Sunday, October 31, 2010

Trick or Treat

In honor of Halloween, I thought I'd share this excerpt from my humorous memoir, A Dead Tomato Plant and a Paycheck. 

Halloween is not like it used to be. With concerns over Politically Correct costumes, candy that has been tampered with, and who is that stranger driving slowly down the street, Halloween has lost some of the charm of my childhood. But it is still an event of magic and excitement and an opportunity for pure unadulterated fun.

It is also one time when I miss my kids the most.

We always took the holiday very seriously when the kids were young, spending weeks on costume preparations and decorating. "Carving The Pumpkin" was a family affair that took an entire evening and even dinner was suspended for preparations for Trick or Treating.

The year the twins were two, we thought it would be the perfect time for them to be totally swept up in the Halloween experience. The older kids were even willing to pare back their expectations of the most awesome costume so we could concentrate on the twins. We could all share vicariously in their excitement when we took to the streets.

Paul, being a generally easy-going kid, allowed us to dress him up in the cat costume that had originally been made for Anjanette ten years ago. Since it was yellow, he didn't seem to care that it had belonged to a girl first. He even sat quietly while we painted whiskers on his cheeks.

Danielle, however, had a hard time getting into the swing of things. She didn't want to put on her clown costume and balked at my attempts to put make-up on her face. She didn't want to go Trick or Treating and she didn't want to carry that brown paper bag. But after I forced her into the costume, smeared her face, and shoved her out the door with her bag she finally resigned herself to the indignity of it all.

After about an hour, Danielle had a complete change of heart. This was pretty cool going up to a house and having someone toss a candy bar into her bag. And she didn't have to do anything except say "thank you."
Another hour later, Paul's energy level was so low it dragged on the sidewalk along with the tail from his costume. Since both kids had bags that weighed more than they did, I thought it was the perfect time to go home. The older kids agreed; they were eager to go off with their friends. Paul agreed because he agreed to most anything those days. The only dissenter was Danielle. How could she pass up this mother-lode of candy?

I finally got her home, amid stares from neighbors whose expressions asked what terrible thing was I doing to this poor hapless child.

After a bath and a solemn ritual of exacting promises from the other kids that they wouldn't touch her bag of candy, Danielle was in bed. I collapsed on the couch for a five-minute break before tackling the clean up in the bathroom. Then I heard the soft shuffle of footsteps coming down the hall. I opened my eyes to see Danielle with an eager smile. "Can we do this again tomorrow?

What are some of your Halloween memories?

Friday, October 29, 2010

Friday's Odds and Ends

As much as $1 billion in U.S. aid has been diverted from programs meant to stabilize Afghanistan and has wound up in the hands of the Taliban and other insurgency groups, war analysts and government auditors say. They say that graft has gotten so bad that the U.S. government estimates that only about 10 percent of the aid budget actually reaches the people in Afghanistan who need it.

And we keep sending money, why?

A mother in Texas shook her baby to death because he was interrupting her computer game.

I'd like to interrupt her.

Tests performed before the deadly blowout of BP's oil well in the Gulf of Mexico should have raised doubts about the cement used to seal the well, but the company and its cementing contractor used it anyway.

Thank you, Halliburton.

An obese mother in the US is trying to put on weight in order to become the world's fattest woman.

Isn't there another record she would like to break that wouldn't affect her health?

At least two southwest Montana horse owners are reporting thieves trotted off with tail hair from their horses. The hair can be used for making a number of items including hand crafted jewlry.

I couldn't imagine that stealing horse hair would be a lucrative endeavor until I did a  Google search for "horsehair items" and saw 195,000 results.  People are making baskets, bridles, hatbands, hair clips, gun slings, and much much more out of horsehair. They've got to get it from somewhere. 

Keith Richard's memoir, Life, reached best seller status before it was even released on Tuesday. 

I guess it pays to be famous before you write a memoir.

What wacky news have your heard this week?

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Feeding Your Soul

"There's something about the outside of a horse that is good for the inside of a man." Ronald Reagan

A lady riding next to me on the trail ride this past weekend reminded me of that quote, and we both gave it hearty "amens." It was Sunday morning, so the amen seemed appropriate.

People who love horses and love to ride are probably nodding in agreement right now. There is something very soul-satisfying about enjoying some beautiful scenery astride a mighty fine horse, in the company of like-minded folks. 

Needless to say, I really enjoyed my weekend away. The campsite, Camp Coyote, was a very nice place and the folks from the Directions and Assistance Committee for the Houston Rodeo were wonderful hosts. We were fed well, treated like friends, and had some very nice horses to ride. The ranch has about 2,000 acres with miles of breathtaking scenic trails. Each day's ride took us in a different direction through gentle rolling hills, along tree-lined ponds, and across lush hay meadows.

I was pretty stiff and sore after the all-day Saturday ride, and almost didn't ride Sunday morning, but I am glad I decided to go ahead. It was a shorter ride, but the scenery was most spectacular that morning. Those few hours were very soul-satisfying indeed, and worth every muscle that has screamed at me since.

What do you do that feeds your soul?

Monday, October 25, 2010

Excerpt From A New Book by Maryann Miller

 My new mystery will be released in December by Five Star, so I thought I would post a few excerpts between now and then. Enjoy....


Sarah took a deep breath and faced Quinlin in the stuffy cubbyhole of an office. The room was hot and musty. Dust motes floated in the slivers of sunshine that had penetrated the haze of accumulated grime on the windows of the old building. The scent of his cologne hung heavily in the still air. Chaps. Rich, masculine, and too easily a distraction.

Dressed in a dark, somber suit, Quinlin didn’t speak. He watched her with the careful scrutiny of a snake considering a field mouse. A trickle of perspiration ran down Sarah’s back and dampened her white T-shirt. Shifting in the wooden chair, she contemplated the wisdom of taking off her jacket, then decided against it. He would interpret it as a sign of weakness.

She thought she was prepared for this. She’d rehearsed it a million times, remembering the images, nailing down the sequence, readying herself for his opener, “Detective Kingsly, tell me what happened that night.”
She recalled the moon playing tag with a few heavy clouds, casting weird, disorientating shadows on the crumbling buildings. She remembered wishing the clouds would give way to rain, anything to relieve the oppressive heat that had pounded the city relentlessly for weeks. She remembered thinking the heat made people do crazy things.

Maybe that’s why it had happened.

The rest of it flashed through her mind like a sequence of freeze frames.

Franco and the boy turn.
A glint of metal in the moonlight.
John pushes her away, reaching for the gun tucked in his waistband.
The clasp on her purse sticks.
A flash of gunfire.
The sharp report of return fire.
Struggling to get her gun.
Franco is down.
The kid swings his gun toward John.
She fires the same time the kid does.
The coppery smell of warm blood.
Goddam it, John, get up!
Why is everything so quiet?
Where is the kid?
There’s a big gaping hole in the cheap sequined evening bag.

Every time Sarah played the scene in her mind, she hoped for a different ending. It never came. Her purse always had the hole in it. John was always dead. And so was the kid.

“And you’re sure you had no choice?” Quinlin’s officious voice rankled with unspoken insinuations.

Sarah suppressed a surge of anger as he walked behind her chair. The son of a bitch is not going to trip me up. No way.

“Yes.” She didn’t trust herself with more words.

“That’s pretty easy to say since everyone else who was there is dead.”

The comment jolted her, and she clenched sweaty fists in her lap to keep herself in the chair. Don’t dignify that with a response.

Quinlin came up beside her and paused. Sarah didn’t look at him for a long moment, then turned and met his insolent gaze with steady gray eyes. Go ahead. Give it your best shot.

They maintained the visual standoff for a moment that seemed to drag into eternity, and Sarah breathed a silent sigh of relief when he broke contact first. It had been a minor skirmish in the overall war, but the small victory shifted the balance of power slightly in her favor.

Quinlin walked around his desk and sat down in his chair. “Have you scheduled your appointment with Doc Murray?”


“Why not?”

The question was accompanied by a sincere smile she knew was calculated to disarm her. Fuck him and fuck his pseudo-compassion. “I thought it might be nice to bury my partner before I start putting my life back together.”

Quinlin pushed wire-framed glasses up and let his finger rest on the side of his nose. Sarah never knew if it was a pose designed to exude wisdom, but she recognized another familiar tactic. He could sit there like that forever, hoping the strain of the silence would open some verbal floodgates.

It wasn’t going to happen to her. Not here. Not now.

She clamped her lips tight and turned the nervous flutter of her hand into an acceptable gesture of tucking a strand of blonde hair behind her ear.

“The visit’s mandatory before you can be reinstated,” Quinlin said, his voice chilling her like a douse of ice water.

“I know. I’ll take care of it.”

Apparently satisfied with that response, he leaned back in his chair. “Did you have any suspicion the bust might go bad?”


Silence stretched between them like a guitar string tuned too high.

“You’re going to have to talk to me,” Quinlin said. “I have to know what went down that night.”

“Read the report.”

“Why the resistance, Detective? You know the drill.” Quinlin gently rocked in his swivel chair, creating a sound track of rhythmic squeaks. “I don’t make decisions based solely on reports.”

Sarah broke away from his intense scrutiny and clenched her jaw so hard her teeth hurt. Why couldn’t he back off? Just for a couple of days. He couldn’t be that much of a prick not to see she wasn’t ready to talk. Not until the words could come without the tears.

But then again, it was his job to be a prick. To catch people at their most vulnerable moments. Dig and probe and push until he was satisfied nothing was held back. He did this to every officer who used deadly force. Not just her. But the realization offered no consolation.

“Detective.” His voice called her to attention. “Did you know the kid was going to be there?”

“No.” She took a deep shuddering breath. “Can I have a drink of water?”

“Certainly.” Quinlin rose and went to the water cooler in the corner.

Sarah used the time to compose herself. She had to at least appear willing to comply. Answer some of the questions. Otherwise . . .

She didn’t want to think about otherwise.

She accepted the paper cup and took a soothing swallow of the cool water. Quinlin reclaimed his seat and she met his penetrating gaze again. “When we set up the meet, it was just supposed to be Franco. We’d been working him for a couple of months.”

“Why didn’t you abort the bust?”

“No chance.” Sarah balanced the empty cup on the edge of his desk. “The action started almost immediately.”

“You think they made you?”

She shook her head, remembering the meets to set up the buy. “Franco was a punk. He wasn’t smart enough to make us. He just thought he was smart enough to take out a rich guy and his broad.”

“That’s the way you figure it?”

“Yeah.” Sarah wiped a clammy hand on the smooth fabric of her jeans, hoping to still the tremble of muscle that could quickly become jerky spasms. If Quinlin noticed, he gave no sign.

She waited out another silence.

“That’s all for today.” Quinlin sat forward abruptly and picked up a file from his desk, effectively dismissing her.

Rising, Sarah fished her car keys out of her jacket pocket and headed toward the door.
In the quiet hallway, she leaned her forehead against the cool cement of the wall and took an angry swipe at the tear that had dared to trickle down her cheek.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Book Review-The Kingdom Where Nobody Dies

Kathleen Hills
Poisoned Pen Press, January 2008
hard cover,316 pages
ISBN: 978-1-59058-476-7

The author of this novel has a strong background in rural America, particularly in the Upper Midwest. It shows in many of the nuances that affect the progress of this story. The novel is replete with icons of small towns, some of which are isolated from the mainstream.

The book is set in the tiny Upper Peninsula Michigan town of St. Adele where once again we ride along with one of the most reluctant and phlegmatic lawmen we are likely ever to encounter.  His name is John McIntyre and he is the town constable.  He didn't want the job in the first place and he can think of a hundred things he'd rather be doing and places he'd rather be than the sun-blasted hay field of former conscientious objector, Ruben Hofer.

Hofer has been murdered, that's plain to see. His head was blasted open by a rifle shot while he sat on his tractor raking hay. It is almost immediately clear that the man's family is one likely source of murderous intent. Hofer was not a nice man.  He drove his two teen-aged sons in cruel and oppressive ways; and his eleven-year-old daughter, Claire, has already been pushed to warped and dangerous attitudes about life. His wife is morbidly over-weight and only the youngster, Joey, constantly playing with his make-believe farm in the yard outside the kitchen of the school-house-turned-family-home, seems almost normal.

Author Hills continues to invest her stories with an array of intriguing characters although I got a little tired of the sheriff's on-again-off-again almost incompetent investigation. Moreover, the two teen-agers do not become distinct characters in this book until very late, which I found to be a weakness.

Nevertheless, the story is informed by very real human emotions and conflicts and the author's handling of the religious, political and historical elements of the book tell us she has done careful research.  The book is, as is true of all her books, well-written.

Carl Brookins,
Case of the Greedy Lawyer, Devils Island,
Bloody Halls, more at Kindle & Smashwords!

Friday, October 22, 2010

No Odds 'N Ends This Week

It's terrible when a cold slams into you and literally takes three days out of your carefully planned schedule. That's what happened to me this week when I was supposed to be gathering interesting pieces of news to lay out here for comment.

There was lots of other work I was supposed to be doing, as well, and not much got done. I will be playing catch-up for quite a while.

I suppose I could have stayed home today and taken care of the blog, but instead I chose to go on a trail ride with two of my kids. We will ride all day Saturday and half of Sunday, and I'm sure I will find muscles I never knew I had as they protest.

I was supposed to spend most of this week doing some specific exercises to prepare for the ride. I don't think laying on the couch and reaching for a tissue every 15 minutes utilized the muscles that needed help. Hopefully, what I have done the past few weeks was enough.

So.... what is going to be my excuse for skipping Monday's post?

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Guest Post

Felicity Howard,
American Heroine Abroad

Maryann:  Felicity, welcome to It's Not All Gravy

Felicity:  Thank you, Maryann.  I’m delighted to be here for my very first interview. I don’t know why people always interview that Donna Fletcher Crow woman when I’m more than capable of speaking for myself.

Maryann:  The circumstances that led you to become the heroine of A VERY PRIVATE GRAVE are unique.  Can you tell us about your journey?

Felicity: I suppose my life as a heroine all started when I grew to be over 5 foot, 10 inches tall and my adored Miss Lisa broke it to me that attempting a career as a ballerina was an impractical aspiration. My next love was Latin.  I was incredibly fortunate to have a really inspiring Latin teacher in high school.  So I majored in Classics in college, went on to study at Keble College, Oxford and spent a year teaching Latin in a school in London.

Maryann:  That sounds like a wonderful experience.

Felicity:  Well, define “wonderful.”  I suppose it was more my fault than my students’, but let’s just cut to the chase and say I hated it. So much so that one day I just didn’t show up— spent the time reading in a coffee shop instead.  That told me I had to find some other way to use my Latin. I had heard that the church is the only place Latin is still actually used today, so I thought I might fit in there. My landlady in London was actually a Church of England priest (her church sponsored the school I was supposed to be teaching in), and she told me about this really intriguing-sounding theological college run by monks in a monastery in Yorkshire. So I applied and was accepted.

Maryann:  You must have had a strong church background to want to study to become a priest yourself.

Felicity:  (laughs)  My family never missed a service at our local cathedral.

Maryann:  That’s quite a record.

Felicity:  Yep.  Every Christmas and Easter. Just like clockwork.

Maryann:  Oh, you’re teasing me.

Felicity:  Well, yes. But the important point is that I really did love those services and I saw women participating in them and I thought, “I could do that.” And I loved the smoke and the candles and the elegant vestments. Oh, and the music— a really wonderful pipe organ and choir.

Maryann:  That sounds lovely.  But doesn’t it take a little more than that to be a priest or minister?

Felicity:  Oh, you sound just like Fr. Antony. He’s my church history professor. Not a monk, just a regular priest who lectures at the college. He’s always on about daily prayer and holy living and that sort of thing. But, then, he can be really interesting and a lot of fun sometimes, too. And he’s really incredibly handsome in his cassock.

Maryann:  So what’s it like for a young America woman, living in a monastery?

Felicity:  The rigid schedule of prayers and practices like fasting can be a bit much, but I’ll have to admit that it gets hold of you. I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about it and I’ve decided it’s like living on a parallel universe. There are all these everyday people out there going about their normal, everyday lives, and they have no idea places like this exist all over England— all over the world, really. It’s a very Harry Potter experience.

Maryann:  I’ve read about female clergy being a very controversial thing in some parts of the church.  Have you experienced any discrimination?

Felicity:  A few days ago I would have said hardly any. I know a few of the older monks don’t really approve, but most people have been very welcoming. But then on Ash Wednesday my room  was completely turned over. They made a terrible mess, but nothing was stolen. So I have to think it was an anti-women clergy thing. Or maybe an anti-American thing. I was absolutely furious and ready to tell off the whole college, but then I discovered my favorite monk, dear old Father Dominic brutally murdered. And Father Antony standing over him with blood all over his hands—

Donna:  That’s quite enough, Felicity. You mustn’t tell any more of your adventure. Let them read the book.

Felicity:  Excuse me! This is my story and I think I know quite enough to tell it in my own way.

Donna:  Well, Maryann, you see what I’m up against, working with this young woman. No matter how difficult she can be, though, I’ll have to admit she’s never boring. And I will tell you a secret, I foresee that a great part of the fun of my Monastery Murders series is going to be growing Felicity up. At the moment she thinks she knows everything— which just tells you how much she has to learn.

Maryann:  Thank you so much Felicity, and Donna, for sharing with us today. And let me invite my readers to go to Donna's Web site where they can read more about the Monastery Murders, see a book video about Felicity and Antony and even buy the book.

Felicity:  Yes, do visit us there, and on the Research Albums page you can see a slide show of the garden from my monastery. And I really don’t know what that woman is on about— just because I know my own mind and I’m not afraid to act on my convictions. . .

Maryann and Donna:  Thank you, Felicity!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Guest Blogger Tomorrow

I hope everyone will come back tomorrow for a fun interview with Felicity Howard, the central character in Donna Crow's new mystery, A Very Private Grave. The book was released in the UK in June and has just had its official US release in September.

Felicity Howard, a young American studying for the Anglican priesthood at the College of the Transfiguration in Yorkshire, is devastated when she finds her beloved Fr. Dominic brutally murdered and Fr. Antony, her church history lecturer, soaked in his blood.

A Very Private Grave is a contemporary novel with a thoroughly modern heroine who must learn some ageless truths in order to solve the mystery and save her own life as she and Fr. Antony flee a murderer and follow clues that take them to out-of-the way sites in northern England and southern Scotland. The narrative mixes detection, intellectual puzzles, spiritual aspiration, romance, and the solving of clues ancient and modern.

“With a bludgeoned body in Chapter 1, and a pair of intrepid amateur sleuths, A Very Private Grave qualifies as a traditional mystery. But this is no mere formulaic whodunit: it is a Knickerbocker Glory of a thriller. At its centre is a sweeping, page-turning quest – in the steps of St. Cuthbert – through the atmospherically-depicted North of England, served up with dollops of Church history and lashings of romance. In this novel, Donna Fletcher Crow has created her own niche within the genre of clerical mysteries.” – Kate Charles, author of Deep Waters

Donna Fletcher Crow is the author of 35 books, mostly novels of British history.  The award-winning epic Glastonbury, is her best-known work, an Arthurian grail search covering 15 centuries of English history. A Very Private Grave, book 1 in the Monastery Murders series is her reentry into publishing after a 10 year hiatus. The Shadow of Reality, Book one of  The Elizabeth & Richard Mysteries, is a romantic intrigue available as an e-book.

Donna and her husband have 4 adult children and 10 grandchildren.  She is an enthusiastic gardener and tea-drinker.  To see the book video, to order A Very Private Grave,  or to see pictures from Donna’s research trips, visit her Web site 

Monday, October 18, 2010

Writing Tips Come From Everywhere

This past weekend we had our performances of "The Altos - Like the Sopranos, Only Lower" at the community theatre here in my small town. I played Nona Alto, the mother of mobster, Tony Alto. Nona is.... how do I put this delicately? A little off. Her daughter-in-law, Toffee, says Nona is crazy, but I would hesitate to go that far. Let's just say she is sometimes in her own little world.

This was a fun character to play, and as I worked at figuring out how to portray her on stage, I realized again that figuring out how a character would act on stage is an important part of developing characters for novels.

When we develop characters for stories, we usually start with the basics of physical looks. Is she tall? Short? Thin? Heavy? What color is her hair? Her eyes? Is there something distinguishable about her looks? A scar? A tattoo? Then we add a few mannerisms that are unique to that character, but for the character to come fully alive we have to add a lot more.

As I was fleshing out my interpretation of Nona, I thought about how she would walk across the stage. It would be different from the way a confident, secure, young person would walk across the stage. What would she do with her hands? She is uncertain and anxious much of the time. So I made sure I had a tissue with me at times to 'worry' when emotions were high. To convey the fact that she suffers from slight dementia, I wore clothes and shoes and a hat that did not match and looked like what a four-year-old would throw together when playing dress-up with mom's clothes.

What prompted me to write this blog is what happened before the final performance yesterday. I was considering putting rouge on my cheeks the way women used to do fifty years ago. It was applied much differently than blush is today and looks like two round red spots. Since I don't wear make-up and don't even know how to use it, I asked my actress friend, Mia, whether I should put the rouge on. Her response? "What would Nona do."

Aha! That is the question we should always ask ourselves. It is not what we would do. It's what the character would do. That's how we create characters who become so real the reader will consider them as a brand new friend.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Friday's Odds and Ends

The best news story of the decade. All 33 miners rescued from the mine in Chile after being trapped underground for over two months.

Need I say more?

There is a new ethics rule for Texas attorneys. They are now prohibited from having sex with their clients.

So, previously it was okay to have sex with clients?

Truth in Fiction:
"Kids detect marital misery through their skins, not heir brains, the way animals know when to run from an earthquake before the seismograph even registers the tremors." From Raising Jake by Charles Carillo. (A terrific book, by the way.)

Presidential Arrogance?
Jonah Goldberg recently opined that President Obama let his arrogance take over when he (Obama) quipped, "That's all right, all of you know who I am" when the presidential seal slipped off the podium during a speech in Pittsburg. Goldberg considers the comment self-inflating, "as if to say that the title mattered less than the man."

Goldberg is entitled to his opinion, but what if Obama was simply implying that he was like a friend who doesn't need a name tag at a dinner party. Nobody in that room needed to be told that he's the president.
I'm just saying....

What are some of the headlines that caught your eye this week?

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

I've never...

....heard of anything so absurd. Well, actually I have heard some pretty absurd things, but this one is a step above - or below- many others.

Firefighters in rural Indiana did not respond to a 911 call about a house-fire because the owners had failed to pay the annual $75.00 fee to the city for rural fire protection. Apparently the city has a law that firefighters cannot respond under those circumstances, so they had to ignore the call.

Imagine how hard that must have been for the firefighters. I have always likened them to the knights of old who are called to rescue those in distress. The ones I have known have always considered the job much more than a job, and it would distress them to be held back by words on a document.

In this incident in Indiana, the firefighters did respond to a call from a nearby neighbor who was concerned about the fire spreading to his house, but they could do nothing about the house that was burning to the ground right in front of them.

A city official was quoted as saying that the firefighters had to abide by the law. "If they put out the fire of a homeowner who had not paid, there is no incentive for other people to pay."

So a house burns down, but, by gosh, the law was upheld.

Maybe if the firefighters were allowed to put out all the fires they were called to, which is what they are trained to do, homeowners would be so grateful they would pay the fee twice over.  Ever think of that all you folks who are stuck to the letter of the law?

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Well, I missed.....

...putting up a new post yesterday. Obvious to the most casual observer, right?

I had every intention of putting something new up, but as the old cliche goes, the best laid plans of mice and men often go astray. We had a power outage that started about eight in the morning and lasted until almost noon.

Then I only had three hours to prepare for a talk on editing I did for the East Texas Writers' Guild. Of course I had waited until Monday to do that. But I'd had a plan, and a good one, I thought when I came up with it on Sunday. I did a lot of the work I normally do on Monday mornings late Sunday and had it all ready to put up on various Web sites. That left time on Monday morning to do the blog, get a few pages written on my book, and then prepare for the workshop.

A grand plan that went to hell in a hand-basket. (Another cliche, by the way.)

I love saying, "The best plans of mice and men often go astray."  I use that cliche often. I mean, it fits, right?

But we writers are cautioned about using cliches in our stories, even though they abound in real life. If you really listen closely, we use them all the time. I decided to go on the Internet and look for some more and I found that has more cliches than you can shake a stick at.(Cliche alert.)

Here are just a few:

Many hands make light work.
Don't put off until tomorrow what you can do today. 
Any friend of yours is a friend of mine.
Another day another dollar.
Don't bite the hand that feeds you.
Laugh all the way to the bank. 

What are some cliches you say frequently? Do you let your characters use a cliche now and then?

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Book Review - Open Season

Since Sunday is book review day here, I thought I'd post the review I just received for my December release, Open Season. This was in Publisher's Weekly, and I am both humbled and thrilled at the review.

Open Season
Maryann Miller, 
Five Star Cengage/Gale
$25.95 (302p) ISBN 978-1-59414-915-3

Miller spins a tight tale that's a cut above the average police procedural in this first of a new series introducing Dallas police detective Sarah Kingsly. Still reeling from community protests over her accidental shooting of a 14-year-old African-American boy during an undercover drug operation that went awry and left her partner dead, Sarah anxiously awaits the ruling of the Dallas Review Board. Meanwhile, in a PR move, her superiors team her with a new, African-American partner, Angel Johnson. Both women must overcome their mistrust of each other and thorny racial conflicts as they try to solve a series of mall murders, in which three men with drug problems are garroted to death with piano wire by a killer who leaves increasingly frantic messages at the crime scenes. The investigation tests Sarah and Angel in ways both expected and unexpected. Readers will want to see more of these engaging female cops. (Dec.)

Friday, October 08, 2010

Friday's Odds and Ends

Talk about absurd. 
Dez Bryant of the Dallas Cowboys took the team out to dinner at an upscale restaurant recently, and the players ordered everything on the menu. They also took home expensive bottles of wine. The dinner check? Are you sitting down?  $54,896. An editorial writer for The Dallas Morning News made this comment, "Look, we're used to athletes making millions, but they don't need to rub their fans' noses in it."

Amen, amen.

A note to Texas voters.
The Green Party is now on the ballot for the November elections, but there is some question about who paid the $532,000 cost of a professional peitition gathering company. Apparently the Green Party was having a hard time coming up with enough signed petitions until this unknown benefactor stepped forward. There is some indication that the Republican party supported this effort, but nobody is talking, including the Green Party.

Transparency, people, transparency.

Our tax dollars at work.
The Military planned to buy all 10,000 copies of the memoir written by Army Reserve Lt. Col. Anthony Shaffer because it allegedly disclosed military secrets. Shaffer said Operation Dark Heart did not contain any information that threatened national security, but Pentagon officials said it did. According to a report in The Excavator, "They read the manuscript with the eyes of "guardians of the knowledge". Their censorship is reflective of the discredited attitude that National Security concerns are more important than exposing the truth and holding government officials accountable."

So, our government considered spending $259,900 to keep us in the dark?

Some time after the original release date was canceled, Shaffer, St. Martin's and the Pentagon reached an agreement to revise the manuscript according to changes required by the government.

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Let's Keep it Clean

No. This is not going to be about curse words in writing. Although we did have fun over at The Blood Red Pencil Blog a few weeks ago discussing the use of certain words. Check it out if you are interested.

This is about litter. On my morning walk today, I noticed plastic bottles, drink cans, Styrofoam cups, plastic bags and other odds and ends of trash strewn along the side of the road. I live in what we call "The Beautiful Piney Woods of East Texas, and what I saw was anything but beautiful.

The litter is nothing new. I see it all the time. In fact, I often take a bag with me and pick up the trash, especially on the section in front of my property, but I will sometimes clear the whole mile that I walk. My neighbor down at the other end of the mile has put up "Please Don't Litter" signs, and often the signs are almost lost in the debris around them.

I don't remember there being this much litter when I was young. Of course, we didn't have so many disposable containers then. Soda came in glass bottles that were redeemable for a nickle, so one would not just toss them. Plus, we didn't eat and drink in our cars the way folks do now.

Even on long trips we would stop now and then for potty breaks and get a drink, and when it was time to eat, we would stop again. On the rare occasions we would eat on the road because Daddy was in a hurry, the trash was collected and put in a paper bag to be thrown out later. Once I threw a napkin out the window and I thought Daddy was going to kill me. I have not thrown anything out a car window since, although I was sorely tempted when the kids were acting up.

I'm really curious whether this problem of littering in global, or is it something unique to the U.S. Answers anyone?

I'm also curious as to what it is going to take to get people to stop littering. Obviously having signs and laws against littering is not helpin.

Monday, October 04, 2010

Security-- At what Cost?

We have a bit of a conundrum here in the United States. According to the FBI al -Qaeda has been recruiting Westerners to carry out terrorist plots, and there is a new imperative to be more vigilant. That includes reporting suspicious behaviors to law enforcement.

So, if you see a person in a Home Depot or Lowes buying a large quantity of fertilizer, you need to alert law enforcement. They can then investigate that person and make sure he is not planning to blow up a building full of people.

Trouble is, in some parts of the country, you would be reporting the local rancher who has 100 acres of hay meadow to fertilize.

The Justice Department has started a project called the Nationwide Suspicious Activity Reporting Initiative.  Centers will be set up for federal, state and local law enforcement will analyze reports of suspicious activities.  In the reporting process people are required to base the report on suspicious behaviors, not on what the person looks like.

Like that will really work.

I don't often agree with the ACLU, but I agree with their concerns over this. Look at how many innocent people have been detained since 9/11 just because of their ethnic or religious background. Look at how many innocent people are treated like criminals every time they board an airplane.

Yes, we need to take steps to protect ourselves and ensure the security of our country, but we must not walk on the backs of innocent people to do that.

Friday, October 01, 2010

Friday's Odds and Ends

Dallas country commissioners recently hired a consulting company that basically told them the same thing that a different consulting company told them two years ago: That the IT Department has serious problems. It lacks vision, management, leadership, and competence.

I'll say. It cost the county $169,250 dollars for that second report. the news report didn't say what the first consultant charged. Talk about incompetent leadership.

Newspaper headline: Even casual observers detect rising levels of acrimony in contemporary American politics.

I am so glad the newspaper pointed that out. I never would have noticed.

Speaking of newspaper headlines. Does it bother anyone else that the headlines are no longer printed the way they used to be? A long time ago they were always in ALL CAPS. Then They Started Being Printed With Just The First Letter in Caps. Now, just the first word is in caps and the headline ends with no punctuation

Who came up with that? For the online magazine I edit, I am still stuck in the middle of this headline progression. Can't bring myself to use the latest style. Don't like it, so I don't use it. And so far none of my readers have complained.

Anything bothering you today? Go ahead and get it off your chest.