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Mary Cunningham
  • 124, Female
  • United States
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Bookland heights
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Started this discussion. Last reply by Skeeze Whitlow Aug 18, 2009.


Researching (and writing about) Our Ancestors

I was asked, recently, to write a guest post on the blog of fabulous author, Christine Verstraete on one of my main interests, beside writing. While I love sports (I’m a tomboy from waaaaay back), swim, and play a little golf, my first love, after reading and writing of course, is genealogy.

Family Search has become one of my favorite websites. I’ve traced my family tree, on my mother’s side, back to kings and queens in England, France, and Scotland.

I relax by digging up research about my ancestors. Sometimes I relax, too much, and hours have gone by before I know it! My time and interest in family members and stories paid off, however, by sparking a five-book middle-grade series, Cynthia’s Attic.

When I realized a recurring dream I’d had for almost twenty years was about a mysterious attic was in the home of my childhood best friend, Cynthia, the writing, and my search for characters, began. It didn’t take long to realize genealogy could provide some interesting characters.

Like most of us, I had regrets about ignoring my grandparents, and even my parents, when I was young. Their stories about “the good ol’ days” bored me to tears. (I would’ve much rather been outside, playing baseball)

Bess Conrad Bulleit
So, when I came up with the book idea to send Augusta Lee (Gus) and her best friend, Cynthia, back in time to meet their twelve-year-old grandmothers, Bess and Clara, I found the perfect opportunity to honor my ancestors by sharing adventures with them.
Besides my grandmother, I wrote about my dad, my mother, great-grandparents, Charles and Samantha, and even my great-great-grandparents; the best story of all!

As I mentioned above, I had no use, back then, for old family stories; with one exception. According to family legend, my great-great grandfather, Augustus Bulleit, made a living transporting “produce” from his farm in Southern Indiana down the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers on a flatboat. He sold his “produce” all the way to New Orleans until, during a fateful trip in 1860, he disappeared. Although some of the “produce”, along with his boat, was recovered, no trace of him, or his remains, was ever found. 
Lots of speculation surrounded his disappearance. Did he simply vanish into the streets of New Orleans to escape the responsibility of providing for five children (four additional children died in infancy) and a wife, Marie Julia, who had a somewhat less than sparkling personality? (See for yourself!)

Or, was he murdered for a boat full of corn and soybeans? That sounded implausible, even when I was ten-year-old!

Ah-ha! Mystery solved years later when we discovered he was actually the maker and transporter of his own rye bourbon. I suppose those who knew the truth thought his image would be tarnished if it was discovered Gramps made and sold booze for a living. These days his reputation is spread far and wide with sales of Bulleit Frontier Bourbon. A couple of decades back a very smart cousin of mine discovered the old recipe and decided to
revive it. Now, it’s one of the leading rye bourbons in the world.

So, what does this have to do with writing, you ask? 
The third book in the Cynthia’s Attic series, Curse of the Bayou, is loosely based on that fateful trip. The two best friends time-travel back to Louisiana to see if they can discover what happened to Augustus, or Beau, as he’s portrayed in the story. Do they find him? Guess you’ll just have to read the book! 
Bottom line is, I wish I’d spent more time “researching” my relatives while they were still alive. Oh, the stories I could’ve written about their childhood, or what they remembered about their parents and grandparents. While I enjoy writing fantasy, I sometimes wonder how exciting the real story could’ve been. Don’t you?

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Love Across the Bridge

Any dog lover...actually, any animal lover, knows that to lose a beloved pet is an indescribable grief. I can relate to dogs because I've never had a cat, bird, hamster, Guinea pig, etc. So, my experiences comes in the canine variety.

Although I had dogs growing up; cocker spaniels, Taffy # 1 and  Taffy # 2, (one, hit by a car and the other given to a trusted home after he tore up living room drapes, and then started on the rug) I didn't then and don't now mourn their passing to any great extent. After all, I wasn't even in school yet.
Valentine Valentine (left), border collie/German shepherd mix and the smartest dog, EVER, was a birthday present on my 13th birthday. We actually picked her up on Valentine's day, hence the unusual dog name. From the start, she was more my mom and dad's dog. I loved her and mourned her passing at the age of 15, but the grief wasn't all-encompassing.Sam in the Leaves
Flash forward to Sam (Right) Silly, silly Sam. I still remember the day my dad came walking up our driveway with the little ball of fur he'd found running across the street in front of the house. He was part of a litter belonging to our neighbors. They didn't much care about him, his brothers and sisters, or his mama. Dad suggested, and I agreed, this tiny six-week-old pup would be the perfect companion for our six-year-old son. And, oh how Sam was until the year he got bone cancer and died at age 11. The grief caused by his death was overwhelming. I still tear up, almost forty years later.
It was decades before I let myself consider bringing another dog into my home and my heart. We were living in Fort Myers, Florida, Ken traveled to Miami every week for work and although I was working part-time, the nights were lonely. Until one day, Molly came into our lives. A little terrier/mix who lost her "mom" and her home when she was three. We found her at the Miami Animal Shelter, sitting in the back of a cage with two boisterous, barking German Shepherds. It was love at first sight. Molly among flowers NJ
Molly (Left) was with us through three moves. The first two she tolerated, but the last was very hard on her. She also had many stairs to navigate; a circumstance that took a toll on her arthritic knee. She spend a whole year slowly declining until that awful day she could no longer see or get around the house. I could tell, when I picked her up and she clung fast to me, she was ready to go. This coming October it will have been ten years since she crossed "the bridge". Tears still sting my eyes.
Lucy 1st day in dad's arms
It was almost three years before we both gave in and rescued our sweet Lucy (Right - in Dad's arms). I can't even imagine the day she leaves us.
Which brings me to a long-time Facebook friend, Barbara Techel. I first got to know her and special fur-daughter, Frankie, more than a decade ago. Frankie, her beloved dachshund, suffered a spinal injury when she was young, and spent the rest of her life "on wheels." Barbara had to learn to care for a paralyzed dog; not an easy task, but they both thrived. Barbara became a best-selling author, penning, Through Frankie's Eyes, One woman's journey to her authentic self and the dog on wheels who led the way, then her children's picture books, Frankie, the Walk N Roll Dog and Frankie the Walk N Roll Therapy DogThrough Frankie's Eyes
From the time Frankie was seven years-old and rolling in her wheelchair until the day she left this planet at almost thirteen, both she and Barbara formed an amazing team helping children and adults see their challenges in a positive way. They logged over 400 visits to schools and libraries, and made over 250 visits as a therapy dog team to hospitals, senior assisted living facilites and hospice community.
Losing Frankie left a huge hole in Barbara's heart and life that needed filling. She jumped back into rescuing a special-needs dachshund. Although that sweet girl was only with her for about a year, Joie (pronounced Joey) inspired another memoir, Wisdom Found In the Pause, Joie's Gift.
Through the years, the love of Frankie, Joie, and now special-needs dachshund, Gidget, have been among Barbara's greatest teachers. "...they continue to serve me in a positive way, as a mirror I welcome looking into, even when it's difficult."

Then there was Kylie; perhaps the best teacher of all. Beautiful English lab whose sweet soul instinctively knew she needed to stay in the background while her "sisters" were tended to. She watched over Frankie, Joie, and then Gidget until, finally, it was her turn to cross the Rainbow Bridge. Her mom calls her the sweetest soul she's ever known.

During Kylie's remaining two years, she claimed a rug between the living room and kitchen as her own special spot. The family would have to carefully step over or around her. But, they didn't mind. The lab also had her own very large cage that was her sanctuary from the daily hustle and bustle. When Kylie began to decline, Gidget started joining her in the cage; snuggling as close as possible. The "somewhat aloof" Kylie, let her.
It's been several months since Kylie joined Frankie and Joie, and nJoie ow, Gidget (Right) has suddenly taken up her sister's favorite spot on the rug between the living room and the kitchen. It's like she's connecting, in her own way, to Kylie's spirit. I don't doubt that one bit.
When I read this on Barbara's recent blog about Gidget's new habit, I was comforted; knowing each and every furkid I've been fortunate enough to have in my life will always be with me, in spirit and in my heart.
Barbara Techel and Joie Barbara Techel describes herself as Intuitive Guide, Oracle Reader, Author, SoulCollage® Facilitator, Animal Lover, Deep Thinker. You can access Joyful Paws Website and discover more about Barbara's books, Oracle Reading, Workshops, Blog, and how to contact her.

I've been extremely lucky in my writing career.

Two publishers. Two fabulous graphic artists. While I've always had input on covers, my "eye" usually defers to the professionals. I believe, on MM&M, I suggested a margaritas glass and Ryan ran with it! With Cynthia's Attic, the original concept with the clock showing, subtly, in the background, captured the "going back in time" storyline, perfectly.

Margaritas, Mayhem & Murder cover was designed by Ryan Thomas Doan for Imajin Books. The first time I saw it, I gasped. He sliced through the theme of the story with a creative knife, oh, and the bee blew me away. 

Why, you ask? Read the book! 😊

My children's series, Cynthia's Attic - Echelon Press - was blessed to have Nathalie Moore creating the covers. What a beautiful eye she had for color and design! I love all five covers.

What is your opinion of covers? Are you attracted to the cover,  first? Do you pull a catchy cover off the shelf, then read the title? I happen to think they matter in this world of  millions of authors and stories vying for millions of readers.
Margaritas, Mayhem & Murder - Andi Anna Jones Mystery is getting great reviews! Get your paperback or Ebook, today!
 “If Evanovich's Stephanie Plum were a travel agent, she'd fit right in [with] Andi, a wanna-be detective readers are sure to love.” —Regan Black, USA Today bestselling author of the Escape Club Heroes series
“Charming, lively, and unpredictable, Margaritas, Mayhem, & Murder excels in a vivid story mystery fans will relish.” —Diane Donovan, Senior Editor, Midwest Book Review
"Wow. Snappy dialog, quirky characters, opens with a curious bang and yanked me through the pages." -Jean Rabe, USA Today bestselling author
“Grab a margarita and hold on tight; you're in for a wild ride.” —Karen MacInerney, Agatha Award nominee and author of the Dewberry Farms Mysteries
“A clever sleuth, wacky characters, exotic settings, and a large dose of humor will keep readers chuckling to the end.” Nancy J. Cohen, author of the Bad Hair Day Mysteries
“What a fun ride! This is a cozy on caffeine, and has all the elements you need: a feisty heroine, a handsome sheriff, a mysterious death, exotic locales, and whip-smart, laugh-out-loud dialogue. ” --Julia Buckley, author of the acclaimed Writer’s Apprentice Mystery Series and Undercover Dish
Mystery Series.
Follow Author, Mary Cunningham on Amazon!


As we prepare for Baby New Year to visit, once again , I notice the groundswell leading to 2018 Resolutions lists. For instance, a morning program did a segment on the probability of keeping certain resolutions, with 1 being highly likely to 5 being Not in this world, Toots.
Surprisingly, travel was the only item that made the highly likely list. I guess taking even a short day trip is on most bucket lists. I don't think I've ever had this high on my New Year priorities, but in my 70 years, I can tell you the one item that's been at the top for at least 40 of those years.
  1. I resolve to lose weight! (1987-2017, soon to be 2018)
I still remember talking to my doctor a couple of decades ago about my biggest health complaint. "I really need to lose 10 pounds, Doc. It would be good for my blood pressure, cholesterol, sleeping, and certainly my clothes would fit better."
This slim 30-something female looked up from her clipboard (No IPads back then) and said, with all the empathy in the world, "Well, then. LOSE 10 pounds."
Gee thanks for the advice. Why didn't I think of that? (Btw, that 10 lbs. has turned into 20)
I'm positive the second highest priority throughout the years has been to lower my stress level. Yeah, like that's gonna happen. Coincidentally, this would also be good for my blood pressure and overall health, but I'm the same worry-filled sack of nerves today that I've been for the past 60 years. Why change now? Besides, who would run my family and the world without my constant state of psychotic readiness to take on everyone's problems and solve them?
Never mind my own problems: Weight gain, anxiety. I have to fix everyone else!!
 So, here's what I've decided.
I, Mary Cunningham, do resolve to stop pretending any resolution I make in the new year will come to pass. 
Whew! I feel better already.
Sorry to cut this short, but I have to get the rest of the sugar cookie dough out of the freezer. After all, the fudge is almost gone!
Pan of fudge for two people

Happy 2018, my friends!

Holiday Inspiration by Cheryl C. Malandrinos

Mary and I have been online chums for many years, so it’s always a pleasure when she hosts me at her blog. Considering this is the holiday season, I wanted to share how holidays inspire my writing.

Holiday gatherings were a big event in my childhood home. Long tables heaving with food. The air filled with scents of extraordinary spices. Multiple generations squeezed into one tiny home. The adults snoozing in front of the television after dinner. We all have our special holiday memories.

Christmas is my favorite holiday. I’ve long said that I am the biggest kid in the house this time of year. Decorations, trees, nativities, music, parties and cookie swaps…I want it all!

It surprised none of my friends that two out of my three books are set around Christmas. Whether it be a young shepherd (Little Shepherd) stepping out in faith to experience the miracle of Christmas or a boy helping a new friend (A Christmas Kindness), I pray my books capture the hope and joy of the season. They were also a great way to teach my kids about the spirit of Christmas.

Other holidays have also inspired my writing. My latest book, Macaroni and Cheese for Thanksgiving, is about a girl’s quick thinking when the dog steals the turkey off the table. Our children’s librarian said she was on the lookout for a different kind of Thanksgiving story, so I locked away my warm and fuzzy story brain and came up with this zany idea that includes a set of fighting twins, a frazzled mom, and a turkey-stealing dog, Mac & Cheese for Thanksgiving.

I’ll also be submitting to publishers another Thanksgiving story. It is about a turkey who tries to fool the farmer to avoid becoming Thanksgiving dinner. In my little box of stories is also one about a not so scary ghost and a little girl who tries to avoid accepting the valentine a classmate wants to give her. I haven’t plotted out the Easter story I want to write, but you should be warned it’s coming. Maybe I’ll cover all the major holidays and brand myself as the holiday children’s author. 

Inspiration comes from many different places. What inspires you most?

Cheryl C. Malandrinos is a freelance writer and editor. She is the author of Little Shepherd, A Christmas Kindness, Macaroni and Cheese for Thanksgiving. A blogger and book reviewer, she lives in Massachusetts with her husband and two daughters. She also has a son who is married.

Cheryl's Website and Children's Book Blog 

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Something About Me and My Book:
I'm a juvenile fiction writer, love fantasy and will probably never "grow up." Currently, I'm editing Book Three of a young reader series, "Cynthia's Attic." The series is published by Echelon Press Publishing.

Favorite saying: I live in my own little world. But, it's okay. They know me here.
I also write adult fantasy and nonfiction.

WOOFers Rock

Mary Cunningham's Blog

Sandra Novack (Precious - Random House) Visiting Cynthia's Attic

Tuesday, March 24, author, Sandra Novack will visit Cynthia's Attic. I recently heard her speak at a library event, and was so impressed by her genuine love for her craft, her latest novel, Precious, and for the characters that grace the pages of this amazing book.

Sandra Novack Bio:

I was born in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, in 1972. When I was little, my… Continue

Posted on March 22, 2009 at 10:30am

Comment Wall (11 comments)

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At 4:22pm on October 2, 2009, John Cmint said…
Hi Mary,

Congratulations on your book series, Cynthia's Attic. Also, great favorite quote! It reminds me why I love to write :) I just wanted to mention to you a website I built called It's for authors to promote their book. You do so by posting your book's first chapter, giving readers a peek into your book. The site is free and the list of books is growing, so please check it out. :) BTW, good luck with your book series!

p.s. You can also check out this blog post on the Already Published Ning Network, I explain how to post your book. You can also learn more about the website there.

At 9:36pm on July 14, 2009, Freya R said…
Hi Mary

Do stop by when you have a moment to check out our free book marketing tool - BookBuzzr. (

BookBuzzr is a page-flipping application that is more suited for marketing books online. BookBuzzr comes with the built-in ability to share your book-extract on over 60 social networking and bookmarking sites such as Facebook, Orkut, MySpace, Digg, Delicious etc.

We'd love it if you'd take a look at our tool and share your thoughts.

Freya [at] bookbuzzr [dot] com

PS - Sorry for this message if you already use BookBuzzr, but please help us tell others and spread the benefit!
At 2:48am on March 16, 2009, Bert Martinez said…
Hello, I'm Bert Martinez, I'm looking to network with success minded authors. If you would like my free report 30 Strategies for Selling More Books just fill out the form below. I look forward to networking with you and if there is anything that I can help you with please do not hesitate to contact me.

You Were Created to Succeed!

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For Email Marketing you can trust
At 12:25pm on March 14, 2008, L. Diane Wolfe said…
Hi Mary! I've had the honor of meeting the owner of Echelon Press at last year's Book 'Em festival - she is an amazing woman!
At 8:58pm on July 25, 2007, david b mclaughlin said…
Please help me name my book (if you have not already)!

Vote here:

Thanks in advance,
David B. McLaughlin
At 9:12am on June 30, 2007, Bill Frank said…
Hi, Mary. Thanks for the invite to join your friends. Thanks, too, for the kind words the other day about my posted reply to your comment.
At 11:10am on June 28, 2007, Kathleen Shaputis said…
A pleasure to be invited, Mary. It's a wet, soggy day here in the Pacific Northwest, just perfect for writing and editing.

At 7:00am on June 28, 2007, Michelle Rosado said…
Hi there Mary,

Thank you so much for the invite. I really admire your young heart and look forward to getting to know you and your work.
At 10:42am on June 26, 2007, Mary Cunningham said…


At 1:02pm on June 19, 2007, Mary Cunningham said…
Hi Marta,

I was born in Indiana. Where did you live?

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