Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Happy New Year

We are going on a short vacation for a few days, so I wanted to take a minute before we head out to wish everyone a Happy New Year.

As we cross over from one year to the next, it always seems to be a good time for taking stock and perhaps deciding to make some changes, but as far as resolutions go, I don't think I'm going to make any.

I never was good at keeping the ones I used to make, so why bother?

But I will try to be more mindful of the good things in life and savor the moments that make living so worthwhile. That way I might not mind the swift passage of time so much and might discover a little gift of nature that could have gone unnoticed.

I hope good things come to all of you in 2009.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Make My Day

We who write so often do so without a lot of personal feedback, and it is always exciting to get a note from someone who was touched by our words. Yesterday morning, I was pleased to find two wonderful messages in my guestbook on

" I loved your book "One Small Victory" and am grateful to have this opportunity to thank you for your fine work! Continued success in 2009!" Denise DiFalco, Fort Gratiot MI

"One Small Victory touched just about every emotion I have. I loved the way you felt as if you truly knew the characters and could feel her anguish as much as her courage. This is one of those books which linger in your heart and mind longer after you have read the last page." Laura Emerson, Biloxi MS

It is always such a thrill to find a fan letter, and these came at a time when I really needed the boost. Thank you ladies!!

Monday, December 29, 2008

Writing a Synopsis Doesn't Have to Kill You

I am guest blogging today, sharing some tips on how to write a synopsis here: It's a technique I learned sort of by chance, but has really helped me.

Stop by if you have a chance.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Yuck, Germs!

Being sick on the holidays is no fun. I started with a cold early this past week and sniffled my way through Christmas Eve and Christmas. Then I wasn't getting any better so I went to the doctor yesterday to find out I have a severe sinus infection -- as opposed to an ordinary sinus infection, I guess.

Anyway, this has sure put a crimp in all my plans to do some projects with the new cordless drill I got for Christmas. Or maybe start working on one of the jigsaw puzzles.

No, what I do is maybe a little bit of work and then collapse on the couch for another nap. And the work isn't that productive. Not when my head feels like it is stuffed with cotton. Not much clarity of thought under those conditions.

My hope is that the doctor was right and I will be feeling a WHOLE lot better by tomorrow.

Monday, December 22, 2008

What Success Means

I had several recent signing events for One Small Victory, and I am pleased that I will be able to donate a nice sum to the two charities benefiting from sales this month. The Trails Country Centre for the Arts and Morgan's Mercy Mansion, a drug rehab center for women in East Texas are the charities I am supporting.

At the most recent signing, a nice young boy, about 12 or 13 stopped by my table for a piece of candy. He seemed genuinely impressed to meet a real live author, and we talked a bit about books, and reading, and writing.

He left, then came back and asked if he could take one of my books to see if his dad would help him buy it for Mom for Christmas. "I know she would love it," he said. "I just have to ask The Man for money."

This young man was such a delight to talk to, and he was so excited when he came back so I could sign the book to his mother. "This is the kind of book she reads all the time, and she will be thrilled to have one signed by the author."

Moment like these make all the hassle and work of signing events worthwhile. I know I should be more of a capitalist and be more focused on selling lots of books, but I can't help it. To see young people so excited about reading and writing, just does it for me.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Sock it To the Consumer

I heard on the news today that one of the large oil refineries is going to cut production because the cost of oil is more than the price of gasoline, so they cannot continue to produce until the price of gasoline goes back up.

Excuse me. This is the same oil refinery that six months ago had record profits. Why can't they suck this shortfall up like the rest of us do when we face hard times?

No, their response is to make sure they get more money and hold the consumer hostage.

Is anybody ever going to get the fact that we simply cannot survive if the economy continues to be driven the same way it has in recent history? We can't just be focused on our own bottom line without regard to the impact on other businesses and other people. And we can't continue to just keep throwing more money at the problem and inflating the paper economy even more.

We have to put money where it will do some good. Like into the marketplace and into individual pockets to stimulate retail sales.

Instead of corporations being bailed out or going into bankruptcy, why not ask the highest paid people to forgo their salary for a year. Certainly those who make millions every year have enough in the back to live for a year without the salary. And that money could go toward keeping the company afloat.

And instead of the government increasing the deficit to find money to help people through this crisis, why not a hold on all top-level government pay for a year? And streamline administration to save millions in man hours and redundancy.

Okay, rant over. I feel marginally better. That is until next week when the price of gas jumps for Holiday travel....

Friday, December 12, 2008

Better to Laugh Than Cry

Here's another bit of humor from my friend, Tracy Farr.....

It's more than just a haircut

Our country is going through some dire times. Banks are collapsing, the American auto industry is hitting speed bumps, and people are just not buying executive jets like they used to. So, it is up to us -- you and me -- to get this economy going again, and that's why I did my patriotic duty this weekend and got a haircut.
Tim is my barber. He's been cutting my hair for almost 15 years. He knows exactly how I like it cut without me having to tell him. And if Tim's barbershop goes under, so goes the country.
It's a known fact that my money ($10 plus a dollar tip) helps to keep Tim and many others in business. When I pay Tim for my haircut, he spends it on things like rent, shaving cream and magazine subscriptions. His landlord is happy to be able to keep landlording, the shaving cream company is happy to continue delivering Tim's favorite shaving cream, and the magazines are happy because they are assured they can print next month's edition.
Tim takes a portion of that $10 as his salary and spends it at Wal-Mart, thus guaranteeing job security for the Associates. The Associates use their 10 percent discount to buy T-shirts and Jessica Simpson posters, thus guaranteeing that the T-shirt companies and Jessica Simpson stay in business. The T-shirt companies and Jessica Simpson are so happy to be making money that they decide to work together and make a Jessica Simpson T-shirt, which the Wal-Mart Associates buy in bulk and wear on their days off.
Since Jessica reaps the benefits of being worn all over the place, she takes her cut of the profits and produces a Christmas special, thus employing a bunch of Hollywood types who know just how to make a cheesy TV program but wouldn't be caught dead wearing a Jessica Simpson T-shirt. These Hollywood types produce "The Jessica Simpson Wish You Were Here Holiday Christmas Sing-A-Long Special" and make millions on advertising by airing it on prime time TV, thus causing simple folk like you and me to say, “How can they get away with putting this goat poop on television?” at which time we turn off the TV and get down on the floor to play games with our kids.
Because of my little $10 haircut, hundreds of people are employed, millions of dollars exchange hands, thousands of bottles of hand sanitizer are emptied trying to keep all those germs at bay, families all over this great nation are doing something family-ish, and I feel like I've done my part in bringing this country back from the brink of disaster.
So what are you waiting for? Our country needs us! Go get a haircut, and together we shall save the world!
The Daily Spittoon -- Almost worth a shave and a haircut!

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Excerpt Contest

One Touch, One Glance Anthology -- A collection of "sweet " romances

I am so pleased that my story "New Love" is part of this wonderful book and I am sharing space with such terrific writers. The book will release officially on December 9 -- It can be purchased HERE

As part of our release celebration we are having a contest. If you come here as part of the contest, the excerpt you are looking for is below. Have fun and good luck.


Love can be just as sweet the second time around. And there are no age limits.


“What am I doing? Acting like a love-sick teenager, that’s what.”

He made the personal indictment aloud while driving slowly down the tree-lined street checking addresses. Ten hours of driving had left him with burning eyes, and the shadows of near dusk were hard to penetrate. It didn’t help that he hadn’t been here in ten years. What if she’d moved since they had last seen each other? What if she didn’t want an eighty-year-old man showing up on her doorstep with courting in mind?

Then he saw it. Her house. A little yellow frame structure nestled between two sprawling brick ranches. It was so unique, he should have remembered the distinction and not bothered with trying to read addresses. He started to stop in front of her home, but panic struck and jangled his nerves. What if she’s married again? Accelerating, he drove past to the end of the street. There, he pulled to the curb and took a couple of deep breaths. Leaves of gold and red scuttled down the sidewalk driven by the evening breeze. God, Patrick, why didn’t you think of this sooner? A simple phone call would have answered that question.

He pulled out his cell phone and looked at it. It was a present from his kids. They had all agreed they would feel better if he had one while he was traveling. His son had programmed all the important numbers into the phone to make it easier for Patrick to call them. But he didn’t need numbers programmed for him. He might forget a lot of things. But not numbers. Even after all these years he still remembered Jean’s number. He could call now, and if a man answered, he’d hang up.

That thought elicited a chuckle. Was his life now a cliché?

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Directing "Scrooge"

This has been a busy week as we draw closer to opening night of the play, Scrooge, at a community theatre here in East Texas. Tonight is dress rehearsal and we open tomorrow. I am directing, as well as playing a small role, and the nerves are going into over-drive.

We are a small theatre, so there is no real depth of tech support, etc. People step up to help, which is great, but we never seem to have a designated stage manager or producer who take care of all those responsibilities for the show that shouldn't fall to the director. And no matter how hard we all try to plan and organize, it seems like there is always a new problem to deal with every day. Actors who can't continue so we have to find replacements. Props that we forgot we needed until almost the last minute. Who is going to do sound and lights? Who can do make-up?

There is always a lot of pressure to get a show mounted, especially one with a large cast and lots of set changes, sound and light cues. But when it all comes together and the magic happens on stage, it is all worth it.

So I am going to go to rehearsal tonight, take a deep breath, and let the magic begin.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Who's Responsible?

I just read an update on the tragic incident Friday in New York where a Wal-Mart employee was trampled in the "Black Friday" stampede of 2000 shoppers. According to the following statement by a union leader, the store is at fault, not the people who were so crazed with greed and "me first" that they became an unruly mob.

"This incident was avoidable," said Bruce Both, president of the United Food and Commercial Workers Union Local 1500, the state of New York's largest grocery worker's union.

"Where were the safety barriers? Where was security? How did store management not see dangerous numbers of customers barreling down on the store in such an unsafe manner?"

This is not the first commentary I have read that is deflecting the blame from the people to the store, and I can't beleive that good thinking people can go in this direction. It is almost as big a disgrace as the behavior of people who make shopping turn into a battle for survival.

On that tragic day, where was common sense? Where was concern for fellow shoppers and store personnel? Where was patience? Ethics? Acceptance? All the elements that are part of what we used to see as "strong character". It was a lack of all that that caused the death and injuries, not an oversight by the store management. How were they to know that they didn't have a crowd of regular shoppers, but had a crowd of crazed animals?

Next up, I'm sure, will be an announcement of a lawsuit by the families of the man who was killed and the people who were injured. The media and the union are helping to provide plenty of arguments in favor of making Wal-Mart dip into their deep pockets.

Shame, shame on them.

If a lawsuit is to be filed, how about rounding up all those people who stormed the store and holding them responsible?

Friday, November 28, 2008

Missed Opportunity

I fully intended to write a blog yesterday to wish everyone a Happy Thanksgiving, but got sidetracked with a killer headache. What a way to start the day. I managed to get the turkey stuffed and in the roaster, then told my husband I was going to lie down for a while before our company arrived. I fell asleep and kind soul that he is, he let me sleep. Right up until the company pulled up.

Yikes, I was out of bed in a flash, ran a comb through my hair, splashed water on my face, and went out to greet them. Luckily, we were dining casually, so my sweats and t-shirt didn't raise an eyebrow.

Our company, which consisted of our daughter, her husband and her youngest son, and our youngest son, all brought the side dishes. I was responsible for the turkey, dressing, rolls, and pie. All in all it was a great feast and by mid afternoon we were all pleasantly full and ready to watch the Cowboys beat Seattle.

Later that afternoon, I realized my headache was gone. Not sure if it was the third dose of sinus pills, the good company, or the pumpkin pie. Or maybe a combination of all three.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

There's nobody in here but us chickens...

Here is another guest blog from Tracy Farr who has a particularly warped sense of humor. Thought you all would appreciate a bit of levity.

As most of you may know, I'm a quiet, unassuming kind of guy who is basically shy, never wants to stand out from the crowd, never speaks out on "the issues," who always does what he's told, and prefers to let rude people run all over me rather than to stand up for myself.

Yep! That's who I am! But today's going to be different. Today I'm going to stand tall and talk about a potential disaster that, if we don't do anything about it, will affect our local economy for now and for ever more. I'm talking about the possible demise of Pilgrim's Pride and the removal of Bo's Head.

(FYI: For those of you who don't know, there's a massive Bo Pilgrim bust standing alongside Hwy 271 just north of Pittsburg, Texas. It's a huge tourist attraction. People come from miles around just to see Bo's Head. So when I say "the removal of Bo's Head," I don't actually mean Bo's REAL head, I mean the tourist attraction head. Okay, now that we have that clear, let's move on.)

Since we live in a capitalistic society, and we all firmly believe that competition is good for the consumer -- that survival of the fittest dictates only the "strong" companies will survive -- there isn't very much we can do about helping Pilgrim's Pride. But if we lose Bo's Head, we might as well cash in our chips and head to the house.

I don't know about you, but when my friends and family come to visit from out of town, I always tell them to go see Bo's Head. And if they go home to THEIR communities and tell others about it, then a steady stream of tourists come through this area and that means they're eating in our restaurants, sleeping in our hotels, shopping in our Wal-Mart, and that's good for our local economy. In other words, it would devastate our community if Bo were to lose his Head.

Besides, Michelle Barganski is a loyal subscriber to this newsletter and Gil Newman is a founding member of The Stinky Creek Jazz Band -- and they both work for Pilgrim's. I sure would hate for anything to happen to their jobs, 'cause I like having them around, too.

In conclusion, it may already be too late to keep Bo's Head from the chopping block. Nobody knows what tomorrow will bring. But just in case, let's all go out this afternoon and buy a couple of Pilgrim's Pride whole chickens, and maybe even some thighs and chicken wings, just so we can say we did our part in trying to save Bo's Head.

May God be with us all, and may God Bless America.


The Daily Spittoon -- You can't say we don't care about the issues

Thursday, November 20, 2008

A Successful Book Fair

Had a great time talking to high school students in Mineola - a small town in East Texas - on Tuesday for the Mineola Book Fair. The students were a respectful and attentive audience, and it is always so much fun to go to the schools and meet creative young people.

In the morning, I talked to two English classes about why we write and one of the reasons I cited was that we write to stir consciousness and stimulate debate.

Toward the end of the first session the teacher pulled up my blog and projected it on a screen so the students could read it. We ended up in a lively discussion about the situation at the DISD that I blogged about on the 16th. That was so neat to actually have live in the classroom a perfect example of the point I was making. One student and the teacher got into a discussion about why the DISD had to let teachers go, and the students ended up with a better understanding of how administration works. Not that it changed her mind that the situation was unfair to students. But it did broaden her view of the issue.

The other great thing about the Book Fair was that the school librarian who started the Fair four years ago said that her circulation has tripled since authors started visiting the school on an annual basis. She said it really seems to stimulate interest in reading to meet authors and have a chance to talk with them.

When someone asks if the event was a success. I tell them about the increase in reading. That is the success for me.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

What Part of Fraud Don't You Understand?

A news item on Saturday reported that the Dallas Independent School District (DISD) is being investigated bythe Social Security Administration (SSA) for assigning bogus social security numbers to employees hired from foreign countries. Apparently this started as someones bright idea for expediting the hiring system.

The new hires needed something for identificaion purposes to get on the payroll. So this "someone" decided they could use the fake SS numbers as temporary identification numbers until they received real ones. When new numbers were assigned by the SSA, the employees were supposed to tell officials at DISD so the fake SS numbers could be replaced.

That didn't always go according to the plan. In some cases, the fake numbers made their way to retirement accounts, the IRS, and the Social Security Administration. And some of the numbers were ones already legitimately assigned to other people. The legal department of the DISD is looking into the matter as well

I read this news story several time, trying to figure out how someone could not recognize from the get-go that this was a stupid idea. Not to mention a criminal idea. Falsifying Social Security information is a felony.

DISD is already under heavy scrutiny for budget shortfalls, attempting to solve that problem by firing a number of teachers, and other questionable operations. They sure didn't need another problem because the solutions to the problems always seem to impact the students and teachers most profoundly.

Those creating the problems continue to hold their jobs and receive large salaries and bonuses, while teachers struggle to make ends meet and students struggle to learn in an environment that becomes less conducive to learning every day.

And unfortunately, these are not problems unique to just one school district.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Something to Lighten Your Day

Since I have been so busy this week I thought I would have a guest bring you a bit of humor. Here is another offering from Tracy Farr, a very funny man who also plays a mean banjo.

A rose by any other name...
I don't know how you feel about the matter, but it makes me proud to live in a country where being elected to the highest office in the land does not depend upon the color of your skin, your religion, your sex or having a weird name like Barack.

Millions of people, good, honest, hard-working Americans, live their lives ashamed of having names like Garvin, Earl, Clementine, or Gertrude. Guys try with all their might to hide the fact they have girl names like Carol and Hollie. At the same time, Gals are constantly having to explain that their real name is Samantha, even though they go by Sam.

But now, with a president named Barack, we of unusual names can stand a little taller -- at least, I know I will.

I asked my parents why they named me Tracy, and they said at the time I was born, it was a common boy name. But I have my own thoughts. I think my parents were deep in debt with a bookie, and they agreed to give their first-born son a "girlie" name in exchange for not having their fingers cut off. I believe this because every time I go to the old neighborhood, I always run into an old man wearing a pinstriped suit and wing tip shoes who just points at me and laughs.

I remember when I was a young boy, with my friends over for supper, my mother gave me a package that had come in the mail. I opened it up (even though it was addressed to Ms. Tracy Farr) and read the letter: "Dear Ms. Farr, now that you are becoming a young lady, we would like to...." And then the sample feminine hygiene product fell into my lap.

One "friend" said, "Tracy, is there something you're not telling us?"

Another said, "So what's it like become a young lady?"

Finally, the last one said, "Hey, if you show me yours, I'll show you mine."

Now, with the election of Barack Obama, those of us with non-traditional names can walk the streets with our heads a little higher, and be proud of the names our parents dropped upon us. No longer does an American president have to be named George, Bill or Jimmy. He (or she) can be named Barack, Hillary, Jethro, or Daisy Mae.

And if that doesn’t prove change is in the air, nothing will.
The Daily Spittoon -- Always proud of our name

Monday, November 10, 2008

Monday Morning Blues

It's been a busy few days since I posted last, which kept me pretty much offline, especially over the weekend. Our son came to visit for a few days, and we always enjoy working outdoors while he is here. Like me, he is a frustrated farmer, so he likes to do chores. The first day, we built a huge fire in the back and burned a lot of limbs and logs from trees that had fallen over the last year since we cleaned up back there and had a big burn.

We were also having a new roof put on the hay barn and discovered we have termites feasting on the posts. Not good. So we spent a couple of hours doing termite control. That entailed moving some old wood that had been stacked on one side of the barn and injecting insecticide into the ground around all the posts.

This morning, I'd hoped to get that old wood carted off to the burn pile and clean my front pasture, but got up to rain. None of us are liking it. Not even the goats. They head for the small barn when there is even a spit of rain. The cats all ran for the hay and the dog came inside.

I am not sure why I titled this Monday Morning Blues. It is really Monday Morning Gray. If the rain stays at a steady drizzle, I can keep working in my office, but if it develops into thunderstorms, I will have to shut down my computer. Not good since I have tons of work to do today. So maybe that's why I'm a little blue right now.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Letter to Our New President

It's official, we now have a new president and we are in for an interesting four years. I'll admit I was a Barack supporter, and I am pleased that he won.

This morning, I received a message from Barack that was addressed to me personally. As I stated in my response to him, part of me wanted to believe that he had indeed penned -- or typed -- that message personally, but I know he simply would not have had time to write to the thousands of people on his e-mail list. But being the idealist that I am, I wrote a response in hopes that my message might somehow reach him.

Here is my letter:

Dear Barack,
Congratulations on your win. The idealist in me would like to believe that this note was written by you personally to me personally, but the realist knows it was probably written by someone on your staff and sent to your entire e-mail list. Even so, the fact that you probably asked that this be done is commendable.

While I have someone's ear at your headquarters, I would like to make an appeal. Millions of dollars are spent on Inagural ceremonies and Inagural balls, and it sure would make a strong statement if you streamlined all of that. The country is so far in debt that we don't need to be spending on pomp and you would do well to distance yourself from the lobbyists who pay for most of the social celebrations.

I know I am asking a lot. What does Washington live for but these opportunities to pull out the stops and celebrate, especially on such an historic moment. But think of the rest of us of modest means who are no longer going out to dinner once a week because inflation is eating up our cash flow and the financial crisis is killing our retirement.

Thank you for listening.

Maryann Miller

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Your Chuckle For The Day

I laughed so hard after reading this Mallard Fillmore cartoon this morning, I choked on my coffee.

Funny stuff:

"With only two days left in the campaign, the latest polling data show that 92 percent of registered voters now say they'll scream if they hear any more polling data...

"...while 84 percent say pollsters should be eaten alive by gerbils."

The other day, my husband and I thought we'd feed the pollsters to the coyotes, but death by gerbil might be more fitting. Coyotes kill their prey quickly.

Here's a link to more Mallard Fillmore fun

Friday, October 31, 2008

Blaming Barack

In a recent editorial letter, a man in Texas wrote that Barack Obama's candidacy for president has contributed mightily to the Wall Street meltdown. He further writes that the market is listening to both candidates and is frightened by the prospect of an Obama victory. A vote for Mr. McCain is a vote on behalf of your 401K.

A while back I decided that I should no longer read the advice columnists in the newspaper so my blood pressure would stay down withing normal ranges. Maybe I should do the same for letters to the editor.

How anyone can truly believe one man has that kind of power over the market is beyond me. Then to play on the fears of people by saying the only way to protect our savings is to vote for McCain is despicable. I don't know if that is worse than the way some people exploited our fears of "the other" back when they were trying to protect society from integration.

Come on, folks. Don't listen to fear mongering.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Ulterior Motives?

In the Dallas Morning News Sunday, a man wrote that Colin Powell had ulterior motives when he endorsed Obama for President. In the letter to the editor, the man wrote that Powell was convinced that his legacy has been sullied by his association with the Bush administration, "Mr. Powell jumped on the bandwagon very late and only after he was convinced that Mr. Obama would win."

Then the writer speculated as to what future job awaits Powell for this endorsement, as well as how much relief he must feel after giving in to pressure from the African-American community.

I couldn't believe what I was reading. First of all, how could this writer presume to know what was motivating Powell's decision. And to assume that he gave in to pressure was a clear indication that he does not know much about Powell.

If ever there was a man who did not give in to pressure, it is he.

If ever there was a man who did not give a rat's ptooey about his future in politics, it is he.

And if ever there was a man who would not endorse somebody just because of the color of his skin, it is Colin Powell. He has always struck me as one who takes the measure of a man or woman based on integrity and values, not the depth of pigmentation.

Friday, October 24, 2008

A New Interview

Emma Larkins has an interview with me on her blog

This one covers a little bit of how I got into screenwriting. Stop on over if you are interested. Emma is what she terms "an emerging writer" and she is a fun person with lots of interesting things on her blog.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

I Once Was Bummed, but Now I'm Not

Had one of those really crappy days when nothing seemed to work right. Wanted to do an article proposal first thing this morning - one that I have been putting off for weeks. Stared at my blank screen for about a half hour, then said, " Phooey!" Well, actually, something a bit stronger than Phooey, but I want to keep this "G" rated.

So then I thought I'd do some book promoting. Pulled up an old list of e-mail addresses from folks who had contacted me about one thing or another and sent out some cheery little messages about my new books. Most of them came back because the e-mail addresses were out of date. And most of them were just a year old. Guess not everyone hangs on to the same e-mail addy as long as I do. Sigh.

Then I ended up doing invoices for advertisers on One of the least fun aspects of my job there. I had the invoices all neatly stacked up with the corresponding envelopes, when I dropped the pile and they fell all over my office floor. I like jigsaw puzzles, but I really have to be in the mood.

I picked them all up to sort later and decided I'd do a quick blog before I go take care of my animals. Came here and saw that I have a follower. My very first. I'm so excited. Somebody loves me even though I'm a klutz and have some days when I'm better off knitting than writing.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Your Laugh For Today

Here is another guest blog from a talented jazz musician, who also has a deft hand with writing humor. He shares a weekly column with readers at, and also graciously allows me to share with readers here. Enjoy.

Peanut M&Ms Anonymous

Hello, my name is Tracy, I’m addicted to Peanut M&Ms, but I haven't had any for 13 hours and 22 minutes.

"Hello Tracy, and welcome to the group."

Thanks. To be honest, I was reluctant to come here at first because I didn't actually think I had a problem. I thought I could control my desire to eat Peanut M&Ms by myself, but I was wrong.

"Tell us your story, Tracy. You're among friends."

Well, I can say I'm luckier than most. Some kids are born with the need to eat M&Ms because their mothers ate M&Ms while they were pregnant. Even though the doctors warn and often beg these mothers to stop eating M&Ms during pregnancy, they don't listen. And then they have M&M babies -- newborns just twitching with the need to eat something round and chocolate. Luckily, that was not my case.

For me, my addiction started when I was quite young. I was hooked the first time I saw M&Ms, tore open a package and let them melt in my mouth and not in my hands. Those were just the plain chocolate kind -- the kind kids love -- but as I grew older and my tastes grew more mature, I naturally gravitated to Peanut M&Ms.

The first time I popped a Peanut M&M, my universe just sort of exploded with new possibilities. I could see things more clearly. I could understand things that I never understood before. It was like my senses were attuned to higher and more sensitive levels. And once you pop one, you have to pop another to keep that high going.

It wasn't long before I found myself buying a bag of Peanut M&Ms and eating the entire thing without even realizing it. And I'm not talking about the little $1 bag you get out of a vending machine. I'm talking about the family-size, 6-pound bag that costs almost $12 and should last a lifetime.

It finally hit me that I had a problem when my little girl said she needed new shoes and I told her I didn't have any money, when in fact I did. I was saving that money to score me another bag of M&Ms before the weekend. And that's why I’m here at this meeting.

I’ve tried stopping cold turkey, but it's just too hard. I figured with help, and with belonging to a group of people who have suffered through the same problem and survived, that maybe I, with support, could pick myself up, dust myself off, and start all over again.

But, maybe I should start slowly. Maybe I should only eat a small bag a day and ease off this addiction gradually.

Maybe this was a bad idea.

Is there a vending machine around here?

And can somebody loan me a dollar?

The Daily Spittoon -- All the flavor but with half the calories.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Want My Vote?

Looks like we dodged the bullet one more time and the whole global financial system is not going to implode after all. The stock market has recovered somewhat, and banks are getting assistance from government. The financial life of the world goes on.

But have we learned anything from this near-disaster? Is anything going to change in the way business is conducted? Are we going to continue to over spend, over borrow, over speculate, and over lend?

And what is this bailout going to do to the national debt?

The money has to come from somewhere, and since we are already borrowing millions, maybe billions, to cover the cost of government, the cost of the war, the cost of social services, where is this extra money coming from?

I am not an economist, and some people may find my approach to global economy a bit too simplified, but I'm savvy enough to know that borrowing to solve the banking problem is a short-term fix with some serious long-term negative effects.

So, to me, balancing the federal budget has become the primary issue for the coming election and is what the government should be focused on for the foreseeable future.

And may I make a suggestion to the next president-elect, why not cancel 95 percent of the inaugural ceremonies and parties that cost millions of dollars, and ask the lobbyists who pay for most of the parties to donate those millions to the cause of saving the economy. If you thought the general public was disgusted with the AIG execs who partied hearty after their recent bailout, imagine the reaction to the lavish inaugural parties.

Whoever is willing to do that, as well as stop all non-essential spending will have my vote.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Financial Crisis

The financial news is dismal right now, and it doesn't look like it is going to improve any time soon. Friday's Dow saw a dramatic drop of 660 points, and the European and Asian markets also took a nosedive in early trading.

Banks around the world are in trouble, and Britain is threatening legal action against Icelandic banks to insure that British subjects can get their deposits back. This after Iceland nationalized their banking system in an attempt to keep the banks afloat.

When I read that item on CNN News, I couldn't help but think of George Bailey and the Bailey Saving's and Loan from the movie, It's a Wonderful Life. Despite George's plea that people not panic and draw their money out, there was a run on the Savings and Loan during the Great Depression. Luckily George had enough cash on hand to pay a percentage of everyone's deposit, so people got some of their money, and the Savings and Loan survived.

Today, another George is asking people not to panic. President Bush spoke at a news conference this morning and appealed to the American people to stay calm. He said fear and anxiety only make the financial crisis worse. "Here's what the American people need to know: The U.S. government is acting, and we will continue to act, to resolve this crisis and return stability to our markets," he said.

Our natural instinct to protect our interests and take care of ourselves, but this is a time when we all need to think about the long term. If we all panic and take our money out of banks and other financial institutions, there will be a depression. That's a given. That's what started the avalanche that became the Great Depression, and that's what can bury us now.

So I am asking everyone to take a deep breath and ride this one out.

I'm also asking if we can just have a week off with no trading, no futures speculation, and no lending. It seems to me that with everything in such a state of flux, taking a break just might help settle some things down.

Just a thought.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

What is Success?

I am getting ready to go to Austin to do a talk at the History Center, which is affiliated with the Austin Public Library. My son is the manager there, so he was most helpful in getting this set up. When I was talking to him making final arrangements for when I would arrive, I realized how lucky I am to have him in my corner like that.

In fact, all my kids and kids-in-laws (how's that for coining a word?) are great supporters of my writing, as are my grandchildren.

In their eyes, I am a great success, even though I have not made the NY Times best-seller list. And you know what, when the day is done and I am reflecting on what is good in my life, my writing career is way down on the list.

Don't get me wrong. I love my work, and I try very hard to write the best stories I can, and then market the books so I can make a living at this. But what I am most proud of, and what I think I've had the most success at, is building family relationships. My husband and I have worked hard to have a good marriage -- some days are better than others -- and we worked hard as the children were growing up to give them a foundation that would serve them well. And I think we have succeeded at that.

Not that the kids are perfect. Hell, nobody's perfect. But they are reasonably well adjusted. They all have good jobs, and the ones who are married have wonderful families. The same values of integrity, honesty, responsibility, and concern for others are being passed down to another generation.

That is a legacy that may live on longer than any of my work, and for that I am so proud and grateful.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Career Beginnings

The one or two fans who have been following my career since its beginning, gulp, almost thiry years ago, you know where the title It's Not All Gravy comes from. For the rest of you who might be wondering, here is the story.

My very first publishing success was a weekly column that I did for a local newspaper in a suburb of Dallas. It was a humorous look at family life and at the time I had plenty of family to draw material from; five kids, two dogs, a couple of hamsters, and a husband thrown into the mix somewhere.

When the original column started, the one thing I didn't expect was notoriety. I wasn't used to being recognized in the grocery store, unless it was by the cashier who remembered me coming through her line with two grocery carts full of baby food; and usually the only adult I talked to in the park was myself.

With the exception of a few close friends and neighbors, I also didn't expect to have many fans. (Is insecurity a prerequisite to being a writer?) So it was quite a pleasant surprise when people stopped me in the store, or came up to me at the soccer field to say how much they enjoyed reading the column. It would also prove to be embarrassing on the occasions I just ran out to get something at the last minute and wore my ten-year-old cutoffs and a stained tee-shirt. That was proper attire for a hard-working Mom, but hardly fit being a celebrity.

Family reactions to my new-found fame varied. I, of course, was thrilled. When the cover story and first column appeared I found it very difficult to bring myself to perform such mundane things as fixing supper, washing dishes, and bathing kids. I kept telling myself that certainly a 'famous writer' should not have to stoop so low, but alas, I couldn't get my kids to see the logic in my reasoning. For some strange reason they thought they still had to eat, so in the newspaper I was a famous writer and in the kitchen, I was still the maid.

Our two oldest kids seemed to be thrilled to see their names in the articles, unless I delved into something they weren't ready to share with the entire Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex. Then they'd run home from school and demand to know how I could be so cruel.

Our middle son, who was six at the time, seemed a little vague about the whole concept of getting published. How did what I typed in my home office get into the paper? And why was the newspaper printing it? (I told him not to knock a good thing. At least I was getting paid.)

He also wanted to know what the title, IT'S NOT ALL GRAVY, meant. "We don't have gravy hardly ever."

"That's what I mean."

He still didn't get it.

My husband's reaction was a mixture of pride and endless teasing. He'd always supported my quest for publication and when the endless stream of rejection slips threatened to overcome me, he'd always tell me to hang in. Someday it would happen.

But he couldn't, and still can't, resist the occasional dig. Sometimes he comes into my office to inquire whether he can interrupt the famous author at work. Depending on what he wants, I might accept the interruption. Cooking dinner is not even on the list of things I'll stop for, but there are other offers well worth the break.

Career Beginnings

The one or two fans who have been following my career since its beginning, gulp, almost thiry years ago, you know where the title It's Not All Gravy comes from. For the rest of you who might be wondering, here is the story.

My very first publishing success was a weekly column that I did for a local newspaper in a suburb of Dallas. It was a humorous look at family life and at the time I had plenty of family to draw material from; five kids, two dogs, a couple of hamsters, and a husband thrown into the mix somewhere.

When the original column started, the one thing I didn't expect was notoriety. I wasn't used to being recognized in the grocery store, unless it was by the cashier who remembered me coming through her line with two grocery carts full of baby food; and usually the only adult I talked to in the park was myself.

With the exception of a few close friends and neighbors, I also didn't expect to have many fans. (Is insecurity a prerequisite to being a writer?) So it was quite a pleasant surprise when people stopped me in the store, or came up to me at the soccer field to say how much they enjoyed reading the column. It would also prove to be embarrassing on the occasions I just ran out to get something at the last minute and wore my ten-year-old cutoffs and a stained tee-shirt. That was proper attire for a hard-working Mom, but hardly fit being a celebrity.

Family reactions to my new-found fame varied. I, of course, was thrilled. When the cover story and first column appeared I found it very difficult to bring myself to perform such mundane things as fixing supper, washing dishes, and bathing kids. I kept telling myself that certainly a 'famous writer' should not have to stoop so low, but alas, I couldn't get my kids to see the logic in my reasoning. For some strange reason they thought they still had to eat, so in the newspaper I was a famous writer and in the kitchen, I was still the maid.

Our two oldest kids seemed to be thrilled to see their names in the articles, unless I delved into something they weren't ready to share with the entire Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex. Then they'd run home from school and demand to know how I could be so cruel.

Our middle son, who was six at the time, seemed a little vague about the whole concept of getting published. How did what I typed in my study get into the paper? And why was the newspaper printing it? (I told him not to knock a good thing. At least I was getting paid.)<

He also wanted to know what the title, IT'S NOT ALL GRAVY, meant. "We don't have gravy hardly ever."
That's what I mean."

He still didn't get it.

My husband's reaction was a mixture of pride and endless teasing. He'd always supported my quest for publication and when the endless stream of rejection slips threatened to overcome me, he'd always tell me to hang in. Someday it would happen.

But he couldn't, and still can't, resist the occasional dig. Sometimes he comes into my office to inquire whether he can interrupt the famous author at work. Depending on what he wants, I might accept the interruption. Cooking dinner is not even on the list of things I'll stop for, but there are other offers well worth the break.

Friday, October 03, 2008

I've been tagged

Morgan Mandel from tagged me to write six book things about myself.

I don't know where this started or where the rules are, but apparently we are to write six things about ourselves then tag some folks to do the same. Hope the folks I tag are up for the fun and not irritated at the intrustion. :-)

Anyway, here are the things that came quickly to mind for me.

1. I would be utterly lost if books were to disappear.

2. I can't decide if I want to be a mystery writer, or a romance writer, or a screenwriter. Is there time to be successful at all of them?

3. Give me a character I can relate to, and I will be your slave forever.

4. My favorite book of all time is Of Mice and Men. I can read it again and still cry. If Steinbeck were alive, I would be shining his shoes and washing his windows.

5. I have more books in my TBR pile than I probably have years left to live.

6. If my life was turned into a book the title would be "Maryann Who?"

Now I tag:

Doesn't anyone get it?

I just read this brief news item on CNN online:

California may need a quick $7 billion loan from the federal government to pay for “teachers’ salaries, nursing homes, law enforcement and every other State-funded service” this month, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger warned in a letter sent Thursday to the U.S. Treasury secretary. The letter, posted on the Los Angeles Times Web site Friday, echoes a statement issued a day earlier by California State Treasurer Bill Lockyer, saying the state has been locked out of credit markets for the past 10 days because of the national financial crisis.

I sure wish someone would tell me why borrowing more money is the way out of this financial crisis.

The Federal government, state governments, and even school districts across the country are experiencing budget overruns and their response is to borrow money to pay for it. Isn't excessive borrowing what got us into the mortgage crisis, the national deficit, and the banking crisis?

Here's a novel idea. One taken from the budget plans of so many Americans who don't run up excessive debt. Don't spend any more money than you take in.

Let me repeat that, just in case someone missed it. Don't spend any more money that you take in.

And to borrow another approach from a family budget, pay for the necessities first, then consider luxuries.

To cover the shortfall in California, I suggest that they cut excess government. Don't pay salaries for top government officials for six months. Stop all travel and entertainment expenses for six months. Stop all advertising for six months. Maybe then they would have enough money to pay the teachers and police officers.

As to the Federal deficit. Instead of cutting taxes, cut out the obscene retirement packages that legislators receive. Freeze all pay for top government officials for six months. Freeze overseas aid for six months. Freeze all nonessential travel for six months.

Then when we can all breath a little easier, I challenge the leaders of our country to go through government and trim, trim, trim. I'm sure there would then be enough money to support our troops, support social security, and offer aid to the most needy in our country.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Your Golden Parachute

Today I am pleased to have as a guest, Mr. Tracy Farr. In addition to being an amazing jazz musician with the Stinky Creek Band, he is a humorist with more than a bit of wisdom within the words. Tracy shares his wit with the readers of every week in the Periodic Columns and Essays Department, (I'm Just a Guy) and he agreed to be my guest today with another new piece. So sit back, relax and enjoy:

You deserve a Golden Parachute, too
Ladies and gentlemen,

Are you tired of hearing about banks going under? Are you worried about whether or not your money is safe in your Home Town Bank? Are you wishing for just a small share of the $700 billion Congress is voting on to keep banking CEOs (who caused this mess in the first place) from losing their luxury cars and ocean-front homes?

If you are, then copy and paste the following letter, change it up however you like, send it to whomever you think will listen, and maybe YOU TOO can sew yourself a nice little Golden Parachute.

Dear Mr. President,
I recently made a mistake in my finances by purchasing too many non-essential items through my credit card, without having the money to pay for them. Yes, at the time I thought I desperately needed the 52 inch Plasma HD Flat Screen TV with the optional Dolby Surround Sound for my living room, but I realize now I could have settled for the 48 inch TV instead.

Needless to say, that, and a whole lot of other purchases just like it, has caused me and my family to be in dire need of financial assistance. Without your help, my kids will go without new shoes for the year, I'll have to drive my brand new Prius instead of my brand new Hummer because of gas prices, I will have to switch from the 275-channel cable service to the basic service, and my goats will have to eat the $10 feed instead of the better $25 feed.

With my spending down to uncomfortable levels, I feel this will cause undue stress on local businesses who rely on my spending habits. And if they fail, all of Main Street will fail -- and so goes the country.

Wall Street CEOs made bad financial decisions throughout the years, just like me, and you'll soon be bailing them out to the tune of $700 billion. All I need is a measly $20,000. That's like a drop in the bucket compared to $700 billion -- and not even a FULL drop. More like a 128th of a drop.

I know you will make the right decision and not let my poor family suffer unduly for the mistakes I've made. I'm not asking for a Golden Parachute, but a Silver one would sure help out.

Mr. President, with your assistance, I will learn from my mistakes and never, ever let it happen again -- cross my heart and hope to die; stick a needle in my eye.
The Daily Spittoon -- Your money is absolutely safe with us!

Saturday, September 27, 2008

To Swear or Not To Swear

It's not easy to decide how much colorful language to include in a book without it seeming gratutitious, and I always deferred to the characters and the story to decide. Some characters are more prone to swearing than others. But over at there is a discussion today about using swear words and it started me thinking about something I realized last night.

My husband and I went to a production of On Golden Pond at a community theatre here in East Texas. The director addressed the language issue before the show, noting that the original play has a fair amount of cursing. In an effort to be sensitive to this very conservative, very religious area, the director opted to take out much of the cursing. But he did leave in some words where, as he put it, "the story would have lacked something to take them out."

For the most part, you could not tell where the words had been removed, but in the few places where they were allowed, it really heightened the drama because they were in places where people very often to swear at each other. I thought the director did a great job of selecting what to cut and what to leave in.

Reflecting on that, I realized that I could be a little more selective as I get back to my work in progress. The central character is just going to have to get used to "Mommy" telling her she can no longer swear like a truck driver. :-)

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Virtual Book Tour for Maryann Miller

If you are not totally sick of reading about me, there is a new entry at today. This is more of the interview, but gets into other areas besides writing and ministry. It also continues the excerpt from the first chapter of One Small Victory that was started yesterday.

LuAnn Morgan was a wonderful hostess for these past three days, and I hope to see her blog grow in popularity. She loves to read and is so gracious to authors. We need to support her.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Another stop on the tour

Continuing my virtual book tour and today I am at Here I talk about how I got into Chaplaincy and a bit about what it is like to do hospital ministry. Also have a bit more of an excerpt from One Small Victory. Stop on by if you get a chance.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Two More Stops on the Blog Tour

Today, I've cloned myself and am at two places at the same time. Ah, the marvels of modern technology. :-)

The first stop is at the PlotLIne -- -- where there is an interview with the central character from One Small Victory. Here she talks about the difficulties of losing her son and working undercover.

Over at Reading Frenzy -- there is an interview with me that touches on hospital ministry and how my work as a chaplain has helped me in writing my books, One Small Victory and Play It Again Sam.

Come on by if you have a chance and leave a comment.

Monday, September 22, 2008

The Wonderful World of Promoting and Marketing

This past weekend was a busy one for me. Saturday I was at a street fair in a small town in Texas where several East Texas authors had a booth to promote our books. Unfortunately, we were off the main street of vendors, sandwiched between a booth selling Mexican food and one selling corn dogs and funnel cakes. Not exactly a prime position. Plus it was hot and humid, with little or no breeze. But we toughed it out and had a few nice conversations with people who enjoy books as much as we do. Even sold one or two.

Later that afternoon, I went to speak to a writing class at a community college about the benefits of book tours online. It saves gas. I don't have to dress up. I can reach thousands of people. Not to mention how much cooler I am in my air-conditioned office as I do this virtual book tour.

The downside is that I don't have easy access to a funnel cake, but, hey, one a year is plenty for me.

So today, my virtual tour starts up again. An excerpt of One Small Victory is here Tomorrow I will be at the same blog for an interview, and will have a stop also at

Friday, September 19, 2008

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Virtual Book Tour

After a day off to rest, do laundry and gas up my computer again, I am back on the virtual book tour. The stop for today is:

This is another interview, but the nice thing about these interviews is that they are not all the same. On this one I get to talk a little bit about some early work, especially my y/a novel, Friends Forever. I'd written that one so long ago, I'd almost forgotten about it. But in talking to a friend this week, I was reminded that the subject matter is still relevant. It deals with the social dynamics of girls in middle school when popularity matters more than anything else. Except now, those dynamics are happening in elementary school. Pretty soon it will be in pre-school. Kinda sad.

Monday, September 15, 2008

On the Road Again

The good news for Northeast Texas is that the hurricane turned east just south of us, so there was no significant impact from Ike here. The Gulf coast is another matter, and my heart goes out to all the residents there who lost homes and are still stranded.

As life settles back to normal for me, the virtual tour is starting up again. Here is the stop for today: This is another interview, with some insight into a part of the book not mentioned in previous interviews. If you get a chance, stop on by and leave a comment.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Crazy Day

In Texas, most of us are preparing in one way or another for Hurricane Ike. Where I live, the storm will probably hit as a tropical storm just to the west of us, so we may be in for some pretty severe weather with possible tornadoes. What fun. :-)

So I have spent part of the day trying to "batten down the hatches". That included transferring my horse to the back pasture where he has shelter, getting all the feed pans and small buckets put in the barn, clearing the front porch and deck of anything we don't want blown into the next county, and making sure we have our emergency supplies.

Needless to say, that has not left a lot of time for writing or keeping up with my virtual tour, or doing much else except keeping updated. But somehow I did manage to get everything done, and in the middle of it all the most amazing thing happened.

Well, maybe not THE most amazing thing to ever happen, but something so nice I couldn't let it go by unacknowledged.

Last week I went to a local quilting store where I was going to buy a second hand sewing machine. I am not an avid quilter, although I did enjoy making a quilt for my grandson when he graduated from high school a few years ago. I didn't own a sewing machine at the time, but a friend loaned me hers.

Now I have another grandson ready to graduate, and I want to make him a quilt. Problem is, my friend moved away and took her sewing machine with her. So I went to the quilting store to see if they had any second hand machines. A clerk at the store had an old Kenmore for sale, and I was thrilled to find one so quickly. When I went the next day to pick it up, however, it turned out that this old machine would not work with a quilting foot. A customer in the store heard me talking with the store owner who was pointing out this problem, and the customer said she had an older machine that she would just give me. She, the customer, was getting a brand new machine designed for quilting, and didn't need her old machine.

Actually, she had two machines and I could take my pick. So today, I went and picked up a Singer that is probably about 20 to 30 years old, but it is a good solid machine. I offered to pay for the machine and the woman said, "No." She hugged me and said she hoped that I could put the machine to good use.

I had to stop a moment or two to just savor the experience of being so gifted. What a generous lady. Not often that people will give a perfect stranger something like that.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Virtual Book Tour

Chugging right along on my tour. Today I am at for an interview. When I started this tour, working with Pump up Your Book promotions, I wondered if the interviews would get redundant after a while, but the blog hosts have been wonderful about asking different questions, so there is something fresh each time. Whew! I would hate to think they were all like having a canned response. Sort of what we sometimes get with political candidates. :-)

And I just can't let this important day pass without mentioning 9/11 and sending out good thoughts to people who are still feeling the pain of loss from that day. And in a way, that touches all of us, because we all lost something that day seven years ago.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Virtual Book Tour

Still going strong on the virtual book tour. Today's stop is a short review on BCF Reviews.

Yesterday I forgot to list one of the stops, so here is a link to that one. Here I got to write a bit more about how the central character was developed. I always find it interesting to know how writers come up with the characters and the story.

The BookConnection is a nice site for authors and readers. It has interviews, reviews, and a whole lot more.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Virtual Book Tour

Day five of my virtual book tour. Or it could be day six, I don't know. I've lost track. I admire folks who can keep up with a jillion things at one time and make it look so easy. Me, I have to spit my gum out so I can type.

Anyway, the tour is continuing. Today I am back at The blog today is primarily an interview, and one of the nice things about the interviews I've done with blog hosts is that the questions have been varied enough that people won't get bored as they follow me from site to site.

Monday, September 08, 2008

"Blog Train Excursion"

Welcome to the Blog Train Scavenger Hunt, chugging from url to url. I hope you enjoy this brief stop at my blog. Somewhere on this page, you'll find a hidden word, plainly labeled, that is part of a famous saying...not too famous though, so you'll have to use some brain power to assemble all the words you find during your travels--there are 16, total.

The hunt will end on September 13th, so you'll need to forward your final entry to by midnight on the 13th. All correct entries will be entered into a drawing, but you never may be the only person who gets it right.

I am busy promoting One Small Victory and (secret word = man) man is it a time consuming experience, yet a necessary one. If readers don't know the book is available, they miss the opportunity to read about an incredible woman's adventure.

As soon as you find the secret word here, please get back on the train and visit for your next word.

All of us participating in this hope you find our blogs worthy of a return visit. Thanks for joining the Blog Train and have a happy trip. Remember, you can be the winner of 16 wonderful downloads.

Virtual Book Tour

The tour started up again today after a weekend off. Today I am featured at

I got to post about a crazy booksigning event at a senior center. We writers must choose our audiences carefully. :-)

And don't forget the "Blog Train Excursion" starting today. This is a great chance to win a bunch of books. visit:

Saturday, September 06, 2008

A fun Contest

A writer friend came up with this great idea for a new contest. It's called "Blog Train Excursion" and it's a scavenger hunt for words. Contestants will visit a series of blogs to find words to complete a famous quote and the winner will receive a virtual prize basket containing sixteen e-books, one of which is Play It Again, Sam. The contest starts Monday, Sept 8th at:

Have fun.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Virtual Book Tour

I am starting a virtual book tour this month to promote my new book, One Small Victory. This is a new twist on the standard author tour that used to take authors across the country to meet readers in bookstores and other venues. Publishers used to arrange the tours, especially for big name authors, and all the author had to do was show up. Of course, that was not as simple as it sounds. Even though I would love to have that kind of backing from my publisher, the thought of flying or driving hundreds of miles over a two or three week period is daunting. Some writer friends have shared their "tour nightmares" with me, and it didn't make it sound like much fun.

This virtual tour is not nearly as demanding on time, money, or wardrobe choices. I can sit here in my office in my usual jeans and tee-shirt and visit all the blogs that are hosting me. If you would like to follow me on this tour all month, you can access the full schedule on my Web site The sites I will be a guest on will have a variety of interviews, reviews, and other information about books and publishing. Here is a Link to the stop for today: Book Excerpts from Bestselling Authors -

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Health Care Fiasco

A growing health problem in the United States is people who cannot get medical care because they don't have a primary doctor for referrals. An article in the September AARP Bulletin addresses the shortage of primary care doctors and it doesn't bode well for the future.

It doesn't bode well for the present, either.

More and more people are finding that they may end up with a deadly condition because they could not get in to see a doctor in a timely manner. That happened to a woman in Sacramento who had a mole on her arm that was changing. She tried to see a dermatologist without the referral from a primary care doctor, but the ones she called said they couldn't see her for three to four months. This despite the fact that she had an issue of considerable concern.

When she finally got to see a doctor seven months after discovering the mole, she was diagnosed with melanoma, which has now spread to her lungs.

And I thought it was terrible that I couldn't get in to see a new primary care doctor for a month.

I wish the story of the woman in Sacramento was an isolated case, but unfortunately it is not. And I don't even know what would be a good first step toward solving this problem. I just hope that it has come to the attention of someone with a better mind than mine.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Setting the Tone

My good friend and fellow author, Laura Castoro, once told me that women are the heart of a home and no matter whether we like it or not, we set the tone for the atmosphere at home. We were both bemoaning the fact that husbands can get mad and storm around and everyone has to just hush until they get over it. But if we women get mad and storm around, pretty soon everyone is in a sour mood and things get pretty testy.

I hadn't really paid attention to that phenomenon until she stopped by one day years ago to recover from a "mad" before she went home and infected her whole house. But when she pointed it out, I realized it was true.

"But that's totally not fair," I said.

"You're right. But fair has nothing to do with the reality."

"That stinks." Maybe I was hoping that if I protested enough I could someone alter this reality.

Laura just laughed. "Right again, but are we going to rail against something we can't change, or learn how to adapt."

"I don't want to adapt. I want to be able to be mad all by myself."

Again, Laura laughed. "Good luck with that. Me, I'm going to go home and try to put on a smile and watch my husband and kids smile back."

It probably wasn't that simple for her that day, and it certainly is not a simple thing to put into practice day after day, week after week, year after year. But I can tell you after 43 years of marriage that the days that I am aware of setting a tone for my home are the days that tone is more pleasant and harmonious than some others.

I still mutter about this being not fair, and I'm sure Laura will laugh again when she reads this, but it works.

Friday, August 22, 2008

The Dumbing Down of a School District

I had to check the date of the newspaper to make sure I had not somehow picked up an April 1st edition and this was a joke. But it wasn't.

The Dallas Independent School District has released new grading policies, which officials there say will help students excel, but has many parents and young people protesting. The policies say that no student can be given a grade below 50 on their report card. Students will be allowed to retake a failed test. No grades will be given on homework unless it will help students pass. this is for grades 2-5. Students can't receive a zero or have a grade reduction for work not done or not completed on time.

This is unbelievable. Talk about failing our children and the whole educational system.

How does this prepare young people for the realities of life after high school? Not every college is going to treat them with such consideration. Not to mention what it will be like on their first job.

We are a nation soft on character, and character comes from accepting the consequences of one's choices and actions.

One high school student wrote a letter to the editor in which she offered the opinion that these new policies are not fair to the other students who earn their grades. She also wrote " discredits the work of any individual who graduates under this policy."

How true that is. And how sad that a diploma from a Dallas high school may not be based on real learning, but on "giving a student a chance to excel."

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Will This Help Obama?

This morning while reading some news items on CNN online, I ran across this announcement: "A U.S. District Court judge lifted travel restrictions Thursday for Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick so he can attend the Democratic National Convention August 25-28 in Denver, Colorado.

The judge also said the beleaguered public official could remove his monitoring device.

Kilpatrick has been beset with legal problems recently, including a sex scandal, perjury and corruption indictments, an assault charge and a recent jail stint for violating the terms of his bail."

So this is the caliber of politician going to Colorado in support of Barack Obama?

It's a disgrace.

I am so tired of political people, athletes, and other celebrities, who appear to have no regard for moral or ethical behavior, continue to go about business as if it doesn't matter.

It does matter. As a society we have to stop acting like it doesn't. The old-fashioned concept of "misbehave and you are out of here" needs to come back. No excuses. No second chances. No rationalizations. Just consequences for bad behavior.

The same goes for John Edwards. His "excuse" for having an affair then trying to hide it is an insult to the intelligence of the American public. "I was too young to handle the stress of notoriety." Give me a break. He must have the same spin doctor as some other "bad boy" and "bad girl" celebs who say they are not really bad, just victims of circumstance.

They are only victims of circumstance if they allow it, and by allowing it, they are making a choice. Bad choices need to have swift and definitive consequences.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Visit me at Synoptic Storm

I'm guest blogging at Synoptic Storm this morning. This is a fun blog featuring a number of authors who write about their books, writing, or just life in general. A nice place to meet new friends, so grab your coffee and come on over.

Saturday, August 09, 2008

It's Had to Stir Your Heart

I defy anyone to diss the opening ceremony of the Olympics last night. For all her faults, China did a magnificent job and all who were associated with the event are to be applauded. I loved the majesty, the grace, the soul-stirring music. And all the symbolism was artfully done without having to hammer a point home.

It was also a great lesson in history, and my first thought was how wonderful to have a better understand of these people who are sometimes so hard to understand when it comes to human rights issues. Then I had one of those "slap yourself in the head" moments. It's not the people. There was no guile in the faces of those dancers or drummers, or all those engaging children. It's the government.

Wouldn't it be nice if they took a hint from this great PR campaign they spent millions on?

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Your Laugh For Today

I just read a hilarious piece about the coming "Blogalypse". It is well worth the read for all of us bloggers. I especially liked the reference to Algore, who is the "great creator" who makes this all possible. Truly one of the best satires I have read in a long time. Here is a link to the blog Enjoy!!

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

I'm Quitting Advice Columnists

I swear I've got to stop reading advice columnists and get a life. I don't agree with most of the advice anyway, so I don't know why I bother. Old habit, I guess.

A long time ago a writing instructor encouraged members of the class to read the advice columns for story ideas. That was especially significant for anyone wanting to write for the pulp women's magazines True Story and the others of that ilk. The instructor also said it would be helpful even if we weren't interested in writing for those magazines, but were writing fiction. She considered it a good way to find out more about human behavior and maybe even pick up a character or two.

I can't say that I ever found a direct benefit from reading the columns, so I'm really not sure why I continued. Except that "habit" thing. I'm bad with that. Took me four tries and a number of years to finally quit smoking.

Anyway, I was reading the paper last night and glanced at the headline for one of the new, younger, advice columnists: Tween Worried About Anger. An 11-year-old girl had written to express concern because she often got angry for no reason. She described the anger as extreme and wrote that she would go to her room to try to chill out with music. Then she would start feeling incredibly sad - also for no reason - and would end up crying. She was worried about whether what was happening to her might be an indication of a serious problem.

Red flags waving for anyone but me yet?

The columnist replied that what the girl was experiencing was normal, due to hormone changes related to puberty, pointing out that mood swings are a major part of early adolescence.

Okay, that much is true. But most of the mood swings pre-teens experience are triggered by something. Getting angry for no reason is not a normal part of this. Overreacting with anger because Mom told you to do something you didn't want to, or because you get grounded, is a normal part of the emotional turmoil of puberty.

If I had a child who was erupting in anger for no reason, I would be concerned and perhaps make an appointment with a counselor. And to the columnist's credit, she did encourage the girl to talk to her parents or another adult about the mood swings, but she didn't caution the girl that she could be experiencing something that has a more serious underlying cause.

Manic Depression anyone?

Friday, July 11, 2008

Don't Ask, Don't Tell

In a recent Dear Abby column, a woman wrote to ask what to say when a person inquires what a newly-purchased item costs. The writer explained when she talks about a new item, many people immediately ask, "How much did that cost." She, the writer, finds the question presumptuous and asked what is the best way to politely respond.

Abbey, who is not really Abbey anymore, but her daughter, Jeanne Phillips, fell short on her response to that one. She advised that it is natural for people to be curious about the price of new purchases, and the writer should stop talking about the items she is buying and the problem will be resolved.

Sorry Abby, but that is not the best advice. How about the fact that it is rude for people to ask how much things cost, or how much money one makes, or the net-worth of a stock portfolio. At least that's the way I was raised and many others like me.

(Egads, are there really may more like me? But I digress...)

The other day I was talking to my sister who is caring for our father and now handling his finances. I have no idea how much money my father has or what his monthly income is. Never did my whole life. And my sister said she would not know now, either, except she has to take care of his financial business. But she also said that if feels so awkward to be doing that, almost like an invasion of privacy.

Thinking about that, just reinforces for me the necessity of keeping some things private. So I would advise the lady who wrote to Dear Abby to keep talking about the things she has purchased when appropriate and when someone asks how much they cost, say something general to deflect it -- "More than I thought it would. " If they persist in questioning a good response is, "I'd rather not say."

Friday, June 20, 2008

Let's All Take a Break

The latest political news has Democratic Presidential Candidate Barack Obama declining public funding for his campaign. He says because of problems with the system, but some political analysts say the reason has more to do with the fact that by declining to participate in public funding, Obama can raise double the $85 million that is the most allowed in the public funding system.

$170 million dollars on a political campaign?

Oh, wait. That is only part of the total to be spent between now and November because on the Republican side, John McCain will raise at least $85 million. So at a minimum, $255 million is going to be spent buying votes. I don't know what you think, but I think that is obscene, especially because that is on top of the millions that have already been spent on the primaries.

I briefly thought I would like to know what the total is that all candidates spent since the primaries began, but decided my blood pressure is better off not knowing.

Here's a novel idea. Why don't we all take a break from politics. Gosh, it's not like we don't know everything we need to know about these candidates after years of the primary campaign.

Okay, it was only one year, but it felt like twenty.

The candidates could take a two month break and rest up for the last big push in September and October. And instead of wasting $255 million dollars, maybe each candidate spends about $10 million in those two months on national advertising.

And in those ads, they can tell us what they are going to do about key issues like the war in Iraq, the budget, health care, global warming, and revamping the political system so it doesn't pander to special interest.

It was once said that anyone could grow up to be president of the United States. Maybe that was true in the late 1800's, but not any more. You have to grow up to be incredibly rich first.