Halloween Pranks That Would (and Should) Get You Arrested Today

Halloween PranksHalloween was a big deal in my childhood home, not so much because it meant candy—which we appreciated, of course—but because it meant Halloween pranks–tricks played on neighbors without getting into serious trouble with our parents. We’re not talking about hiding behind a door and shouting, “Boo!” here, either. We’re talking about stuff that would (and should) get you arrested today.

One of our favorite Halloween pranks involved hiding in a cornfield at night and throwing dry kernels of corn at passing cars. “Corning,” we called it. It worked best when launched from an outcrop jutting out over the pavement. An ambush spot like that meant little chance of drivers giving chase. There were occasions when we had no choice but to run—fast—and that was the best fun of all. We stumbled over cornstalks and smacked into trees. We didn’t have to win the race back to the rendezvous point. We just had to be faster than the other guy.

Occasionally, a prank victim slammed on the brakes and fired up a spotlight. This sent us scrambling like escaping jailbirds. Only once was there a threat of a gun. That was made by my dad, actually, when we found ourselves the victims of corning. There was no gun in the car, of course, but when Dad yelled, “Annie, hand me the gun,” it sure made those kids in the cornfield run like hell.

We made “dummies” by stuffing some of Dad’s old clothes with straw or leaves. These were tied to ropes and dragged across the road at night, thereby making drivers think they were about to hit someone. Yes, we did that! And so did every other kid for twenty-five miles.

I won’t even mention the soaping of windows–or waxing, if we hated you. Or, the roadside purses filled with dog shit.

Things were different then. People drove around our rural back roads expecting—dare I say even hoping?—for this sort of thing around Halloween. It was fun. Sport. Really, we shouldn’t have done it. I know that now. It was dangerous. Someone could have been hurt or killed. They weren’t, but they could have been.

Of course, I have to put up the disclaimer that none of these activities are recommended, even though it’s unlikely that children today could put their phones down long enough to make a dummy or stake out a cornfield… So, here’s my disclaimer: DON’T DO ANY OF THIS STUFF. It’s not only dangerous, but illegal. Roads are busier now, and cars are faster. You could kill someone, and nobody—NOBODY—wants that.

 

 

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Into The Fire by Victoria Smith

Into the Fire by Victoria Smith

Into the Fire by Victoria SmithI’m so pleased to interview Victoria Smith today, not only because she’s a great author, but also because she’s a fellow member of Central PA Romance Writers and a fellow Soul Mate Publishing author.

Victoria recently released her new novel, INTO THE FIRE, a dystopian romance in which Olivia Sanders is thrown into a world where her healing gifts make her a target.

Welcome, Vicki. Tell my readers a bit about yourself.

Vicki: Thanks so much for having me, Julie! I live in Central PA with my high school sweetheart. We have way too many animals and people living in this house, even though our youngest is almost 18. I write paranormal, urban fantasy, and dystopian novels—all with romance, because who doesn’t love a happy ending? I blog at http://vickismith.blogspot.com

In INTO THE FIRE, your heroine, Olivia Sanders, is a healer and a firestarter in a world where such gifts are not tolerated. If you woke up in a dystopian world, would you choose to be gifted? If so, what two gifts would you choose, and why?

Vicki: I think I would like to be gifted. Maybe a healer of not just physical wounds, but emotional ones, too. That would come in handy for obvious reasons.

The second one – hmmm – the ability to talk to and understand animals. How cool would it be to know what your cat is thinking? Or ask him why he peed on the floor instead of in the litter box?

Olivia joins the Resistance in the unforgiving world you created for INTO THE FIRE, where she labors with others to bring safety to the people in her sector. Because I’m currently researching two historical novels set prior to our Revolution, I spend a fair amount of time reading old documents and firsthand accounts from the mid to late 18th century. I’m forever amazed by the courage of our forefathers. I suppose their experience wasn’t altogether different from Olivia’s in that circumstances forced them into a foreign and deadly world. In both cases, hope and freedom kept them plodding onward.

Our forefathers looked to their faith for strength. What gives Olivia the courage to keep trying?

Vicki: Olivia expects people to do the right thing – to be accepting and hopefully recognize the injustice. When innocent people are hurt or wrongfully accused, she has no choice but to stand up for them. Her courage initially comes from believing her uncle will do the right thing, but when he doesn’t and hurts her family, she loses herself for a bit. Eventually, she regains her courage through her gifts and Luke.

With a history of personal betrayal by both friend and family, it must be especially difficult for Olivia to trust Luke Jamison, the leader of the Resistance. Can we safely assume sparks fly when they meet?

Vicki:  Absolutely – Not only is Olivia close to sparking out after being poisoned, but Luke’s touch speaks of something she doesn’t believe she deserves and has never really had. He despises her firestarting and all that represents.

I hear a lot of people talking about “when the shit goes down.” Having written a dystopian novel, I suppose you spent a fair amount of time thinking about a world turned on its head. If such a thing were to happen, what items would you personally deem necessary for survival (other than the obvious, like people you love)?

Vicki: I think about when the shit goes down all the time, though I’m totally not prepared for any such event to happen. But besides the obvious food and water (and people I love), toilet paper – can be used for trade, booze – can be used medicinally and for trade, a well-stocked sewing kit and first aid kit, tools, matches, candles. I guess that’s all obvious stuff though, and I could go on and on.

Personally, as long as I have the people I love, a safe place to sleep, a little bit of security (as in, not fearing for my life constantly), food, blankets for when I’m cold, and a sense of purpose, I’m good.

What would you like readers to take away from this story?

Vicki: That hope and love really can conquer all. Fighting for something important to you is always worth it, despite the pain that sometimes comes along with it. Accept yourself for who you are and believe in yourself.

Where can people buy INTO THE FIRE?

Vicki: At Amazon by using the following link: https://www.amazon.com/Into-Fire-Victoria-Smith-ebook/dp/B073DL5NBM

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There Goes My Vacation . . . For The Next Ten Years

If you collect antiques–or anything, really–you probably remember the “one that got away”—that item you narrowly missed at auction or decided was too expensive for your budget at the time. Maybe it was Pete Rose’s autographed rookie card or a chair you knew was a Chippendale. As the years pass, you kick yourself. I should have bought that _____ when I had a chance, you say to yourself.

For me, “the one that got away” was a stack of local history books a guy was selling out of his garage. I did not appreciate their significance or value at the time. (How could I know I would one day write stories set in British America?)

The man offered books on forts, an entire, beautifully bound series of the PA Archives, the huge two-volume set of HISTORY OF THAT PART OF THE SUSQUEHANNA AND JUNIATA VALLEYS, EMBRACED IN THE COUNTIES OF MIFFLIN, JUNIATA, PERRY, UNION AND SNYDER IN THE COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA, and every edition of JONES’S JUNIATA.

I bought the JONES’S JUNIATA books, but only because the title contained the word “Juniata.” I had no idea what the book was actually about. I also bought a two-volume set called FRONTIER FORTS, because at the time, my artist-father was in the middle of painting a scene set at Pomfret Castle Fort. I thought it would make a nice birthday present. I walked away from the rest.

I didn’t realize what a giant mistake I made until I started researching SCATTERED SEEDS. As I struggled to scroll through and bookmark digital records, I kept thinking, Oh, if I could board a time machine and go back to that man’s garage… I needed those books—actual, physical books—the kind made with paper. Badly.

You can imagine, then, that when I walked into a bookstore and saw these, my lower jaw hit my sneaker laces:

Realms of angels praised God in perfect ten-part harmony as I picked up a volume and caught the acrid scent of history. They were printed in the 1830s. Some have been rebound, but many of them still have their original covers. A few volumes were previously owned by Byrle Fraley MacDonald MacPherson of Gettysburg. If that’s not a stiff Scots-Irish name, then I don’t know what is. Don’t be surprised when you find her name featured in a Julie Doherty novel.

I’m not going to lie: I can’t afford the series.

Another truth: I don’t give a shit. I bought the books.

I was supposed to take a vacation this year. In a way, I still am. Instead of sipping mulled cider at a B&B in Bar Harbor, Maine, I’ll be journeying to Colonial Pennsylvania. I can’t think of any other place I’d rather visit.

Do you collect anything? Did you ever pass up a purchase you later regretted?

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Canning Season is Upon Us

In my little corner of Pennsylvania, it’s not unusual to find home-canned goods lining the shelves of pantries. If you tally up the cost of processing, I’m not sure canning food is a cost-effective endeavor. Still, it’s nice to know what’s in those jars (and what isn’t).

Canned red beets.

Unlike the tins you buy in the store, glass jars can be reused. The flat lids must be purchased new each year, of course, but just recently, I saw a local store selling reusable ones. I intend to try them soon.

Mulberry jelly. I tried drying some berries this year, too. Tasted gross.

Dill and cilantro in the dehydrator.

Shredded cabbage transforming into sauerkraut. It smells so bad in here my husband thought we broke a sewer line.

There’s something wonderfully nostalgic about growing and preserving the harvest. I always feel a bit like a frontierswoman when I’m shredding cabbage for kraut or gathering berries for jam. I have a feeling my ancestors would laugh at that. After all, if my harvest fails, a drive to the store can replace it.

This year, I planted a row of snow peas next to our kitchen door. They were about a foot high when this happened:

Rabbit destruction.

In a single night, three rabbits devoured the entire row. It annoyed me, but the loss wasn’t a huge catastrophe, since I only planted enough to eat fresh. It made me pause to think about our forefathers, though (Let’s face it–everything makes me pause to think about them.). Our ancestors got one shot at a successful harvest. An assault like this–be it animal or otherwise–meant calamity for families relying on their bounty to survive the coming winter.

Those who plan to survive must adapt. We raised our beds, which ended the rabbits’ reign of terror.

We may have won that battle, but the war goes on. Insects aren’t ground feeders, so the raised beds did nothing to thwart them. Right now, we are under a major cabbage worm attack. I refuse to apply insecticides, so I’ve been trying natural repellents. I can tell you with certainty that garlic spray, citrus spray, and diatomaceous earth did not work for us. We hand pick the caterpillars each day, and still, some get through. Today, I’m trying Bacillus thuringiensis. Hopefully, that will do the job.

Have you tried something natural that works for these monsters? I’d love to hear about it.

 

Posted in Hands-On Research

A New Chapter (Not the Book Kind)

This is the state of my office.

IMG_20170617_110009

If you’re one of the sorry SOBs following me on Facebook, you know by my overshares that I’ve been going through some stuff. You also know I haven’t written much in the past year. I lost all heart and momentum, thanks to several big, emotional, word-stealing events.

In the midst of that turmoil, the workload at my day job increased to an unmanageable level. I thought it would eventually diminish. It didn’t. Each day seemed worse than the one before until it felt like someone stood on my back pressing my face into the dirt. I couldn’t breathe. I couldn’t sleep. When I did, I didn’t want to wake up.

Months passed, during which a simmering thought turned to a rolling boil: you are not living the life intended for you.

I was not only off the path, but lost in the woods with no water, no food, no toilet paper, and I had to poop.

I became snagged fishing line, rising in pitch as I neared the breaking point.

I prayed for a lifeline. God threw one, a scary one, but when God throws you a lifeline, you don’t shit out of grabbing hold of the rope.

So. Yesterday was my last day of full-time work. A part-time position awaits me at a local law firm, which means the end of my very long commute. It also means four—FOUR!—days a week for writing. I don’t know why I’m glad about that, since it’s unlikely my writing will ever pay our bills. We won’t be eating out anymore. I’ll be growing, canning, and catching a lot of our food. Somehow, that sounds okay to me. I’m thankful it sounds fine to my husband, too.

I said farewell to my work family yesterday, good people I’ve loved for many years. It wasn’t easy. That job and those friends were constants in my world when everything else was falling apart.

I suppose because God knows I’m a fearful creature, He’s been sending me little messages to strengthen my courage. I thought I’d share them here in case you’re going through some anxiety of your own. I either heard these on the radio or saw them on signs over the past few weeks. They were important enough to write down in a notebook I carry:

NEVER LET FEAR DECIDE YOUR FUTURE

GOD’S GOT HIS HAND ON YOU; DON’T LIVE YOUR LIFE IN FEAR

STEP INTO THE LIGHT; HE’S RIGHT THERE BY YOUR SIDE

DON’T TRY HARDER; TRUST HARDER.

I am cleaning my home office today. I start the new job Monday. On Tuesday, it’s back to writing. It’s time to finish those two works in progress languishing at the 60,000 word mark.

When I’m complaining about eating my 500th trout, I may need you to remind me again that I did the right thing . . .

Posted in Writing

April Fools’ Day

In my childhood home, there were four holidays worth celebrating: Christmas, Easter, Halloween, and April Fools’ Day. We looked forward to Christmas, Easter, and Halloween for obvious reasons. Presents and candy. Yippee!

But, oh, April Fools’ Day. That was the most anticipated day of the year. A day of houghmagandie. The objective was to survive April 1st without falling for a trick or a prank. In an isolated house with two mischievous parents and six intelligent imps, this wasn’t easy. We began preparing about the third week of March, often pilfering needed supplies from closets and sheds that had to be secreted in our rooms until The Big Day.

The Picture of Innocence, Right?

The Picture of Innocence, Right?

One year, we learned about strength in numbers. We united against our parents and strung fishing line from an upstairs bedroom to their room downstairs. The plan was to haul on the line in the middle of the night (just when they felt sure they’d survived the day!) and rattle something under their bed. This required several days’ labor. Do you know how hard it is to tuck fishing line into carpets without being seen?

My brothers often took things up a notch, like the year they laid down a minefield of potholder looms Santa brought us, then raised a ruckus so Mom would storm upstairs in her bare feet and nightgown. “April Fools! Oh, hey, somebody get the gauze.”

loom

Landmine!

Once, I managed to fool Mom from the basement. “Mom! The freezer died. There’s blood and water all over the floor!” (If you knew how hard that woman worked to freeze and can wild game and homegrown fruit and vegetables, you would understand why she nearly died on the spot.)

Now, before you feel too sorry for the woman who bore me, you should know she dished it out like a champ. She once put bricks and Limburger cheese in my brothers’ pillows. In case you don’t know, bricks hurt, and Limburger cheese smells like ass. Like, for days.

In the Losch household, if you made it through April Fools’ Day without falling for something, you were George Freakin’ Washington. At 12:01 a.m., on April 2nd, you could prance around with your head high and chest puffed out like a Banty rooster in a house of hens. It rarely happened.

This year, I fell by 11:30 a.m. There I was, potting up some seedlings in the kitchen, when Doherty yelled from the living room, “Did you see the Pope is coming to Harrisburg?”

“You’re kidding me. Why?”

Game over.

Posted in Uncategorized

When the Writing Mojo is a No Show

I photographed my flower bed today.

pumpkin

That’s a pumpkin. From Halloween.

Did I mention today is January 14th?

It may interest you to know that the Christmas wreaths are still on the upstairs windows, too.

What can I say? It’s been a rough couple of months filled with illness, stress, and the death of a loved one. Needless to say, I haven’t made much writing progress. For a while, there was no time. Then, there was time, but no energy. Now, there’s time and energy, but no writing mojo. It all feels hopeless, too daunting, a worthless endeavor.

I know better, of course. That’s just Lazy Julie complaining because something’s not going to happen easily. (My dad always said if something was easy, everyone would do it.)

So, it’s nose to the grindstone. The long break from writing turned my characters into strangers again. Unlike some fabulous writers, I can’t just sit down with my outline and pick up where I left off. I need time with my peeps. I have to woo them all over again, which means studying character development sheets and rereading the 50,000 words I wrote so far.

There are worse ways to spend a Saturday. I mean, it’s the first draft, so it’s not brilliant. Still, I think it shows promise. I feel a bit like I’m visiting with old friends, and I call that a good sign.

writing

Posted in Uncategorized, Writing

Writing Through Stress

You may have noticed a lull in my blogging.

Or, not.

In April, two important things happened. First, Soul Mate Publishing released my second novel, SCATTERED SEEDS. Second, I moved with the clan chief to a grand, old house.house

Things were looking up. I had two books on the market and two manuscripts nearing the halfway mark. At long last, I had an office—and organization.

office

My new hometown rolled out a welcome I could not have anticipated. Mifflintown, Pennsylvania has to be one of the most author-friendly places on the planet.The sign in my yard created excitement and chatter.

sign

My blog hits and sales increased. I scored interviews with both the local newspaper and a little hometown magazine. My high school English teacher invited me to speak to his 10th grade class about writing historical fiction.

 

school

That last thing terrified me, and I nearly declined. What could I possibly have to offer teenagers? I agreed, telling myself if I could encourage one future writer, it would be worth the horror. Imagine my surprise when I actually enjoyed the day. Nearly every student listened with great focus and blatant enthusiasm. It turned out to be one of the best days of my life, because I faced something that frightened me, and I not only completed the task, but exceeded my own expectations. In my experience, days like those are few and far between.

The next day, the Universe punished me for dipping too much joy out of the happiness jar. Everything fell into the shitter. Like, really fell into the shitter. It was as if storm clouds gathered and rained a sticky form of hell, then stayed there. Calamity struck—repeatedly. The little free time I had completely disappeared. These days, I’m smelling my clothes to determine their degree of dirtiness. I’m learning how to dress, dry my hair, and put on makeup at the same time. I’m exhausted, stretched too thin, and suffering the physical and mental manifestations of unbearable stress.

I’m not alone. I’ve asked around. Many people are off-balance right now. This can be especially hard for us artistic types to bear. It’s difficult enough to create under the best of circumstances; it’s impossible during a catastrophe.

I keep telling myself that nothing stays the same for long. In another month, I might complain that I’m bored. (I sure hope so.) I have two manuscripts I’m dying to complete in that awesome new office of mine! There’s no actual writing going on, but that doesn’t stop the characters from attending barn dances inside my head.

I’m determined to just put my head down and soldier on. One day, I’ll have a minute or two of free time.

How do you get through stressful times?

Posted in Writing

Making Soap – Hands On Research

Some of the oils in my soapI love making soap. Sure, it’s cheap to buy, but have you ever read the list of ingredients in store-bought soap?

I know what’s in mine: lye, oils, essential oils. Period.

Oh, lye, you think. That stuff is really harsh.

Yes, lye is harsh. So harsh, in fact, we use it to unclog drains. You’ll need to be very careful with it. When combined with water, it heats quickly and throws of a steam you do not want to breathe. It’s an alkali. Your skin is not. This explains why Grandma’s “lye soap” was so drying. (You’re going to have to forgive Grandma. She didn’t have a lye calculator or an electric scale. Still, she managed to make a pretty decent soap with nothing but lard and lye.)

In the old days, we made lye in barrels by combining water, wood ash, straw, and maybe a little lime. If you ever want to try it (I do! I do!), here’s a great site with instructions: http://www.countryfarm-lifestyles.com/make-lye.html

A lye-lard combo makes great soap, believe it or not, but I like to experiment with fancier oils. I collect bargains throughout the year and tuck them away for soaping day. My go-to recipe is a basic mixture of olive oil, palm oil, coconut oil, castor oil, and shea butter.

This year, I was in the mood to try some flax oil, since my latest release, SCATTERED SEEDS, opens in Ireland with a flax failure.

You can play around with your oils, but in my experience, you will need at least 10% coconut oil in your recipe if you want good lather. Heavier oils like avocado and shea butter will make a decadent bar, but the soap will be a bit soft.

There’s a nifty lye calculator over at  https://www.thesage.com/calcs/LyeCalc.html to help you perfect your recipe. You’ll find basic instructions there, too.

Get your molds ready, if you haven’t already. You will not have time to prepare them when it’s time to pour.

soap6Melted oils ready to be made into soap

Once you have the lye mixed (I do mine outside whenever I can), and your oils melted, keep an eye on their temperatures. When both reach between 100-125 degrees Fahrenheit, it’s time to pour the lye into the melted fats. Be very careful. Spilled lye burns. Get the kids and pets out of the kitchen, and keep vinegar nearby just in case something splashes on your skin. Vinegar will neutralize the burn.

Mix your combined ingredients with a stick blender until it reaches what soapers call “trace.” Trace is that magical point when your mix looks like thick custard. If I’ve done everything correctly, I seem to hit trace in about 10-15 minutes.Mixing raw soap

Add your essential oils at this point. For this batch, I used lavender, patchouli, and just a touch of lemon. I never really measure, but for a batch this size, it’s probably about 16 oz. If you’re using fragrance instead of essential oils, you’ll need much less.

Pour the mix into your mold. I use a long loaf mold my husband made me. The sides are covered with plastic wrap, and they break away for easy removal of the set loaf.

Raw soap in the mold after pouring

Within a day or two, you can break away the sides to expose and slice your loaf.

Soap one day after pouring into mold

The soap will be quite harsh at this point, so you’ll need to be careful. Slice it, and allow it to cure for at least eight weeks before use. You’ll notice a light dusting on the cured bars. This is just ash, a by-product of the chemical process that took place in your soap. It is only on the outside of the bar and washes away quickly.

Happy sudsing!

Soap cut and ready to cure

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Caroline Warfield’s The Renegade Wife

TheRenegadeWifeCaroline Warfield is celebrating her latest release, THE RENEGADE WIFE, with a giveaway! This one sounds so good. As you might guess, she had me at “isolated cabin.” 😉

Enter HERE for a chance to win a kindle copy of this spectacular new book, a $25 Amazon gift certificate, and a bundle of other prizes.

The Blurb

Betrayed by his cousin and the woman he loved, Rand Wheatly fled England, his dreams of a loving family shattered. He clings to his solitude in an isolated cabin in Upper Canada. Returning from a business trip to find a widow and two children squatting in his house, he flies into a rage. He wants her gone, but her children are sick and injured, and his heart is not as hard as he likes to pretend.

Meggy Blair harbors a secret, and she’ll do whatever it takes to keep her children safe. She’d hopes to hide with her Ojibwa grandmother, if she can find the woman and her people. She doesn’t expect to find shelter with a quiet, solitary man, a man who lowers his defensive walls enough to let Meggy and her children in.

Their idyllic interlude is shattered when Meggy’s brutal husband appears to claim his children. She isn’t a widow, but a wife, a woman who betrayed the man she was supposed to love, just as Rand’s sweetheart betrayed him. He soon discovers why Meggy is on the run, but time is running out. To save them all, Rand must return and face his demons.

The Excerpt

We. The word hung between them. She couldn’t look away. They stood for a long time in the narrow hallway before he closed the space between them. He moved so gradually that she didn’t realize it until his mouth was inches from hers, his warmth surrounded her, and his eyes searched hers. She couldn’t say if those eyes searched for permission; she couldn’t think at all. There was only awareness: of the man, of his warmth, of his bedroom door feet away.

The kiss came gently, a touch, a caress. She let herself feel it, starved for tenderness, and she breathed in his scent—pine and wood smoke. Her hands slid up his rough shirt, around his neck, and into the hair that hung to his collar.

Long fingers cupped her head then, splaying into her hair, and he deepened the kiss softly, gently without force. She opened gladly.

WOO!
*fans self*
Buy it. You know you want to.


The Author

CarolineTraveler, would-be adventurer, librarian, technology manager—Caroline Warfield has been many things, but above all a romantic. She is now a writer of historical romance, enamored of owls, books, history, and beautiful gardens, who sits in an office surrounded by windows and lets her characters lead her to adventures in England and the far flung corners of the British Empire. She nudges them to explore the riskiest territory of all, the human heart.

You can learn more about Caroline at: http://www.carolinewarfield.com/

Or, check her out at Ye Good Facebooke: https://www.facebook.com/carolinewarfield7

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