Friday, June 29, 2012

Fridays Odds and Ends

In a recent column in The Dallas Morning News, freelance writer Tracy Begland wrote about how the two sides of our brains work together to help us in our creative endeavors. Our left brain, which is the analytical side of our brain, and the creative right side are not at odds with each other, as some folks have suggested. Rather while we are doing things that engage our left brain, the right side is busy working on some creative question and we may get an answer to something that has been perplexing us.

As an example, she mentions how Arthur Fry, a 3M engineer, came to develop Post-it-Notes. He had heard about a weak glue from another researcher at a conference, then much later when he is annoyed at slips of paper that keep falling out of his hymnal at church, his right brain connects with his left brain and he makes the first sticky-note.

This works for writers, too. We have long known that we get some of the best ideas for stories in the shower, on a walk, or when we are doing something that has fully engaged our left brain. Then suddenly, eureka, something pops out from our right brain and we run dripping to our computer or tablet, or even a pen and paper.

Another interesting column I read in the newspaper was by Peter Orszag who posed the question, What if we had to vote? He was lamenting the poor voter turnout in the United States, and wondered if making voting mandatory would help. He included statistics from countries, such as Australia, that have mandatory voting, and voter turnout increased significantly. It jumped from 59 percent of eligible voters in 1922 to 91 percent in 1925, after mandatory voting was established. In countries that have mandatory voting, people are fined if they do not show up on election day.

While it would be nice to have more participation in the process, I'm not sure this is the way to go. We'd have to establish yet another government agency to oversee this, and do we really need one more?

On the other hand, it would be good to have a president elected by a majority of the adult population of the United States.

What do you think?

The District of Columbia is going through a process to qualify potential operators of medicinal marijuana dispensaries. Rodger Jones, editorial board member of The Dallas Morning News, is taking bets on whether "Obama comes out more forcefully for medical marijuana just before the election. If you think his immigration fiat will get him some votes, imagine the landslide if he declares an end to federal pot prohibition."

To end on a light note, here's a joke for you. Why don't sheep shrink when it rains?

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

A Fictional Guest

Hi, my name is Frank Perelli and I'm the character in Maryann Miller's story, "Over the Threshold", that is in The Corner Café A Tasty Collection of ShortStories. This picture you see here isn't really me. It's what I wish I looked like. That's a picture of Sam Spade, a really famous character. The only thing we have in common is that we both wear a Fedora and a trench coat. Oh, and I guess I ought to say that he taught me everything I know.

I'm a private investigator, sometimes called a gumshoe, and one day I was hot on the trail of this guy Paul Ricca, who was trying to muscle in on Johnny Roselli's business. I don't often work for the wiseguys, but, hey, I gotta make a buck somehow.

So this day I hear that Ricca might be at Mickey's tavern, and I decide to stop in. Except inside it ain't Mickey's. That sure was a strange experience. One minute I'm pushing open the tavern door, and then something really weird happens. I'm not where I'm supposed to be. And the people I meet. Well, let me tell you, they ain't like any of the mopes that I'm used to seeing around town. Back where I come from, people know how to dress. Some even wear spats and derbies and know enough to cover up boney knees when going out in public.

I don't want to give the whole story away here, but I was stuck in some time warp or something, and I'm still wondering if it was a dream. Only we wake up from dreams, don't we?

How this writer, Maryann Miller, came up with this idea, I don't know. She could have just let me catch this Ricca guy and get on with my business. She could maybe even write a whole book about me. I'm a pretty neat guy, and folks would like me. But no, she had other plans. She said she had some other folks to write about.

Speaking of other folks. I poked around a little inside that cafe, and there were some real weirdos there. I met a dame named Wilson. Who names a girl Wilson? And there was somebody who loved cows? I'm not even going there. There was another girl who lost her digs, and one who wanted to quit driving a bus. I didn't ask either one what happened. They both looked like they wanted to cry, and if there's anything I hate it's being around a dame with a lot of tears and wailing. 

Oh, and the other thing about this place. There was no beer or Jack Daniels. They had coffee, but not just straight boiled in the pot coffee. There was this menu hung where the picture of the nude lady used to be, and it listed things like Chocolate Mocha Toffee and French Vanilla Latte. What the hell kind of coffee is that? 

If you really want to know how weird this Corner Cafe is, you might just want to stop by and see.  Me, I'm staying here. I still have to find that Ricca guy.

Monday, June 25, 2012

New E-Book - Open Season

I am thrilled that my mystery, Open Season, is now available as an e-book. It has been a long wait, but the publisher, Venture Galleries, has done a wonderful job with the editing and formatting, and Dany Russell made a terrific new cover for it.

The hardcover version of this book was quite popular and received some terrific reviews. It is always quite a thrill for an author to get such reviews, yet also a bit humbling, too. At least it is for me, and I am so thankful to all the people who have read and enjoyed my books. I remember when I was just a young girl and decided to be a writer because I wanted to create stories that touched people the way the books I read touched me. I never thought that childhood dream would become reality, but it has.


My publisher has a blog piece about my book as part of their promotional campaign, and you can read that HERE.

But do come back to read this excerpt from the book. This is the first of what the press will dub The Mall Murders.

Mel unlocked the door to the maintenance room and flicked the switch on the wall for light. He still had fifteen minutes until his shift ended at midnight, but he didn’t figure anyone would notice if he bugged out early. There was only one other person left in the whole mall anyway. And by the time the security guard made his pass through here, it would be well past clock out time anyway.

He pushed his tool box into its designated place on the dented metal shelves with a harsh scrape, thankful that he’d had a light workload tonight. Wouldn’t have to lose time with a shower. He could just zip out of here and head straight to his favorite watering hole. If he was lucky, he could pick up some good shit on the way. And Rita would be there with some good stuff of her own.

After locking the door to the storage room, Mel set off at a brisk pace, his boots thumping hollowly in the empty corridor.

He stood in the shadowed doorway down the hall, watching. He’d watched unseen before, waiting for the right moment. He’d long ago quit worrying about  the wisdom of what he’d planned. It was the only choice he had left.

He eased the door closed and listened to the thud of footsteps draw near, then pass.

It was time.

A rush of adrenaline sent his heart on a wild, erratic riff, and a sudden storm of panic threatened to overwhelm him. It was no simple act he was about to perform. All kinds of things could go wrong.

Maybe he should leave. Forget the whole crazy scheme.


The sound from the hallway ceased. He cracked the door open and saw the man stooped over the water fountain.

Go! Now!

Mel whirled at the unexpected creak of the men’s room door opening behind him. Who the hell was skulking around down here at this hour? He relaxed when he recognized the man standing a few feet away.

“You scared the piss outa me.” Mel wiped drips of water from his chin. “What’re you doing sneaking around here, anyway?”

The man didn’t answer, and the lure of Danny’s Grill finally overcame Mel’s curiosity. If the guy didn’t want to talk, so be it. Bastard never was very friendly. Not even when Mel offered to share some of his best shit. If anything, the guy had been downright unfriendly since then. So screw him.

The decision to act was made somewhere deep in his subconscious. He lunged, whipping the weapon around Mel’s neck in one fluid move and pulling it tight.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Book Review - A Fair to Die For by Radine Tress Nehring

Thanks to Carl Brookins for sharing another review. Makes my Sunday blogs so much easier.

A Fair To Die For                    
Radine Trees Nehring
ISBN: 9781610091220
2012 release from Oak Tree Press
238 pages (without recipes)

 In spite of continual bumps in their road of life, Carrie McCrite and her second husband, Henry, forge onward. They both have healthy, positive attitudes. That’s mildly surprising for Henry. He’s retired from a career as a cop in Kansas City. They expected to live a quiet, typical retiree life in the Ozarks. Fate intervenes, in the form of a long-forgotten  cousin named Edith Embler. Edith blows into town looking for family history and bringing behind her a variety of really bad dudes who seem to hang around craft fairs with evil intent.

 The story rests in a really clever idea, and the author handles the plot necessities carefully and responsibly. Her skill as a writer puts this novel very much in a positive cozy sort of grouping. Like a lot of traditional American mysteries, this story has a harder edge than is typically found in the classical, traditional, stories from the UK.

 Carrie’s experience and generosity of spirit in wanting to help Edith in every possible way play out nicely against her husband’s more suspicious and cautious nature. The novel is interestingly peopled with several unusual characters who add to the richness of the scene. I’ve been reading this author over a number of years and am pleased to recommend this novel. It is in the end a satisfying mystery involving nice people who are truly competent. In the end, one might view with a certain hesitation, if not suspicion, the abrupt arrival of long-lost relatives.
Carl Brookins  BLOG:  -BOOKS:  Case of the Great Train Robbery, Reunion, Red Sky

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Special Friendships

I don't often get real personal here on the blog since I don't hold with putting everything in life out in cyberspace for anyone to read, but I feel compelled to write this.

Today a dear friend called to tell me her husband died yesterday. I knew the time was close. Jan had called last month to tell me Dave was terminal and in hospice care. He was at home, on the family farm that they had taken over when his parents retired from farming, and he was ready to take that step into the other place. He believed that other place is heaven and so do I. He said he had a glimpse of it when he almost died last month.

Jan and I spent an hour on the phone today sharing about Dave and all the good times we had as couples when my husband and I would visit their little corner of the world in South Dakota. Dave had an incredible sense of humor, and Jan said she still has the joke book he compiled years ago. She said it is filed in the filing cabinet under "J". Of course it is.

The only thing that was not satisfying about the call was having to end it by both of us acknowledging that I would not be able to go up there for Dave's funeral. Jan, being the special friend that she is, told me that was okay. I'd been there with her other times when she needed me, especially through the death of her father, and her mother.

One of the things that I learned from her and her family was how to accept what life throws at you. I think farmers have an insight about that that others don't have. It is like on one side there is all the sadness and grief that comes with losing someone you love, but on anther plane is that realization that this is all so natural and so right. There is life and there is death. Period. 

Jan and I have been friends since we were 12 years old, and she and her family have been such an important part of my life. I lived with them for a few years after I graduated from high school, and then later Jan moved away and so did I. We stayed in touch - she from South Dakota and me from Dallas - but I did not see her for 19 years. When I did go visit, it was like those nineteen years melted away.

Not long after that my husband and I moved to Omaha NE and that allowed us to go visit Jan and Dave several times a year for weekends. That was always in the spring, summer or fall, and only once in the winter when we buried Jan's mother just before a blizzard hit. Those were very special years, and the years that I really got to know and appreciate Dave. He was a Vietnam vet, with some of the problems those that have seen combat carry like excess baggage, but he was also kind and generous and loyal to his family and friends. 

 So today Jan and I cried a bit together and then talked some more memories of Dave. Then she asked me what I was doing today. I told her I was getting ready to go to the comedy show at the art center. She chuckled, "Dave would like that."

Yeah, I think he would.

RIP Dave Swenson

Friday, June 22, 2012

Friday's Odds and Ends

Keeping it short today - was going to say this morning, but it is almost noon here in Central Time, USA. Somehow the morning got away from me, as Friday mornings often do.

Today has been busier than ever because we have dress rehearsal tonight for the Nite of Comedy that I directed and produced at the art center here in my small town. I used to be involved with theatre groups that had full production staffs, and that was so much easier. The director simply had to direct. There was a stage manager, a producer, a house manager, and a tech manager. Here, I do most of this with some help from my stage moms - what would I do without them - as well as some help from other volunteers at the center. However, it is still my responsibility to coordinate most of that.

So this morning I have been distracted with little jobs that still need to be done before we can open tomorrow night.

The upside of all this is the fun I have with the actors, especially my young players who are so creative. They wrote some of the skits for the show and keep coming up with ideas to add another layer of comedy to one of them. Watching them reminds me of when my kids were young and would put on shows. One idea would spur another and another, until they had something fun and entertaining.

Here are a few shots from last year.
James Monk Ryann Williams and Kennedie Williams (standing)

My grandson, Justin. Awesome actor if I say so myself. LOL
L-R: Hunter Williams, Ashton Cantu, Cassia Rose
Me and my talented son, Paul Miller, singing some of Grandpa's silly songs.
Enjoy... I'm signing off to do the playbill for tomorrow night.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

The Best Thing About June

Thanks again to Slim Randles for sharing some of the fun down at the Mule Barn Truck Stop with us today.....

“It’s June, by golly!” said Doc. “Isn’t it great? I mean, all the summer to look forward to. Fishing, swimming, camping, heat stroke, dehydration, skateboard accidents and the occasional case of appendicitis.”

“That’s what we like about you, Doc,” Steve said, “always looking on the bright side of things.”

“You know what June is, don’t you?” said Bert. Bert is usually quiet, so when he does speak up, we tend to listen. We were listening. He started off kinda low and slow, like a revival preacher just getting warmed up on sin by starting with jaywalking.

“June is the annual man trap,” he said quietly. He looked at each of us in turn. “How many of us wouldn’t like to relive a particular June in our lives when we were led to the slaughter, er, the altar, that is? To have that chance once again, before the organist even warmed up … to survey life in the past and prognosticate life in the future and to perhaps amend a decision? Oh yes. Many of us.

“MULTITUDES of us.” He stood and waved his coffee spoon as we in the orchestra sat in awe.

“Was man created just to live in bondage? Does free will mean NOTHING? Were we designed to wear SHACKLES?”

It was Doc who finally caught Bert’s eye, flat in the middle of his best sermon ever. It was Doc who flipped his eyes to Bert’s left and gave a quick shake of his head. Bert glanced that way in mid speech and saw his wife, Maizie, standing with her hands on her hips.

“What man among us,” Bert said, “would consider the holy sacrament of marriage to be shackles? Not a real man, I say. Not a man who is a real American. Not a man who understands the precious relationship between a man and that certain special woman. Do I get an amen on that?”

“Amen!” we all chimed in.

“Well,” Bert said, sitting again, “that’s all I have to say about June.”

  Check out Slim's books at

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Mix Ups Happen

If you were one of the three people who looked for me over at Pat Bean's blog, there was a bit of a mix-up and she has a different guest there today. However, you might want to pop over to meet Helen Ginger and get to read her short story that is in the book, The Corner Cafe: A Tasty Collection of Short Stories. It is quite clever.

The post I was going to do for her, will be here next Wednesday, so come back then to meet Frank, the central character in my story that is part of the collection. When I told him he was not going to be featured in the blog today, he was quite put out and insisted that he get his air time. I told him this was not television or radio, but he didn't care.

And now for your visual enjoyment, a picture of some of the flowers blooming around our place This is a little flower that grows close to the ground and is seen all over in East Texas. If I did more than admire wildflowers I would take the time to look them up on the Internet and find names. I'd rather just look at them.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Book Blog Tours

First I want to remind everyone about the new book, 
The Corner Cafe: A Tasty Collection of Short Stories, prepared by the BBT Cafe Authors, an online group of which I'm happy to be a member. This month, our group is on tour, promoting The Corner Cafe, and a full list of blog stops can be found by clicking the link.
I have a short story in this collection and tomorrow I will be at Pat Bean's blog, introducing the central character in my story. Actually, the central character will be introducing himself. Cheeky fellow, Frank is.

If you don't have a kindle, go to
for free apps to download this book.
Next, I want to mention that Stephen Tremp is hosting a Breakthrough Breakout Party this week.

Today and tomorrow, June 18th and 19th, his thriller

will be available as a free download from Amazon. 
Stop by his blog, say hi, and tell him thanks for your free copy.
Now I want to thank my blogging friend, LD Masterson, for giving me the Lucky Seven Meme. This is a bit different from other blog awards in that it asks the blogger to share from a story they are currently working on. It was fun to read LD's excerpt, and I hope you will go by her blog and read it. 

Here are the rules for the meme:
1. Go to page 77 of your current manuscript
2. Go down to line 7.
3. Copy down the next 7 lines.
4. Tag 7 others. 
Okay, here is the excerpt from the book I just finished writing and am doing a final revision on. It is titled, Boxes for Beds. 
'"Heck! They don't want me. They only take babies." Mandy patted Leslie's hand and Leslie almost laughed at the motherly gesture. "Come on. Help me with my English paper."

Leslie was grateful for the diversion that ate up a couple of empty hours. But after Mandy went to bed, the loneliness and discontent settled back in like an unwelcome guest.

In those empty hours of late evening, Leslie recognized her need for someone to talk to. Being afraid and uncertain was bad enough, but having no one to share it with made it harder to bear.  There was too much silence, during which her mind was busy playing frightening games with her.

I hope Lucky Seven does not turn into bad luck, but I may not tag seven people. I know how busy everyone is, and not everyone has time to play, but here are just a few of my cyber buddies.

Morgan Mandel - who always makes time to play

Ginger Simpson - who may have time
Patricia Stoltey - who will probably make time to play

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Book Review - Angel Sometimes by Helen Ginger

Angel Sometimes
Helen Ginger

This is the first fiction book released by Helen Ginger, and I certainly hope it is not the last. This is an author who has an intriguing story, and the writing will only get better and better.

There were some things I absolutely loved about this book, primarily the central character, Angel. She is a tough young woman whose strengths were honed on the streets after she was abandoned at age 13 and had to survive somehow, someway. On the opposite side of the toughness is the tenderness she has for other street people, especially Jodie, who suffers an assault by some stranger who is preying on vulnerable young women.

The story opens with Angel at age 22, trying to get her GED so she can go to college- one of the plans in her Planning Book. She works swimming as a mermaid in a club in Austin, and the reader gets an interesting view of what it is like to be a "mermaid". This part is very factually correct, as the author spent some time in her past working at a club that featured mermaids, I only wish there had been a little less about that. Angel is working with some new girls, training them, and the routines of how they performed got a bit repetitious.

While I enjoyed Angel, and really enjoyed her interactions with her friend, Susan - some of the best dialogue in the book - I kept getting jarred out of the story by some research errors and some puzzling plot issues. I also found some of the flashbacks too abrupt and confusing, while others were written seamlessly.

I am glad that I did not abandon the reading when one of those errors would jerk me out of my enjoyment, as the last few chapters are very well done, and the conclusion of the story is very satisfactory. Little elements that had been mentioned throughout - Baby Celia's garden, the ducks from Angel's childhood, and the horrible secret she has never told anyone - are all tied together in a touching sequence of scenes.

The book is free for Kindle today, Sunday, so go grab a copy HERE

FTC disclaimer - I bought this book as a way to support a fellow author, so in that way she did benefit from this, but she did not slip me any money to write a favorable review. She didn't slip me any money to write any kind of review. If we were simply friends, which we are, and I was not a professional reviewer, I would simply have written a fan/friend review, but that pro in me can never stop pointing out the problems - if there are any in a book - along with the good points. As a reader, I appreciate knowing the pros and cons of a book when I am considering buying it, and I try to provide that for the folks who stop by my blog to read the reviews.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Friday's Odds and Ends

Today on Friday's Odds and Ends we start with a quote from President Obama, "This administration has no interest in leaking classified information."

But does that mean that they didn't?

This comment was in response to allegations that the White House disclosed sensitive information to mold Obama's image as tough on terror.

Memo to Obama: Stop letting advisers "mold" you into anything. We the people sure would like a president, or any government servant, to be real, not some statue that only becomes what someone else thinks he or she should be.

In a recent economic speech in Cincinnati, Ohio Mitt Romney promised that the Keystone Pipeline would be approved on day one of his administration. "It will be built if I have to do it myself."

David Daniel, an East Texas resident who started STOP Tarsands Oil  and has been fighting to stop the Keystone Pipeline from coming through his property and destroying his natural springs and much of his timber, had this response. "I found that quite interesting from a man who probably has never lifted anything heavier than a silver spoon."

Daniel was also a bit surprised that this has become such a hot political issue, and he wishes folks would spend less time and effort blasting the other party and work together to find an alternative to fossil fuels. "The Republican's try to get mileage from supporting the pipeline because of lobbyists wno support them and the oil industry. And the Democrats are appealing to all the environmentalists who are concerned for the future of our planet. Once the election is over, will any of the politicians care?"

Ruptured pipe in the pipeline in Michigan. It dumped toxins into the Kalamazoo River.
That's an interesting question. Candidates rally around issues to garner votes, but what happens to those issues after the elections?

While our democracy works so well on so many levels, it is stuck in a political quagmire. We desperately need to have political reform: Do away with lobbyists and the two-party system.

To end on a lighter note. I can really relate to a recent Garfield cartoon. Jon is out mowing the lawn and when he finishes he smiles and says, "Finally."

In the next panel, there is a large BOOM, and the clouds open up to dump rain on him and the newly mowed grass. Then the sun comes out and there is a loud SPOING.

The next panel has Jon peeking out of grass that has grown to his nose. "That's not fair," he says.

Garfield says, "Suck it up mow boy."

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

An Ode to the Night

My guest today is Slim Randles. Sometimes his Home Country offerings are humorous stories about the gang down at the Mule Barn Truck Stop, but other times he gets a bit poetic. This is one of his more thoughtful pieces. Enjoy.....

This is sunset one fall evening at Grandma's Ranch. 
There’s something to be said for the brightness of day, of course, when the energies of the world improve our lot in life. But for a special time, give me the night. Give me the soft, velvety quiet of a country evening and its own sounds and flavors and scents.

It’s good to hear the night shift take over the part of our world we call home. The coyote yaps off in the brush, calling his family to the hunt, the quail have a soft cluck and rustle down by the creek. The crickets set up the background music for all this in a spooky kind of harmony.

It’s a resting time for most, but for those who will postpone sleep, there is the secret of another world, where we slow down a little and take a bit more time with our lives. A time when we can hear the world heal a little before it goes back into daily battle again. A time when we can smile and sit and just say thanks for bringing us to another evening like this.

If we like, we can do a little mental planning for the next day.

Or not.

A country evening is what we get for being good all day.
I agree with Slim. Maybe not about the being good all day. Not sure I do that every day. But I do love to go out at dusk, just when all that night music is starting and the last bits of daylight are fading into those trees. It is the most peaceful of moments. Where do you find your peaceful moments?

Need a good book for Dad on Father’s Day? Check out I highly recommend his books.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Divorce Rate Surging for Boomers

When I first got the idea to write my woman's novel, Play it Again, Sam, the divorce rate for people age 50 and older was just starting a slow climb. Most couples who were married for 20 years or more, usually stayed married and worked through the challenges of growing older, facing an empty nest, and some form of mid-life crisis. That is what made a story like Sam's a bit unusual.

I first developed the story for a line that Kensington was publishing, "To Love Again" and I had a contract for my book. The plot was based on a true story that a friend gave me permission to use, and I thought it was serendipitous that I had that story when Kensington was taking submissions for the new line. Shortly before my book was due to come out, however, the publisher dropped that line. Part of the reasoning, according to the editor, was that there just wasn't enough interest in stories like this. Not that many older women are facing the same situation.

Sally Abrahms
Now, the numbers of Baby Boomers getting divorced are surging, and there is even a term for it, Gray Divorce. In an article, Life After Divorce, that appeared in the June AARP Bulletin, Sally Abrahms quotes Jay Lebow, a psychologist at the Family Institute at Northwestern University who says, "If late-life divorce were a disease, it would be an epidemic."

It is estimated that one out of three boomers will be divorced as they face their later years. For women, like my fictional character Sam, who have not worked outside the home, this future can be difficult financially. It is not easy to find a job when one is 50 or older, so these women either go back to school for further training, or find some other way to make ends meet.

Sam made the choice to go back to school and get a degree in graphic art. She also temporarily moved in with a friend, Margaret, to keep expenses down.

Women sharing living spaces and expenses is something that is happening in real life, too. In her article, Abrahms mentioned one woman who moved in with her mother and became her caregiver after the older woman fell and broke her hip. Not only was it fortuitous that the daughter was there, after a short time she realized it was a blessing to have a closer relationship with her mother. "I went from being embarrassed that I was living with my mother to feeling so lucky we're close and that I can do this."

Other women are renting rooms in their homes or condos, as well as finding other ways to earn money. Edith Heyck gives art lessons and operates a decluttering business.

In Play it Again, Sam, the heroine meets someone who will probably be there to take care of her in her old age, but that doesn't always happen in real life. Even if one remarries after the divorce, will that person be there when the need might arise? Will stepchildren step in to be caregivers?

Of course the future is uncertain for all of us, but these women and men who divorce late in life have more uncertainties.

Are you in a long-term relationship? Plan to stay there? What would be your toughest challenge should you lose your mate through divorce or death?

Play it Again, Sam was eventually published in paper by a very small press and had very small sales. More recently it was published by Uncial Press as an e-book, and then indie published in paper this year.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Book Review - The Corner Cafe: A Tasty Collection of Short Stories

I'm not sure if there is any rule against reviewing a book that  you are a contributor to, but if I don't say anything about my story, will that work?

A few weeks ago, all of us who contributed to The Corner Cafe: A Tasty Collection of Short Stories were asked to download the book to do some proofing and check for formatting issues, so we have had the opportunity to read all the stories first.

In reading some of the first stories in the collection, I noticed a theme that involved strong women taking charge of their lives. "You Can't be too Careful" by Bob Sanchez features George, who is a bit off his rocker, so to speak, and has made his wife, Lila, live with him in a storm shelter. Duct tape plays an important role in this humorous story that has a bit of an O'Henry twist.

Shon Bacon's story, "I Wanna Get Off Here" brings us the character of Bay, a bus driver and closet writer. She doesn't want to be forever trapped in the abusive relationship with Darryl. He thinks she is too stupid to be anything but a bus driver, but in her heart, Bay knows she is better than that. She needs to find the courage to get him out of her life, and she finds it at The Corner Cafe.

In "What's Next" by Karen Casey Fitzjerrell, the reader meets a woman named Wilson, named so because her mother desperately wanted "a baby with a penis." Wilson has grown up in a little town in Texas near the Gulf  and longs for more than the endless routine of days and nights living with her grandmother, and wondering what happened to her father who died at sea before she was born. How she decides to break that endless cycle is both harrowing and enlightening.

I found these stories of strong women particularly endearing. Maybe because I like to write about strong women. But I also really enjoyed the other stories as well. On her blog, The Fabulousness, Red Tash shares a list of all the stories with a short blurb for each one.

This collection, a collaborative effort with 14  writers is free at Amazon UNTIL MIDNIGHT TONIGHT. You can download it to your Kindle by clicking here: and read at your leisure!

If you don't have a Kindle, you can download a free Kindle app to many other gadgets like your computer, smartphone, or iPad. Click here:

Saturday, June 09, 2012

Free Kindle Book

Surprise, surprise. I don't normally post on Saturdays, unless I'm doing the A to Z challenge, but I had to pop in today to let you know about a free book this weekend.

The Corner Cafe A Tasty Collection of Short Stories is described on Amazon:  Sweet, dreamy, steamy, and sometimes slightly seamy, this multi-genre collection of short stories includes something for every taste. Prepared by the BBT Café authors: Marian Allen, Shonell Bacon, Karen Casey Fitzjerrell, W.S. Gager, Helen Ginger, Dani Greer, S.B. Lerner, Audrey Lintner, Morgan Mandel, Maryann Miller, Bodie Parkhurst, Bob Sanchez, Mary Montague Sikes, Red Tash, Christine Verstraete.

During the month of June we are doing a blog tour and the authors will be visiting blogs to talk about their stories, their writing, and sometimes some little known facts about themselves. I hope you can find the time to visit a few of the blogs and meet these terrific authors that I am honored to share pages with. Here is a link to Dani Greer's blog with a list of all the tour stops. We hope you join us each day to read more about how The Corner Cafe: A Tasty Collection of Short Stories evolved.

Today and tomorrow the book will be free for Kindle. The good news is you don't need to own a Kindle to download and read the book. You can download an app for another gadget at this link and it's free:

So happy reading all, and if you download the book and like it, it would be wonderful if you would let us know by writing a short review.  My story is titled "Over the Threshold" and is a cross between noir mystery and "The Twilight Zone."

My Y/A novel, Friends Forever is also free today, Saturday.  This is book for tweens dealing with the issues of friendships lost and friendships found and the consequences of bullying.

Friday, June 08, 2012

Friday's Odds and Ends

Shame on President Obama for doing the photo op at the Vietnam War Memorial on Memorial Day and double shame on him if it was his idea. I'm hoping it wasn't. Even though I don't always agree with him, I saw him as a man with more sensibilities and compassion. But maybe that was before he got caught up in the political system and started listening to political advisers.

In addition to all the veterans and families of veterans who came to Washington that weekend to visit the Wall, about 140,000 members of the organization, Rolling Thunder, had ridden motorcycles from across the country to meet up and honor the fallen who are memorialized. It was the official Rolling Thunder XXV "Ride for Freedom", and one of my friends had made the trip from Omaha, NE. To say he was disappointed is an understatement.

Since the beginning of recorded history there have been incidents of genocide that are so horrible one can hardly get his or her mind around it. Ben Kiernan, a Yale scholar, has labelled the destruction of Carthage at the end of the Third Punic War (149–146 BC) "The First Genocide", and more recent history includes the 1890 massacre of Sioux Indians at Wounded Knee by the United States military, the killing of millions during the Holocaust and the ongoing genocide in the countries of Africa.

In this day of enlightenment, one would hope we could get past these barbaric acts, but it appears we never will. The genocide continues across Africa and now there has been more mass killings in Syria that some consider genocide.

Every time I read about the horrors we inflict on each other, I wonder why. I found one answer when I was researching one of my nonfiction books on bigotry and found this book by Adam Jones, Genocide: A Comprehensive Introduction. In it he states that people throughout history have always had the ability to see other groups as alien. "People have always had a name for themselves. In a great many cases, that name meant 'the people' to set the owners of that name off against all other people who were considered of lesser quality. If the differences between the people and some other society were particularly large in terms of religion, language, manners, or  customs, then those others were seen as less than fully human. If they are considered less than human, then they could be a threat and should be eliminated"

That thinking has created the Them or Us mentality that fuels bigotry and the atrocious acts that come out of bigotry. Do you think we will ever grow out of this?

On a much more pleasant note,I read an article in The Dallas Morning News about a teen in Arlington who spearheaded a wonderful act of kindness following the tornado that tore through the town in April. Kate Atwood and her mother drove around after the storm and noted how many people were digging through wreckage to try to find pictures and mementos that may have survived the devastation. Kate got the idea of trying to help, and she enlisted the aid of librarians at Lake Arlington Branch Library. About 40 people have joined the effort to bring pictures and other items to the library where residents can come and claim them. According to the news article, about three-quarters of the items have been claimed.

Kudos to Kate and all the others who are helping to bring these treasured pictures and mementos home.

Wednesday, June 06, 2012

Author Interview - J.H. Bogran

Today I am over at The Blood Red Pencil with some writing tips from the comic strips. Come on over and join the fun, but first say hello to mystery author, J.H. Bogran, today's Wednesday Guest at It's Not All Gravy. He's here today as part of his blog tour to celebrate the release of his latest story, The Assassin’s Mistress

Welcome to this little corner of cyberspace, Jose. Please tell folks a bit about yourself and what you write.

I’m J. H. Bográn, well, José for friends. I was born, and still live, in Honduras; a five-star country right in the center of the American continent. I grew up reading Agatha Christie, Arthur Conan Doyle among others. Then the works of Clive Cussler, Ken Follett, Tom Clancy, Robert Ludlum and many other consummate professionals made be believe writing would be easy. Yeah, right. Anyway, it was too late to go back since I found the love talking—and paying attention—to my muse. My preferred genres are suspense and thrillers; however, I can’t help myself and always tinge my stories with a measure of romance.

1. If you could go back in time, what one thing would you change about yourself?
“If I could turn back time, if I could find a way, I’d take back those words that hurt you, and you’d stay.” I know it’s a song performed by Cher. The tune stuck in my head since I read the question so now I just passed the curse to you. Ha! 

Although I feel sorry for some of the mistakes I’ve made, I think I’ve learned from every single one of them. Yes, I’d like to go back and correct a few things, but I’m afraid those decisions would affect me and then I’d be someone entirely different and I guess I would still have regrets—albeit different ones—but regrets nonetheless. So, you know what? I just realized this is a trick question!
For the sake of argument, I’d go back and work harder to improve my school grades.

2. What was the first thing you ever had published?
The very first was a lame poetry dedicated to mothers for a newspaper contest. I was around eight years old at the time. At least I think the stuff was lame now, however, it won the third place. Go figure! My prize consisted of gifts from the sponsors, including a couple of 45 rpm vinyl records. Now go do the math on my age! : - )

3. What is the most unusual or interesting research you have done for your books?
I just came from a visit to The Big Easy. A cousin of mine lives in New Orleans, and he arranged a grand tour of the city, the night life, the wild life (I mean the swamps, of course). It was the first time I willingly walked into a police station to search for a cop. I met with the Sergeant in charge of the homicide division. With the help of some contacts, I was let in to a guided tour of the city morgue. Yes, this new novel has plenty of dead bodies.

4. If you could go anywhere in the world, where would it be and why?
I’d love to go backpacking through Europe. Why? Well, like most people, I have my bucket list.

5. What is the hardest thing about writing?
Besides finding an agent and publisher? The initial rejection letters. They are form letters, but they hurt like hell. When I was starting, as a naïve and insecure amateur, I invariably tried to read between the lines and find codes or hidden insults. This was a mistake, of course (Can we go back to the time travel question). 

Now I understand the letters just meant I wasn’t ready. Once that settled in, I took the time to read and learn, hone the craft. Eventually, some of the form rejections changed or came with feedback. Then, when I least expected, a couple of “yeses.”

6.  What do you do for fun?
I’m a huge movie fan. Particularly "Star Wars", any movie with superheroes, "Star Trek",  the James Bond movies, and "Indiana Jones". Some of the dialogue I know by heart, and sometimes I catch myself quoting from them. 

Once I began a family, playing with my kids became a fun endeavor. One that has morphed from playing on the floor with cars and castles to going outside to play ball. They are also good at kicking my butt   in video games.

Music is the other companion in my life. I enjoy good performers: Frank Sinatra, Adele, Julio Iglesias, Alejandro Sanz, Eminem, and even some new stuff I got exposed to through my kids.

7. Where do your stories begin? With character or plot?
It depends. Sometimes I’d think of a plot, then I develop the idea and create the characters that would serve the story best.In other instances, I’d think of a character, a fully formed and defined character, then I’d agonize to find a story that would fit.


Author Bio: 
J. H. Bográn, born and raised in Honduras, is the son of a journalist. He ironically prefers to write fiction rather than fact. José’s genre of choice is thrillers, but he likes to throw in a twist of romance into the mix. His works include novels and short stories in both English and Spanish. He’s a member of the International Thriller Writers where he also serves as the Thriller Roundtable Coordinator.

Website  ** Blog ** Facebook **Twitter: @JHBogran

A random encounter leads to deception, love and murder. While vacationing at a ski resort, professional hitman Robert Prescott meets a strange and beautiful woman. They discover passion and embark into a dangerous game hiding their relationship from her powerful husband. Then a further twist of fate makes Robert’s occupation collide with his new found love.  

“He enjoyed his Gold Label scotch served neat ... and his victims dead. "Take my hand if you want to live!" J. H. Bográn’s well-crafted crime thriller takes you where you'd never want to go. Highly recommended for a chilling few moments of your reading life.”
~ Bonnie Turner, author of Face the Winter Naked

“José Bográn’s short story THE ASSASSIN'S MISTRESS is an unusual, gripping and surprisingly fun ride on a killer roller coaster.”
~ Lauren Baratz-Logsted, author of The Bro-Magnet

Monday, June 04, 2012

Read a Book - It's Good for You

I always knew that reading was good for people. As a child, I escaped into fiction and found comfort and sometimes guidance in the stories I read. I learned about dedication and commitment from The Old Man and the Sea.  I learned about loyalty and devotion to those we love from Of Mice and Men I learned about the danger of too much power and prestige in The Great Gatsby. And I learned about good and evil through the characters in the westerns I read by Zane Grey and Louis L'Amour . The good guys were clearly defined by the adherence to a strict moral code, while the outlaws operated on a different moral plane entirely.

It was interesting to read a recent article by Jonathan Gottschall, who teaches English at Washington & Jefferson College and is the author of The Storytelling Animal: How Stories Make us Human. He validated my belief that fiction helped shape me when he shared results from research "that shows that reading fiction does mold us. The more deeply we are cast under a story's spell, the more potent it's influence."

For the complete article, I suggest you go to this link. It is worth the time to get all the results of the research, especially the difference between the impact of reading fiction and non-fiction.

One of the most interesting facts that Gottschall pointed out is that fiction shapes us for the better, not for the worse.  When I was researching for my nonfiction book, Coping With Weapons and Violence in School and on Your Streets, I found studies that indicated that all the violence in fiction promotes violence in young people, and the jury is still out on the effects of the violent video games. However, this new research indicates that reading fiction "enhances our ability to understand other people; it promotes a deep morality that cuts across religious and political creeds. More peculiarly, fiction's happy ending seem to warp our sense of reality. They make is believe in a lie: that the world is more just than it actually is."

Giving people that belief may explain "why humans tell stories in the first place."

While I do not consciously have that thought in mind as I write my stories, most of my fiction does offer the hope that good will prevail over evil. It encourages people to embrace new ideas and attitudes toward people and cultures that are different from what they are comfortable with, and it looks at life situations and brings about that happy ending that doesn't always happen in real life.

To assist you in believing in a happier world, there is a new book out, The Corner Cafe; A Tasty Collection of Short Stories that has an eclectic assortment of stories from published authors. I am pleased to be one of those authors with my story that is described as; "Over the Threshold" by Maryann Miller mixes a bit of Raymond Chandler noir with "The Twilight Zone."

For the month of June, the authors will be doing a blog book tour, and the full schedule of stops can be found at Dani Greer's blog site Blog Book Tours.  The tour starts today and you can find a complete introduction to the book at Dani's blog.

Happy Reading.....

Sunday, June 03, 2012

Book Review - Darker Than Any Shadow by Tina Whittle

Once again Carl Brookins shares a review with us. I really appreciate his generosity in sharing these so I don't have to write a review. (smile)

Darker Than Any Shadow  
By Tina Whittle
ISBN: 9781590585467
2012 release from Poisoned Pen Press.
HC, 291 pages

 The second entry in the author’s intriguing series, featuring a gun shop owner and a corporate security officer, is a winner. Heavily populated with interesting characters, the turbulent love affair between the protagonist informs and leavens what could otherwise have been a run-of-the-mill mystery. Indeed, the identity of the killer, while important to the story, was, to this reader, not as compelling as the characters, and the milieu.

The setting is Atlanta, Georgia, during the run-up to a major poetry slam competition. Some of the characters have known each other from childhood and others seem to have uncertain, even mysterious backgrounds. It’s hot in Atlanta, and gun shop owner Tai Randolph is mentoring her long-time friend, rising poet, Rico. There are teams of competing poets as well as individual efforts and a surplus of egos swirling around as participants prepare.  Then murder intrudes.

The relationship developing between our principal “investigator,” amateur tho she is, Tai Randolph and her lover, Trey Seaver, is much more than casually interesting to observe. Seaver is a former cop with a high level of crisis and SWAT training, excellent skills and more than a little rigidity as regards the rules of life and the law. The almost constant battles between the lovers as they try to accommodate each other is a fascinating piece of this very entertaining novel. I recommend it strongly.
Carl Brookins  BLOG:  -BOOKS:  Case of the Great Train Robbery, Reunion, Red Sky

Friday, June 01, 2012

Friday's Odds and Ends

A Texas jury gave Kimberly Cargill a death sentence after she had been found guilty of first degree murder for killing her babysitter and setting the woman's body on fire. Full story here: 


No matter what one thinks of the despicable crime, is the death penalty the best choice? If you were on a jury, would you vote for the death penalty? What if you had to pull the switch or give the lethal injection?


 I know it is easier to make these judgements when one is far removed from the case. We don't know all the evidence against Cargill, but I still hold that life without possibility of parole is a better option. Not just because she is a woman. I think that the death penalty should stop being used, period. Over and above my concerns about the humanity of using the death penalty, there are other reasons to abolish it. It costs much less money to keep a prisoner locked up for life than to carry out the death penalty, and there is no statistical evidence to show that using the death penalty cuts down the number of murders committed each year in the United States.


The school year is winding down across the country and summer vacation is upon us. Students and teachers alike are probably thrilled to have a break for several weeks so they can recoup and prepare emotionally for next year. 


While the students have to come back, the teachers do not, and some of them won't. Some of them are too worn down by the challenges: endless paperwork, teaching to the tests, inadequate funding, unruly kids, and parents who don't care enough to discipline their kids or supporting their efforts in school. On the other side of that last coin are the parents who are such champions of their children, the teacher is never right. 


There needs to be a middle ground - a place where there is mutual respect for each other and for certain rules that make the learning environment more productive. And parents need to support the teachers. One Dallas-area teacher recalled an incident for columnist, Steve Blow, in which a kindergarten student called her a bitch. When she called the parent so some action could be taken, the response was, "That's what she says when she is really mad. What did you do to make her mad?"


When I read that, I was astounded. Our son once called a teacher a bitch, and after meeting with her and the principal and the counselor and several other teachers in a conference, I had to agree with him. The woman was unreasonable and obviously had a keen dislike for our son. On the way home from the conference, my husband and I told our son that under no circumstances was he ever to call a teacher a name. Period. It didn't matter if it was true or not, the teacher is a figure of authority and you will treat her with respect. Period. And he was grounded for a week.


To read the entire column by Steve Blow in The Dallas Morning News, click HERE. There is some really good advice for parents shared by the teacher, Debbie Hulme Rush.