Meet Shell from The Lapone Sisters by Barry Walker

Welcome to Novel PASTimes! We appreciate you taking time out of your busy schedule to drop by. Tell us about yourself!

First off, thank you for inviting me to be a guest on your blog; it’s an honor. My given name is Schmellda Radmilla Lapone. I know . . odd, right? Please call me Shell. You’re right in thinking it’s a strange name. There is definitely a story behind it. My mother’s family emigrated from Bucharest, Romania toward the end of World War II. On April 4, 1944, the allies bombed Bucharest to curtail the Nazi invasion of the country. My mother and grandmother survived the attack while out to shop. Unfortunately, my grandfather along with my mother’s sisters and brother perished when their apartment building took a direct hit. My sisters and I were all named in honor of my mother’s sisters who died that day. I only recently started using my nickname. It’s definitely easier for people to remember.

So where is your family now?

We all live in Nashville, Tennessee. My grandmother passed some time ago. My mother met my father when both families settled in the city. My parents are still very active. My two younger sisters are pursuing their dreams. I graduated recently with a degree in home economics and rented my first apartment. My passion is floral design and without giving too much away, I’ll just say I enrolled at our city college in an effort to pursue a career in that field.

I’m sure you remain close to your family. Are there any other special friends you can share?

There are so many special people in my life. You’re quite right. I’m especially close to my two sisters. We all three have a very strong bond with our parents. Mom and Dad provided the most loving and nurturing home for us growing up. I have a few girlfriends I hang with. And there’s a new man in my life but that’s as much as I can say for now. If I start blabbering on about him I’ll be over-sharing. You’ll just have to read the book for more. Tell us about your hopes for your future. My deepest desire is to live fully in the here and now. For my future? I want to have children and raise them the way I grew up. I want to instill in them to care about others, be passionate about life and have the desire to accept people as they are. I don’t have a crystal ball that is working right now but if I could see into the future, it would be the beginning at the end of a fairy tale: “And she lived happily ever after”.

What causes you to experience anxiety of fear?

For one, I am terrified that I will stumble and fall. Literally and metaphorically. I worry about my sisters. My parents are aging so there’s that. For that matter, I’m aging and you know how hard it is just to take care of yourself! I want to be successful in my career. I want the people I love to be happy and successful.

Is there something you hold especially dear?

My most cherished possession is life and the freedom in being me. It’s taken me a while to learn to breathe without hesitation. I cherish I have the opportunity to work for everything I have ever wanted. I don’t have any special talisman or object I couldn’t part with.

Since you came to life on paper, what have you discovered about yourself?

Through this entire journey to the ripe old age of 22, I guess I have learned to be myself. To not be afraid of what others think of me. To follow my instincts and let things happen like dominos falling into place. One right after the other. To love and be loved. I’m elated how Barry narrated my story. It was a trek and he nailed it up to this point. I cannot believe how intricate his details are from my perspective and that of my family and friends. It’s been a great ride for all of us and I hope your readers will enjoy it as well.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Barry Wilker spent forty-three years working as an interior designer for myriad clients across the United States. Retirement provided Wilker with ample time to assemble the amalgam of wild ideas, clever stories, and figments of his active imagination, which he has oh-so-stylishly fashioned into his debut novel, The Lapone Sisters. He lived for a number of years in the Los Angeles area and currently resides in Nashville, Tennessee.

Interview with Robin Carter from Wendy H. Adair’s The Broken Hallelujah


1969 Martin Carter’s plan is to survive his tour in Vietnam and return to his wife and newborn daughter. He refused his commission to keep from lying to his men but ultimately becomes a leader to his team and to a small group of Vietnamese villagers. He must find whoever is running drugs through the camp before he can safely get home.

2019 Robin Carter’s plan is to care for her grandmother and restart her career after a disastrous divorce. Martin’s footlocker is unexpectedly delivered to their home—he’s been missing in action since1969. His journals record his harrowing sixteen months in Vietnam. Robin is determined to find the grandfather she never knew before her grandmother’s memories fade.

The Broken Hallelujah is a heart-wrenching tale of family, the lasting impact of lies, and the human consequences of truth.

Tell us something about where you live:
I live in Houston, Texas, in the Heights neighborhood, one of the oldest in Houston. I grew up here and recently moved back, to help my grandmother. Our home is a 100-year-old bungalow. I am renovating the garage and garage apartment to build my office and living space. I believe eventually this space could house live-in nursing help if my grandmother’s early Alzheimer’s diagnosis requires it in the future.

Is there anything special about your name? Why do you think you were given that name?
I understand that my author, Wendy Adair, named me for her older sister, who died when she was 19. It was a way to honor and remember her. I think my mother, Adriana, liked the idea of naming me Robin after a favorite bird. Gram says I was born with a head full or red hair, and the connection to a Robin Red Breast was made.

Do you have an occupation? What do you like or dislike about your work?
I just gave up my job as head of PR at University of Texas/Dallas, following a painful divorce from my philandering professor husband. I am in Houston to develop a PR/Marketing consultant business. I already have two accounts, including my previous university. I enjoy working with faculty as well as others, translating what they do in a way that others can understand and appreciate it. And when it results in a donation to support the program, it is particularly gratifying. I am currently working with the music program at UT Dallas to develop a giving program to raise $10 million to help build a new concert hall.


Who are the special people in your life?
My grandmother, Susanna, raised me after my mother left when I was four. She died a year later from an overdose, and I grew up in this same bungalow. Maryam Davila, who I call MC, has been my best friend since grade school. We weren’t as close after I married Greg Henderson and moved to Dallas. Greg liked to focus on his friends and people who could help in his tenure search. But coming home to Houston reconnected us like we’d never been apart. MC was the one who tagged Greg as “He Who Must Not Be Named” and was the first to warn me he was in Houston for the summer to teach at Rice University. In the course of my quest to find my MIA grandfather, I began to consider him a friend—the kind of man I’d always dreamed I’d meet.

I met a number of people who helped in the search, including a group of 70-year-old Vets and musicians, who are all now close friends. My serendipitous meeting with Brian Outland on my 30 th birthday was invaluable in our quest and may grow into something wonderful in the future.

Why did you undertake this daunting quest to find your grandfather missing in a warzone for 50 years?
My grandmother’s health and memories are fading. She only had Martin in her life for a few years before he enlisted and never came home. He never met his daughter, my mother. When the government dropped his army footlocker on our front porch, it opened a world of information about someone who should have been in my life and my grandmother’s life. Reading his journals and examining the contents of the teak box gave me a look into his harrowing
experiences in Vietnam. They also showed me his humanity in working with the Vietnamese villagers. The underlying mystery of drug running and his disappearance intrigued me and pushed me to find answers.

What are you most afraid of?
Not completing my journey to find Martin. Watching my grandmother deteriorate without answers. And not trusting anyone enough to get close after my experiences with my ex-husband.

What do you expect the future will hold for you?
Now that we’ve found some answers and completed our quest, my hope is that the experimental trial drugs that Gram is now taking will slow the progression of her disease. I can now focus on expanding my growing consulting business. I think I’ll work with Brian, the investigative photojournalist who helped with our search, on a book about our adventure.

What have you learned about yourself in the course of your story?
My grandfather was a great man, but he had a rigid view—good vs. evil; right vs. wrong. Without ever knowing him, I had many of those same characteristics. I learned through this process that some things are not an either/or proposition. People can be both good and bad. Situations can be neither all right nor all wrong. My grandfather may never have seen the nuances in the world, but my search for him and the overwhelming support I got from old and new friends, taught me that allowing for some flexibility on that spectrum is where truth most often lies. I think I am now ready to connect with people. Maybe my new friendship with Brian will grow into something more.


I began a lifelong love of reading before kindergarten. My earliest memories include going to the library or bookmobile and bringing home a box of books…every week. I was raised on Nancy Drew, Hardy Boys, Wizard of Oz, Black Beauty, and other works of mystery and wonder. Not surprising I would work to solve mysteries and answer questions in my own writing. 

My connection to words led to a career in public relations and marketing. Armed with degrees in communication, business and library science, I held senior management positions in higher education, winning numerous local, regional and national marketing awards while working at both the University of Houston and Texas Southern University. 

After forty years writing non-fiction, including a 175-page history of the University of Houston, I retired and finally turned to creating fictional worlds. With the help of a Writer’s League of Texas five-day retreat and the eighteen-month long Online Certificate in Novel Writing program at Stanford University, I embraced both retirement and novel writing. The result of which is The Broken Hallelujah. 

When I’m not slaving over my computer, I spend time in my backyard garden and with my crazy fur babies, Jade, my yappy but huggable white schnauzer, and her best friend, Yara, a gorgeous and unflappable Russian blue feline. 

Currently, I’m working on a couple of mysteries. One is set at a university…involving three generations of strong women determined to clear a friend of a murder/suicide charge. I’m have a great time sending up some favorite academic places and people in my fictitious university. My forty years in academe opened many doors, introduced me to an amazing variety of characters, took me around the world from Houston to Alaska and Nigeria to Beijing, and offered many an outrageous tale to provide a plethora of plots. The second is story of a foundling who is searching for her past. She works at a tabloid newspaper searching out Elvis sightings,

I’d love to let you know when they ready to release. Include your email in the feedback section if you are interested in hearing news about this and future books. Until then, I wish you good times and good reading.

Facebook Link: Bungalow Books Publishing | Facebook

Website Link: Bungalow Books Publishing – New Books, Women’s Fiction and Mysteries

An Interview with Holly Christmas from “A Mistletoe Mystery” by Donna Schlachter in the Merry Little Mysteries Anthology

Welcome to Novel PASTimes! We are pleased you stopped by today.

Thanks for inviting me. I’m kind of nervous. Never did anything like this before. After all, it is 1883. What exactly is a blog, anyway?

A blog is kind of hard to describe to someone from your era. Hmm… I guess I’d say it’s like an information log that you can read through a window to the world. Your great-great grandchildren will enjoy reading them. Now, let’s talk about you. Tell us something about where you live: 

Oh, that’s easy. Boulder in Colorado. It’s a town an hour or so from Denver, which, of course, gets all the attention. In fact, I live on a tree farm outside Boulder.

Is there anything special about your name? Why do you think you were given that name? 

I suspect it has to do with my last name. Christmas. Kind of limits what sounds good. My father’s name was James, but everybody called him Jingle. James, Jimmy, Jingle. (shrugs) My mother’s name was Grace—fits with almost any surname. So my sister and I were saddled with Ivy and me, Holly.

Do you have an occupation? What do you like or dislike about your work?  

My sister and I run our family Christmas tree farm operation. My grandfather started it when nobody in their right mind paid for a tree. They just went out and cut one. Not always on their own property, either. But then more folks moved to towns and cities, so they didn’t own land. And more folks protected what they did have, so it wasn’t safe anymore to go on somebody else’s land and take one of theirs.

I don’t like trees. They’re quiet, aloof—like cats. I prefer cattle. If I had my way, I’d cut down every tree and plow the land under for corn. And buy more cattle. You can eat cattle. Can’t eat a tree.

But I persevere, because Ivy loves the trees. 

Who are the special people in your life?  

Well, as I said, Ivy. Not many more. The brothers next door—well, Ivy had a bad experience in third grade, so we avoid them.

What is your heart’s deepest desire?   

I’d like to sound all spiritual, of course, and say I want to live the life God intended for me. And I do. But I’d like to have fun along the way. And sometimes church folk think God banned fun when He kicked Adam and Eve out of the garden.

What are you most afraid of? 

Losing Ivy. And I don’t mean her dying. She’s almost past marriageable age. I can’t imagine living here alone. Or having to move out.

What do you expect the future will hold for you?  

No idea. I just go day to day, not looking beyond the current tree season. Or cattle season. Although, in some ways, they’re similar, aren’t they? Growing trees for the future. Raising cattle for the future.

What have you learned about yourself in the course of your story?  

That I love a good mystery. That I might have more in my future than I thought. That I hope I’ll be in another story someday.

Is there anything else you’d like people to know about you? 

You might think I’m a whiner, but I’m really not. I like to get ‘er done. Got a problem? Solve it and do something about it. That’s my motto. Not a girlie-girl. Like Ivy. She loves dressing up, sashaying at the barn dances. Me? I’d rather birth a breeched calf or tame a wild horse.

Thanks for allowing us to get know you a little better!

You’re welcome. It’s been a hoot to be here. Tell me again, what is a blog?

Let’s just say it’s something you might not understand for now… But thanks for taking the time to chat with us. 


About Donna:

A hybrid author, Donna writes squeaky clean historical andcontemporary suspense. She has been published more than 50 times in books; is a member of several writers groups; facilitates a critique group; teaches writing classes; ghostwrites; edits; and judges in writing contests. She loves history and research, traveling extensively for both, and is an avid oil painter. 

Stay connected at Donna’s website so you learn about new releases, preorders, and presales, as well as check out featured authors, book reviews, and a little corner of peace. Plus: Receive a free ebook simply for signing up for our free newsletter!

Donna’s blog.

Check out previous blog posts at www.HiStoryThruTheAges.wordpress.com and www.AllBettsAreOff.wordpress.com

And find more about Donna and her books at the links below:

Facebook author page. / Twitter. / Books on Amazon. / BookBub.  / GoodReads.

About “Merry Little Mysteries”:

Boulder Colorado 1883: Two sisters living next door to two brothers. When bad stuff starts happening, who is behind it? If not a neighbor, then who? Can the two ranches, competing in the Christmas tree market, cooperate enough to save their land? Or are they doomed to lose all?

Review: When We Had Wings by Ariel Lawhon, Kristina McMorris, and Susan Meissner

Harper Muse; 1st edition (October 18, 2022)
Publication date ‏ : ‎ October 18, 2022

Set in 1941 in the Philippines, three nurses from different backgrounds (a US Army nurse, a US Navy nurse, and a Filipina nurse) become friends. Each author took a character, but honestly you can’t tell. The story is well blended with one voice.

While the circumstances were dire, each nurse ended up being imprisoned by the Japanese in different places and witnessed horrifying things not to mention starvation, there were signs of hope to hold on to. It all seemed very real. Not surprising since the fictional characters were based on real women, the first female POWs.

Each of the women experienced hurt in their previous lives that needed healing. Caring for others while still being held as prisoner delayed their ability and capacity to heal those wounds. After their releases they saw each other briefly but not the three of them together. Their ultimate reunion would have to wait. While no longer the women they were before the war due to their experiences, they still had to deal with the things they had try to avoid by becoming nurses. The way they manage to face what they’d previously avoided is inspiring, and not easily predictable. Nothing is rushed. No artificial happy conclusions, which is what I like about how these authors write their stories. But like I said, there is hope and a satisfying ending.

Historical fiction buffs will enjoy this one. Highly recommended.

To read more about this story visit Amazon. Affiliate links are used, which help support our blog.

Reviewed by Cindy Thomson, www.cindyswriting.com

I was given an advanced copy by the publisher for the purpose of an honest review, although no review was required.

A Chat with Rachel Kelly from Rachel’s Reunion by Susan G. Mathis

So nice to meet you, Rachel. Please tell us something about yourself.

I’m Rachel Kelly. I serve the most elite patrons at the famed New Frontenac Hotel on Round Island during the summer of 1904. I’ve wondered about my old beau, Mitch, for nearly two years, ever since he toyed with my affections while on Calumet Island, then left for the high seas and taken my heart with him. Now he’s back, opening the wound I thought was healed.

When Mitch O’Keefe returns to claim me as his bride, he finds it more difficult than he thought. Returning to work at the very place he hated, he becomes captain of a New Frontenac Hotel touring yacht, just to be near me. But his attempts to win me back are thwarted, especially when a wealthy patron seeks my attention. Who will I choose? 

You now work at a famous hotel on an island? Tell us more. 

The New Frontenac Hotel graces Round Island on the St. Lawrence River. It was one of the grandest hotel resorts in the area. New York City tycoon Charles G. Emery built it, and now I get to stay and work in the hotel’s Annex, where the most elite guests enjoy elegant suites. It’s simply magical.

How did you get such a prized position?

I worked in Mr. Emery’s Calumet Castle for two years, and I was thrilled when Mrs. Emery suggested I take this new position. 

When you started working at the New Frontenac Hotel, you reconnected with your old flame, Mitch. How’d did that go?

I couldn’t believe my eyes when Mitch appeared on the dock. Two years earlier, he had hurt me terribly, so we had lots of ups and downs before I finally chose to forgive him and embrace his friendship—and finally his love. 

You also got involved with a famous photographer. What was that like?

Goodness! Having my picture taken by a famous photographer was simply thrilling, and he even gave me a photograph for my mother. On the other hand, it wasn’t all it cracked up to be, for the man turned into a rogue. 

Tell us a little about the Thousand Islands where you live.

I grew up in Clayton, NY, in the heart of the Thousand Islands. The 1,864 islands are shared almost equally between New York state and Ontario, Canada. It’s where Lake Ontario narrows and becomes the St. Lawrence River, and the islands are known as The Thousand Islands. Here the Great Lakes and the St. Lawrence River intersect to become the world’s largest inland navigation system. Huge freighters pass by tiny islands along the main channel and share the waterway with all kinds of boats including kayaks and canoes!

After George M. Pullman invited President Ulysses S. Grant to visit his small island during the 1872 reelection campaign, the Thousand Islands became a national event. The press touted the Thousand Islands as THE place to summer for the rich and famous and common man alike. In so doing—and thanks to excited journalists—he launched The Thousand Islands season of the rich and famous buying islands and lots along the mainland and building castles, mansions, and magnificent summer homes. The New Frontenac Hotel on Round Island, where I work, is one of them. 

Thank you for taking time to visit with us, Rachel.

About Susan:

Susan G Mathis is an international award-winning, multi-published author of stories set in the beautiful Thousand Islands, her childhood stomping ground in upstate NY. Susan has been published more than twenty-five times in full-length novels, novellas, and non-fiction books. She has nine in her fiction line including, The Fabric of Hope: An Irish Family Legacy, Christmas Charity, Katelyn’s Choice, Devyn’s Dilemma, Sara’s Surprise, Reagan’s Reward, Colleen’s Confessionand Peyton’s Promise. Rachel’s Reunion releases October 20, 2022. She just finished writing book ten, Mary’s Moment. Her book awards include two Illumination Book Awards, three American Fiction Awards, two Indie Excellence Book Awards, and two Literary Titan Book Awards. Reagan’s Reward is a Selah Awards finalist. 

Susan is also a published author of two premarital books, two children’s picture books, stories in a dozen compilations, and hundreds of published articles. Susan makes her home in Colorado Springs and enjoys traveling around the world but returns each summer to enjoy the Thousand Islands. 

Visit www.SusanGMathis.com/fiction for more. 

Social media links: Social media links: Website |Author Central |  Facebook | Twitter | Pinterest | Blog | Goodreads l InstagramBook Bub

Introducing Julie Morgan from Drawing Outside the Lines by Susan J. Austin

I’m a little surprised you agreed to this interview, Miss Morgan. You have always been reluctant to speak about yourself in public.

That is true. I have always refused interviews. I’ve never sought the limelight. I leave that to others, with egos far greater than mine. However, I think it’s time for me to open that door, even if only a crack. I recognize that by being silent, people may have an inaccurate picture of me, and accuracy matters, don’t you agree? 

Absolutely! Speaking of accuracy, little is known about your early years before you became a legendary architect.  I know you were born in San Francisco, and as a young child your family moved across the bay to Oakland. You attended Oakland public schools before enrolling at the university in Berkeley. What were those years like, growing up in Oakland in the late 1800s’s?

 (JM smiles for the first time, leans back in her chair) Oakland was so beautiful then, and true to its name, oak trees were plentiful, growing in front of houses, on street corners, spreading their green splendor throughout our neighborhoods. Charming Victorian houses lined the streets. Travel was by horse and buggy mostly on dirt roads, as well as on a growing number of paved streets with actual sidewalks which made roller skating so much more fun. The houses in my neighborhood were surrounded by low-set iron or picket fences connecting one to the other. As a child, I preferred the pickets. The narrow wood crossbeams nailed along their backside turned into a raised sidewalk, a perfect fit for small feet. Besides the oaks, there were a few towering Monterey pines that provided another wonderful childhood diversion. A low hanging limb made an easy first step. The rest of the way was like climbing a ladder. I loved being up there, high above the ground. The higher, the better.

Your dream of becoming an architect at a time when the Victorian Era was near its end, must have been challenging? 

Oh my, yes. The expectations for young girls always created problems for me. While I never fit the mold dictated by society, I did manage to avoid drawing too much criticism by staying quiet and respectful. However, there is something you must understand. The realization that I wanted to become an architect developed slowly. I didn’t wake up one morning with a clear picture. It was a gradual unfolding, much like watching a building go up—a little at a time. 

The opportunity to watch the construction of the Brooklyn Bridge was one of those pieces. After 14 long years of dangerous and stunning engineering work, it finally opened to the public in 1883. I had been watching it develop from before I could walk. My mother’s parents, my grandparents, lived within walking distance from this engineering marvel. My family made frequent trips from Oakland to the east coast on the transcontinental train. I was there shortly after the grand opening of the bridge. What a thrill! When I first stood on that bridge beside my architect cousin, Pierre LeBrun, I knew that I wanted to create something extraordinary in my life, I just did not yet know how.

And by the way, during those early years of my life in Oakland, the city was in the midst of a building boom, construction everywhere. In fact, my family built its own magnificent home. I followed that project with great enthusiasm.

Oakland High School played a significant role in your life. Can you tell us something about those years and how they influenced your path to architecture? 

My early school years were easy for me. I was always at the top of my class, but survived being teased by staying quiet, almost invisible. Everything changed in high school, mostly because I chose what was called The Science Track, filled with arrogant boys and a sprinkling of girls. That was where I met Miss Mollie Connors, the school’s memorable and influential drafting teacher. And that was also when the boys began to show their true colors. They had little patience for a girl sitting next to them, especially one who had caught Miss Connor’s eye. What a force! She inspired many future architects.

When you enrolled at the University of California, you majored in engineering. What was behind that unusual choice? 

I had no choice. By that time, I knew I wanted to become an architect, but the program had not yet been established. Even so, both my cousin, Pierre LeBrun and Miss Connors supported my decision to major in engineering They rightly believed that it would give me a sound grounding for my future study of architecture. They were right! Many of my buildings stand today of my buildings’ ability to withstanding earthquake and fire.

What was your college experience like?

College at Berkeley was a mix of experiences. I studied hard, dealt with arrogant male students and antagonistic professors, most who believed that a woman’s place was in the home. The smartest thing I did was join the first sorority on campus, Kappa Alpha Theta, which, by the way, we still refer to as a fraternity. Without these smart, caring, energetic women in my life I probably would have spent all four years in the library buried under my pile of books.

Did your parents support you in this dream?

What an interesting question. Yes and no. The truth is, while my mother was proud of my achievements throughout my lifetime, during those high school years she was deeply worried about how my ambition could disrupt my path to happiness. Most girls and their parents in well-off families had but one dream. To ‘come out’ as a debutante, to be courted by attentive young men, to select one as a mate, and to live happily ever after as a wife and mother. By the time I became of age, I knew my dream was to become an architect. I also knew that having both marriage and a career would never be possible. But of course, I did not use that argument with my mother. Instead, I convinced her to focus her energies on my younger sister, Emma, who was known in the family as the ‘beauty’ while I was considered to be ‘the brain.’  Needless to say, although Mama was devasted, in the end she permitted me following my dream. 

Papa, on the other hand, supported me from the beginning. He and I would frequently visit the construction site of our new home, and he even escorted me to San Francisco to purchase my drafting equipment for high school. I believe he had some experience with deferring dreams. 

You succeeded in achieving the dreams of your youth. Your path was challenging as well as rewarding. As you look back to those early days, what essential elements helped you most?

Two personal attributes paved my way from the beginning—courage and persistence,. These characteristics will always play an important role in achieving one’s dreams, which has been especially true for women.  


As an educator, Susan J. Austin knows the minds of young readers. Her first novel, The Bamboo Garden, is set in Berkeley, California, 1923, and describes an unlikely friendship between two girls that is tested by a fierce fire that threatens to destroy their town. Currently, she is writing about twelve-year-old Goldie, a whiz kid in the kitchen who hopes that her culinary magic can help her family’s delicatessen out of a pickle in 1928 Hollywood. Her characters are always brave, strong willed risk-takers. Writing historical fiction offers her a way to educate and excite her readers about the past. She and her husband live in Northern California, surrounded by family, their splendid but fussy rose bushes, and a lifetime collection of books. Learn more at www.susanjaustin.com.

Meet Vivienne Mourdant from Joanna Davidson Politano’s The Lost Melody

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Welcome to Novel PASTimes, Miss Mourdant. Won’t you tell us a little about your performance background?

Of course. I’ve played classical pianoforte since I could stand, learning from my father. I wouldn’t know what it was like to have a day—an hour, even—without music. I rehearse and perform so much that when I lift my hands from the keys, I still hear music playing. I feel the tremble of a beat, I think in terms of measures and tempos. Of rising and falling melody lines.

So is it true that you hear music when none is playing?

Yes, I suppose I’d claim that. But it’s not so much a recognizable composition out of thin air, but a symphony of everyday sounds. My brain is so accustomed to measuring seconds by beats and making patterns out of notes that it naturally filters everything about me into an orderly rhythm that becomes a sort of song. The world sings, and I hear music.

But I suppose you’re talking about the song. The one I used to hear at night as a child. Quite a lovely piece, with the rhythmic calm of Mozart yet the more robust and textured style of Liszt as well. I’ve heard it off and on throughout the years, and even though no one else admits to it, I’d be willing to wager they’ve heard it too. There’s just something enchantingly spooky about the song. Its minor trills, the other-worldly cadence of it… Call it a dream. Call me crazy. I know I’ve heard it, and it has something to do with that woman.

We’ve heard you spent time at a local asylum, possibly as a patient. Is there truth to this?
Vivienne: Very true, but it wasn’t because of hearing that song. Well, not only that. I entered Hurstwell Pauper Lunatic Asylum voluntarily—as an aid. Between you and I, though, the aid position was merely a ruse. You see, I inherited the guardianship of a mysterious woman who, as it turns out, was a patient at Hurstwell. At least, I think so. No one would give me straight answers about her, so I had to see for myself. And I did find out the truth, and I managed to find a bit of music in that creepy old place.

So being a professionally trained classic musician, why did you take work as an aid in the asylum? What good is your profession there?

More than you could imagine, actually. There’s a natural rhythm at the very core of our created bodies—a steady beat in our chest that starts before we’re even born. And music offers an irresistible invitation to engage with it—despite melancholia tugging one down, madness wrapping itself around your mind or age eating away at your memories. No medicine or treatment can reach the places a familiar song can go, sneaking life back into dying bodies and broken hearts. It’s far more than a spa for the senses, though, believe me. There’s a science to it—the way our bodies, our minds, respond to music, almost against our wills, and imagine what might happen if we allowed ourselves to explore the possibilities. A therapy of music—just imagine.


Joanna Davidson Politano is the award-winning author of Lady
Jayne Disappears, A Rumored Fortune, Finding Lady Enderly, The
Love Note, and A Midnight Dance. She loves tales that capture the
colorful, exquisite details in ordinary lives and is eager to hear
anyone’s story. She lives with her husband and their children in a
house in the woods near Lake Michigan. You can find her online at
http://www.jdpstories.com.

Meet Cassie Barton from Tracie Peterson’s Under the Starry Skies

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My name is Cassandra Barton, but people just call me Cassie.  I live in San Marcial, New Mexico which is on the Rio Grande River.  It’s a hub for the Santa Fe Railroad beings it’s about half way between Topeka and Los Angeles.  I work as a seamstress with the bulk of my work coming in from the railroad men.  I like this kind of work because I am my own boss and can do as much or as little work as I need to do. This turns out to be a very good thing because right off the bat, I break my wrist in a little accident and can’t sew for six weeks.

Brandon Dubarko makes sure I don’t suffer too much. He was a good friend and co-worker of my father’s. He works for the Santa Fe Railroad (just like my father). Brandon is soft-spoken and a deep thinker.  He’s got a world of sorrows to deal with, but he never talks about it. I’m not at all sure what’s weighing him down. I know he really misses my father…and so do I. 

My father died earlier this year when his train derailed. Brandon thinks there was foul play and that someone actually caused the derailment, but I’m not sure that’s the case.  Trains have accidents all the time and it doesn’t take much to derail a train. But, if someone did cause the derailment, then they murdered my father and his fireman.

My father and I were really close, especially after Mother died and my sister Melissa moved to Denver. My deepest desire is that Melissa and I can be close again. After she moved off and married, we aren’t nearly as close as we used to be.  Of course, now she’s a mother and that is bound to take up a lot of her time. 

My future, once my wrist mends, is questionable. A part of me wants to stick around San Marcial, but another part thinks about going to Denver to be closer to Melissa. Of course, at my age (32) I would like to think there was still a chance for romance, but I’m not sure that’s true. It would be a dream come true however, if someone decided I was worth loving.  There was one man…a long time ago.  We were in love and planned to marry, but then my mother died and I needed to care for Melissa.  I don’t know but that it might have been my only chance for love.

I’ve always felt I had to be strong for my family, but now that Mother and Father are dead and Melissa’s married, it’s just me and I’m not real sure what I’m going to do. I know that God has a plan for me, however.  I’ve put my trust in Him since I was little, and I’m not about to stop now. My relationship with the Lord is the thing I value most in life.  He will always see me through.


Award-winning novelist, Tracie Peterson, has been praised for
her captivating historical fiction novels. While each novel weaves
a different tale, Peterson packs her signature elements of history,
action, and romance into each work while also offering
underlying life lessons. In her newest novel, Under the Starry Skies,
Peterson crafts a story about facing your past and learning to
forgive others and yourself.

Meet Nora Fenton from Stephenia H. McGee’s The Secrets of Emberwild

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Welcome to Novel PASTimes! We are pleased you stopped by today.

Hello and thank you for having me. I am Miss Nora Fenton, of Emberwild Horse Farm. 

Tell us something about where you live.

I live on the most beautiful farm in Mississippi. In the early mornings, when the sun first kisses the sky, the pastures stretch out in waves of green that beg for exploration. On those mornings, my colt Arrow and I get to be free. The pressures of life slip away as we soar, his hooves barely touching the ground. 

Do you have an occupation? 

I am a horse trainer. Now, before you point out that women are to keep to skirts and the kitchen, let me inform you that I am quite adept at my work. No matter what my father, uncle, or that sour stable master Roger has to say about it. 

I have been working with Arrow for his entire life, and he is the fastest colt I’ve ever seen. I’ll be training him for the harness this summer, and come time for the Neshoba County Fair, he will be ready to race. The hope of Emberwild rests on his back, but I know he won’t let us down.

You mentioned you’re training him to harness race. Can you tell us a little about that?

We raise trotting horses here at Emberwild. For a harness race, the horses are hooked up to a small cart called a sulky. The jockey sits in a single seat on the axel above two wheels with his feet propped on the rails. They are very light. The horses race at a trot. All trotters have to complete a time trial around the track in under two and a half minutes in order to make the breed registry.

I see here that there is a new trainer at Emberwild. How do you feel about that?

Mr. Silas Cavallero, yes. He is quite unneeded, I assure you. I am capable of handling Arrow on my own. Though I do have to admit, he’s quite unlike any of the other men who have tried to get Arrow under control. Arrow seems to like him. I’m not sure how I feel about that.

Will you be racing Arrow at the fair this year?

For some unfathomable reason, women jockeys are frowned upon. But, we’ll just see about that, won’t we? 

Other than Arrow’s race, what other plans does Emberwild have for the future?

My father is very ill, and I’m afraid Mother and I will have to start thinking of our future without him. I’m confident that we will be able to run the farm on our own. Widows can own property, after all. I see no reason why we can’t continue on as two independent women. Once Arrow completes his runs, the buyers will flock to Emberwild to secure breeding rights and purchase our foals. 

We are so sorry to hear about your father, Miss Fenton. We wish you the best. One more question. Did you name your colt? Why Arrow?

I was there when Arrow was born. I shouldn’t have been, of course, and Mother was most displeased. Soon after he was born, he stood up on these long, spindly legs with the tiniest hooves. I told him he looked like he was trying to hold himself up on four little arrows. As he got older, I realized how perfectly the name fit. Not only does he have long, straight cannon bones, but Arrow can truly fly. You really should come watch him run. There’s nothing better.

That would be delightful. That’s all the time we have for today, Miss Fenton. Thank you for allowing us to get know you a little better!

My pleasure, truly. I must and get back inside and out of these men’s trousers before Mother sees me. Feel free to come visit Emberwild any time!


Stephenia H. McGee is the award-winning author of many stories
of faith, hope, and healing set in the Deep South. When she’s not
reading or sipping sweet tea on the front porch, she’s a writer,
dreamer, husband spoiler, and busy mom of two rambunctious boys.
Learn more at www.stepheniamcgee.com.

A Friendly Chat with Dianna DeWalt from Dianna’s Dilemma – by Donna Schlacter

Welcome to Novel PASTimes! We are pleased you stopped by today, Dianna.

And thanks for hosting me. I’m excited—and nervous—to be here. Not sure why you even want to talk to me. I’m simply Dianna DeWalt, living in a small town. And it’s 1881—not like it was 1876, the Centennial. Now, that was a year. The stories I could tell you about that—but wait. You’re going to ask the questions, aren’t you? Or else I’ll keep you here all day.

Tell us something about where you live: 

Colorado Springs, in Colorado, is a pretty city. Lots of trees, grand homes, and the mountains are so close. 

Is there anything special about your name? Why do you think you were given that name? 

I don’t think there is anything special about my name. I never thought to ask my mother. Perhaps it has something to do with Diana, goddess of the hunt. I always seem to be sneaking around, trying to catch a good newspaper story. And my father said I was so quiet I should be wearing a bell, like a cat.

Do you have an occupation? What do you like or dislike about your work?  

I am a newspaper reporter at the Colorado Springs Weekly Gazette. Well, I want to be a reporter. I love researching interesting articles and exposing wrongdoing in local and state government. Maybe someday there will be an actual title for that. Maybe a journalist investigator. In the meantime, I keep the editor happy by reporting on social events, such as weddings, engagements, the travel of the rich and famous. Thank goodness I’ve moved up from birth and death announcements. 

I like writing stories, but I wish my editor would trust me more. I’m sure it’s because I’m a woman, because the male reporters are always assigned the juicy articles.

Who are the special people in your life?  

I don’t really have anybody. My best friend, Alice, works in the newsroom with me. She writes the obituaries, poor girl.

What is your heart’s deepest desire?   

To find and write a really important story, one that blows somebody’s world sky high.

What are you most afraid of? 

Of working here on social events until I die.

Do you have a cherished possession? 

My favorite hat. It’s tall, with a grand feather and a satin ribbon. Took me six months of eating one meal a day to save for it.

What do you expect the future will hold for you?  

SIGH. I don’t know. But I do know the One who knows, so I guess I’ll keep going, listen for His voice, and pray for the best.

What have you learned about yourself in the course of your story?  

I learned that what I thought was a small story was huge. And significant. I can’t believe that I went to La Junta Colorado to cover the inauguration of the town and ended up neck-deep in a mystery. Almost got killed twice. Found a missing man. Saved another man wrongfully charged with murder. And—well, for the rest, you’ll need to read the book.

Is there anything else you’d like people to know about you? 

Some people think I’m pushy. And bossy. And brusque. But I’m really not. It’s how I have to act to get along in a man’s world of newspapers. I love kittens. And puppies. And someday, when I’m good and ready, I’d like to have a husband and family—when I’m ready.

Thanks for allowing us to get know you a little better!

Thank you! This has been fun. And not nearly so difficult as I thought. I worried that I should have studied, or something like that. Thanks for the chance to share with readers.


A hybrid author, Donna Schlacter, writes squeaky clean historical and contemporary suspense. She has been published more than 50 times in books; is a member of several writer’s groups; facilitates a critique group; teaches writing classes; ghostwrites; edits; and judges in writing contests. She loves history and research, traveling extensively for both, and is an avid oil painter. 

www.DonnaSchlachter.com Stay connected so you learn about new releases, preorders, and presales, as well as check out featured authors, book reviews, and a little corner of peace. Plus: Receive a free ebook simply for signing up for our free newsletter!

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Check out previous blog posts at www.HiStoryThruTheAges.wordpress.com and www.AllBettsAreOff.wordpress.com

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