10,000 steps a day (except when it’s minus 40!)

Margot lives in the Canadian prairies with her amazing husband and adorable golden retriever.

Website | Facebook | Twitter

My Favorite Cozy Mysteries

I’m happy to welcome award-winning author Nancy Raven Smith. Today, Nancy shares her favorite cozy mysteries and new release, Bushwacked in the Outback.

Here’s Nancy!

While I enjoy many mystery genres, this is a list of my favorite cozy mystery series. Some are old, some are new, and the list is in no particular order. It’s in no particular order. Things that I enjoy most in cozies are well written original characters, unusual locations, humor, suspense, adventure, and the unexpected. And of course, my top ten list should probably be my top fifty to include all the ones I truly enjoy. I hope you’ll discover a series that you’re not familiar with and enjoy it, too. Everyone has their own list of authors whose work they enjoy. Please share your favorite cozies. I’d love to discover some new ones.

1. Agatha Raisin Mysteries by M.C. Beaton

Agatha is a former ad agency owner, now retired to her dream cottage in a small English village. She’s quirky, unintentionally funny, and on the hunt for a man. She soon learns her imagined idyllic life has barnacles attached – including unfriendly villagers and dead bodies. I’ll never forget Beating About The Bush where Agatha defends Wizz Wazz the donkey and becomes a national celebrity.

Sadly M.C. Beaton passed in 2019. R.W. Green will continue the series.

2. Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries by Kerry Greenwood

Phryne is rich, elegant and smart. With her pearl handled pistol and the help of her family, adopted and otherwise, she stops injustice wherever she sees it. The stories take place in 1920s Australia, but Phryne is not boxed in by the usual conventions of her time.

3. Miss Fortune Mystery Series by Jana DeLeon

Fortune is a CIA assassin hiding in Sinful, Louisiana from an international arms dealer. But living in a small, southern, bayou town, pretending to be a librarian may be her hardest assignment yet. When bones show up in her yard, as well as two old ladies, she’s suddenly embroiled in a local mystery. And it turns out there’s more to the old ladies than she expected. Will her cover get blown?

4. The Alvarez Family Murder Mysteries by Heather Haven

Lee Alvarez is the lead P.I. for her family’s detective agency located in Silicon Valley, CA. It’s called Discretionary Inquiries and it deals mainly with the theft of intellectual property and computer software with an occasional murder thrown in here and there. Each family member has his or her own special talent that makes the agency work. Like any family, each one also has their flaws and quirks.

5. Country Club Murders by Julie Mulhern
Ellison Russell has a problem. She’s a body magnet. She even swims into dead bodies at her Country Club pool. She also has to deal with a rebellious teenaged daughter, an over bearing mother, and a suspicious new detective. Her husband’s multiple affairs don’t help. Neither does the fact that she’s also a target for killers who are unsure of what she knows.

6. Poppy Field’s Adventures by Julie Mulhern

Poppy’s Mexican beach vacation is the start of her crazy new life when she’s abducted by a drug lord. She’s not prepared to rise to the occasion. She’s a rich, fashionista, with a movie-star mother, 84 million Instagram followers, and paparazzi following her every move. She has no obvious talent other than a gift for picking clothes and accessories.

Now her life has turned into one of her mother’s movies, but with real bullets and bad guys. Will she be able to survive?

7. Patricia Fisher Mystery Adventures by Steve Higgs

Discovering her husband’s affair sends middle-aged Patricia off the deep end. She empties her husband’s bank account and signs on to an around the world cruise ship that’s departing immediately. Unfortunately, she’s quickly thrown in the middle of a murder investigation where she’s the main suspect. Did she jump out of one bad situation and into a worse one? Can she solve the murder and save herself with the help of the new friends she’s made on board?

8. Murder on Maui Series – Robert W. Stephens

Edgar Allan “Poe” Rutherford has lost his job and his girl. He heads to Maui, where he’s looking forward to a vacation with an old friend. When a murder is blamed on his friend, Poe is determined to solve the mystery. He not only manages to save his friend, but he discovers two new loves – Maui and Detective Alana Hu.

9. Chloe Jackson Sea Glass Saloon Mystery Series by Sherry Harris

Most of us know Sherry Harris as the author of the popular Garage Sale Mysteries, but she has a new series with protagonist Chloe Jackson, a former Chicago librarian. Chloe is fulfilling a promise to help her late boyfriend’s grandmother run the Sea Glass Saloon located in the Florida Panhandle town of Emerald Cove. Turns out the location is the target of land developers and vacationers. Chloe loves her new life pouring beers and mixing cocktails at the Saloon. It’s just that the grandmother and the residents aren’t what she was expecting.

10. Chet and Bernie Mysteries by Spencer Quinn

Author Spencer Quinn had me at his titles. Who can resist Dog On It, To Fetch A Thief, Scents and Sensibility, Tender Is The Bite, or It’s A Wonderful Woof? The original, funny mysteries told through Chet, the dog’s, POV don’t disappoint either.

Blurb

“If you can’t follow the money, follow the body.”

Lexi loves her job as a Beverly Hills bank fraud investigator. It lets her pursue scam artists and con men – known in the business as land sharks.

Sadly, one crook left her with a broken heart and a destroyed reputation. And the bank’s president is looking for any excuse to fire her.

Yet she risks everything when she follows a dead embezzler’s casket to Coober Pedy in the Australian outback. She knows it’s a gamble, but it’s her last hope to recover the bank’s stolen money. Unfortunately, she’s persona non grata in that country. She needs to get in, find the money, and get out before the Australian police discover her presence. But will the unexpected appearance of an ex-lover make her linger too long?

If you like cozy mysteries in exotic locations with deadly secrets and touches of humor, then you’ll enjoy the multi award winning Land Sharks Cozy Mystery series.

Buy Links

Amazon (US) | Amazon (CA) | Amazon (UK) | Amazon (AU)

Author Bio and Links

Nancy Raven Smith grew up in Virginia, where she ran and participated in horse sport events. On their farm, she rescued horses, dogs, and cats and is an advocate for animal rescue. Later in California, she traded her event experience for film work. Her screenplays and novels have won numerous major awards. When not writing, Raven Smith enjoys her family and friends, travel, art, movies, and white-water rafting. She is a member of Sisters in Crime, Mystery Writers of America, and Women in Film.

Website | Facebook | The Reluctant Farmer of Whimsey Hill