Monday, September 29, 2014

Monday Morning Musings

Good Monday morning. I trust everyone had a great weekend and are energized for the work week ahead.

What I'm Reading: Her Sister by Karen Rose Smith. This is book seven of her Search For Love series, but the first one I have tried. It is a romance with some mystery and suspense, and so far it is a good read.

What I'm Dismayed About: I read an article in The Dallas Morning News yesterday written by a woman who had a harrowing experience with Child Protective Services. Kari Anne Roy, an Austin writer who writes children's books as KA Holt, had just returned from vacation and was inside her house sorting through mail when a neighbor knocked on her door. When Kari opened the door, she saw that the neighbor had Kari's six-year-old son in hand. The neighbor was overly concerned about the boy being alone in the neighborhood park, which was in full view of Kari's house and only 150 yards away.

The neighbor was convinced that this was a case of child neglect, so she called the police. What the neighbor didn't know, and didn't want to hear from Kari, is that the boy had been supervised by an older sister, who had just run home for a minute and that Kari's children often played outside at the park without an adult on hand.

Courtesy of
While relating the sequence of events that led to the visit by Child Protective Services and the humiliating interviews she and her children were subjected to, Kari kept repeating "They (the kids) were just playing outside." She was dismayed that children can't "just play outside" like many of us did as kids, and I share that dismay. Her kids are now afraid to play outside. Not just because of stranger-danger, but for fear that the police will be called again.

You can read more about the impact this has had on the family on Kari's blog, Haiku of the Day. The post was originally made on September 9th, and the comments opened an interesting discussion of child safety. Well worth a read.

What I'm Happy About: That I could feel fall in the air when I took my walk this morning. There is a certain crispness that heralds the coming of the colors on the trees, and I especially love this time of the year. That's one reason that I loved Slim Randles post here last week, An Ode to Autumn.

Now For Some Fun: My sister sent me these jokes, and the second one made me laugh out loud.

I was with my wife at her high school reunion, and she kept staring at a drunk swigging his drink as he sat alone at a nearby table.

I asked her, "Do you know him?"

"Yes." She sighed. "He's my old boyfriend.  He began drinking right after we split up years ago, and hasn't been sober since."

"My God!"  I said, "Who would think a person could go on celebrating that long?"

And then the fight started...

When our lawn mower broke my wife kept nagging me to get it fixed.  But, I always had something else to take care of. Finally she thought of a clever way to make her point.

I found her seated in the tall grass, busily snipping away with a tiny pair of scissors. I watched silently for a short time and then went into the house. I was gone only a minute, and when I came out again, I handed her a toothbrush and said, "When you finish cutting the grass, you might as well sweep the driveway."

The doctors say I will walk again, but I will always have a limp.

Be honest, you laughed at that last joke, right? 

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Book Review - The Death of Anyone by DJ Swykert

The Death of Anyone
DJ Swykert
Melange Books
224 pages

The Death of Anyone, Melange Books, March 2013, is a fictional story of Detroit Homicide Detective, Bonnie Benham, who convinces the District Attorney to allow a Familial DNA search as she investigates the murder of several young girls. The book reveals standard investigative homicide procedures and the frustration of the officers as all leads go nowhere and the body count continues to mount. A task force is put together and Bonnie and her partner, Neil Jensen, who understands Bonnie’s frustration, become inseparable as they track this serial killer. 

This is a tough, gritty novel with authenticity. The central character, Bonnie, is a really strong, capable detective, and when she is after a killer she is like a bulldog with a bone. The reader also gets to see the more feminine side of the character as well, giving her many dimensions to enjoy. 

I was particularly interested in reading this novel set in Detroit, as I grew up there and looked forward to a virtual visit home. I was not disappointed. The setting was firmly established, and I recognized many of the places and streets referenced in the book. 

Most stories answer the title in a sense. What I mean is that we can often finish a book and think, ah, that explains the title. I'm still mystified about why this title was chosen. One Amazon reviewer connected it to the acronym DOA - Death of Anyone - but I have always thought the most popular meaning of that in police work was Dead on Arrival.

For the most part, this was a very enjoyable read. I liked the characters and the police ensemble cast worked well. Unfortunately for me, it is hard to put my editor's hat aside and just read for fun, so I was tempted to get out my red pencil a few times. That did distract from the read for me, but others might just skim over the minor craft issues.


DJ Swykert is a former 911 operator. His work has appeared in The Tampa Review, Detroit News, Monarch Review, Lunch Ticket, Zodiac Review, Barbaric Yawp and Bull. His books include Children of the Enemy, Maggie Elizabeth Harrington, Alpha Wolves, The Death of Anyone and The Pool Boy’s Beatitude. A list of his books can be found on his Amazon Author Page, and you can find him at: and on his BLOG
DJ will be my Wednesday's Guest this week, so do try to come by and meet him. He is quite fascinated with Familial DNA testing, which plays a part in The Death of Anyone. Perhaps he will tell us a bit more about that. 

Friday, September 26, 2014

Friday's Odds and Ends

Hello, my name is Maryann, and I am a parent who spanked her children. Primarily with my hand and sometimes with a hot-wheel track - my boys can attest to how that stung without injuring them - but never with a weapon that would bruise them or make them bleed. And corporal punishment was reserved for serious infractions such as lying or stealing.  What could a four-year-old child have possibly done that was so terrible it warranted the discipline that NFL player Adrian Peterson inflicted on his son, beating him with a switch until the child bled?

Since the news of what Peterson did broke last week, people are speaking up in defense of his actions, espousing the old adage, "spare the rod spoil the child." His mother was quoted as saying he did it out of love for his child. "When you whip those you love it's not about abuse, it's about love."

Sorry Ms. Jackson, but whipping a four-year-old until he bleeds is not love.
This is a father's love.
Enough about that. Have you heard about the new website for the wealthy among us, Netropolitan? To join, one must ante up $9,000, and the site is billed as "The online country club for people with more money than time." The direct link to the site didn't work when I tried it, maybe because I didn't pay my $9,000, so I linked to an article that has more information. Just in case you might want to join. (smile)

Last Sunday in the Dallas Morning News, Steve Blow's column was about the ongoing debate about the separation of church and state that gains new fuel every time someone objects to a religious symbol in a public place or the religious right petitions to allow prayers at public gatherings. Steve's column mentioned two recent issues in the Dallas area that stirred the embers of the debate. First was a plaque mounted on a school building dedicating the school to "...the education of God's children and to their faithful teachers in the name of the holy Christian Church."

I'm a Christian, but I object to the plaque since some of the students and teachers there might not be Christian. Steve suggested the religious leaders in the town go to the school board and say, "In hindsight, those plaques really do represent public monies promoting one religion over others. That is not the American way and they should be removed."

The other flap is over a request by a group of atheists to be allowed to do an invocation before a city council meeting in Rowlett on a rotation basis with the religious representatives. The hue and cry that elicited has been loud and strong, and I'll admit that when I first heard about the request I wondered why an atheist would want to do an invocation. Who would they be invoking? Then I read Steve's column, reminding us that "Our cherished freedom of religion includes the freedom to choose no religion." He urged the religious leaders in Rowlett to speak those words to the City Council members and ask them to "...allow them (atheists) to bring a secular word of inspiration periodically."

The final point in Steve's column was about why our founding fathers were so careful to keep religion and politics apart. "Just look around the Middle East at what happens when they merge into one.
It’s a mess. A bloody mess.

"Some see the problem as Islam itself. In truth, much of the problem is simply the mixture of church and state into one toxic brew."

So true.

Now to close with some fun from the funny papers. This one is from Crankshaft. Rose is visiting with a lady friend telling her, "My lungs seem to be bothering me. And there's something wrong with my bladder. But those things aren't as bad as the pain I get in my back. I don't know if it's my pancreas, my spleen or my liver. And then I get these heart palpitations that just seem to go on and on."

Her litany of ailments goes on through several panels, then Crankshaft walks into the kitchen and says to his daughter, Pam, "You're missing Rose's organ recital."

Hope everyone has a great weekend. Do you have plans for something fun? I'm going to a play Friday night and will have our monthly writers' group meeting on Sunday. 

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Don't Mess With Old People

Please help me welcome Mags as today's Wednesday's Guest. She is the central character in Nancy Lynn Jarvis's novel, Mags & The AARP Gang. I reviewed the book on Sunday, so you can check that out if you want to. While Mags is entertaining us here, I am over at The Blood Red Pencil with a post about working as a script doctor. So hop on over if you have a moment and see the trailer for one of the films I worked on with director, Stephen Marro. But do visit with Mags first.

 Mags does love her coffee, so let's grab a cup and see what she has to say...

My name is Margaret Sybil Broadly Benson, née Spencer, but you can call me Mags. I told my biographer, Nancy Lynn Jarvis, that I was going to be on Maryann’s blog today and asked if she would write something for me to say, but did she? No, she did not. I’d like to think it’s because she’s involved getting publicity for the cozy mystery writers’ cookbook she edited recently, but the truth is, I think she’s forgotten about me. I’m not complaining, though. In my eighty-three years I’ve learned there are advantages to being overlooked.

Sometimes people make assumptions about the elderly; imagine they know how we think, what we’re capable of, and more importantly what we aren’t capable of. Take me and the AARP Gang, for example. Our mobile home park was about to be foreclosed and we were about to be kicked out of our homes, all political and underhanded what was going on…oh, don’t get me started. Bottom line is it was assumed that at our ages we wouldn’t have any fight left; that we’d just be nice little old ladies and gents and go off quietly to live with family.

What people didn’t realize is we were already a family, and that after a lifetime of living and reaching our eighties, none of us were quitters. No wonder we decided to rob the bank that held our note and pay off our mortgage with the proceeds. We liked the irony of that, besides, the bank was within walking distance, which was handy because most of us no longer drive.

We devised a masterful plan that made the most of our assets. My cohorts disguised themselves as old people (yes, I know we are all already old people, but they still needed disguises) making the most of the unobtrusiveness of age, while I used my rather formidable-if-never-used-on-stage acting talents to become our distraction, keeping people’s eyes busy so they wouldn’t see what was going on behind their backs.

I was doing my award-worthy impression of a dear old lady who had lost her wallet and pleading with the people in the bank to help me find it when Melvin, who managed to bring along a rifle that none of us knew he had, got upset with a teller, brandished it, lost his balance, and fired the weapon, accidentally shooting one of the overhead fire sprinklers. That happenstance caused all the other sprinklers to spurt in sympathy and automatically call the fire department. Oh my! So much for our carefully rehearsed plan.

Did we get away with it, you ask? Well, I am writing from home instead of from a jail cell, but it took quite a bit of complicated maneuvering, a whole novel’s worth in fact, to get from being soggy in the bank to where I am today. Melvin—oh, he’s a hard man to control—in drag didn’t help my case much, not to mention all the trouble Batty Betty with her early onset Alzheimer’s caused what with remembering exactly what she should have forgotten. You can read all about what happened in Mags and the AARP Gang.

Nancy Lynn Jarvis was a Santa Cruz, California, Realtor® for more than twenty years and is still licensed but she’s enjoying writing so much, she may never sell another house. After earning a BA in behavioral science from San Jose State University, she worked in the advertising department of the San Jose Mercury News. A move to Santa Cruz meant a new job as a librarian and later a stint as the business manager for Shakespeare Santa Cruz at UCSC. Nancy’s work history reflects her philosophy: people should try something radically different every few years. 
Mags and the AARP Gang represents a new direction in her writing adventure. After four Regan McHenry Real Estate Mysteries, Nancy put her characters, Regan, Tom, and Dave, on hiatus so she could let Mags and her gang, characters who had been forming in her mind for the past year, tell you their story. 

Monday, September 22, 2014

Monday Morning Musings

This one will be short as I was gone for the weekend and am still trying to play catch-up with my farm work and my office work. Then, too, I want to take time to join my knitting group for a while and just have fun.

What I'm Reading: The Death of Anyone by David Swykert. It's a police-procedural with a female homicide detective as the main character and is set in Detroit. Two reasons it was of interest to me. I grew up near Detroit, so I looked forward to this fictional visit back, and of course I like lead detectives who are strong, capable women. So far it is pretty good.

What I'm Dismayed About: My neighbor's dogs got out Thursday night and one of them got in my back pasture and attacked my sheep. I spent all day Friday dealing with that: taking her to the veterinarian clinic, then getting her back home, talking to my neighbor about his responsibility, forcing some electrolytes into the sheep late in the day because she wasn't eating. Luckily, she seems to be doing better today, but I'm doubting my neighbor will help with the bills.

This is Miss Marie, who was bottle fed as a lamb and very much a pet.
What I'm Happy About: I spent the weekend with some of my kids. Paul and Dany, and we had a jam session with a friend, Cora. Paul and Dany and Cora are all in a church choir together, and when I visit I get to sing with the choir, too. Getting together like this is always great fun as we sing some old songs my father taught us, like "My Grandfather's Clock", some John Denver tunes, and some from The Beatles. Sometimes we even slip in a few church songs, too.
Me, Paul and Dany. They are twins and my babies. LOL

Cora, the lead guitarist at church. Paul playing keyboard. In the first picture he was playing guitar. Show off. LOL
Instead of a Joke I thought I would close today with a video. This is a recording of "My Grandfather's Clock" by Tom Roush. It's a slightly faster rendition of the one my father taught me, but very nice. I noted that Tom has a CD with a lot of old songs, so I am tempted to do some shopping.

So, how was your weekend? What are your plans for the week?

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Book Review - Mags And The AARP Gang by Nancy Lynn Jarvis

Mags And The AARP Gang
Nancy Lynn Jarvis
File Size: 2368 KB
Print Length: 266 pages
Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0983589127
Publisher: Good Read Publishers; 1 edition (November 14, 2013)
Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
Language: English
ASIN: B00A946G3C

Margaret Sybil Broadly Benson, known to her friends as Mags, is 83 years old, and she has a nice routine to her senior-style life. She visits with her friends, has lunch every day with Harvey, a special friend since the passing of her husband, and is content with her rather ordinary life until Harvey comes up with an idea to help the owner of the trailer park where Mags and her friends live.

Raymond owes the bank $170,000 and has received a foreclosure notice. This means everyone will ose their homes, which doesn't set well with Harvey or Mags. So Harvey suggests a plan he's devised to rob the very bank that holds the mortgage and give the money to Raymond. They enlist the help of a few other friends, go over and over the plan, and even practice what they will do, so they are confident that all will go well.

I won't give anything away, but the simple life Mags has enjoyed up to this point takes an abrupt about face. Nothing goes according to the plan, either before or during the heist and this motley crew of elder people must use every wit they have left to get through it all.

While a bit overwritten and too "cutesy" in places, this is a fun story, and who couldn't love an 83-year old woman who is clever, funny, and able to pull off a bank robbery.

One of the things I particularly liked about the book is how it celebrates aging in such a positive way. We are so far past the "rocking on the front porch" stereotype of people over 70, and that is a good thing.
Nancy Lynn Jarvis was a Santa Cruz, California, Realtor® for more than twenty years and is still licensed but she’s enjoying writing so much, she may never sell another house. After earning a BA in behavioral science from San Jose State University, she worked in the advertising department of the San Jose Mercury News. A move to Santa Cruz meant a new job as a librarian and later a stint as the business manager for Shakespeare Santa Cruz at UCSC. Nancy’s work history reflects her philosophy: people should try something radically different every few years. “Mags and the AARP Gang” represents a new direction in her writing adventure. After four Regan McHenry Real Estate Mysteries, Nancy put her characters, Regan, Tom, and Dave, on hiatus so she could let Mags and her gang, characters who had been forming in her mind for the past year, tell you their story.

Mags will be my guest this coming Wednesday, so I hope you can stop by to meet her. She is quite a lady.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Football Fever

This will not be my usual Friday fare. You may have guessed that already by the different title, and I was trying not to write about what is going on with some pro football players. Really I was. I didn't want to enter into the media coverage of the latest "bad boy" behavior in the NFL, but I was disgusted Wednesday evening when I heard of two more players who were arrested for assault, one of those charges involved assault of a child.So I just couldn't keep my keyboard quiet.
Here's the skinny. Arizona Cardinals running back Jonathan Dwyer was arrested on aggravated assault charges, stemming from a domestic dispute. The alleged assault took place in July and involved the woman with whom he has an 18-month old child.

That arrest came not long after Carolina Panthers defensive end Greg Hardy and Minnesota Viking running back Adrian Peterson were placed on the NFL’s “exempt list.” Hardy was convicted in July for assaulting his former girlfriend and threatening to kill her. Peterson is charged with child abuse in Texas,  accused of beating his 4-year-old son last May. One news report indicates that he was investigated for abusing a different son in 2013.

Two weeks ago former Ravens running back Ray Rice was suspended indefinitely by the NFL and released by the team. This came after a video was found showing Rice assaulting the woman he was engaged to back in February in the elevator of an Atlantic City casino.

It's past time that we stopped spoiling athletes with so much money, deference, and hero-worship that they believe they can act like spoiled children and get away with any kind of behavior. I used to enjoy watching the game of football, back when it was somewhat of a gentleman's game and players for the most part were good guys on the field and off. Players weren't paid bonuses for taking out the opposition during a game, and they were dropped if they got into serious trouble. Not just suspended with pay. Dropped. As in football career over. As well it should be.

I know football fans will be booing me and this post. And that is fine. Everyone is entitled to their opinion and choice of entertainment. But I do wish we could take a giant step back in time and raise the standards of behavior and not the salaries.

Now, so this is not all just a rant, here is a joke or two to get you through the weekend. Get ready, it's a real groaner.
      A frog goes into a bank and approaches the teller. He can see from her nameplate that her name is Patricia Whack.   
      "Miss Whack, I'd like to get a $30,000 loan to take a holiday."
      Patty looks at the frog in disbelief and asks his name. The frog says his name is Kermit Jagger, his dad is Mick Jagger, and that it's okay, he knows the bank manager.
      Patty explains that he will need to secure the loan with some collateral.
      The frog says, "Sure. I have this," and produces a tiny porcelain elephant, about an inch tall, bright pink and perfectly formed.
       Very confused, Patty explains that she'll have to consult with the bank manager and disappears into a back office.
       She finds the manager and says, "There's a frog called Kermit Jagger out there who claims to know you and wants to borrow $30,000. He wants to use this as collateral."
      She holds up the tiny pink elephant. "I mean, what in the world is this?
     The bank manager looks back at her and says...
    "It's a knickknack, Patty Whack. Give the frog a loan. His old man's a Rolling Stone."

Don't say I didn't warn you. (smile) Have a great weekend. I'm going to be jamming with a couple of my kids. I do love to dig out my guitar and play music with them. What do you have planned?