Monday, August 31, 2009


Sylvia Dickey Smith is a Texas author and also the hostess of an Internet radio show Murder She Writes where she interviews women who write mysteries. I'm going to be her guest this evening from 5-6 Central Time.

Previous guests have included Betty Webb, Elizabeth Gunn, Linda Faulkner and a whole list of ladies who make me proud to be in their company.
If you are interested and have time, come on by and give a listen. I've listened to other shows there and Sylvia is really good at keeping the show interesting and fun. I will be talking about all my books, as well as what is coming next for me. And maybe we'll even talk a little bit about music, theatre and acting.
This show will be archived on the blogtalkradio site for several months after today, so you can always catch it later if you are busy tonight. Here is a link to the show:

Friday, August 28, 2009

Book review - Red Hot Internet Publicity

In this revised edition of Red Hot Internet Publicity: An Insider's Guide to Marketing Your Book on the Internet, Penny C. Sanservieri gives the author all he or she needs to successfully network and sell in the virtual marketplace.

The book is packed with useful information such as:
* The secret to getting thousands of hits on your web site and then converting them into sales!
* Top internet promotion techniques that won’t cost you a dime!
* The Virtual Author Tour™, how you can “tour” yourself on the net
* How to get print media from your Internet campaign
* Learn how to expand your platform and sell more books!
* How to create a campaign that will last for months, not days
* How to create a web site that sells your book
* Podcasting and blogging demystified!

In fact, there is so much information, it can be a bit overwhelming for an author who has not done very much Internet marketing. And I'll admit that I was beginning to feel an "information overload" as I continued to read. The smart thing to do, I decided, was create a marketing plan and calendar for promoting my next book, and plug in the tips and resources from this book where they apply.

When I mentioned that to my husband, he laughed. "You? Making a plan? Writing it down? Sticking to it?"

As you might have guessed, I am not a great planner. I don't even outline my books. But the business side of publishing has gotten so demanding, an author does have to be organized, have a marketing plan of some sort, and schedule time during the work week to carry out the plan.

And this book is going to be of tremendous benefit to any author wanting to increase sales through Internet marketing. It is very well organized, written in a comfortable, easy to read style, and has helpful blocks with bullet lists of important reference points.
Particularly helpful are the links. When Penny makes a suggestion, such as checking to see how your Web site ranks in popularity, she provides a link to do so. And should you find your site is not highly ranked, she offers ways to improve the standing.

Penny C. Sansevieri is the founder and CEO of Author Marketing Experts, Inc., a company that offers marketing and publicity services for authors. She has also written other books on marketing, and shares tips freely on the Web site and via a newsletter.

I am really looking forward to using this book and the newsletter for future online promoting.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

The End of an Era

Our country mourns the passing of Massachusetts Senator Edward Kennedy, who died late last night after battling brain cancer. With him, went the end of an era.

Love them or hate them, the Kennedy brothers, John, Robert, and Ted were an important political force in the United States for fifty years or more. Some pundits have even considered them the closest thing to a royal family we have had. The most obvious being the reference to Camelot when John was president.

As a young person just old enough to vote in 1961, I was caught up in the magic and excitement that seemed to surround John Kennedy, and I cried in 1963 when he was shot. I cried again in 1968 when Robert Kennedy was shot.

Both men appealed to the idealist in me who wanted a champion to tackle the tough issues on the country and challenge the status quo. They won me over with their ferver and their speeches and their call to patriotism.

Today, I was saddened to read that Ted Kennedy died. It didn't bring the same strong wash of emotion that I had when John and Robert died, but then I think the awful circumstances of assassination played into those scenarios. Plus, I think we all, including Ted, were preparing for this for some time. Just a few weeks ago he asked Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick to change state law to allow him to appoint an interim successor to the senate seat.

In politics, Senator Ted Kennedy took more of a middle road than his brothers, but he still had an impressive term of service. He served on the Senate Judiciary Committee, which he once chaired, longer than anyone else in history. He also served at various times as chair of Senate committees on labor, education, and health issues, where he had key influence on issues related to education, housing, health care and the civil rights of women, minorities, gays, immigrants, and the disabled.

I extend my heartfelt sympathy to the Kennedy family for their loss, especially as it comes so soon after the death of Eunice Shriver, Ted Kennedy's sister. In some ways Camelot may be over, but the spirit of that era lives on in the hearts of those that were touched by John, Robert, Edward, and Eunice.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Was Anyone Even Thinking?

Ellen Goodman of the Boston Globe is one of my favorite columnists. I don't always agree with her, but that's okay. It isn't a columnists job to write only what people will agree with -- if that were even possible. A columnist's purpose is to stimulate discussion and civil debate -- the operative word here being "civil".

This past week, Ellen announced the Equal Rites Awards "to those who have done their best over the last 12 months to set back the cause of women."

One item in particular had me put down the paper, look at my husband and ask, "Are you believing this?"

The Fashion Victimizers' Citation went to Barneys in New York "for the store's display of battered and bloody mannequins posing as upscale assault victims. Ah, yes, blood is the new black, and violence is soooo chic. "

I thought I was beyond being shocked at the crazy ideas some people will act on, but this one shook me to the core. Was there not one person in the marketing department of the store who stopped and thought, "Gosh, maybe we shouldn't do this."?

Not only does it glorify violence, it debases the people who are victims of that violence.

It's a good thing I don't live in New York City. I would have been arrested for breaking and entering and vandalism.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Enjoying the Day

It is a beautiful summer day, and this morning was very cool for Texas in August. I spent the morning outside cleaning the pasture, trimming tall grass along the fence line, and clearing the tall growth around our mailbox. I'm sure our mail carrier will appreciate that the next time she comes by and can actually SEE the mailbox.

At one point, I stopped, well actually I stopped often as my poor old back was yelping, but this one time I stopped and looked across the road at the hay meadow. There were no egrets today, but the view was still stunning, and for the millionth time I thanked God, or Mother Earth, or whatever higher power is responsible for the gift of such beauty.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Book Review: The Dark Horse by Craig Johnson

It’s always a delight to find a new author whose work makes you want to read more and more. That is the case for me with Craig Johnson. I received his latest book The Dark Horse for a birthday present, and once I started reading it, I could hardly put it down. And this is another book that will have a permanent home on my bookshelf.

Being a horse lover, I was intrigued by the title and the cover when I read a review of the book in the Dallas Morning News. The story is set in Wyoming, home of Sheriff Walt Longmire, who was first introduced in Cold Dish and has appeared in three other novels before The Dark Horse.

In this latest story, Walt investigates what looks like a clear-cut murder case, but becomes increasingly complicated. Mary Barsad confessed to killing her husband, Wade, after he set fire to their barn and killed all Mary’s horses. The crime is out of Wade’s jurisdiction in a neighboring county, but he can’t help thinking there is more to the crime than what Mary said. He poses as an insurance agent and goes to the small town of Absalom, where the main attraction is the fights at the local bar, to investigate. That investigation has him digging deep into the history of that forsaken town and unearthing secrets that would have been better left alone.

There is much to enjoy in reading this book: the characters who are well-defined and engaging, the twists of the plot that keep you guessing, the atmosphere of “old west” that permeates the setting, and some of the best narrative I’ve read in a long time.

Here is just a sample: “One strike of lightening followed another in succession and I felt the tingling of intimidation in being the tallest point on the big mesa; then I slipped a boot into the stirrup and made myself taller.”

Johnson has received both critical and popular praise for his novels The Cold Dish and Death Without Company with starred reviews in Kirkus and Booklist. Both novels were named Booksense selections by the Independant Booksellers Association and Killer Picks by the Independant Mystery Bookseller's Association . As a Penguin paperback, The Cold Dish had a six-week run on the Barnes & Noble top-fifty best-selling mystery list, and made the Booksense Paperback Summer Pick List of 2006.

Wow. No wonder I was so impressed with the book. And now I have to start this great series from book one.

# Hardcover: 336 pages
# Publisher: Viking Adult (May 28, 2009)
# Language: English
# ISBN-10: 0670020877
# ISBN-13: 978-0670020874

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Socially Unacceptable

Today I'm fulfilling the promise I made last Saturday to post the next section of one of the chapters of my new book that I introduced HERE This chapter is titled "Socially Unacceptable" and first deals with the fun of social groups in high school. Here is the next section....

People may grow up, but they don’t really grow up, and it seems we are destined to play these silly little social games until the day we die. The way we play them just becomes more subtle and harder to figure out.

I realized that one day when my oldest daughter was lamenting the fact that her best friend had suddenly qualified for the Popular group, while she was still relegated to something closer to Outcast. Overnight it had become socially unacceptable for said friend to associate with Anjanette. I was in the middle of my Mommy Speech 112, telling her to buck up, that this, too, shall pass, when I realized it wouldn’t.

It certainly hadn’t for me. And I think my brother-in-law summed it up aptly one day when we were looking at homes in a “tony” part of town. I mentioned one that I particularly liked and he said, “You can’t buy this house. You wouldn’t fit in.”

I looked at the woman jogging past in her designer track suit – she wasn’t even breaking a sweat in the 90 plus temperatures – and realized he was right. My blue jean cut offs and penchant for doing my own yard work would not make it in this neighborhood.

I amended my talk to Anjanette that day and told her that nothing was going to change. “So you can either learn to thumb your nose at them or figure out how to operate within the system.”

Later, I would tell a variation of that sermon to each of our kids, and it is interesting to see how they have chosen to respond. Some of them followed in my footsteps and opted out of the social games, while playing just enough to be successful in their careers.

Luckily, they figured out the subtle nuances of social interaction quicker than I did.

Nuance number one: People don’t always mean what they say.

Gosh. I always thought they did. I do, so I figured everyone else did, too, as evidenced by the time I dropped in at my neighbor’s for coffee. This was when I first moved to Texas and I had just met this neighbor. As I left after our first meeting she said, “Y’all come back, now, ya hear.”

So I did. A week later I was lonely for friends in Michigan, so I decided to visit my new friend down the street. I rang her doorbell and when she answered her expression clearly indicated that she did not expect “drop by” company. To her credit, she was gracious and invited me in, but the chill could have cooled a small stadium.

Nuance number two: People can smile and treat you like a dear friend while secretly wishing you would drop off the edge of the earth.

I won’t even go into how I learned that fact. Suffice it to say, I did. But I haven’t learned how to do it myself and I’m sure there are times it would come in handy. Like the time I tried to work on a PTA fundraiser with the woman who had reported David to the principal for pushing her Timmy into the mud and ruining his Izod shirt. Of course, she didn’t report that darling Timmy punched David in the nose first.

I could have happily gone the rest of my life without having to see that woman again after our shouting match in the principal’s office, but, no, she had to volunteer to man the cake-walk booth with me.

Nuance number three: Despite the old adage of not judging a book by its cover, people judge you by how you look all the time.

Oh, they won’t come right out and say, “Where on earth did you get those jeans and that shirt.” Or, “Would you like the name of my hairdresser.”

Okay, some women might. But most will simply smile politely when you try to join their group at a party and tighten up the ranks. It’s a very similar to what happens with nuance number two, and some people must practice for years to perfect the smile and the slight.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Changed my Mind

I know on Saturday I said I would post the next excerpt from my new book today, but something else grabbed my attention. Last night I watched the interview with Michael Vick on 60 Minutes eager to hear him fully acknowledge his participation in the dog fighting enterprise that sent him to prison for two years and maybe show real remorse.

That didn't happen. The PR team he has hired to help him scrub his public image has done a good job in scripting what the man says. He didn't admit to the horrible things he did to the dogs -- hanging them in trees and electrocuting them, holding them down in his pool until they drowned, using pet dogs as bait to make the pit bulls blood thirsty, throwing them into arenas where they tore each other to shreds. Those are the horrible things he did, but all he admitted to was "not standing up to the people around me who were doing things that I'm not proud of."


Appearing on the show to support Vick were former NFL coach Tony Dungy, who has been asked by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell to mentor Vick, and Wayne Pacelle, President of the Humane Society of the United States. Dungy talked about how people like Vick who make one mistake deserve a second chance, and Pacelle talked about how important it was not to just punish Vick, but to use him to help educate young people about the horrible business that is dog fighting. Both possibly valid points depending on how you look at it.

However, I don't think Vick would be getting this second chance in his career -- he was just signed with the Philadelphia Eagles - if he was anything but a star athlete. It seems we will let athletes get away with almost anything just because they are so good at their sport. Think about all the "bad boy" football players who have disgraced the game in the past 20 years or so.

And I don't care how much money Vick gave to the Humane Society, I am disgusted that he is even associated with an organization that I have been an avid supporter of for years.

Just for a minute think about what might have happened if the dog fighting enterprise had never been discovered and Vick had never been arrested and put in prison. Would he still be abusing those poor dogs just for the fun of it, or would he have come to his senses without legal incentive?

Unfortunately, I think the answer to the first question is yes, and no to the second.

All of these "bad boy" athletes say all the right things after they are caught, just so they can get that second, or third, or fourth chance to prove that they are really redeemed. I truly believe that had Vick not been caught, he would still be running his Bad Newz Kennels and people who knew about it would just look the other way because he is such a talent on the football field.

Well, it takes a hell of a lot more than just talent to hold my interest, and I used to love the game and the men of character who played it.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Another Book Excerpt

Here is another excerpt from my latest creative effort that I introduced HERE back in June. This is the beginning of Chapter Two; SOCIALLY UNACCEPTABLE: Otherwise Known as the Crazy Things We Do.

We all remember those horrible days of middle school and high school when our social standing depended on who we were friends with and what kind of clothes we wore. Other than a change of setting and a change of attire, I’m sure the social posturing started in ancient times when Garthea was kicked out of the clan for inappropriate use of a bear skin and continues unaltered through present time.

When I was in high school, I was in the Outcast group. You remember that group. It was made up of kids who didn’t belong to the Popular group, the Jocks, or the Nerds. Among the many things that made us socially unacceptable was the fact that we were a bit lacking in the looks department. Not that any of us had faces that would make little kids run away screaming, we were just plain, ordinary, and some of us wore glasses. That alone was a severe stigma in high school in the 60s.

I remember meeting a former classmate a year out of high school, and laughing at his reaction. “You’re not THAT Maryann,” he said. “You can’t be. She was… uh… well… You sure have changed.”

We in the Outcasts were also not quite good enough athletically to be on a sport team, and some of us just hid our brain power because we didn’t want to be with the Nerds. In our minds, that group was lower than ours, even though most folks thought otherwise.

One of the things I liked best about belonging to the Outcasts, was I could pretty much do anything I wanted and it wouldn’t affect my standing. Think about it. I was already on the lowest rung of the ladder. So I just clung to it the best I could and looked forward to the day when I would be out of high school and this silliness of social groupings would end.


People may grow up, but they don’t really grow up, and it seems we are destined to play these silly little social games until the day we die. The way we play them just becomes more subtle and harder to figure out.

Come back Monday if you get a chance and see how we play some of those silly games.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Something Different

It's been kind of a crazy day. Was waiting most of the day for people to come and install new flooring, and they got hung up on another job. Kind of disconcerting when you make plans and arrange your life around something that doesn't happen.

Plus, I was offline most of yesterday due to cable that had gotten cut somewhere between here and Dallas, so today I've been scrambling to get my office work done -- updating writing a review and talking to folks about advertising. Then I realized I hadn't updated here in a couple of days.

With nothing new to add from me, I decided to post a link to a new feature my friend and fellow humorist, Tracy Farr, has started. He's doing podcasts he calls The Bathrobe Monologues and here is a link to his latest about beer.

To read more of his funny stuff, or connect to other humorous and musical offerings visit Stinky Creek Texas.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

One Lovely Blog Award

My friend and fellow author, Ginger Simpson, surprised me with the One Lovely Blog Award yesterday. She made the announcement on her blog, Dishin' It Out.

I was really touched by the reason she chose me and this is what she wrote about me: A great friend and confidante, and a very smart lady. She has some amazing articles on her site. Maryann is one of those people who comes into your life for a purpose, and she's certainly served hers well in mine.

So it is with the same gratitude that I pass this award to three authors who have enriched my life with their friendship and support.

Helen Ginger -- who has a terrific blog and newsletter packed with helpful information for writers. She is so generous with her time and expertise, and I really admire her for that. She is also a terrific editor.

Dani Greer -- another lady who shares her expertise graciously and frequently. She was the founder of The Blood Red Pencil blog, and can also be found at Blog Book Tours blog. I also chose Dani because she so appreciates my humor.

Morgan Mandel -- I chose Morgan primarily because I admire her courage in publishing her own book, Killer Career. Not only did she take the publishing bull by the horn, so to speak, she did so with an attention to detail and professionalism that I respect greatly. She shares advice, resources, and book reviews on her blog.

All three of these ladies also manage to do more in 24 hours than most people I know. I stand in awe of all of them. So ladies, I pass the honor along to you.

Here are the rules:

1) Accept the award, and don’t forget to post a link back to the awarding person.
2) Pass the award on.
3) Notify the award winners.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Guest Blooging Today

I'm a guest today at the blog for, which is a site filled with good articles, resources and advice for writers. The blog site is called and my topic today is tenacity.

A long time ago I learned that tenacity is as important for success as a writer as talent. So many writers get discouraged and give up, and I understand the temptation. The rejections, the steep uphill climb to get published, the demands of promoting, and all the other not-so-glamorous aspects of the writing game can wear anyone down.

I have been lucky to know some writers who have persevered despite even greater challenges, and their examples have kept me going when I was ready to throw in the towel.

Saturday, August 08, 2009

Change of Pace - A book Review

Thought I would share with you a review I did for a book that was released early this past spring. River of the Arms of God was written by Irene Sandell, who is a retired Texas History teacher in the Dallas area. This is her second novel, and it was just nominated for the 2009 Willa Award, given by Women Writing the West.

River of the Arms of God is a story of two women held against their will in the harsh Texas frontier. Sarah is held by Eli along the Butterfield Stage Line in the mid 1800s, and a hundred years later Kate is the emotional prisoner of a rancher in those same Texas plains. She thought Colby loved her, but he only wanted her to bear him a son. When she failed to provide him one, he lost interest in her.

Against great odds, Sarah manages to survive in the isolated cabin for almost two years and makes a daring escape with her son, Edward. She leaves behind a diary and some stone carvings that Kate eventually finds. Reading about Sarah’s courage gives Kate the courage to demand a divorce.

As the story unfolds, the parallels between the two women become more obvious, as does the emotional connection that Kate makes to Sarah. It is written in a style that captures the look and feel of cattle country in Texas, and the characters are well-drawn and endearing. In introducing Kate, the author explains how she came to call herself that. “The people in Wheeler, Texas, would have been shocked to know that shy Kathryn Rowley had defied her father and chosen her own name. It was her secret and an uncharacteristically rebellious decision on her part. It hinted at strength that even she could not imagine.”

This is an enjoyable tale of two strong women who fight against all odds to escape the tyranny of their men and their circumstances.


Ms. Sandell is a fourth-generation Texan and has written and produced 16 documentaries on Texas history.

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Pretty Flowers

I've been having fun with my camera again. The first flowers pictured here are Mexican Petunias. I have a bunch of them in my back flower bed. I had no idea that they multiplied like bunnies.

The other flower grows wild on vines that stay pretty close to the ground. I have no idea what they are called, but they sure are pretty. Looks almost tropical. They are native to East Texas, so if anyone out there knows the name, do let me know.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Join us in the Blog-A-Thon

There's a Blog-A-Th0n going on at Ginger Simpson's Dishin' It Out blog, where a bunch of us writer-types are talking about promoting. Some good tips being shared there, as well as little touches of humor.

The blog is running all day today, so stop by when you get a chance and see what all the talk is about.

Hope you find something of interest there.

Monday, August 03, 2009

More Nonsense From My Latest Book

Here again is another excerpt from my book in progress A Dead Tomato Plant and a Paycheck. It is a mix of humor and memoir, and this offering is from a chapter "The Silly Things We do."


While I may not be the brightest intellectual around, I’ve always considered myself intelligent, educated, and capable. As a parent, I’ve handled situations that call for ingenuity, like explaining to a five-year-old what keeps the moon up in the sky -- l told her God glued it up there and figured her teacher could explain all that scientific stuff after she got to school -- and talking my way out of hosting a slumber party for15 young teenage girls.

The fact that I even survived raising the twins speaks for itself.

So, I wonder. Why is it that I can't open a simple "easy to open" package? I faced the most demanding jobs of motherhood from potty training to summer vacation, but I m reduced to a 97-pound weakling at the sight of "press here and pull back along dotted line."

The last time I opened a box of detergent, I had to get a hammer and chisel, and I ended up with soap powder all over the floor and a smashed thumb. It was not a pretty sight, or a pretty sound.

Considering the highly technological society we live in, along with truth in advertising, shouldn't an "easy open" package be just that?

We shouldn't have to wrestle our way through boxes of cereal and individually-wrapped cheese slices.

We shouldn't have to gnaw our way through potato chip bags or get tennis elbow from opening jars of peanut butter.

We shouldn't have to ask the same kid who gave us the blinding headache to open the bottle of aspirin so we can ease said headache.

And we shouldn't have to visit the local blacksmith with our canned ham.