Author Archives: Miriam Hurdle

Book Review – Jonah by Jan Sikes

My Book Review of Jonah by Jan Sikes.

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It’s a great pleasure to share with you the inspirational short story I read over the weekend.

Jonah

JONAH by [JAN SIKES]

My Review

The short story Jonah by Jan Sikes reads like a spiritual journey. Jonah was in prison for his crimes committed but had a choice to be locked up in an underground box or banished in a deserted island. He chose the island. The harsh environment of the island with creatures, stinging nettles, and prickly thorns didn’t make it any easier for him. In his hut, he discovered a package with edible items and toiletry. There were two books and a pencil with a message that the only way he could get off the island was to examine himself, face the truths, and make peace with his demons.

He used to rule the city with his might, but there was no specific mention of the crimes in Jonah’s past. It’s up to the reader’s imagination. Then an unusual young boy with eyes glowed with luminescent green light and webbed fingers showed up. He wrestled with this boy, Titus, the same way he would with an enemy. Realized this boy wouldn’t do him any harm, he let him go back to the other side of the island. Overtime, he developed the friendship with Titus. Titus brought him food and kept him company. He also brought him books on the requirements of him to be set free. His response was to comply with the rules with his behaviors. Titus indicated that it was not the fake behaviors but the heart that count. His empathy and care toward Titus grew and wanted to help him get out of the environment where the people didn’t treat him right. Every time his innate passion and selflessness grew, his hut became bigger.

The story came to a surprised ending when it was least expected of Jonah. I like this story when the author skillfully depicted the inner struggle of Jonah and his capability of changing his heart. His sincerity and genuine compassion toward Titus set him free. This short story is an enjoyable read. Highly recommended.

Amazon and Goodreads Ratings

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Jan Sikes

About the Author

Multi-Award winning author, Jan Sikes, began her writing career as a young girl. Her first work was a gospel song. She had an uncle whom she loved dearly, but he was an alcoholic and his drinking caused such family discord that at times, resulted in him being banished from their home. So, she wrote a song about Uncle Luke finding Jesus. That is her first memory of feeling the passion deep down to her toes for writing and for music.

When her husband passed away in 2009, she thought someone would come along and write the story of his unique and inspiring life. She awoke one morning to realize she was the only one who could write it, since she was the only one there with him through it all. So, she took several Creative Writing courses at local community colleges and went to work.

Her books are true stories about the journey of two people moving through adversity in order to grow and learn to become better humans. She believes with all her heart there is something worthy of sharing in these stories. Bits and pieces of wisdom, hard-learned lessons and above and beyond all, love…True love that you read about in fiction stories and yet this is truth. The old saying that truth is stranger than fiction fits these stories.

She also releases a music CD of original songs along with each book that fits the time period of the story. Why? Because the stories revolve and evolve around a passion for music.

Jan has also developed several writing workshops that you can get more information about on her website.

She is widowed, lives in North Texas, volunteers at music festivals, has five incredible grandchildren and serves on the Board of Directors for the Texas Authors Institute of History, The North Texas Book Festival and the Texas Musicians Museum.

Contact the Author

Amazon Author page: https://www.amazon.com/Jan-Sikes/e/B00CS9K8DK?ref=dbs_p_ebk_r00_abau_000000

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7095856.Jan_Sikes

Website: http://www.jansikes.com

Blog: http://www.rijanjks.wordpress.com

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/AuthorJanSikes

Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/rijanjks

 

Welcome to Day 1 of “THE LOST AND FOUND BILLY BATTLES” Blog Tour! @JHawker69 @4WillsPub #RRBC #RWISA

Welcome to Day 1 of “THE LOST AND FOUND BILLY BATTLES” Blog Tour! @JHawker69 @4WillsPub #RRBC #RWISA.

My dear friends and visitors, please join me to welcome Ron Yates to my blog. This is the first day of his blog tour. I invite you to click the link at the end of this post to follow the rest of his tour. I’m excited to announce the following giveaway.

GIVEAWAY:  (2) Complete sets of the Billy Battles trilogy.  For your chance to win, please leave a comment below!

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Hi Ron,

Thank you for visiting my blog and spend time to tell us about you as a writer, the inspiration behind your books, and the tips and advice for newer writers/authors.

 

Q & A with Ron Yates (Part 1)

When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?

Probably when I was in the sixth grade. I loved writing stories, and I had a teacher (Mrs. Gooch) who encouraged me. My mother also bought me books and took me often to the library–a place that I found magical and magnetic. She often read to me, and I could “see” the story unfolding before me. When I could read myself, I began to devour everything I could get my hands on. Reading took me places I could not, as a young boy, otherwise go. As I used to tell my journalism students at the University of Illinois if you want to write well, read well.

What was your inspiration to write the Finding Billy Battles Trilogy?

I grew up in Kansas, and I was always fascinated by what life was like there in the 19th Century when the state was still relatively wild. At the same time, I spent a lot of time in the Far East as a foreign correspondent, and I was equally intrigued by what life must have been like in the 19th Century colonial period in places like French Indochina, The Philippines, Malaysia, Singapore, Hong Kong, etc. Then one day, I got the idea to blend the two using a character from 19th Century Kansas who goes to the Far East and other places in search of himself. During that search, he finds himself immersed in more peril and adventure than he bargained for.

What advice would you give to someone who wants to become a published author?

Try to write as much as you can from your own experiences. They are real and uncontrived, and if you incorporate those experiences in your fiction, your work will have a truthful ring to it. Beyond that, KEEP AT IT! Don’t let anybody (editors, agents, etc.) discourage you. At the same time, be willing to accept constructive criticism from those who have experience as authors, editors, agents, etc. Notice I said CONSTRUCTIVE criticism. Some people criticize just to be criticizing–or to be malicious. You must believe in yourself, your work, your vision, and your story. If you don’t, who will?

What do you think makes a good story?

A good story needs a strong plot and even stronger characters. Otherwise, it falls flat. The writer needs to be above all, a good storyteller. If you build a good story, THEY WILL COME, to paraphrase “Field of Dreams.” Make readers care about your protagonist. Make readers empathize, cry, and laugh with them. At the same time, keep them off balance. Don’t be predictable, and don’t be afraid to do terrible things to your favorite characters. Have you ever known anybody who has sailed through life without some turmoil, some pain, some suffering? I haven’t.

If your trilogy became a movie or a Netflix mini-series, who would be your first choice to play the lead roles?

Clint Eastwood as the elderly Billy Battles; Clive Owen as the middle-aged Billy Battles and Ashton Kutcher as the young Billy Battles. I would pick Saffron Burrows for Billy’s first love, Mallie McNab and Famke Janssen, for the widow Katharina Schreiber who Billy meets on the boat to the Far East. (Why these choices? These folks are all tall, like me. Billy is 6’3″ and Mallie is about 5’10,” as is the statuesque widow Schreiber).

Do any of your characters have qualities/characteristics that are similar to yourself?

I think Billy Battles and I are a lot alike. I mean, aren’t most novels a bit autobiographical? He is a restless sort. He enjoys traveling, going to new places, and experiencing new things. Like Billy, I couldn’t wait to get away from Kansas (though I love the place dearly). And, like Billy, I am a happy wanderer. How else could I have survived and thrived as a foreign correspondent for 25 years? We are both journalists. At the same time, he is a dependable guy who is loyal to his friends and to those he chooses to keep close to him. Above all, Billy respects two traits in people: Honesty and Kindness. We are alike in that way.

Tell us about your next release.

I am finishing my next book, which is a novel about foreign correspondents in Asia. It’s working title is Asia Hands: A Tale of Foreign Correspondents & Other Miscreants in the Orient. Here is a blurb about it:

A mysterious object of unknown origin hidden in the heart of an impenetrable S.E. Asian jungle. A covert alliance of dangerous people determined to keep it concealed. Treacherous secret agents. Betrayal. Assassination. Murder.                                        

It’s one hell of a story, and two foreign correspondents—one recently retired and the other approaching burn out—are on the scent.

Meet Cooper McGrath and Clayton Brandt.

They have just stumbled onto the biggest story of their lives—one that could have staggering ramifications for the planet and its people.

Now all they have to do is live long enough to tell it.

Will they meet their deadlines, or will they meet their deaths?

How do you develop your plots and your characters? Do you use any set formula?

I don’t outline my books, and I don’t write down plot scenarios. I just start writing and see where the story and my characters lead me. It’s a lot like life itself. We may have a goal in mind, but the route to it is often strewn with obstacles, surprises, and sometimes tragedy. I usually write 3,000 or 4,000 words a day, and I edit as I go. In other words, I may write a few paragraphs and then rewrite them within a few minutes of creating them. I don’t write what I would call a “First Draft.” When I finish writing a book, it is finished. I may go back and make a few tweaks with the plot here and there, or alter a little dialogue or some action by a character, but there is no second or third draft.

I know some authors who will write a first draft and put it away for weeks or months and then go back and look at it with fresh eyes. Alternatively, they may send it out to professional “beta readers” or “critiquers.” I do use beta readers, but I don’t put my writing away for weeks or months. Those strategies may work for some people. They don’t work for me. I guess it’s my journalistic training: see it, report it, organize it, write it and then move on to the next story.

If your publisher offered to fly you anywhere in the world to research an upcoming book, where would you most likely want to go?

To Papua New Guinea. That is where a significant portion of my next book takes place–or should I say in the dense jungles of that still mostly unexplored country. There, in the forbidding and uncharted Foja Mountains, lurks an ancient mystery that two foreign correspondents are attempting to uncover.

(TOMORROW: Part 2)

BOOK BLURB:

The Finding Billy Battles trilogy tells the story of a remarkable man who is born in 1860 and who dies in 1960. For decades Billy lives an improbable and staggering life of adventure, peril, transgression and redemption. Then Billy mysteriously disappears. For several decades his family has no idea where he is or what he is doing.

Finally, with his life coming to an end, Billy resurfaces in an old soldiers’ home in Leavenworth, Kansas. It is there, when he is 98 that he meets his 12-year-old great-grandson and bequeaths his journals and his other property to him — though he is not to receive them until he is much older.

Years later, the great-grandson finally reads the journals and fashions a three volume trilogy that tells of his great-grandfather’s audacious life in the old west, as well as his journeys to the Far East of the 1890s—including French Indochina and The Philippines—and finally, in the early 20th century, to Europe and Latin America where his adventures and predicaments continue. One thing readers can be sure of, wherever Billy Battles goes trouble is not far behind.

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AUTHOR BIO:

Ronald E. Yates is a multi-award winning author of historical fiction and action/adventure novels, including the popular and highly-acclaimed Finding Billy Battles trilogy. His extraordinarily accurate books have captivated fans around the world who applaud his ability to blend fact and fiction.

Ron is a former foreign correspondent for the Chicago Tribune and Professor Emeritus of Journalism at the University of Illinois where he was also the Dean of the College of Media.

The Lost Years of Billy Battles is the final book in the trilogy and recently won the Independent Press Award’s 2020 Distinguished Favorites Award. In 2019 it won Best Overall Book of the Year and the Grand Prize in the Goethe Historical Fiction Category from Chanticleer International Book Awards as well as a Book Excellence Award and a New Apple Award. The second book in the trilogy, The Improbable Journeys of Billy Battles, was published in June 2016. It won the 2017 KCT International Literary Award and the New Apple Award in the Action/Adventure category. The first book in the trilogy, “Finding Billy Battles,” was published in 2014 and won a Book Excellence Award and Laramie Award from Chanticleer International Book Awards.

As a professional journalist, Ron lived and worked in Japan, Southeast Asia, and both Central and South America where he covered several history-making events including the fall of South Vietnam and Cambodia; the Tiananmen Square massacre in Beijing; and wars and revolutions in Afghanistan, the Philippines, Nicaragua, El Salvador and Guatemala, among other places. His work as a foreign correspondent earned him several awards including three Pulitzer Prize nominations.

Ron is a frequent speaker about the media, international affairs, and writing. He is a Vietnam era veteran of the U.S. Army Security Agency and lives just north of San Diego in Southern California’s wine country.

SOCIAL MEDIA LINKS:

-Twitter   https://twitter.com/jhawker69

-Facebook https://www.facebook.com/ronaldyatesbooks/

-Website   https://ronaldyatesbooks.com/

AMAZON OR OTHER PURCHASE LINKS:

Amazon:

https://www.amazon.com/-/e/B001KHDVZI/-/e/B00KQAYMA8/

Barnes & Noble:

https://www.barnesandnoble.com/s/finding%20billy%20battles/_/N-8q8

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To follow along with the rest of the tour, please visit the author’s tour page on the 4WillsPublishing site.  If you’d like to schedule your own blog tour and have your book promoted in similar grand fashion, please click HERE.  Thanks for supporting this author and his work!

 

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Sunday Stills: #Plant Life in My Garden

This week’s photo challenge by Terri Webster Schrandt is about plant life. Many folks are still limited to where they can go, but we can all walk in our backyards and gardens and enjoy plant life.

Garden is a sanctuary where my soul rests, my mind cleared, my strength renewed, and my heart rejoices. It is a place where I go every morning to listen, listen to the voices of the plants and the small creatures, and listen to the voice within. The garden nourishes my being more than the time I put in it to nourish the plants.

One Daylily plant I have is Wineberry Candy. They are low-maintenance perennial and have showy colors of flowers all summer. The bulbs multiply and I dig up the fresh growth to transplant in various spots.

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Both Lily of the Nile Blue (Agapanthis africanus) and Society Garlic (Tulbaghia violace) multiply continuously. For years, I transplanted the fresh growth to landscape my garden. It turns out the hummingbirds love to suck the nectar of both plants.

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The Society Garlic is below the Lily of the Nile Blue

This Salvia started out with two-2.5 Qt. plant and has grown into a lush bush. It is the most favorite of the hummingbirds. It is also where the bees congregate. I bought several more pots and planted two pots by another hummingbird feeder in the backyard, and two pots by the plum trees.

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The always cheerful hibiscus regardless the attention I paid to it yet greets me with the gorgeous bloom every morning.

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Have a peaceful Sunday and a wonderful week ahead!

 

Sunday Stills: #Plant Life in My Garden

 

 

Book Review – In Search of McDoogal by Mae Clair

My Book Review – In Search of McDoogal by Mae Clair.

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I downloaded In Search of McDoogal three weeks ago and was delighted to read it over the weekend.

Mae Clair

In Search of McDoogal by [Mae Clair]

My Review

In Search of McDoogal by Mae Clair is a fast-read short story. The main characters and the problem were established in the story’s onset. Brady and Declan were best friends from high school. Brad showed up before dawn to ask Declan’s help. The way they communicated with each other was nothing less than that in such a friendship.

It horrified Brady when he sold his girlfriend Vanessa’s cherished painting while watching her shop. He had one day to retrieve it before her return from a trip. The all-day tracking of the painting and the incredible chain of actions bolted me to the seat. The dialogue was hilarious and kept me laughing from the beginning to the end. It felt like these two guys were chasing their hundred-dollar bill got blown away, every time they almost touched it to grab it, another wind swooped it up.

The characters are believable. The mistake Brady made could have happened to anyone. The panicking, the willingness to go all the way in remediation, and the bargaining in saving a situation are so real in life. Yet the story put humor in such seemingly desperate circumstance. I look forward to more short stories from this author and this cast. Highly recommended.

Amazon and Goodreads Ratings

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Mae Clair

About the Author

A member of the Mystery Writers of America and International Thriller Writers, Mae Clair is also a founding member and contributor to the award-winning writing blog, Story Empire. She has achieved bestseller status on both Amazon and Barnes & Noble, with several of her novels chosen as book club selections.

Mae writes primarily in the mystery/suspense genre, flavoring her plots with elements of urban legend and folklore. Married to her high school sweetheart, she lives in Pennsylvania and is passionate about cryptozoology, old photographs, a good Maine lobster tail, and cats.

Please contact the author at the links below:

Blog

Amazon

Goodreads

BookBub

Twitter

 

 

Lens-Artists Photo Challenge#99: Old and New

The theme for the Lens-Artists Photo Challenge #99 this week from Amy is Old and New.

The original Terracotta Warriors in Xi’an, China and their new replica.

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In Hong Kong, the few boat people (fishermen) live side by side with people living in high rises and those who own boats for recreation.

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Last year we went to my nephew’s wedding in Hong Kong. The modern wedding is often combined with a traditional ceremony (I snapped the second photo in a park).

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Lens-Artists Photo Challenge#99: Old and New

 

 

Sunday Stills: Straight

Straight is this week’s theme for Sunday Stills photo challenge. Thank you to Graham of Graham’s Island for the theme idea!

On Aug. 28, 2005, Hurricane Katrina became a Category Five storm, with winds blowing at about 175 mph (280 kph). The storm turned north toward the Louisiana coast. The storm weakened to a Category 3 storm before making landfall along the Louisiana-Mississippi border on the morning of Aug. 29 with sustained winds of 120 mph (193 kph).

Hubby and I planned a trip to North Carolina in mid-September. Even though the storm didn’t hit straight through, the damage was significant. Hubby had diving in mind and he didn’t want to cancel the trip, so we proceeded. The hotel we booked was near Beaufort, closed to the waterfront. After we got there, the hotel owner said the building was leaking and asked us to go inland seven miles before checking any hotel availability. We followed his advice and found lodging. The weather was pleasant. We visited Fort Macon, the Historic Museum, and Cape Lookout. Hubby even booked a diving trip.

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The Battle of Fort Macon was fought there during March and April 1862. The canon points straight toward the possible battle ships.

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The Fort Macon was constructed with red bricks, curves, and straight lines.

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We went Straight across the bridge and straight up the lighthouse.

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The Cape Lookout Lighthouse is 163 feet high with 207 steps to climb to the top. It’s pretty hard to climb straight to the top. We went to the upper level of the visitor center.

Sunday Stills: Straight

 

 

 

Songs of Heartstrings – Three Languages Purchase Links

 

I’m glad to announce that Songs of Heartstrings: Poems of Gratitude and Beatitude is available in English, Portuguese and Spanish.

 

 

 

Purchase Links:

Amazon 

Barns and Noble

Apple

Kobo

Scribd

Or

Books2read Universal Links

English

https://books2read.com/u/mgZ896

Spanish

https://books2read.com/u/3LDlaX

Portuguese

https://books2read.com/u/4AzXk0

 

 

 

Lens-Artists Photo Challenge #98 – Delicate Colors

This week for Lens-Artists Photo Challenge #98, Ann-Christine invited us to look at the delicate colors. I include two sets of photos here.

The first set:

These are the full moon photos from January 31, 2018. I captured the full moon when it rose above the trees and buildings before it was too high in the sky. The distance would be greater when the moon is high. By zooming, I captured different colors and shades of the moon.

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The second set:

The Magic Fountain of Montjuïc’s (Font màgica de Montjuïc in Catalan) at Barcelona, Spain is a spectacular display of color, light, motion, music, and water acrobatics. A mixture of these elements together in just the right combinations is pure magic.

We were there in the summer of 2016 to celebrate our anniversary. The tour guide secured a spot for us to get a great view.

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Here is a short video. I hope you don’t get a motion sickness because I moved the camera to adjust the height of the water!!

 

Lens-Artists Photo Challenge#98 – Delicate Colors

Book Review – The Sister Pact: Home Is Where the Heart Is by Jacquie Biggar

My Book Review – The Sister Pact: Home Is Where the Heart Is by Jacquie Biggar

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Jacquie Biggar

 

The Sister Pact: Home is Where The Heart is by [Jacquie Biggar]

My Review

The Sister Pact is a story about two sisters, Holly Tremaine and Susan, the twin brothers Steven and Levi. Holly was away from home for eight years to pursue her dream and became a violinist in New York. Her Lyme disease drove her home before Christmas holiday. Holly and her sister had grown apart for many unspoken issues. Holly was jealous of her sister marrying Steven who was once her boyfriend, and that her sister now had a husband with successful business as a Family Law Accredited Mediator, and their two lovely children. Whereas Susan was jealous of Holly being able to make her dream come true while she became a housewife and a mother but was short of pursuing her dream as a dancer with her own studio.

Steven invited his twin brother Levi to come from Vancouver to spend the holiday and get reacquainted with Holly. Holly had a one-night relationship with Levi when she was drunk after her sister’s wedding. Upon Holly’s arriving home, she was at odd with the tension between her and Susan. She also didn’t expect to see Levi coming to the family dinner. At the dinner table, the familiar scene of the parents arguing repeated.

After a hiking trip on the hill overlooking the Pacific Ocean, Holly and Levi found themselves in each other’s arms and secretly yearned for more. By talking to her father, Holly found out he and her mother were seeking separation. To her surprise, Susan left Steven and came to the parents’ house with her two children. She broke the news of seeing Steven with a woman.

Holly and Susan tried to talk to their parents to bring them back together. At the same time, Levi tried to talk to Susan while Holly tried to talk to Steven to fix their marriage.

In The Sister Pact: Home is Where the Heart Is, Jacquie Biggar skillfully packed the story with family conflicts, jealousy, and unresolved anger. She also painted a beautiful picture of caring, love, and forgiveness, home is always a home where we belong. Highly recommended.

Amazon and Goodreads Ratings

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Jacquie Biggar

About the Author

Jacquie Biggar is a USA Today bestselling author of romance who loves to write about tough, alpha males and strong, contemporary women willing to show their men that true power comes from love. She lives on Vancouver Island with her husband and loves to hear from readers all over the world!

In her own words: “My name is Jacquie Biggar. When I’m not acting like a total klutz, I am a wife, mother of one, grandmother, and a butler to my calico cat. My guilty pleasure is reality tv shows like Amazing Race and The Voice. I can be found every Monday night in my armchair plastered to the television laughing at Blake and Adam’s shenanigans. I love to hang at the beach with DH (darling hubby) taking pictures or reading romance novels (what else?). I have a slight Tim Hortons obsession, enjoy gardening, everything pink and talking to my friends.”

 

Contact the Author

Website

Amazon Author Page

Goodreads

Twitter

Facebook

 

 

Lens-Artists Photo Challenge #97- Pastimes

Thank you, Sue (Mac’s Girl), for hosting the Lens-Artists Photo Challenge this week. COVID19 gives us more time to stay home and spend more time on our hobbies and pastimes.

I have many passionate hobbies, enough to occupy three times of my lifetime. For this post, I only focus on two activities I’m engaged in daily, which are gardening and enjoying the amazing creatures in my garden.

 

There are four fruit trees and two grape vines in my garden. I have a different story about the plum trees this year. In the winter of 2018-2019, there were seven weeks of rain that soaked the plum trees to produce gorgeous blooms. The warm sun came to keep the clovers strong and pretty to invite the bees. The bees found their way to pollinate the plum blossoms which yielded 1,100 plum. Well, the rain, the clovers, the sun, and the bees didn’t coordinate this year, and I could see about 10% of the plums growing compared to that of last year.

 

I appreciate the year-round flowering of the hibiscus and roses. Their graciousness, loyalty, and steadfast to bloom were the inspiration of my poetry.

 

I started watching and feeding the birds in 2014. My regular visitors are the Mourning Doves, House Finches, and sparrows. The Scrub Jay and Pin-tailed Whydah paid occasional visits. I used to put the bird seeds on several spots of the top of the retaining wall closed to the slope where they searched for food. Unfortunately, the stray cats crept under the bushes, darted upward to snatch the Mourning Doves, then dashed away. It made me so mad. I used the chicken wire to fence off the area, but the cats outsmarted me. My new spot for the bird seeds is now on the patio ground.

 

I would like to have flocks of butterflies, but only a few visited. The Mourning Cloak butterflies came a few times. The Monarch came, but there were only two. I planted the Butterfly bush, but the growth is too slow to attract butterflies. Last week, a Monarch delighted me to visit the Salvia plant. The bees and the hummingbirds love the Salvia plant also. Two days ago, I bought four of the 2-gallon pots Salvia and planted them strategically to feed the hummingbirds and attract bees to pollinate the plum blossoms next year.

3 Mourning Cloak Nymphalis antiopa butterfly

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Lens-Artists Photo Challenge #97- Pastimes

 

 

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