Monday, January 31, 2011

The Battle of the Common Cold

Since we are in the middle of the flu and cold season, I thought this information I read in Parade Magazine this week might be of interest.  Some of the information was definitely a big surprise to me. I've been battling a cold and sinus infection for over a week, and had been drinking lots of green tea, adding extra Vitamins to my daily regimine, and basically following all the suggestions for boosting your immune system while you are sick.

Well, according to Dr. Birgit Winther, an otolaryngologist and part of a cold-research team at the University of Virginia,  that is the wrong thing to do. She is one of the top experts on the subject of the viruses that cause colds and was quoted by the author of the Parade article, Jennifer Ackerman, who is the author of Ah-Choo!: The Uncommon Life of Your Common Cold.

“For years, scientists thought cold symptoms resulted from damage done by the cold viruses themselves,” Winther says. As it turns out, all that sneezing, coughing, and congestion is actually caused by our own bodies. In response to an intruding virus, our immune systems pump out chemicals that cause our noses to run, heads to throb, and throats to swell. “One cold differs from another because of the way the host body responds,” Winther says. That explains why you may come down with a killer cold while your spouse has barely a sniffle, even though you both have the same virus.
It also explains why some immunity-boosting products may not help. “Getting your immune cells to work better could result in a stronger inflammatory response and more exaggerated symptoms,” Winther says. A colleague of hers once took immunity-enhancing drugs to speed his recovery, and “he’d never been so sick in his life!”

Hmmm. I'm wondering if that means I should stop the green tea? Actually, I did not drink it last night. Skipped the extra zinc and vitamin C, too. It is too early to tell, but I think there is less congestion today. I'll skip it again tonight, and then try it again tomorrow and see if there is any difference. If you are interested, check back Wednesday to see the results of my experiment.

In the meantime, what about you? Do you use immunity-enhancing supplements? Have you noticed any patterns in how they work? There are so many conflicting opinions as to the benefits of extra vitamins and the other healthy eating programs that are supposed to be of benefit, it can boggle the inquisitive mind.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Book Review: The Rembrandt Affair by Daniel Silva

 Thanks to Carl Brookins for sharing another review.....

The Rembrandt Affair
By Daniel Silva
ISBN: 978-0-399-15658-8
Published by Putnam, 2010

Daniel Silva is an experienced best-selling author who deserves his place on the NY Times list.  His latest novel is a fascinating blend of lust, international espionage, art theft and sale, and murder. It is well-written, well-paced and almost insidiously compelling.

It is also long.

Silva has peopled his thriller with a remarkable cast of characters, including a towering Swiss philanthropist, a raffish cast of thieves and murderers who are on the side of the angels, a master logician who is also a stone killer, an art restorer of great skill and several others of questionable yet important morals. Over all hangs the image of one of the greatest of European artists, Dutch painter Rembrandt von Rijin.  He lived and prospered during the golden era of Dutch painting and died in 1669.  His paintings are worth millions.

When a small portrait of a young woman mysteriously appears in the art world, knowing viewers immediately recognize it as the work of the great Dutch Master.  But knowing and proving are quite different things.  In the
art world, provenance is everything.  Where has this painting been for perhaps hundreds of years?

Answering that all-important question brings together a London art dealer and master restorer and art expert, and master spy, Gabriel Allon.  That connection sets off a wild chase though high and low social levels of Britain and Europe in a taut novel fraught with unexpected turns, unusual characters and sometimes off-the-wall events.

It all adds up to a dandy novel that will satisfy the most discriminating thriller readers.


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

Friday, January 28, 2011

Friday's Odds and Ends

Well, actually, just odds. These are some unusual news items I found on the Web.

A McDonald's in the United Kingdom is refusing to serve teens who are wearing sports gear after 7pm. According to the manager, the restaurant has experienced a lot of anti-social behavior from groups of youths. "It's almost gang-style fighting at the weekend.  My staff have been threatened and been told they will be stabbed when they finish work. The local police are working with us at the moment and their advice is to take a zero tolerance approach.''

A man known as 'Spider Dan’ has been convicted for climbing San Francisco’s 60-story Millennium Tower. Daniel Goodwin spent about four hours  in September  scaling the residential high-rise, aided by suction cups. He ignored authorities’ repeated commands to come down. Goodwin testified that he wanted to call attention to what he sees as a national lack of preparedness to fight skyscraper fires.

Research suggests that the terrifying visions that haunted composer Chopin and convinced him that strange creatures were crawling out of his piano were caused by epilepsy.

Sheffield University PhD students Alex Baker and Chris Rose launched a video camera into space for less than the price of a second hand car.

Juan Manuel Barrientos, a  young chef from Colombia, has created two fully edible wedding gowns and showcased them during the Colombiatex fashion show in Medellin. Wedding dresses are usually just something pretty for people to look at, so Juan Manuel Barrieto decided  to give them a whole new purpose. Instead of just eye-candy for the wedding guests, his beautiful creations are real candy for the groom to enjoy on his wedding night. The original wedding dresses are made of 2,000 sugar-glazed rose petals and champagne clothe and come with edible accessories such as bracelets, earrings, necklaces and rings made of candy, and a bouquet made of edible flowers.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Gardening is good for your soul

Here in Texas the gardening season is just beginning. It's time to plant early spring crops such as peas and spinach and carrots and onions. I'm late getting mine planted, but I have been digging a few rows a day for the past month - except when it turned bitter cold - and I will be ready to plant this weekend.

Gardening is in my blood. My paternal grandmother had a huge garden that stretched up the hill behind her house in West Virginia. When we visited in the summer, we could always find grandma halfway up the hill, weeding, picking, or cultivating. She would sqaut, sitting on her heels, and shuffle down the rows of beans, then stand and stretch at the end of each row. How she did that, I'll never know.

When I'm out working in my garden, which is only a fraction of the size of my grandmothers, I try to hunker down to do the weeding, but am only able to make it a few feet. I'm sure the difference is due to the fact that Grandma spent hours each day working the garden. It was probably a quarter of an acre, and she worked it all with a shovel, a hoe, and a trowel. She also worked it well into her late 80s, and only stopped because she fell and broke her hip.

Thinking about the garden and my grandmother reminded me of this piece I wrote some years ago. It is now part of the memoir I have been working on, A Dead Tomato Plant and  a Paycheck. Most of the memoir is focused on humor, but now and then it takes a serious turn. Enjoy.....

Pretty little flowers all in a row.

Not that year.

That year a few scraggly weeds lived in the spots usually reserved for the pansies that thrived early in the Texas growing season. Normally, when the sun burned too hot, the pansies would be replaced with petunias, then later with periwinkles. Those hardy little flowers can thumb their noses at the worst heat thrown at them.

Attending to this ritual of planting has always been an important part of my existence. Some days I’d rather be out digging in the dirt than doing almost anything else. The process feeds me deep inside in a way that defies articulation. But those who share this passion understand.

When it was time to plant the pansies that year, I was in the hospital after a complicated kidney surgery. The weeks recuperating at home ate up the rest of early spring when cool nights and mild days nurtured the ‘people’ flowers and let them smile to greet a new day.

My heart ached when I was strong enough to walk out to the front porch and sit on the swing. The empty flower beds looked so lost and forgotten, and I yearned to dig my hands into the dirt. I thought of asking my husband to plant something, just a geranium or two for a splash of color, but resisted the urge on two counts. He had enough to do with taking care of the kids, the house, and his job. Plus, it wasn’t the flowers I missed so much as the process. I could wait a few more weeks and still have plenty of growing season left. It lasts forever in Texas.

Petunia season came and went, and still the flowerbeds stood empty.

I’d had a bit of a set-back in my recovery. Some nerves had been damaged during the hours-long surgery and the pain was still incredibly severe. That forced another trip to the hospital to see if anything could be done.

By the time I got home again, we were well into periwinkle season and my flowerbeds had grown lush with weeds. My instinct was to lean forward in the swing and pluck out a clump of clover, but the look from my husband, rich with unsaid words, stilled the impulse.

I’m sure he meant well. Like so many spouses standing on the outside he felt so helpless in the face of my pain and limitations. He only wanted to protect me. But my heart yearned to be digging in the dirt. It was a deep and powerful ache that wouldn’t go away.

During my next visit to the doctor, I asked if he thought it would be okay to do a bit of gardening. “I’ll be careful,” I said. “And I just feel this great need.”

The man could have posed for a Norman Rockwell painting as he sat on his little black stool with one finger tapping his cheek. Then he spoke. “Personally, I think there’s something very healing about dirt. Although I don’t recommend eating it.”

He paused to acknowledge the smile with timing so perfect he could’ve been on the comedy circuit. “But I do recommend filling your hands with it. Smell it. Work it. Let it fall through your fingers. It won’t cure you, but it won’t hurt, either. And maybe it will make you feel better where it matters.”

Several hours later I knelt on the grass. I ignored the pain that ran down my side and into my leg and leaned close to the dirt. The trowel felt good in my hand as I loosened a small section of the flowerbed. Then I picked up clumps of earth and crumbled them, letting the rich black dirt stream through my fingers. I reveled in the cool dampness; the pungent aroma. Then I dug a hole big enough to hold a single Marigold.

“Ah,” my heart said. “Just what you needed."

Monday, January 24, 2011

Just for Fun

Since I need to be working on my book today, not blogging, I thought I would let my friend Tracy Farr entertain you.....

I went in for oil, and came out with groceries

Every story starts with one word. Sometimes it’s a big word, sometimes it’s small. But without that first word, there could never be a second, or a third, or a fourth. So, I think I shall start this story with “The,” and after that, we shall see.

The other day, very early in the morning, I headed out to the local Super-Duper Mega Mart to buy a quart of oil. I always go in the morning because I’m a morning person. I buy oil because my truck requires it. I go to the Super-Duper Mega Mart because it’s practically the only game in town.

Very rarely do I carry my cell phone with me when I shop because I hate to be interrupted in my “get in, get out quick” expeditions. But for some reason, I had my cell phone with me that day – and it was on.

“Dear, since you’re at the Super-Duper Mega Mart, could you possibly buy some milk? I’d really appreciate it.”

That was my wife. She knows my number. I answer, “Yeah, sure, milk, fine.”

That’s how we guys talk. Monosyllable. Straight to the point. Say what you mean to say, then shut up.

“Oh, and butter too, if you don’t mind. I prefer the kind in the tub, like we always get, but if they don’t have that, whatever you do, don’t buy the squeeze-it butter because that’s just plain nasty.”

Quart of oil, milk and butter. Not too hard. Maybe I should get one of those baskets.

“Oh, and leave your cell phone on just in case I think of anything else we need. Okay?”

I say, “Yeah, sure, phone on, no problem,” but what I’m thinking is, “Why did I ever agree to cell phones?”

The other reason I like shopping early in the morning is because there are less people out and about. They’re all still in bed, watching Good Morning Something or Other, drinking their first cup of coffee and...

Coffee beans. I think we’re out. Best pick up a bag or two. That way when I get home, after I change the oil in my truck, I can settle down and relax with a tall cup of freshly-brewed coffee.

I didn’t always drink coffee. In fact, I’m a new convert. I actually surprised my father and brother this past Christmas when I said if they were fixing coffee, I’d sure like a cup. You should have seen their jaws drop. Then they slapped me on the back and said, “Welcome to the club.”

But I will admit, I doctor up my coffee quite a bit. Can’t stand it black. Which reminds me, I wonder if we have any sugar left? Best call home and see.

“Yes, we have plenty of sugar, but I’ve found some other items we desperately need. Do you have something to write with?”

Holy Cow. Of course I don’t have anything to write with. I just came for a quart of oil. You don’t necessarily have to write down “one quart of oil” when that’s the only thing you’re getting.

But of course I don’t actually SAY all that. Instead, I say, “Yeah, shoot.”

“Well, it’s not much. Okay, we need some eggs, I prefer the two dozen Grade A eggs in the paper carton, not plastic, because it decomposes easier; we need some cheese, either Pepper Jack or Swiss, but we have plenty of cheddar, unless you want to buy some sharp cheddar, but I’ll leave that up to you; we need some bananas, and please make sure they’re yellow and not green like last time, and yes I know you’re color blind, but just ask someone; we could use some frozen vegetables, but just buy the store brand because the other is too expensive; and a couple of cans of tuna in water, not oil, because I’m going to try a new tuna casserole recipe tonight and...Oh, bread. We need bread. I think garlic bread will taste good with the casserole, don’t you? And could you please pick up some more coffee? Whole beans. I like grinding it up fresh. You’ve got all that?”

I say, “Yep, eggs, cheese, bananas, peas, tuna, bread, coffee. Got it,” but inside, I’m crying, because I just wanted oil. Only a quart. Just enough to get my hands dirty.

I say goodbye – then turn off the phone.

Every story starts with one word, followed by another, then another, and then another. Every shopping trip starts with one item, followed by another, then another, and then another. Once you come to terms with that, life is Peachy Keen.


Tracy Farr lives in East Texas with his wife, three children and some goats. To read more of his stories, visit his website at

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Book Review - Big Wheat by Richard A. Thompson

 Thanks to Carl Brookins for sharing another book review with us....

Big Wheat
By Richard A. Thompson
Poisoned Pen Press 2011
ISBN: 978-1-59058-820-8

World War I is done and Charlie Krueger’s older brother is never coming home. Charlie, his sister and their mother must cope with an increasingly abusive drunken father and husband. The summer of 1919 wanes and vast acreages of the Middle West prairies are thick with ripening grain. Up the long reaches from the banks of the Platte and the Missouri come the contract threshing crews and their machines, most followed by raffish bindlestiffs to supplement a farmer’s friends and relatives. The crews are often peopled by men of questionable backgrounds and are occasionally eyed with suspicion by local sheriffs who rarely chase criminals beyond their county boundaries.

When Charlie Krueger has a final confrontation with his father, he leaves behind a sorrowful mother and sister and the local girl he thought he’d love forever. He becomes a bindlestiff, traveling from farm to farm, learning
the threshing business and nurturing his love for machines.

The machines are new, complicated and prone to breakdowns. Charlie hooks up with a marvelously conceived traveling machine repair crew that becomes his new family. But lurking in the background is a killer, a killer who believes Charlie saw his latest brutal deed.  He seeks to find and murder Charlie. Meanwhile, the sheriff of Charlie’s home county has developed leads which point him toward Charlie as a murderer.

This then is the roiling plot which moves the story forward. Carefully constructed and set against the vast reaches of the plains states, the novel evokes a time and place and the attitudes of the people and the land in a
powerful and moving way. Readers will smell the dust, drip sweat and shrivel under the burning sun right along with the threshing crews. They’ll feel a clutch in the night as the sheriff and the murderer draw closer and
they’ll empathize with the casual corruption and the surmounting goodness of the characters the author has created.

A fine, exciting and unusual well-written novel I am pleased to recommend to all readers of crime fiction.

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

Friday, January 21, 2011

Friday's Odds and Ends

In central Texas there is a wide area of devastation where trees are dying, as well as other vegetation. Environmentalists believe the sulfur dioxide emitted by the Fayette Power Plant is to blame. However, the plant's operator and the state's Environmental Regulator deny pollution is to blame for the swaths of plant devastation. Pecan groves in the area have seen crops dwindle from 200,000 lbs a year to 8,000.

Do you really believe the pollution is not causing the problem? 

Anti-gay activist Cindy Jacobs, who is a member of Generals International has posted a video explaining her belief that it was the repeal of the military’s ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ that caused all of these dead animals to be popping up all over the country, including the thousands of birds that fell from the sky in Beebe, Arkansas not long ago.  Her reasoning is that because homosexuality is a sin according to the Bible, the barrage of dead animals is a direct message from God.

Hmmmm. Not the God I believe in.

A novel idea. How about we write laws in plain English? This was proposed in a recent editorial by author, Linda Chavez, and I wanted to stand up and cheer when I read it. She pointed out the clarity and brevity of the Constitution, which was written so the common man could understand it.  In contrast, she compared the Health Care Act, weighing in on 2,400 pages to the fact that "we abolished slavery and gave former slaves the right to vote in 100 words.  We guaranteed women the right to vote in fewer than 40 words." "If legislators can't explain what they want to do in 100 pages of less, they probably shouldn't be doing it."

Hear! Hear!

Celebrating 191 years of marriage. Yes it's true. Three brothers who married three sisters over 60 years ago have between them 191 years of marriage.Growing up, the  Waters boys lived not far from the Webb sisters in the little Texas town of Dike, and eventually they all hooked up. Although the youngest couple did resist for a while. "We thought two was enough," the youngest Webb sister said. The couples enjoy traveling together and will be celebrating anniversaries this year by going on a cruise. And the secret to 191 years  of happy marriage? "A whole lot of give and take."


What about you? Anything catch your eye in the news recently?

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Guest Blog- Evelyn David on Writing as a Team

Writing Duets?

We're going to go out on a limb here. We're going to advise you to go against conventional wisdom about writing a book. Here's our suggestion: Find a co-author on the Internet and write 2 books and countless short stories together without ever meeting in person.

What? That sounds crazy.

We know. And we still recommend it because that's exactly what we've done and it has worked perfectly.

We know there are problems with collaboration. We've heard them all, and actually, most of them make sense…except not always. Herewith are the problems and how we've avoided them. Maybe collaboration can work for you too.

1. The creative process is by definition a solitary one and writing together only leads to a jumble of ideas.

We're not sure where the concept of the lonely artist stuck in an unheated garret pursuing his talent first was proposed as fact, but it's only half true. Yes, each of us brings to the table our own concepts and ideas. But that's a plus, not a drawback. It means we've each got someone to bat ideas off; someone to say "you've hit a homerun" or alternatively, "no offense, but that makes no sense at all." You're less likely to go off on a tangent if someone else is there to either remind you where you were supposed to be headed – or to listen if you truly believe that the new idea will only strengthen the storyline. Since it's a collaboration, where neither party has veto rights, you've got to be able to defend your choices, which can only make you plan and write more clearly.

2. You don't want to mix plaids and stripes together, or in other words, how can you combine two distinct writing styles?

That's a little tougher, but practice makes perfect. It works because of the first rule of any writing project, whether it's a third grade book report or a New York Times bestseller: Revise, Revise, Revise.

As each scene goes back and forth between us, it gets smoothed out. We both write all characters so it's less likely that the hero sounds like someone from Oklahoma (where Rhonda lives), while the heroine sounds like a New Yorker (where Marian lives). We work hard to make our characters distinct, but the overall voice of each book is Evelyn David, neither Rhonda or Marian.

3. The work load will never be equally distributed between the two collaborators.

Probably true at different points in the writing process. But like any good partnership, you each go in with honest intentions, work hard, and figure it all evens out in the end. No question that Rhonda is the tech genius of this collaboration so she handles all web site issues, including design. Marian tends to handle the business side of being an author (agent contact, bookstore relationships, publisher issues, and planning). We both do the writing, editing, and promotion. Over time we've learned each other's strengths and preferences - we shift tasks accordingly. Rhonda is the keeper of lists and files. Marian is the final word on punctuation and grammar. Rhonda likes working with photos and covers. Marian is wonderful at interviews. Neither of us is good at mingling at receptions and making small talk, but we do it anyway and commiserate with each other later. The bottom line is that we work together to achieve a common goal. Here's a clue - if you're keeping close track of the hours you spend or the tasks you handle versus what your co-author does, then you probably haven't found a partner who you trust enough to write with.

We've given a lot of thought to why we think our collaboration works and believe there are three important ingredients.

1. Neither of us has a big ego, so there are never any diva moments.

2. We share a similar work ethic. Do what needs to be done and don't worry about the credit.

3. And probably most important of all – we share a similar (maybe warped) sense of humor. When life is dark and gloomy, when we are sure we could never compose a shopping list, let alone a book, we tend to crack a joke and laugh. Writing is a tough profession, full of frequent disappointments and frustrations. Laughter is essential.

Collaboration may not be for everyone, but for Evelyn David, it's been remarkable easy and fun for us. Try it. You might like it.

Good Luck!
Evelyn David


The Sullivan Investigation Series
Murder Drops the Ball (Spring 2011)
Murder Takes the Cake - Paperback - Kindle
Murder Off the Books - Paperback - Kindle
Riley Come Home - Kindle - Nook - Smashwords
Autographed Copies and other e-book formats available through Wolfmont Press at
The Digital_Bookshop -

Brianna Sullivan Mysteries - e-book series
The Holiday Spirit(s) of Lottawatah
- Kindle - Nook - Smashwords
The Dog Days of Summer in Lottawatah
- Kindle - Nook - Smashwords
I Try Not to Drive Past Cemeteries
- Kindle - Nook - Smashwords

The authors of The Brianna Sullivan Mysteries, Murder Off the Books, Murder Takes the Cake, and the short story Riley Come Home, Evelyn David is the pseudonym for Marian Edelman Borden and Rhonda Dossett.

Marian lives in New York and is the author of 11 nonfiction books on a wide variety of topics ranging from veterans benefits to playgroups for toddlers! For more information on Marian's books, please visit her web site at 

Rhonda lives in Muskogee, Oklahoma, is the director of the coal program for the state, and in her spare time enjoys imagining and writing funny, scary mysteries. Marian and Rhonda write their mystery series via the Internet. While many fans who attend mystery conventions have now chatted with both halves of Evelyn David, Marian and Rhonda have yet to meet in person. 

Please check out Evelyn's website at and their blog – The Stiletto Gang - for information about Evelyn David's appearance schedule and writing projects.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Be My Guest - Linda Faulkner

Thanks for allowing me to visit today, Maryann.  I really enjoy your blog and am thrilled to have the opportunity to contribute.

One of the things I’ve learned in the past couple of years is that most of us writers have talents we’ve never tapped into.  Sure, we can write.  But we tend to stick to the same genres and formats.  Novelists don’t often write short stories; poets usually avoid crime fiction; and children’s authors seldom write erotica.

Stretching ourselves, however, helps hone our writing skills and, quite often, adds more money to our bank accounts.

I made this discovery by accident but it does emphasize the fact that writers write.  For a number of reasons I won’t bore you with, I found myself not having the time to write fiction from about 1994 to 2004.  That doesn’t mean, however, I didn’t write.  Without realizing it, I had incorporated my passion for writing into my day job:  workflows, forms, training and procedures manuals, magazine articles, a newspaper column, and educational texts.

It was in trade that I first became published and the skills I learned writing magazine articles and technical texts helped my fiction writing tremendously.  By necessity, I cut back on needless words and wrote tighter.  Deadlines became a fact of life, not something I flirted with or avoided.  Being asked to edit and/or revise became commonplace and no longer assaulted my ego.

Because of the money I’m earning at my technical and freelance writing, I’ve been able to sell one insurance business and devote the rest of my professional time to the insurance education business—and the writing and teaching I do for it.

Oh, and did I mention all that freelance writing netted me a contract to write a business book?  It’s the first in a series and I had a ball writing it.  I’m outlining the next book and it’s even more fun.

The more we writers open ourselves to new experiences and ways to hone our craft, the more successful we become.  And, by the way, my personal measure of success is being happy doing what I do.  As a writer, being able to spend the majority of my time writing—regardless of the topic or genre—makes me about as happy as I’m ever gonna be!

I highly recommend that writers do serious research into all avenues of pursuing a writing career.  It’s amazing how much opportunity is out there.


Linda is a prolific writer who has published fiction, non-fiction, and technical writing in a number of genres and formats.  In addition to spending over 30 years in the insurance industry as an education provider, insurance agency owner, insurance consultant, and founder/owner of three insurance businesses, Linda has been writing since childhood.

Her mystery, Second Time Around, was released in January 2009 and was nominated for a 2010 EPIC Award.  Her non-fiction book titled, Taking the Mystery Out of Business: 9 Fundamentals for Professional Success was released earlier this month.

As an entrepreneur and the founder of four businesses, Linda Faulkner knows all about what it takes to make it in the world of business. She's discovered that professional suicide is caused more by a lack of awareness than any other factor, hence her motto:  "Clueless is a dangerous place to be."

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Book Review: Taking the Mystery out of Business

Before I do the review of this book, I want to mention that I am the guest today on the blog for Creatures & Crooks Books. The owner, Lelia Taylor, is known for being a cat-lover, so she has started a series of guest blogs about cats. Sometimes she'll let a dog in, just for variety, but primarily the focus is on our feline friends.  If you have time and the inclination, come on over and meet our indestructible cat.

Now, back to the regularly scheduled program:

Taking The Mystery Out of Business
9 Fundamentals for Professional Success
Linda Faulkner
NorLights Press
Nov 2010

Here is the back jacket blurb:
Taking the Mystery Out of Business: is a fresh, practical guide to the business world.  Author Linda Faulkner lays out the fundamentals, providing examples and tips so newcomers to the business world can easily gain an understanding of the challenges they face.  Experienced professionals will benefit from a refresher on basic strategies and how to stay ahead of the competition.

While the book is aimed for those who are full-time business people, there are things a writer can learn to deal with the business side of publishing. As we all know, we have been asked more and more of late to focus on marketing and promoting as part of our responsibilities as writers, and most of us are ill-equipped to do that well.

Some of the topics that I found most helpful were having the right mental attitude, relationships, organization, and time management. These are areas that I constantly need to be working on, and her advice was most helpful. One of the main things that popped for me when I read the chapter on mental attitude is that I need to stop saying with every breath how bad I am at marketing. Negative thinking has such a powerful sway over how we interact with people. I knew that on so many other levels, but had not applied it directly to marketing. So, from now on, my mantra is going to be "I am so good at marketing, I amaze myself."

Okay, maybe that's a little over the top, but whatever I come up with it will have a positive spin.

I highly recommend this book for all writers. Linda has the background and expertise  to be totally credible, and the book is written in a comfortable, easy to understand style.

I hope you will come back tomorrow and meet Linda when she is a guest here on It's Not All Gravy. I'm sure she will be happy to answer questions, so bring 'em on.

FTC disclaimer: The book was sent to me from the publisher with the hope that I would review it and host Linda on my blog. Since I love guests here, the second request was easy to fill. But I only reviewed the book because I liked it, not because they asked me to. Other than getting some great marketing advice, I have not benefited in any other way from this arrangment.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Friday's Odds and Ends

Today's Odds and Ends are going to be a little different. I'm going to have a couple of guests on my blog this coming week and I wanted to give a little introduction today.

Monday, Linda Faulkner will be here to offer some tips on the business side of writing. As much as we hate to admit it, this is a business, and the more informed we are about how to work in that arena, the better. We can all wish for the return of the day when writers wrote and someone else did the marketing and promoting, but that day will never come back.

Linda is a prolific writer who has published fiction, non-fiction, and technical writing in a number of genres and formats.  In addition to spending over 30 years in the insurance industry as an education provider, insurance agency owner, insurance consultant, and founder/owner of three insurance businesses, Linda has been writing since childhood. Her mystery, Second Time Around, was released in January 2009 and was nominated for a 2010 EPIC Award.  Her non-fiction book titled, Taking the Mystery Out of Business: 9 Fundamentals for Professional Success was released earlier this month.

I'm sure Linda will be happy to answer questions, so check back on Monday if you want help with a marketing issue.

On Wednesday, Evelyn David will be my guest to share their experience at collaborating. Yes, Evelyn David is really two people. The authors of The Brianna Sullivan Mysteries, Murder Off the Books, Murder Takes the Cake, and the short story Riley Come Home, Evelyn David is the pseudonym for Marian Edelman Borden and Rhonda Dossett.

Marian lives in New York and is the author of 11 nonfiction books on a wide variety of topics ranging from veterans benefits to playgroups for toddlers! For more information on Marian's books, please visit her Web site at 

Rhonda lives in Muskogee, Oklahoma, is the director of the coal program for the state, and in her spare time enjoys imagining and writing funny, scary mysteries. Marian and Rhonda write their mystery series via the Internet. While many fans who attend mystery conventions have now chatted with both halves of Evelyn David, Marian and Rhonda have yet to meet in person. 

This is going to be another very helpful post for any writers who are considering collaborating. There are a lot of benefits to a collaboration. I know, I have collaborated with several other writers, but there are some pitfalls to avoid. This should prove to be a lively discussion, so plan to stop by if you have a question or two.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Pretty Pictures

My Liitle Barn
Instead of doing one of my usual rants about something, I thought I would just share some pictures I took this morning.

Texas has some of the most beautiful sunrises and sunsets that I have ever seen, and this morning was a great one. I'm glad my animals woke me up in time to see this and capture some of it.

We had several inches of snow here the other day, and it is so cold the snow is hanging around. My horse does not seem to mind it at all, as long as there is hay coming.

Our dog, Poppy, isn't bothered by the snow either, unless her ball disappears.

As any photographer knows, you can take a hundred shots before you get a special picture. Of all those I took this morning, I think this one is the best.

This one is kind of interesting. I played with cropping just a corner of a larger picture.

This process of finding just the right image is not unlike the challenge of finding just the right words to create an image in writing. Both take patience and perseverance.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Book Review: Bird Lives! by Bill Moody

Since I missed my usual Sunday review yesterday, I thought I would post one today.  Again, thanks to Carl Brookins for sending the reviews.

Bird Lives!
Author, Bill Moody
Publisher: Walker
ISBN: 0-8027-3327-1
pub. date: 1999
248 pages, hardcover

Another fine novel in the Evan Horn series.  A smoothly written psychological thriller.  it’s tight, fast-paced, and should greatly please fans of this type of novel.  It will also please fans of jazz music which today have nearly faded into oblivion.

We aren't talking about fusion jazz or the highly commercialized, big-venue stuff.  In fact, the practitioners of those kinds of highly commercialized music are the targets of a killer, the killer who forces piano player Evan
Horne to become a detective, on pain of more killings.  Horne is reluctant but he allows himself to be cajoled into taking on the assignment, first by Cooper, his detective friend, then by the FBI which cannot match Horne’s knowledge of jazz, a key element in the story.  Horne is really trying to make a comeback as a piano player after a serious injury.  Cops and Robbers is not a gig he wants to play right now.  The book is a compelling look inside the life of the performer who works the small clubs, as well as into the mind and psyche of a killer.

The title refers to Charlie "Bird" Parker, arguably one of the greatest saxophone players whoever lived. Moody evokes memories of a time when acoustic jazz was played in small smoky clubs all over the world to
audiences of deeply dedicated fans who were as obsessed with their music as hip-hoppers are today.  It was a time with roots from early Armstrong, from Coleman and Coltrane, when Brubeck and Joe Williams, Count Basie and singers like Chris Connor and Anita O'Day were on the charts.

But, whether the music and the artists draw you, or whether you like well-written crime fiction in any setting, here's a story that will draw you in and satisfy your need.  Moody is a knowledgeable master of his element.
I give this one a firm positive recommendation.

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

Friday, January 07, 2011

Friday's Odds and Ends

It might seem a bit odd to be doing this in the dead of winter, but I have been digging in my garden the last few days, turning a few rows a day. I remember when I used to be able to turn the whole plot in an afternoon. That young person is hidden somewhere under these older muscles that don't care for that kind of work anymore. Here in Texas we plant our first garden the end of January.

Republicans made history Thursday by staging the first-ever reading of the entire Constitution on the House floor as the legislative session began. While that was a noble gesture, I hope those serving in Congress will pay more than lip-service to the document.

Again, I marvel at the short sightedness of government leaders. Obama recently enacted a freeze on the salaries of government employees, starting with the ones at the bottom of the ladder. How about cutting salaries from the top down for a change? Did you know that the man who runs the U.S. Chamber of Commerce earns close to $3.9 million a year?

I am saddened and dismayed at news of the school shooting in Nebraska. We lived in Omaha for almost ten years and know families who had children at Millard South High School. Thankfully, those students have already graduated, so they were not personally affected by this tragedy, but my heart goes out to current students and staff who are dealing with all the ramifications. Back in 1993 I wrote a book about school violence, Coping with Weapons and Violence In Your School and On Your Streets, and I remember hoping that the violence young people deal with would lessen as time went on. This was before Columbine and other school shootings, and I am sad to say my wish did not come true.

To end on a brighter note. I read back in November about a couple who "gave the ultimate gift." Their 13-year old daughter, Taylor was killed in a skiing accident and her parents donated her organs, a gift that saved five lives. The parents then created a Web site for potential organ donors to sign up.  If you have ever thought about being an organ donor but just haven't gotten around to doing it, visit that site. The process for signing up is quick and easy and just may save a life.

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Good News

I called to order copies of my latest book, Open Season, for a launch party later this month and found out the first print run has sold out and there are a number of back orders. Wowser, the book just came out December 15th  for library purchase first, then to the general public the first of January. Apparently the great reviews I got from Publisher's Weekly and Library Journal have really spurred sales.

While that is great news, and I will be dancing around my office on my next break, it does pose a bit of a problem. I am not sure if I will be able to get books for the party which is scheduled for Jan 27 at a local B&B. The owner has graciously offered to host the party and we nailed down date and time, etc, just before she took off for a two-and-a-half week vacation.

My editor says the second run is in progress and books should get to the warehouse by Jan 21. I'm a bit nervous about cutting it that close on getting books, but I have no way of contacting my gracious hostess to see if we can move the date. So, here I sit with invitations to make out, and I don't know if I should send them or not. "Oh, my, Oh, my, what am I to do?"

While I try to figure this out, enjoy a little sample of the book:

Grabbing a cup of coffee, Sarah  descended the few steps into the Homicide area, relieved that her fellow officers held to tradition. No one made a big deal out of her return, and no one mentioned John’s name. His desk, cleared of all papers and personal effects, stood in sharp contrast to the clutter on nearby desks. Seeing it brought an ache to Sarah’s heart she didn’t want to feel.

Walking past the desk, Sarah pushed the pain away and headed toward the briefing room. She opened the door and glanced around, finally spotting an empty seat at a table halfway into the room. She pulled out a chair and sat down, nodding to the woman in a smart, tailored suit across the aisle from her.

Must be fresh out of the uniform, Sarah thought, remembering her first week in civvies six years ago. The professional image had seemed important then, but quickly bowed to practicality. Socks lasted longer than nylons. Reeboks were easier to run in than heels. And there wasn’t a perp alive who cared diddly about whether you wore jeans or a skirt.

The woman turned to give Sarah the briefest of nods, and she recognized the mass of tight curls haloing a creamy mocha complexion as belonging to a former patrol officer. Angel?

Couldn’t recall her last name, but the woman had been at a couple of crime scenes with Sarah. Other than being a little too eager to prove herself, Sarah remembered her as more than capable. It wasn’t surprising that she’d made detective.

Sarah’s attention was drawn to the front of the room as Sergeant Murphy hitched his belt over his ample stomach and started outlining the on-going cases. “Simms and Burtweiler, you’re still on the Highland Park B&E case.” Murphy pulled another paper from the podium. “Frankfurt and Aikins, you pulled a cush one. Crime-watch meeting over at SMU”

“Can I go, too, Sarge?” Another officer called out. “My date book’s getting a little thin.”

A wave of laughter swept the room, and Murphy waited it out without even breaking a smile. When the last chuckle subsided, he continued, “Kingsly and Johnson, you’ve got the big one today. Homicide over at Northwood Mall. Call just came in from patrol.”

Sarah turned sharply to look at Angel, and the elusive last name clicked. Something else clicked, too. An attitude that Angel wielded like a sword, heralding the proclamation, “Don’t think that the only reason I’m here is because I’m a woman and I’m black.”

Sarah hated attitudes, especially ones that might be honed to a new sharpness by recent events. She held the other woman’s gaze, trying to get a read. It wasn’t friendly. She expected judgments from people like the Reverend Billie Norton and the crowds he managed to assemble for public outcry. He didn’t have a clue what it was like on the streets. But Angel knew. Everyone who ever wore a badge knew. So where were her loyalties going to fall?

Murphy’s voice cut into her thoughts. “You two might want to hustle your butts over to the crime scene before the corpse decomposes.”

Monday, January 03, 2011

Redemption or Just Good PR?

The other day my son and I were talking about Michael Vick and his comeback with the Eagles. I said I thought he should have been banned from pro football after the whole dog-fighting fiasco. My son countered that Vick had "paid the price. He got a lot more than just a slap on the writst. He went to prison for two years and lost most of his endorsement deals. Isn't that enough?"

That was a reasonable argument -  I really do respect my son's opinions - and I was almost ready to change my mind. Maybe the spin that Vick has been fully rehabilitated really was true, and I was being unfair in hanging on to my belief that the consequences should have been greater.

Then I read a piece from Jacquielynn Floyd in The Dallas Morning News on Jan 2nd. She reminded readers that Vick did a lot more than "engage in illegal dog fighting", which was the final charge of his conviction. He participated in the killing of dogs who would not fight, or who lost fights. Some of the dogs were hung like carcasses on a line, except they weren't dead yet. Others were drowned by forcefully holding their heads in buckets of water. And at least one dog was killed when Vick and another man held it by the legs and repeatedly slammed it into the ground.

When the story first broke about the Bad Newz Kennels and the charges against Vick, it was also reported that he threw family pets into the pits with the pit bulls. Apparently he "thought it was funny to watch the pit bull dogs injure or kill the other dogs."

People who take delight in torturing and killing animals are usually labeled a sociopath. They are not simply someone who made a mistake, paid for that mistake, and is no longer a threat to society. A sociopath is defined as:  someone who behaves in a dangerous or violent way towards other people and does not feel guilty about such behavior.

And the behavior usually starts with killing animals in horrible, cruel ways.

Sure, Vick has expressed remorse and guilt over what he has done, but how much of that is genuine and how much is just enough to get back into the game? What do you think?

Sunday, January 02, 2011

Book Review: Absolution by Susan Fleet

By Susan Fleet
ISBN: 978-1-4357-0841-9
Pub. 2008, Lulu & Kindle

This brutal, dark and explicit novel has a compelling drive to the third-person narrative that makes it difficult to stop reading.  In part, I suspect, readers may be drawn on by an almost irresistible desire to learn how much further the author is willing to go.

Set in one of the most provocative cities on the continent, New Orleans, the author has created a nasty killer of similar proportions. The Sinner stalks his victims with a relentless attention to detail that one begins to wonder if he’ll get away with his crimes.  It reveals nothing to mention that he does meet an appropriate eventual end, because the mystery is in his identity, carefully concealed through most of the narrative.

As the title suggests, the psycho-sexual aberration at the heart of this killer’s impetus is rooted in an intense religiosity and the issues that raises. The sweaty pre-Katrina summer season in New Orleans only enhances the often oppressive feelings of many of the scenes.

The novel combines a multiplicity of viewpoints with several elements of subgenres of this kind of commercial fiction, relentless if sometimes mis-directed police procedures, multiple  murders, obscure and difficult motives and complicated relationships between members of a pretty large cast. The tension between the detectives and a local reporter, for example, is very well explored, as are certain racial elements.

If there are a few lapses in logic, an occasional unexplained coincidence, and some dialogue gaffes, overall, Absolution stands out as a highly credible effort.

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

Saturday, January 01, 2011

Happy New Year

It's official, 2011 started just 12 hours ago for those of us in the Central time zone of the U.S.A. I can't say exactly when for the rest of you. Get your own calculator out. LOL

A friend sent me a link to this cute New Year's Card so I thought I would share it today. It will wake up all those who are drooping from too much celebrating last night.