PaperBackSwap Blog

Archive for June, 2011

Fresh Veggies Day

Thursday, June 16th, 2011

Musings by James L.  (JimiJam

It seems only a few weeks ago we were still huddled warmly indoors, hiding from the frigid downpours fueled by the final melting of winter’s last snow. Yet here we are, huddling instead as fans and air conditioners struggle to shield us from the sweltering heat of summer’s imminent arrival. Gone are the sweaters and overcoats, time now for t-shirts and shorts; no more are the sunsets barely lighting our rush hour, here instead is the twilight that lingers long after some of us have gone to sleep. Most significantly (in my food-loving opinion), most have said goodbye to the steady diet of heavy hot meals to warm our bellies, and now look to welcome with open arms (and mouths) the sight of makeshift stands and homemade signs by the roadside, offering for our tables (and tummies) the first of the year’s bountiful harvest of vibrant fresh fruits and vegetables.

June 16th is Fresh Veggies Day, and I don’t think it could come at a more perfect time (and not just because June 17th is Eat Your Vegetables Day!). Just as warm, filling food can be the best defense against or remedy for an icy cold day in winter, there doesn’t seem to be anything better than copious amounts of cold, crisp, succulent vegetables when the Sun’s been beating down on you all day long. These are the days of verdant bell peppers, cucumbers, and lettuces, of robust scarlet tomatoes, and richly orange carrots. Few foods present so much palpable life in their texture and taste, but the very Earth and Sun themselves can be savored in the juicy crunch of fresh veg.

So often have I caught myself, standing there before the buffet at a party, drawn not to the casseroles or cookies laid out in abundance, but instead assessing that beautiful, colorful cornucopia of carrots and celery, cauliflower and peppers, with a dipping sauce stationed in the center, inviting the veggies for a swim. Countless times have I shrugged off the assertion that “salad bars are where they keep the pudding and jello”, instead amassing a mountain of every vegetable presented, down to those lovely little cherry tomatoes. When I make a salad, a few leaves and dressing are as good as no salad at all! I need radishes, celery, cucumbers, green peppers, red peppers, yellow peppers and scallions, bright carrots, purple onions, and at least three kinds of lettuce (and they had better be crisp!).

Had I ever known, in years past, that there was a day set aside to celebrate this insatiable vegephilia, I would have by now been the type to hang decorations in honor of that fact. As it is, I will simply have to make due, with a trip to the local grocer’s, and to the stand set up just across the street…and perhaps the other stand only a few blocks away. When the 16th and 17th arrive, I will undoubtedly spend those days cleaning and skinning, slicing and dicing, and, best of all, crunching and munching my way to complete satisfaction. What better way to repay the sun for all its vicious beaming, than to savor its labors in each fresh veggie bite?

Vegetables Schmegetables

Rose Elliot’s Sumptuous Suppers

Hot Vegetables

Dangerous Vegetables

Vegetarian Suppers from Deborah Madison’s Kitchen

Author Interview with Deeanne Gist

Thursday, June 16th, 2011


Christa’s (flchris) Author Interview with Deeanne Gist

Christa: First, I’d like to say Thank You for agreeing to an interview for the PBS Blog. I’ve read all of your books, so I’m a little nervous and more than a little star-struck to be communicating with one of my favorite writers!

Deeanne: It’s my pleasure, sweetie.


Christa: 2010 was a great year for Deeanne Gist fans, because you published not one, but two terrific books. Maid to Match, set at Biltmore Estates in Asheville, NC explored the life and sacrifices of the below stairs servants.  What intrigued you about that setting?

Deeanne: I’ve always been fascinated with the upstairs-downstairs way of life and while many books touch on the lives of the servants, there weren’t too many whose protagonists were the servants–unless it was a rags-to-riches story. I thought it would be fun to explore the lives of the servants  within their own community–without the rags-to-riches scenario. On another note, I have visited many, many historical homes. Most all of them are run by historical societies and are furnished with pieces “from the era.” But Biltmore is still owned by the Vanderbilt family. So every piece of furniture, the knickknacks, the draperies, even the pots and pans, are the original items the turn-of-the-century Vanderbilts used. That  was such an amazing treat. Add to that the enormity & grandeur of the house, along with the visionaries who built it and dwelled in it and you  have a true national treasure. If you haven’t been, it’s a not-to-be-missed destination.


Christa: The turning point in the book for me was when Mack cleaned up the vandalized dressing room for Tillie. Can you share a time when someone has done such a humbling, self-sacrificing act for you?

Deeanne: I’ve been married for 27 years to a wonderful, thoughtful, self-sacrificing man. I couldn’t even begin to tell you how many times he’s charged in on a white horse to save me. It would take volumes to record them all. Suffice  it to say, he’s my real-life hero. 🙂


Christa: You also published Beguiled in 2010, which brought a lot of “firsts” to your novels…first crime mystery, first contemporary, first collaboration (with J. Mark Bertrand). Was that scary to go outside your box?

Deeanne: It was something I’d wanted to do for a long time and having Mark at my side took the fear-factor out. I trust him implicitly.


Christa: What was the best and/or the hardest thing about collaborating with another writer?

Deeanne: The best thing was that it was Mark. He’s an incredibly talented writer. His strengths complement my weaknesses. He has a marvelous sense of humor. And he’s one of my dearest friends. The hardest thing was him being in South Dakota and me being in Houston. I wish we’d been in the same location. I missed the face-to-face time.


Christa: What did you learn from the experience?

Deeanne: I learned why I prefer writing historicals to suspense. In many cases, I found myself shying away from the creepy parts (which, of course, make it suspenseful). Thank goodness Mark was there to fill in those gaps. He’s a master at “creepy.”


Christa: Do you have other contemporaries or collaborations in the works?

Deeanne: I have some ideas for some contemporaries I might like to write someday, but for now and the near future, I plan to stick with historicals.


Christa: Your books are often called “Edgy Christian Fiction”. On PBS, we sometimes refer to it as “Not Your Grandma’s Christian Fiction.” You’ve dealt with topics ranging from child abuse to prostitution and of course, sexual temptation. These are romance novels, after all!  What can we learn about these modern issues by exploring them in a historical context?

Deeanne: Whether we’re reading our Bibles or our history books, the human race seems to struggle with the same issues generation after generation. Sometimes it’s comforting to know that somebody in the 1800s felt just like you do now and that if they could overcome, than perhaps you can, too.


Christa: What other “edgy” topics might we see you address in the future?

Deeanne: I never know from book to book. I start with a premise and a location, then read biographies of women from that time to see what they were dealing with. Then I go from there.


Christa: I’ll admit that the bathtub scene in A Bride Most Begrudging is one of my personal favorites, but some reviewers have said that your novels are too graphic and cross the line for the Christian audience. How do you handle or respond to that criticism and does it influence what you write?

Deeanne: Christian women–and in particularly our singles–are constantly faced with sexual temptation and they might not feel comfortable bringing up the issues of premarital sex and infidelity in their Ladies Bible Studies and small groups. I, however, can use Christian romance to reveal and deal with sensitive issues like these.

To do that successfully, however, I must have a bit more rope than our readers might be accustomed to, yet still being careful to glorify God.

That said, I go before the Lord and ask Him to convict me immediately when I write something out of His will. That is all done well before the book ever hits the shelves. So, if my published work offends someone, the Lord has already told me, repeatedly, that I am not to worry about pleasing man. I have an audience of One to please. And if He is okay with it, then I am to be okay with it.


Christa: You’ve become a bit of an expert in Victorian era fashion!  How did that interest come about?

Deeanne: The truth is the clothes. I love to shop. I love to dress up. I love pretty things. And Victorian fashions are lots prettier than what the pilgrims were wearing. So there it is. You busted me.


Christa: Were there differences in the American application of the Victorian trends during that time?

Deeanne: Yes. Just like there’s a difference in the British vs. American ways of doing things today.


Christa: All of your books are set in different regions and periods in US History. Do you have any interest in settings outside the US?

Deeanne: No. I love American history. I have no interest in veering into other countries with my writing–though I love to read books set in all kinds of locales.


Christa: Think of the cool travel you would get to do and call it “research”!

Deeanne: I’d rather do cool travel and call it “vacation”! LOL.


Christa: How do you select the time periods or settings for your books?

Deeanne: I’m always on the prowl for interesting little tidbits in our country’s history that we never really learned about in the classroom.


Christa: Do you have a favorite of the ones that you have done?

Deeanne: You know, I truly don’t. I enjoyed them all. I know. Boring answer. Sorry!


Christa: You seem to go above and beyond in reaching out to your fans…including going on vacation with them in the “Getaway with Dee”! How do your fans react to those opportunities?

Deeanne: I’ve had an overwhelming response from them. But the truth is, I love it just as much as they do!


Christa: Why are they important to you?

Deeanne: Because they were stitched together in their mothers’ wombs by the hand of God. And that, to me, is super cool.


Christa: What can you tell us about your new book coming out in October, Love on the Line?

Deeanne: Rural switchboard operator Georgie Gail is proud of her independence in a man’s world…which makes it twice as vexing when the telephone company sends a man to look over her shoulder. Dashing Luke Palmer is more than he appears, though. He’s a Texas Ranger working undercover to infiltrate a notorious gang of train robbers. Repairing telephones and tangling with this tempestuous woman is the last thing he wants to do. But when his stakeout puts Georgie in peril, he realizes more than his job is on the line. Love on the Line will be released this October.


Christa: Thank you so much for taking the time for this interview. I am so looking forward to Love on the Line this fall! 🙂


Thank you, Christa and Ms. Gist for a great interview!

Ms. Gist has generously offered a personalized autographed copy of her book The Trouble With Brides to a member who comments on her interview. A winner will be chosen at random. Good Luck!

Romance Review – Vampire Dragon

Wednesday, June 15th, 2011

Vampire Dragon by Annette Blair

Review by Cynthia F. (frazerc)

This is a fun paranormal read with an action plot.  Third book in the Works Like Magick series and closely related to the first book Naked Dragon.

Practicing good witch Vivica has a calling, she collects the strays she calls chameleons who arrive on earth from other planes and times and helps them acclimate and find jobs.  To this end she has developed a step-by-step series of lessons which will help the individual understand the technology, language and culture of the current here-and-now.  Too bad our hero has a touch of ADD, refuses to do the lessons in order and is much more interested in returning to his new found heartmate than finding out silly stuff about laws and governments and where Canada is.

Meet Darkwyn Dragonelli – an ex-Roman soldier who spent the last dozen centuries as a dragon on the Isle of Stars – now returned to earth in the 21st century.  He arrives naked [and fortunately BEHIND the bar] of the Salem’s Bite Me pub.  The very first person he meets is a masked woman with long purple hair dressed as a vampire – and his heart says ‘mate’ while his head says ‘maybe’.  Vivica arrives – man sized cloak in hand – and escorts him out.

Bronte is the owner of the building which he materialized in – it houses Bite Me [vampire pub], Fangs for the Memories [vampire themed fun/haunted house], and Drak, a private nightclub for real vampires, LARP vampires, and the occasional wannabe.  She plays the Vampire Mistress at Drak’s and she really needs a Vampire Master to act as host, maitre d’, and bouncer.  And the now-cloaked stranger looked like he really qualified – now if she could only trust him with her real problems…

Darkwyn blows off most of the indoctrination process  – including the part where he was supposed to learn to be circumspect about his origins.  The result is his first night as Vampire Master he tells the truth to a slimy reporter/talk show host which then gets him, Bronte, and her nephew Zachary,  spread across the front pages of various newspapers under the headline ‘Vampire Dragon?’

What the book has is a great plot with fun characters.  The plot has enough twists and turns to satisfy: involving a wedding, an evil witch armed with the weather, death scenes, reincarnation and the Canadian mob.  The supporting characters are delightful. The human [well mostly human] cast includes 12-year-old Zachary who seems to know far more than he should, Vivica who keeps trying to ‘orchestrate’ things with great intentions but poor success, and Darkwyn’s two dragon brothers who preceded him into our world.  The animal [again, mostly animal] cast includes Puck the parrot who quotes Ambrose Bierce while giving advice, two winged kittens who are occasionally dangerous and sometimes just kittens, and Jaggidy an invisible, hand-sized dragon elder who came through the veil with Darkwyn  and is enamored of Bronte and her magnificent cleavage.

What the book hasn’t is vampires.  Oh, they’re there but play no major roles – they only have bit parts.  So if you’re looking for vampires, try another book.  If you’re looking for a fun, fairly fast read – Vampire Dragon has your name on it.

Can you read this book without reading Bedeviled Angel or Naked Dragon?  Yes.  There is almost no overlap between Bedeviled Angel and Vampire Dragon.  Naked Dragon gives you some additional insight into Works Like Magick and the whole Roman soldier/dragon/dragonshifter thing but Vampire Dragon gives you enough to skip it if you need to.

Works Like Magick

1. Naked Dragon (2010)

2. Bedeviled Angel (2010)

3. Vampire Dragon (2011)




Happy Flag Day! Long may she wave….

Tuesday, June 14th, 2011




For Which It Stands An Anecdotal Biography of the American Flag
Author: Michael Corcoran


A Grand Old Flag: A History of the United States Through its Flags

Authors: Kevin Keim, Peter Keim


Liberty A Lake Wobegon Novel
Author: Garrison Keillor


Author: Victor Friedman


Ain’t No Rag Freedom Family and the Flag

Author: Charlie Daniels


F Is for Flag
Author: Wendy Cheyette Lewison






Author Interview with Will Thomas

Tuesday, June 14th, 2011

Author Interview with Will Thomas by Jerelyn (I-F-Letty)

Jerelyn: Will Thomas is one of my personal PBS success stories, I saw his book The Hellfire Conspiracy and wanted to read it.  One of the things I have learned when finding anything on PBS is to check the back list, I realized that the book was fourth in the series.  So I ordered the first book and when it came, devoured it.  Then of course I had to have the others.  There are so far five books in the series beginning with Some Danger Involved.  So please let me introduce you to Will Thomas, author and creator of  the Barker and Llewelyn  Mystery Series.

Mr. Thomas thank-you for agreeing to this interview.

I always wonder if writing isn’t more of a vocation than an occupation.  Is this how it is in your case?

Will Thomas: If by vocation you mean a strong internal inclination, then I certainly agree.  A novel is the pearl in my shell that I can’t help adding to layer by layer.  If I didn’t have that bit of grit to begin with, I’d probably have to inject it there myself.


Jerelyn: Was it always your intention to become a writer?

Will Thomas: My first interest was theater, but eventually I grew tired of acting in other people’s plays.  By that time, I’d had several pieces published, so I got an English degree and began working on my first novel.  Why not a play?  Because I know that novel will still be on a shelf somewhere a century from now.


Jerelyn: One of the members after reading your first book said that it had a “strong Sherlock Holmes flavor”.  Is this a fair statement?

Will Thomas: It’s funny how no one ever says Conan Doyle has a “strong Will Thomas flavor.”  Actually, I grew up among the various Sherlock Holmes societies and might be writing pastiches now if I hadn’t reached critical mass.  I became a purist, believing that only Doyle can render Holmes perfectly.  By that time, I’d memorized Victorian London minutely.  I had to do something with that knowledge.


Jerelyn: Why did you choose to write mysteries, and why this time period?

Will Thomas: One writes what one loves to read.  There was no question in my mind that I would write a mystery.  As for the Victorian Era, I don’t believe one chooses it.  It chooses you.


Jerelyn: I love your characters will you tell us about Cyrus Barker, and Thomas Llewelyn?

Will Thomas: Cyrus is six foot two, two hundred ten pounds of muscle, trained in martial arts, and covered in tattoos from various secret societies.  He’s a Scot who grew up on the streets of China, forced to wear dark spectacles to hide his European ancestry.  He was a soldier, a ship’s captain and a prize fighter from somewhere (he won’t tell me).  He returned to Britain with a fortune and became a private enquiry agent in Craig’s Court, Whitehall.  He is a Baptist, and permanently engaged to a widow who lives in Sussex.  He’s known in London for throwing himself completely into whatever case he is investigating.

Thomas Llewelyn is Barker’s assistant, and at twenty, is half his age.  He’s already spent time in prison, unjustly, and took the position because it was the only one offered to him.  He’s only five foot four, but a good looking lad.  Women are his Achilles heel.  He tends to put them on a pedestal, where they generally fall off, to his chagrin.  He uses humor to hide a sensitive nature, and while he talks a blue streak, he thinks still more.  Before becoming a detective, his chief aim in life was to be a don or a poet.  If left alone, he would read in a chair for the rest of his life.


Jerelyn: Intellectually, I know that London was, and is a great international city, but the history of the immigrant groups that did most of the work of the empire have gone unsung.  Why have you decided to intertwine their histories into your work?

Will Thomas: Each successive wave of immigrants adds a new flavor to the melting pot, a term invented by Israel Zangwill, who I have written as Llewelyn’s best friend.  Who isn’t intrigued by Limehouse or Little Italy or the Jewish quarter?  These are where crimes were committed and revolutions begun.  A private enquiry agent living in London would need to know every street and the languages of the inhabitants, or he’s no better than a common beat constable, who sees things imperfectly.  Ethnicity is the garlic in the marinara, and the powder in the curry.


Jerelyn: Do you see any parallels between the modern day and the late Victorian period?

Will Thomas: I see nothing but parallels.  All the “isms” of today’s society: terrorism, anti-Semitism, Socialism, Communism, etc., got their start in the 1880’s.  Whenever one of my books is published, I’m able to go to the local headlines and find the subject I wrote about is still occurring.  Often, it’s thriving.


Jerelyn: You pretty much tell Llewelyn’s story from the beginning, but Barker’s emerges more slowly and by book five he is still mysterious.  Are you still discovering Barker yourself?

Will Thomas: Barker is still revealing himself to me or rather I’m still discovering things about him.  He’s not really helpful in that matter.  From the beginning, Thomas has been fully available, but then he’s changing.  Barker’s character is set, but being revealed, like peeling the layers of an onion.  He reveals himself at the oddest moments as I write.


Jerelyn: You really get the socio-political mood of London at this time period.  What kind of research brought you to your view of London in the last part of the 19th century?

Will Thomas: The trick to making a modern reader care about an obscure English law or movement is to make a character suffer unjustly because of it.  It’s not as if we’ve perfected society since then, so we can relate to whatever a character has been put through.  I like dealing with firsts: the first bombing by political terrorists; the first child kidnapped by white slavers; the first recorded serial killer.  It is up to the writer to give the reader something recognizable to hold onto.


Jerelyn: Barker is very much a man of many contradictory parts he is very Zen but then a warrior.  I know that you have an interest in the martial arts of this period will you tell us about this I find it fascinating.

Will Thomas: I began martial arts when I was fourteen and still attend classes every week.  When I first began Some Danger Involved the art I wanted to use, Bartitsu, no longer existed.  I created a forum to help locate the original materials, with the help of Tony Wolf and dozens of other historical martial artists, and we’ve been able to compile the Bartitsu Compendium, Parts I and II and film a documentary.  It really has taken on a life of its own.


Jerelyn: Then there is Harm, would you like to introduce us to Harm?  I kind of see him as Barker in a fur coat.

Will Thomas: Harm is a black Pekingese, brought illegally from the Forbidden City.  Pekingese (I have three around my ankles as I write) are generally one person dogs, and as far as Harm is concerned, Llewelyn is not that person.  Harm is one of the challenges he must face every day, and there is the hope someday that the dog will bend and accept him and stop biting his ankles.  But I doubt it.


Jerelyn: Thomas has suffered a great deal; what drew Barker to him?

Will Thomas: Thomas Llewelyn is an Everyman.  His lack of size and an occasional hang-dog attitude makes him nondescript.  Other men don’t give him a second thought.  However, he’s very intelligent, and has a wealth of information stored in his brain.  Also, he is being trained in various skills by Barker which allows him to compensate for his size.  In each novel, he becomes more competent, and is on his way to becoming a top notch enquiry agent.


Jerelyn: Are there any parts of Barker or Llewelyn in you?

Will Thomas: It’s more like are there any parts of either that aren’t me.  Llewelyn is much like I was in my twenties, highly voluble and sensitive.  Barker is an idealized version, how I would like to be, if only I could.  Actually, much of Barker’s character is borrowed from my father, especially the gravelly voice.


Jerelyn: How did you come to know late 19th century London so well?  I mean parts survived the blitz but so much has been lost?

Will Thomas: Obviously, I read a lot of Victorian history and literature.  I like to collect books on London from the 1910’s and 20’s, prior to the war, books by authors such as Sax Rohmer, Thomas Burke, and H.V. Morton.  I especially like the dialogue.  The English language has evolved since then, so the books become a kind of time capsule.


Jerelyn: Barker is Scots and Llewelyn is Welsh, both were groups looked down upon by the English is that why you chose their nationalities?

Will Thomas: First of all, detective work was one of the few trades available to Scotsmen.  Thank Alan Pinkerton, for example.  Many of the people Barker associates with at Scotland Yard are Scots, as well.  As for Llewelyn, he is a storyteller through his DNA.  The main reason I’ve had them be a Scot and a Welshman, however, is that it makes them outsiders, and thus able to voice some of the criticisms concerning the problems of the age, such as Imperialism and xenophobia.


Jerelyn: I love the supporting characters it seems that Barker likes taking in strays, do you have a favorite supporting character?

Will Thomas: You’ve hit the nail on the head.  Barker does take in strays, many of whom have seen time in jail.  I have trouble keeping his chef, Etienne Dummolard, from taking over each novel.  He roams about the kitchen in Newington every morning like an ill-mannered bear, smoking innumerable cigarettes and experimenting with recipes while his wife opens their restaurant.  He likes Barker’s all-male household.


Jerelyn: What is up next ?  I am anxiously awaiting the new novel.

Will Thomas: I’m working on the next Barker and Llewelyn novel and also have part of the next one done, as well.  If you’ve been keeping an eye on the year in each novel, we are getting closer and closer to the day of Jack the Ripper.


Jerelyn: Will you be branching out from Barker and Llewelyn?

Will Thomas: There is a certain gentleman waiting his turn in the queue.  Well, come to think of it, he’s not much of a gentleman, and he isn’t very patient, but he’ll have to wait his turn nonetheless.


Jerelyn: When you get a chance to read for pleasure what and who do you read?

Will Thomas: I love reading about the Victorian Era, but I tend to study more obscure places such as Meiji Era Japan or Colonial Hawaii or Indian Territory.  I never thought of myself as a political writer, but the injustices I read about make me want to seize my pen and write.  Grrr!


Jerelyn: Do you feel comfortable with all the marketing authors have to do now to see their books get noticed?

Will Thomas: It’s part of being a writer these days, but at the same time the blogging, tweeting, and face booking slows the writing process.  It’s all too easy to lose the rhythm, not to mention half an hour trolling the internet.  Wasn’t it originally designed to speed the process along?


Jerelyn: How do you feel about sites like PaperBackSwap.com?

Will Thomas: Sites like yours are a boon to authors as well as readers who want to know who to read next.  It’s better than word of mouth.  I appreciate getting the opportunity to speak to a larger audience and tell them about Barker and Llewelyn.


Jerelyn: Are you a fan of e-readers?

Will Thomas: E-readers are certainly convenient in this day and age where convenience is everything, but they just don’t go with a pipe and smoking jacket, you know?


Jerelyn: What books did you read to your children, and what was your favorite book as a child and teen?

Will Thomas: My wife, Julia, and I read to our daughters from Beatrix Potter and A.A. Milne.  I liked the way our eldest daughter lisped the word “disconsolately” from The Tale of Jeremy Fisher at two years old.  My favorite books as a teen were The Hound of the Baskervilles and Kidnapped. Around that time, I also discovered Dickens and devoured everything he’d written.  Doyle, Stevenson, and Dickens are giants, as far as I’m concerned.


Jerelyn: Thanks Mr. Thomas for giving us a bit of your time.  For those interested in reading more about Will Thomas http://www.willthomasauthor.com/ or on face book http://www.facebook.com/home.php?#!/profile.php?id=100001223661952


Will Thomas books in date order:

Some Danger Involved

To Kingdom Come

The Limehouse Text

The Hellfire Conspiracy

The Black Hand


Will Thomas has generously offered a copy of The Hellfire Conspiracy to a member who comments on this interview. A winner will be chosen at random. Good Luck!

Sew – Sew musings on National Sewing Machine Day 6/13

Monday, June 13th, 2011

Member Musings by Cozette M. (CozSnShine


I hadn’t thought about it until recently, but sewing machines are connected to many of my memories.  Memories of my mama, my older sisters, and my niece are all connected by sewing machines!

My mama has six daughters and 3 sons!  That meant a lot of clothes and you couldn’t just run to WalMart in those days!  While I am too young <snicker> to remember, I know my mama owned a sewing machine in the 1940’s!  I know this because of a story she used to tell on my older brother.  Mama loved sewing for her daughters and often gussied up their dresses with ruffles and lace.  When Bill was a little boy he wanted mama to put some ruffles or other pretties on the shirt she was making him.  Mama, always wanting to make her children happy, sewed ruffles on the tail of his shirt.  Daddy, proud of his first born son, made sure the shirt stayed tucked tightly in his pants!  A great use of her sewing machine and her ingenuity.

My three older sisters were/are my heroines!  They were also the best-dressed girls in high school and college.  Two of them made all their own clothes, or remade clothes that were given to them.  I love spending time with them, looking over old photographs and hearing them say, “Oh, I remember making that dress out of brown and white wool and wearing it to the homecoming game!”  Or, “I made that dress for sister when she was elected college basketball queen!”  They made good use of mama’s treadle sewing machine!  We might not have had much money, but that didn’t keep my sisters from being up to date in their styles!

Sisters in the 1940’s looking good!

I am old enough to remember having no electricity in our home, no running water and no bathroom.  But I can’t ever remember not having a sewing machine.  Just as daddy needed his equipment for farming, mama needed her sewing machines!

My first memory of mama sitting at the sewing machine came on a day of sadness in our family.  My sister Bonnie had married a soldier, had a baby and was leaving to live in Okinawa.  I remember the family telling her goodbye and my brother driving off to take them to the airport.  My mama, in tears, sat down at the sewing machine and started sewing.  Using scraps of left-over fabric, she made clothes for every doll my little sister and I had.   It was her way of keeping her hands busy while her heart hurt.  Sewing machines, yes a way of life for her.

Mama sewed all her life.  She had several sewing machines over the years and kept them singing all the time.  She sewed for her 6 daughters, for her many, many grandchildren and once in awhile for herself.

My first attempts at sewing were at my sister, Ouida’s home.  Since she was married and had a child, a great treat was to go stay at her house for a few weeks in the summertime.  She was and is a great seamstress.  One of the lessons I remember well has nothing to DO with a sewing machine!  Lesson number one – if you drop a pin on the floor you have to find it!  No matter how long it takes, you can’t give up!  With a toddler in the home, the rule was enforced with vigor.  It wasn’t until a few years ago that she told me that she taught my sister and I how to sew because she had no idea what else to do with us for weeks!     She was a great teacher but I was just a sew-sew student!

I was one of the “younger” kids, and we had more store bought clothes than the older ones.  But I had many pretty dresses made by my mother and stylish clothes made by my older sisters. I have fond memories of the poodle skirt, made by one of my sisters, that I wore in high school.   Red with a white poodle – girl I was stylin’.

In high school, I took Home Economics, where I used my first electric sewing machine.  Home Ec was taught, in those days, to almost every girl in the school.   When we started the sewing class, I thought I had it made.  I had been sewing since I was 10!   I picked my pattern, I picked my material and I was on my way.   I only halfway listened each day to the “lecture” part of the class.  I just wanted to sew on that new Singer sewing machine!  I had chosen a pattern with a sailor top.  When I got to the point of putting the piping on the collar, I pinned it on and sewed away.  Just as I was finishing, my teacher walks by and ask if I had basted the piping on.  Basted?  Surely I didn’t need to baste, I knew how to sew!  My teacher insisted that to “do it right” the piping had to be basted first.  It did not matter that the piping was on and looked great!  To receive a passing grade, I had to redo all the piping.  I refused and got a failing grade.  My parents were NOT happy.  The best thing I learned from that class is that an electric sewing machine made for faster sewing IF you didn’t need to baste first!

One of the first things my husband and I bought was a sewing machine.  I sewed many patches on his Navy uniforms over the years.  I never knew that he could sew too, until I tried to make drapes.  I liked the material I had chosen but I couldn’t get the prints to match.  I was so frustrated that I finally went to bed in tears.   When I got up the next morning, new drapes were hanging on the windows.  He had cut out and sewn them himself.  His logical mind could see what needed to be done and the sewing machine did the rest!

I almost always sewed for others and seldom for myself. I loved sewing for my niece that lived nearby.  I made her many dresses and more Barbie clothes than I can even think about!  I remember being very pregnant and making my younger sister (also pregnant) and my niece matching Christmas dresses and buying one for myself.

This is my grandniece wearing the dress I made her mother.

Since I had an only son, I didn’t think my sewing machine would get much use!  Wrong again!  He joined Boy Scouts and there were patches galore that needed to be sewn on!   That sewing machine was brought out time after time to mend, sew on patches, and repair camping equipment!

As a young adult, my son joined SCA and my sewing machine got a real workout.  He needed a cover for his fighting helmet (had to make it look medieval).  He designed some of his fighting clothing and I used my trusty machine to make them come to life.   Not EXACTLY the type of sewing I thought I’d be doing, but I loved it anyway.

Allan in his SCA garb that he designed and I sewed!

My sewing machine took a vacation for a few years.  It languished in my closet and was only brought out for a scattered mend or two.

Then my darling grand niece decided she wanted to BE a princess for Christmas.  She didn’t want princess things, she wanted to BE a princess.  OH MY!  I dust off my sewing machine and get to sewing.   Princess dresses are not exactly easy to make!  But. . . the look in her eyes when she wore those dresses were worth the nights of sewing and fussing and sometimes weeping I did.  She got to BE both a fairy princess and a winter princess!

Back in the closet my sewing machine has gone, waiting for the next opportunity to bring smiles to someone.   It may be to the little girl above, who is growing up way too fast or it may be for a someday grandchild.  But one thing I know – I may be a sew-sew seamstress but I know how to use that sewing machine to make smiles!

The Sewing Room

Sew Deadly

The Seamstress: A Novel

Mystery Monday- Murder at the Pageant

Monday, June 13th, 2011


Murder at the Pageant by Victor L. Whitechurch


Review by Matt B. (BuffaloSavage)

In the late 1980s, Dover Publications reprinted many classics from the golden age of British mysteries.

In Murder at the Pageant, during a pageant commemorating Queen Anne’s visit to the country estate Frimley Manor  in 1705, murder and a theft of a pearl necklace happen in tandem.

The Pageant description in the opening chapter 1 attracts us with the description of clothes and the sedan chair, which later plays a part in the crimes.  The clues are presented clearly, the subplot doesn’t muddy details up.

Helping the local police of Superintendent Kinch is Capt. Roger Bristow, by no means the gifted amateur beloved in whodunits but of the Secret Service. Neither has much personality but the edgy pride the copper and his sergeant feel against the spy-catcher is well-done.

Whitechurch was accurate, vicar and canon is real life and came to writing rather later in life. His writing is more careful than graceful, with long sentences salted with an inordinate amount of commas. People tend to talk like people in a novel.

Still, this mystery is worth reading for its tight plotting and for the sake of variety. I mean, we need to read some new  old-fashioned puzzlers from between the wars, not just Sayers and Queen.