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Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Sensational Scents of the Season

That holiday time of year is upon us again and, even if we weren't aware of the calendar, the aromas in the air would remind us.

Nature starts the process. Here in northern California, some trees still have leaves although the process of "deciduating" has begun. (We have used this term ever since our brilliant five-year-old granddaughter decided to turn the word deciduous into an active verb. Why not? It fits.) The leaves on the ground, spattered by yesterday's light rain, smell like autumn--that light scent of mouldering that, at least in its early stages, is rich and vaguely herbal. While some trees still have leaves, my roses still have flowers which add their scent to the mix while the last of the lavender blossoms chime in, the underlying leaf scent mixed with deep, vivid florals.


This is the rainy season where I live and, this year at least, the weather is cooperating. (I'm secretly holding out hope that this will be the drought-breaker year.) When the breeze picks up, blowing out of the south, the scent of fresh water is in the air. As a side benefit, these mixed-weather days also provide us with heart-breaker sunsets, almost impossibly beautiful.

Holiday baking has begun in my kitchen and elsewhere, adding scents of pumpkin, cinnamon, nutmeg, chocolate, yeasty breads, fresh-ground wheat and citrus. My husband has begun lighting his favorite holiday-scented candles, adding their hints of spice and pine.

Apple pie, the classic all-American favorite, is one of my favorites too, but enough work that I usually reserve its creation for the holiday season, that delightful time of year when the aroma of baking apples mixed with cinnamon and nutmeg fills the kitchen and diffuses through the whole house. Hence the visions of sugar plums that dance in our heads as we sleep.

Of course the stores have to get into the act. Each shop we enter has its own version of holiday scent to share. It's often said that scent is the most evocative of all our senses, calling to mind our past experiences with that same aroma. No wonder this scent-sational season fills me with nostalgia.

As I move through these coming weeks--cooking and baking, humming carols and swimming in nostalgic memory--I will be enjoying the sights of the season, but it's the scents that will bring autumn, Thanksgiving, and Christmas home. I will breathe deeply, smell, and remember with joy.



Susan Aylworth is the author of 14 novels, all available as e-books. She loves her northern California home which she shares with her husband of 46 years and the two spoiled cats they serve. When she can't be with her seven children, seven great kids-in-law, and 25 grandbabies, she loves hanging with her fictional offspring, the children of her mind. She also loves hearing from readers. Visit her website at www.susanaylworth.com or find her @SusanAylworth, at .facebook.com/Susan.Aylworth.Author, or on Pinterest.

Saturday, November 5, 2016

"Where do you get your ideas?"

One of the common questions asked in any author interview is "Where do you get your ideas?" Most writers I know have trouble with this one since, for us, the ideas are everywhere. Life is a constant Niagara Falls flow of ideas. For those of us who think this way, it's odd to hear people ask the question. Often we want to answer, "Don't you get ideas too?"

This makes me think of Son #5. He is a gifted musician, and by "gifted," I mean he truly got music as a gift. It was born in him--which makes Hubby and me wonder what throwback ancestor left that gene lying around. Son 5 learned to play guitar when he was barely a teen. By the time he was old enough for after-school employment, he worked in a music store where he could pick up and play any stringed instrument they had. Just. Like. That. He has since taught himself piano.


When we remarked on his marvelous ability, he usually shined us on with, "It's easy. Anyone can do it." It has taken him time to realize that no, not everyone can do it. Authors are the same way with ideas:  Coming up with ideas is so natural to us that it feels like anyone can do it.

In fact, with a little training, almost anyone can do it. It requires the exercise of imagination, but it's not that hard. If you feel imagination-challenged, just ask, "What if?" Here's how it works for me:


  • On a TV program, I heard the story of 17-year-old Julianne Koepcke who, in 1971, was the only survivor of a plane crash in the Venezuelan rain forest. After a two-mile fall, she hiked out alone. Her story percolated in the back of my mind until one day I asked, "What if a modern teen survived a similar accident, but in the Bolivian part of the rain forest where I've been? And what if she was not alone, but had a companion who required her care?" This idea was the genesis for my newest manuscript, an adventure called RESCUE.
  • A friend chatted about a woman who claims to see ghosts. I thought, "What if a teen who pretended to psychic abilities was actually visited by the spirit of a murdered girl?" That grew into my first mystery story, MAGGIE RISING: Adventures of a Part-Time Psychic.
  • After hearing friends talk about high school reunions, I wondered, "What if a young woman returned to the town where she attended high school only to find that her buddy had grown into a very attractive, interesting man?" It was hardly a new thought, but as the bits and details began filling in, it grew into the first of nine romances set Rainbow Rock, Arizona. Each of the eight that followed began when I picked a secondary character from a previous book and wondered who would be attractive to that person and how they might meet.
  • While watching a movie remake of Shakespeare's "Hamlet," I suddenly identified with his mother and wondered, "What if she told her own story? Would it sound different?" The result was my one-woman play, GERTRUDE.


Other authors I know have written stories after hearing of a racially-motivated murder and wondering, "What if it happened to my child?" or watching a documentary about Adolf Eichmann and thinking, "What if he lived among us today?" A friend watched a teenaged couple telling their families about the future they planned and imagined what might happen in a similar couple if one of them was diagnosed with a disfiguring illness. The same process, with variations, has led to the creation of just about every fictional story we've ever heard, seen, or read.

To let your own imagination create the same way, just observe what's happening around you and ask, "What if?" Now imagine Dr. Seuss saying, "Oh, the places you'll go!" May we all enjoy the journey.

Susan Aylworth is the author of 14 novels, all available as e-books. She loves her northern California home which she shares with her husband of 46 years and the two spoiled cats they serve. When she can't be with her seven children, seven great kids-in-law, and 25 grandbabies, she loves hanging with her fictional offspring, the children of her mind. She also loves hearing from readers. Visit her website at www.susanaylworth.com or find her @SusanAylworth, at .facebook.com/Susan.Aylworth.Author, or on Pinterest.













Thursday, October 20, 2016

FALL-ing for Fall

Every season has its joy and something lovely to share with us, but I have always been a spring person. Warming temperatures mean I can turn down the heat or stop wearing sweaters inside. Trees and shrubs respond to the warmth with new leaves, coating the branches recently dormant and barren in new green. Soon the budding flowers follow. By April, our home here in northern California is surrounded in beauty, everything budding, blossoming, and burgeoning with new life. The city is a kaleidoscope of color.

Animals get into the act, renewing their species with a new, young generation. The pastures around our city fill with new calves, frolicking lambs, and adorable kids. (In this case, I really mean baby goats.) I love everything about spring.


A friend recently rhapsodized in a similar way about the beauties of autumn: the color in the changing leaves, the cooling of scorching summer days (we get them here), the reopening of schools that get the kids off the streets in the middle of the day. Although I could see her points, I still felt that, for me, the autumn season can never compete with spring.

Still, as the cooling temperatures signal the change of seasons, I am learning to fall for fall. All the many fruit trees and crop fields that blossomed in the spring are now filled with ripening fruits and vegetables and the markets with gorgeous produce. Trees here are not yet turning, but when they do, they become a riot of blazing color. There's also the benefit of cutting off the air conditioner and expecting lower energy bills. And I have to admit it's nice to run an errand without worrying about running down school kids.

Autumn brings anticipation: of the approaching holidays, of snow in the Sierra foothills, of crackling logs and snuggling up with a good book in front of the fire or sharing the same space with my sweetheart or a cuddly grandchild. It heralds the arrival of the rainy season and water our state needs badly.It brings the joy of discovering new, delicious recipes for salsa, jams, and jellies and the first mug of spiced cider this year.

I expect I will always be a fan of spring and consider it my favorite season, but I'm learning to love the autumn. It comes in at a close second.

Susan Aylworth is the author of 14 novels, all available as e-books. She loves her northern California home which she shares with her husband of 46 years and the two spoiled cats they serve. When she can't be with her seven children, seven great kids-in-law, and 25 grandbabies, she loves hanging with her fictional offspring, the children of her mind. She also loves hearing from readers. Visit her website at www.susanaylworth.com or find her @SusanAylworth, at .facebook.com/Susan.Aylworth.Author, or on Pinterest.


Saturday, July 9, 2016

The Miracle of Google

A young man I know once said he thought Google was God: It sees everything and knows everything. I found his observation interesting, if somewhat irreverent. Certainly Google has become the go-to for almost anyone with a question.

Lately I've found I keep a window open on my desktop just for Google searches. My new work in progress is taking me places I need to understand much better, even including some where I've been and done. My main character, 16-year-old Marissa/Dulce, finds herself on a journey through the Amazonian rainforests of Bolivia, and even though I have been in those same rainforests, there is too much about them I don't know. Google knows it all.

What's the average daytime temperature in the rainforest? Google knows. What trees grow there? Google knows that too and can tell me whether the kapok, which is endemic to rainforests in some parts of the world, actually grows in Bolivia. (It doesn't, as a general rule.) What are forest remedies for topical infection? How tall is a mapajo tree? How does a pit viper hunt? What do you call the large-cat sound a jaguar makes? What airlines fly out of Santa Cruz, Bolivia? How do the jungles of southern Bolivia differ from the rainforests of the north? Google knows it all. Maybe there is something to the claim of omniscience after all.


As Dulce ventures farther and farther into her adventure, I will have a thousand more questions, and Google will be there for me, I love Google. Since my muse has gone rogue and begun to lead me on amazing side-road adventures I never expected to take, I am becoming ever more dependent on this marvelous modern know-it-all. It may never have a place in my heart or my worship, but Google will always have a place on my computer screen.


Susan Aylworth is the author of 14 novels, all available as e-books. She loves her northern California home which she shares with her husband of 46 years and the two spoiled cats they serve. When she can't be with her seven children, seven great kids-in-law, and 25 grandbabies, she loves hanging with her fictional offspring, the children of her mind. She also loves hearing from readers. Visit her website at www.susanaylworth.com or find her @SusanAylworth, at .facebook.com/Susan.Aylworth.Author, or on Pinterest.


Saturday, July 2, 2016

When the Muse Revolts!

For some time now, I've realized my muse has A.D.D.  She simply cannot stick with a single genre, but jumps about trying out new things. Still, with the exception of MAGGIE RISING, she has stuck largely with relationship stories. Of my 14 books, 11 are standard romances, and a  twelfth is historical fiction with a strong romantic element,.The others are a family story with a minor romantic theme and MAGGIE, a paranormal mystery which proves my muse also likes to play practical jokes.

This time she has really gone bonkers. I find I am writing a Y.A. adventure tale, one set in the Amazonian rainforests of Bolivia. What?!

While I'm not yet ready to share much about the adventure, I will hint at how it begins. Here is the first paragraph of my current draft:


The baby won’t stop crying. She’s been at it for hours. Not that I can blame her. She’s probably no more excited about spending the night in an airport than I am. Still, if she could quiet down and go to sleep, that might make it easier for the rest of us—some eighty or ninety people who are all supposed to be on the flight from Santa Cruz to Lima, the flight which should have left Bolivia five hours ago but has now been delayed at least until morning. Not that this should be a surprise either. In my few years in South America, I’ve learned that travel schedules—like traffic lights—are mere suggestions. I don’t know if I’ve ever been on any kind of public transportation that actually left on time.


Guesses, anyone? Can you tell where this is going to go? While I'm not sharing any more about my teenage protagonist's story--at least, not at the moment--I'll readily admit I am having quite the adventure just following my wayward muse into this latest undertaking. I have a hunch that the more I let her wander, the farther she is likely to stray. The future should prove interesting indeed.



Susan Aylworth is the author of 14 novels, all available as e-books. She loves her northern California home which she shares with her husband of 46 years and the two spoiled cats they serve. When she can't be with her seven children, seven great kids-in-law, and 25 grandbabies, she loves hanging with her fictional offspring, the children of her mind. She also loves hearing from readers. Visit her website at www.susanaylworth.com or find her @SusanAylworth, at .facebook.com/Susan.Aylworth.Author, or on Pinterest.





Sunday, June 26, 2016

Boys who Cook

When a mom is raising sons, she has to decide what kind of men she wants to raise. For me, raising men who cook was a top priority. (It's no coincidence that the romantic heroes in my books are often found in the kitchen.)

My dad always cooked. Although Mom usually did most of the cooking, Dad worked beside her--cutting up a salad, prepping fresh fruit and vegetables, chopping onions for the dish she was cooking. If Mom was the chef, Dad was the prep cook. When Mom was needed elsewhere, he could take over and run the whole show--which he frequently did. My brothers learned both by example and by being taught, invited into the kitchen and told how to help.

The family that raised my husband did not take the same approach. Though he is usually willing--and decades of experience have taught him how to throw a few kinds of meals together if necessary--Hubby prefers to bake goodies, his one great cooking expertise.

When our genetic mix produced sons, six of them, I was determined they would learn to cook. It worked well for most of them. The one great exception is the boy who took "Foods" four years in high school, but never really learned to cook anything.

My eldest can cook all kinds of foods, but like many men, he specializes in barbeque. His BBQ wins awards and gets him invitations to cook for crowds at parties and fund raisers. He's also a superior breakfast cook.

Son #2 is a chef. "Cooking is creation," he likes to say, "but baking is chemistry." While he largely leaves the baking to others, he subscribes to foodie magazines, watches the Food Network on TV, and experiments constantly with recipes. At the end of a stressful day, he unwinds in the kitchen, leaving his wife free to take on other duties such as helping the kids with homework.

One of his more enjoyable work conferences featured an onstage cooking performance and a meal prepared by celebrity chef Guy Fieri. Anyone who knows my son will not be surprised to know that he skipped a chunk of the conference to introduce himself in the kitchen and ask, "Do you need any help?" He spent the rest of the day working side-by-side with the famous chef and even helping in his onstage show. Teaching this son to cook produced not only a fine household chef, but a bold and polished showman who loves the kitchen.

Like his showman brother, our youngest watches the Food Network, studies recipes, and experiments with variations. He's the one who created a "flying pig" for Thanksgiving last year. You've heard of the Turducken--the deboned chicken stuffed inside a deboned duck which is then stuffed into a deboned turkey and all of it stuffed with stuffing? The "flying pig" takes it one step farther with a layer of ham as well as some bacon in part of the stuffing. Talk about a gourmet treat! I felt rather smug when I saw what had come from teaching this son to cook.

Son #4, the one who spent most of three years living in Korea, has learned to prepare Korean food together with a number of other meals and can easily take over the kitchen if his wife is busy elsewhere or he just feels like it. So can Son #5, although he is generally less interested and tends to leave the cooking--except for the outdoor BBQ--to his wife.

It's been an adventure to see how my efforts to raise men who cook have produced such varied results--everything from the son who can hold his own with the best to the one who thinks micro-waving a hot dog is the height of culinary effort. It should also be mentioned here that I have one daughter, who is an excellent cook.

One never knows how parental teaching will play out, but I was gifted with cooks. My daughters-in-law, son-in-law, and grandchildren are glad I made the effort.

Susan Aylworth is the author of 14 novels, all available as e-books. She loves her northern California home which she shares with her husband of 46 years and the two spoiled cats they serve. When she can't be with her seven children, seven great kids-in-law, and 25 grandbabies, she loves hanging with her fictional offspring, the children of her mind. She also loves hearing from readers. Visit her website at www.susanaylworth.com or find her @SusanAylworth, at .facebook.com/Susan.Aylworth.Author, or on Pinterest.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Grandchildren A to Z

When we were young and dumb and just beginning to plan our future life and family, The Waltons were on TV. Although we knew the romance of their situation was highly idealized, we liked the idea of a large, loving family with each member supporting every other. The Waltons had seven children.

Simultaneously we were cultivating the friendship of a man who became one of my husband's dearest friends, met my sister at our wedding, and eventually became my brother-in-law. His military family, while not ideal, seemed to have many of those same mutually-supportive qualities we had admired on TV. He was one of seven children.

It's easy to see where this is going and yes, by the time we were settled into our marriage and getting ready to start our family, we were thinking of seven children. It's fairly easy to see how that would go as well, but as I wrote earlier, we were young and dumb.

We even went so far as to decide our children would be closer if they were closer in age. Our eldest was barely twelve when our seventh was born. If we'd taken more time to consider, perhaps we would have organized matters a bit differently.

Now here we are, not a Walton clone in sight. Our children all have children of their own and our eldest grandchild, a handsome young man named Austin, recently married. Our family may be looking at yet another generation in the years soon to come.

We're human. Like other parents, we've made mistakes and I have to admit, I made some whoppers. While I have my regrets, I'm deeply grateful for my family. They have their share of mistakes, regrets, and differences as well, and that mutually-supportive vibe we looked for is quieted by distance: the seven of them are spread over six states. Still they make serious efforts to stay in touch and to back one another. They are all great people.

With the birth of our twenty-fifth grandchild last month--a handsome manchild named Zane, we now have grandchildren from A to Z. Most of them are too far away to know us well, but we are making the effort to see them as often as we reasonably can and we're trying to remain an important parts of their lives. The Waltons may have had a more idealized family, but they've got nothing on us.




Susan Aylworth is the author of 14 novels, all available as e-books. She loves her northern California home which she shares with her husband of 46 years and the two spoiled cats they serve. When she can't be with her seven children, seven great kids-in-law, and 25 grandbabies, she loves hanging with her fictional offspring, the children of her mind. She also loves hearing from readers. Visit her website at www.susanaylworth.com or find her @SusanAylworth, at .facebook.com/Susan.Aylworth.Author, or on Pinterest. 






Saturday, June 4, 2016

Confessions of a Carboholic

I love sugar! I know that does not exactly distinguish me from other red-blooded American women, but one thing does set me somewhat apart. I can't do the usual "chocoholic" binging--at least, not since the allergy developed.

Yes, I know what you're thinking: "Allergic to chocolate? How do you live?!" I wondered the same thing in the beginning, especially since it's not strictly speaking an allergy. It's more of a sensitivity, a sort of "Eat Chocolate = Get a Migraine" thing. At first I thought I couldn't live without the chocolate and occasionally indulged anyway. Now a thick slice of chocolate fudge layer cake looks like three days of misery. Suffice to say I'm no longer as tempted as I once was. I can still get away with an occasional chocolate chip cookie--if I don't push it too far, but that's the only chocolate fix I'm allowed these days. Still, avoiding chocolate doesn't save me from the rest of Sugar World.

If it's sweet, it's good to eat. At least that seems to be the way my psyche sees the world. I've sometimes heard people describe a certain dessert as too sweet or too rich for them. I wonder what they're talking about. To me, there's never such a thing as too sweet and too rich only describes certain billionaires.

If it were just the sugar, that would be bad enough, but I also crave almost any kind of baked goods. That includes cookies, cakes, pies--yes, all the super-sweet items you typically find at bake sales--but the not-so-sweet breads, rolls, and pastries too. If it's heavy on the carbs, it's destined to make me heavier as well.

I've discovered I can control the binging, but it takes quitting cold turkey, sometimes literally. Low-carb, high-protein diets work for me, but only after I beat that first two miserable weeks of craving and avoidance. Let's face it: My name is Susan and I'm a carboholic.

I'm coming to terms with the reality and learning just how common this form of addiction can be. It seems there are many closet carboholics among my relatives, friends and neighbors. I suspect some of you who are reading this may be hiding the same guilty pleasures and living in a constant love-hate balance with those delightful heavy-carb temptations and their siren-song aromas.

I know a few folks who've taken the plunge, declared themselves addicts, and sworn off every taste of anything made with sugar or flour. If you're among those brave souls, please accept my humble adoration. For now I'm content to hold that tiger by its tail and tease it until it turns on me. Hmmm... maybe there's a reason so many scenes in my books focus around kitchens and food. I'll think about that this evening ... while I'm baking.

Susan Aylworth is the author of 14 novels, all available as e-books. She loves her northern California home which she shares with her husband of 46 years and the two spoiled cats they serve. When she can't be with her seven children, seven great kids-in-law, and 25 grandbabies, she loves hanging with her fictional offspring, the children of her mind. She also loves hearing from readers. Visit her website at www.susanaylworth.com or find her @SusanAylworth, at .facebook.com/Susan.Aylworth.Author, or on Pinterest. 



Saturday, May 28, 2016

Big Events Coming!

Spring and summer are often the time for big events. May and June are filled with graduations. Mother's Day happens in May and Father's Day in June. June is also considered the month for weddings and consequently, for wedding anniversaries. In our family, we are experiencing answer d) All of the above.

Last month we traveled out of state to witness a grandson's baptism. Then we went on to another state to share in the birthdays of two other grandsons. A fourth grandson's eighteenth birthday, high school graduation, and plans for the future will take us across several states before June is over. Somewhere in the midst of it all, we have celebrated Mother's Day, five May birthdays and the birth of another grandson. Before June ends, we will celebrate our daughter's birthday, Father's Day, and our wedding anniversary. This May-June season will be filled to the brim with reasons to rejoice.

And we're just getting started. In June we meet to see off a brother and sister-in-law who are on their way to missionary service in India. We will see a grandson off for an adventure in another land and language. We will meet and celebrate with scattered family we seldom see and we will have opportunities to reach out to new people who may one day become family as our grandchildren grow older and introduce us to potential mates.

We are already papering our fridge with wedding invitations. Although some of those events will be too far away for us to attend, we are planning to be there for others. In the midst of it all, we sometimes wonder when we will have a chance to unpack.

Would we change a thing? Well, we might hope for some of those grand events to be a little closer or our schedules to allow us to get to more of them, but otherwise, no. We love all these lovely people and the great occasions we get to share with them. We can only hope good fortune will bring even more grand events and great occasions in the days, months and years to come.

Susan Aylworth is the author of 14 novels, all available as e-books. She loves her northern California home which she shares with her husband of 46 years and the two spoiled cats they serve. When she can't be with her seven children, seven great kids-in-law, and 25 grandbabies, she loves hanging with her fictional offspring, the children of her mind. She also loves hearing from readers. Visit her website at www.susanaylworth.com or find her @SusanAylworth, at .facebook.com/Susan.Aylworth.Author, or on Pinterest. 





Saturday, May 21, 2016

Mercury in Retrograde? Go for it!

They tell me Mercury is in retrograde. In fact, my friend Gina Ardito just did a great post on that very subject for the "classic and cozy" blog. I'm no expert on astrological phenomena, but if this is what happens when Mercury goes rogue, then I say GO FOR IT, MERCURY! Retrograde any time you like!

This month has been great to our family. We started with a visit to see an eight-year-old grandson (Eric) who was having a special event in his life. We hit a second peak this week with the birth of a new grandson (welcome, Zane!), and we'll cap off the month by traveling to the Midwest to celebrate another great event with our grandson who just turned eighteen. (Go, Tanis!)

In the meantime, California had an unpredicted rainstorm last night (our forecast still says partly cloudy although more than an inch has fallen), and our area has needed rain desperately. The whole state, at least as much of it as I can see, is in bloom--or seems to be. Birds are nesting, bees are humming, and a book that hadn't done well suddenly sold more than 500 copies in two weeks. I can't say that any of these events have been affected in the least by the movement of the zodiac, but I like them. I like them all very much!

As it happens, Mercury is a friend of mine. In my novel, MAGGIE RISING: ADVENTURES OF A PART-TIME PSYCHIC, the heroine's legal name is Eastern Star Rising. Her older brother is named ... you guessed it! ... Mercury Rising, and Merc is a cutie too.  If you should happen to look at my birth chart (something I haven't paid too much attention to, although I've seen it once or twice), you'll find that Mercury and I go back a l-o-n-g way. No wonder that planet is so good to me.

Okay, time to be honest: If Gina hadn't told me Mercury was in retrograde, I wouldn't have known. The fact is I haven't given too much thought to the movement of stars and planets. Still, given the marvelous events of these few weeks, I will likely confuse people in the future when I hear them complaining about Mercury going retrograde. If future experiences are anything like this time, I'll be happy to see Mercury acting up whenever and however it happens.

Susan Aylworth is the author of 14 novels, all available as e-books. She loves her northern California home which she shares with her husband of 46 years and the two spoiled cats they serve. When she can't hang out with her seven children and 25 grandbabies, she loves hanging with her fictional offspring, the children of her mind. She also loves hearing from readers. Visit her website at www.susanaylworth.com or find her @SusanAylworth, at .facebook.com/Susan.Aylworth.Author, or on Pinterest. 

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Sorrow in Summer

Spring has come. We've seen life renewing itself gloriously in brilliant blossoms, buds and blessings. As we begin the transition into summer, sorrow seems far away . . . until it lands on our doorsteps.

This past week, two dear friends have lost loved ones. For Marilyn, the loss of her husband and companion of more than sixty years is devastating. For Sam, the death of her father's second wife is almost like losing her mother again . . . for the second time in a handful of years. At a season when all seems bright and lush, both of these ladies are suffering and hurting from the pain of others they hold dear. It doesn't seem fair.

I know how it feels. Last month marked the twelfth anniversary of a wonderful-sad arrival, the birth of a beloved granddaughter. Some accident of conception had left her unprepared to live a "normal" life or, according to her doctors, to live at all, but she came into the world with a tough, determined spirit, outliving the doctors' predictions by several times in the first week of her life. Despite grim predictions, she grew stronger and came home to be with the family who loved her. I have a picture of her on my bedroom wall; she is the image of a happy, smiling, bright infant girl.

Allie lived three months. Her parents had done everything they could to make her life happy and comfortable and her doctors were becoming mildly encouraged about her odds. It seemed she was on the verge of overcoming every challenge of her birth. Her parents were cautiously predicting a normal life span. What went wrong was a complication no one knew about, something no one expected. We buried her on a warm July morning when the earth around her grave hummed with life.

It's because I know something of sorrow that my heart goes out to Marilyn and Sam and to all others, everywhere in the world, who are suffering loss. A second-hand acquaintance was among those injured during the terror attack in Belgium and my sympathy has gone out to those victims as well. Some days it almost hurts to see the earth so bursting with life.

Yet there are the other days as well, the days when I look at the beauty around me and feel nothing but gratitude. None of us comes with a "forever" guarantee stamped on our foreheads. With the blessing of our birth comes the certainty of our death. And in between we get to enjoy days as lovely as the one I revel in now. I look out on a world full of beauty and blossoms and know life is meant to be lived. My heart goes out to Marilyn and Sam and so many, many others. I hope they can soon see again the beauty of our world and this lovely, wonderful season.


Susan Aylworth is the author of 14 novels, all available as e-books. She loves her northern California home which she shares with her husband of 46 years and the two spoiled cats they serve. When she can't be with her seven children, seven great kids-in-law, and 25 grandbabies, she loves hanging with her fictional offspring, the children of her mind. She also loves hearing from readers. Visit her website at www.susanaylworth.com or find her @SusanAylworth, at .facebook.com/Susan.Aylworth.Author, or on Pinterest. 


Saturday, May 7, 2016

The Tree I Almost Killed

It stands outside my office window in the central place of honor in my front yard--the wrong dogwood tree. The house was in its final stages of completion when the builder declared it was time to choose our landscaping. Having had most of three years to consider how I wanted that front yard to look, I had a detailed plan to hand to Tom, the taciturn (read that "rude") landscaper our builder used. He looked at it, grumbled a little at all the roses I wanted, and then said, "What's this?"

"A dogwood tree," I declared. "I love dogwoods--pink if you can find it, but white is good too."

He grumbled some more and that was the end of it--or so I thought. A few days later, my yard was planted and looking lovely. The roses wouldn't bloom for another year--not much, anyway, but they were perfect. The tiny lawn was covered in sod and already looked well tended. And there was my dogwood tree, reigning over the scene. Then as Tom was leaving, he tossed a quick remark over his shoulder: "I couldn't find pink or white. That's a red dogwood."

Red dogwood? That was a new one on me, but I eagerly awaited its bloom the next spring. It didn't. Didn't bloom, that is. When the dogwoods all over the area were bursting with color, my tree still looked as it had all winter. Only after the other blooms were gone and the trees almost fully leafed out did my tree even start to get leaves and it didn't get blossoms at all.

I described my level of disappointment to my husband. Always eager to please, he suggested we yank it out of the ground and get the kind of tree I wanted. I considered it, but I'm a desert girl, born and raised in the arid lands where trees have to be loved into growing. This tree, although it wasn't what I had asked for, had a lovely shape and was well positioned to throw shade on our western windows during the hottest part of the year. I couldn't kill it. I just couldn't. So, full of passive-aggressive indecision, I simply resented it as it grew.

Fast forward a few years. That "ugly" little tree has come into its own. It almost shades our western windows now and will likely provide full shade before this summer is over. It's still a lovely shape as well.  And now--it blossoms! The flowers are edged in red when they first open, but they turn a soft pink color as they grow and they are beautiful.

The tree I almost killed is now one of the beauties of the neighborhood, its blossoms still gracing our yard weeks after the other dogwoods have dropped their blooms. I've apologized to it a few times and I believe it has forgiven me. It has more blossoms this year than ever before. I speak gently to it now. Although I can't say whether it knows me or not, it seems to have had a sudden spurt of intense growth and flower output. I can hardly wait to see it in another few years.

Susan Aylworth is the author of 14 novels, all available as e-books. She loves her northern California home which she shares with her husband of 46 years and the two spoiled cats they serve. When she can't hang out with her seven children and 25 grandbabies, she loves hanging with her fictional offspring, the children of her mind. She also loves hearing from readers. Visit her website at www.susanaylworth.com or find her @SusanAylworth, at .facebook.com/Susan.Aylworth.Author, or on Pinterest. 

Saturday, April 30, 2016

Little Miracles

We live in a beautiful part of northern California and because of where we live, Nature sometimes blesses us with amazing little miracles. One of them happened just recently.

My dear husband (dh) and I were chatting in our backyard when a tiny emerald sparkle flashed into view. It flashed and flashed again--over the bright purple blossoms on our Russian sage, over the just budding pomegranate blossoms on the neighbor's tree, and then--and then the miracle. It landed on the tiniest tip-top twig at the high point of the neighbor's pomegranate and stayed still. When have I ever seen a hummingbird still?

"I'm getting my camera," the dh said.

I scoffed. "It won't stay there long enough for you to get a picture." But hope springs eternal and the dh went for the camera. Second miracle: the bird stayed still. There it was, all two inches and half an ounce of brilliant color, just posing as if it wished its picture to be taken. "I can't believe it," I said. Unruffled, the dh kept shooting and got some marvelous images which I'm sharing here with you today, popping pictures again and again until he caught the final image of the bird resuming flight. Here is one of my favorite miracles of spring. Enjoy!

Susan Aylworth is the author of 14 novels, all available as e-books. She loves her northern California which she shares with her husband of 46 years and the two spoiled cats they serve. When she can't hang out with her seven children and 25 grandbabies, she loves hanging with her fictional offspring, the children of her mind. She loves hearing from readers. Visit her website at www.susanaylworth.com or find her @SusanAylworth, at .facebook.com/Susan.Aylworth.Author, or on Pinterest. 

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Losing my Furbabies

It’s been about nine years since Ché died. Not Ché Guevarra. I’m talking about the overweight, short-tailed-from-birth, spayed female Labrador mix that was part of our family for some thirteen years. At the time she was the oldest of four pets.

Our second dog, Pirate, was about five years old; we don’t know exactly, since she was a rescue and already grown when she came to us. The youngest were our his-and-hers sibling cats: a huge ginger male and his delicate little sister, a calico with such clear and vivid spots that a friend declared we had painted her.  As the oldest and largest of the four, Ché ruled the roost.

She was as affectionate as a dog could be. She never snarled at anyone—not even the grandbabies who crawled over her and chewed her ears. That is she never snarled at anyone unless they tried to come between her and her food bowl. For the last years of her life, she limped, the result of a traffic accident when she should not have been in the road but was there anyway.

She loved to rub her long body on whatever was available to scratch (fences, furniture, the rough outside walls of our home) and she loved having her head rubbed. The whole family knew the Ché routine that meant, “Rub my head! Rub my head!”

On a Friday evening after work, my hubby and I packed our overnight bags and prepared to hit the road. We only planned to be gone overnight, so we filled the food and water bowls for all four pets. As a last step, I took dog cookies out to the two girls in the backyard.

Pirate, as always, snatched hers from my hand and ran to hide. Ché, usually the chow hound, didn’t come. In fact, she seemed not to hear me although I stood less than eight feet away. I yelled louder and her ears popped up. Laboriously she moved over to me and happily took the cookie. Then she lay down on her special blanket and that’s where I left her.

That is also where my husband found her, long gone and cold, when we returned the next afternoon. The sun was just down with night coming on fast. The next scene looked like something out of a Chevy Chase movie as the two of us dug a grave in our sideyard, holding flashlights in our mouths while we labored—and sobbed—in the pouring rain.

Two years ago, also in spring, we lost Pirate to old age and hard living. Now our two geriatric cats—thirteen this summer—are the only furbabies we have left. After Ché’s passing, we realized the day would come when we’d want to be free to travel and it would be easier without the four-legs. Now Kola and Koi, though still spry and feisty, are beginning to show the effects of aging. It can only be a matter of time, and not too much of it, before we lose them too. There's no question our lives will be easier—but we will miss the affection and the unconditional love.


Susan Aylworth is the author of 14 novels, all available as e-books. She loves her northern California which she shares with her husband of 46 years and the two spoiled cats they serve. When she can't hang out with her seven children and 25 grandbabies, she loves hanging with her fictional offspring, the children of her mind. She loves hearing from readers. Visit her website at www.susanaylworth.com or find her @SusanAylworth, at .facebook.com/Susan.Aylworth.Author, or on Pinterest. 


Saturday, April 16, 2016

Babies: The World Will Go On

They stand there in front of the family home grinning like jack-o-lanterns: my nephew, Douglas, his wife, Katrina, smiling over their newborn infant daughter. They call her Eve. Lovely! She’s a pleasant little girl, if one can call a 9 lb. 5 oz. newborn “little.” She is just another of the little miracles we’ve welcomed in our family of late.

In about a month, our beautiful daughter-in-law, Amy, queen consort to our son, John, will deliver a little boy who is as yet unnamed although his older brother thinks he should be called Sharkmouth Razor Bullet. I can forgive Vaughn for that impulse. He’s four! Older and wiser heads are working on the name we will use for this little guy. We can hardly wait to meet him. We’ve already added him to the list of people we love.

Each new little person we welcome is a miracle and a vote for optimism. When we welcome a newborn, we are betting that the future will be better because this new soul is joining us in our world. The poet Carl Sandburg once said, “A baby is God's opinion that the world should go on.” I like the thought.

It’s fun to imagine what Eve or “Sharkmouth” will bring to the world—what talents and gifts will come with them, what skills they will develop, what hurdles they will leap on behalf of us all. What we can almost guarantee is they will bring new blessings and challenges to all who know them—and they will bring love. They always bring love. It seems to come with them, unbidden.


With the marriages last year of two grandchildren, we may expect to begin welcoming another generation before too much longer. We know they will bring their own love as well. Not yet ready for the title “great-grandma,” I can wait, but I know I’ll be thrilled to see them when they come. 

Susan Aylworth is the author of 14 novels, all available as e-books. She loves her northern California which she shares with her husband of 46 years and the two spoiled cats they serve. When she can't hang out with her seven children and 25 grandbabies, she loves hanging with her fictional offspring, the children of her mind. She loves hearing from readers. Visit her website at www.susanaylworth.com or find her @SusanAylworth, at .facebook.com/Susan.Aylworth.Author, or on Pinterest. 

Saturday, April 9, 2016

My Office "Room with a View"

This blog sits at the back of my computer and even farther in the back of my mind. I remember it once in a while and feel guilty about finding nothing to say. Today I feel effusive, almost as if I can’t write enough. It’s spring—and it is beautiful!

Out my office window, I have a picture view of my flower garden featuring roses in ivory, yellow, salmon pink, soft pink, Tropicana orange and American Beauty red and in every stage of bloom from barely budding to full glory. From my side window I can see my irises blooming grandly in soft lavender, stark white, and deep purple-blue. The red dogwood in the midst of the garden is almost fully leafed out and the bracts at the end of each branch are just beginning to form white blooms. Does spring get any prettier than this?
Today the sky is gray, promising the rain our northern California home has needed so desperately and which has come this year in amounts almost equal to the need. We can’t yet call our long drought broken, but our state’s major lakes and reservoirs have been able to release “extra” water for the first time in years. To help me appreciate this gray day even more, it is the first day in nearly two weeks that has not been sparkling sunshine.
Our home is less than an hour’s drive from one of the places known throughout the world for spring wildflowers. On a typical Saturday this time of year, we can go to Table Mountain, hike the trail to the seasonal waterfall—flowing fully this year—and hear a dozen different languages being spoken by families who’ve crossed oceans to see what is almost in our backyard.

To add to our enjoyment, the world’s best field guide for recognizing the dozens of varieties of wildflowers was written by our friend, Sam, who together with her husband, Sam, comprise “The Sams,” some of the finest neighbors we could possibly ask.  She is also the world expert on our local flora. We hike the mountain with guidebook in hand. Then, should we come to a quandary about exactly which gold bloom we are enjoying, we can snap a picture and ask the expert—just another of the lovely benefits of spring.

Summer will come and with it the kind of heat that wilts enthusiasm and encourages air conditioning, but for now, the spring is perfect. And I’m in love with it all.

Susan Aylworth is the author of 14 novels, all available as e-books. She loves her northern California which she shares with her husband of 46 years and the two spoiled cats they serve. When she can't hang out with her seven children and 25 grandbabies, she loves hanging with her fictional offspring, the children of her mind. She loves hearing from readers. Visit her website at www.susanaylworth.com or find her @SusanAylworth, at .facebook.com/Susan.Aylworth.Author, or on Pinterest.