What’s In Your Suitcase?

Welcome to Writer Wednesday. Today we are treated to Claudia Shelton as she shares thoughts from summer travels.

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The past month has been filled with a couple of things every writer needs—vacation and renewal. And, my suitcase is totally confused!

First, my vacation to Sanibel Island, Florida meant swimsuits and shorts, tank tops and cover-ups, sandals and suntan lotion. What started out as a clean suitcase interior, ended up with a little sand mixed in with souvenirs and beach memories on the way back. Ahhhhh, fabulous vacation… The packing neatness I used to begin the trip succumbed to way-too-many-fun-times tiredness, so I shoved everything in and hoped the zipper held for the return.

Once home there were barely enough days to unpack, do laundry, and visit the hair dresser and manicurist before restocking the suitcase for a trip to RWA Nationals in Atlanta, Georgia. This time I needed to think about wrinkles so I layered clothes neatly: casual, business casual and evening gowns flowed into the empty space. Comfortable dressy sandals and sassy gold high heels rounded out the packing along with a full array of makeup.

After a great conference of workshops, networking and the Gala, I was ready to head home. I slipped my evening gown into its protective bag, spread it carefully in the bottom of the suitcase and smoothed the wrinkles. Ahhhhh, writing renewal… Then I did what every good traveler does when the clock says midnight and your plane leaves in a few hours—I shoved everything in (including two additional stacks of books) and hoped the zipper held till I got home!

I must admit back-to-back travel made me a little tired, but I’m also energized and ready to tackle my current work in progress. Wait till you see what my alphas and the women strong enough to love them are up to next. Of course, there’s still a little sand in the suitcase. Guess I’ll just have to save it for my next trip.

Sanibel First Night
Sanibel First Evening

How about you…what’s in your suitcase?

Claudia Shelton

Claudia Shelton writes Romantic Suspense. Look for her debut novel, RISK OF A LIFETIME from Entangled Publishing–Ignite, February 2014. In the meantime, visit her at:


Twitter – @ClaudiaShelton1

Facebook –


Just Enough

I’m writing this a few minutes before lunchtime.

I’ll make a short detour to my garden and collect just enough tiny ripe tomatoes to garnish my salad.

Gardens in my youth covered a portion of an acre. Crops were referenced by rows or half rows. Bedding plants were purchased by the half dozen or more. And they required work. Hours with the hoe in the never ending battle against weeds and dirt that tended to resemble pottery after a hot, dry day. Multiple trips with buckets of water to aid new plants to get established.

The harvest began with peas, salad greens, and strawberries. This also signaled the beginning of canning season. Pint jars, quart jars, boiling water bath. Cucumbers to scrub. Beans to cut. Peas to shell. Each crop in season – from a few days to a few weeks – graced our farm table as fresh produce and filled jars on the basement shelf.

I don’t depend on my garden for a year’s worth of vegetables. My two tomato plants give me just enough…to garnish a daily salad, satisfy my palate, and please my eye.

Fresh & Tasty
Fresh & Tasty

Thank you for visiting. Tomorrow, Writer Wednesday, we have the second in a series featuring romance authors. Come by and sample Claudia Shelton’s unique view of life.


A Fowl Tale

My introduction to vaccinating animals did not begin in a vet’s office holding a dear pet. Rather, it occurred the year my father decided to build a new chicken coop and increase the flock of hens.

The spring and summer were normal. We purchased 600 chicks early in the season and did all the same things we’d done for 100 or 200 the year before. Just on a larger scale. While the laying hens (last year’s chicks) remained confined in the old building, my father built a new, larger coop, with a small room at one end intended for feed storage.

Late in the summer the laying hens sickened, one symptom being ugly scars forming on their combs. We called the vet. He diagnosed chicken pox. (I learned many years later the actual name was fowl pox.) Note to all non-farm people: sick chickens lay fewer eggs, sale of their eggs was the reason to raise them, the idea was to make a profit.

The preventative measure was to vaccinate the young birds. This involved catching them twice – once in their outside pen and roosts, and again in the small room of the new coop. This is a chore that must begin after dusk. You want the chickens to be settled for the night. Now, they were away from the other buildings at this point, away from our one yard/security light.

My parents, one brother, and I caught, carried, caught again, and handled chickens for hours. The needle, with an end like a small two-tined fork, held a small bubble of vaccine and mother inserted it near the base of a wing while dad held the bird. My brother and I caught and passed the animals to dad as the increased numbers of vaccinated chickens explored their new home around us.

At the end of it all, dad looked at the sky and walked to the barn for morning milking. Me? I think I went to the house for a nap.

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Small Town USA

Today we welcome our first guest in a series of Writer Wednesdays. So pour a cup of your favorite beverage and enjoy thoughts from my friend and fellow author, Lynn Cahoon.

Band shell

I started in a small town. I walked to school, knew all my neighbors, and had my choice of not one, but two mom and pop stores where you could get tons of candy for a few coins. (Yes, now I’m aging myself.) But then my mom moved us out to the country when she remarried. Now, my closest neighbor was a half mile away, I rode a school bus for over an hour to get to school, and shopping was a Saturday only chore.

When I moved from Idaho a few years ago to Illinois, I wasn’t expecting to move back into a small town. Highland Illinois could be Small Town America, USA. The park square in the middle of town hosts a weekly peanut butter and jelly day. There are two summer parades that run through town, marching bands, classic cars, and farm equipment leading the way. They have an outdoor pool, closed for swim lessons in the early morning.  And they play host to the county fair with corn dogs, animal barns, and a dirt track race, including a tractor pull.

My bull rider series is starts in a small mountain town famous for the annual rodeo. A town kids plan on escaping. But somehow, they always pull you back in.

Are you from a small town? Or does the big city seem like home to you?


The Bull Rider’s Brother -Shawnee, Idaho is known for two things.  Amazing salmon fishing and the first local rodeo of the summer.  For four friends, growing up in Shawnee, meant one thing, making plans to get out. Years later, that wish has been granted for all but one.  What happens when they all get together again changes five lives.          Bull Rider's Manager

Lynn Cahoon is a contemporary romance author with a love of hot, sexy men, real and imagined. Her alpha heroes range from rogue witch hunters to modern cowboys. And her heroines all have one thing in common, their strong need for independence. Or at least that’s what they think they want.


A Warm Welcome

Hospitality, Georgia Syle
Hospitality, Georgia Style

The World of Romance Writer’s, that is.

A week before you read this, I and two thousand romantic minded writers gathered in downtown Atlanta. We shared ideas, ate, laughed, learned, formed friendships, and withstood a years worth of stimulation in three and a half days of book signings, workshops, and receptions.

The hotel staff, residents of Atlanta, and even the weather gave us a warm welcome. (What do you expect? July. Georgia. Have you looked on a map?) I enjoyed the skywalks between buildings. That afternoon shower proved to me they are worth the construction hassle for more than Northern Midwest winters.

Wow!  I’m tired. The laundry awaits in a small mountain.

I can hardly wait to go again next July.

Starr Tree Farm is now available for pre-order at


If the Shoe Fits

Sneakers. Flats. Sock feet.

Those are my usual foot attire. I’ve never calculated the miles I put on a pair of sneakers – several months as “good” plus more as primary for walks — before they hit the dumpster.

Unlike many of my fellow romance authors, I’m not a “shoe” person. If you tracked my shoe buying habits you’d find sneakers punctuated by hiking boots (for mission trip construction site), and snow boots (self-explanatory). Black dress flats and white flat sandals come out of the closet for a day here and there. The shoes, however, are old enough for their receipts to have been handwritten by a quill pen.

An assessment of the calendar early this month convinced me it was time to find “Ye Olde Fancy Dress” and check for fit and accessories before I pulled it on for an event. Dress fit. Needed new necklace to freshen. 🙂 No problem. Shoes didn’t work at all – didn’t work for five minutes in house – would never make a full evening. 🙁

An hour in the mall resulted in a success story. As long as you ignore the charges on the credit card.

Banquet ready
Banquet ready



A Feline Tale

Every farm needs a few cats.

They are like a good, multi-purpose accessory. They provide picturesque atmosphere. They entertain children – small and large. And when left to roam the farm at will — all important rodent control.

We had a compact farm, small dairy herd, and only a few cats at a time.  The milk cows received a ration of ground grain morning and evening. In this old-fashioned barn, a metal barrel stood in the corner and we’d dump one or two burlap sacks of feed into it, then dispense it with a small pail, some to each animal.

One day my brother dumped a sack of feed into the barrel and exposed a mouse. We thought fast and scooped up a half-grown kitten, not an adult hunter. It was a face off for the first several seconds. The mouse had no escape. The kitten was intrigued by this animal, very similar to lunch brought in by mother.

An extended paw. A small pounce. A skill learned. We lifted the cat, with dinner firm in her jaws, out of the metal barrel.

Every farm needs a few cats. Out in the barn. Catching mice.

Rodent Patrol
Rodent Patrol

Go to the Starr Tree Farm page of this web site for information on my August 5 release from Crimson Romance.


Friday Fish Fry

Where’s a good place for supper?

If you ask the above question in a small Wisconsin town don’t be surprised if the final word of the answer is “Tavern” or “Bar”.

The year round Friday night fish fry is a tradition in the region. During Lent the number of options increase, but on any given Friday you can satisfy that nagging desire for hot fish fillets. I never gave it much thought. It was just part of life. And it wasn’t confined to small towns. The summer I worked in Milwaukee, decades ago, our office over a corner bar was filled with the mouth-watering scent on Friday afternoon of beer batter, hot oil, and fresh fish.

Step into a small town tavern with me. Bring the children. We can order any of the usual beverages. Some, true to that German heritage that has seeped into the fabric of the region will include alcohol. But other choices will be available. Now since it’s Friday we’ll have the special. Two fish fillets served piping hot and coated with beer batter. (Each establishment has a variation on the recipe.) Sides of slender french fries and small cups of coleslaw fill out the meal. Some places add a thick slice of hot, buttered toast. Others offer baked beans.

So if you visit a small town on Friday, ask around for the fish fry. Delicious comes in unexpected places.


The Spruce Tree

My friend said it was gone the last time she drove past our former farm.

The news, even half-expected, saddened me. I considered it mine. Every visit to my home town included at least a drive past to check for it’s presence and general condition.

My parents purchased it. One spring day I arrived home from school to find they had brought home at least three trees to plant in our expanded yard. The green ash did not fare well. The white birch liked it’s place east of the house and thrives. In my mind it became mother’s tree.

The spruce became mine. I assisted with the planting, mother took a picture of the event, and it became part of my 4-H project that year. A few years later we started to decorate it with lights at Christmas. It didn’t take long for it to outgrown the number of lights we owned.

I moved off to college and beyond. My parents sold the farm and moved to town. Friends purchased the place and we’d visit. When my own children were young teens I posed them next to it and had difficulty getting both tree and boys whole – it was much taller than the two story house by then.

So it’s gone now. Relegated to memory, a few prints from film, and one digital photo.

The Spruce in Old Age
The Spruce in Old Age

Age 237 and Counting

Belated birthday greetings USA!

Across the continent, north in Alaska, and in the island state of Hawaii, the celebrations continue through this weekend. Will you attend a parade? Eat at a picnic? Listen to a concert? Or watch a fireworks display?

Do you know how and when your hometown became part of the fabric of America?

Many of our east coast port cities and towns were settled before the Declaration of Independence in 1776. Other areas, just across the first ridge of mountains, was wild country, the realm of explorers, Native Americans, and a few hardy settlers turning forest into farms. More settlements, French and Spanish, clung to the banks of the Mississippi River.

St. Louis, my current home, marks 1764 as their founding by French traders. Sitting on the west bank of the river, they did not become part of the new nation at the end of the war. They would join a growing United States later, in a peaceful transfer as part of the Louisiana Purchase.

My birth place, a small town in western Wisconsin, celebrates a founding after statehood. They began with a sawmill along a creek. Many such settlements vanished after a few years. But others survived, added businesses, and became small trading centers for the farmers claiming land in the spring watered valleys and on the rolling hills.

The United States expanded to present borders by many means. Great swaths of land were gained by purchase or peaceful treaty with other nations. Some was gained by treaty after armed conflict.

Which sort of area do you consider home? Who were the first to build settlements near you?