Friday, May 31, 2013

Friday's Odds and Ends

It was a bit scary to watch the national news last night and see how many tornadoes formed over the last 24 hours across the country. I think the total number was 150. I don't know if we are seeing more tornado activity than in the past, or we are simply getting more news of storms because people can use their cell phones to capture images and send them to news sources.

This is the kind of wall cloud that often spawns tornadoes.
Some areas of Oklahoma were hit again last night, although not as severely as Moore, OK. That is one bit of good news. Tornadoes also touched down in Arkansas, but so far there are no reports of deaths or critical injuries from any of the storms last night. But we are not out of the woods yet, as the old cliche goes. The weather service's Storm Prediction Center is forecasting a moderate chance of severe weather in parts of Oklahoma, Nebraska, Arkansas and Missouri today. 

Also a bit scary is the extremist who is protecting his right to bear arms by sending poisoned threats to New York Mayer Bloomberg and President Obama. Right. You want people to seriously consider leaving you alone with your weapons when you don't seem to have any control over your reactions? Right after Mayor Bloomberg went public with a call for more gun control following the school shooting in Connecticut last December, people started protesting his stance, and the protests have been anything but civil. Some of the comments made were personal attacks, calling the mayor a “nanny statist fascist” and another person dared him to “come and personally take my guns.”

Wordage in the letters sent to the mayor and to a gun-control advocacy group is equally combative. “You will have to kill me and my family before you get my guns,” the letters said. “What’s in this letter is nothing compared to what I’ve got planned for you.”

I support gun rights and do believe that law-abiding people in the U.S. should be able to have weapons if they so choose. What I don't support are these fringe elements that don't seem to know the right way to ensure those rights. It is not by threats and violent stand-offs.

Now for a bit of fun. A recent B.C. cartoon featured a new spring flower that pops up in the first panel saying, "I have spring action roots."

In the next panel a bee approaches with a weapon and says, "Hand over the nectar, Springie."

Then a woman pulls up the flower and starts taking off petals while saying, "He loves me, he loves me not. He Loves me."

She tosses what is left of the flower and a dinosaur comes along, sniffs the plants, then stomps on it. The flower is left thinking, "Spring is a whirlwind of emotion."

Okay, maybe it was a lot cuter when you could see the dinosaur stomping, the bee threatening, and the lady pulling off petals.

Life Lesson from the character Grady Service in Ice Hunter by Joseph Heywood, "Relationships are either going forward or backward."

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Friends Helping Friends

Please help me welcome Slim Randles, our favorite humorist, as today's Wednesday's Guest. I'm not sure I want Windy writing ad copy for me...

“From the cow to the plow, Dewey,” Windy said, leaning on a shovel. Windy Wilson was on another of his “helper days” and today it was Dewey Decker’s turn to be helped.

“What do you mean, Windy?”

“You know … a slogan for the business. From the cow to the plow. Fertilizer. Farming.”

He was helping Dewey spread some product around at Mrs. Simmons yard, helping her anticipate a greener lawn this summer. Besides enriching the English language at every possible moment, Alphonse “Windy” Wilson devotes one day each week to helping someone, for free, here in the valley. He usually calls it his “enrichelating experience.”

Windy went back to Dewey’s pickup for the steel rake. “What you’re doing here,” Windy tossed back over his shoulder, “is plowing backly into our community the veriatable seedlets of hope and change for the future. Yes, if I can coagulate some ideas for assisticating your business, I’m delightable. We need ya, boy!”

“Thanks, Windy. Everyone’s been so nice. You know Emily’s coming up with new ways of using cow manure so we can  … well, spread out a bit more.”

“Absotively. I heard that sweet little chickadee of yours was masticating some ideas that are ultra noo voe and knife bladely sharp. She’s a honey.”

“She sure is. She thinks we might get a steel tank and pour manure in it, then fill it with water. She says they call it ‘fertilizer  tea’ or something and it’s good to spray on crops.”

“No foolin’? Won’t you have to buy one a them sprayer thingies to drag behind a tractor?”

Dewey stopped shoveling and thought. “Now that you mention it, we’d have to have some way to get it on the field. But you know about me and machinery …”

Dewey’s being monumentally self-destructive around anything valuable, movable or sharp was certainly no secret.

“Why son,” Windy said, “you just worry about getting that tractor ignitified, and I’ll drive ‘er for you.”

“You’d do that?”

Windy put his hand on his heart. “Dewey, my word is my blonde.”


Brought to you by The Backpocket Guide to Hunting Elk. Read a sample of the download book in time for Father’s Day at

Monday, May 27, 2013

Remembering Those Who Served

Today, we in the United States pause to remember those soldiers who died in service to their country. Someone recently asked me if I had ever served in the military. We were talking about the legacy of military service in our families, and she was one of those who did serve.

I have not, and I can't imagine what it would be like to be in combat. Most of the people I know who have served don't want to talk about their experiences.

Those are the ones who survived.

There are too many who have not. And too many families who grieve.

Yesterday at church a woman prayed for her son and four of his comrades who were all killed at the same time in Afghanistan several years ago. Her pain was so real it brought tears to my eyes. Then a fragment of a song by Peter, Paul and Mary came to mind:

                          Where have all the soldiers gone, long time passing?
                          Where have all the soldiers gone, long time ago?
                          Where have all the soldiers gone?
                          Gone to graveyards, everyone.
                          Oh, when will they ever learn?
                          Oh, when will they ever learn?

Lyrics | Peter, Paul & Mary lyrics - Where Have All The Flowers Gone lyrics

When will we ever learn?

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Blog Crawl - Lucky Underwear

We're crawling because we can no longer walk. At least I can't. When Cairn Rodrigues asked me to join the party tonight, I failed to tell her that one glass of wine is about all I can handle. There were days.... but then those were many days ago.

Years ago when my writing partner suggested that we start our sessions with a couple of glasses of wine to loosen up the creative juices, I thought I would give it a whirl. Why not? Our process of collaboration relied on me being at the keyboard while he just let his creativity free-flow. Which normally worked out great except for the first time we tried the wine lead in. I fell asleep at the keyboard after the second glass of wine.
 So, tonight is no different. I've had my two glasses of wine and I am feeling so mellow, I could just nod off.

Whoops, did there just for a minute. Almost dropped my glass. Glad I woke up in time to save it.

So we're supposed to write about lucky underwear. Hmmm. Perhaps the luckiest was when... Oops, not writing about that.

How about the time my friend saved my sagging a$%? See, rumor had it that when you turned 28 your a#* fell. Now, I was always proud of my firm buttocks, which is a word I think blogger will let me type, so I did not want sags. Nor did my husband. He has always been rather fond of my buttocks. So he hired my girlfriend to make me a sort of one-sided girdle that would hold said buttocks in place. Gosh, I love that word. Don't you? I can just hear Forest Gump saying buttocks. I think he liked that word, too.

But I digress. My friend made me a wonderful, lucky undergarment, that saved my...... buttocks..... and they remain fairly firm to this day.

Which is more than I can say for a lot of the rest of me.

Goodnight, folks. This has been fun. I feel the wine pulling me away from the keyboard. I'm getting sleepier and sleepier. 

Oh, my apologies to my regular Sunday visitors who might have come expecting a book review. Next week. I promise. I will not be drinking wine on Saturday night next week.

This morning - Sunday - I checked in with my blogcrawl friends and had to share links to their stories. Funny stuff by Holly Jahangiri and Cairn Rodrigues. You won't be disappointed if you hop, or crawl, over to their blogs.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Friday's Odds and Ends

The image of that terrorist standing on the London street and justifying his atrocious attack on the English soldier is hard to shake. I guess that was the first time I saw such hate and such mis-guided religious fervor in real life. I have purposely not watched the many videos uploaded on the Internet over the years by terrorists. I simply do not want to hear what they have to say.

This time, however, the terrorist was on the evening news shouting that he had a right to hack that poor man to death because British soldiers are killing Muslim women and children in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Kudos to Ingrid Loyau-Kennett, a cub scout leader and mother of two, who got off a bus and tried to reason with the attackers after she tried to help the victim lying on the street. According to a report on Fox News news, the woman kept talking to the two attackers before police arrived at the scene.  When one of the attackers told her that they wanted to start a war in London, she responded: "It is only you versus many people. You are going to lose."

Speaking of terrorists, I did not know that the man arrested in the Fort Hood shooting spree, Major Nidal Hasan, continues to be paid his salary and has earned more than $278,000 since the shooting in 2009 that resulted in 13 deaths and 32 injuries. I probably should not label him a terrorist because, according to a story in The Lookout, that is a designation that the federal government has not assigned him and the reason he can collect his salary, while the victims and families of victims struggle to pay medical and other bills. Because the government called the shooting an act of workplace violence and not an act of combat or terror, those injured don't receive additional pay or Purple Hearts.

Not only is that an insult, it is a blatant example of injustice and skewed thinking. How could anyone justify the situation?

This has nothing to do with the subject matter. Just thought you would like to see something pretty.
 On a lighter note, here is a cartoon from Baby Blues:  Dad and Hammie are walking down the street. Dad says, "Hammie, you have to learn to pay attention to your school work so you can get a good education. Otherwise you could end up digging ditches."

Hammie says, "Ditches? What kind of ditches? He twirls around. "Big ones? With a bulldozer? Tunnels, too?"

Dad says, "I think you're missing the point."

Literary Lesson:  "I guess we're all hunting, like everybody else, for a way the diligent and sensible can rise to the top and the lazy and quarrelsome can sink to the bottom. But it ain't easy to find." Editor Webb in Thornton Wilder's play Our Town. Written in 1938, but still applicable today.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

A Man of Adventure

Adam Shepard, author of One Year Lived, is in the spotlight as Wednesday's Guest. His book recounts the year he spent out in the world: seventeen countries, four continents, and one haunting encounter with a savage bull. If you would like to see a picture of the mullet that Adam grew on the trip visit his website at 

Adam is sharing an excerpt from his book about his time in the bull ring. So without furthur ado....

After a hiccup at the border, I had a feeling that Nicaragua was going to present a rousing experience. Upon my arrival at Ometepe Island, the largest island on Central America’s largest lake, Jhonas, my trail guide, asked me whether I’d like to ride on top of the bus instead of down below, and I leapt right up there with him. I tore eighty córdobas out of my pocket, and the guy in the orange hat up top with us swooped into a store. He reappeared a few moments later balancing four beers in his arms, one for each of us riding topside.
            We hiked the volcano, a grueling six hours indeed, and returned to the bottom to the rousing cheers of eight hundred fans in the stands of a bullfight.
             “I want to go in there,” I yelled to Jhonas over the roar of the crowd. “Inside the ring.”
            “No, you don’t.”
            “Yes, I do.”
            “No, you don’t.”
            “Yes, I’m telling you, I do.”
            “No, I’m telling you, you do not.” I could see the mirth slipping off his face as he realized I was serious.
            “I do.”
            “You don’t.”
            We were reliving Tom Sawyer’s first encounter with a stranger in the street, the fledgling newcomer to the neighborhood, as they childishly and eternally argued about who could lick whom.
            I started to ply him with beers—a couple tall, two-liter bottles all to himself. I pumped him full of chicken and rice and fries. I slipped him a handful of córdobas so he could buy a ride home if the buses were no longer running. We brainstormed ideas for a sombra.
“A towel?” he asked, leaning back in his chair. “A shirt? A blanket?”
“Yeah, yeah,” I replied. These were good ideas, but where could we find a red towel or shirt or blanket?
I spotted a red tablecloth at one of the tables behind me.
“One question,” I muttered in Spanish to the lady running the restaurant. “I would like to buy that red tablecloth. How much is it?” Whatever number came out of her mouth next was soon going to be hers. Expenses mustn’t be spared for once-in-a-lifetime experiences. She could have named my watch and my left shoe as her price, and I would have pretended to think about it two seconds before handing them over.
 “Veinte,” she said. “Veinte córdobas.”
I paid her and tipped her. I made Jhonas fat and happy for ten dollars, and for less than a dollar, I’d secured my red sombra.
Moments later, there I stood as a bull readied to clear his way through the ring. It was a lot. Tension and excitement boiled in my stomach. My head started to vibrate. I gripped my red sombra with shaking fingers.
            I started to back up against the wooden bleachers.       
Subconsciously, I expected Jhonas to take the sombra, now in his hand, and go first, inspiring me out there. But Jhonas was no hero himself and hung back with me. I watched the brave—or foolish—men dance out in front of various bulls while I cowered in the corner. And I hated that I couldn’t bring myself to step away from the edge—that I was once again too afraid to step up to the challenge.
By the time the fifth bull burst out and into the ring, I’d had enough of the waiting. Enough of the torment I’d inflicted upon myself.
            “Screw it,” I said. “Dame la sombra.”
            I snatched the scarlet tablecloth out of Jhonas’s hands and stalked out to the center of the ring. Take action or go take a nap.

I can’t properly explain the feeling. I was a trembling wreck. This was scary. To say that I’ve never been struck with so much fear in my life grossly understates the terror of the moment. A thousand things could go wrong, and in that first moment, as I stood six feet from the fuming nostrils of that bull, I was convinced that each one of them would. My heart raced, blood pumped furiously through each vein and vessel in my body. My breathing came ragged and short, but I was somehow able to steady my feet and hands.
I remembered that I didn’t know my way around with a bull. These guys see bulls every day, I thought. My naïveté led me into the ring, but I wasn’t sure what to count on to get me out.
A man in a white tank top in the first row to the right shot both of his arms in the air in violent thrusts, screaming.
            My nerves remained tense, muscles coiling painfully in my calves and thighs, readying me for what lay ahead. 
 You can watch Adam fight bulls here:

 Have you ever had the urge to get into an arena with a bull? What is the wildest thing you have ever done?

Monday, May 20, 2013

Monday Morning Musings - Old and Young

Some of my writing in recent years has focused on characters who are much older than the ones I usually write about. While I was taking my morning walk today, I started wondering why that might be and I realized that it is probably because I am closer to those ages than I am to younger protagonists. I can relate to the issues of aging and being on the downside of life. Plus, now that I am of a certain age, I realize that I look at those other older people differently than I did when I was young. Those older people are no longer the grandmother and grandfather I loved dearly but had nothing in  common with except my mother or father.

They are my peers, and I now see that we have lives rich with more than rocking chairs and knitting needles. That is what I have tried to capture in my short story collection, The Wisdom of Ages, and also what I addressed in a short story that is featured on The Story Shack, "To Love Again." It has a lovely illustration done by Monique Lafitte.

The story is about finding love after the death of a spouse. I remember when I was young, when older people lost a husband or wife, they stayed single the rest of their lives. That doesn't happen so much any more, and that is a good thing for those who don't want to spend their later years alone. I wrote about this once before in a short story that was published in the anthology, One Touch, One Glance Anthology of sweet romance stories. That story, New Love, was based loosely on the experience my father had with new love when he was 80, and it proves that there is no age limit on love.

On the other end of the age spectrum are all the young people graduating from college and looking ahead to jobs or graduate school or both. One of our grandsons just graduated, and it was fun to listen to the young people who came to his party as they talked about their dreams and goals for the future.

What are your thoughts on love later in life? Are you celebrating graduations in your families?

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Book Review - One Year Lived by Adam Shepard

One Year Lived
Adam Shepard
Paperback: 288 pages
Publisher: Scratch Beginnings Press (April 11, 2013)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0979692644
ISBN-13: 978-0979692642

People have always journeyed as a means to a greater self awareness, as well as a greater understanding of the world and how their lives fit in the overall larger picture. This has been true of the Aborigines in Australia who do a Walkabout, which is a rite of passage that takes an adolescent on a journey into the wilderness for six months. American Indians have had similar rites of passage, as have many other native people of different countries.

In Western civilization, the practice is not even considered, as adolescents go through a more practical rite that includes education, higher education, then jobs and responsibilities.

Adam Shepard decided some time ago that he should take a year of his life and have some of the mind-broadening experiences that might make him a better man. He didn't do it because he was dissatisfied with his life. He just thought why wait until some unknown time way in the future after the job and the family to do some of the things he'd always thought about. While he did not go out into the wilderness, he did travel and introduce himself to new people and new cultures and new languages. He also tasted many forms of adventure from fighting bulls to installing wells to mustering cattle and hugging a Koala. Oh, and don't forget bungee jumping.

The book is written in a light, easy-to-read style that has an edge of humor that often made me smile. In the beginning it was a bit repetitive on explaining where he was going and why, but I did get caught up in his first experience in Antigua, Guatemala, where he'd gone to improve his Spanish and traveled on the 'chicken bus.' That was enough to carry me through the rest of the book.

In addition to just enjoying the romp, there are lessons to be learned by reading the book. The biggest perhaps, is how important it is not to put things off. We can't all take a year off to experience adventures like Adam did, but we can do those little things that bring us joy. Make the time to connect with family and friends. Make the time to enjoy a favorite hobby for an afternoon. Don't be so locked into responsibilities that we never sprinkle a little fun into our days.

Adam will be my guest this coming Wednesday. He will be sharing a bit about his time in the arena with a bull, and I do hope you can come back and help him feel welcome.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Friday's Odds and Ends


A student in a Dallas suburban school didn't like the assignment he was given, so he mouthed off to the teacher, and now the teacher is on administrative leave, while school officials cleared the student of any wrong-doing. What is wrong with that picture?

Apparently the video of the rant by Jeff Bliss, an 18-year old sophomore, has gone viral on the Internet, and some people are calling him a hero, because part of his rant was to point out what is wrong with education.

I'm sorry. A kid that disrespects his teacher like that is no hero. I don't care if there might have been one valid point contained in the harangue. And there is also the question of what went on that caused the teacher to kick him out of class in the first place. It was that action that led to his now-famous parting remarks.

Sarah Anderson raised an interesting point in a recent column that was published in The Dallas Morning News on the topic of salaries for CEOs. She wrote, "The current tax code lets corporations deduct from their income taxes unlimited amounts of executive compensation, as long as they say this pay is based on 'performance.' As a result, huge companies like BlackRock have an incentive to dole out massive stock options and other so-called performance bonuses."

Her column was in response to the ad by Laurence Fink, who is the CEO of BlackRock, where he is calling for raising the retirement age to 70. According to Fink, people should wait before collecting social security because "most of us have jobs where we just sit around."

That might be true for Fink, but most of the folks I know who are approaching retirement age are not sitting around in their jobs, raking in the big bucks. And if Fink is so worried about the solvency of the social security system, he could just decline his benefits when he retires and live off his accumulated wealth.

Now for some fun from the comic strips. This first one is from Bizarro. by Dan Piraro. A unicorn gets on an elevator and asks the man next to the control panel for the thirteenth floor. The man says there's no such thing.

Here's one from the classic, Peanuts. Charlie Brown is sitting at his desk at school. He says, "A spelling bee? They're going to have a city-wide spelling bee?"

In the next panel he considers, "I should enter it... That's the sort of thing I need to do to gain self-confidence."

Then he smile. "I think I'll raise my hand and volunteer. It'll be good for me... I think I'll just raise my hand and volunteer...."

In the next panel Charlie Brown says,"My hand won't go up. It's smarter than I am."

Today's Literary Lesson comes from 10lb. Penalty by Dick Francis. A character is reflecting on the political process, "Votes are won by laughter and lost by dogma."

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Not Your Ordinary Dentist

Here is yet another bit of humor from our friend, Slim Randles. Enjoy....

Those of us who call this little valley home have a unique blessing in the form of Perry, our dentist. Yes, when we go to get the fangs fixed up at O’Dontall Dental, down in the old brick building near the office of the Valley Weekly Miracle, the grinding and scraping and numbing and lip shaking is accompanied by  … well … acting. 

You see, Perry worked his way through dental school by treading the boards … acting on stage, that is. When all was said and done and he received his final mouth mirror, he’d become a darn fine dentist, and could quote Shakespeare and others at the drop of a hat. And he’d even drop the hat for you. 

It was like that for Dud recently, when he went in for his six-month check-up and polish job. 

“Ah, Dudley,” Perry said, peering into his mouth, “the years have favored you kindly in the mouth department. Very little cleaning to do.” 

“Ahhhks,” Dud said. 

“You’re welcome. Here’s a scraper on number six, however. I can only say, as I scrape … out, out damned spot! Leave and take with thee the spectre of decay! Begone and tarry no more to add to the misery of my boon companion!” 

Dr. O’Dontall sometimes uses his native Irish accent to emphasize things, as well. 

“’Tis brushing after every meal you be, Dudley, my eyes tell me true…” 


“That’s right fine, lad, right fine. And thanking you kindly for years to come your mouth will be, for efforts now lead to years of chewing free …” 

“Ahhhks,” Dud mumbled. 

“You’re welcome.” 

Perry doesn’t even charge extra for this.

Brought to you by the award-winning book Home Country, available at

Monday, May 13, 2013

Monday Morning Musings

Yesterday was a grand day. Since it was Mother's Day I got to do whatever I wanted to, which included doing some gardening. For many years that was the day that I got a lot of bedding plants and put color all around my house. I don't do that much any more as I have a lot of perennials that come up every year, so in more recent years I just do some re-potting and mulching and feeding. The rest of the day yesterday was spent watching movies, eating popcorn, talking to my kids, working on a new jigsaw puzzle, and just have a relaxing day with my husband.

I did take a break now and then from all that relaxing to take care of the animals, brush the horse, walk the dog and pick a few berries. Thought I'd mention that lest you think I'm a slug.

The Sunday comics section of the paper celebrated Mother's Day in a big way on some of my favorite strips. On Baby Blues, Darryl and the kids buy Wanda a goldfish and a fish bowl for Mother's Day. Several panels show them shopping, wrapping, then presenting the present with a great flourish. When Wanda opens the present, the fish is dead. Darryl says, "Well, happy Mother's Day anyway."

Hammie says, "Can I flush the body."

To which Zoe replies, "It's Mom's special day. Let her do it."

In Pickles, Earl walks up to Opal and hands her a flower and says, "Happy Mother's Day, Opal. I don't say this very often, but you are a great mother and grandmother. And you deserve a much better husband than me."

Opal sniffs the flower and says, "You make a good point. But your trade-in value is shot, so I think I'll just have to keep you."

Then of course there was my favorite from Mallard Fillmore that I put in my blog yesterday.

Here is a picture of one of my Mother's Day gifts. The wooden horse, not the cat. Harry, the cat, thought it was great fun to try to get the horse to play. When it refused, he jumped down and attacked the kittens.

For those of you who like cozy mysteries there is a new one out, The Cat, The Mill and the Murder by Leann Sweeney.  You can meet one of the central characters and read all about the book at Dru's Book Musings.  And if you leave a comment on the blog you will be entered to win a copy of the book. I might even enter. Who can resist a story with a cat, or a dog, or a horse?

Over at The Blood Red Pencil there is a discussion about using cliches when writing. Some new writers think that they are okay because people use them all the time. I've even had some clients who were willing to take them out of narrative, but insist that they should stay in the dialogue. No, no, no. Give a reader something new and fresh to delight over.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

For Mother's Day

First, I want to wish all the moms a very happy Mother's Day. I hope your day is filled with lots of love and laughter and special times with your families.

 There's no denying the bond we have with our mothers, no matter what the relationship has been like. I wrote about that in my blog for Venture Galleries that posted the other day, and my blogger friend, Susan Fleet Swiderski had a nice post about mothers on her blog, I Think, Therefore I Yam. And no matter what the relationship has been, we do owe them for our lives, even if they have disappointed us in many other ways.

That is one of the things that the author of The Woman in the Photograph comes to understand. This is a memoir from Mani Feniger, relating her quest to find out more about her mother, a German Jew who left Germany just before the Jews were rounded up and sent to death camps during the Holocaust. Mani finds a photograph of her mother taken years ago that shows a happy, carefree young woman who appears so different from the aloof, cynical mother Mani grew up with.

As Mani researches her mother's life from her beginnings in Leipzig, Germany to her life in New York, she comes to understand the hardships that molded her mother and so many other German Jews who left their home country, as well as most of their treasures.

This was an interesting story and offered a glimpse of a part of that history that many of us were not as aware of as we are the victims of the concentration camps. The story also points out the importance of looking at the issues in our relationships with a different perspective and perhaps finding some peace.

The book is written in the narrative nonfiction style that makes a memoir read like a novel and can pull one into the story. Most of the time that worked quite well, but there were a few places where the imagined scenes between her mother and others went on a bit too long and included details that just seemed to bog the story down.

Some time ago, the author offered the ebook free for Kindle and I got my copy then. Now it is priced at $8.99, which I think is too high for an ebook, but if you don't think so, you might give it a try.


As a special Mother's Day treat, I am offering my historical mystery, Boxes For Beds free today. The
story is set in Arkansas in 1961 when the mob still ruled Hot Springs, and a young woman who has left New York to find some peace in the quiet little town of Pine Hollow gets caught up in kidnappings and murder.

I was just reading the Sunday comics and laughed out loud when I read Mallard Fillmore. The picture is a gray-haired lady in a comfy plush chair reading a card that says, Dear Mom, Thanks for loving me, taking care of me, and for not putting our family in a reality TV show.

Amen to that.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Friday's Odds and Ends

The most talked about news story this week has been about the Cleveland kidnap victims Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus, and Michele Knight who were allegedly subjected to years of physical and sexual abuse at the hands of suspect Ariel Castro. This happened in a populated area of the city, not in some remote rural area, and questions have been raised as to why the police were not on some kind of alert since Castro had been charged with abusing his wife in 1993 and had other run ins with police. People also wonder how the neighbors did not hear sounds of the horrible abuse the girls endured, and if they did, why didn't they call the police? If this were fiction, an editor would poke holes in the plot line. How could this have gone on for so many years and nobody heard the girls screaming or crying? Were the neighbors deaf? Did the man never leave the girls alone and give them an opportunity to escape? 

We won't know the whole story until the investigation is complete, but it is another example of "truth is stranger than fiction." (Pardon me for using the tired old cliche, but it is so appropriate.)

Residents of Mayflower, Arkansas who were victims of Exxon’s Good Friday tar sands spill that coated their neighborhood in toxic tar sands recently traveled to DC to hand-deliver a letter to Secretary Kerry asking that he reject Keystone XL. The members of the Remember Mayflower Coalition stood in front of the State Department to appeal to Secretary Kerry to consider the recent spill—and the subsequent devastation—and listen to the Vice President’s opinion on the pipeline as he makes his final analysis of Keystone XL.

Here is an excerpt from the letter they gave to Kerry: Before you issue your final evaluation of Keystone XL, we ask that you and your staff come to Mayflower to see what happens when a tar sands pipeline ruptures in your backyard. We ask that you observe the remnants of black tar, smell the toxic chemicals that are polluting our air, and ask yourselves whether you can in good conscience inflict this same devastation on families along Keystone XL’s route.

Now for some fun. This is from the strip Baby Blues. Hammie is on the couch with a notebook and pencil and Zoe climbs over the arm to check it out. "What are you writing?"


"Come on, tell me." Zoe takes the notebook from him.

"It's a list of things to avoid this summer."

Zoe is reading the list. "I see 'thinking' topped the list again this year."

Hammie leans back on the sofa pillow with his hands behind his head. "Yeah. It's kind of a tradition with me."

Literary Lesson

This one didn't come from a book written by the author of the quote, but I read it in the book, The Woman in the Photograph,  a memoir written by Mani Feniger that I am currently reading. Then I saw it on Susan Swiderski's blog, I Think, Therefore I Yam.  I thought it was a neat coincidence to read the same quote in two places on the same day. Perhaps I needed the message, so, without further interruption, here is the quote: "We all possess certain talents and gifts that are unique to only us. You already have everything that you need to start living an extraordinary life. It's up to you to turn the switch and let your light shine."   [Randa Manning-Johnson]
Everybody, all together now, lets sing, "This little light of mine, I'm gonna let it shine..." 

One last note. My historical mystery, Boxes For Beds, will be free this weekend as a Mother's Day special. 

Wednesday, May 08, 2013

Interview with Author A.B. Whelan

Today's Wednesday's Guest is novelist, A.B. Whelan, who is currently on a short blog tour to let people know about her young adult novel. As part of her tour, she is giving away a $25 Amazon gift card and a goodie bag with a copy of the book, a necklace and a magnet. Visit the tour starting spot, I am a Reader Not a Writer, for all the details. Now, I'll let A.B. take the stage.

I'm so glad to have you as my guest today, A.B. Could you tell the readers just a bit about yourself before we get to the other questions? 

Thanks for having me here today, Maryann. I'm an author, reader, movie fanatic, and a soccer mom. I have a big mouth and a big heart. I speak Hungarian, English, German, some Spanish and a little Greek. I love adventure, challenge, cooking, and baking. I dislike shopping, being bored and junk food. My latest novel Fields of Elysium is a YA science-fiction romance, but I like to call it a romantic fantasy. I have written contemporary fiction, and I’m working on more YA books. But doesn’t matter in which genre I write, my stories always revolve around love and life-changing decisions.

Just for fun, what is your family's favorite story to tell on you?

As newlyweds my hubby and I bought a house near Tehachapi in a private mountain community. I’m a city girl so I had a hard time getting used to all kinds of creepy crawlies around the house. One night I was home alone with our newborn when a mouse crossed the bedroom floor. I freaked out and called my fireman husband at his station. He jokingly told me to call the police and I did (only the community one, though, but I know exactly what you’re thinking). Two officers showed up and searched the entire house to hunt down the intruder, barely able to conceal their amusement. After a few more encounters with spiders, snakes, and rodents, we sold the house and moved back to the city. I’m still listening to this story at every family gathering.
What is the most unusual or interesting research you have done for your books?

I’m reading Adolf Hitler’s biography for City of Shame (Fields of Elysium, #3). In that installment I’ll introduce the Terraka emperor and I need him to be a despicable human being.

What gives you the most pleasure in writing?

When I read a five-star review. Then I know that there are other like-minded people out there, and I know I’m not alone.

What is the hardest thing about writing?

Staying within yourself and not trying to change to suit everybody. It’s very easy to lose your voice when your head is filled with criticism.

What other creative things do you do?

I used to be a marketing director in a shopping mall in Hungary, and whenever I organize a party or bake a cake, I decorate to impress. I actually learned how to frost cakes professionally by watching videos on YouTube.

Where do your stories begin? With character or plot?

With the character, an approach some readers find boring but if you don’t get to know the main character why would you care about her struggles or triumphs? I don’t like books or movies that start out with a very hyper scene and then slow down tremendously.

Do you have a pet?

Yes. We have a dog. We got her from a shelter in Crete and she is the most amazing and obedient and loving animal ever.

Here is a short excerpt from the book to whet your reading appetite. This is from chapter ten. 

"I began falling rapidly in full consciousness, my eyes open. A black growth under me drew frighteningly closer, while the world seemed to slow down around me. Astonishingly, I understood that I was going to die in a matter of seconds. Dying without pain sounded better than being ripped to pieces.

When I was only yards away from the black plants, I could clearly see that they were enormous mushrooms, towering above the ground. Thousands of long, skinny and curvy stems supported colossal umbrella heads, creating an immense fungus carpet. The most bizarre image I’ve ever seen.

Once I dropped on the edge of a mushroom’s head, I smashed my face onto the spongy matter. It cushioned my landing but the stem collapsed under my weight and lowered me. A fine black powder started to spread from the nearby mushrooms and soon I could hardly breathe. As I desperately struggled for air, the top of the mushroom tilted. I rolled off and crashed down onto a shorter mushroom. Then hit another. And another. Until I reached the ground. Squirming in anguish, I gasped and coughed, and finally blacked out. After all the pain and anxiety I was finally at peace."

Monday, May 06, 2013

Monday Morning Musings

It's Monday morning and I haven't a clue what to write about. This doesn't happen very often, as those of you who follow my blog know. I am usually able to find something in the news that warrants a comment or two, but I have been rather disconnected from the news the past few days.

Friday I was at a library most of the day for a Meet the Author event, and that was a lot of fun. I met some authors new to me, and also met a number of readers, also new to me. One of the highlights was the librarian's mother who was the hostess for the day, providing drinks and snacks to make us all feel welcome.

In addition to being a wonderful hostess, Virginia was a delight to visit with. She loves books - she works as a circulation and cataloging aide at the library and also volunteers when she has used up her paid hours. Every now and then she would stop by my table to share about another books she enjoys. She is a intrigued by crime and forensics and the process of catching the bad guys, so we have a lot in common.

I wish I would have thought to have a picture taken of us together, but we were always so engrossed in conversation, a picture was the last thing on my mind. If you would like to meet her, here is a link to her Facebook page.

Saturday was spent getting two new kittens and setting them up with a place away from the other cats until they can all get along. It could happen. (smile)

Here are our latest additions. We intended to only get one kitten, but they are litter mates, so it was impossible to resist bringing them both home. They do play so well together and I think it makes it easier for them to acclimate.
Lily - age about 8 weeks

Sammy - age 8 weeks. He has the prettiest blue eyes.

Our oldest feline resident, Misty, ignores the kittens, unless they come to close to her. Then she hisses and swats at them. Hermoine, one of the black cats we got a year and a half ago, has not come out to meet the kittens at all. She is our scardy cat and hides in our bedroom whenever anybody or anything scares her in the main part of the house.

However, Harry, Hermoine's brother, thinks the new kittens are quite interesting. He follows them around and has attempted to play with them. Since he is so much bigger, the kittens are a bit hesitant, so Harry just sits back and watches.

Anyone who thinks cats are all the same, has obviously not spent much time watching them. They all have distinct personalities and behavioral quirks, and we are constantly surprised by them.

Sunday, May 05, 2013

Book Review - Fields of Elysium by A.B. Whelan

Fields of Elysium 
A.B. Whelan 
Print Length: 416 pages 
Publisher: InMotion Capitol (December 10, 2012) 
Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc. 

In this fantasy romance the central character, Molly, has just moved to California from New Jersey and she is having trouble fitting in at her new school. She is unhappy and lonely for her friends back in the East, and one day she goes for a hike and her new life changes dramatically. She slips through a wormhole, but it takes some time for her to realize she is no longer on earth.

Molly has gone to the planet, Arkana, where she meets a group of guys that includes Weston and Victor. Weston is obviously interested in her, but it is Victor who interests her. He is so handsome, yet cold and distant, not being as friendly to her as the others. Part of his allure is the mystery of why he holds back when the others welcome her.

Once Molly realizes she is no longer on earth, she is as enchanted with the new planet as she is with Victor, and she goes there as often as she can to experience the peace and contentment the people on this earth-like planet have. But not all the people are contented. Victor harbors anger because of the death of his parents.

The book is billed as a young adult novel, but readers of all ages can enjoy this story as they read about the adventures Molly has on Arkana.

The author is currently on a blog tour and will be my guest on Wednesday. I hope you can come back to help welcome her to It's Not all Gravy. In the meantime, you can visit some of the other stops on the Fields of Elysium Blog Tour.

Friday, May 03, 2013

Mom's Sick, Get Out

It's hard to get back into the normal routine of my posts after the month-long A to Z Challenge, and  I didn't get my usual Friday's Odds and Ends post ready for today. Since I will be gone all day to an author event at a library, I don't have time to put a blog together. (I've got to put myself together LOL) Instead, I'll  share an excerpt from my humorous memoir again. It's been a while since I did that. Enjoy....

Have you ever noticed that when a kid is sick, he expects meals in bed, unlimited sympathy and continuous entertainment? Or when a husband is sick, he simply takes the day off work, stays in bed, and accepts juice, aspirin, and a kind word in four hour intervals? But heaven help a mother who has a cold or the 24-hour flu.

Somehow she has to carry on as if all was well, and about the only way she can get any sympathy or understanding is to be approaching death's doorway. Even then, one of the kids might ask if she has the time to wash his soccer uniform before she passes from this earthly life.

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

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

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

If a mother's face appears to be unusually flushed, it isn't from the exhilaration of an afternoon tryst. 
If a mother is making 25 trips to the bathroom in an hour, it isn't just from a need for some solitude and serenity.

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

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

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

Wednesday, May 01, 2013

Building a business

Now that the A to Z Challenge is over, I'm back to my regular schedule of blog posts. Today, Slim Randles is Wednesday's Guest with some more fun from the folks at the Mule Barn coffee shop. Enjoy....

“I don’t know about all this, Honey,” Dewey said. “It sounds pretty complicated. The way it is now, I go shovel manure into my pickup, drive to someone’s garden, and …  safely … use the dump bed of the truck to put it on the ground. I get paid by the feed lot to clean their corrals and get paid by the gardeners, too.”

Emily reached across the table at the booth in the Mule Barn coffee shop and squeezed his hand. “Dewey, dear, it’s not that difficult. I just thought you could … well, capitalize on these good things a bit more and expand your horizons. You really do have a good thing going here.” 

“I have branched out a bit into compost in the worm bins, too,” he said. 

“The worm department is working just fine, too, but only on a local level,” Emily Stickles said. Emily is the “county lady” responsible for bringing help to those who don’t realize they need it yet, and making sure no one steps rudely on the county codes.

“Remember the old saying,” she said. “‘Don’t hide your worms under a bushel.’” 

“That’s the old saying?” 

“If not, it should be. So anyway, why not let me help you with a bit of publicity for your company? I’d love to do it, Hon.” 

“Company? I have a shovel and a pickup …” 

“Exactly!” she said. “But this is America, Dewey darling. America! Where the sky’s the limit! Where humble beginnings can lead to the summit of corporate success! Just look at what Alexander Graham Bell did with a single telephone!” 
“I always wondered who he called once he got that first telephone built,” Dewey pondered. 

 “That’s the spirit!” Emily said to her sweetheart, “you just have to learn to think bigger than the next shovelful of manure, Dewey. That’s all. Just think what can be done with a shovelful of manure …” 

 They thought about what could be done with a shovelful of manure while Loretta topped off their coffee.
Brought to you by American Book Preparation, editing and rewriting services. Inquire at

NOTE: The second part of this story is posted at The Blood Red Pencil. See what Emily has come up with to promote Dewey's business.