Gertrude sighting

For those of you who have been asking, Gertrude is alive and well. I guess since she is an immortal being, the alive part is sort of a given. It’s probably more accurate to say that the author in me is alive and Gertrude has been nudging hard enough to get me out of my slump.

I am currently working on a Pocket Watch book–tentatively titled, In My Arms. Those of you who have read most or all of my books probably realize they are set in the same world, first created in Highland Solution. But until now, the connections between my other Scottish historical novels and The Pocket Watch Chronicles, have been somewhat indirect. This time they will collide head on.

The hero in the current work in progress is Flan MacKenzie. You might remember him from Highland Courage. He was the heroine’s (Mairead’s) little brother and the hero’s (Tadgh Matheson’s), fourteen year old squire. But the heroine of In My Arms is Ellery Nash, who currently lives in Naples Florida. As always, her life is about to be turned upside down by Gertrude and the pocket watch.

More on this later.

Be kind.

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Why wear a mask?

My last post was last August when with bold confidence I announced that I was back.

Clearly I wasn’t.

Now I will state with bold confidence, I might post again and I might not. What I will do is share my opinion when I feel strongly about something. Hence the title of this post. I feel strongly about wearing a mask in public.

I hate wearing masks. They fog up my glasses. They make my nose tickle. I feel very claustrophobic in them. But I wear one in public anyway. A few days ago my sister-in-law posted a bulleted list on Facebook outlining why she wears a mask. I reposted it on Facebook, so I won’t do it here.

It’s a good list, and absolutely expresses my reasons for wearing a mask. But one reason stands out for me above all others. I care more about you, my fellow humans, than I do about my own comfort.

Wearing a mask (unless it’s properly fitting, N-95 mask) will not protect me from getting the virus. It will prevent me from exposing you. With every breath, possibly virus-laden micro droplets of moisture spew forth from my nose and mouth, landing on every surface near me.

No, I do not feel ill. I don’t have a single symptom of COVID-19.  But, as with almost any virus, I know I could be infectious before I display the first symptom. I also know, as with almost any virus, I could be exposed and infectious while only having mild symptoms or no symptoms at all. 

What might prevent me from getting the virus? You already know the answer. Social distancing, good hand-washing and keeping my hands away from my face. This too is true for many viruses.

So, if we all keep our distance and follow good rules of hygiene, why wear a mask? Because we are human and make mistakes. It seems to be almost impossible for me to keep my hands away from my face. And even though I know the proper technique to thoroughly wash my hands, again, I make mistakes. The fact is, in spite of everything we do, the more chances we have to touch the virus, the more chances we have to get the virus.

It all boils down to this: the absolute best way to avoid the virus is not to come into contact with it. The best way to do that is for everyone to minimize exposure for everyone. Protect others by social distancing and wearing a mask. Protect yourself by good hygiene. 

It isn’t political, it’s compassionate.

Be kind.

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I’m baaaaack

It has been a while since I posted anything here. Life sometimes doesn’t go exactly as planned, and even wonderful events can add new wrinkles to the fabric. This site needs a lot of updating, but I couldn’t let this pass without posting it.

At the end of June I was one of the authors at Space Coast Book Lovers. It was a truly great conference–check it out here ( While I was there, I had the opportunity to spend a few minutes with the Hangin With web show (

I hope you enjoy the show!

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An open letter to whomever…

This is my blog. My space.



I have the right to post my thoughts, wishes, hopes, desires and if I so choose, political statements. THAT IS WHAT A BLOG IS FOR.

If you disagree with me or are offended by anything I post, don’t follow me.

If you wish to engage in a meaningful discussion, I am more than happy to–as long as I know to whom I am speaking.

If you post anonymous comments or complaints, I will delete them.


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It must stop.

Good morning. I normally refrain from making political or religious statements. My opinion is my own. Yours is yours. And Ceci Giltenan exists to entertain readers with romantic stories.

But the fact is, I am more than Ceci Giltenan. It is absolutely no secret that Ceci Giltenan is a pseudonym, my real name is Susan Cusack and today, both of us are furious.

Separating children from their parents at the border is monstrous. 

This isn’t an opinion. This is a matter of human decency.

That was the political statement. Here is the religious one. I try to live my life by the following:

Matthew 22: 36-40
“Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?” He said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”

There are an awful lot of people in the world who use the bible to prooftext. If you are unfamiliar with this, it means to take an isolated quote out of context, in a way that it may not accurately reflect the author’s intent.

A perfect example is Attorney General Jeff Sessions quoting the New Testament as follows:

“I would cite you to the Apostle Paul and his clear and wise command in Romans 13, to obey the laws of the government because God has ordained the government for his purposes,”

To suggest that separating families fulfills God’s purpose is prooftexting. Several verses later the Apostle Paul is also clear and wise:

Romans 13: 8-10
Owe nothing to anyone, except to love one another; for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. The commandments, “You shall not commit adultery; you shall not kill; you shall not steal; you shall not covet,” and whatever other commandment there may be, are summed up in this saying, [namely] “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no evil to the neighbor; hence, love is the fulfillment of the law.

If the greatest commandment is to love God and neighbor, and love fulfills the law, then what we are doing is wrong. It is not loving. If by some convoluted logic you can convince yourself that it is, I’ll pray for you.

If you agree that the policy as it is being implemented is wrong, then do not remain silent. Let your elected representatives hear you. Don’t be lulled into complacency by thinking your voice means nothing. Your voice means something to you. Your voice means something to God. And perhaps enough voices together will mean something to our government.

If you don’t know who your senators or representatives are, you can find out here:

Find your representative

Members of the US Senate

Or you can call the Capitol Switchboard at (202) 224-3121. From there, follow the prompts to your senators and representatives. (Thank you Patricia Denke for posting this number on Facebook).

I will close with this letter my son composed to send to his senators and representative. Feel free to use any of it that you wish.

I am a voter in your constituency.

Last night, on fathers day, I left my little girl in Florida. I left her with her mom, so she could spend more time with her grandparents and great-grandparents while I returned to work; I’m trying to save all the vacation time I can so so that when my wife gets her green card, we can take our daughter to Ireland and China to meet the rest of her family. It was my choice, she is still with family, I know I’ll see her again soon, and it was still hard.

My happiness on my first father’s day was tainted by the heartbreak of knowing that for parents at the border, separation is not a choice, their children aren’t with family, and they don’t know when they’ll see them again. If that were the case for me, I’m not sure how I could go on living. Marco Antonio Munoz certainly wasn’t, and he hung himself in jail after he was restrained so that CBP agents could take away his wife and child indefinitely.

The “zero tolerance” policy as enforced by this administration has the all but stated purpose of being as cruel as the law will allow to anyone who arrives at our border without the right paperwork. The idea is that by making arrival in the USA worse than their situation at home, this administration will deter people from seeking a better life in our country. It is a scare tactic, and it cannot continue.

If this administration cannot be convinced that human dignity should be valued, and intends to continue its policy of cruelty to the fullest extent of the law, then it is the urgent moral imperative of the legislature to change the law. Every day that children sit in detention camps, separated indefinitely from their parents, the moral integrity of our nation decays more and more rapidly. I hope to never be nostalgic about a time when my country took basic human rights seriously.

I plan to vote for you in the upcoming midterm elections, but if you do not sponsor or vote in favor of legislation to end this inhumane practice of separating families by the end of this year, I plan to work tirelessly to replace you with someone who will.

I know that a republican controlled Congress might not support such a bill, and that a President (whose practices the bill would challenge) may likely invoke his veto authority. I’m begging you to do it anyway. Make them vote to separate families, or if the bill passes, make the President veto a bill that has widespread popularity and bi-partisan support. If the current government can’t make the right moral choice, let it be known to the public so we can elect one that can.

(… and other things you can say to your congressional representative. Remember to adjust “midterms” to 2020 or 2022 for your senators that aren’t up for re-election this year.)

❤ Susan


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Not an open letter to Faleena Hopkins

Dear ones,

If you haven’t heard about #cockygate here is your nutshell:

An author, Faleena Hopkins, who has written a series of books, (initially called the Cocker Brothers of Atlanta) all with “Cocky” in the title, trademarked the single word, Cocky (for a series of romance books), and changed the name of the series to “The Cocky Series.” She maintains that other authors were copying her series and she had to do this to protect her brand. When the trademark was granted, she sent cease and desist letters to some authors who had series of books containing “Cocky” in their titles.

She also notified Amazon that these authors were violating her trademark. For those of you who don’t know, Amazon seems to embrace the policy “shoot first and ask questions later” when it comes to trademark or copyright infringement. They assume the accuser is correct and  remove books from sale. She has also filed a lawsuit against several people.

I’m not going to go into the specifics about her trademarks or the lawsuits, you can find the details for these all over the internet. But I am going to touch briefly on why one might choose to register and use a trademark.

As I understand it, one thing that trademarks are intended to do is identify “source.” When you see a trademark, it tells you certain things about the source of the product (who makes it, manufacturing quality, and so on). When you see Coke® on a beverage container, you absolutely know what’s inside, and you know you can expect a certain consistent quality. So the trademark Coke® identifies source. The trademark becomes synonymous with the company and its products.

I trademarked Duncurra®. It is a fictional castle that appeared in my first novel. I made up the word and use it as my company name (Duncurra LLC). It is my intellectual property and I use it to identify everything I publish.

The indie author community is outraged that a single, common word could suddenly be someone’s trademark. I, and many of my peers, aren’t convinced that the word “Cocky” identifies “source” for her books. The Cocker Brothers–absolutely. The Cocky Brothers–also possible. The Cocky Cocker Brothers–perhaps overkill, but sure. But not Cocky on it’s own and not if it means that no one else can use it in titles.   Just for the record, there are lots of Cocky books, many of which predated Ms. Hopkins first book, Cocky Roomie.

Many authors see this as a slippery slope. If someone trademarks “Cocky” what is to stop someone else trademarking “Highland” or “Knight” or “Billionaire” and then forcing the rest of us to change our titles?

There have been slings and arrows from both sides. And by slings and arrows, I mean videos, open letters, protest books or series. For example, I created the Kah Key Club series and invited other authors to join me writing their own stories set at the fictional, adults only resort, set in the Florida Keys (my title is Kah Key Stranger). They are parodies of erotic romance in general, and to a lesser degree trademarks.

One of the more recent additions to the social media battle is a blog post by Faleena Hopkins, structured as a letter to herself. In the letter she states that no one from the opposition reached out to her.

Fair enough. So I did.

I composed a letter to her that was NOT an open letter.  In the letter I attempted to understand her perspective as well as sharing my own.  I invited her to contact me for a chat and gave her all of my personal contact information. I sent it to her via a Facebook message. I know, not the most reliable. But I also left a comment for her on her blog post, simply stating that I would like to chat and directing her to the letter. The comment never appeared–but I suspect she didn’t allow any comments on that post to appear. Still, she would have been able to see it.


So, Ms. Hopkins, I’m fairly certain you will never see this, but I would like to chat. I would like to try to understand all of this from your point of view. I would also like to share my point of view. Perhaps we can both walk away enlightened. Check your FB messages for one from me, send me a FB message or leave a message here.

Okay…so a tiny bit of this post was an open letter. 🙂





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The Pocket Watch is free for a few days!

Starting at 12 am (Pacific time), May 21, 2018, the e-book version of The Pocket watch will be free, until midnight (Pacific time), May 25, 2018.

If you haven’t read it don’t miss this opportunity.

A Spanish version of The Pocket Watch (El Reloj de Bolsillo: Crónicas del Reloj de Bolsillo) is also available now and will be free during the same time.

And a brand new Pocket Watch Chronicle, The Gift, is available for pre-order now and will be released next week on May 29, 2018!

Tavish Ranald, Laird Ranald’s heir must marry. It’s his duty. But he isn’t ready. He loves someone he can never have. How can he marry his father’s choice, Claire Morrison, when another lass holds his heart and always will?
Cassandra Wren Calloway is a wealthy American heiress who prefers to be free-spirited college student Cassie Wren. But when she loses her soulmate and both her spirit and heart are broken, she’s not sure how she can move on.

Then Gertrude, an immortal spirit, offers Cassie the opportunity to begin healing by spending sixty days in another time, as another person. Cassie jumps at the chance. She wakes as Claire Morrison, in fourteenth century Scotland, and embarks on the adventure of a lifetime.

The only problem is Tavish Ranald…


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The conclusion of Medieval Mondays!

If you have been joining us over the last fourteen weeks of “Medieval Mondays” you have gotten a taste of 14 different medieval romances, including my own newest release, A Wee Highland Predicament. Now it’s time for the final installment. I have included all the previously revealed snippets as well as the scene’s conclusion below

HighlandPredicament revise


Lucas made a wide circle around the camp in order to approach the lass from behind. As soon as he reached the tree, he put a hand behind her head and the other over her mouth.

Just as he’d feared, she awoke instantly. Her head snapped back against his right hand as his left hand smothered her cry of alarm.

“Be still, lass. My name’s Lucas and I’m trying to rescue ye from these sleeping eejits. If ye start shrieking, ye’ll give us away.”

She nodded her understanding, curls bobbing around her face.

He let go of her, sliced her bonds with his dirk and helped her stand. He put a finger over his lips, and guided her silently away from the camp.

When they were well away from the Galbraith’s, he stopped for a moment. “The faster we can get away from them, the better it will be for both of us. My horse is hidden just a bit farther north from here. Ye’re just a wee thing and we’ll get to him sooner if I run with ye on my back.”

She looked affronted. “I can run.”

“In those?” He pointed to the dainty slippers on her feet.

She frowned. “No, I don’t suppose so.”

“I thought not.”

He turned away from her, kneeling on one knee. “Put yer arms around my neck.” When she’d done that, he reached back, put his hands behind her knees and stood, pulling her knees forward around his hips. She was as light as he expected.

She gave a shocked gasp. “I’m not in the habit of wrapping my legs around strange men.”

“Are ye in the habit of getting yerself kidnapped?”

“Nay, of course not.”

“Then it’s a night of firsts for ye. We’ll celebrate later. Hang on.”

He started running, reaching the place where he’d tethered Captain in no time.

He stooped to lower her to the ground. “All right, my fair wee lassie, up ye get on this beastie’s back now.”

He lifted her into the saddle, swung up behind her and headed northward, leaving the River Caron behind.

“Where are we going?”

“As far away from those thieving Galbraiths as we can get before they awaken.”

“I could work that much out on my own. But which direction?”


“North? I can’t go north. We need to head back to Edinburgh.”

“Is that where they snatched ye?”


“Then don’t ye suppose that’s where they’d expect ye to go? And when they wake to find ye gone, that’s the direction they’ll search?”

“I guess so.”

“Then wouldn’t it make sense to go a different direction?”

“Aye, but I have to get back to Edinburgh.”

“Which raises the question, what’s a wee lassie from the Highlands doing in Edinburgh? Ye can’t be more than fifteen.”

“I’m eighteen,” she said, indignantly. “And I was there—at court—with my family.”

“And who is yer family?”

“I’m a MacLennan. Laird MacLennan is my brother by marriage. I’m Ailsa MacLennan. What clan are ye from, Lucas?”

Lady MacLennan’s sister? By all the saints, the Galbraiths had managed to find a valuable prize. From everything Lucas had heard about Laird Fingal MacLennan, he tended to be overprotective to a fault. He must have let his guard down in the royal court. Well, their loss was his gain. There was no love lost between the Grants and the MacLennans and this wee morsel would bring the Grants as much ransom as she would the Galbraiths. Of course she didn’t need to know that, so he’d have to tread carefully.

“My mother was a Macrae.” That was perfectly true. Furthermore, the MacLennan’s and the Macraes were on reasonably good terms.

“Well thank ye, Lucas Macrae, for saving me from that lot.”

“’Twas my pleasure. But how did they manage to capture ye anyway?”

She remained silent.

“Ailsa, I asked ye a question? How did ye end up as a prisoner of the Galbraiths?”

“That isn’t important. Ye need to take me back to Edinburgh now.”

“Nay, lass. There were six of them and only one of me. If we run into them again, I couldn’t keep ye safe.”


“Nay, no buts. I’ll not argue with ye about it. We’re going north.”

“Fine. Take me to the nearest village. Ye can leave me there and I’ll find someone else to take me back to Edinburgh.”

“Ye’re a bossy wee thing aren’t ye?”

She looked over her shoulder at him and frowned. “Ye sound like my sister, Gillian. I’m not trying to be bossy, but my family—”

“Will not thank me for leaving the laird’s sister-in-law on her own in some godforsaken village in the lowlands.” They probably wouldn’t thank him for ransoming her either, but that was beside the point. “Do ye know what could happen to ye? I give ye my solemn word that ye’re safe with me. It’s better if I just take ye home.”


“Aye. Home.” He meant his home, but again, she didn’t need to know that.

“Brathanead is at least four days ride from here. Perhaps ye could just take me to Castle Carr? The Carrs are our allies and we stopped there on our way south. If we ride the rest of the night we could be there by sunset tomorrow.”

“Nay, we can’t go to Castle Carr. The Carrs and the Macraes are not allies. I wouldn’t be welcome there.” That wasn’t completely true. There was no formal relationship between the Carrs and the Macraes but neither were they enemies. But this young woman was not likely to be well-versed on clan politics. The Grants and the Carrs had allied themselves nearly eighty years ago through marriage, but that bond had weakened over time. Still, none of that really mattered. Nothing under God’s blue heaven would make Lucas hand this little treasure over to anyone. He was returning home without a betrothal. William wasn’t going to be happy, but the ransom Laird MacLennan’s sister-in-law would bring might go a long way to soothing his ire. “The best plan is for me to take ye home.”

Ye may think it’s the best plan, but I don’t. If we can’t go to Castle Carr, and ye won’t take me back to Edinburgh, I’ll go by myself.”

He snorted. “Have ye taken leave of yer senses?”

“Nay. I’m sure I can do it. It’s not that far. I insist ye let me go back to Edinburgh.”

He could see this was going to be a never-ending argument unless the lass herself decided it was best to stay with him. He’d go along with her and see what happened.

“Well, if ye insist.” He dismounted and lifted her off the saddle. “There ye are. Off ye go, now. Edinburgh is that way.” He pointed in the direction from which they had come.

“Ye want me to walk?”

“Nay, lass. I want ye to ride north with me. But if ye insist on going to Edinburgh alone, it’ll have to be on yer own two feet, because Captain and I are heading north.”

“Ye won’t lend him to me?”

“Nay, I won’t.”

“Why? I’d see him returned to ye.”

Lucas laughed, mirthlessly. “Now that’s a promise ye can’t make. Because as sure as we’re standing here, ye’re going to run afoul of someone—most likely those Galbraiths—and Captain will be taken as a prize too. So nay, where I go, he goes.”

She frowned and huffed and he had trouble hiding his amusement. Where Moira’s pouting and fits of pique grated on his last nerve, Ailsa MacLennan was adorable. Perhaps it was the smudge of dirt on her nose, or her wild curls, but it was hard to take her seriously. Still he schooled his features. “Be on yer way, lass. I’ll keep an eye on ye until I can see ye no more.”

As she stood there, her frown deepened. “I need to go back to Edinburgh,” she said, sounding as if she were trying to convince herself.

“Then go on.”

“I can do it, just watch me.”

It took every effort not to laugh at her. “I’m watching, but ye haven’t moved yet.”

“Nay, but I’m going now.” She turned and walked several paces away from him before stopping.

“Is something the matter?” Lucas feigned innocence.

She looked down. “Aye, it’s my slippers.”

“What about them?”

“They aren’t really suited for walking.”

“Nay, indeed they aren’t.”

She turned back to face him. “I could walk back to Edinburgh if it weren’t for my shoes.”

And the half dozen Galbraiths looking for ye. “No doubt. I’d say ye face a wee predicament. No horse to ride and no fit shoes to walk in.”

“I suppose I should let ye take me home…because of my shoes.”

“Aye, that would seem to be prudent…because of yer shoes.”

She sighed, walked back to him and allowed him to lift her onto Captain’s back. Once mounted behind her, he nudged the stallion into a walk.

This might prove to be one of the most interesting trips home ever.


Sometimes a bad boy can be a good man.

Lucas Grant’s brother is going to be furious. Lucas was supposed to secure a betrothal with a wealthy heiress to save his clan from financial ruin. After meeting her, he cannot marry the detestable woman.

As he flees Edinburgh to escape her, he happens upon six men who are holding a lovely Highland lass captive. He can’t just leave her to whatever fate awaits, so he rescues her.

Well, perhaps rescue isn’t the right word…

When he learns the feisty lass he stumbled upon is Ailsa MacLennan, he sees another way to help his clan. He’s going to hold her for ransom.

But when she steals his heart, what will the ransom be?

Buy Links: A Wee Highland Predicament is available exclusively on Amazon. Read for free on Kindle Unlimited.

Amazon US

Amazon UK

Amazon Canada

Amazon Australia

We hope you have enjoyed Medieval Mondays!


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Medieval Monday – Jenni Fletcher

As Medieval Mondays continue, this week you will find the next snippet from my newest release, A Wee Highland Predicament on Jenni Fletcher’s blog.

Below you’ll find a snippet from Jenni’s, Besieged and Betrothed.


‘What next?’ She came back to stand in front of him, covering her hair up again as she did so, tucking away the brightly coloured strands with deft fingers.

He grimaced. He knew exactly what he wanted to do next. He wanted to haul her into his arms and pull that headdress back off again. He wanted to find out if her hair and lips felt as soft as he imagined them. More than that, he wanted to find out where that honeysuckle scent was coming from…

But he had orders to follow—and he had a strong suspicion that she was going to like them even less than he did.


Ruthless warrior Lothar the Frank has laid siege to Castle Haword, but there’s a fiery redhead in his way—and she’s not backing down!

More tomboy than trembling maiden, Lady Juliana Danville would rather die than lose the castle. When she’s caught on opposite sides of a war, a marriage bargain is brokered to bring peace. But is blissful married life possible when Juliana has a dangerous secret hidden within the castle walls?

Buy Links:   Barnes & Noble  Amazon US    Amazon UK  iTunes

Please join Jenni on her own blog for the concluding excerpt next week.


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Closed doors and open windows…

I’ve heard it said that when God closes one door, He opens another.

Or He opens a window…

Or it wasn’t your door…

Or any number of other things.

I’ve said this before (usually after the other door or window becomes apparent). In fact, I said it to someone yesterday.

However, after I said it, and thought about it for a while, I realized there is a fundamental problem with the saying. It assumes God is responsible for the closed door. And even though I have a deep faith, I don’t believe that.

Regardless of one’s faith, or lack thereof, I think most people believe humans have free will.  We all make our own choices every day. Over a lifetime we make millions of them. It is our choices combined with those of others in our lives, that close and open doors. Note, this isn’t saying we are completely responsible for all situations in which we find ourselves. In fact we could have made a series of perfect decisions–things that we don’t regret and wouldn’t change, but we are still unable to control the response of others.

I like the following similar quote, attributed to Alexander Graham Bell, a bit more.

“When one door closes, another opens; but we often look so long and so regretfully upon the closed door that we do not see the one which has opened for us.”

This still acknowledges that we have choices. We can lament what is gone, or look for the opportunities that may arise because of the closed door. That doesn’t mean that the closed door is any less painful–or for that matter, fair. But each of us must decide what we do with it.

Occasionally, after we go through the new door, we realize that the old door shutting was an incredible blessing.

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