Thursday, November 29, 2012

Geocaching: The Best Hobby You’ve Never Heard Of

Please welcome Morgan C. Talbot as she shares an interesting hobby that is central to her new book First to Find. My apologies to Morgan and her publisher for messing up the November book tour schedule. Those of you who read my blog regularly know what a crazy month this has been for me. Because I do like to support other authors, I will leave this up until Sunday.

Geocaching is a versatile hobby, engaged in by millions around the world, that has been variously referred to as “using million-dollar satellites to hunt for Tupperware in the woods” and “a high-tech treasure hunt.”’s succinct description describes it thus: “Geocaching is a real-world, outdoor treasure hunting game using GPS-enabled devices. Participants navigate to a specific set of GPS coordinates and then attempt to find the geocache (container) hidden at that location.” Yes, geocaching is all of this, and more. 

Geocaching allows you to search for hidden containers at your own pace, whether they be easy and close to your urban parking spot or sneakily camouflaged at the end of a three-hour hike through the wilderness. It takes you to places in your own hometown that you never knew existed, like that tiny little park with the duck pond, or that great view from the top of the historic bell tower. Geocaching makes you pause to appreciate interesting locations you would otherwise never have sought out—a collection of bronze gongs behind a church, or a quiet cul-de-sac with a secret path into the back end of an enormous riverside park.

Geocaching teaches you to become more aware of the subtleties in your surroundings: that railing by the library could have a small magnetic container under it, and why is there a hole in that old brick wall beside the bakery, anyway? Geocaching adds another layer to your business trip, your family vacation, your trip to the mall. You can hunt for geocaches for as long or as short as you want, no matter where you are.

Geocaching encourages you to prepare for the unexpected—do you have a First Aid kit in your car or geocaching backpack? How about extra logbook paper, in case the log you find is wet? A flashlight, headlamp, or light app in case it gets dark, or if you need to peer into a mysterious crevice to search for an elusive container? What if the geocache doesn’t have a pen inside? Better bring a couple of your own—they run out of ink at the darnedest times. Some helpful geocachers even carry small replacement containers and pens, in case they find a geocache that’s been damaged or burgled. And if you or your children like to trade small items, best to have a handful of fun little things from the dollar store for swapping.

Geocaching gets you outside and moving around. Its tech aspect is a great way to get the indoor geeks outside and enjoying themselves—my father loves to control the GPS unit when my parents go out geocaching. This hobby helps you appreciate a well-maintained trail or road, readable street signs, and the adventure of heading out into the unknown…even if it’s just around the corner or down the block. Your GPS unit will always tell you where you are and where you’re trying to go, but getting there is so much easier when the signs are clear and the way is smooth! (Of course, there are those who appreciate the bumpy road not taken…)

Geocaching lets you venture forth alone or with as many people as you can find. Many eyes searching for a sneaky hide makes the discovery more fun, but some days, you just want to hear the sound of your own thoughts, or the rushing water, or the birds, and that’s okay. Geocaching lets you take your dog, your children, your camera, and your phone, and often these companions enhance your experience. People ask fewer curious questions when you’re chasing your dog or taking nature photographs, or if you’re crouching down next to your daughter’s pink stroller while your hand is fumbling around below the bush behind you, hoping to feel the nice plastic container you’re searching for. Geocachers will sometimes use a lifeline and call other cachers for a hint if they’re having difficulties in the field. And posting pictures of your adventures on the online geocache pages can make your experience come to life for others, too!

Geocaching is the most flexible hobby many people have never heard of. Grab a GPS unit or download a geocaching app and see what’s hiding in your neighborhood. Who knows what you will discover when you step outside your door?
"Death is the hardest puzzle to solve. Margarita Williams escaped death at a young age, but its shadow has followed her all her life. Now, amidst the chaos of a new Australian roommate and mysterious, menacing neighbors, Death has set the puzzlemaker a puzzle of her own. Someone is killing her fellow geocachers, one by one." First to Find


Morgan is an outdoorsy girl with a deep and abiding love for the natural sciences. Her degrees involve English and jujitsu. She enjoys hiking, camping, and wandering in the woods looking for the trail to the car, but there isn't enough chocolate on the planet to bribe her into rock climbing.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

A Different Kind of Wednesday Guest

The other day I received this press release from  Jane Kleeb, who writes for BOLD Nebraska
Because I believe strongly that this pipeline is bad for America on many levels, I decided to post the release.

ICYMI: Ex-worker says TransCanada ignored problems with Wyoming pipeline 

TransCanada continues to use the talking point that the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline will be the "safest pipeline ever," but their credibility and safety record continue to come into question. In just its first year of operation, Keystone leaked fourteen times, a hundred times more leaks that TransCanada predicted. Federal pipeline safety officials have shut down the pipeline because of mechanical issues, and a former employee reported that systematic shortcuts were taken in the construction of Keystone I which compromised its safety.

And now, a worker on TransCanada's Bison natural gas pipeline is reporting similar issues.

From the Associated Press:

A former TransCanada engineer claims the company knew that its Bison natural gas pipeline in Wyoming had faults before it ruptured last year but ignored the problems in the rush to bring it online.

He told the newspaper that he saw problems with pipe alignment welding, excavation and backfilling. He said rocks were left in the pipeline's ditch and they could have caused dents in the line.

A 60-foot section of the pipeline exploded on July 20, 2011, 20 miles northwest of Gillette, shaking the ground and spewing a brown cloud into the sky. The gas didn't ignite. The pipeline, which runs across southeastern Montana into North Dakota, began operating in January 2011.

The U.S. Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration is still investigating the rupture. The company will also soon be audited by Canadian regulators.


For more facts about the pipeline, here is a list of resources compiled by BOLD Nebraska:

Dr. Stansbury, from UNL, report on worst case spills: 

Oil Not Destined for United States report:

UNL Dept. Ag Economics paper on the pipeline:
Bold Nebraska resource page:

Sierra Club profile of individuals affected by pipeline:

Joint report on pipeline safety:

TransCanada uses faulty steel report:

Monday, November 26, 2012

Monday Morning Musings

This is my first day back to a regular schedule in my office. I came home from my three-week stay in Michigan last Tuesday, just in time to get ready for company for Thanksgiving. Our son and his family came from Austin for a few days, and it was great to have time with them. Already it is so quiet, and I miss them. However, I am glad to be back at work.

Yesterday I saw these two cats sleeping together, and I just had to take a picture. After a whole year of living together, I guess the two women have decided they can tolerate each other after all. Most of the past year had been spent with much hissing and posturing as the calico, Misty, told Daisy that she was not wanted in this house. I'm not sure, but what I think Daisy said back is not printable in a PG blog. It was nice to see that hostilities have apparently ceased.

While I did not join the throngs of people out at malls on Black Friday, I plan to do some shopping online today for Cyber Monday. What about you?

The bulk of my shopping will be for books - I have a lot of readers in my family - and a couple of electronics that I cannot get locally. Much of the rest of my shopping has already been done at local stores. We have some unique stores here in my small town, and it is always fun to find something just right for someone on my list. Antique stores often have real treasures, and I found one that I couldn't pass up.

If you are shopping online today, I do hope you will consider one of my books as a gift for someone on your list. Most of them are available as e-books and in paper, and there is a wide variety of genres.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Review: No Body by Nancy Pickard

Thanks to Carl Brookins for another review. I don't know what I would do without my writer friends who share so generously with me and others. 

by Nancy Pickard
ISBN 0-671-69179-1
Pocket Books, 255 pages

Jenny Cain must surely have a unique profession among amateur puzzle solvers.  She’s the director of the Port Frederick, Maine, Civic Foundation. The foundation, somewhat unusual in itself, was founded by leaders of this small coastal Maine town to do good works where other sources of money are no longer viable. 

Unfortunately, her job and her natural curiosity frequently lead Jenny Cain into odd places and difficult situations.  Many of those situations are life-threatening. In this book, Pickard, who has won or been nominated over the years for ten writing awards, weaves a story out of news stories that appear from time to time, about disappearing bodies. In this case, a visitor to the historic cemetery in Port Frederick discovers that the grave of one of her ancestors is empty. Jenny is a native of Port Frederick and in her concern for the woman who fell into the empty grave, she discovers that a great many graves in that cemetery are empty.

Curiosity more than piqued, Jenny Cain starts an investigation. The closer she gets to the answers, the more dangerous becomes the situation. And then there is the murder of an employee of the one funeral home in town. Was she killed to keep her from revealing fraud? Are there other reasons? What happened to the 113 missing bodies?

Pickard has in Jenny Cain a bright, chipper and credible young woman who can’t resist trying to help people with their difficulties and thus getting into trouble. Written with a sure hand, Pickard has provided a small cadre of intriguing characters who help give the novel texture, substance and positive pacing.  They’re the kind of people we meet every day. They’re all people with secrets they don’t wish revealed.  And some of the secrets we’d prefer not to learn. An enjoyable novel of the genre.
Carl Brookins  BLOG:  -BOOKS:  Case of the Great Train Robbery, Reunion, Red Sky

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Writers Who Kill: Thanks-Giving Square

I'm a guest today on this terrific blog. Hop over if you get a chance and see what Jim Jackson has added to his bucket list.

Writers Who Kill: Thanks-Giving Square:

This is what he wrote to introduce me, "Maryann Miller's first appearance on Salad Bowl Saturdays has inspired me to add something to my bucket list and that does not happen ever..."

Now you can go back to enjoying your holiday weekend. (smile)

Friday, November 23, 2012

No Black Friday for Me

I know it is all the craze here in the States. The day after Thanksgiving everybody and their brother flock to stores to take advantage of special sales. I don't know when this all started, but I have never taken  part in it and don't plan to today, or ever.

This type of crazed commercialism that has people camping outside of stores for a week prior to Black Friday so they can be the first ones in the store, boggles this little mind. Every year we hear news stories of people getting hurt as crowds of people push and shove to get the latest electronic device, and I always wonder is it worth it.

It used to be that the sales started early on Friday morning, but in more recent years, the sales start Thanksgiving evening. Perhaps one day Thanksgiving will just be skipped so people can go straight to the local mall earlier on Thursday.

We still have company, so our Black Friday will be spent having a leisurely breakfast and enjoying some conversation with our son and his family. Then we may play some more games, or work on the jigsaw puzzle we started yesterday.

Later we'll pull out the leftovers from the Thanksgiving meal and celebrate thankfullness all over again. Tomorrow and Sunday will be repeats of today, until our company is gone. Some things are more important than others.

What about you? How will you spend the rest of your Thanksgiving weekend.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving

Since this is a holiday time in the U.S., I don't have a guest today. Just thought I would wish everyone who is celebrating tomorrow, and over the weekend, a Happy Thanksgiving. May you make wonderful memories with family and friends, and not get as stuffed as the turkey.
What are you thankful for? For me it is always my family first. What a blessing they have been to me. I am also thankful for all the friends I have made online and the wonderful community of authors who are so supportive.

To write down all that I am thankful for would take pages and pages, so I have tried to spread it out. I've written a different Thanksgiving piece for the Venture Galleries blog that might be of interest.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Bragging on a Friend

This is the note I received from my friend, Slim Randles today and I just had to share.
"Home Country," a collection of the best newspaper columns from the first five years, was awarded the New Mexico/Arizona Book Award November 16.
The column is written by Slim Randles, of Albuquerque, and the book was published by Rio Grande Books, also of Albuquerque.
Since the column's inception almost seven years ago, it is now featured in 265 papers in 44 states, with more than 2.2 million readers.
Slim has been so gracious to share his columns here, I wanted to let everyone know.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Having Some Fun

 Please welcome Slim Randles with another guest post. This time we're having a little fun. Enjoy!

 Dud was awfully quiet all through the daily dissemination of anything on page one of the Valley Weekly Miracle, which wasn’t like him at all. Just sucked down caffeine and silently shook his head now and then.

  “Anita okay, Dud?”

  “Oh … sure, Doc.”

  “You okay?”

  He nodded, then looked up with a wistful, philosophical look that our guys don’t usually get until after the buttered toast. “Sometimes I think it’s pearls before swine, that’s all.”

  We waited.

   “Music, I mean. You know how you practice and practice and then you get good enough to actually do something? Well, I took the accordion and went to the accordion festival to compete … well, you know I’m not really that bad any more…”

  “You’re getting pretty darn good on that thing, Dud.”

  “Thanks, Steve. Well, we drove down to the capital and I got in the competition and did okay. Placed third in polka. I played that new piece. It’s kinda hard because it has those minor bass buttons in it and it took me forever to learn not to miss them.

  “It was after that. You see, I put the accordion back in the car and we went in for a lunch they gave everyone.”

  “What’s wrong with that?”

  “I forgot to lock the car. We were halfway through lunch when Anita asked me if I’d locked the car and then it hit me that I might not have locked it. She insisted I run right out and check and that’s what I did. And that’s when I lost my faith in human beings.”

  “Oh, Dud,” Doc said, “someone stole your accordion?”

  “No, it was still there in the back seat. But someone had put two more in there with it.”

  He shook his head. “Pearls before swine.”
Brought to you by the national award-winning book A Cowboy’s Guide to Growing Up Right. Read a free sample at

Release of Stalking Season

I am my Wednesday's guest today because I am so excited to announce:

Today is the official release date for Stalking Season, the second book in the Season's Series that debuted with Open Season. The book is published by Five Star Cengage Gale and is heavily marketed to libraries. If this is a book that interests you, you can ask your local library to order it.

I love the cover. What do you think?

Kirkus had this to say about Stalking Season:

"Dallas detectives Sarah Kingsly and Angel Johnson (Open Season, 2011, etc.) return to confront a case almost as gnarly as their relationship.

Newly assigned to each other, the women just don’t feel as comfortable as partners should. It isn’t that they have any reason for serious distrust. Yes, Sarah’s white and Angel’s black, but in the past, neither has been much troubled by racial bias. Perhaps it’s their approaches to the job: Sarah’s is more instinctive, more by the gut; Angel’s is more by the book, more unsettled by what she views as Sarah’s hippy-dippy style, as if it could plunge her into situations beyond the scope of her training. When a young woman is strangled, nothing about her suggests a connection to the sleazy motel in which she’s found, and once she’s identified, her actual connections start the Dallas PD hopping. These extend to a quirky, exclusive Dallas businessman’s club and a private school with some offbeat operating principles of its own. The Tracy Clemment murder turns out to be the kind of high-profile case that sends police brass in a frantic search for people to blame and corners to hide in if the investigation goes sour. Through it all, Kingsly and Johnson remain remarkably steady. But then just when it seems that they really might be cut out to be partners, they come to a bump in the road that paves the way for the next series entry.

So deftly plotted and paced that, although it’s certainly possible to grow impatient with the protagonists’ unwarranted impatience toward each other, they’re appealing enough to keep the pages turning."

A STARRED review from Publishers Weekly: “ . . . gripping second mystery featuring Dallas, Tex., police detectives Sarah Kingsly and Angel Johnson. . . . The relationship between the women is just as absorbing as the search for the killer. Few readers will anticipate the closing twist.”

Open Season was well received when it came out in hardback in 2010 and went into a third printing. Maybe Stalking Season will do the same. I will be ordering copies of the book to have on hand if anyone wants to order a signed copy as a gift for someone. Contact me at maryann (at) for details.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Guest Blogging

Today I am a guest on the wonderful DFW writer's group blog, As we Were Saying. One of the blog members, Ruby Johnson, was kind enough to invite me there today to introduce my new book, Stalking Season, which is now out at libraries, and coming in the next two weeks to online retail stores.

Ruby was also so kind to say how much she enjoyed reading Open Season, the first book in the series, and is looking forward to reading this next one.  Since she is a writer, too, she does know how much that means to those of us who pound a keyboard for a living. Ruby has won short story contests, published in the AANA Journal and has contributed to Hospital Topics and  a book on Hospital Management. She currently writes medical suspense.

On the blog today, I share a little about who inspired me to write police procedural mysteries, and there is a short excerpt from the book. Hop on over if you have a moment.

I am sill out of town for another week, then we have the Thanksgiving Holiday bearing down on us. I probably won't get back to my usual blog schedule until after that, but I may pop in now and then.

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

An Ode to Autumn

My Wednesday Guest is Slim Randles. This time he is here with something more thoughtful than humorous, but, as always, a good read. I really like this piece as this is the way I feel about Autumn. It is my favorite time of year as it seems to beg for contemplation.
Here in East Texas we do have pretty fall colors.
 This is the polished time, the pinnacle of life. This is fall, when everything puts on its best for the world to see, and that makes it special.

The sultry heat of summer has passed, and in its place we have cool mornings when the tiny snap of winter's promise briefly touches our skin. There is a magic quality of light and feel in the air, and those of us who enjoy the outdoors know it's time to go to camp. In our genes, we know it's time to go to camp. It's time to be in the woods with rod and bow and gun and rediscover ourselves.

In town, it's time for the kids to be back in school, giving their mothers time to think about themselves for a while.  The antlers of the deer have now been polished to a bone white at the tips and a rugged brown elsewhere. They are prime, as is their owner. It is fall. It is the polished time. The trees, as the sap shuts down in the leaves, share their gold and reds with us and make commonplace scenes only a few weeks ago into magical tapestries of nature.

It is the time of finding a mate, of fighting for territory, of defining our lives. It is fall. And we know we must polish ourselves a little bit right now in order to fit in. We have to assess ourselves and ask what we can do to make our lives a little shinier, our hopes a little stronger, our promises to others more defined, more definite.

It is the time to let the fresh cool air fill our lungs and let us remember other falls, other campfires, other friends. Younger friends, as we were younger. And as the golden leaves fall in the late autumn breezes, it will be time once again to cherish our mates and seek refuge from the winter wind.

Brought to you by Slim’s outdoors memoirs, Sweetgrass Mornings. Read a free sample at

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

Today's the big day here in the States - Election Day. The day we get to choose our next president. I hope everyone gets out to vote. Even though the system is skewed in so many ways, it is still the best system we have at the moment, and we all should be proud that we have the freedom to make so many choices.

Since I am out of town, I already made arrangements for absentee voting.

No matter who wins, I am hoping that partisan politics can be put aside as the government in Washington gears up for the next year.

Michael Engle from Arlington Texas wrote a recent letter to the editor in The Dallas Morning News asking that whatever political party wins the highest office in the county, that we not just keep replaying the same show in Washington. He doesn't want the "We hate Romney and will not work with him" Democrat show or the "We hate Obama and we're still not going to work him him" Republican show.

Engle proposes that this show plays out:  "You know, even though you're not a member of our party, for the sake of the unwashed masses we are going to work with [whichever candidate wins] to actually help the people."

What a concept. Politicians, are you listening?

Friday, November 02, 2012

Just for Fun

You know how much I enjoy reading the comic strips in the newspaper. Part of the reason is just the pure fun, but there is always a bit of truth in them, too.

This one from One Big Happy resonated with me and my hubby. Ruthie is watching TV with her grandfather and he says, "This is the reality show where the nasty rich housewives fuss with one another."

Then Grandpa changes the channel. "And  this is the reality show where the fishermen risk their lives in the freezing Arctic Ocean."

Ruthie thinks for a moment then asks, "Isn't there a show where the rich and nasty housewives fall off a boat into some freezing ocean?"

"I wish."

(Me, too.)

This is from Pearls Before Swine. Rat says to Goat, "Why do we allow people to bribe congressmen?"

"We don't. It's illegal."

"What are you talking about? Rich corporations are always giving these idiots money to vote in a certain way."

"Yeah, but those aren't bribes. They're campaign contributions."

To which Rat responds, "For the smart guy in this strip, you're pretty moronic."