Monday, December 17, 2012


   Much speculation, some of it downright depressing, has been circulating regarding the Solstice of 2012. What will happen on 12/21/12? Supposedly it is the end of the Mayan calendar. Perhaps they intended to make another one, and just didn't get around to it.

    But if there is an end to our world, I hope it is simply the death of spiritual numbness. The death of one particular dimension, as another slips into place. A new dimension which helps us to see the wonders of earth with new eyes and new appreciation. A new dimension that is a guiding light.

    The Winter Solstice is the longest night of the year. Yet even as darkness triumphs, it gives way, and changes into light. The breath of Nature is suspended, and the Dark King is transformed into the Infant Light. We watch for the coming of dawn, when the Great Mother again gives birth to the Divine Child Sun, who is the bringer of hope and the promise of summer.

We turn the Wheel to bring the light.
We call the sun from the womb of night.

                             It is also the rebirth of Oak King,
                      the Grean Man, the King of the Woodlands.

     Anne Stokes

                      Wishing you a Happy Winter Solstice

               May this Holiday Season bring you light and hope
                                         (and humor).

Monday, November 19, 2012


                                                                                     photo by Dario Griffin

     This post is to showcase my incredible nephew, Jamey Arent.

  I met him when he was only two days old, and have watched him mature into the most amazing man. He is super smart, incredibly talented, and has managed to retain a kind heart and enviable  integrity.

   He plays Blues, Jazz, Funk, R&B, Soul, Rock and Beyond, and if you listend to his music, you'll see he's extremely good at all venues. 

   Recognized often in Guitar Player Magazine, he performs
nationally and at international Jazz Festivals. I'm so proud of him.

     He's out in California now, rubbing elbows with some well known musicians and cutting an album playing lead guitar for Raquel Rodriquez, a beautiful woman who looks like and angel and sings like one too.

    So here's to dreams coming true, and to never stop believing in yourself. Eventually the jubilant masses always come to their senses, realizing your greatness!

Auntie Gini

Saturday, October 27, 2012


      Letters were terribly essential to keeping up the morale of the soldiers and they were the one thing the Army couldn’t provide, so both the government and private industry encouraged letter writing, calling it “a five minute furlough” for the soldier, and before long the phrase “Writing is Fighting too,” became a familiar mantra of those on the home-front.

     With modern technology so commonplace, its hard to imagine what things were like back then. Today, you simply pick up your cell phone and instantly talk to your loved ones, even if they are on the other side of the world. Or you can twitter, tweet, text, and e-mail, and while these forms of communication are letter-like in their own right, the content is generally lost in cyberspace, so nothing remains to give us a time capsule for history. Therefore the letters of WWII were not only very important then, but they now remain a wonderful source of historical information.
    In the early 1940’s, some people didn’t even have a phone, if they did it might be a party-line, and making a long distance phone call was usually reserved for a dire emergency. So just imagine how traumatic it was to have your loved one, torn from your embrace only to have them sent thousands of miles away into a hostile environment where they could be injured or killed, with absolutely no way of communicating with them other than writing a letter. No way of knowing for months on end if the person you loved was okay, or even alive.

    And think of the soldier, sitting in a fox hole in the freezing cold, or enduring tropical heat never before experienced. He’s in a foreign land, again thousand of miles from home, strangers are now his best friends, and he’s waiting for that all important letter. Soon, Army Post Offices (APOs), Fleet Post Offices (FPOs), and the U.S. Post Office were flooded with outgoing mail.

   But a problem arose, because the bulk and weight of parcels and letters began competing with military supplies for space in the transport vehicles. How could they save room for equipment and still deliver the mail?

    The answer was V-mail, V for victory, and at that time it was every bit as technically amazing as today’s E-mail.

    Between June, 1942 and April, 1945, over 556,513,795 pieces of V-mail were sent from the U.S. to military post offices and over 510 million pieces were received from military personnel abroad. And this did not take into account the regular 1st class mail still being sent by many.

   V-mail was a miniaturized message reproduced by microphotography from 16mm film, all based on the use of special V-mail letter-sheets, which were a combination of letter and envelope.

   The Post Office, responsible for domestic handling of the mail, divided the continental U.S. into the three regions, New York, Chicago, and San Francisco. They funneled all the V-Mail through these locations. At the ports of embarkation the War and Navy Departments took over, and the Kodak company ran the V-Mail photography operations.

    By using microfilm, the letters were reduced to thumb-nail size, then the rolls of film were flown across the world to a destination closest to the soldier's position. Here they where finally reconstructed into a V-mail letter about one-quarter the original size.

  Technology was the linchpin to the whole operation, and at the center was the Recordak machine which was initially developed by the Eastman Kodak Company for bank records. In 1942 the War Department entered into a contract with the Eastman Kodak to process V-Mail.

     With the development of the V-Mail system, the time it took a soldier to receive a letter was reduced from six weeks by boat, to twelve days or less by air.  One roll of film weighing about 7 ounces could hold over 1,500 letters. Or in other words, two pounds of microfilm replaced 100 pounds of letters! 

   Here is a poster advising families to send their soldier a V-mail kit so he would have all the necessary items with which to easily write home.  

    During the Civil War, in 1864, the Post Office agreed to deliver, for free, any mail marked “for a soldier”. However, the instructions seen below, indicate that delivery was free coming from a soldier, but the mail going to them should have postage paid by the person on the home front.

   As in all wars, the mail sent home was heavily censored, so a period of time had to pass before details of a particular combat mission could be conveyed to a loved one back home:

   It also appears standardized cards for certain occasions, such as Mother's Day, were supplied to the men so they could easily celebrate special days. 

     The women writing letters at home were encouraged to recount only cheerful information and not dwell on their own struggles such as the hardship of suddenly becoming single parents, or the shortage of food, clothing or gasoline. Also S.W.A.K. or sealed with a kiss, could often be found on or in the letters. One source stated the origin of SWAK was goes back to at least 1918, when homesick Doughboys in WW I wrote to their sweethearts, and the tradition continued through the Second World War.
    Sadly, this last photo indicates no system is perfect. What a heartbreaking picture. It brought tears to my eyes and prompted half a dozen scenarios as to whatmight have happened or who this soldier might be. I hope he found the letter he was looking for

      Why not take a moment sometime soon and sit down and write a “real live letter” to someone. I bet they would cherish your efforts, and who knows, in 70 years some one could find that letter and it would be a time capsule snippet of your life.

Sunday, October 7, 2012


Sounds like the title to a good book, right?

 Actually it is a fantastic beer created by the City Star Brewing Company and served at the Berthoud Historical Society Gala. 

A silent auction, a live auction, perfect weather, amazing food, and wine and beer. What a terrific fund raiser.

    I had so much fun helping out as one of the barkeeps. Dressed in Victorian clothing, as I drew those drafts and tipped the bottles of wine, I had the distinct feeling I did that same thing 120 years ago in an English Pub. Truly a dejavu experience.  

   Virginia and John,
two of my favorite people, stopped to say hello. 

And a good time was had by all.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Debbie Taylor cover art @ The Wild Rose Press

Oooh la la........

   Here is the cover art for my new book "VICTORIAN DREAM".
                                 The artist is Debbie Taylor. 

1851 England & America.

      Trelayne St.Christopher, a cosseted young English woman, dreams of falling madly in love, just like the daring women in her purloined novels. Now faced with adult responsibilities for the first time in her life, she leaps at the opportunity to manage her father's shipping business. But when Trelayne ignores her prophetic nightmares in favor of passionate daydreams, her best laid plans go dangerously awry.

     Emotionally scarred after the death of his wife, Yankee sea captain Walker Garrison bans romance from his personal manifest--shipbuilding is his only passion. The transatlantic partnership between Walker and Trelayne's father seems a grand idea until her parents are critically injured and one of Walker's crew turns up dead. On the trail of the man responsible, Walker sets sail for England. After meeting his new partner's daughter, protecting Trelayne and not falling in love with her may prove impossible.

          Will he find the murderer, but lose his heart?



         “Have I missed the first waltz?” Walker asked, escorting Trelayne to the center of the room.
         “No. I’ve allowed none to be played, and my poor guests are near to the point of exhaustion from quickstepping about the room.”
          He gave a chuckle, taking a step backward, his gaze gliding over her from head to toe. “You appear to have held up beautifully.”
          As they stood before one another, a hush blanketed the room. It was one tiny momnet, filled with a lifetime of anticipation. Coming to her senses, she caught Penelope’s attention and nodded toward the orchestra. Her friend rushed toward the musicians, nearly tripping on the hem of her dress. The lilting strains of Tchaikovsky soon swirled through the air like a welcoming breeze, and her guests issued playful hurrahs and hurried to find their partners.
        Captain Garrison, male elegance infused with animal-like grace and strength, swept her into his arms—and into a dream come true.
     When he solidly placed his hand at the small of her back, a tingling sensation shot straight up her spine to the roots of her hair. The resulting effect was more potent than wine. She was dizzy with desire, giddy with happiness. She must remember to breathe.
        They stood so close, only their clothing and the heat of their bodies between them—a glorious temptation, just beyond reach. Teasing and taunting, it was a fleeting taste of what she yearned to partake of fully.
       “I’ve thought a time or two about holding you in my arms,” he admitted, in a husky voice. “It feels even better than I imagined.”
         “What other thoughts have crossed your mind?” she dared to ask, finding the courage to stare up at him.
         His eyes crinkled at the corners, but his gaze held passion as well as mirth. “Things a man ought not discuss with a lady.”    

Sunday, August 26, 2012


Win Books and Prizes in the Night Owl Reviews Full Moon Web Hunt

Get ready to FALL into a harvest of prizes and fun.

September 1st through October 31st.
Win gift cards, print books, gift baskets, ebooks, and more!

click here for details

Monday, July 30, 2012

You CAN go home again!!!

     I grew up in Moline, Illinois and haven't been back for 35 years. After being lovingly badgered by my two best girlfriends, Cheryl and Leslie, I decided to attend my 45th high school reunion. I haven't had a vacation for 13 years and haven't flown since 1997. Needless to say I was a bit anxious about going. My sister, Kathy, came to the rescue once again, offering to go with me. She is a frequent flyer, and knows all the ropes.

                The flight went we are landing in the quaint Moline Airport. They even let me wear my cowboy hat on board, hats being my fetish and my trademark, I just had to bring it.

                                                                                                       My cousin Mary Ann took us to the library so I could sign my books.  What a thrill. 

       There they were, with their own Dewey Decimal numbers, on the shelf right beside Karen Robards and Nora Roberts.
Who could ask for better company, maybe their success will rub off on me.

      Friday night was the meet and greet at the Bierstube, a German beer garden. When I first saw Cheryl and Leslie we started squealing and laughing like 16 year old girls, and we pretty much kept it up for the next two days. There were about 720 kids in my graduating class, but being a "nobody" I didn't know half of them. About 200 showed up for the reunion.

Saturday morning, Mary Ann, Leslie, Kathy and I went bumming around. We went to Lagomarcino's for an amazing lunch, including their famous hot fudge sundaes. This was not a time for counting calories.

Then we swung by the Mighty Mississippi. Now THERE'S a river for you. Even though low because of the drought in Illinois, it is big and muddy and seems so wide you can barely see across to the other side.

There was a beautiful riverboat docked nearby, wish we could have ridden on it, or even on the river taxi. Maybe next time.

Kathy and cousin Mary Ann

      The next stop was Blackhawk State Park. Some of my most cherished memories are of running through the forest near the Rock River, imagining what it was like when the Sauk tribe lived in those very woods as we watched out for poison ivy and poison sumac. The deciduous tree forest is so thick and green and goes on for miles, so different from the pine forests or the sparse gatherings of cotton wood trees in Colorado.

Had fun in the museum chatting with some of the locals.

The three amigas. Kathy,
Mary Ann, & Gini

   Then we grabbed our spoons and had the traditional bowl of  Whitey's ice cream...another taste of heaven. Yes, you know you're home indeed.

     That evening was the big party. Oh boy, a pig roast. Luckily for this vegetarian, there were plenty of side dishes. I've never starved yet. 

What a wonderful evening. We subversively checked out everybody, which was not easy as our name tags were written in  barely discernable fine-line pen, and they did not affix photo's from the year book. It was pretty difficult to recognize anybody. We tried not to be too happy about the gorgeous cheerleaders who now looked chubby and wrinkled.

                                                               Cheryl, Me, Leslie

     I was so proud of Cheryl, she won a prize for being the person attending with the longest military record. She spent 8 years as a National Guard Nurse and is a Captain. Leslie, the brain-trust, won a prize for her good memory regarding the words to the school "fight" song.

     I won an amazing trip down memory lane, and the joy of feeling 16 again for three days. What a wonderful trip.

Saturday, July 7, 2012


      My amazing sister, Kathy, drove us to Estes Park, Colorado on Saturday 6/23/12, to see the Scandinavian Solstice Celebration.

     It is a beautiful area, and the temperature that day was below the 104 degrees raging in Longmont and Berthoud. Sadly a new wild fire broke out up there that very morning, the smoke drifting in the air, one house already on fire with more structures and trees in jeopardy.

       It has been a tragic year for so many people, and much of our precious Colorado landscape. Our hearts go out to those touched by the fires, and our praise and prayers go to the many firefighters, first responders, and folks aiding and sheltering the people and animals in need.

        The festival was in full swing when we arrived, and it was a welcome joyful diversion. 

                The traditional Maypole was already decorated.

      Usually associated with May day rather than midsummer or summer solstice, the symbolism of the maypole has been continuously debated by folklorists for centuries.

     One theory holds that they are a remnant of the Germanic reverence for sacred trees, as there is evidence for various sacred trees and wooden pillars were venerated by the pagans across much of Germanic Europe.  Norse paganism, held that the universe was a world tree, known as Yggdrasil There is therefore speculation that the maypole was in some way a continuance of this tradition.

      The cross-arm may be a latter-day attempt to Christianize the pagan symbol into the semblance of a cross, although not completely successful


    At the Viking Village we saw demonstrations of an ancient horn and drum. Also a wonderful display of Viking tools and crafts material.

              The Norwegian Fjord Horses were also on hand.

        The Norwegian Fjord Horse is one of the world's oldest and purest breeds. It is believed that the original Fjord Horse migrated to Norway and was domesticated over 4,000 years ago. Herds of wild Fjord Horses existed in Norway after the last ice age. Archaeological excavations at Viking burial sites indicate that the Fjord Horse has been selectively bred for at least 2,000 years. They are draft type horses and were used for farming, a tough job traveling up and down the fjords.

                                               These beauties are from the Flying Pig Farm,
                                 Thank you Jeanne for speaking with us and letting us take this photo.

       One of their unique characteristics is that approximately 90% of all Fjord Horses are brown dun in color. The other 10% are either red dun, gray, white or "uls" dun, or yellow dun. The Fjord Horse retains the "wild" dun color of the original horse as well as the primitive markings which include zebra stripes on the legs and a dorsal stripe that runs from the forelock down the neck and back and into the tail. Dark stripes may also be seen over the withers.

                                                                                                  stock photo
        Another unique characteristic of the Fjord Horse is the mane. The center hair of the mane is dark (usually black) while the outer hair is white. The mane is cut short so it will stand erect. It is trimmed in a characteristic crescent shape to emphasize the graceful curve of the neck The white outer hair is then trimmed slightly shorter than the dark inner hair to display the dramatic dark stripe.

     Fjords generally range in size from 13.2 to 14.2 Hands and weigh between 900 and 1200 pounds at maturity, with a few individuals ranging outside these measurements.

               There were lots of booths selling a wide range of tempting items and bright colors seemed to be everywhere in flowers,
                            and lovely Scandinavian pottery.

    Then the day was over and we headed home, munching on roasted sugared almonds, tired , hot, but happy.  A good time was had by all. And on the way out of town, a real treat, several head of elk grazing by the road.