Wednesday, July 31, 2013

How Much is Your Lemonade?

Before I turn the page over to my guest today, I do need to announce the winners of last week's contest. I held it over until today as there were so few comments on the blog last week it hardly made a contest. The winners of an ARC for Stalking Season, the second book in the Seasons Series, or an e-book of their choice are: Patricia Stolty, Yolanda Renee, and LD Masterson. Congrats to all.  

Today I am posting at The Blood Red Pencil blog where there is a good discussion going on about the awkward word usage that can pull you out of a story. I am also a guest at Heidi Thomas's blog   sharing some of the fun I had researching Boxes For Beds. 

And now here's humorist Slim Randles and his friend Herb with a business lesson for entrepreneurs of all ages.
We heard about the lemonade stand later, of course, as it was several blocks from where the rest of us lived, but it was only a couple of houses from Herb Collins. He had to go there. He couldn't resist.

The stand was set up by Heather and Tim Naismith, a brother/sister team whose ages added together wouldn't hit 18. Herb watched them set it up on that hot afternoon and finally couldn't stand it. He had to have some fun.

The lemonade was fifty cents, a bargain in anyone's book, as canned soda pop is running about a buck these days. And anyone can see that a lemonade stand set up by two youngsters is something to be encouraged. The free enterprise system at its very best. Ingenuity. American spirit. Besides, those Naismith kids are kinda cute, having worked so hard to get the lemonade made and the card table set up out under the tree in front.

Herb explained later that what he was really setting out to do, besides giving the kids some business, was to teach them a few harmless lessons in how to succeed in retail. Years ago, before he got into the trucking business, Herb ran a pawn shop in the city. He was known to be a sharp trader, and he delighted in telling us how little he paid for things and how much he sold them for.

"Hi kids," he told them. "Pretty good lemonade?"

"The best, Mr. Collins," Heather said.

"So ... fifty cents a glass? Well, all right, I'll have a glass."

He put down fifty cents and they filled a tall paper cup nearly to the brim for him. It was good lemonade.

"So how much for four glasses of lemonade?"

Tim did some silent figuring. "Two dollars, sir."

 "Well, that's the retail price, of course," Herb said, "but now we're buying in bulk. What you do when someone wants to buy in bulk is you adjust the price. I think I should be able to buy four glasses of lemonade at, say, forty cents a glass. What do you think?"

The kids whispered in each other's ears.

"Mr. Collins," said Heather, "if you buy four glasses for forty cents each, how much would you expect to pay for a dozen glasses?"

Heartened by their interest in business, Herb said, "Oh, probably about thirty cents a glass, I guess. You have to make allowances for volume, you see."

"Good," said Heather. "We'll sell you a dozen glasses of lemonade, then, because we want to sell a lot of it, and we'll only charge you $3.60 for them."

Herb pulled out the money.

"But you'll have to drink them all here," Heather said. "We don't have a license for carry-out."
Brought to you by the dogs and cats at your local shelter. Visit them and bring home a new best friend. You’ll never be sorry.

If you enjoy these posts from Slim, you would enjoy his book, Home Country, a compilation of the many columns he has done over the years. Some of them are humorous and a some of them are a bit more serious, but all are delightful. 

Monday, July 29, 2013

Rain Barrels Banned

A law in Colorado Springs prohibiting rain barrels because the rain belongs to the municipal utility is high on the list of the most absurd I've ever heard about. My daughter, who has a friend who lives in the city, told me about it, and at first I really thought she was joking. She said she was not, but I still had a hard time wrapping my mind around such a bizarre law. Then I did an Internet search and this is what I found in an article that was published in 2009. I have not found anything more recent about this, but it does appear from what R. Scott Rappold said in the article in The Gazette, the law is still in place, despite efforts to get it changed.

Here is part of the article:
In Colorado, it's illegal for people to collect rainfall, one of the more bizarre quirks of the state's labyrinthine water laws. The water that falls on lawns belongs to downstream water-rights owners. 
But attitudes toward collecting rainfall for watering lawns are changing, and two recent pieces of legislation, including one signed by Gov. Bill Ritter on Tuesday , make it easier for people to use rain barrels. Such water collection is considered environmentally friendly and encouraged in many states.
If you live in the city, don't install a barrel under your gutter spout just yet. The legislation lets residents on wells collect rain and establishes 10 pilot projects for new developments. Residents on municipal water still can't legally collect rain, and water suppliers are leery of legislation that would let them.

"All the water was spoken for here in the Arkansas Basin 100 years ago or more," said Kevin Lusk, water supply engineer for Colorado Springs Utilities. "If the water falls as rain, that's water that was going to get to the stream system, and somebody already has dibs on it, and if somebody intercepts that, it's the same as stealing."

State Rep. Marsha Looper, R-Calhan, a primary sponsor of both bills, decided to push the issue after hearing last year from a resident upset about not being able to set up a rain barrel.
If city governments and utilities want to do something for a long-term solution to water shortages, I'm sure there are more sensible solutions than this one. 

I have a rain barrel that collects the water from my gutters, and I have big pails for the water that comes off the roof of my barn. But plenty of other water runs off my property in a storm, going into the stream system that feeds into the major water supplies in East Texas. The 100 gallons or so that I collect to water my garden hardly makes a dent in what ends up down the road.

For those of you who do not live in Colorado Springs, or Utah where there is a similar ban on rain barrels, you can install one for yourself. Not only does it save on your water bill to water plants and gardens with collected rainwater, it is better for the plants. If you are interested in trying one, there are all kinds available, and my search for images turned up hundreds. Mine is not nearly as fancy or pretty as those manufactured for the purpose, but out here in the country a 50 gallon heavy trash can serves the purpose. Although I really would like something prettier. Maybe I can get my artistic daughter to paint on mine.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Book Review - March by Sunni Oveend

Sunni Overend
File Size: 461 KB
Print Length: 244 pages
Publisher: Sunni Overend; 1 edition (May 31, 2013)
Pages: 300 (approx 70,000 words)
Paperback ISBN: 978-0-9875667-0-6
Ebook ISBN: 978-0-9875667-1-3

The opening of this story reminded me of The Devil Wears Prada. Apple March, working at a retail clothing store, is under the thumg of her overbearing boss, and the dialogue between Apple and Jackson is so reminiscent of that between Andrea and Miranda. Miranda and Jackson are rude, snobbish and quite demeaning in so many ways.

Apple planned for a career in fashion design and the reasons for why she is working retail and not following that dream are the mystery that is pulled through the story. The reader does not find out until the end what happened at the Emmaline Grey Academy that kept Apple from finishing her education.

I liked the snappy dialogue and enjoyed the many varied characters and settings that were brought to life through the story. It was a glimpse into the fashion industry in Australia and the social elite in Melbourne. One of the reasons I like to read is the opportunity to learn about a country that I may never see and get a real feel for the people and the settings.

Charlie, Apple's love interest, was a great character, and the resolution of their story is well done and very satisfying. We do want the happy ending with this kind of book that is part reality and part romantic fantasy.

If I had not been sent the book for review, I might not have picked it up based on the title or the cover. Neither gave me a hint of what the book was about, and I like titles that give some suggestion of the story concept. While the cover is an interesting and well-done graphic image, it, too, does not  reveal anything about the story.

However, those are minor points that do not take away from a well-done story, and may not bother other readers. If you like Chick-Lit, you will enjoy this book.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Blogger Book Fair Guest - Caitlyn Nicholas

Welcome to the final day of the Blogger Book Fair. I hope you have enjoyed the fair as much as I have. I have met some new friends and picked up a few good books. The Reader's Choice contest is still going and my short story collection, The Wisdom of Ages, is in the Anthology Category. My mysteries, Open Season and One Small Victory are in the Mystery Category and my romance, Play It Again, Sam, is in the Romance Category. (Votes are certainly welcome. [Smile])
As promised all week,  I will give away advance copies of my mystery, Stalking Season to three lucky winners, or an e-book of your choice. All you have to do to win is comment on the blog this week and I will draw names on Monday. Originally, I was going to draw winners and notify them today, but I am having company for the weekend. My daughter and her children are coming and I have not seen them in too long, so you will understand why I will not be online much this weekend. Don't forget to leave a contact e-mail so I can let you know if you won.

My final guest is Caitlyn Nicholas, and I am over at her blog today answering some fun questions she posed for an interview. Caitlyn began writing only eight years ago. Exhausted, pregnant and coping with a demanding toddler, she decided the time was right to embark on a writing  career. To her family's eternal surprise she is now the author of five novels and a short story. Her debut novel - and the first manuscript she had ever written - Running Scared, was published in 2007. This was followed by Secret Intentions in 2009, The Danger Game in 2012 and, Drive Me To Distraction, also in 2012.  Her next novel, Pursuit, will be out in August 2013.
 I hope you have enjoyed the fair and taken advantage of the many giveaways. For the final day of the fair, I thought we could have an ice cream sundae. Enjoy, and don't forget to comment to win a book. 

Here is a brief description of Pursuit:
Legendary hacker, Dimity Pond, is on the run from the law. 

Her landlord’s sold her home, her money has disappeared along with her two-timing husband, a cyber-terrorist named Nemesis is forcing her to wreak havoc with a nasty virus and she's developing a vile migraine.

Six years ago, Nemesis framed Dimity for the collapse of one of Europe's biggest banks. The money was never found, and the bank's failure caused untold damage to its customers. She's been living under
the radar ever since. The only way she can clear her name and live a normal life is to uncover Nemesis's identity, but he's always one step ahead.

Since Lord Richard Summerhayes left the Special Forces he's built the best disaster-recovery network in the world, known as The Bunker. Banks, militaries, airports and other major systems around the world rely on him as the last unshakeable digital fortress in the face of disaster. Richard has been keeping an eye on his neighbor who has a dubious hacking past. He doesn't like hackers, and when someone nukes his network with an intriguing new virus he knows exactly who to blame. But when he confronts her, he gets a whole lot more than he bargained for.

When Nemesis commits an unthinkable act of terrorism, the last hope is an encrypted file that only Dimity can crack. Will Nemesis manipulate Dimity into helping him wipe out the world's biggest financial center? Or can Richard and Dimity take Nemesis down once and for all?

"Oh Sarah Easton ——” A cold digital voice mocked her. “It’s about to begin. Send the virus.”

Cold horror washed over Dimity. She jabbed the phone’s off button and dropped it on the table.
A noise, the rough grate of wood on metal, startled her. Numbers curled across her mind as a migraine inched closer.

“It’s the stove.” She spoke out loud, to break the quiet.

Beau – the labrador – cozy and content at the base of the wood-burning stove, continued to sleep as if he’d spent the morning chasing rabbits.

Which he hadn’t.

Unless bacon was involved, Beau never ran.

The silence of the house closed back around her.

She scooped up the phone, hesitating, waiting, and hoping the suffocating dread would dissipate. It didn’t. Then she hooked the handset back into its base, flicked open the dishwasher and unloaded the dirty cups and glasses she’d stacked there in a rare burst of domesticity that morning.

Someone hammered on the front door. A thick white mug, with the faded words Nerd Girl on it, slipped from her fingers, bounced off the side of the dishwasher door and shattered into a thousand pieces on the floor.

Jake? It couldn’t be him. He had a key and was in the south of France. But no one ever came to visit, she made sure of it.

The person hammered again.

“Shit,” she muttered. “This stupid life.”

You can find the author at her Website    Blog   on Twitter   Facebook    Google+    

Buy Links:   Amazon   Amazon UK    iTunes    Momentum 

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Blogger Book Fair - M Pepper Langlinais

Welcome to the fourth day of the Blogger Book Fair, organized by the amazing Kayla Curry. This has been a great week so far, and I've already found several books that I've added to a list of those to buy. What about you?
Before we move on to my guest today, I want to remind you that the  Reader's Choice contest is still open, and my short story collection, The Wisdom of Ages, is in the Anthology Category. My mysteries, Open Season and One Small Victory are in the Mystery Category and my romance, Play It Again, Sam, is in the Romance Category. (Votes are certainly welcome. [Smile])
  At the end of the week, I will give away advance copies of my mystery, Stalking Season to three lucky winners, or an e-book of your choice. All you have to do to win is comment on the blog this week, and I will draw names - probably on Monday as I will have company this weekend. Please leave a contact e-mail.
Today I am guesting at two blogs - imagine that! Pepper and I have swapped appearances today, so I am on her Pepperwords site, and I am also over at Jeff Horton's A Novel Perspective.  

Today my guest for the Blogger Book Fair  is M Pepper Langlinais. Best known for her Sherlock Holmes stories, she is also the author of "St. Peter in Chains" and "The K-Pro." She is a active playwright, and her short play "Warm Bodies" has been produced at two separate festivals and will soon be published by the Northwest Playwrights Alliance in their annual anthology. The following is an excerpt from her novel The K-Pro. This morning we will have tea and crumpets. It just seems like that kind of day. Enjoy.

Across the wide green at the side of the house was a garden, in full bloom in early June. Andra and David walked toward it in silence, side by side, though Andra noticed David was careful not to walk near enough to even accidentally brush or touch her. The closer they came to the colorful jumble of plants, the stronger the smell of them became, the breeze off the ocean below only managing to blow around the hot air and heavy perfume of flowers.

“It’s just a bay,” David said, unprompted, just for something to say. “An inlet, really.”

Andra nodded as if this were an interesting and important fact.

“You see how the land gives way . . .” David gestured to the far side of the garden, which was bordered by a short wall of piled stones. It didn’t look to Andra like it would stop anyone from falling; on the contrary, Andra thought someone might be just as likely to trip on it and go flying out into the open air.
As if reading the direction of her thoughts, David said, “It’s not that long a way down.”

There had been no path on the lawn, and there wasn’t one in the garden, either, only grass between the flowerbeds, though the landscapers had left plenty of space. Andra guessed four people could walk shoulder to shoulder between the plantings. Or, in their case, it was just enough room for her and David to maintain a comfortable distance from one another. Now they meandered past hot pink somethings (Andra was terrible at gardening, though she could identify roses and tulips pretty definitely), and yellow other things, and some whites and purples, steadily making their way toward the wall.

“Something there is that doesn’t love a wall,” Andra quoted.

“What?” asked David, sounding yet again as if he’d only just arrived from somewhere else. Andra wondered where he went when inside his mind.

“Robert Frost,” she said. “The poet?” When David only continued to stare blankly, Andra added, “You probably don’t have to learn him over here.”

“We’ve got plenty of our own,” said David as he picked his way through some yellows that lined the wall, presumably planted there to keep people away from it, though David’s long legs allowed him to get over them with relative ease. He took a seat on the uneven pile, and Andra blanched as one of the flat, smooth stones shifted beneath him.

“What’s wrong?” David asked.

“That’s not . . . really very safe, is it?”

David glanced over his shoulder. “It’s fine. It doesn’t drop straight to the water, you see? Kind of like a ha-ha. But without the cows.”

Andra didn’t know what a ha-ha was, or what cows had to do with anything, nor could she see what David meant from where she stood, and she didn’t want to. Something panicky fluttered in her chest. “The stones are loose,” she pointed out. “They’re just piled, not, you know, stuck together or anything.”

David cocked his bright eyes at her, and in that moment Andra saw just why they were the subject of so much Internet fan-girl chatter. The brilliant sunlight only served to make them clearer, so that they rivaled the sky for color. All at once Andra felt like she were falling forward and found herself thankful she wasn’t anywhere near the open drop. Reflexively, she dug the heels of her sandals into the grass as if to ground herself, and David’s eyes traveled away from Andra’s face to her feet, restoring her to rational thinking.

“You should sit,” said David, “if your feet are bothering you.”

“They’re not . . .” Andra began, but there was no good way to explain what had just happened.

“Anyway, you shouldn’t be sitting there. Look, you’re stepping all over the whatever-they-ares.”

“Am I?” David leaned a little forward to look past his own knees while simultaneously lifting his feet, and the rocks beneath him teetered.

A fresh wellspring of panic bubbled inside Andra. “Please,” she said, no longer caring that she sounded whiny and childish.

“Narcissi,” David mused.

Stung by what she thought was an insult, Andra retorted, “Fine, go ahead and fall if you’re going to be that way about it.”

David lifted his head—too quickly, as it turned out, the momentum of his movement causing the rocks he was perched on to finally give way. They slipped out from under him like a deck of cards fanning and sliding, and David fell backward, head and shoulders first in an ungraceful somersault.

The K-Pro Website (first chapter available for free)

Buy Link  (available for Kindle and in paperback)

On Twitter: @sh8kspeare

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Blogger Book Fair - Two for the Price of One

This is the third day of the Blogger Book Fair, and I hope you have enjoyed meeting some new authors as they shared bits and pieces of their books. The Reader's Choice contest is still open, and my short story collection, The Wisdom of Ages,  is in the Anthology Category. My mysteries, Open Season and One Small Victory are in the Mystery Category and my romance, Play It Again, Sam, is in the Romance Category. (Votes are certainly welcome. [Smile])
  At the end of the week, I will give away advance copies of my mystery, Stalking Season to three lucky winners, or an e-book of your choice. All you have to do to win is comment on the blog this week and I will draw names on Friday. Please leave a contact e-mail.
Today, because it is mid-week and I am a bit stressed, I thought we would have chocolate as our treat. Help yourself.

Before I signed up for the Blogger Book Fair, I scheduled Jarod Kintz to be my usual Wednesday's Guest, we will have a visit from two authors today. First up is my Blogger Book Fair guest Jerry Hatchett with an excerpt from his thriller, Pawnbroker.  Jerry grew up in the creatively fertile Mississippi Delta. Now a transplanted Texan, he writes from the Houston area. He's a lifelong geek, an expert in digital forensics, and is crazy about storytelling in all its forms. He also cooks the best ribeyes on the planet and is an avid fan of Ole Miss football in particular and SEC football in general.

A rusty chain hung across the spot where the abandoned road entered the woods. A stencil-painted tin sign, drooping from the chain on baling wire, issued a Day-Glo warning to the curious: PRIVATE LAND. TRESPASSERS PROSECUTED. RICHARD BALLARD, SHERIFF, PONTOCOLA COUNTY. Three miles into the woods, atop a shallow ridge, an old building still stood. Once fresh and gleaming, its weathered shell had long ago turned the lifeless gray of decaying lumber. Such was its condition when Ray Earl Higgins and Rocky Shackleford first beheld it in the beam of an Eveready flashlight on a hot August night, thirty minutes shy of midnight.

Rocky and Ray Earl had killed more deer over the past twenty years than anybody in Pontocola County, maybe even the whole state. (It helped that they weren’t hindered by things like seasons, rules, or limits.) Rocky knew they were on posted land, but if they got caught hunting deer three months before season opens, at night, a trespassing charge would be the least of their worries. Besides, the deeper they went, the less likely they’d meet up with a game warden. Or some candy-ass animal rights freak who might run whining and blabbing. Finally, all those fine considerations aside, Rocky just didn’t give a happy damn. He’d go where the hell he pleased.

As for Ray Earl, well, he went where Rocky went. That’s the way it was in the second grade, and that’s the way it was on this fine evening. If Ray Earl were diagnosed by modern standards, he would probably have been deemed autistic, with a savant-like ability to mentally record and catalog detail. Instead, at age four he was diagnosed by Dr. Hurston Westerfield—a portly gentleman who hung his shingle just after World War II—after much careful evaluation, as “a V-8 hitting on four cylinders, maybe five on a good day.” Ray Earl was well liked in town, or at least well tolerated.

They had never hunted these woods, and to be accurate, the quest for venison was not what drew them in tonight. It was the stench. It rode in on a hot southern breeze, a reek so strong it made Rocky gag. Rocky, who had disemboweled countless deer as he dressed them out. Rocky, the A-shift foreman at Montello’s open-surface sewage treatment plant. He had to find the source of such an impossible stink.

Great teaser for the book. I am adding this one to my wish list.

Next up is Jarod with some tips for writers. Last Sunday I reviewed his book, The Mandrake Hotel and Resort  and here is his guest post.

How do I become be a better writer? That is the question every aspiring author asks themselves. 

Writing is inventing, and in a sense an author plays God, because as God created the heavens and the earth, the author creates worlds that exist in books.

So to be a better writer, you must be a better creator—you must be more creative than both the old you, and your past, present, and future competition, which thanks to the open availability of self-publishing, is pretty much everyone in the world.

Writing isn’t about IQ, which is rigid and convergent. Writing is about divergence, and as Malcolm Outliers, a great little test to measure your creative intelligence is called the Brick and Blanket Test.
Gladwell talked about in his book

It’s as simple to understand as it is hard to execute. Quickly put, you must come up with as many uses as you can for two common items: a brick and a blanket. What does this have to do with writing? Well, the more creative you are, the better your writing will be. You must be intellectually flexible, like a cerebral gymnast, not rigid and brittle like glass.

How creative are you? Why don’t you find out by seeing how many different uses you can come up with for a brick and a blanket. 

After you are done playing, honestly assess yourself. If your answers were stodgy and stiff, maybe you need to open yourself up a bit and let loose.

In closing, Jarod says, “My story is just beginning. I plan on failing my way to success. I have been rejected by literary agents, publishers, MFA programs, and all sorts of women. But still I keep writing. Share yourself with the world. If there is one thing I like to impress upon people, it’s that you can do it, even if you can’t. Just keep can’ting until eventually you can. And you can quote me on that.”

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Blogger Book Fair Guest Jeff Horton

Welcome to the second day of the Blogger Book Fair, organized by the amazing Kayla Curry. This is going to be a fun week of authors sharing bits and pieces of their books, sharing some virtual goodies, and giving away some great prizes. There is also a Reader's Choice contest going and my short story collection, The Wisdom of Ages,  is in the Anthology Category. My mysteries, Open Season and One Small Victory are in the Mystery Category and my romance, Play It Again, Sam, is in the Romance Category. (Votes are certainly welcome. [Smile])
  At the end of the week, I will give away advance copies of my mystery, Stalking Season to three lucky winners, or an e-book of your choice. All you have to do to win is comment on the blog this week and I will draw names on Friday. Please leave a contact e-mail.

Today my guest for the Blogger Book Fair is Jeff Horton. He was born in North Dakota, the youngest son of a career Air Force Master sergeant, where he spent the first four years of his life before moving to North Carolina. A somewhat voracious reader growing up, he read everything from comic books to The Bible, including stories by many popular authors such as Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, H. G. Wells, Jules Verne, Edgar Rice Burroughs, Michael Crichton, Tom Clancy, C. S. Lewis, and J. R. R. Tolkien. Jeff Horton's novel, The Great Collapse, a story about the coming of the pulse and the end of civilization, was published in 2010. He is a member of the North Carolina Writers Network. He is sharing a bit of information about his latest book, Cybersp@ce.

In honor of his sci-fi novel, I thought we could travel with him to the Space Bar which takes us to the Portal for Sci-Fi and Fantasy on Facebook. Pull up a stool and join us.

CYBERSP@CE-The novel is a sci-fi espionage story, with ingredients of international intrigue, artificial intelligence, action, suspense, and romance. Set mostly in the Nevada desert, Cybersp@ce includes cyber warfare between nation states, the fantastic virtual world of an alien computer, and the hunt for one of the world's greatest spies.

From inside their home located outside the small town of Corona, New Mexico in 1947, a young boy and his parents, while watching a freak lightning storm, hear a loud crash, after young Henry Summers witnesses what he thinks is an alien spacecraft falling from the sky.

Many years later, Nick Reynolds is appointed as the head of a Cyber Command task-force established to deal with the increasing cyber warfare threat from China. Soon after, a new, disturbing type of cyber attack emerges, just as Nick learns that a massive Chinese cyber attack against the United States infrastructure might be imminent. When the evidence suggests that the threat is real and that the attack will kill millions of people, Nick discovers that his team will not have enough time or the technical resources to stop the incredibly advanced attack when it comes.

Nick soon learns of another top-secret project, however, one which might offer a way to stop the attack and spare the lives of hundreds of millions of people.

Dr. Henry Summers works on that top-secret project with his scientist daughter, Kate, inside Area 51 at Groom Lake, Nevada. Working with Nick after years of trying to reverse-engineer an alien spacecraft, the team has a breakthrough when they discover how to interface with an alien ship's computer, by using a cybernetic helmet, which they use to enter a fantastic, virtual world. Together they work to save humanity from a horrific nuclear war, paving the way for a fantastic and exciting future for humanity.

Cybersp@ce is the first novel in the Cybersp@ce Trilogy

Author Contact Information:
Facebook Page:  
Twitter:              !/Jeff_Horton
Amazon Author Page:
Blog                             http://
Pinterest Page:     

Monday, July 22, 2013

Blogger Book Fair Guest - Barbara Billig

Books - Prizes - Parties
Today is the first day of the Blogger Book Fair, organized by the amazing Kayla Curry. This is going to be a fun week of authors sharing bits and pieces of their books, sharing some virtual goodies, and giving away some great prizes. There is also a Reader's Choice contest going and my short story collection, The Wisdom of Ages,  is in the Anthology Category. My mysteries, Open Season and One Small Victory are in the Mystery Category and my romance, Play It Again, Sam, is in the Romance Category. Votes are certainly welcome. (smile)
I will have a guest every day this week, and first off I am pleased to have Barbara Griffin Billig at my party. Here is a link to her blog, Readers and Writers where she is hosting a number of authors.
I thought it would be good to share a glass or two of bubbly with Barbara and our visitors today to celebrate the beginning of the Fair. At the end of the week, I will give away advance copies of my mystery, Stalking Season to three lucky winners, or an e-book of your choice. All you have to do to win is comment on the blog this week and I will draw names on Friday. Please leave a contact e-mail.  Enjoy...

Barbara would like to tell you a bit about THE NUCLEAR CATASTROPHE, a  novel of survival (3rd edition)

#1A NewBookCoverImage2

A new novel for everyone – written for your entertainment & to raise nuclear awareness.

The Nuclear Catastrophe is set in Southern California and deals with characters caught in a disaster that they thought could never happen. Ben, head of Whitewater Nuclear Power Plant and his pregnant wife Sara live in San Mirado, near the ocean. One fateful day the unexpected happens.....Ben and Sara, the plant workers, the people living in San Mirado and those in adjacent cities all have to make decisions as to what to do, where to go. Their choices have both good and bad consequences.

This fictional story brings home the reality of what would, or could, happen. History has shown us time after time that......what can go wrong....will go wrong. What would you do? Your answers may be different after reading this novel. Read how these characters faced difficult choices - and decide what you would have done - or will do.

This book is available at as an ebook (Kindle version) or in paperback. Kindle books can be downloaded to the Kindle or to a PC or Tablet, Notebook, or Smartphone. Visit to download a free Kindle app that allows this book to be read on any of those other electronic devices. 

This novel is meant to entertain and to educate. Very little has been written on this subject that is not a deep non-fiction book. And now that we have experienced the nuclear disasters of Fukushima and Chernobyl we know how dangerous these power plants can be. As of 2011 there were 442 nuclear power plants operating or under construction in the world. The United States has 104. Whether it is a terrorist dirty bomb or a nuclear melt down - we should know what is happening and be prepared. I hope you will take the time to read this fictional story. Fifty percent of the proceeds from the sale of the e-book in 2013 is being donated to a charity to support the forgotten victims of the Fukushima nuclear disaster.

What some of the readers have said:

"I enjoyed this book because it could happen. I think anyone living in a state with a nuclear reactor exists should read this."

"A frightening tale of survival. You never really think about the events that take place after you have been stripped of normal day to day resources. No police, hospitals, you are your own 911 and now have to protect yourself against the world."

"A worthy read! This is a book whose vivid, thought-provoking images have stayed with me even months after reading it! It helped me to better understand the potential repercussions of a nuclear disaster."

Barbara Griffin Billig Thanks You!

Barbara Griffin Billig "Thank You For Your Interest!"

Visit the author at her Web Page     On Pinterest    Facebook     

Follow on twitter: @Barbarabillig

Available for Kindle 

Read an excerpt    

The book is also available as The Disquiet Suvivors of The Nuclear Catastrophe in Paperback

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Book Review - The Mandrake Hotel and Resort by Jarod Kintz

The Mandrake Hotel and Resort
Jarod Kintz
File Size: 237 KB
Print Length: 90 pages
Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
Language: English

If you like quirky humor, you will like The Mandrake Hotel and Resort to violence if necessary. It is comprised of  a collection of short pieces, all loosely related as they take place in or around the Mandrake Hotel and are written by the same author, Jarod Kintz. In other lives, Jarod has been a stand-up comic, and these vignettes could indeed be pieces from his performances.

Some of the characters are Rot, the owner of the hotel, Jackson J. Jackson, one of the desk clerks, both of whom help the guests find just the right room for their tastes. Keep in mind that these are not ordinary hotel rooms. The hotel is designed to be a fantasy world where the guests can live out their dreams and explore their hobbies.

The stories are often absurd in their quirkiness, but there is also a level of thoughtfulness that makes readers pause just a moment to consider just how in touch with their dreams they might be.This was a fun, interesting book to read, but be prepared for something very much out of the ordinary.

Visit the tour Schedule 
Jarod is currently on a book tour and has lots of great prizes at the various places he is visiting. You can join an event on Facebook, as well enter the Rafflecopter giveaway.  a Rafflecopter giveaway  

He will be my guest on Wednesday, so please try to come by to find out a bit more about his book.

Jarod grew up in Jacksonville, Florida and graduated with an English degree from the University of Florida. He has written many “books” but likes to use the term loosely; describing them as mostly just compilations of his random thoughts and one-liners. (Editor’s Note: Don’t believe a word of it, he’s brilliant!) A master of modesty, he probably won’t mention that (among his many writing achievements) he once sold a line of pithy t-shirts to Urban Outfitters. With characteristic humility, Jarod says, “But my story is just beginning. I plan on failing my way to success. I have been rejected by literary agents, publishers, MFA programs, and all sorts of women. But still I keep writing. Share yourself with the world. If there is one thing I like to impress upon people, it’s that you can do it, even if you can’t. Just keep can’ting until eventually you can. And you can quote me on that.”

Friday, July 19, 2013

Drama Camp Winding Down

Again, just a short post as this is the last day of drama camp at the Winnsboro Center for the Arts. It has been an intense two weeks, but the kids have put together a terrific show. As they brainstormed and came up with ideas for scenes, it reminded me of those shows I used to put on in my basement when I was a kid.

I grew up in the Midwest where most homes had basements, and we even had an old coal bin. All kids of skullduggery could take place in there. I remember hanging curtains and making that a dungeon where the the evil queen put the beautiful young girl who wanted to marry the prince, but she was not from a royal family. Sort of a play on Cinderella. 

This isn't my coal bin, but a pretty close facsimile for those who have never seen one.
This recent experience with the drama camp has one again made me realize how important this kind of creative play is. Modern education is too often focused on standardized testing, and opportunities for students to strengthen thinking and reasoning skills are fewer and fewer.

During the camp our students had to figure out for themselves how to arrange the set, what props would work, how the lighting works, and costumes. It was exciting to watch them go through items in our theatre department and come up with creative ideas. Then they had to figure out how to make those ideas into reality.

Now here is a joke from the comic, in case you have missed my Friday Feature. This one is from

Mother Goose and Grimm:

Superman and Batman are at a bar together. Superman points to Batman and asks, "What happened to your utility belt?"

Batman responds, "I forgot to pay my utility bill."

I know, that one is more of a groaner, but I couldn't resist. Have a great weekend, and join me next week for special guests. The Blogger Book Fair is happening all week and I will have guests every day. We will have lots of virtual goodies for refreshments, and the authors participating in the Fair have some great giveaways. Hope you can make it.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Author Marie Flanigan

Please help me welcome today's Wednesday's Guest, Marie Flanigan, a freelance writer in northern Virginia. She writes video game and book reviews as well as the occasional blog post for The Motley Fool. Her first novel, One Big Beautiful Thing, was released in May. We will have latte's from the coffee shop in town, so pull up a chair and join us.

Welcome Marie. My first question has to do with how well you handled the issue of grief  in your story. Did you draw from experience for that?

I have never lost a significant other like Kate lost Robert, but I have lost friends and family and I have been close to friends and family who have lost significant others. It’s a gut wrenching thing to watch and it’s confusing, because you have your own feelings of loss, which have to be set aside to help the other person through their much more significant loss. The aftermath of death is so painful and no one is really prepared for it despite the fact that we all have to go through it. Pretty much anything I find challenging or interesting or painful in my life eventually ends up in my fiction in one form or another.

You also seem to understand the mind of an artist. Do you have a background in visual art?

Sadly, no, but my sister is a wonderful artist as is a very close friend of mine, who actually did the cover of my book. I based a lot of Kate’s feelings about art on conversations with them and other artists I’ve come in contact with over the years. I really respect artists of all types. It’s a tough task to put your work out there to be judged, knowing that everyone is not going to like it, and possibly no one will appreciate what you’re trying to do.

Kate is such a wonderful, conflicted character. Was she hard to write?  

Aspects of Kate’s personality were definitely hard to write, if only because I’m so different from her, that I have to separate decisions I would have made from decisions she would make. My parents, unlike Kate’s, are still married and are wonderfully supportive of me, so I started with higher self-esteem than Kate did. I’m more confident and more decisive. I’m also less impulsive and less adventurous. People close to me have overcome some of the same difficulties Kate has overcome and I have tremendous respect for that.

What other creative things do you do?

I’ve attempted to do many other creative things. I tried to learn to play an instrument only to discover I’m basically tone deaf. I’ve tried my hand at painting. I went to a class recently with my sister-in-law, my sister, and my niece. We were supposed to paint a butterfly on a branch, but that was too complicated for me, so I painted one of my dogs eating a butterfly. Had I been twelve-years-old, that painting would have shown real promise. I did some acting in high school, but my monologues ended up taped all over the stage, because I’m not very good at memorization. I was good at improvisation though, which I eventually realized meant that I’d rather write the script than act it out. Writing is pretty much it for me creatively.

We can't be working all the time. When you are not, what do you do for fun?

I’m a hangout person. I like to sit around with friends, family, strangers, whoever and talk and eat. Whether I’m doing that on my own back porch or at the beach or in a foreign country doesn’t matter. People are what I find most interesting and talking to them is what I enjoy most.

So when you are back to work, where do your stories begin? With character or plot?

Character. Always character. Character makes or breaks a book for me. If I like the characters, I can forgive a lot. If I don’t like the characters, the most well thought out plot won’t hold my interest. If you have interesting characters, they can be doing just about anything and it will be fun to read.

As writers we draw from people and places around us. Tell us what you like best about where you live.

The diversity really appeals to me. We live in one of the most ethnically diverse places per capita in the United States and I love it. I love interacting with all kinds of people from all over the world and I love all the different kinds of restaurants and entertainment that are available to me because of that diversity.

 Many writers share their workspace with a dog or a cat, or more than one dog or cat. Do you have a pet?

My husband and I have three dogs: a twelve-year-old basenji, a seven-year-old border terrier, and a two-year-old miniature pinscher. They are probably too spoiled but at least they’re small. The miniature pinscher is my travel buddy and the one that goes out to my writing studio with me and keeps me company while I work.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Kids are so Creative

I wasn't going to blog today since I am so busy with the youth drama camp at the local art center, but we had such a terrific day today, I thought I would share a bit and show you one of the posters they created for the show. One of our volunteers who does graphic art added the header, show title and other info, but if the rest of it looks like a kid drew it, well, that's because a kid drew it. In addition to this poster, they made posters to thank all our sponsors, as well as other posters to let folks know about the show. Each one was unique and quite clever.

It has been so terrific to watch the kids use their imaginations to come up with scenes, lines, posters, costumes, set designs. There is a real creative energy that moves through the room and each thought ignites another. It can get pretty chaotic at times, and the camp leaders and I will sometimes have to just call for a moment of absolute silence so we can think. Young people are so much better at thinking in the midst of chaos than us older people. (smile)

This is going to be such a terrific show and I am so proud of all the kids.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Book Review: One Big Beautiful Thing by Marie Flanigan

One Big Beautiful Thing
Marie Flanigan
File Size: 499 KB
Print Length: 359 pages
Page Numbers Source ISBN: 1484972600
Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
Language: English

The central character in this story is an artist, Kate Abernethy, who is trying to adjust to a new kind of life following the sudden death of her boyfriend. She moves in with her mother and that seems like a good way to sort out her finances and re-evaluate her life, but her mother does not allow Kate to be the adult she truly is. Kate must find her own way through the minefield of grief and figure out how to make a living and provide for herself. She has worked in graphic design, but her heart and soul are in her painting. Can she hope to be successful at it? 

There is a chance for Kate to have a new love in her life, too, if she can accept the fact that it would be okay. She does her deceased boyfriend no dishonor if she chooses to love again, but she has to believe that to accept someone new.

I really enjoyed this book on a lot of levels. The author really did a first-rate job in showing the ups and downs of the grieving process without getting maudlin or too sentimental. It was one of the best handling of grief that I have read in a long time. At one point in the story, Kate is angry with Robert, the man she loved who died a year ago. She has a pattern of going running whenever the emotional turmoil gets overwhelming, so this day she is running and trips and falls. She slides down an embankment and gets cut and gouged by branches and roots, and this is how the scene ends:

 "Kate blew out a frustrated breath and tried not to cry. What a crap, crap day. Robert had done this to her. He'd marked her and made her angry, and now he wasn't even here to help her. Kneeling there in the woods, she just wanted to scream at him, to pummel him with her fists and scream at him and hold him and touch him just one more time. There was nothing to do, but walk home."

This is Marie Flanigan's first novel, and I hope it is not her last. She will be my Wednesday's Guest this week to share a bit about the writing of this story, plus a few fun things about her. Please try to come by and say "hello."

Friday, July 12, 2013

Blogger Book Fair and Drama Camp

This is not going to be my usual Friday blog. For a lot of reasons. Number one is the Youth Drama Camp that has consumed my time all week, but it has been so much fun. Here is a picture of some of the kids practicing one of the songs for the musical written by the talented George Gagliardi, a Dallas singer/songwriter. It has been so exciting to see the creativity just flourish in these campers. They have helped write the music, the script, design the set, find costumes, and so much more.

The other reason, is we are having more company. We love having our kids come out to Grandma's Ranch, and it is always a good excuse for me to unconnect a bit, which I will do this weekend.

I also wanted to announce a fun event coming up in cyberspace on July 22 - the Blogger Book Fair. Apparently this event has taken place before, but this is the first year I heard about it, so I decided to sign up. Of course, I forgot that July was probably the worst month to try to add a lot of extra things to do as it is already a crazy-busy month. But I did sign up, so I will be having guests on my blog the week of July 22 thru the 26, and I will be somewhere in cyberspace on their blogs that week.

There are a lot of authors participating in this event and it is going to be great fun. Lots of great give-aways, too.

I wanted to put this badge on the sidebar of this blog, but Blogger changed some things again, and I can't seem to get the layout function to work so I can work on the sidebar. If anyone has any tips on what I need to do, I welcome them.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Shall we go to London?

My Wednesday's Guest is Slim Randles, sharing some more of his cowboy humor. And if you enjoy these little essays, you would love his book, Home Country, that is chock full of these kinds of stories. While Slim is guesting here, I am over at Neil Plakcy's blog, The Inside Look, where I talk a bit about an interesting character from Open Season and how he got to be in the book.

“That Harley Jacobsen,” said Doc, grinning and shaking his head. He waved his empty cup toward Loretta, who brought the pot over.

“What’d Harley do now, Doc?”

“He came in the other day, looking good. Relaxed, happy. I’d been after him for some time to take a vacation and get away from the farm and just have some fun. So he and Gladys went on a trip to England.”

“No kidding?” Dud said. “Did Gladys have to use whips and chains to get him away from the farm?”

We all laughed, because Harley is one of those 24/7 farmers. There’s always something to do, and he knows he was put here on earth to do them, every day. And farm? Well, it’s said he could grow wheat on rocks and hair on a bald man’s head.

“How’d he like England?”

“Loved it. He told me about seeing the block where the heads were lopped off hundreds of years ago, and the kings’ and queens’ crowns, and the guards on their horses around Buckingham Palace. I think he was jealous of all the rain they get over there, too.”

 “Always the farmer,” said Steve.

“Oh yes,” said Doc. “Always. But get this … Harley and Gladys were on this tour, you know, and they saw the Greenwich clock. That tour guide said, ‘This is the famous Greenwich clock. All the world gets its time from this very clock.’

“So what does Harley do? Pulls out his five-dollar Bullseye pocket watch and says to Gladys, ‘Not bad. Ain’t but two minutes fast, too.’”

Brought to you by the folks at Nosler … ammunition and rifles that set the world’s standards. 

Monday, July 08, 2013

Drama Camp and More

This is the first week of the Summer Drama Camp at the Winnsboro Center for the arts, and since I am in charge of theatre events there, that means I will be there every day for the next two weeks. That won't leave much time for blogging, so I will schedule a few posts in advance, but otherwise I'll be taking a blogging break.

Before I go, however, I have to rant just a bit at Jerry Jones and the Dallas Cowboy Franchise for how they have responded to Josh Brent, who is charged with killing a teammate, Jerry Brown Jr. Brent, who is now in jail after failing two drug tests, is still on the Cowboy roster and still receiving his salary. How many ways is that wrong? 

Too many.

On the other side of the news coin is something good for fighting cancer. Since the introduction of the vaccine for human papillomavirus, there has been a 50% drop in infection rates among girls and young women in the U.S. The virus is a major contributor to the incidence of cervical cancer, so this is good news indeed.

The vaccine has been made available to women and young girls in Africa, thanks to the Pink Ribbon Red Ribbon initiative sponsored by a collaboration among the Susan G. Komen foundation, the George W. Bush Institute, the U.N. Programme on HIV/AIDS and the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS relief. The initiative has provided life-saving treatment for more that 5 million women in developing countries.

How many ways is that right?

Now I will leave you with a joke.

Little girl:  "Why does your son say, 'Cluck, cluck, cluck?'"
Mother:    "Because he thinks he's a chicken."
Little girl:  "Why don't you tell him he's not a chicken?"
Mother:    "Because we need the eggs."

Sunday, July 07, 2013

Book Review - Rest for the Wicked by Ellen Hart

Thanks again to Carl Brookins for sharing his reviews. Blogger was not cooperating earlier today when I tried to post this. Sigh.....

by Ellen Hart
ISBN: 978-1250001863
A Minotaur hardcover and Kindle
2012 release

So readers know, the author and I are friends, often travel together as the Minnesota Crime Wave and occasionally consult about writing crime fiction. I believe I retain my critical abilities at a sufficient level to fairly judge her novels as well as those of other author-friends and acquaintances. This is an interesting novel from several directions.

As is the case with nearly all Hart’s novels, this one is smoothly and carefully written. The characters are alive, interesting and, at least in the case of three in this novel, people I think readers will continue to want to follow. Two of them are old friends, Jane Lawless and her alter ego, Cordelia Thorne. The third is Jane’s new love interest, Avi. I hope we’ll see more of her in the future.

The setting for this story is a new one for Jane who has acquired her Private Investigator’s license and is now discovering that owning restaurants and being a PI requires even more than two full lives. It will be interesting to see how her creator handles this new development in Jane’s life. I particularly liked the running theme in which Jane has to deal with restaurant personnel who don’t operate quite the the way she did.

The main setting is a strip club in central Minneapolis called Gaudy Lights. The many absorbing scenes in the club are potent, rich with meanings and possibilities. They amply demonstrate the skills of the author, as do her character sketches. The major plot deals with murder, murder with roots reaching back fifteen or twenty years to terrible acts. Yet the initial murder which opens the book serves mainly to bring Jane into the case, since the victim is related to her mentor and hospitalized PI partner, AJ Nolan.

That killing and the subsequent fallout are, in my view, plenty strong enough to carry the book. Other material, particularly some that involving a relatively minor character, a pilot, I found to be distracting and unnecessary.

The novel is well-written and moves almost entirely at an appropriate pace. I really enjoyed the book, although in my view it is not as strong as The Lost Women of Lost Lake. However, I have no hesitation in recommending Rest For the Wicked to the widest possible audience for crime fiction.
Carl Brookins  BLOG:  -BOOKS:  Case of the Great Train Robbery, Reunion, Red Sky

Friday, July 05, 2013

A Letter Worth Reading

Since I am still in celebration mode and my company is still here, this will be a short post today. I do want to announce the winner of my Birthday Give-Away. I was going to have one of my cats draw a name out of the hat, but they slept in this morning. My husband was awake, however, so he drew the winning name, Yolanda Renee. I've notified her, so as soon as she lets me know where to send the stories, they will be on their way.

As I was catching up on reading the newspaper the other day, a recent article caught my attention. Diane Pagen, a social worker in New York City wrote an op-ed piece for the Dallas Morning News that I hope a lot of readers took to heart. The column was basically a letter from a mom who receives food stamps to Congressman Gohmert, who made recent comments about people who use food stamps to buy expensive foods.

 Here is the way the letter started:

Dear Sir, 
 You don’t know me, but I am the mom, shopping with food stamps, who is in front of you sometimes in the grocery line. Congressman Gohmert talked about me and my groceries last week. He told his fellow House members that they should vote to cut food stamps because I and other recipients buy king crab legs and fancy things that the average taxpayer behind me in line cannot afford. He also said it is ridiculous to say poor Texas children need food stamps, because if poor kids are obese, it must mean they eat too much.

The letter went on to explain why she bought the crab legs - so her children could have a nutritious meal - and mentioned that she went without dinner that night because she could not afford food for herself.

Of course, this was all hypothetical. Ms. Pagen made up the family and the letter to drive home a point, and she did it quite well. I was especially pleased that she pointed out the fact that Mr. Gohmert gets a gym membership - on the taxpayers dime - yet he thinks we should cut the food stamp program.

If Gohmert and others in government really are concerned about over-spending, perhaps they should look at their own perks, first.

New York social worker Diane Pagen may be contacted at

Thursday, July 04, 2013

Happy Birthday

To me and to the USA

I thought I would celebrate with some pictures of past fireworks displays that my kids have put on out here at "Grandma's Ranch." There have been some good ones.

I will come to announce the winner of my free short stories sometime late in the day. Like my friend, Slim, said yesterday, I will be busy throughout the day with parades and picnics in the real world.

Wednesday, July 03, 2013

What the Fourth of July Really Celebrates

Today's Wednesday's Guest is my friend, Slim Randles, with some thoughts on the Fourth of July and what the parades and picnics all mean. I think he is on to something here.

The annual Fourth of July picnic was a celebration of time and freedom. We’d all watched the parade, earlier, because that’s what you do on the Fourth, and we believe in it.

Our parade features Scout troops in uniform, the high school band, floats with pretty girls … well, okay, it’s actually Delbert’s convertible with signs on the doors … and little kids proudly leading their dogs down our main street. In other words, pretty much everyone.

Those of us who aren’t marching have been known to say things like, “Hon, isn’t that the O’Brien kid with that German shepherd? My, he’s grown.”

You know.
Hope Slim had some of these cupcakes at his picnic.
 And then we go to the picnic and gorge ourselves and play softball and horseshoes and soak up the sun and laugh a lot. It’s a time for asking mere acquaintances from grocery store sightings just how they’re doing, in hopes of becoming real friends. It’s time to catch up on friends who have been solid bricks in our wall of life forever. It’s also a time to rejoice and see new bundles of babies that have joined us since last year, and feel a bit sad at those who have left us, too.

It’s a time when two guys on opposite sides, politically, can just smile and talk sports and enjoy each other. There’s time enough to disagree on policies later on. No rush.

And we know, deep inside, that this is the real reason we celebrate our Independence Day. Because we can set aside our differences and have fun together. We can be free to have fun together because a long time ago some men in powdered wigs were smart enough to look ahead toward … well, toward this very picnic of ours, actually.

They wanted it to be fun, too.
Brought to you by Federal Premium ammunition. Our bullet and load combinations boast the ultimate in accuracy and performance.

Don't forget to leave a comment to be in the drawing for my present to one lucky reader tomorrow.