Friday, November 28, 2014

Free Book for Black Friday

Once upon a time, many years ago, there was a pleasant thing that some people liked to do the day after Thanksgiving - go to the mall and do a bit of shopping, look at all the holiday displays, and listen to the Christmas Carols being piped over the sound system.
 
Image Courtesy of Black Friday Predictions
  Then something awful happened. Marketing people came up with the idea of calling the shopping day "Black Friday" and encouraged the retailers to compete for the shoppers' money by having huge sales. And while you're at it, why don't you open earlier than your competition?
 
"But Sears is opening at eight in the morning."
 
"So, open at seven."
 
And thus the war over opening times started, resulting in earlier and earlier opening times until Thanksgiving day was lost for anyone who works in retail.
 
The fun also stopped when the desire for a bargain became a compulsion, and people started camping out in front of stores days before the sales started. I didn't realize how bad that compulsion had gotten until I read about two women who have been camping out since November 7th in Louisiana. To get a television. They are willing to go through all that to save a hundred dollars or so? Weird.

The actual day - Black Friday - shoppers are almost manic, and those who have not already lined up to enter the store, push their way in, desperate to not miss a deal. Maybe there is still one more TV left that is on sale, but, oops, that other lady wanted the TV. No problem, we'll just push her aside. After all, we probably deserve that TV more than she does.

"Oops, sorry about that. Need help with that bloody nose?"

As you've probably guessed by now, I am not at a shopping mall today. I stopped going to the stores the day after Thanksgiving many years ago after being jostled by a crowd when a store announced a special sale on sweaters for the next fifteen minutes. I happened to be next to the table, so I turned and picked up a sweater, only to have a woman snatch it right out of my hand. I was so shocked that she would actually do that, I let go, and I let go of the desire to be any where near a store on Black Friday. 

I'm spending more time with my kids and eating more pumpkin pie. What about you? Are you out fighting the crowds? Do you enjoy the experience?

And now about that free book. I didn't forget, honest. Starting today I am offering my latest mystery, Doubletake, free for Kindle and Kindle apps through December 1st. The book normally retails for $3.99, so this is a bargain. This is the last time the book will be free, so grab your copy while you have a chance, and if you do get the book and read it, I'd love for you to leave a review on Amazon. Those reviews help authors so much.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Thanksgiving has always been one of my favorite holidays. I loved cooking the big dinner, with prep starting days in advance. We had to make the pies at least two days early so we had plenty of time to test them and make sure they were good enough for the big day. Too bad if I had to make more on Wednesday night. 

Today I thought I would look back and share a Thanksgiving piece I wrote here in 2006. (I can't believe I've been blogging that long. Wow!) Anyway, the following has been used in bits and pieces here, and in the column I wrote for the Plano Star Courier many moons ago, and is part of a book that I hope someday to get published. 


There's an old Thanksgiving song that starts out, "Over the river and through the woods to Grandmother's house we go..."

When I was a child, my Dad would break into that song as we crossed the Pennsylvania border into West Virginia on our annual pilgrimage from Michigan to celebrate the Holiday with his family. "The horse knows the way to carry the sleigh, through the white and drifting snow..."

The closer we got to his childhood home, the heavier his foot rested on the gas pedal as our Chevy station wagon climbed the hills on twisting roads and flew on the downside. His rich baritone voice belted the song, and in my imagination we were on that sleigh behind dapple grays in their rhythmic trot. I could hear the clump of their hooves and feel the blowing snow bite my cheeks as we were carried along.

It was magic, pure and simple. A magic that continued for the few days that we stayed in that 'otherworld.'

Today as those memories float pleasantly through my mind, I can almost smell the wonderful aromas of sage dressing, pumpkin pie, and mulled cider that permeated my grandmother's house. And I can hear the bustle of activity accompanied by short bursts of conversation among the women in the kitchen. The front bedroom is where the men gathered and brought out instruments. Their music became another soundtrack.

My brothers, sisters, and I would join other cousins in the back bedroom in between our numerous trips outside. Our biggest challenge was to see who could roll down the hill and retain the most amount of snow, turning ourselves into living snowpeople. The second biggest challenge was to see who would have the honor of receiving the drumsticks. They were doled out on a 'merit' system based loosely on which of us waited the most patiently for the great announcement, "Dinner's Ready."

In the early years of married life I found it a formidable task to create Thanksgiving Days that would live in a similar glory for my children.

We were living in Texas, so mountains and snow were out of the question, and my singing never could quite match my father's. I didn't possess even a tenth of the culinary skills of my grandmother and my aunts, so the meal would probably be lacking. And we were more than a thousand miles away from cousins to help distract my children from their impatience.

But despite those limits, we managed to muddle through. I did manage a passable dinner and my husband actually raved about the German dressing. The pies were a major hit, all ten of them, and everyone was willing to eat the broccoli for the promise of a second piece of pie. And after cheering the Dallas Cowboys to another victory, most years, we would all tumble outside for a family game of touch-football.

In sifting through all these random memories now, I realize that the memory itself is not what is important. What is, is the fact that we have memories and they don't happen by accident. No matter what we do to 'mark' these important occasions, it is vital that we do 'mark' them. Even if our process doesn't live up to a Martha Stewart image or our own fond remembrances of childhood.

So here's to our memories, no matter how we create them, and may yours be as wonderful as mine.


Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

No Black Friday Shopping for Doc

The day before Thanksgiving I thought Slim Randles would have a heart-tugging thoughtful piece about all the ways he is thankful, but he surprised me. Not that this isn't a thoughtful piece. Doc makes a lot of sense if you stop and think about it. So help me welcome Slim as my Wednesday's Guest today, and have a piece of pumpkin pie while you are reading. We always need to test the pies the day before Thanksgiving. At least that was the rule in our house. Enjoy...

“Hey Doc,” said Herb, reading the latest copy of the Valley Weekly Miracle, “did you see all these specials they’re having in the city? Just for the Friday after Thanksgiving, too. You know, a guy could get a lot of Christmas shopping done then and save some money.”

“I guess so,” Doc said, putting his cup down so Loretta could top it off.

“You’re not going to go shopping?”

“Not on Black Friday.”

Herb looked at Dud and Steve along the philosophy counter. Like buzzards circling a battlefield, they could sense a story.
Dud asked, “Any special reason, Doc?”

Something inside Doc swelled up and he seemed much taller than usual. He was prepared to expound, and we braced ourselves. We always listen to Doc. Besides being one of the world’s kindest people, he has more initials after his name than most governmental agencies.

“I don’t shop on Black Friday,” he said, “because it’s expected of me. I don’t attend church on Easter or Christmas, either, even if I go regularly the rest of the year. Every Labor Day, I work instead of going fishing or going on a picnic.

“Now, I do celebrate Valentine’s Day with a card and flowers, because I like Mrs. Doc and plan to keep her happy. But for the big expected holidays, I defer. You see, boys, man was put here on this earth to break trail for others. To set out on his own to make traditions, not follow them. Everybody else waters grass to make it grow and when it does, they cut it down. It takes time and sweat and money to do that. You know how I garden … leave it alone and if something grows that offends me, I take it out with a shovel.

“I tell you, guys, we are fashion setters, not fashion followers. Our mission is to set examples for others, not blindly go do something because everyone else does it. You remember when we were kids, our mamas told us not to play in the street because it was dangerous and we told them the other kids got to do it, and they told us if the other kids jumped off a cliff, would we do that, too? Sure you do. Every mother in the world has said that a dozen times. So why should we just follow along like sheep when someone on Wall Street decides we should go out and stand in long lines and spend money on one certain day?”

Herb nodded. “As usual, Doc, you make a lot of sense. I never really gave it that much thought.”

Doc smiled back, “Besides, I’ve already done most of my shopping online.”

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Brought to you by Saddle Up: A Cowboy Guide to Writing 

Monday, November 24, 2014

Aw Shucks, Old Age

It's going to be a busy week heading toward Thanksgiving and I have a jillion things to do today, so I thought I would have a guest instead of my usual Mondy offering. I am so thankful for the writers who share their work with us, and one of them, Roy Faubion, occasionally sends me a piece that I might deem worthy of including on my blog. What he doesn't realize, even though I keep telling him, is that anything he sends me is worthy of a spot here. He is a terrific writer. This particular piece resonated with me as it came in my inbox shortly after a few friends and I had been out to lunch and talking about the challenges of aging. We all feel so young on the inside, but the outside is beginning to show definite signs of wear and tear. Growing old is not for the faint of heart, and I think Roy sums up the emotional reactions of most of us who are a few years past 60.

And while we are all still young enough to enjoy it, let's have a danish to go with our morning coffee.  

Now here's Roy... 

One thing that puzzles me more than all the other things that puzzle me is where does middle age end and old age begin in a person’s life cycle?  As I mull this around in my brain, I experience a number of disjointed emotions which do not contribute much to my desire to make a determination of what age category in which I fit. Take as an example of my muddled thoughts, the image I have of old based on the old men and old women I see. I knew a man in his nineties who appeared to be in his early seventies. He sat tall and stood straight. His voice was clear and his mind was sharp as a tack. Was he old? I did not think so.

Or how about the old feller I met twenty-five years ago at a shindig featuring a lot of violins…fiddles they called them. The musicians were from eight to near a hundred, mighty good talent, I’d say. But one of them seemed particularly skilled with the bow, bringing sound to the stage that captivated everyone. I figured he was on his last leg in life, all wrinkled and dried out. Ninety years old was my guess. While we were sitting and visiting I had the opportunity to be so bold as to ask his age. Fifty, he responded with a toothless smile, and I added in my thoughts, darned proud of it.  He was younger than I. How about that?

Now here I sit, eighty years old by the calendar. I almost choke when I say it aloud. Eighty! Heck, I didn't even see it coming. One day I was sixty and gainfully employed, the next thing I know, I am eighty, losing track of what day it is and what I think I ought to be doing but don’t. And doctors? I surely did not know there were so many specializing in so much. There is one for my brain and one for my kidneys. The heart doctor lets me know it is time to see him, but he has to wait for me to visit the back doctor.  The tooth doctor is standing in line right behind eye doctor. About the time I think I am caught up with doctors my family doctor says, “Not so fast, old timer. It is time to take the little bottle and go in the bathroom.”

Well, I went in the bathroom even though I did not feel like going. It is just something old timers do. Sometimes through the last few years I would think I was not aging at all, until Medicare set in. That stuff will do you in! When I was gainfully employed I carried a small pocket notepad to keep up with my obligations. Now that I am retired, and have been for quite some time, it takes a three ring-binder with a planning calendar to keep up with the doctors’ appointments.

In the midst of all this I continue to say to myself, when I get old, I think I will slow down a bit.  Right now I have an appointment to test ride a Harley.
Image Courtesy of Harley Davidson Blog

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Roy Faubion has written columns for small-town newspapers for most of  his adult life. The first column was entitled Around The Sagebrush. Second was The Clodkicker. Finally, he arrived at a title and concept with which he is most comfortable, Ponderations from the Back Porch. Through the years of being a radio announcer (preceding the term Disc Jockey) and years of news reporting, and doing all the other jobs in the industry, he racked up enough experiences to shape a column of thoughts, remembrances, and often, true stories. He is married to Dr. A. Janet McGill, retired educator, and both are active members of their church. They are also members of the North East Texas Choral Society, a 100 plus member performance choir in Sulphur Springs, Texas.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Book Review - Edward Adrift by Craig Lancaster

Edward Adrift
Craig Lancaster
Paperback: 320 pages
Publisher: Lake Union Publishing; Unabridged edition (April 9, 2013)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1611099056
ISBN-13: 978-1611099058 

BOOK BLURB: The follow-up to 600 Hours of Edward, this novel revisits Edward Stanton three years after the end of the previous book and finds him in a scattered state. When he learns that his young friend Kyle is in trouble, Edward sets out on a road trip that carries him to some unexpected places—and might just deliver him to the doorstep of love.

Craig's first book was one of my favorite all time reads, and I was delighted when I finally made time to read the sequel. Edward is a 42-year-old man with Asperger's Syndrome, who is trying his best to find "normal" in a world that does not conform to this way of thinking and operating. If you've ever wondered what goes on in the mind of someone with Aspergers, Edward can clue you in, and as he reminds everyone, "I'm not stupid, I'm just developmentally challenged."

I loved Edward when I met him in the first book, and love him even more as I see how he has managed to take control of his life. In 600 Hours Edward was just coming to terms with his uniqueness and starting counseling to learn coping techniques. To see how the counseling has helped him get from there to where this new story starts is a joy, as I have come to think of Edward as a real person and am rooting for him all the way.

One Amazon reviewer commented, "... to say that this book is about aspergers (sic) syndrome, or even about a guy with aspergers syndrome is to sell it short. Really short. This book is about a guy. A fantastic guy with quirks and foibles who does the best he can to cope with his life, and who sometimes succeeds. It's a richly drawn portrait of a really, really interesting guy who you'd like to know more about, who also happens to have aspergers, which affects his personality to an extent."

I agree. While I found the insights into how his mind works, I also connected to Edward as a person, and he was just as interesting to me as some of my quirky writer friends.

Another reviewer commented that this wasn't a road-trip book, or a book about Asperger's, it wasn't a romance, it wasn't a story about triumph over adversity, and it wasn't a coming-of-age story. I disagree. It was all of those, just not in the usual style that we are accustomed to, and it doesn't fit neatly into a genre. It's simply a novel. And one hell of a story.

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DISCLAIMER: I purchased this book, and Craig did not bribe me in any way to say nice things about his writing. We are friends, but that didn't influence me either. I loved his writing before we became friends on Facebook.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Friday's Odds and Ends

There was an interesting article in last Sunday's Dallas Morning News written originally in the Princeton Alumni magazine by Lawrence Otis Graham, an attorney and author. His article, Wealth can't protect your kids from racism, had some interesting things to say about the problem. What prompted the article was in incident involving his 15-year-old son and a bigoted white guy at a New England boarding school.

Apparently, as the young man was walking across campus, a guy in a car pulled up beside him and called out, "Are you the only nigger at Mellon Academy?" (Graham changed the name of the school.)

Graham was most upset about the incident because he said he and his wife had worked hard to teach their children how to act and talk so they would fit in smoothly with the white community. No slouchy pants, no sunglasses, no hoodies, and no ebonics. Yet this young man obviously did not fit in smoothly to the entire white community.

I found this article most distressing. First, just the blatant bigotry that young man in the car displayed. I thought we were past that kind of thing. But therein lies the problem. We are not past it. Not one bit.

Racism and bigotry are two themes I explore in the Seasons Mystery Series that debuted with Open Season, and I have done a lot of research about racial profiling, the use of deadly force, as well as interviews with police officers both black and white about the difficulties they face. That initial research was done almost 30 years ago, and sadly not a lot has changed. You just have to consider what happened to Trayvon Martin in Florida in 2012 and the tragedy this year in Ferguson, Missouri.

I think part of the problem is that different bothers us. Sometimes it even scares us. We like to stay in our own area of comfort where we know the people and we know what to expect from them. We are hard-wired to be alert for stranger-danger. 


So maybe we should stop thinking of others as strangers and more like friends we just haven't met.

Something else of interest in the Dallas Morning News was a story about a new program in West Dallas. Two graffiti artists, Eder Martinez and Kirk Garnett went to a city hall meeting and asked if the city would consider a santioned graffiti wall where artists could express themselves creatively and not worry about being arrested. Other cities have freewall public art projects, and Garnett thought that should work in Dallas.
Image courtesy of MarcoFolio.net
Apparently it has. There are plans to add more sites for artists, and it is a win-win on both sides. Kudos to the city leaders for their willingness to listen.

Now here's some advice from Will Rogers to kick off your weekend on a light note:

* There are two theories to arguing with a woman. Neither works.
* Never miss a good chance to shut up.
* If you find yourself in a hole, stop digging.
* The quickest way to double your money is to fold it and put it back into your pocket.
* There are three kinds of men:
         The ones that learn by reading.
         The few who learn by observation.
         The rest of them have to pee on the electric fence and find out for themselves.
* Good judgment comes from experience, and a lot of that comes from bad judgment.
* Lettin' the cat outta the bag is a whole lot easier'n puttin' it back.
* After eating an entire bull, a mountain lion felt so good he started roaring. He kept it up until a hunter came along and shot him. The moral: When you're full of bull, keep your mouth shut.

Please do leave a comment if you have an opinion to share, or if you have a joke to share with us.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Legendary Thanksgiving Dinner

Please welcome Slim Randles as today's Wednesday's guest. He has a cute story that tells us how not to plan a Thanksgiving dinner. Since it is never too soon to have some pumpkin pie - and mine are the best, just ask any of my kids -  we can all have a slice to go with our morning coffee. Hey, who says you can't have pie for breakfast? Hurry and grab you a piece before the pie is gone. Enjoy....

Courtesy of Deliciously Delicious where you can find a recipe for the pie
Steve will have Thanksgiving dinner over at Doc’s and Mrs. Doc’s this year, and any number of his friends are grateful for that. Steve is one heckuva cowboy and trainer of young colts, and a good friend to all, but he’d never make it as a dinner host.

Very few Thanksgiving dinners achieve legendary status, but “Steve’s Thanksgiving” was certainly one of them. Some said it happened because he’s lived alone and cooked meals for himself for so many years. Some say he has worked alone for so long that he isn’t of a coordinating mind. The answer could be buried in the middle there somewhere. Steve himself isn’t certain.

It all happened early in Fall a couple of years ago when Steve completed his cabin up in the mountains here. He’d even finished the turret. In about September of that year, he’d started cleaning the place up on his infrequent visits, because he just knew somewhere inside that he’d created a modest monument there and wanted to share it with his friends. Naturally.

So, back at the ranch bunkhouse down in the valley, he’d studied up on how to roast a turkey: what to put on it, how to thaw it, how to tell when it’s done, all that stuff.


Then he invited his friends for Thanksgiving dinner, up at the cabin. He told each one that he’d be fixing a turkey dinner up there and to come on up and have some fun. And each of them, in turn, asked Steve what they should bring for the dinner.

“Oh, I don’t care,” he’d said, “you know … whatever you’d like, I guess.”

He said that to Doc and Mrs. Doc. And Dud and Emily. And Herb. And Bert and Maizie. And Marvin and Margie. And Mavis at the Mule Barn.

That Thanksgiving Day was a sparkler … crisp sunshine, Fall colors. Oh man, it was great!

And the turkey was in that wood-fired Home Comfort range and looking brown and juicy when the friends started to arrive. They’d each made the considerable drive up the mountain to the end of the road, then walked in the last hundred yards to the warm and cozy little cabin.

And each of them … every one of them … brought a pumpkin pie.

Turkey and pumpkin pie. Traditional favorites on Thanksgiving. But … strangely enough, after three of the pies had been consumed, there were still some left over.

But hey, that turkey turned out all right. And this year, Steve’s going over to Doc’s and Mrs. Doc’s for dinner. Mrs. Doc told him to bring biscuits.
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Brought to you by Home Country, the book (now an ebook as well) on Amazon, Kindle