Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Family Pets

Today my short story, The One O'Clock Nap is featured on Daily Cheap Reads, along with two books that sound really interesting. Every time I do one of these promotional gigs, I discover another new book to buy. LOL  Here is the link if anyone is interested in checking out the books and stories.

I haven't posted an excerpt from my humorous memoir in a while, so I thought I'd share a bit with you today. Enjoy....

Needless to say, we did not adopt one of the kittens, and for a while we thought we could survive without a pet. After a few months, however, it became clear that we were not the kind of family that could live without a four-footed friend. So I started looking for a dog, and we got Ruffy, who was part German Shepard and part wolf. He was a cute little fuzzy puppy who grew up into a good-sized dog, and he stayed outside. Except for the time something scared him and he crashed through the window on the French door leading into the house from the patio.

I was in the kitchen cleaning up from supper when I heard the commotion. Anjanette ran in and announced, “Ruffy came in?”

“Who let him in.”

“Nobody. He came through the window.”

“What window?”

“The window in the door.”

“But he’s huge and that window is small.”

By then, Ruffy had come into the kitchen and was checking under the table for scraps. I went into the living room, and sure enough, one pane of glass was broken out of the French door. Luckily, it had come out clean so there were no jagged edges that could have cut the dog, but still, I had to wonder how that great big dog fit through an opening about 8 inches by 12 inches.

Ruffy was quite fierce when storms weren’t scaring him. One time when the kids were out in the back playing and a neighbor tried to come through the gate, Ruffy sat like a growling sentinel and wouldn’t let the neighbor in. I had to tell my neighbor to always come to the front door when she wanted to visit.

When he wasn’t loose to play in the yard, Ruffy had a large pen and loved to run the perimeter while one of us squirted him with the hose. That was especially refreshing in the heat of a Texas summer, but it did have one downside. The weeds and grass grew like Jack’s beanstalk inside the pen.

Ruffy was always good for a romp or a walk, and it was undeniable that he wormed his way into all our hearts. Never was that more evident then when the kids did a survey at the dinner table and decided they all liked the dog better than me.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Radio Interview

Today I will be appearing on Red River Radio with five other authors of children's and Y/A books on March 29 at 4:00pm ET, to talk about my book for tweens, Friends Forever, and share what inspired the story.

This is a special edition of the Book Discussion shows for teachers, children, parents, grandparents and anyone who loves to read children’s and Y/A books. Book Discussion is hosted by Fran Lewis, an author and book reviewer. This show will feature the best of children’s writing with authors writing in many different genres. The books are geared to early childhood children, elementary school students or young adults and teens. The lessons taught in each of these books can be used in classrooms teaching Character Education, Sunday School Classrooms, for parents to read at night to their children, and in libraries or bookstores during story time. 

The show promises to be informative and just plain fun as we talk about our books and the delight of writing for young audiences. We invite all to stop by and listen to the show and join in the discussion.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Monday Morning Musings

The headline caught my attention: Music is a lesson in "Yes, you can" By the way, I liked headlines better when they looked like headlines, not a sentence that someone forgot to punctuate. But I digress.

The headline was for a column in The Dallas Morning News written by Tracy Begland, a freelance writer and volunteer at the school her kids attend, shared some heartwarming stories about band and choir and music and how kids benefit from the experience. One girl who was not performing well in an elementary school music program, started to improve after the teacher took time to talk to her outside of class to see what the problem was. Later the girl told the teacher all she needed was a little encouragement.

Another teacher encouraged a mediocre singer by putting her in the top choir and the girl rose to the challenge. She never became the best singer, but she became a better singer and took great pride in that and herself.

Perhaps the most touching story Tracy related was about a boy with cerebral palsy. The middle school band teacher was warned by the elementary music teacher that Bill might be too much of a challenge in the more structured middle school program and perhaps it would be better if Bill's parents were encouraged to remove him from the band program. The middle school teacher didn't notify the parents and accepted the boy into the band. By the end of middle school, Bill showed some physical improvement. His drooling decreased, his fingers worked independently, and he was able to speak more clearly.

When I worked as a hospital chaplain, I routinely provided music in the rehab department. They had a room where out-patient therapy clients recovering from head trauma would gather in between sessions and they would have lunch together. I would come with my guitar once a week, and we would sing after lunch for an hour. I did not realize at first that I was doing more than bringing a little fun and good cheer, but the head of the program told me that the music was benefiting the patients physiologically. The music was helping their brains to make new synoptic connections to compensate for those that were broken.

Just like Bill. And I guess that is why this column resonated so with me.

Kudos to  all the teachers who take the time and make the effort to help and encourage kid who most need it.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Book Review: The Summer Son by Craig Lancaster

The Summer Son
Craig Lancaster
Paperback: 304 pages
Publisher: AmazonEncore (January 25, 2011)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1935597248
ISBN-13: 978-1935597247

Craig Lancaster has a knack for exploring relationships on all levels, and The Summer Son does that as well as any book out there.

Mitch Quillen has had a rocky relationship with his father that has dwindled into two phone calls a year and maybe two visits in 25 years. All of a sudden his father, Jim, starts calling frequently but won't say what has prompted the calls. Mitch doesn't need this aggravation on top of what he is already dealing with. His marriage is so strained it could easily break, and his career is not going so well either. His wife, Beth, a very wise woman, encourages Mitch to just go visit his father and see what is going on. Maybe the break will also give him an opportunity to consider the marriage and where it is going.

So Mitch goes to Montana where he spent summers after his parents divorced and he moved to Washington State with his mother. He thinks his current visit is only to find out what is going on with his father, but he ends up finding out so much more.

The book alternates between two storylines: the last summer Mitch spent with his father back in 1979, and the present. Jim is characterized as an angry, remote, hard working man who is brutal at times. He drinks, and things are not pleasant when he is tipping the bottle. An older brother, Jerry, can't take the verbal and physical abuse and leaves to join the marines, which leads to a tragedy that Mitch blames his father for.

The relationship between the man and the boy mirrors the current relationship and frustration builds between the men. Anger dominates so many scenes, and they are both unable to speak what is in their hearts until almost too late. This push and pull between the characters adds to the tension in the story and keeps the reader engrossed.

Nothing is held back in this emotional story of relationships lost and the search to find them again, and it is hard to decide which character one will root for the most. They both need redemption. It will resonate strongly with readers who are dealing with similar issues, but it is also a good read for those who are not. If you are sentimental, as I am, it will bring a few tears, as well as a smile or two. But that is what a good story is supposed to do, engage the reader on an emotional level.

FTC Disclaimer: I purchased this book for my own enjoyment and even though I know Craig, he did not pay me, or bribe me, or threaten me in any way to influence this review. I just happen to think he is a damn fine writer.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Friday's Odds and Ends

Somebody recently opined in a letter to the editor in The Dallas Morning News that teachers are overpaid. He said the average pay is $53 thousand and change, and that there is little to show for it.

First of all, that figure is not the norm. Most teachers make between $30 and $40 thousand - some even less. And they work long hard hours for that pay. If results aren't what people expect, maybe it has more to do with the work ethic of the students and not the teachers.

Earlier this year the government announced that there would be no cost of living increase in Social Security payments. The reasoning was that there has not been a significant increase in the cost of living.

Excuse me, but what about the fact that it now costs $80.00 for four bags of groceries that cost $60 last year. And now we have gas prices going out of sight.

Recently the House voted to cut funding for NPR, which received $5 million in federal funds in 2010.

As if that is really going to significantly impact the federal budget. I'm going to say this again, and continue to say it until somebody in Washington pays attention, CUT SPENDING FROM THE TOP. Sorry about the shout, but it would be so easy to fix the federal budget if we streamlined agencies and administration. Just streamlining the IRS would save hundreds of millions a year. The top agents make annual salaries in the high six figures, with entry level starting at about $50 thousand. And just recently it was announced that the IRS is requesting 1054 new staff members that will cost about $359 million in salaries and offices.

Glenn Beck just couldn't let the tsunami go by without saying it is part of God's plan to punish mankind for how we are behaving. Never mind that the Japanese people have responded with the utmost dignity and character, so what exactly are they being punished for?

Despite the floods and fires and swarms of locusts cited in the Old Testament, I do not believe that the God I believe in would use disasters to punish His people. Stuff happens because it happens, not because God wants to teach us a lesson. The lesson comes from within as we deal with tragedy and disaster.

What have you found of interest in the news this week?

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Time out for a little fun

It's been a while since I shared some of the nonsense.... er, humor, from my friend, Tracy Farr. Enjoy....

When life is getting you down, just fiddle

There comes a time in a man’s life when he wakes up one morning, feels his bones creak as he gets out of bed, and realizes his tree-climbing days are just about over. He feels old, he feels tired, he looks like he hasn’t slept in days, and the monotony of every day life is an anchor that keeps dragging him further and further down into the abyss.

It’s at that moment that a man decides his life would look a whole lot better from the saddle of a brand new Harley Davidson Fat Boy – a black one, with straight pipes kicking out un-godly decibels of thunder, with the optional Biker Babe attached and holding on for dear life.

Yes indeed! Sometimes you need a bit of spice in your life to make it through the day. But I say a Bike and a Babe might not be the most prudent way to go about it. In my opinion, if a man really wants to add some flavor to his meal, what he truly needs is a fiddle – a down-to-earth, honest to goodness, low-tech, cat scratching, fingernails-on-chalkboard, wife yelling “Get that thing out of my house before I lose my ever-loving mind” fiddle.

Poppycock you say? Nonsense you say? You think I’m full of hot air, gibberish, gabble rubbish, and baloney? Maybe so, but I bet you good money that if you were to give a man the choice between a Harley/Biker Babe and a fiddle, he’d choose the Harley/Biker Babe every time – but only because that’s what society demands of him. Deep in his heart he yearns to play fiddle. Just ask him. He’ll lie to you, of course, but you and I know the truth.

(WORDS OF ADVICE: If you decide after reading this essay that you indeed need a fiddle, keep in mind that your local music store will try to sell you a violin instead. Don’t let them. Stand your ground. Tell them you weren’t born yesterday. You want a fiddle, and you won’t leave until they sell you one. Now, back to our story.)

Like I was saying, when a man has sunk so low as to think a Harley and a Biker Babe will make life worth living again, that’s the time he desperately needs a fiddle – even though he’ll resist with all the man-ness he can muster. And why does he need it? Because learning to play one makes you realize that your life isn’t as bad as it could be.

You know that boss you can’t stand? You’ll be hugging his neck after five minutes of trying to hold a fiddle. You know all that paperwork that’s been piling up on your desk? You’ll be eager to tackle it after a day of trying to correctly hold a bow. You know that guy in the next cubicle who plays his Rap Music so loud it can be heard even through his headphones? You’ll be begging him to turn up the music after a week of listening to yourself scratch out a melody on the fiddle.

There are not many things worse than listening to a beginner fiddle player. Someone learning to play bagpipes comes to mind, as well as stepping in cat vomit in the middle of the night, Macaroni and Cheese Pizza, and Oprah. But after that, I’m hard pressed to think of anything else.

Playing the fiddle is one of those things that takes time to learn. Some people develop the skill quickly, while others keep scratching until the day they die and their relatives are happy to put them in their grave – along with the fiddle.

But when it’s all said and done, and you’ve accomplished what you’ve set out to do, you’ll feel as if you could leap tall buildings in a single bound; you’ll feel more powerful than a locomotive; you’ll feel as if you can run faster than a speeding bullet. And when you finally have this unimaginable feeling of invincibility, that’s the time you head over to your friendly neighborhood Harley shop, pick out a sweet ride, and take your pick of Biker Babes.

And what about the little woman at home? No need to worry. You’re invincible! Besides, she’s been debating on whether to kick you out of the house or shoot you ever since the day you brought home that fiddle. She’ll be happy to see you go. She might even pack you a lunch.

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

Monday, March 21, 2011

Monday Morning Musings

First, I want to thank everyone who has bought copies of One Small Victory this month for their Kindles. The book has become quite popular, and I am so thrilled that Jenny's story is getting read by so many people.

Today I am blogging on All Day, All Night Romance Divas about the tools writers use and how they have evolved. Stop on by if you get a chance. 

I spent most of the weekend unconnected from the Internet and even the news. It was kind of strange as I am seldom totally disconneced. Even when I am on vacation, I will check e-mail and get news online or on television, but I didn't do that this weekend. Wasn't on Facebook or Twitter either. So I don't have much to muse about.

However, I did read something interesting in the Saturday newspaper. It was in the advice column written by Carolyn Hax in response to a woman who wanted to know what to do when one partner in a marriage feels like they are doing all the heavy lifting. Carolyn encouraged the woman to have a frank discussion with her husband about what needs to be done to maintain the home and see what he is willing to do to help. She also encouraged the woman to  review her expectations and perhaps lower the bar. Carolyn concluded by writing:

There comes a point when standing up for yourself fails, when saying how you feel about it fails, when doing everything in angry silence fails, when doing your own cooking, laundry and dishes fails, and that point is when the marriage fails. Best to bring in the disaster team before your anger at the unfairness swallows up all the love."
I think we have all been there at some point, whether it be in a marriage or some other relationship. I can remember being angry with my siblings when I thought they were getting away with not doing their chores and my parents were all over me like hot tar. There were many moments when my anger over something my kids did, or didn't do, clouded my memory of the joy I felt when they were born. And there have been plenty of times I have been angry at my husband and that anger crowded out any feeling of love.

A long time ago, I learned something that helps me when the anger wants to dominate. Love is a decision. We can separate and protect that loving part of our relationships from the things that make us angry. It's part of unconditional love. You can make me so angry that I want to throttle you, but I can still love you if I choose. And it's funny, the more I choose, the less those other issues seem to matter.

How do you deal with the anger issues in your relationships? 

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Book Review: Tomb With a View

Tomb With A View
By Casey Daniels
ISBN: 9780425235515
2010 mass market release
from Berkley Prime Crime

Pair one of our less interesting presidents, James A. Garfield, with a cute slender, sexually aware private detective, cum medium, and what do you get? You get this delightful cozy mystery, one of several in Casey Daniel’s series of Pepper Martin adventures.

But be warned. If you don’t like a bad pun or two, several tongue-in-cheek jokes and a huge riff on one of the presidents of these United States, this delightful novel isn’t your cup of tea.

On the other hand, if your humor runs to the mildly risqué, you don’t mind a self-aware sexy cemetery tour guide(!) who happens to be reluctantly channeling the dead President, and you enjoy fast-paced,well-conceived, criminally artful plots, this latest adventure of Pepper Martin is definitely a winner.

Around every prominent figure in history there swirls scandal and scandal attracts the greedy.  If this author is to be believed, an incredibly audacious land swap plan was under way when anarchist Charles Guiteau fired the bullet that cut short what might have been a sterling presidential career.

That’s all in the past. What’s here and now, is a well-managed funny, and twisty story peopled with interesting characters, not the least of whom is one well-named, Pepper Martin.

Carl Brookins,
Devils Island, Bloody Halls, Reunion, Red Sky
more at Kindle, Smashwords & OmniLit!


Thank you for sharing another review, Carl. Since he does not include a  FTC disclaimer when he sends these out for us to use, I will just state that I did not receive any benefit from this review, other than the fact that I did not have to write a post. And I don't pay him to send them and he does not pay me for using them.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Friday's Odds and Ends

Since the news from Japan continues to be so depressing, I thought I would focusing on positives this week…

A Methodist church in Lewisville, Texas has recently opened a drop-in teen shelter for kids who are homeless and need a place for support. At the shelter teens can get tutoring, mentoring for college applications, Internet access, and a permanent address for college correspondence.

What a wonderful idea, and good for that congregation for stepping up to help teens who want to go to college but see no way of accomplishing even the first steps toward making that happen.

Ebby Halliday, the founder of one of the largest and most successful real estate agencies, recently celebrated her 100th birthday in Dallas. According to all reports, she is still spry, sharp, and well-connected to family and friends.

I'm sure her good health, long life, and wide circle of friends and family mean as much to her as the success she has had since she started as a merchant in 1945, selling hats in Dallas.

Parents in Dallas can now access information about their child's school assignments, tests and attendance via a "parent portal." The portal is up at 50 campuses in the DISD, with plans to eventually have it district wide.

What a great way to use the advances in technology to help parents be more involved in their child's education.

And speaking of using technology in a really positive way. I just read an article by Trudy Rubin, a columnist for the Philadelphia Inquirer about how the recent revolution in Egypt was organized in large part by using Facebook. Young people created a Facebook memorial page called "We are all Khaled Said" in honor of the blogger who was beaten to death by police for protesting police corruption in his blog. They then connected with an Egyptian youth organization and a political group supporting the presidency of opposition candidate Mohammed ElBaradei - both on Facebook.

The connecting continued over several months while planning the massive protests and demonstrations on January 25th that toppled the Egyptian regime 18 days later. I guess we can never underestimate the power of Facebook to do more than just let us post our daily status.

And finally, kudos to the brave men and women who are working in the nuclear power plants in Japan, trying to save their countrymen. What an amazing act of courage.

What good news have you run across this week?

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Where on Earth is Maryann Miller?

Today I am a guest on Patricia Stoltey's blog, where we are sharing tips on characterization. Stop on by if you can to read  what we all have to say about the people in our stories.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Responding to Japan Disaster

The other day while we were watching news reports from Japan, my husband wondered aloud when the Blame Game would start. That's what usually happens after a disaster of that magnitude... well actually after a disaster of any magnitude. We have a day or two or three of collective horror and sadness, and then we have to find someone or some entity to be the focus of our anger. We need to vent that emotion, strike out.

Surprisingly, the Blame Game has not started, but the media is busy noting all the ways this disaster is having bad effects for all of us. News sources are leading with stories about the nuclear melt-down and how that will affect people in far reaches of the world. Then there are all the stories about how the disaster impacted the stock market, and oil prices, and commodities trading.

What happened to the stories about the people of Japan? The families that lost loved ones. The people standing in line for hours to get into a supermarket that may have nothing but empty shelves. The heroic rescues of people trapped in rubble for days. The people who voluntarily stopped using non-essential electrical appliances.

And perhaps the most profound new item, at least to me, was about the fact that there has been no rioting or looting by the Japanese people. Perhaps it is because of the strong sense of community that comes from their Buddhist tradition, but whatever influences such restraint and respect for others is most commendable. 

I'm not saying that those other stories are not important. They certainly are. I'm just saying that I wish we could really hold up these positive stories as an example of "grace under fire."

If you would like to help the people of Japan in some way, here is a Web site that has a list of organizations that are providing relief and looking for donations. There is even one man, an American writer, Jason Kelly who is collecting socks. That may sound a bit silly, but he believes that "All human being are comforted by a clean, fresh pair of socks."

Monday, March 14, 2011

Monday Morning Musings

Does anyone but me hate daylight savings time? I woke up this morning at my usual time according to my internal clock, but it was an hour later according the clock on my nightstand. My watch agreed with the clock on the nightstand.

Getting out of bed at 7 in the morning and starting a day that includes an hour or so of outside chores and exercise, then breakfast, usually gets me into my office to start writing by 9:30. As I type this it is 10:50, and other than a quick check of e-mail, I haven't accomplished one writing-related task, let alone written a word on a new book. All too soon it will be time for noon chores and lunch. That'll put  me back in my office by 1, and I'll be wondering where the heck the day went.

Thinking about this difficulty I have adjusting, made me wonder if anyone has ever let a character deal with this in a story. Might be an interesting bit of characterization. Would one bear it stoically, because that is the right and proper thing to do? Or would one rant and rail against it the way I do?

Leave the #*&@^% time alone, would you!

Whew. Now that I have that off my chest, I want to thank everyone who ordered my book, One Small Victory, during the special celebration of Read An E-Book Week last week. The book made the best-seller list in suspense and thriller at Smashwords, going as high as number 3 and settling at the end in the number 10 spot. It also made the best-seller list on Kindle in the free books category, hitting number 2 for one day, then settling in at # 4.

It may take a while for those folks who ordered the book to get around to reading it. I know I ordered a number of books, some for free and some at deep discounts, and it will take time for me to read them all. But I will read them and leave a quick review and rating on Amazon and Smashwords if I like them. I hope other readers will, too. One of the things we writers are learning is that buzz about a title can make all the difference, and the buzz starts with readers liking a book and rating it on the online markets. So do your part. Support your favorite authors.

That's it for now. Hope everyone has a wonderful day and a productive week, and adjusts quickly to this stupid time change.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Book Review: Kind of Blue by Miles Corwin

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

Kind of Blue
by Miles Corwin
ISBN: 978-1-60809-007-5
From Oceanview Publishing
323 pages, November, 2010

A few years ago, this author wrote a couple of serious non-fiction books about the Los Angeles Police Department.  He spent a lot of time with cops in that city and wrote books that became best-sellers, The Killing Season and And Still We Rise.

Now he’s back with a powerful persistent novel that draws from the same source material. Kind of Blue is not your ordinary police procedural. It constantly reminds readers that the cops involved are no super beings, rising above the worst humanity can offer to save their city; nor are they all thugs, wife beaters, and abusers.  They are ordinary citizens, sometimes corrupt, sometimes honorable and brilliant, often prejudiced, but too often willing to make the supreme sacrifice for the citizens they serve. And, occasionally they violate the rights of criminals.

Corwin bends a keen and discerning eye on this stew of varying humanity to fashion a fascinating novel of human relations. Asher Levine, a dedicated, mostly honest cop, is one of LA’s best homicide detectives. But as the book opens, Levine is a former cop, having abruptly resigned after he was unable to protect a vital witness from being murdered. The death of Latisha Patton, never solved, devastates the detective and causes him to question his abilities, even though it is clear that apart from his dedication, he is a brilliant detective. 

A year passes and a decorated officer has died, murdered in his home and the special homicide squad needs Levine’s help solving the case. More to the point, certain key executives in the LAPD hierarchy need the case solved or at least put to rest. Levine has had that year to discover his resignation hurts him more than it does the LAPD. With clearance from the top cops, Levine is fast tracked back to the force and handed the case.

The problem, of course, is that Levine won’t just concentrate on the current case and thus all sorts of actions that need to be buried along with the ghost of Latisha Patton. Traces of other earlier activity begin to resurface as Ash Levine winds his way through labyrinthine police and social structures of the street until he comes to the shocking final solution.

The title is apt, a riff on a 50 year old Miles Davis studio piece, the cover fits the mood and the attitude of the novel. All the elements fit nicely and it was a pleasure to read this excellent book.

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

Friday, March 11, 2011

Friday's Odds and Ends

First I want to welcome my new followers. Thanks for connecting with me. I have enjoyed the new blogs I found via followers and love the way we are all finding each other was we crawl along the World Wide Web. Sometimes when I stop and think about the impact the Internet has had on our lives, I am simply amazed. Thank you, Al Gore... Oh, wait. It was really Tim Berners-Lee who invented the World Wide Web in 1991. Sorry Al, you lose again.

And now to our regularly scheduled program....

Howard Marlowe, president of the American League of Lobbyists recently had this to say about the moral quandary lobbyists face in accepting money to devend unsavory Middle Eastern Governments, "Thes kinds of regimes have a lot of money at their disposal, and that's a great attraction… You have to have a strong stomach."

So… Some Americans are making money off despicable mid-east leaders while other American's are dying fighting the terrorists that come out of many of those middle east countries? And just why do they need defending and to whom?

Say it isn't so.... Mark Cuban, the flamboyant owner of the Dallas Mavericks is negotiating with the actor who shall remain nameless because I do not want to add to his Google ranking for a reality TV show. Cuban owns the television station HDNet and said "We always look for interesting programming featuring interesting people doing interesting things.

Hmmm. My definition of interesting does not include someone talking about his addictions, overdoses, and the benefits of sleeping with porn stars.

And now to end on a positive note. Two women in Royse City Texas have walked around the world. Not literally, but the friends who have been walking together since 1978 on a daily basis  for exercise, recently realized they were about to closk mile 24, 901. They decided to hold a parade for their last mile and then hosted a party for friends. 

Way to go, ladies. For several years I walked with a friend several mornings a week. I think our total miles were maybe the distance between Dallas and the Mexico border. I was proud of that accomplishment until I read about these two ladies.

As always, I welcome comments, even if we don't agree on a topic. Getting other points of view broadens our perspectives.

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Talk About Absurd

The Supreme Court recently overturned a judgment by a district court that had been given to the Westboro Baptist Church in Kansas prohibiting them from demonstrating at the funerals of military men and women.

This group, that calls itself a church, shows up at the funerals carrying signs that read:  "Thank God for Dead Soldiers" and "God Hates America." The members have no respect for the dignity of the ceremony they are disrupting, nor the feelings of the family and friends who are mourning a loved one. Do they not even know that the proper respect for the dead calls for decorum? Many of us still stop our cars when a funeral procession passes, and I recently saw a State Trooper standing with his hat on his chest as he stopped traffic on a county road so a funeral procession could quietly roll out of a church parking lot. And further down the road when the line of cars turned into a cemetery, that same trooper stood in silent respect.

Compare that quiet, somber moment to the chaos of a demonstration with people shouting and waving placards. Imagine if you were burying your son or daughter, or wife or husband, how you would feel.

Oh, the disgrace, and yet our Supreme Court, with only one dissenter, ruled that the protesters are protected by First Amendment rights.

I'm sorry. I don't think the men who drafted the Constitution of the United States, ever envisioned a time when our moral compass would be so far off kilter that we would allow such ugly and debasing behavior and give it protection under the law.

Shame on the Supreme Court, and shame on us for supporting a society that is swirling closer and closer to the drain.

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

A Day of Promoting

Even though most of us writers would much rather be writing than promoting, this is still something we need to do. What good does it do to write books if nobody knows they are available, right? So today I'm wearing my PR hat.

First, I am excited to announce that  I am a guest on Chris Redding's blog with an excerpt from my new mystery, Open Season. Stop on by if you get a chance and meet Sarah, one of the detectives in the book. She's having a face-off with the internal affairs investigator and holding her own.

This evening I will be on  Passionate World Radio (PWR)  at 8:30 ET where we will be talking about One Small Victory and how the book came to be. The story was inspired by a woman who worked as a confidential informant to bring down a major drug distributor, and she is someone we all can admire. If you have the time, I would be delighted if you came by and listened. Once on the site, just click on the Listen Now button.

The host for the show, Lillian Cauldwell, is the founder and CEO of PWR, and she is also an author. She knows the difficulties of balancing the creative and marketing sides of the writing business, so the show will be informative about those issues as well.

One Small Victory was just released in paperback by BooksWeLove Publishing Partners. Even though it is selling well as an e-book via Smashwords and Kindle, I know there are still lots of people who like the paperback books, so I am happy to have this available for those readers.

Monday, March 07, 2011

More Book Deals

This special celebration for the anniversary of the first e-book has created quite an interest on the Internet with authors and publishers offering great deals on e-books.

I posted yesterday with some links to the official Read An eBook site where some authors are listed. You can also go directly to Smashwords and see which authors there are participating in the special sales. I have my suspense novel, One Small Victory, as a free download at Smashwords - a coupon is prominently displayed in the upper right corner. I also have it on my Web site for download. I've heard from readers today that the Smashwords site is sometimes overloaded, so you can do a quick free download from my Web site.

Books We Love Publishing Partners, my new publisher for Friends Forever and the paperback version of One Small Victory, is also celebrating Read an eBook Week by offering special deals. All BWLPP titles regularly priced $2.99 or higher are on sale for half price at Smashwords! Find the coupon code on each book page, and have fun shopping!

Sunday, March 06, 2011

Read an E-Book Week

E-books are celebrating a 40th anniversary. Wow, I  did not know they had been in existence that long, as I first heard about them about 25 years ago. Some pioneering e-publishers predicted that e-books would have a huge surge in popularity within 5 years, but it took another 20 years for the surge to really hit. Now we are facing an exciting time for authors and publishers with the popularity of dedicated reading devices and publishing programs that get more books out for readers to enjoy.

E-books began in 1971 when Michael Hart was given $100,000.00 worth of computer time with a Xerox Sigma V mainframe computer. He decided that the greatest value created by computers would not be computing, but would be the storage, retrieval, and searching of what was stored in our libraries. The first "e-book" was born—a copy of the Declaration of Independence. Those humble beginnings would become Project Gutenberg. Today Project Gutenberg houses 20,000 free texts and over 100,000 books are available through their partners. Today over 3,000,000 books are downloaded each month. For more of the history of printing and the evolution to where we are now visit the Web site of Read an E-Book Week.

There, you will also find a list of authors, myself included, who are participating in a week-long celebration by offering deeply discounted or free books for reading on various electronic devices. To view the list of authors and their book, click on the E-Book Week Specials tab on the left sidebar.

Additionally, I am offering a free read of my suspense novel, One Small Victory, at Smashwords, one of the major venues for authors to publish their work.. The coupon code is prominently displayed near the top of the page.

Even if  you don't have a dedicated e-book reader, most e-books are formatted for Palm, iPhone, iPad, and other electronic devices, and there are Kindle apps for most of them. This is a great opportunity to stock up for some summer reading and try some new authors. I hope you will give it a try.

Friday, March 04, 2011

Friday's Odds and Ends

Before we get to the regularly scheduled program, I have a guest piece on Elizabeth Spann Craig's Mystery Writing is Murder blog. We are talking about jigsaw puzzles and writing and what they have in common. Stop on by if you have a minute.

Add caption
Dennis Montgomery, who owns a California computer company, sold fake technology that was supposed to assist in tracking terrorists to the military. It took two years for the Air Force to cancel the contract after the fraud was brought to light. The extent of the fraud may never be known because the Justice Department believes that releasing the details would be a threat to national security. More details HERE

What is wrong with that picture? Is the bureaucracy of the military so over loaded that someone could not have pulled the plug in, say, a week and saved millions?  Do we have a right to know the details of this fraud?

Obama's 2012 budget cuts calls for reduction of the charitable donation tax deduction. Rick Dunham, CEO of a company that assists non-profits wrote and op-ed piece in which he stated, "Our charitable deduction ensures that the wealthy have an incentive to share their financial blessings with the less fortunate."

While I agree that the deduction should stay in place, the idealist in me wishes the wealthy could donate because it is a good thing to do. Why does everything have to include a personal benefit? Have we totally succumbed to the the "What's in it for me?" mentality?

The latest trend in gardening for the busy family. There are now expert gardeners, who, for a fee, will come to your home and create a garden. They bring tools, compost, mulch, hoses, seeds and starter plants and will build raised beds, then plant your garden. If you are too busy to tend to the garden, they will come out regularly to pull weeds and take care of any other gardening chores. They'll even come out and harvest. According to an article in The Dallas Morning News, this approach to gardening has become popular in Dallas, Austin, and Seattle, but I wouldn't be surprised if it is not springing up in other places.

I'll admit that I have been tempted in recent years to hire someone to dig my garden, I don't think I would go so far as to hire a company to do it all. Some of the physiological benefits of gardening are lost if you are not putting your own hands in the dirt to plant the seeds and nurturing the plants until you are ready to pick that first juicy tomato.

What about you? Would you hire folks to do a garden?

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

New Opportunities in Publishing

This is an exciting time for writers with all the new avenues of publication opening up with e-books and digital publishing, and I have enjoyed hearing of the success of writers like Joe Konrath, LJ Sellers, and others who have sold hundreds of books. (They also have great tips and advice on self-publishing.)

I have put some titles up on Kindle and Smashwords myself, but recently decided to go through Books We Love Publishing Partners and let them do all the formatting for the different venues. I am not technically savvy and my learning curve for all things computer is very steep. Just ask my kids who dread the e-mail from me with the subject line "Help."

There are pros and cons to going with a publisher as opposed to uploading books independently, and one of the reasons I decided to do the former is because I've had a long relationship with Books We Love. They have been in the business of connecting authors and readers for several years and that connecting is still going on with the publishing arm of the business. Sure, I will still have to do a lot of my own promoting, as most of us writers have to do now, but BWLPP is doing some, too. That is a real advantage for me, as well, because promoting is my second least favorite thing to do.

BWLPP is taking a small percentage of the book sales, and I am willing to give them that for the ease of publication, as well as the added promotion. Many other writers are doing it all themselves, and I admire them for that. But it is not for me, and I think we all need to take the path of most comfort when it comes to taking advantage of these new opportunities.

What about you? Would you go totally independent, or take advantage of a publisher?

One Small Victory is now available in paperback. It has been on Kindle and Smashwords for almost a year and BWLPP just released the paper edition via CreateSpace on Amazon.

Friends Forever is enjoying a new life in paperback and as an e-book, also through BWLPP. It has been revised and updated since it's first brief publication years ago.