Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Can you still find treasure?


Treasure can be found anywhere. You could discover it in an old pirate chest, at the bottom of an abandoned well, behind a wall, at a garage sale, or...

...find it upstairs in your attic.                            

My point is that it IS possible to find hidden treasure in the 21st Century.
With the ongoing success of selling The Old Cape House, I have opened myself up to a wide range of readers across the world. The reviews are coming in fast and furious, with many 5 star reviews and a high percentage of readers liking the story...but a few, not so much. One reviewer said she liked the plot and the characters but thought, (spoiler alert), finding treasure was silly and doesn't happen anymore. Her comment inspired me to write this blog. Now that's a treasure in itself. Here are some examples of finding treasure.

In February 2014, a California couple found old tin cans on their property filled with rare coins having a value of 10 million. The couple, who remain anonymous, had walked the old hiking path on their land for many years. One day the edge of a can appeared and they simply dug deeper!

In November 1992 a farmer, living in the village of Hoxne near Suffolk, England, lost a hammer in his fields. A friend used his metal detector to help him find it. They found under the dirt a wooden box and inside was a cache of gold, silver, gemstones, and artifacts from the Roman Empire. In the image above is a representation of how the box's contents were positioned. The British government declared it a treasure trove and legally claimed the riches for the country. But the farmer and his friend still met with financial success. The British government paid them about 2.8 million. Currently the treasure is on permanent display at the British Museum.

We've all heard of the man who bought a $4 painting at a garage sale and inside was a copy of the Declaration of Independence. He sold it for 2.4 million. Then another man bought some items at a thrift store in Nashville. His purchase included a salt and pepper shaker set, a candle holder, and a yellowed copy of the Declaration of Independence for $2.48. He received over $476,000 for an original copy of this famous document...his initial cost was $2.48  Considering there are 200 official copies of the Declaration and only 36 have been found since 1820, there's a good chance you could find one.

If you're still doubtful about finding treasure, spend an evening watching WGBH's Antiques Roadshow and see what ordinary people are discovering. 

So in response to my critical reviewer, "Yes, there is treasure to be found!" 
And...I hope that my readers will never give up hope that something exciting is always just around the corner or just over the next hill. I know I will never give up. 

Here's a sneak peak of the cover for my next novel ...coming to you in late October 2014.

The Old Cape Teapot  

Nancy Caldwell found pirate treasure behind her Cape Cod barn in the historical fiction, The Old Cape House. Was she lucky or was it because she's a good detective? In The Old Cape Teapot, the second in a series of adventures, our heroine returns to uncover the trails of two survivors from the wreck of the 1717 pirate ship Whydah.  Nancy, armed with the knowledge that in pirate culture the looted riches were equally shared, takes us to the tropical island of Antigua and back to Cape Cod searching for clues to more treasure. But danger and conspiracy follow Nancy's every turn. This time, she'll need more than luck and a few good guesses.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Yankee Thrift

Massachusetts is ranked the 13th most generous state so why are we known for our Yankee Thrift? The word Yankee may have come from a common Dutch name Janke or Jans Kees dating to the 1680s when the Dutch settled along the Hudson River in the New World. It was officially used in 1765 as a name for an inhabitant of New England. During the American Revolution, it was a form of national pride to be called a Yank. During the Civil War, southerners called the people of the eastern section of the country Yankee.
Thrift basically comes from the hardscrabble way of life that people lived in the beginnings of our country. After all, the eastern part of the country was settled first and was home to the largest population. There were a lot of people that scratched out a living and Yankee Thrift stuck.
New England has a saying..."use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without"! 

Speaking of Yankee Thrift, my historical fiction, The Old Cape House is available online as an ebook for one day starting right now at a reduced price of only $0.99!

You can buy it online at Amazon, Barnes&Noble, and iTunes from today June 20 to midnight on June 21. Now's your chance to buy it for only $0.99!!

Another great example of Yankee Thrift can be found in Provincetown on Cape Cod. Here is a ceramic plaque identifying the houses that were originally on Long Point Peninsula in 1818 and were floated over to the mainland in the late 1850s. Today you can see most of the 'floater' houses in the West End of Provincetown.

Here's a map of Long Point, Massachusetts in 1836. Click on the link for a larger view.
Long Point 1836 

Long Point had 38 houses, a school, a bakery, and a post office along with two light houses: Long Point Light and Wood End Light.

The attraction for living there was good fishing. The fishermen could catch from shore: shad, mackerel, and bass. They used sweep seines; usually hand knit by their wives. There are stories of the men catching almost seventy–five, 200lb. barrels of fish in one haul. 

But even with the ease of fishing, Long Point's isolation was a big factor in the town's demise. It was surrounded by sea water and had no fresh water of its own, everything had to be hauled over on barges or pontoons. Another factor was the stormy coastline. The physical shape of the peninsula had always protected the harbor from the wind and ravages of many nor'easters. These storms also attacked the houses. I assume the people of Long Point had had enough.

This house was called a "floater". It was first moved from Long Point in 1850 and then in 1890 it was moved again.

Tim and I decided to find some of the "floaters".

As we walked towards Wood End Light on Commercial street, we found two floaters.

While we were there, we decided to go and visit the Wood End Light.

We read the sign that says sometimes the Breakwater Walk is under water at high tide. We paid close attention to that and then checked to make sure it was low tide before we started our hike.

I had walked around half way and still had a distance to go.

I've never seen so much poison ivy!

But we made it.
I can't imagine living so far out. I guess you really had to be thrifty,

So in honor of living thrifty, my book, The Old Cape House, is on sale now through midnight June 21 for only $0.99!!

Just click the links to the right of my blog and they will take you to Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

The Greening of Cape Cod

Last week underneath a beautiful sun, Tim and I walked to find spring. As we passed our gallery, the daffodils said hello with their yellow heads...

...and as we drove away to discover our walk for the day, they waved at us along the edge of our woods.

We choose the Indian Lands in Dennis to see if the wild lady slippers were in bloom.

We entered the woods and followed a path covered with dry oak leaves and pine needles. In the woods, a mellow green curtain surrounded us; it was the first hint from Mother Nature that spoke of spring. This soft, fuzzy aura, up close, was only the curving and twisting stalks of wild roses but definitely green and welcomed.

A little further in, the verdant green of new moss made an appearance.

 The old grasses cascaded in small waterfalls over the fresh and beautiful moss.

It was a short two mile hike but well worth it. The slippers were not out yet but the views of the Bass River and marsh were stunning. We'll try again in a few weeks.

The heavy winds that came through last night, brought a dusting of snow and lower temperatures, so today I'm spending my time indoors writing and preparing for my next author event.
I will be speaking at the West Dennis Library on the anniversary of the 1717 wreck of the pirate ship Whydah on April 26 from 1 to 2pm.  I'll be discussing how the ship's demise along with pirates, treasure, and love influenced my historical novel, The Old Cape House.

When the wreck of the Whydah was discovered off the coast of Cape Cod in 1986 by Barry Clifford, people were skeptical about its origin. When he found the ship's bell, everything fit into place and another piece of the puzzle was added to the legend. During my talk, I will explore all the different versions about what may have happened to Sam Bellamy and Maria Hallett based on my research.

Here's a link to my wonderful interview with Madeline Holt on the cable TV show, Books of the World.
Books of the World - The Old Cape House

Another link to an online interview with Eleanor Parker is interesting, plus she asks me very different questions.
author online interview

If you haven't purchased and read The Old Cape House, here are some reviews...

The Old Cape House

from Judith on Amazon:
"This book was interesting and entertaining from cover to cover. Although I was familiar with the history and story characters, having read several books on the topic, this was my favorite of all. Very well written and a fun read."

from Christina Laurie on Amazon:
 "This compelling story kept me reading long into the night. The story switches between Sam Ballamy and Maria Hallett of the early 1700's and Nancy and Paul Caldwell, who move to the Cape in "present day." The old root cellar that ties Maria and Nancy together is a fascinating story of clever interweaving of two centuries. In her engaging tale, Author Barbara Struna imagines what COULD have happened in this saga of Sam and Maria. And I like Barbara's take. It's not as tragic as our Cape legends, but has grief. tension, suspense and, yes, love, in both centuries. It's a great read and an entertaining novel."

Thursday, February 27, 2014

The Month of March –Cape Cod

Does March come in like a lion and go out like a lamb? It's too early to tell but let's hope it's not too big of a lion.
The sun is shining around Cape Cod today, with temperatures in the 20s and 30s and nights into the teens. We've had several wintery storms since January 1 and the snow is just about gone. Yesterday I saw daffodils beginning to stretch their arms above the ground, 3- 4 inches high.

Speaking of stretching... sales of my historical novel The Old Cape House are spreading across the Cape and the country according to Amazon.com, Barnes&Noble, and many wonderful bookstores.

I found some beautiful images of paintings by Dutch realist Jozef Israels that remind me of my 1715 heroine Maria Hallett and how she waited for her lover Sam Bellamy to return to her.

This coming Tuesday, March 4 at 7pm, I will be speaking and giving a presentation about my novel at The Brewster Ladies Library. Hope you can join me.

The weather has been strange this year. The day after I took the picture (shown above) of the daffodils coming out...the snow came once again. It looked like someone shook powder sugar across Cape Cod. It was beautiful!

As I also prepare to speak at the Jacob Sears Library in Dennis on Monday – March 10 at 7pm, I hope there will be more sunshine and maybe I'll get to enjoy this image of my gardens.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

The Magic of Christmas

I've always believed in the magic of Christmas and never lost the desire to celebrate the simple joyfulness of this special time of year. On this my last post of the year, I'd like to tell you a story about something that happened to me several Christmases ago.

           The night is Christmas Eve. Everyone is fast asleep upstairs in their beds.

 I begin to ease the house into the dark night. I push a little black button that turns off the miniature train village and the front parlor’s Christmas Memory tree. How I love watching the electric trains encircle this special tree, filled with our children’s handmade ornaments from top to bottom, some over 40 years old. 

Next, with a quick tap of a tiny switch on an old wall, the white lights on the bushes outside go black. 

I peer out of an old window set into a green paneled door. My nose, with its warmth, clouds the wavy glass. No people, no cars on the road, just newly fallen snow that sparkles like diamonds under a moonlit sky.  

My slippered feet take me to the rear of our old house and its recent addition. I pass the kitchen where another switch is tapped in the new foyer controlling the lights in the driveway. 

After a whispered thank you to my Lord, I say goodnight to the 50-foot evergreen near our barn. Its multicolored light bulbs glow under a dusting of snow and feels almost like a blessing on our centuries old home. 

I hear the porch door, which faces the woods, open and close with a crunch from the ice that has formed on its threshold. My husband, Tim, lets Mac, our senior Beagle, make his last mark on the frozen ivy for the night.

The piney smell of an inside tree tingles my nose and draws my attention back into the living room. The elegant and mighty fir, decorated with over a hundred small ribbons touches the cathedral ceiling with a large red bow from long ago.  Silver glass balls hang near the bottom and antique ornaments from my childhood are delicately placed at the top.  Hallmark specials fill in the middle, all hung within everyone’s reach, so with the touch of another tiny button, Christmas Carols or silly sounds from Disney characters fill the air. Blinking lights complete this lovely Christmas image. But I feel my eyes closing and as sleep slowly creeps through my body I turn the tree lights off.

From my right comes the soft glow of a lone bulb that lights the wooden manger of the Baby Jesus. It’s the final click of the night. 

In the darkness, I inch my way to our bedroom where I climb into bed next to Tim and then under the thick blankets for a good winters sleep. 

It isn’t long, at least it seems quick to me, that I hear something on the roof. I glance at the clock; it’s 3am and way to soon to wake. I roll over, hug my pillow and try to catch another 40 winks. But the sound of a thump startles me once again and my drowsy eyes open wide. 

I throw off the covers. With me in my nightgown and feet without socks, I fly to the doorway only to see that all is still, bathed in the shadowy light from a cold winter’s moon. My heart races, my head becomes filled on this Christmas Eve with the thought of just one thing.  And yet, nothing makes sense at the moment, I question myself again, what was that clatter…the outside shower door in the wind? a branch on the roof? 

Soon a smile grows across my face as I slowly turn back to bed. Once under the warm quilts, it doesn’t matter. I know in my heart it could only be, the magic of Christmas. Yes, it has to be Santa Claus. And for a split second I am seven again, giggling under the covers, anxiously waiting for morning to come. This was surely a gift from Santa, a reward for a faithful belief that I’ve carried all my life. And when I wake, I’ll be pleased to tell my tale to all who’ll listen so they too can share in this wonder. 

The moral or lesson to my story is simple, be childlike. Believe in Santa Claus, believe in his spirit, his magic and keep him alive. He’s not such a bad guy after all. Remember it’s not all about presents and gifts, it’s about family, memories, love, kindness, and the twinkling bulbs that light the night. For me, it’s about an angel sent by God to remind us that his son was born to save us.  Call him St. Nicholas, Kris Kringle, Father Christmas, Pere Noel, or Santa Claus. He’s an angel true and true, one that makes our hearts lighter, our lives brighter and just happens to like the color red. 

 Merry Christmas and Happy Celebrations! 
See you next year!

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Who was Saint Nicholas?

When I was a little girl, on the eve of December 6, my mother would always tell the family to put their shoes in front of the fireplace. If we'd been behaving, there would be an orange and some candy the next morning. If not, we'd receive a piece of coal or maybe nothing...but that never happened. Mom said these gifts came from Saint Nicholas. It was a test, to see if we needed to improve by the time Christmas morning came. I guess it was similar to the current 'elf on a shelf' craze.

Here's an image of Saint Nicholas. Notice the oranges and his red/green robe. Look familiar?

Here's what I found in my research.

Saint Nicholas died on December 6, 343 C.E. He came from a wealthy family, always giving away his money to the poor. He soon became a priest. After his parents died, he used his inheritance to help even more people but only traveled in the night, in secret. By the time he was made the Bishop of Myra, in the city of Denre in present day Turkey, his good deeds and saintly work had spread far and wide.

As centuries came and went, his reputation became almost mythical. Over 400 churches in the Middle Ages were dedicated in his honor. Because of his gift giving and evidence of miracles, people began celebrating and giving gifts to each other on his feast day.
Martin Luther, in the early 1500s, replaced the name Nicholas with Christ Child, or in German, Christkindl, eventually evolving into Kris Kringle. 

More legends sprang up, and in the late 1500s there was another name change–Father Christmas.

Along the way, the tradition developed guidelines. On the eve of December 6, parents instructed their children to hang their stockings by the fireplace or put their shoes out and they would be filled if they were good. They also had to go to bed early if they wanted anything because St. Nick only came at night to deliver his gifts.

The Dutch pronunciation for Saint Nicholas was Sinter Klass. When the Dutch settlers came to the New World and settled in New York, known then as New Amsterdam, they brought their St. Nick traditions. The name changed again from Sinter Klass to Santa Klass to Santa Claus. Which brings us to today.

We all know who this is!

On a side-note:

I still remember my brother and I coming down the stairs, dressed in our school uniforms, anticipating what was in our shoes for St. Nicholas Day. Then on the bus to school, we dreamed about what we would be receiving on the coming Christmas Day because our shoes were filled, signifying that we were being very good. My Mom collaborated with St. Nicholas  through high school, college, and even when we all moved away with our own families. What a treat it was when a St. Nicholas card arrived in the mail with a little money inside.  

Struna's St. Nicholas Day 1976

 I continued the family custom for my own children and so did my brother and sisters with their children. When my Mom passed and I moved further away from everyone to Cape Cod, I wanted to keep the observance of St. Nick alive, along with the goodness of my Mom. So every year I mail a St. Nicholas card to my nieces and nephews, filling it with a dollar bill for each member of their family.  Over the years, I hope they have enjoyed it as much I have. It's a simple reminder to be good and never lose the magic of the season.

I wish the same to you.