The Hardest Post… As goes the publishing world, so goes the blog.

After six years, I’m done. The publishing world has changed, we all know it. So has the world of blogging.

Once upon a time, as recently as 2-3 years ago, a blog was crucial for outreach, for getting to know readers and other authors. Blogging meant putting oneself out there. No more.

Readers find books and authors via other algorithms. Via Amazon and Goodreads and who knows where. There is far less interest in the individual thoughts of individual authors like me.

I’ve loved this blog. It is precious to me. I’ve loved interacting with my readers and my friends. I will miss writing posts and reading your comments. But it’s time to make a change. And change is good. I’ll have more time to write regular old books.

Regular old books… Therein lies the reason I began this blog– to get my books read. Well, you’re reading them. And I thank you.

This blog will become a website. I’ll keep my blog posts archived. You can read them anytime! I plan to include a number of features and I’ll post updates whenever I release a new book.

So ends an era. It’s been fun. You all keep in touch because I would be lost without you. Love, Julia

Herbal Remedies in Your Kitchen and Backyard.

I’ve been watching Outlander religiously and so I have herbal remedies on my brain. I keep wondering– If I were sent back in time, and I had to practice primitive medicine as a healer (I am a registered nurse) — Would I succeed?

Claire in the herb garden at Leoch.

Claire in the herb garden at Leoch.

I’m not a physician, but with my experience I can stitch up cuts, clean and bandage wounds, even set fractures. I can probably diagnose the usual things like asthma, pneumonia, hepatitis, an enlarged prostate, a bladder infection, an ear infection, strep throat, tonsilitis, influenza, even appendicitis. But would I dare remove an inflamed appendix  in an attempt to save a life only to lose said life to the resulting peritonitis?

I can help to deliver a baby. I know a little about a breach delivery as well, and I could probably do a C-Section in an emergency, but keeping the mother alive would be next to impossible.

What do I bring to the table? The knowledge of germs, isolation, disinfection, and sterilization. I’d be busy boiling water.

Most important of all? The washing of hands.

I have some limited knowledge of herbs and tonics and their uses. Of course herbs are not like antibiotics. The dosage is not standardized. Many are also toxins – nightshade and foxglove. Did you know foxglove is digitalis, used to treat heart failure? Deadly nightshade is atropine, which can increase a slow heart rate. But the dosages would elude me. I could just as easily kill a man as cure him.

But I would take the following (limited) knowledge with me into the past:

Honey and garlic are germicidal. Both can be used to treat an infected wound and both are helpful for a cough and congestion. Honey can help sooth a sore throat in addition to its germ-killing properties.

Garlic can also be used as a de-worming agent. (Good to know, right?)

Leeks and onions are decongestants.

Raw vinegar is an excellent disinfectant. It can also help with digestive issues, yeast infections, various skin conditions.

Beer increases lactation. Seriously.

Alcohol, is, well, alcohol – I guess I’d use alcohol as an anticoagulant (blood-thinner), an anesthetic, to distill herbs and plants, and to sterilize equipment and wounds.

Yarrow can help stop bleeding and it can reduce a fever.

Yarrow.

Yarrow.

Willow bark can reduce a fever and help with joint inflammation.

The bark of an oak tree makes a good astringent and can help relieve kidney stones if taken as a tonic.

Witch hazel is an astringent – can help heal abrasions and mouth ulcers.

Witch Hazel.

Witch Hazel.

Lavender helps to heal burns and abrasions and soothes insect bites and stings.

Lavender.

Lavender.

Mint and bee balm help with digestive disorders, as does wild ginger.

Bee Balm.

Bee Balm.

Bilberry is good for the eyes.

Billberry.

Billberry.

Salt water makes a good rinse for wounds and mouth sores.

Sugar can be packed into a would to accelerate healing – sugar is germicidal. (I have personally packed decubitus ulcers with sugar with excellent results.)

Elderberry and cherry help with cough and congestion.

Elderberry.

Elderberry.

Black pepper is terrific for chest congestion. (But I’d have to remember it’s also a deadly poison.)

Black peppercorns.

Black peppercorns.

Tea is an astringent. It’s very helpful for minor burns.

Mustard can definitely help a cough but it can also cause a chemical burn if left too long on the skin.

Mustard flower.

Mustard flower.

Echinacea, or cone flower, helps to improve the immune system.

Echinacea.

Echinacea.

Valerian root acts as a sedative. Not strong enough to remove a bullet from a man’s chest, but…

Valerian.

Valerian.

I know about more herbs, but probably not many of them would be found in Scotland.

So tell me, what herbs are you familiar with?

 

 

What’s beneath that kilt?

Oh Jamie Fraser. I love you so. You epitomize the romance hero. (Don’t tell Oscar.)

The truth is, in my mind Jamie is Gerard Butler, the way he was back in the day, when he was Jamie’s age – mid-twenties.

Gerard Butler

There it is!

But the new Jamie is not bad. I can accept Sam Heughan as Jamie Fraser. He may be a little too pretty, but he’s appealing. He has promise, a great voice, he’s sweet, he’s sexy, so I’ll suspend disbelief for the moment.

The new Jamie.

The new Jamie.

I’ve waited years for someone to bring Outlander, by Diana Gabaldon, to life. It’s not a book that would translate well to the big screen, but it works as a series. Starz surprised me. They’ve made some smart moves. They hired my favorite director, Ron Moore, oh he of Battlestar Galactica fame. Ah those Sharons… The casting is terrific. I have pretty much zero complaints. The feel of 18th Century Scotland is spot on. The dialogue may be a tad stilted, especially Claire’s expletive- Jesus H. Roosevelt Christ – but I think this little problem will work itself out over time.

If you have a subscription to Starz and you’re an Outlander fan, you won’t be disappointed. Totally worth your time.

Julia gets personal.

April is a big month. It’s my favorite month, mostly because April, from my perspective, is spring. Birdsong, wildflowers, hunting morels, baby bunnies…

Hunting morels in Iowa.

Hunting morels in Iowa.

Back in Iowa April meant plowing and planting. When that rich black dirt in the Midwest, particularly in Iowa, is tilled up it smells good enough to eat. Seriously.

I miss it. I miss the fireflies, the raspberries, the elderberries, the Dutchman’s Breeches, the black walnuts, the black squirrels, the massive thunderstorms, the Carnegie Library, Christie Creme cheeseburgers and sherbet, the people, my Baubi’s Christmas tree green house with it’s red door and wrap around front porch. There’s not one thing I don’t miss about Iowa.

Dutchman's Breeches.

Dutchman’s Breeches.

Now I live in California because the hubster dragged me out here. Kicking and screaming, I might add, although we did move around quite a bit after we got married– which brings me to the point of this post. Let’s get personal!

(I hated California for nine solid years. Now I like it well enough. But it sure ain’t Iowa.)

So what else happens in April?

My birthday – April 13th.

Our anniversary – April 17th. (Click on the photos to enlarge.)

My favorite wedding photo - my son and me - us redheads.

My favorite wedding photo – my son and me – us curly redheads.

The most important folks.

The most important folks.

My closest cousin’s birthday (we were raised like sisters) – April 16th.

My gramma Jennie’s birthday – April 15th. Gramma Jennie was, sort of, our matchmaker.

Usually Passover and Easter. Love those Cadbury mini eggs and that matzoh ball soup!

Matzoh ball soup.

Matzoh ball soup.

Our wonderful friends Tom and Ishbel Stronach celebrate their anniversary on – April 17th. Same as us!

Tom and Ishbel - how can you not love this photo???

Tom and Ishbel – how can you not love this photo???

My beloved German shepherd Louie’s birthday – April 29th. He died a week before Jake was born. (Jake missed the cut-off. His birthday is May 29th.)

Louie. R.I.P.

Louie. R.I.P.

April is a terrific month. I like it better than December– although December contains Oscar’s birthday, my older daughter’s birthday, Christmas and Chanukah. It’s a little more hectic but still almost as fun as April.

Time on my hands…

So I’m reading and working. Still in bed. The knee is okay. (It’s on ice.)

Oscar is taking amazing care of me. Jake’s going a little nuts but like I keep asking, when is Jake not nuts?

Plus we’re getting a some heavy soaking rains which is great.

Yesterday my sister (the non-exorcising sister) and I were talking about how when you get bored you start to look at celebrity gossip sites. Yeah. She’s so right. Just before her phone call I had been reading one site entitled Secret Smokers and I was heartbroken to learn that Kate Winslet and Jessica Alba are secret smokers. (I always knew Jennifer Aniston smoked, no big surprise there.) But Kate Winslet signed something or other regarding never getting plastic surgery which, if she continues to smoke she’s definitely gonna need. While Jessica Alba has always promoted herself as the epitome of good health habits. So it’s like I figured– every single article about how celebrities stay thin because they eat healthy and work out and take care of themselves is a bunch of crap. They stay thin by smoking. Done. And one of these days each of these beautiful women will morph into Bette Davis from Whatever Happened to Baby Jane.

Yikes!

Yikes!

And how about that Beyonce? Oh god no! Let’s just say what little admiration I may have felt for her, and I can’t say I’ve felt a whole lot over the past few years, has evaporated entirely because I can’t un-see this or un-hear this. I need brain bleach, stat. It’s the lyrics, babies. Like I said before, Miley pushes the envelope, but she’s 21 and into publicity Madonna-style, and the truth is Wrecking Ball is a dang good song and she sings it well. But I think there’s something gross and more than a little disturbing about Beyonce upping the raunch factor. But to be brutally honest, I don’t really give a damn because I’m not into what’s becoming her trademark un-music.

Books- The Great, The Good, The Disappointing.

The Great:

War, by Sebastian Junger

WarIn WAR, Sebastian Junger (The Perfect Storm) turns his brilliant and empathetic eye to the reality of combat–the fear, the honor, and the trust among men in an extreme situation whose survival depends on their absolute commitment to one another. His on-the-ground account follows a single platoon through a 15-month tour of duty in the most dangerous outpost in Afghanistan’s Korengal Valley. Through the experiences of these young men at war, he shows what it means to fight, to serve, and to face down mortal danger on a daily basis.

Very intense gripping nonfiction. Junger’s writing style is so visceral you can feel the bullets whiz by your head.

Revolver, by H.P. Oliver

RevolverIn his second novel-length caper, H. P. Oliver’s wise-cracking Hollywood gumshoe tackles a mystery from history right in his own backyard when studio boss Jack Warner calls Johnny in to find out who is sabotaging the production of a film on the Warner Bros. Burbank lot. With a cast of characters that reads like a 1930s Hollywood Who’s Who and a plot with more dangerous curves than a sound stage full of Goldwyn Girls, REVOLVER takes readers on a deadly tour of Tinsel Town hotspots as Johnny describes the investigation in his own unique style. REVOLVER will keep you guessing who dunnit right along with Johnny until the final action-packed chapters!

This book is flat out old fashioned entertainment at its best. Great stuff! Besides, how can you not adore the cover? I’ve got these two to read as well. I’ve already started Silents:

Silents

Intriguing from word one.

Lillian Lawrence, the silent-era’s newest starlet, is found shot to death in her room at the Hollywood Hotel only days after she announces plans to leave motion pictures for the less glamorous roles of wife and mother. Lillian’s many friends at the studio and her legions of fans across America are all asking the same question: Who could have done such a dastardly deed?

That’s exactly what Los Angeles Police Department detectives Robert Winfield and C.K. Mackie are determined to find out as we follow them down the boulevards and through the back alleys of Hollywood in search of the one person who would profit from Lillian Lawrence’s death. What the detectives learn as Silents! reveals its twists and turns will leave you as baffled as they are.

Then the detectives catch a break in the case that brings Lillian Lawrence’s killer to justice . . . or does it? In typical H.P. Oliver fashion, the final solution to the murder comes as a surprise to all but the sharpest fans of mysteries in history!

And Goodnight San Francisco~

Goodnight

Nineteen-thirty-seven was a hell of a year for news. Japan invaded China, Amelia Earhart began her ‘round-the-world flight, the Hindenburg blew up, and the people of San Francisco were listening to the crime story of the decade on their radios. The man they were all listening to was Parker Atkins.

Atkins, the news reporter at station KDG, witnesses the hit-and-run murder of a young San Francisco socialite. He sets out to find the woman’s killer, but the deeper Atkins digs, the stranger the case becomes.

At the bottom of it all he uncovers a bizarre blackmail scheme concocted by a gang of cold-blooded killers. Suddenly the situation becomes a horrifying matter of life and death when Atkins’ girlfriend is kidnapped with the dead woman’s sister.

As a decorated former LAPD homicide detective, Parker Atkins has the skills to solve the case and save the kidnapped women, but as a former drunk, does he have the nerve to see it through? A bloody climax in the wilds of Marin County tells the tale. Goodnight San Francisco is classic H. P. Oliver from start to finish!

Just bought it. I’m telling you, H.P. Oliver gives great covers and weaves engrossing old-timey mysteries.

Sacred Hoops: Spiritual Lessons of a Hardwood Warrior, by Phil Jackson (yeah, that Phil Jackson)

Sacred HoopsAn inside look at the higher wisdom of teamwork from Chicago Bulls’ head coach Phil Jackson. At the heart of the book is Jackson’s philosophy of mindful basketball — and his lifelong quest to bring enlightenment to the competitive world of professional sports, beginning with a focus on selfless team play rather than “winning through intimidation”.

Mr. Jackson’s philosophy is applicable in the wider world. I’m liking this book a whole lot.

The Good, or rather, the as yet Undecided, or maybe a work in progress with tremendous potential:

Finn McCool Rises, by Mark MacNichol

FinnTold by her editor she must walk away from a politically sensitive story, intrepid journalist Fiona MacDonald is helped by Celtic legend Finn McCool. Under his protection her goal is to get the information into the public domain. Both the secret service as well as dark supernatural forces use all of their powers to try and stop them.

Mr. MacNicol is a new-to-me author. The good~ time travel and a Scottish hero from the Highlands of Scotland. A twisting-turning-intriguing mystery. Hard to go wrong there. The undecided~ the heroine. I have to be honest, sometimes I think it is difficult for male authors to get into the head of a female protagonist and make her seem, well, female. There’s a quote I’d like to use from Orphan Black but in order to find it I’d have to scroll through all the later episodes, so I’ll paraphrase. Beth’s partner, Art, says something along the lines of– Women fight differently, sound different, smell different… That’s the one thing I’m missing in Finn McCool Rises, the difference.

Which brings me to The Disappointing:

This book which did not work for me at all. Not no way, not no how. And I was especially disappointed because based upon reviews I’d read I expected to love this book.

Painted Faces, by L.H. Cosway

PaintedCome forth with an open mind, for an unconventional tale of love..

Dublin native Freda Wilson considers herself to be an acquired taste. She has a habit of making offensive jokes and speaking her mind too often. She doesn’t have the best track record with first impressions, which is why she gets a surprise when her new neighbor Nicholas takes a shine to her.

Nicholas is darkly handsome, funny and magnetic, and Freda feels like her black and white existence is plunged into a rainbow of colour when she’s around him. When he walks into a room he lights it up, with his quick wit and charisma. He is a traveling cabaret performer, but Freda doesn’t know exactly what that entails until the curtains pull back on his opening night.

She is gob-smacked and entirely intrigued to see him take to the stage in drag. Later on, Nicholas asks her if she would like to become his show assistant. Excited by the idea, she jumps at the chance. Soon she finds herself immersed in a world of wigs, make-up and high heels, surrounded by pretty men and the temptation of falling for her incredibly beautiful employer.

In this story of passion and sexual discovery, Nicholas and Freda will contend with jealousy, emotional highs and lows, and the kind of love that only comes around once in a lifetime.

Smokin’ hot cover. Intriguing blurb. The story fell flat, flat as a flat flat flat pancake that had been flattened by a steam roller. The characters, especially the female protagonist, were so unlikeable as to be grating in the way fingernails grate on a chalkboard. Sorry, that’s my take on Painted Faces. Feel free to disagree. Doesn’t bother me in the slightest.

I don’t often review books, especially when they are written by authors I’ve had some contact with. Today I’ve made a couple of exceptions. Most of the authors above I don’t know and I’ve had no contact with them. I hate publicizing the fact that I didn’t enjoy a book because I know how much sweat equity, how much heart, goes into everything we write. Just so you know~ I don’t plan to do this very often. Maybe once in a blue moon, if that.

I guess I feel like being real today. Sometimes a book is a fail for me. And that’s all there is to it. There’s no deeper hidden meaning and no agenda.