Sunday, November 30, 2014

Book Review - Free the Leprechauns by Ray Hamill

Free the Leprechauns
Ray Hamill
File Size: 674 KB
Print Length: 318 pages
Simultaneous Device Usage: Unlimited
Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
Language: English

BOOK BLURB:  "Poor God is having a tough week. The power in heaven has gone out and all the ice cream in his fridge has melted, and if that wasn’t bad enough he just found out he’s being sued by sports fans in Cleveland who are growing weary of always hearing from star athletes in other cities how he helps them win. He never helps the teams in Cleveland win.

"Then, just when he thought things couldn’t get any worse, he discovers his magic wand – the source of his power – has gone missing, and for the life of him he simply cannot remember where it might be.

"Free The Leprechauns is a delightful tale of optimistic cynicism told in a shamelessly humorous narrative. The book follows the adventures of Stuart the proud Scottish sperm, as he sets out to help God discover the whereabouts of his magic wand, along with his new friends, Harold the wise old hamster; E.T. the Extra Testicle, an alien sex addict; and Seamus the kind-hearted smidget, a pint-sized mythical Irish creature."  

You've got to admire the wit of a writer who names a lawyer Sleez E. Bastat and creates a character like Paddy Duffy who imparts such pearls of wisdom as, "If you ignore a problem long enough it might go away, and sure if it doesn't go away there's at least a chance it might not get any worse." Not to mention actually making a sperm a character.

You also can't help but like a book that pokes fun at Justin Bieber, Bono, Sarah Palin, and religious cults. At least I couldn't help but like it, even though this kind of humor isn't always my favorite. I've always been an Erma Bombeck fan, and I don't think she ever wrote about testicles or made fun of God. (smile)

Still, there were places where I laughed out loud. For instance, "The saints collectively liked God. He was a decent chap, they all agreed. Perhaps not the smartest god in the universe - he used to believe the antichrist was that crazy woman married to the uncle Christ - but for the most part he was far and hones, except maybe for the whole fire and pestilence threats."

The author's Catholic upbringing came through loud and clear, and I could relate to the jokes about school and guilt and all those wonderful ways of being Catholic. One of my favorites was the ongoing debate about whether the good sisters who taught in the school ever went to the bathroom. I remember marveling with my girlfriends that we never, never saw one of them go into the restroom.

I'm glad God has a sense of humor.

For the most part, the writing was excellent, with good comedic timing on the jokes, and all the odd characters were engaging. However, there were places where a bit of editing could have tightened some places that went on a little too long, and a more careful use of dialect would have made some of the dialogue more enjoyable.

On one level this is just a funny story with some funny characters and funny lines, but on another it is a good example of comedic satire, mocking injustice and social wrongs. While reading the book, I couldn't help but make a comparison to television programs like The Daily Show, that teach us about what is wrong in the world and makes the lesson go down easier with a chuckle. 

Ray Hamill was born in Dublin, Ireland, but have lived among the beautiful redwoods of Northern California for the past two decades working as a journalist. His first book was "Help me, I'm Irish - a book about the non-meaning of life." Ray will be my Wednesday's Guest this week, and I do hope you will stop by and welcome him. He is sharing the joy he has for writing. Sometimes we need to hear about the joys.

There are just two more days left to get Doubletake, my police procedural mystery free for Kindle and Kindle apps. Hop on over to Amazon and snag a copy, and maybe tell all your friends about it. So far readers are liking the story. 

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Saturday Surprise

I just received the following announcement from my friend, Slim Randles, and just had to share it. Since we have all enjoyed his humor and his wisdom, I thought we could raise a glass in salute.

"Home Country" columnist Slim Randles won three regional book awards for the two books he wrote in 2014. "Max Evans and a Few Friends, the 90th Birthday Book" took honors for best non-fiction book, and "Saddle Up: A Cowboy Guide to Writing" won for best how-to book and best cover design at the New Mexico/Arizona Book Awards in Albuquerque.
Randles lives in Albuquerque and has a dozen books currently in print.
Knowing Slim, he might prefer a different drink to salute.

 Regardless of the drink of choice, let's help Slim celebrate. Hint, hint! Books make terrific gifts and he has many to choose from. Visit his Amazon Author Page. Wouldn't buying one of his books be a wonderful way to thank him for sharing his columns with us?

Friday, November 28, 2014

Free Book for Black Friday

Once upon a time, many years ago, there was a pleasant thing that some people liked to do the day after Thanksgiving - go to the mall and do a bit of shopping, look at all the holiday displays, and listen to the Christmas Carols being piped over the sound system.
Image Courtesy of Black Friday Predictions
  Then something awful happened. Marketing people came up with the idea of calling the shopping day "Black Friday" and encouraged the retailers to compete for the shoppers' money by having huge sales. And while you're at it, why don't you open earlier than your competition?
"But Sears is opening at eight in the morning."
"So, open at seven."
And thus the war over opening times started, resulting in earlier and earlier opening times until Thanksgiving day was lost for anyone who works in retail.
The fun also stopped when the desire for a bargain became a compulsion, and people started camping out in front of stores days before the sales started. I didn't realize how bad that compulsion had gotten until I read about two women who have been camping out since November 7th in Louisiana. To get a television. They are willing to go through all that to save a hundred dollars or so? Weird.

The actual day - Black Friday - shoppers are almost manic, and those who have not already lined up to enter the store, push their way in, desperate to not miss a deal. Maybe there is still one more TV left that is on sale, but, oops, that other lady wanted the TV. No problem, we'll just push her aside. After all, we probably deserve that TV more than she does.

"Oops, sorry about that. Need help with that bloody nose?"

As you've probably guessed by now, I am not at a shopping mall today. I stopped going to the stores the day after Thanksgiving many years ago after being jostled by a crowd when a store announced a special sale on sweaters for the next fifteen minutes. I happened to be next to the table, so I turned and picked up a sweater, only to have a woman snatch it right out of my hand. I was so shocked that she would actually do that, I let go, and I let go of the desire to be any where near a store on Black Friday. 

I'm spending more time with my kids and eating more pumpkin pie. What about you? Are you out fighting the crowds? Do you enjoy the experience?

And now about that free book. I didn't forget, honest. Starting today I am offering my latest mystery, Doubletake, free for Kindle and Kindle apps through December 1st. The book normally retails for $3.99, so this is a bargain. This is the last time the book will be free, so grab your copy while you have a chance, and if you do get the book and read it, I'd love for you to leave a review on Amazon. Those reviews help authors so much.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Thanksgiving has always been one of my favorite holidays. I loved cooking the big dinner, with prep starting days in advance. We had to make the pies at least two days early so we had plenty of time to test them and make sure they were good enough for the big day. Too bad if I had to make more on Wednesday night. 

Today I thought I would look back and share a Thanksgiving piece I wrote here in 2006. (I can't believe I've been blogging that long. Wow!) Anyway, the following has been used in bits and pieces here, and in the column I wrote for the Plano Star Courier many moons ago, and is part of a book that I hope someday to get published. 

There's an old Thanksgiving song that starts out, "Over the river and through the woods to Grandmother's house we go..."

When I was a child, my Dad would break into that song as we crossed the Pennsylvania border into West Virginia on our annual pilgrimage from Michigan to celebrate the Holiday with his family. "The horse knows the way to carry the sleigh, through the white and drifting snow..."

The closer we got to his childhood home, the heavier his foot rested on the gas pedal as our Chevy station wagon climbed the hills on twisting roads and flew on the downside. His rich baritone voice belted the song, and in my imagination we were on that sleigh behind dapple grays in their rhythmic trot. I could hear the clump of their hooves and feel the blowing snow bite my cheeks as we were carried along.

It was magic, pure and simple. A magic that continued for the few days that we stayed in that 'otherworld.'

Today as those memories float pleasantly through my mind, I can almost smell the wonderful aromas of sage dressing, pumpkin pie, and mulled cider that permeated my grandmother's house. And I can hear the bustle of activity accompanied by short bursts of conversation among the women in the kitchen. The front bedroom is where the men gathered and brought out instruments. Their music became another soundtrack.

My brothers, sisters, and I would join other cousins in the back bedroom in between our numerous trips outside. Our biggest challenge was to see who could roll down the hill and retain the most amount of snow, turning ourselves into living snowpeople. The second biggest challenge was to see who would have the honor of receiving the drumsticks. They were doled out on a 'merit' system based loosely on which of us waited the most patiently for the great announcement, "Dinner's Ready."

In the early years of married life I found it a formidable task to create Thanksgiving Days that would live in a similar glory for my children.

We were living in Texas, so mountains and snow were out of the question, and my singing never could quite match my father's. I didn't possess even a tenth of the culinary skills of my grandmother and my aunts, so the meal would probably be lacking. And we were more than a thousand miles away from cousins to help distract my children from their impatience.

But despite those limits, we managed to muddle through. I did manage a passable dinner and my husband actually raved about the German dressing. The pies were a major hit, all ten of them, and everyone was willing to eat the broccoli for the promise of a second piece of pie. And after cheering the Dallas Cowboys to another victory, most years, we would all tumble outside for a family game of touch-football.

In sifting through all these random memories now, I realize that the memory itself is not what is important. What is, is the fact that we have memories and they don't happen by accident. No matter what we do to 'mark' these important occasions, it is vital that we do 'mark' them. Even if our process doesn't live up to a Martha Stewart image or our own fond remembrances of childhood.

So here's to our memories, no matter how we create them, and may yours be as wonderful as mine.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

No Black Friday Shopping for Doc

The day before Thanksgiving I thought Slim Randles would have a heart-tugging thoughtful piece about all the ways he is thankful, but he surprised me. Not that this isn't a thoughtful piece. Doc makes a lot of sense if you stop and think about it. So help me welcome Slim as my Wednesday's Guest today, and have a piece of pumpkin pie while you are reading. We always need to test the pies the day before Thanksgiving. At least that was the rule in our house. Enjoy...

“Hey Doc,” said Herb, reading the latest copy of the Valley Weekly Miracle, “did you see all these specials they’re having in the city? Just for the Friday after Thanksgiving, too. You know, a guy could get a lot of Christmas shopping done then and save some money.”

“I guess so,” Doc said, putting his cup down so Loretta could top it off.

“You’re not going to go shopping?”

“Not on Black Friday.”

Herb looked at Dud and Steve along the philosophy counter. Like buzzards circling a battlefield, they could sense a story.
Dud asked, “Any special reason, Doc?”

Something inside Doc swelled up and he seemed much taller than usual. He was prepared to expound, and we braced ourselves. We always listen to Doc. Besides being one of the world’s kindest people, he has more initials after his name than most governmental agencies.

“I don’t shop on Black Friday,” he said, “because it’s expected of me. I don’t attend church on Easter or Christmas, either, even if I go regularly the rest of the year. Every Labor Day, I work instead of going fishing or going on a picnic.

“Now, I do celebrate Valentine’s Day with a card and flowers, because I like Mrs. Doc and plan to keep her happy. But for the big expected holidays, I defer. You see, boys, man was put here on this earth to break trail for others. To set out on his own to make traditions, not follow them. Everybody else waters grass to make it grow and when it does, they cut it down. It takes time and sweat and money to do that. You know how I garden … leave it alone and if something grows that offends me, I take it out with a shovel.

“I tell you, guys, we are fashion setters, not fashion followers. Our mission is to set examples for others, not blindly go do something because everyone else does it. You remember when we were kids, our mamas told us not to play in the street because it was dangerous and we told them the other kids got to do it, and they told us if the other kids jumped off a cliff, would we do that, too? Sure you do. Every mother in the world has said that a dozen times. So why should we just follow along like sheep when someone on Wall Street decides we should go out and stand in long lines and spend money on one certain day?”

Herb nodded. “As usual, Doc, you make a lot of sense. I never really gave it that much thought.”

Doc smiled back, “Besides, I’ve already done most of my shopping online.”


Brought to you by Saddle Up: A Cowboy Guide to Writing 

Monday, November 24, 2014

Aw Shucks, Old Age

It's going to be a busy week heading toward Thanksgiving and I have a jillion things to do today, so I thought I would have a guest instead of my usual Mondy offering. I am so thankful for the writers who share their work with us, and one of them, Roy Faubion, occasionally sends me a piece that I might deem worthy of including on my blog. What he doesn't realize, even though I keep telling him, is that anything he sends me is worthy of a spot here. He is a terrific writer. This particular piece resonated with me as it came in my inbox shortly after a few friends and I had been out to lunch and talking about the challenges of aging. We all feel so young on the inside, but the outside is beginning to show definite signs of wear and tear. Growing old is not for the faint of heart, and I think Roy sums up the emotional reactions of most of us who are a few years past 60.

And while we are all still young enough to enjoy it, let's have a danish to go with our morning coffee.  

Now here's Roy... 

One thing that puzzles me more than all the other things that puzzle me is where does middle age end and old age begin in a person’s life cycle?  As I mull this around in my brain, I experience a number of disjointed emotions which do not contribute much to my desire to make a determination of what age category in which I fit. Take as an example of my muddled thoughts, the image I have of old based on the old men and old women I see. I knew a man in his nineties who appeared to be in his early seventies. He sat tall and stood straight. His voice was clear and his mind was sharp as a tack. Was he old? I did not think so.

Or how about the old feller I met twenty-five years ago at a shindig featuring a lot of violins…fiddles they called them. The musicians were from eight to near a hundred, mighty good talent, I’d say. But one of them seemed particularly skilled with the bow, bringing sound to the stage that captivated everyone. I figured he was on his last leg in life, all wrinkled and dried out. Ninety years old was my guess. While we were sitting and visiting I had the opportunity to be so bold as to ask his age. Fifty, he responded with a toothless smile, and I added in my thoughts, darned proud of it.  He was younger than I. How about that?

Now here I sit, eighty years old by the calendar. I almost choke when I say it aloud. Eighty! Heck, I didn't even see it coming. One day I was sixty and gainfully employed, the next thing I know, I am eighty, losing track of what day it is and what I think I ought to be doing but don’t. And doctors? I surely did not know there were so many specializing in so much. There is one for my brain and one for my kidneys. The heart doctor lets me know it is time to see him, but he has to wait for me to visit the back doctor.  The tooth doctor is standing in line right behind eye doctor. About the time I think I am caught up with doctors my family doctor says, “Not so fast, old timer. It is time to take the little bottle and go in the bathroom.”

Well, I went in the bathroom even though I did not feel like going. It is just something old timers do. Sometimes through the last few years I would think I was not aging at all, until Medicare set in. That stuff will do you in! When I was gainfully employed I carried a small pocket notepad to keep up with my obligations. Now that I am retired, and have been for quite some time, it takes a three ring-binder with a planning calendar to keep up with the doctors’ appointments.

In the midst of all this I continue to say to myself, when I get old, I think I will slow down a bit.  Right now I have an appointment to test ride a Harley.
Image Courtesy of Harley Davidson Blog

Roy Faubion has written columns for small-town newspapers for most of  his adult life. The first column was entitled Around The Sagebrush. Second was The Clodkicker. Finally, he arrived at a title and concept with which he is most comfortable, Ponderations from the Back Porch. Through the years of being a radio announcer (preceding the term Disc Jockey) and years of news reporting, and doing all the other jobs in the industry, he racked up enough experiences to shape a column of thoughts, remembrances, and often, true stories. He is married to Dr. A. Janet McGill, retired educator, and both are active members of their church. They are also members of the North East Texas Choral Society, a 100 plus member performance choir in Sulphur Springs, Texas.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Book Review - Edward Adrift by Craig Lancaster

Edward Adrift
Craig Lancaster
Paperback: 320 pages
Publisher: Lake Union Publishing; Unabridged edition (April 9, 2013)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1611099056
ISBN-13: 978-1611099058 

BOOK BLURB: The follow-up to 600 Hours of Edward, this novel revisits Edward Stanton three years after the end of the previous book and finds him in a scattered state. When he learns that his young friend Kyle is in trouble, Edward sets out on a road trip that carries him to some unexpected places—and might just deliver him to the doorstep of love.

Craig's first book was one of my favorite all time reads, and I was delighted when I finally made time to read the sequel. Edward is a 42-year-old man with Asperger's Syndrome, who is trying his best to find "normal" in a world that does not conform to this way of thinking and operating. If you've ever wondered what goes on in the mind of someone with Aspergers, Edward can clue you in, and as he reminds everyone, "I'm not stupid, I'm just developmentally challenged."

I loved Edward when I met him in the first book, and love him even more as I see how he has managed to take control of his life. In 600 Hours Edward was just coming to terms with his uniqueness and starting counseling to learn coping techniques. To see how the counseling has helped him get from there to where this new story starts is a joy, as I have come to think of Edward as a real person and am rooting for him all the way.

One Amazon reviewer commented, "... to say that this book is about aspergers (sic) syndrome, or even about a guy with aspergers syndrome is to sell it short. Really short. This book is about a guy. A fantastic guy with quirks and foibles who does the best he can to cope with his life, and who sometimes succeeds. It's a richly drawn portrait of a really, really interesting guy who you'd like to know more about, who also happens to have aspergers, which affects his personality to an extent."

I agree. While I found the insights into how his mind works, I also connected to Edward as a person, and he was just as interesting to me as some of my quirky writer friends.

Another reviewer commented that this wasn't a road-trip book, or a book about Asperger's, it wasn't a romance, it wasn't a story about triumph over adversity, and it wasn't a coming-of-age story. I disagree. It was all of those, just not in the usual style that we are accustomed to, and it doesn't fit neatly into a genre. It's simply a novel. And one hell of a story.

DISCLAIMER: I purchased this book, and Craig did not bribe me in any way to say nice things about his writing. We are friends, but that didn't influence me either. I loved his writing before we became friends on Facebook.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Friday's Odds and Ends

There was an interesting article in last Sunday's Dallas Morning News written originally in the Princeton Alumni magazine by Lawrence Otis Graham, an attorney and author. His article, Wealth can't protect your kids from racism, had some interesting things to say about the problem. What prompted the article was in incident involving his 15-year-old son and a bigoted white guy at a New England boarding school.

Apparently, as the young man was walking across campus, a guy in a car pulled up beside him and called out, "Are you the only nigger at Mellon Academy?" (Graham changed the name of the school.)

Graham was most upset about the incident because he said he and his wife had worked hard to teach their children how to act and talk so they would fit in smoothly with the white community. No slouchy pants, no sunglasses, no hoodies, and no ebonics. Yet this young man obviously did not fit in smoothly to the entire white community.

I found this article most distressing. First, just the blatant bigotry that young man in the car displayed. I thought we were past that kind of thing. But therein lies the problem. We are not past it. Not one bit.

Racism and bigotry are two themes I explore in the Seasons Mystery Series that debuted with Open Season, and I have done a lot of research about racial profiling, the use of deadly force, as well as interviews with police officers both black and white about the difficulties they face. That initial research was done almost 30 years ago, and sadly not a lot has changed. You just have to consider what happened to Trayvon Martin in Florida in 2012 and the tragedy this year in Ferguson, Missouri.

I think part of the problem is that different bothers us. Sometimes it even scares us. We like to stay in our own area of comfort where we know the people and we know what to expect from them. We are hard-wired to be alert for stranger-danger. 

So maybe we should stop thinking of others as strangers and more like friends we just haven't met.

Something else of interest in the Dallas Morning News was a story about a new program in West Dallas. Two graffiti artists, Eder Martinez and Kirk Garnett went to a city hall meeting and asked if the city would consider a santioned graffiti wall where artists could express themselves creatively and not worry about being arrested. Other cities have freewall public art projects, and Garnett thought that should work in Dallas.
Image courtesy of
Apparently it has. There are plans to add more sites for artists, and it is a win-win on both sides. Kudos to the city leaders for their willingness to listen.

Now here's some advice from Will Rogers to kick off your weekend on a light note:

* There are two theories to arguing with a woman. Neither works.
* Never miss a good chance to shut up.
* If you find yourself in a hole, stop digging.
* The quickest way to double your money is to fold it and put it back into your pocket.
* There are three kinds of men:
         The ones that learn by reading.
         The few who learn by observation.
         The rest of them have to pee on the electric fence and find out for themselves.
* Good judgment comes from experience, and a lot of that comes from bad judgment.
* Lettin' the cat outta the bag is a whole lot easier'n puttin' it back.
* After eating an entire bull, a mountain lion felt so good he started roaring. He kept it up until a hunter came along and shot him. The moral: When you're full of bull, keep your mouth shut.

Please do leave a comment if you have an opinion to share, or if you have a joke to share with us.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Legendary Thanksgiving Dinner

Please welcome Slim Randles as today's Wednesday's guest. He has a cute story that tells us how not to plan a Thanksgiving dinner. Since it is never too soon to have some pumpkin pie - and mine are the best, just ask any of my kids -  we can all have a slice to go with our morning coffee. Hey, who says you can't have pie for breakfast? Hurry and grab you a piece before the pie is gone. Enjoy....

Courtesy of Deliciously Delicious where you can find a recipe for the pie
Steve will have Thanksgiving dinner over at Doc’s and Mrs. Doc’s this year, and any number of his friends are grateful for that. Steve is one heckuva cowboy and trainer of young colts, and a good friend to all, but he’d never make it as a dinner host.

Very few Thanksgiving dinners achieve legendary status, but “Steve’s Thanksgiving” was certainly one of them. Some said it happened because he’s lived alone and cooked meals for himself for so many years. Some say he has worked alone for so long that he isn’t of a coordinating mind. The answer could be buried in the middle there somewhere. Steve himself isn’t certain.

It all happened early in Fall a couple of years ago when Steve completed his cabin up in the mountains here. He’d even finished the turret. In about September of that year, he’d started cleaning the place up on his infrequent visits, because he just knew somewhere inside that he’d created a modest monument there and wanted to share it with his friends. Naturally.

So, back at the ranch bunkhouse down in the valley, he’d studied up on how to roast a turkey: what to put on it, how to thaw it, how to tell when it’s done, all that stuff.

Then he invited his friends for Thanksgiving dinner, up at the cabin. He told each one that he’d be fixing a turkey dinner up there and to come on up and have some fun. And each of them, in turn, asked Steve what they should bring for the dinner.

“Oh, I don’t care,” he’d said, “you know … whatever you’d like, I guess.”

He said that to Doc and Mrs. Doc. And Dud and Emily. And Herb. And Bert and Maizie. And Marvin and Margie. And Mavis at the Mule Barn.

That Thanksgiving Day was a sparkler … crisp sunshine, Fall colors. Oh man, it was great!

And the turkey was in that wood-fired Home Comfort range and looking brown and juicy when the friends started to arrive. They’d each made the considerable drive up the mountain to the end of the road, then walked in the last hundred yards to the warm and cozy little cabin.

And each of them … every one of them … brought a pumpkin pie.

Turkey and pumpkin pie. Traditional favorites on Thanksgiving. But … strangely enough, after three of the pies had been consumed, there were still some left over.

But hey, that turkey turned out all right. And this year, Steve’s going over to Doc’s and Mrs. Doc’s for dinner. Mrs. Doc told him to bring biscuits.

Brought to you by Home Country, the book (now an ebook as well) on Amazon, Kindle

Monday, November 17, 2014

Monday Morning Musings

I'm reading Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline, and it is a wonderful story. Vivian, now 81 years old, was an orphan in the late 20s and early 30s and part of the story is set back then, chronicling her experiences after she is taken by Child Services from New York to Minnesota to find an adoptive family. Many children were taken on the train, with stops in several cities and towns to find homes. The children were often not more than indentured servants, and too often treated horribly. Such was the case for Vivian.

Jumping ahead to 2011, Molly, another child in foster care, enters the story. She is an older teen, almost ready to age out of the system. She has been in a number of foster homes and has all the problems of any young person who was shuffled from place to place and never appreciated for who she is.

Molly goes to work for Vivian, and the ways their lives parallel each other and then intersect is very touching.

I am so enthralled with the writing, I just have to share this short excerpt that occurs late in the story when Molly is thrown out of her latest foster home:
She's too old for this- too old to wait around to be placed with another foster family. Too old to switch schools, move to a new town, submit herself to yet another foster parent's whims. She is so white-hot furious, she can barely see. She stokes the fire of her hatred, feeding it tidbits about bigoted idiot Dina and spineless mushmouth Ralph, because she knows that just beyond the rage is a sorrow so enervating it could render her immobile. She needs to keep moving, flickering around the room. She needs to fill her bags and get the hell out of here.
I didn't intend to do a review when I started the blog today. I was just going to mention what I was reading, but this has been such a terrific read, I just had to share.

On another note, I found an interesting bit of trivia about Vernors Ginger Ale. On one of the mystery readers lists I belong to, we were discussing different kids of sodas, and someone mentioned Vernors.  That is a soda I remember from my childhood that was bottled in Detroit and only sold in select places in Michigan. We could go down to the bottling plant and get samples, sometimes as a float with vanilla ice cream. It was also widely used to soothe stomach upsets, and I remember my mother warming the ginger ale and adding some milk. I liked it so much, I asked for it even when I wasn't sick.

I was curious about the history of Vernors, so I went over to Wikipedia and found some interesting information. According to company legend, prior to the start of the American Civil War, while a clerk at the Higby & Sterns drugstore in Detroit, James Vernor experimented with flavors in an attempt to duplicate a popular ginger ale imported from Dublin, Ireland.

Here is another website, created by Joe Blizzard,  with more information if you are dying to know all the history of this unique ginger ale.

I remember this sign which was at the front entrance of the bottling plant for many years.

It wouldn't be Monday without a joke to start your week off. A friend sent me these quotes from Phyllis Diller, and I thought they were cute:

Whatever you may look like, marry a man your own age.  As your beauty fades, so will his eyesight.
Housework can't kill you, but why take a chance?
Cleaning your house while your kids are still growing up is like shoveling the walk before it stops snowing.

The reason women don't play football is because 11 of them would never wear the same outfit in public.
Do you have a favorite soda that is unique to the part of the world in which you live? Got a joke to share? Let us know in the comments.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Just a Little BSP

Yesterday was the official launch party for the new International Anthology, Short and Happy (Or Not), that contains my short story To Love Again. The book was just released this week on Amazon and already has 9 reviews. One reviewer wrote: "A sampling in all the right ways. Overall one of my favorite reads in the past couple of months. I had a lot of fun stepping inside the minds of somany diverse and engaging authors."

I also want to announce that my mystery, Boxes for Beds, which was a Kindle exclusive for almost a year, is now available for Kobo, Nook, iTunes, Inktera. Of course it is still available for Kindle readers, too. I just decided to open distribution and used Draft2Digital, a terrific company that helps indie authors who don't want to take the time to create all the different formats for all of these retail outlets.

The folks at D2D will convert a Word document into an ebook, create clean chapter breaks and a functioning table of contents. It is a quick and easy process from the author end and I highly recommend the service. There is no upfront charge and D2D only takes 10% of the retail price.

And now, so this isn't just about me, here is an interview with Laura Parker on Regan Walker's blog Historical Romance Review. Laura is the best-selling author of 40 books, many of them historical romances, and her Rose Trilogy is being offered as a boxed set through Untreed Reads. I read all three books in the series that started with Rose of the Mists and they are terrific stories. The new release has a different cover, but here is the original from that first book.

Since books make great gifts, it is not too soon to think about some of the written treasures for folks on your gift list.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Friday's Odds and Ends

Here we are at day 3 of the Arctic Blast that is affecting much of the United States. The way the media is going crazy with reports you would think we never had winter before. Granted, winter does not usually come this early. I can't remember freezing temperatures before December here in Texas, but then my memory is not what it used to be.

I was worried about that - my memory not the snow - until my sister sent the following to me:

Brains of older people are slow because they know so much.  People do not decline mentally with age, it just takes them longer to recall facts because they have more information stored in their brains, scientists believe. 

Researchers say this slowing down is not the same as cognitive decline.  The human brain works slower in old age, said Dr.Michael Ramscar, but only because we have stored more information over time.
The brains of older people do not get weak. On the contrary, they simply know more, but just may not be able to access the information.

Also, older people often go to another room to get something and when they get there, they stand there wondering what they came for.  It is NOT a memory problem, it is nature's way of making older
people do more exercise.  SO THERE!!

Whew! I feel so much better now.

Did you know that Medicare fraud adds as much as 10% to health care costs? Peggy Sposato is a data analyst for the Justice Department, and she pioneered a program that uses Medicare billing data to target suspected fraud. It is estimated that she has saved the taxpayers billions of dollars since the mid 1990s when she assumed her current position. As much as $20 billion a year is lost to Medicare fraud, and AARP has some helpful links that you can use to help spot and report fraud.  

An interesting commentary by Ruben Navarrette carried this headline: Life isn't far and never will be, so get over it.

Ruben went on to say that Americans need to stop listening to populist rhetoric and accept the many injustices of our system. He then quotes JFK, "There is always inequity in life...It's very assure complete equality. Life is unfair."

One point that Ruben made in his commentary is that sometimes dealing with the unfairness in life is what makes us stronger

He also seemed to be saying that instead of jumping on every claim of "unfairness" we should work on just accepting the reality and figuring out how to live within that reality.

One of the most absurd news items I read this past week was about Arnold Abbot, a 90-year-old man who was arrested in Fort Lauderdale for violating an ordinance that restricts public feeding of the homeless. 

Really? The police couldn't just tell him to pack up the food and go away?

Now I'll leave you with a bit of humor from One Big Happy by Rick Detorie. Ruthie is sitting at the table with her father, Frank, who is helping her with her math homework. He says, "You have 22 carrot sticks on you plate. If your friend Sam takes six sticks and your Friend Tessa takes four sticks... But Tessa returns two sticks... How many carrot sticks are on your plate?"

Ruthie thinks for a few moments and her father asks, "Shouldn't you be writing down some numbers, Ruthie?"

"First of all... I don't know who these people are. Secondly, if I did know them, I would never eat with them. Thirdly, it's a stupid question. Who wants to steal carrots?

"Now, if they were French fries? Maybe."

Brother Joe pipes up with, "She makes a good point, Dad."

I knew there was a reason I relate so much to Ruthie. I hated those word problems in school, too. What about you?

Have a great weekend everyone.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

A Helping Hand

Please welcome Slim Randles as today's Wednesday's Guest with another one of his tales featuring the guys at the Mule Barn Truck Stop Think Tank. This story really resonated with me, as I could relate to Mrs. Morris, and thank goodness I have neighbors like Windy, although my neighbors talk purt near normal. 

While Slim is entertaining us here, I am over at the Blood Red Pencil blog with a bit of mid-week humor to help you over the hump. Do stop by if you have a chance.

It is bitter cold here in most of the United States, and I'm sure in plenty of other places across the world, so let's have some hot chocolate and stay warm. Enjoy....

 Windy looked out the window. A great day for helping. Windy Wilson sets one day aside each week for helping others, you see, and this was helping day.

Mrs. Morris, he thought, checking on the calendar. Yes, Mrs. Morris’s poor ol’ shed that’s leaning dangerously to one side.

“I can just whup over there today and see that gets fixated,” Windy said, smiling. “By dark, she’ll have a perp-up-and-dicular shed she can be proud of.”

Windy talks like that. A lot.

Armed with enough tools to recreate the city of Troy, Windy arrived at Mrs. Morris’s house and set to work. He rigged a come-along to a tree and used it to straighten the shed. Then, while he had it straight up, he attacked it with bracing.

Mrs. Morris brought him coffee a couple of times, and later had him in for lunch. Mr. Morris had passed away several years ago, and some of these bigger chores were beyond her abilities.

Windy hadn’t asked Mrs. Morris about fixing the shed, because that’s part of the fun for him. You just show up and do it. Do it until it’s done. Do it right. Fortunately, Windy has always been pretty handy with tools.

By three o’clock, that shed was up and braced, and several loose boards had been nailed back in their homes again. He brought the can of paint out of his truck and started painting it the same light green it had always been.

Inside the house, Mrs. Morris looked out upon the wonder of a reconditioned shed in her back yard. She picked up the phone.

“Mr. Johnson? This is Mrs. Morris. That’s right. Look, I know I’d asked you to take down my old shed, but I’ve changed my mind. No, I don’t think the old shed will fall on anyone. Thanks so much anyway.”

Nothing like a good helping day, Windy thought, rinsing out his paint brush and dancing a little jig carrying the tools back to his pickup. Nothing like it.

Brought to you by Saddle Up: A Cowboy Guide to Writing 

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Surprise Tuesday Post

In honor of Veterans Day, I thought I would do a special post, thanking all the men and women who have served, and are still serving, in the military. Those of you who have followed my blog for some time, may recall that I have mentioned before that on my father's side of the family, men served in every war and conflict since the Spanish American war. Many of them are buried in the cemetery that my great, great, great grandfather donated to the small Methodist Church in Fairmont, West Virginia. What a thrill it was to see all the headstones some years ago when I visited.

Mt. Zion UMC cemetery
Patriotism and service to the country is very important to me, and I always want to stand up and salute on days like today. So hang on just a moment while I do that.

Okay, I'm back. And now I want to personally thank members of my more immediate family for their service: My brother, Michael, for his years in Vietnam; my son, David, for his part in Desert Storm, and my daughter, Dany, for her years in the army. She was the lucky one who never saw combat, but she was a good soldier, making the rank of captain before discharge.

Now I'd like to let you know about a Veterans Day special that Marney K. Makridakis is offering for her new book.  

Simply order Hop, Skip, Jump TODAY, November 11, and get an instant $15 Artella eGift Certificate for each copy purchased, which is even more than the price of the book. Go to to order your copy and take a fun quiz to find out if you Hop, Skip, or Jump! :-) 

So today is the best day to order multiple copies of this fun book as holiday presents, and get $15 back for each one. The eGift certificates can even be transferred to others as holiday gifts, too. What a terrific deal on a book that helps us have more fun.

In the spirit of fun, I am going to make time to play ball with my dog today and hug a cat. What will you do for fun? 

Monday, November 10, 2014

Monday Morning Musings

My little town, Winnsboro, is one of the few rural cultural arts districts in Texas, and one of the reasons we acquired that designation is the Fine Art Market that is held annually. Another reason is the vibrant Winnsboro Center for the Arts, where I am very active.

In addition to being the Theatre Director, I organize the Author Showcase that is held in conjunction with the Fine Art Market, and for one weekend the air in town is infused with creativity. On Saturday I was at the Author Showcase with a number of other authors and it was a good event. We had lots of fun greeting folks we knew and meeting new friends. I was especially pleased to see a number of my Young Players come out for the day, and was thrilled to sign a book for Natalie, a terrific young actress.

Sunday, I went back to the market to do some shopping, and it was so much fun finding unique gifts for my kids and grandkids. I always love it when something just pops up and says, "Buy this for..." I even splurged and bought a gift for myself.

In other news, I have a story in a new anthology that is being released November 15 by S&H Publishing. The book has already received several early reviews on Amazon and so far readers are enjoying it. There will be a launch party for the book this Sunday in Virginia. I sure wish I was close enough to attend. Who doesn't love a party?

The book, Short & Happy (or not) is available through the S&H Publishing website and other online retail stores. I will be happy to send a signed bookplate to anyone who might want to order the book as a gift - to someone else or to keep. Just e-mail me at

Autographed book make terrific gifts, and I would be happy to sign and ship copies of my other books that you might want to buy as gifts. Just contact me at the above e-mail addy.

To end with a bit of humor, I cracked up when I saw this cartoon from Drabble yesterday. Ralph and June are in a restaurant, where June has made quite a mess with her soup. Ralph is thinking, "If your spouse goes to the dentist in the morning and the dentist gives her long-lasting Novocain, and she asks you to take her to her favorite soup and salad restaurant afterward, I suggest you sit at separate tables. Just sayin'."

Friday, November 07, 2014

Friday's Odds and Ends

Today I thought I would celebrate a few strong women I've discovered via the Internet. This first one comes from It is an inspiring story from a 21-year-old woman who challenges us to look at people with disabilities with a new perspective. She has cerebral palsy and wishes that people saw her as an intelligent person who is attending college and not a 2-year-old who is miserable in her challenged body.

It's human nature to focus on the differences, especially when those differences has someone in a wheelchair and appearing to be non-functioning, but this young woman, whose name was not given, asks us to find the common ground - person to person. Here is a link to her video.

Trisha Prabhu is another amazing young woman. Only 14-years old, she is one of Googles 15 Global Science Fair finalists, with her project 'Rethink' which asks teens to rethink a post they are going to make on social media. Trisha came up with the idea for combating cyber bullying after she heard about the 12-year-old Florida girl who committed suicide after experiencing cyber bullying.

 ‘Rethink’ picks up on words like stupid, loser and ugly and then alerts the teen that this post could be hurtful and asks them to reconsider. “It tells the cyber bully when they're about to post something offensive it goes, ‘whoa are you sure you want to post that on a social media site? That could be offensive.’ It has them rethink what they're about to do,” Prabhu said.

The best thing about her project is that in her experiment, 93 percent of adolescents changed their minds and decided not to post.

Something horrible that is an ongoing problem in India and Iran is the number of women who have acid thrown on them because they are not wearing the "proper" head covering. These women are terribly disfigured and many of them hide away in shame. Others, however, look for ways to increase awareness of this terrible practice. Some survivors of acid attacks in India have taken part in a photo shoot that introduces a new line of clothing designed by a woman who had acid thrown in her face by her stepmother. This happened in 2008, and Rupa suffered extensive damage to her face, neck and upper body. 

Delhi-based designer Rupa invited a number of her friends to model the new creations for her line, Rupa Designs, and here is a link to the full story.

Now to end on a fun note. Remember, it is so important to have a little fun every day. These are actual  ads that were published in a Yorkshire newspaper.

8 years old,
Hateful little bastard.

1/2 Cocker Spaniel, 1/2 sneaky neighbor's dog.

Mother is a Kennel Club registered German Shepherd.
Father is a Super Dog, able to leap tall fences in a single bound.

Also 1 gay bull for sale.

Must sell washer and dryer £100.

Worn once by mistake.
Call Stephanie.

Go forth into your weekend and prosper!

Wednesday, November 05, 2014

Who Says Work Can't be Fun?

I have been a fan of the fun and whimsical approach to creativity that Marney Makridakis has created with Artella Land, an online community for artists, writers, creative entrepreneurs. I was first introduced to Marney when I reviewed her previous book, Creating Time, and she now has a new book coming out November 11, Hop, Skip, Jump 75 Ways to Playfully Manifest a Meaningful Life.

Marney is the founder of the ARTbundance approach to self-discovery through creativity. Since 2009, the ARTbundance Certification Training Program (ACT) has trained over 300 coaches and practitioners in her techniques, and is the result of her deep desire to help creatively minded people design a successful business rooted in true passion, personal joy, and creative meaning.

A graduate of Duke University, Marney playfully hops, skips, and jumps in Dallas, Texas, with her wonderful husband and their wise and adventurous young son, Kai. She names these things as being essential to her creative well-being: the color orange, poetic novels, singing loudly, daily naps, the love of a good man, and hero worship of Mary Poppins.

To celebrate the release of the new book, Marney is offering special gifts and bonuses. The first one is really easy:

Simply order Hop, Skip, Jump on November 11 and get an instant $15 Artella eGift Certificate for each copy purchased, which is even more than the price of the book! The eGift Certificate is good on any Artella eProduct; no minimum purchase required.  So it's the best day to order multiple copies as holiday presents, and get $15 back for each one; and the eGift certificates can even be transferred to others as holiday gifts, too.

The next one takes a little time, but is well worth it.  

When it comes to productivity and play, are you more likely to HOP, SKIP, or JUMP? Take the quiz and get your custom Productivity Pack!

I took the quiz and found out my style is in the middle. I like to skip. That is a pretty good assessment as I am known for skipping around from project to project, so maybe my productivity pack will give me some tips for using that style to get better results.

I received a review copy of the new book and will be doing a review in the next few weeks. I'm already loving the book because it encourages us to be in closer contact with the child within and find time to play. 

I  am honored to be listed on Artella Land’s roster of 75 featured blogs. 

Monday, November 03, 2014

Monday Morning Musings

Actually, not many musings, but I did want to pop back in and let everyone know I am still above ground. I am slowly getting better, but need another week or two to fully recover.

I'm glad the election is tomorrow. I am so tired of the political mud-slinging, it will be a relief not to have the ads on television. Of course, it seems like we hardly have a reprieve when it is time to start new campaigns for the next election.

And now, in honor of Halloween, here is a guest post from Slim Randles. I know we are past the holiday - I'm not that sick - but Halloween is one of my favorites, and I think most of us know someone like Herb. Grab a piece of coffeecake and enjoy.....

To look at Herb Collins, you wouldn’t think he was like that. A nicer, kinder guy you never met. But for one evening each year … one little slice of time … he’s downright diabolical.

Every small town has one, of course. There is always that one person who takes Halloween to its extremes of horror and fantasy. We have Herb.

Everyone knows about his penchant for decoration. Ever since he retired, his yard and house has celebrated every holiday from Christmas to Grover Cleveland’s wedding anniversary with great festoonation and an increase in the electrical bill from all the lights.

But on Halloween, Herb goes plumb nuts. It’s a good thing heart trouble is rare for the age group who go trick or treating, because Herb’s yard is a veritable booby trap of pouncing ghosts, swooping bats that swing out of the trees, loud sound effects as witches pop straight out of the lawn in front of children and cackle, and porch-side demons that shriek and leap just as the kid reaches what he considers the safety of Herb’s front porch.

It’s a running of the gauntlet that only the bravest of the brave attempt. Herb says he hasn’t had a four-year-old make it to the front door yet. But for the older kids, this is an annual challenge, and one by one they leave the safety of the sidewalk to do a broken-field run, often with screaming, until they hit the safety of the doorbell. Once that doorbell rings, they know, it’s all over but the candy.

Ah, the candy! As if to make up for all the screaming and terror, Herb gives out dollar candy bars. Some kids have been known to carry them around for several days to show off before eating them.

“It gives the little guys something to shoot for,” Herb says, laughing. “And the big guys get a different dose of demons every year so they aren’t sure what to expect.”

And Herb?

“I just have a lot of fun.”

Brought to you by Saddle Up: A Cowboy Guide to Writing