Monday, May 30, 2011

Great Thinkers

I hope everyone had a fun and safe Memorial Weekend. Today, Memorial Day, we take a moment to stop and remember all of the people dear to us who are no longer near to us. This is my moment. Pause.

Okay, now we really do need a bit of humor from Slim Randles. Enjoy....

When, in the course of rural events, it becomes necessary to straighten out the world situation, invent a new gadget, or provide for the common fishing good, there are two venues: coffee or the hunker.

It struck Dud out at the sales barn the other day. No coffee, therefore no choice. All the signs were there. He turned quiet and he started checking the weed margins for a grass blade.

In a hunker, two props are necessary: a stick and a blade of grass. Oh, sometimes straw is substituted, but it's kinda like trading your French fries for cottage cheese on the lunch special: they'll do it, but it isn't the same.

Dud found a good stick, finger thick, about a foot long. Cottonwood, maybe. Then he found a tall blade of orchard grass, broke it until it was hunker length, and stuck it in his mouth. Doc and I, having witnessed these events, began looking for our own grass blades, albeit reluctantly. Our knees aren't as young as Dud's.

That's when Dud went headlong into Phase Three. Grass... check. Stick ... ten-four. Phase Three, the right location.

Dud began turning slowly, checking the ground beneath his feet, lining up with the azimuth in just the right way so as to maximize his powers, keeping the sun in the proper location to light his face while not causing his own eyes to squint. Slowly he turned, like a mare about to choose her foaling bed, then a silent string was pulled in Dud's mind, releasing the knees, and he dropped down into a proper country hunker.

Doc and I stuck our grass between our teeth and - with occasional moans - followed suit.

Dud silently brushed a clean slate of dirt in front of him and doodled on it.

"Been thinking," he said.

Doc and I nodded and checked the doodle to see if we could recognize anything about the design. Nope.

"I think, Dud said, "if we could just irrigate more, we'd get more rain."
~~~~~~~~~~~~

Brought to you by your friends at Cabela’s  www.cabelas.com remind you to take a kid fishing with you this spring.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Book Review: A New Lu by Laura Castoro

This is a review I did for this book when it first came out in 2005, but the book is still available so I thought I would give it a plug. In preparing two week's worth of blogs in advance before leaving on my vacation, I did not have time to write another review.  I'm scrambling folks. LOL

A New Lu
Laura Castoro 
Publisher: Red Dress Ink (March 1, 2005)  
ISBN-10: 0373895143

Written with wit and wisdom, "A New Lu" makes a grand entrance into the Chick Lit genre with a cast of delightful, well-developed characters and laugh out loud humor and is a delight to read. Shortly before her fiftieth birthday Lu thinks the only difficulty in her life will be adjusting to being divorced, she never dreams she will have to do that while carrying an 'oops' child.

Lu's new boss at "Five-O" magazine has just suggested that Lu do a complete makeover and chronicle it in her monthly column to show readers that you don't have to look fifty even if you are. Lu can't believe it. The vision at "Five-O" has always been about accepting the aging process. She reminds her boss of what Gloria Steinem once said, "This is what fifty looks like."

The insight that the reader gets about this acceptance of who and what we are is an added bonus to a great story populated with delightful characters.

Lu's new boss at "Five-O" magazine has just suggested that Lu do a complete makeover and chronicle it in her monthly column to show readers that you don't have to look fifty even if you are. Lu can't believe it. The vision at "Five-O" has always been about accepting the aging process. She reminds her boss of what Gloria Steinem once said, "This is what fifty looks like."

The insight that the reader gets about this acceptance of who and what we are is an added bonus to a great story. When Lu decides to have the baby, her soon-to-be-married daughter is horrified. What will people think? Her ex-husband can't even say the word 'baby.' The pregnancy news is met with disbelief at work until the boss gets a new idea. Lu can chronicle her late-life pregnancy for the readers of "Five-O." "I want all the juicy details. Every awful twitch. You're prepared to do that?"

Because she needs her job so desperately, Lu agrees.

As the baby grows within her, Lu also grows and changes and realizes many things about herself, past relationships and new relationships. She also makes what appears to be bizarre choices, but as Lu puts it "...if you want rational, don't go to a pregnant woman."

For readers who have enjoyed "Loose Screws" by Karen Templeton and "Inappropriate Men" by Stacey Ballis, "A New Lu" should join those novels on their bookshelves.

~~~~~~~~~~~

FTC disclaimer: In all fairness, I must say that Laura is a good friend of mine. She is as much mentor as friend and that may influence what I think of her work. However, I don't read and review everything she writes. Just what I truly enjoy and consider the best of what she can do. Not that her other books are less-than. But as with any writer, some work stands above others, and Laura's women's fiction does stand tall.

Friday, May 27, 2011

In Sickness and in Health

I have been in Michigan for almost a week and tomorrow I will be at Horizon Books in Cadillac from 1-3 in the afternoon. If you live near Cadillac, I'd love for you to stop by. 115 S. Mitchell Street
Cadillac, MI 49601 


The following is an excerpt from my humorous memoir, A Dead Tomato Plant and a Paycheck. The book is still looking for a home, but a door has been opened. I have a publisher who has asked for the full proposal, so maybe, maybe....  Enjoy.

Have you ever noticed that when a kid is sick, he expects meals in bed, unlimited sympathy and continuous entertainment? Or when a husband is sick, he simply takes the day off work, stays in bed, and accepts juice, aspirin, and a kind word in four hour intervals? But heaven help a mother who has a cold or the 24-hour flu. Somehow she has to carry on as if all was well, and about the only way she can get any sympathy or understanding is to be approaching death's doorway. Even then, one of the kids might ask if she has the time to wash his soccer uniform before she passes from this earthly life.

I'd like to see some type of parent-child contract drawn up that would grant equal time, consideration, and cough medicine in the middle of the night to mothers.

I'd like to see a clause included in this contract stating emphatically that when a child comes home from school to find his mother still in her robe, it doesn't mean that she was just too lazy to get dressed that day.

If a mother has red watery eyes and a runny nose, it isn't from peeling onions or from watching a sad scene in an afternoon soap opera.

If a mother's face appears to be unusually flushed, it isn't from the exhilaration of an afternoon tryst. 

If a mother is making 25 trips to the bathroom in an hour, it isn't just from a need for some solitude and serenity.

If a mother doesn't have the strength to drag her body off the couch to cook dinner, it isn't because she wore herself out playing tennis all day.

I used to believe that if we could get our families to recognize the fact that we were indeed sick, then we could work on getting them to respond in a positive helpful manner. To accomplish that goal, I considered making a big sign and hanging it in the living room where everyone could see it as they come in the door:

"Attention! The mother in this house is sick and has gone to bed. Do not disturb unless extreme emergency arises. (Needing to go to volleyball practice does not qualify.) Somebody cook supper. Wash your own dishes and gym clothes. It would be nice if someone came to check on me in about four hours to see if I'm still alive and to bring me some orange juice. Love, Mom."

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Let the Adventures Begin

Today's post is from Tracy Farr. He has a twisted sense of humor to say the least. When he first started writing a column for me at WinnsboroToday.com, his blog was related to a fictional town, Stinky Creek, Texas. Then he started another blog at TracyFarr.net. His latest is School Bus Cowboy and it has the best of all of his writing. If you visit his blog, be sure to read his May 16th post about breakfast cereal. Enjoy....

Just the other night as I was driving home from Dallas, an SUV zoomed past me and I could see the kids sitting in the backseat watching a video. “Wall-E” it was – right there in the backseat. So since I’d never seen the movie, I sped up and stayed right on their bumper to watch it. It wasn’t quite as relaxing as a drive-in theater, but sometimes you have to take what you can get.

The movie wasn’t half bad (even without sound), but when it was over, I started feeling sorry for those kids, as well as all the other kids of today. They’re not near as lucky as we were when we were kids. Kids of today never go anywhere without a hand-held video game or a stack of movies. And it doesn’t matter if they’re driving to Washington to visit the Smithsonian or they’re going down the street to Wal-Mart. See kid. See car. See kid get in car. See kid in car watching “Wall-E.” See parents thankful their kid is quiet for two hours.

When we were kids, we didn’t have such things as video games and DVD players and cell phones and text messaging. Nosirree! We had it much better. We had comic books and Etch-A-Sketch and portable chess games and maps so we’d know where we were. And if we got tired of all those luxuries, we made up games like “Count The Road Kill Between Towns” or “Stare Your Brother Down Until He Punches You In The Gut.”

Ah, yes. Those were the days.

My favorite long-trip activity was to follow our route on a map, marking off the towns as we passed them by. I’d say, “We’re coming up on Childress. Only 509 more miles till we get to Wolf Creek Pass.” And when we got to the other side of Childress I’d say, “That was Childress. Next town is Memphis. Only 506 miles to Wolf Creek Pass.”

I’d do my little human GPS thing until my Dad would say, “I’m coming up on a Truck Stop. You mention how many more miles we have left to Wolf Creek Pass and I’m leaving you there.”

Kids these days don’t care about maps. They don’t appreciate the joys of unfolding a new one, trying to follow along from town to town, and then trying to fold the map back exactly the way it came – which, by the way, requires an engineering degree to do.

Maps are a part of our American legacy. Our Founding Fathers came to this country using maps; they founded Virginia using maps; they went west and discovered Hollywood, Rodeo Drive and Big Screen TVs using maps. Of course, those maps were not folded – they were rolled up. Trying to fold a map back then would have taken precious time away from exploring the “New World.” And that sense of exploration is what is missing when our kids watch “Power Rangers” instead of counting the utility poles between Wichita Falls and Amarillo. (“Count The Utility Poles” was another fun activity our parents challenged us to do)

When we were kids, parents were much more inventive and creative than the parents of today. They had to make up things to do, tell stories, challenge kids at who could be the quietest the longest, and a whole lot of other fun-loving trip activities. Parents had to think on their feet, they had to manage crises on the go, they had to be sneaky, inventive, and resourceful.

Parents of today are taking the easy way out of traveling when they say, “Put in another video.” Those parents are actually sending a message to their children that it’s better to interact with Disney instead of with the people and world around them. Well, I say instead of letting Little Johnny watch “The Lion King,” let him count the buzzards that are circling that dead cow out in the middle of the pasture between Amarillo and Dumas. Let him experience the “Circle of Life” up close and personal – and in extreme high definition.

So the next time you go on a trip, whether it be to Branson, Missouri or the K-Mart down the street, I dare you – I triple-dog dare you – to leave the DVDs and the video games at home and come up with something to do on your own. Flex those little grey cells up there in that noggin of yours. When you do, that’s when the true adventures will really begin.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Who Stole the Newspapers?

While I am out of town, I am going to let my two writing friends, Slim Randles and Tracy Farr entertain you with their humor. They were regular columnists for WinnsboroToday.com, when we were still publishing that online magazine, and I so enjoyed their wit and wisdom. They were both kind enough to tell me that I could use their columns now and then on my blog, and that comes in real handy right now as I prepare for my two week vacation and book tour. Enjoy....

The newspapers began disappearing about two weeks ago. Vanishing like smoke in a high wind. The paper boy swore he delivered all of them, same as usual. Same as his older brother had before him. Said he was able to “porch” quite a few. 

But when our copies of the Valley Weekly Miracle kept disappearing, it wasn’t long before gab sessions were taking place in the beauty parlors and barber shops and the coffee shops regarding our local crime spree.

Theft hasn’t really been a problem here, you see. Usually something that starts out looking like theft turns out to be something pretty innocent that just happened to be complicated by a lack of communication. Oh, we’re not completely free of theft, of   course. Like last summer, when someone took Bert’s new sprinkler off his hose in broad daylight in the front yard. For several days, Bert drove around looking at the patterns our sprinklers had, trying to locate his own. It was no use. He finally reported to us down at the Mule Barn truck stop’s philosophy counter and world dilemma think tank that this sticky-fingered act of legerdemain was stacking up to be the work of a grab-it-and-git drive-by bandit from out of town.

That’s why, when the papers began disappearing from our front lawns and even from the sanctity of our front porches, we knew something had to be done.

Several volunteers from the Mule Barn agreed to rise early and watch to see if their papers vanished and who did it.

This Neighborhood Watch exercise worked. Blackie was caught in the act and his crime spree ended before very many papers had vanished.

Then Blackie was taken home and his owner was informed that this was one Labrador retriever who had retrieved his last paper without paying for a subscription. Piles of newspapers were found in Blackie’s house and behind the swing set.

The community was given a guarantee that on delivery mornings, Blackie would remain on the chain until everyone had their papers and coffee.

Crime cannot be allowed to continue. Especially when everyone needs to read the paper to see how much the editor dared to print.
----------

Sponsored by: www.pearsonranch.com.  Farm direct, delicious, California navel & Valencia oranges.

Slim's Web site  And check out Slim's books: Sun Dog Days, Raven's Prey, and The Long Dark.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Book Review - The Faltese Malcom by Peter E. Abresch

The Faltese Malcom
Peter Abresch 
Paperback: 350 pages 
Publisher: CreateSpace (October 3, 2009) 
ISBN-10: 144042232X 
ISBN-13: 978-1440422324

First off, I have to apologize to Peter for having his book for so long and just now getting around to reading it for review. To be honest, I think he sent it to me six months ago and probably thought I hated it and that's why I didn't write a review.

On the contrary, I enjoyed the book a lot. I wish the presentation - cover art and  inside layout - were better. The story deserves better. It is a well-written, clever spoof on the noir stories like The Maltese Falcon, and the central character is funny and interesting.

Joshua Punch is an artist who was commissioned to do a mural and never paid. He goes to Washington D.C. to try to collect and is sucked into a mystery of international proportions. He also has this strange tendency to swap places with a PI in San Francisco every time he is bonked on the head. Not only is it disconcerting to travel across the country in literally the blink of an eye, it is doubly disconcerting to wake up in 1927.

Stated as such, the premise sounds a little too wacky to be believable, but it works. You do have to suspend your disbelief. It is fiction, after all, but once you buy your ticket to go along for the ride, it is a fun ride, indeed. Peter captures the feel and the language of the late 20s: "Someone plugged him. One pill, right through the pump."  

There is plenty of danger and intrigue on both ends of this time continuum. In the 20's the PI S. Spaid is on the trail of an artifact that was stolen - another Maltese Falcon, and in present time Josh is entangled in a plot to steal a guided missile. Along the way he is almost blown up, accused of murder, and becomes homeless. Luckily, he has the beautiful and resourceful Karen Sawyer to give him a place to stay and help him get untangled from the dangers. If they tangle up the sheets a little along the way, that is just fine with Josh.

~~~~~~~~~~~
FTC Disclaimer: Other than having a bit of fun as I read this book, I have not profited in any way. The author sent me a copy, and I didn't even promise him a review. I never promise, just in case I don't care for the book. I would rather not post a review than write one with a lot of negatives. I leave that up to the literary critics. Are there any more of them out there? Just curious.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Friday's Odds and Ends

Columnist Mark Davis recently wrote, "Nothing tickles me like complaints that American presidential campaigns are too long. People start running early because we start paying attention early."

He goes on to highlight what he terms "compelling story lines" about the different contenders and their current standings, as well as their chances of capturing the nomination.

Memo to Mark: If journalists would stop writing about all the political maneuvering we could pay attention to something more newsworthy.

It saddened me to read another story in The Dallas Morning News this week about a student who was tied to a chair and then assaulted in a Dallas area middle school. Again, a teacher was in the classroom, but did nothing to stop the assault. The incident is still under investigation, but the Dallas ISD has put that substitute teacher on a do-not-call list.

An eight-year-old girl in San Francisco who competes in beauty pageants lets her mother inject Botox in her lips and cheeks, because she "… like, doesn't like big wrinkles."

Eight, and she thinks she has wrinkles? I should invite her to my house.

But seriously, this mother also waxes the girl's legs to give her an edge in the beauty pageants. Talk about misplaced priorities.

Some people predict that tomorrow the world will end. I sure hope not. I have a vacation planned to visit family in Michigan, with a few appearances at bookstores during the trip.

On Monday, May 23, I will be at The Book Rack in Moline, IL from 12 to 2 in the afternoon.  I've never been to this store before, but the owner, Bob, was very receptive to having me there, and I am looking forward to meeting some of the people who visit his store on a regular basis. The store is located at 3937 41st. Drive. (Just in case you want to enter that into your GPS and find the store. LOL) While I'm in Moline, I will go by the library and donate copies of my books. 

On May 28th I will be at Horizon Books in Cadillac, MI from 1-3pm. My family lives near Cadillac, so I have been to this store several times and always enjoy going back. They have a nice coffee shop and a wide selection of books. They also have a wonderful staff that always makes me feel very welcome. The store is located on 115 S. Mitchell St.  

The nice people at Aunt Agatha's Mystery Bookstore in Ann Arbor, MI, are buying several copies of OPEN SEASON, and I will stop by to sign them while I am there. I didn't find out that I would be stopping in Ann Arbor in time to set up an event, but one of the owners, Jamie, was gracious enough to arrange to have books in the store. 

Next I will be at Howard's Bookstore in Bloomington IN on June 2 from 6-9pm. I have never been to this store, either, so I am looking forward to meeting the owner, Joie Canada. She was most helpful in arranging the time to fit my driving schedule, as well as giving me a contact person at the local newspaper for a press release.  Howard's is located at 101 West Kirkwood Ave.

If you live near any of these stores, I would love it if you came by so we could meet. I have met so many terrific people on the Internet, and it is always fun to meet in person.  If you have friends or family in the areas, I would appreciate it if you let them know.

While I'm gone, there will still be new posts up on the regular schedule - if Blogger cooperates with my pre-scheduling. I will have limited Internet access where I will be staying most of the time, so I won't be able to comment here or visit the blogs I normally do. But I'm sure the Internet will carry on just fine without me.

I just got the cover art for One Small Victory which will be released in Turkey within the next two weeks. Thought I would share it now. My first foreign sale. I think my name will be the only thing in English.

I keep thinking I am done with this blog, then I get another e-mail with a link worth sharing. Jenny Jasik, the central character in One Small Victory has been interviewed on Paula Petty's blog, Petty's Coppers. She features interviews with fictional police officers and other crime-solving characters, and there have been some interesting folks featured there. Stop by and meet Jenny if you get a chance.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Drama means conflict

 If you have not been a follower of Kristen Lamb's Blog, I highly suggest you check it out when you get a chance. She recently did a couple of posts dealing with conflict, and the one that really resonated with me was "Little Darlings and why they Must Die"  In that post she makes the point that complications do not equal conflict. She wrote:
The problem is, complexity is not conflict. We can create an interstellar conspiracy, birth an entirely new underground spy network, resurrect a dead sibling who in reality was sold off at birth, or even start the Second Civil War to cover up the space alien invasion…but it ain’t conflict. Interstellar war, guerilla attacks, or evil twins coming back to life can be the BACKDROP for conflict, but alone are not conflict.
 Before I read Kristen's post, I had just finished reading a book that had been sent to me for possible review. While the writing in the book was engaging in parts and the central character was interesting, I was lost in layers of complications and kept sensing that something was missing. That something was real conflict.

Then I thought about the trouble I had in finishing Stalking Season, the second book in my mystery series, and realized that I had been struggling with this issue of conflict vs. complications. With a mystery, we want lots of suspects and false trails, but I know I have to be careful that I don't focus too much on that and forget about the basics of conflict:

                                       Character > goal > impediments

Another way to look at this is to think of drama as action and reaction. A character sets out to accomplish a goal, other characters or circumstances keep him from the goal, and he reacts. Keep in mind that reaction is emotional as well as physical. For example  in a romance the couple might have a fight and one of them storms out. That is the physical reaction. The emotional is what the character feels and thinks about the fight and what it means to the relationship.

In my case, I had been concentrating on the procdural side of the detectives finding the killer, I had missed some opportunities for real conflict. I knew something was missing, just like I knew something was missing in the book I read for review, but I  couldn't define the missing part until that aha moment when I read Kristen's blog.

Writers, how do you handle conflict in your stories?

Monday, May 16, 2011

Book Review: Devil's Plaything by Matt Richtel

Once again I'm participating in a huge sale with lots of other authors who are all members of Backlist e-Books. We have books at deep discounts via Smashwords from now until Sunday, May 22. For details and a list of books and authors visit the Backlist e-Books Newsletter

Since everything was messed up last week, and I am scrambling to get ready for a two-week book tour, I am sharing another book review written by Carl Brookins. Those of us who use his reviews would be lost if we couldn't rely on his submissions when we are desperate for content. And just wait until you see what I pre-schedule here the weeks I am gone. Enjoy...

Devil’s Plaything
By Matt Richtel
ISBN: 978-1-59058-887-1
Released, 2011, 324 pgs,
Hard Cover.

This is a novel born of the twenty-first century. It is technology-rich,abrupt, punchy, and filled with first-person pithy observations. It has a modern complicated plot and some dark conspiracies worthy of flat-worlders and those who still appear to believe the landings on the moon were merely another government scam.

Blogger Nat Idle is drifting through life as a medical reporter and occasionally paying attention to his rapidly aging grandmother, the only member of his family in close proximity. When he and Grandma Lane are on a casual outing in a San Francisco park, a mysterious stranger, apparently driving a Prius, shoots at him, or her, or them. How could this gentle,rapidly aging woman, with no apparent enemies attract an assassin? Not possible, so it must be Nat who was the target. After all, he was engaged in a controversy with some San Francisco cops about Porta Potty corruption.

The novel uses a criminal conspiracy of immense possibilities and proportions to raise questions about the rising dependence on technology to replace our individual memories, and to sermonize about American society’s eagerness to shuttle its older generations into places where they can die out of sight and mostly out of mind. Those shortcomings aside, the novel develops and carries along an inventive idea that is highly fraught with tension and believability.
~~~~~~~~~~~~

Carl Brookins
www.carlbrookins.com, www.agora2.blogspot.com Case of the Greedy Lawyer, Devils Island,
Bloody Halls, more at Kindle & Smashwords!

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Ramblings

Those of you who use Blogger.com for you own blogs noticed that there have been problems with the site most of the past few days. We couldn't get access to publish our posts, and that sure threw a wrench into our schedules, didn't it? And now I don't know what to title this post. It was written for my usual Friday's Odds and Ends, but what do I call it today?I really don't know. That's why I came up with that really catchy title.

Something new for the PC police to watch for - people who refer to their pets as pets. Apparently there is some concern among philosophers that the reason we treat animals as animals is because of the way we talk about some of them.  The Journal of Animal Ethics, a new publication, wants people to change some of the common terms applied to animals: Stubborn as a mule, sly as a fox, slippery as an eel.  Using terms like that supposedly makes us think poorly of those animals. The article in the Journal, also asks people, specifically writers, to refer to those cuddly creatures we share our homes with - the dog not our husbands - as companion animals, rather than pets. Apparently, "pets" is a derogatory term.

No wonder my pets, er, companion animals, are so deranged.

General Electric, one of the largest companies in the U.S. made $5.1 billion in profits in the United States last year, but according to a report in the New York Times, the company has not paid a penny of federal tax for 2010. Other large corporations that have paid little or no taxes include Exxon Mobil and Boeing, Bank of America and Citigroup. And they are not doing anything illegal. The tax laws allow for major loopholes for businesses.

And some people still think we don't need a massive overhaul of the tax system in the United States.

In a suburb of Dallas there have been two incidents of students fighting in a classroom and the teacher has not intervened. One incident was more of a beating than a fight as the victim was attacked at his desk and punched numerous times while the teacher just watched. Some teachers were quoted as saying that it is dangerous to try to intervene in a fight, and unless a policy is in place to deal with this type of violence, they are advised to do nothing.

It is a sad, sad day when students can rule a classroom like that. What kinds of parents are raising children who can strike such fear in their peers and other adults who are supposed to be in authority?

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Can an Atheist be a Chaplain?

 A recent column in The Dallas Morning News was headlined: What would an atheist chaplain do? The writer, Daniel Akst, an avowed atheist, questioned how an atheist could be a military chaplain. Apparently a number of service men and women who do not believe in God have requested an atheist chaplain to help them through difficult times.

Akst, wrote that he could not see how an atheist could be a chaplain as they normally are connected to a particular religion, and one of the requirements to work for the military is a degree in theology. He didn't think an atheist could get such a degree. 

Actually, I think one could. Theology does not insist on a belief in God, it simply means knowledge of God. An atheist could study theology to have an understanding of a religious person's connection to God, however he or she is perceived, but an atheist would not have to make a profession of faith to complete such a course.

I worked for a number of years as a hospital chaplain and our main role was to be an advocate for the patient and the patient's family. An atheist could do that for military personnel without religion being involved. To counsel and support people in times of trauma and stress one does not have to bring religion into it, unless the person being counseled would find that helpful.

As part of my training, I learned that spirituality is not always connected to religion. One can feed their spirit - and everyone has one, even an atheist - through a lot of ways that don't involve a god of any kind. Spirits are fed and nurtured via relationships, music, art, nature, connections to animals, and a myriad of other ways. The things that make us sigh in satisfaction and bring us a sense of wonder are the things that refresh our spirit.  For some, that is a god, prayer, and religion. For others it is not. And that is okay.

So I can see where an atheist could be a chaplain and help other atheists cope with the challenges of serving in the military. What do you think?

Monday, May 09, 2011

Book Review - Where Danger Hides by Terry Odell

 Since I didn't post my usual book review yesterday, here is another one from Carl Brookins. Keep 'em coming Carl. And here's a link to Daily Cheap Reads where a number of authors have books mentioned that are on sale for only 99cents. One Small Victory is one of the books on sale until the end of May.
~~~~~~~~~~~~


Where Danger Hides
By Terry Odell
ISBN 978-1-43282-512-6
Five Star Mystery from Gale
May, 2011

The novel is a suspenseful thriller with a healthy dose of romance.  Or maybe it’s a romantic thriller with a good deal of suspense that keeps this moving at a sometimes alarming pace.  “Where Danger Hides” is both, and it’s also a fantasy in particular in the way and the speed with which the two principal characters are drawn together.

Miri Chambers is the caretaker and overseerer of a San Francisco shelter primarily for abused women.  Galoway House also manages to shelter and care for a number of children and men, as well. There’s a lot more to Miri Chambers. She is adept at disguise, light-fingered and as prickly as one can get. Two wrong words and she is liable to go off like a rocket. That propensity for shoot-from-the-hip judgments and attitude may also be the reason for her nearly unbelieveable hormonal response to the hunk she meets on a clandestine foray into the home office of a wealthy art patron.

Her reaction to “just” Dalton isn’t much different from his.  He works for a private security firm that has a large well-funded and mostly covert group of operatives working well outside the usual legal limits. Dalton, one of Blackthorn’s elite black ops operatives has an appreciated eye for female anatomy, wherever he finds it, including hiding under the desk of the aforementioned wealthy San Francisco Art patron.

Dalton and Miri Chambers are all fire and sparks and hot sex throughout this rollicking novel.  The author has created a pair of characters who could each carry the novel solo, but when you pair them, look out.

The action carries Dalton and Chambers from posh and elegant settings to gritty exceedingly dangerous operations.  Readers are not likely to predict each succeeding move.  One is required to suspend disbelief and recognize from the outset that explicit play, both sexual and firearms, is integral to the story.

Nevertheless, the plot is carefully and fully laid out, the dialogue is mostly logical and the tension carries well through the entire book. Gritty, tender, frustrating by turns I did feel that there were times when both characters exhibited too obtuse attitudes and were slower on the uptake than they should have been, given their life experiences.

Nevertheless, this is a fun read that makes several important points along the way.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Carl Brookins
www.carlbrookins.com, www.agora2.blogspot.com Case of the Greedy Lawyer, Devils Island,
Bloody Halls, more at Kindle & Smashwords!

Sunday, May 08, 2011

Happy Mother's Day

Wishing all mothers the best for a wonderful day. Hope you are celebrating and being celebrated with those you love.
Just for fun, I thought I would share an excerpt from my humorous memoir, A Dead Tomato Plant and a Paycheck that deals with the joys of motherhood. Enjoy....

Early on I learned to take my joys in little things, since the big things like Mother’s Day, Christmas, and my birthday only came once a year. Some days it was a thrill to take seven forks out of the silverware drawer and find them all clean. You may think that’s a bit pathetic, but you have to understand that it might have been year and a half since I’d taken a single clean fork out of the drawer and finding seven was like winning a Lotto jackpot.

Other days it was a thrill to tell the kids to start cleaning their rooms while I made a quick trip to the store and come home to find them actually doing it.

Another universal thrill for all mothers is to discover some random afternoon that we have fifteen full minutes to ourselves to do anything we want. As any experienced mother can tell you, there are all sorts of things one can accomplish in fifteen minutes. You can take half a bath. You can read twenty-two and a third pages in a book. You can start that letter you've been promising your sister for the last two years and hope that none of the news becomes ancient history by the time you finish it.

Or how about when we ask our kids who ate the last piece of cake, and one of them answers, "I did."

 If and when this ever happens to you, be very careful how you react. If your husband comes home from work and finds you wandering around the house in a daze with a silly grin on your face, he may lock the liquor cabinet, reserve a room in your name at the nearest mental hospital, or both.


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Don't forget the special sale on e-books starting today. Check my Friday blog for links to some bargain books.

Friday, May 06, 2011

Friday's Odds and Ends

First I want to announce a sale for Mother's Day and the rest of  May - One Small Victory  is only 99cents on Kindle. This is part of a special program sponsored by Daily Cheap Reads - a great site for finding good books at bargain prices. Check the link starting May 8th. to find a list of other books for this great price.

Now, back to the regularly scheduled program.

Maybe it was just a coincidence that after I saw a woman walking down the street in spike heels that I came home and read a recent column by Steve Blow in The Dallas Morning News about women and their love affair with shoes.  This woman was trying to keep up with her friend, who was wearing walking shoes, and it looked like every step was an effort in maintaining balance while trying to pick up some speed.

I thought of that woman when I read the newspaper column and noted comments made by a podiatrist. She said that a heel that is 3 inches high creates seven times more pressure on the foot that a one-inch heel. 

She also had a lot to say about the pointy toes that barely have room for one toe, let alone five.

I think Steve summed it up well when he wrote, "We're horrified by the thought of barbaric old customs like Chinese foot binding, but that shoe (a 6-inch stiletto) looked like modern-day torture to me."

The main news coverage this week centered on the death of bin Laden, and reactions were varied. Some people took to the streets in celebration, and Washington Post columnist Eugene Robinson referred to that as a show of "unmitigated patriotism".

Did he mean to imply that those of us who did not party in the streets, waving our flag, are not patriotic? I sure hope not, because there are plenty of folks who find such celebrations a bit distasteful. I am glad that bin Laden is no longer a threat. I am proud of the military and intelligence personnel who were responsible for the mission. But I cannot say I am glad he is dead. Glad and dead just don't go together for me.

If you choose to celebrate the death of bin Laden, that is your right. Have a party. But don't assume that those of us who decline the invitation to join you are not patriotic.

On a final note, columnist Steve Chapman wrote a recent column defending online porn sites, stating they cause no visible, provable, collateral damage. He wrote, "Given the evolution of sexual standards in America, there's not a lot that clearly qualifies as obscene anymore."

I had to read that twice to make sure I wasn't misinterpreting it. First, sexual standards have not evolved. They have devolved, if that is such a word. There are no standards anymore. And there are a lot of things that qualify as obscene if we would just start calling it that again instead of embracing it and propagating it.


What rattled your chain this week in the news?

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Having some fun

Today I have a post up on The Blood Red Pencil with an introduction to a funny, funny book, Write More Good.

This is a book not to be taken seriously, but seriously, it is worth the price of admission. It is an irreverent look at the rules of grammar and language and writing styles that is clever and engaging.

I plan to keep this book on my desk. Not as a reference book because the promo material says, "If you use this you will get fired." But I will keep it handy for when I need to take a break and laugh a little. They say it is good for stress.

If you have a minute, hop on over to The Blood Red Pencil  to find out more about the book.

Monday, May 02, 2011

Monday Morning Musings

Yesterday I decided to start the third book in the Seasons Mystery Series. In some respects it feels a little strange to be working on that one when the second book won't be out until November 2012, but I figured if it really is going to be a series, there should be more than two books. Open Season has been well-received since it came out in December, so I'm thinking that maybe readers will enjoy more stories about Sarah and Angel. The third book is tentatively titled Out of Season.

I read an interesting column by Leonard Pitts last week titled "Why WIlliam and Kate's Nuptials Matter".  He wrote, "To get married is to make a bet on always and forever."

He went on to point out how the always and forever isn't as common as it once was. "We marry less, we marry later, we make marriage a reality show, we see out cynicism validated by Hollywood marriages that pop like soap bubbles. A wedding then, is not just an act of faith, but also one of defiance."

And his final point was that given the tragedy of his mother's death and all the scandal surrounding it, it would have been understood if William decided to forgo the whole marriage bit, but he didn't. In defiance of the odds and the history, William decided to stand in public and declare his love and loyalty to Kate. Pitts wrote, "There is something in it to gladden the cynical eye and hearten the pessimistic heart."

After reading the column, I had a different perspective on the whole Royal Wedding issue, although I still believe there was just a bit too much made of it in the media.

On another note, I was stunned last night when the announcement was made that Osama bin Laden has been killed. US forces killed him in the military town of Abbottabad, 75 miles north of the capital. If you would like to read a full story about the military operation that brought him down, here is a link to The Christian Science Monitor While it is hard for me to celebrate someone's death, a part of me is saying, "Yes, finally."

Sunday, May 01, 2011

Book Review: Critical Condition by C. J. Lyons

 Thanks again to Carl Brookins for sharing a new review.

Critical Condition
By C.J.Lyons
ISBN: 9780515148688
Mass Market, 300 page
2010 release from Jove

Fourth and last in the Angels of Mercy series. A hospital in Pittsburgh is under siege, both from within and without as a huge blizzard brings the city to a standstill.  In the hospital, Dr. Gina Freeman is trying to cope with the problematical recovery of her fiancĂ©, detective Jerry Boyle, suffering from bullet wounds. Elsewhere in the hospital, other capable if flawed women, Charge Nurse Nora Halloran, and student Amanda Mason, prepare to wait out the storm.

A vicious band of armed killers suddenly appears, looking for a doctor who happens to be out of the hospital.  She, apparently, holds the key to the continued well-being of a powerful and wealthy political figure from the West Coast.  The thugs demonstrate a frightening propensity for killing anyone who gets in the way and the bodies pile up.

Written in an almost breathless, pell-mell style, the novel never sags for more than a page or two.  Crisis lands on crisis almost as fast as the bodies pile up. Tension grows to almost unbearable levels and relationships become more entangled, setting up conflicts among the protagonists. In the end, the resolution results in a few more bodies. An excellent novel of type. The characters are well-drawn and have sufficient differences to make them easy to keep track of, the ploys used to confound the gangsters are interesting and varied and appropriate to the venues. The dialogue is logical and understandable and it fits the scenery.

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Carl Brookins
www.carlbrookins.com, www.agora2.blogspot.com Case of the Greedy Lawyer, Devils Island,
Bloody Halls, more at Kindle & Smashwords!