Friday, January 31, 2014

Friday's Odds and Ends

The first bit of good news is that it has warmed up just a bit and some of the places hit the hardest with winter storms this week are getting a reprieve. It's a balmy forty degrees here, and I am so glad I did not have to haul buckets of hot water to melt ice in the horse trough this morning. 

Today I'm sharing blueberry scones with all my visitors. Grab one and enjoy.

 In last Sunday's Parade Magazine, novelist Brad Meltzer wrote an interesting article titled Do Kids Still Want to be President. He did some research and discovered that, unlike when some of us were young and aspired to grow up to be President of the United States, today's young people don't have the same aspirations. In a poll of kids between ages of 10 and 16 that was conducted by the publisher Penguin Young readers only 27% of the kids said that they would like to grow up to be president. Among the 15 to 16-year-olds there were only 13% that said they would like to be president.

Meltzer thinks that one of the problems is the fact that we are so vocal with our dissatisfaction of the president. All the young kids see is the frustration that we have with politicians and government and all the negative press about the president. So why would they want a job that is so thankless?

Another news item that caught my attention this week was a column by Steve Blow with the Dallas Morning News. He wrote a piece about the difficulty he has hearing some of the dialogue on television shows, and he actually went to get his hearing checked because he thought that was the problem. What he discovered was that his hearing is just fine.

Photo Courtesy of
 One of the reasons many people have trouble catching all the dialogue in some TV programs is that the actors mumble more in today's shows than they did in shows 20 or 30 years ago. He wrote that he caught some reruns of shows that aired in the 60s and 70s and noticed that the actors spoke clearly and distinctly. So part of the problem with hearing dialogue in current shows is the way the audio is taped with actors talking fast, actors talking over each other, and a lot of sound in the background.

In the column, Steve also pointed out that the newer flat screen HD televisions have the speakers pointing to the back. He joked that he could hear the dialogue much better if he stuck his head behind the TV, although that did create a problem with the image. With the kind of technology we have to make what we see on screen so clear and defined, it would be wonderful if television manufacturers came up with a way to make audio match the same high standards.

Now for some fun
from the comic strips. This is from Dilbert:

Pointy-Haired Boss is asking Dogbert, "What's the newest management jargon I need to pretend to understand?"

Dogbert responds, "Experts say you should engage employees and follow from the front."

Pointy-Haired Boss asks, "Does that mean anything?"

Dogbert answers, "No one knows. Just to be safe you should tell people you're doing it."

Pointy-Haired Boss asks, "Should I act as if I'm passionate, or is this more of a fake caring situation?"

Dogbert says, "Beats me try combining the two."

So, Pointy-Haired Boss walks away thinking,  "Fake passion plus fake caring." He comes up to an employee who says, "My uncle died."

Pointy-Haired Boss says, "Woot!! What was his name?!"

In closing, I just want to share a bit of a new review for my mystery, Boxes For Beds. The reader really, really enjoyed the story, and I am so grateful that she took the time to write a review. Here's what she had to say:

"Boxes For Beds" pulls on two of the most powerful strings in the human catalog of fears--the fear of losing your child, and the fear of being falsely accused. The author does a masterful job of setting up the story in the early 60's in Arkansas."

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Daybreak. Coffee. The Big Two

My friend, Slim Randles is back again as Wednesday's Guest. This essay is a bit different from most of his others that are laced with lots of humor. This one is laced with a bit of homespun philosophy. I like it, and hope you do, too. Since we are not down at the Mule Barn where coffee is served in industrial-sized mugs, maybe you will join me in a cup of tea. I promise it has enough caffeine to stir the old brain muscles into wakefulness.

While Slim is entertaining us here, I am over at The Blood Red Pencil blog today, with the inside story about Untreed Reads. Never heard of that publisher? Here's your chance to find out a bit about them. Good folks there.

There’s something so satisfying about getting out of bed when the world is still dark and quiet and resting. Making the coffee gives us time to scratch and think. Well, scratch, anyway. Most of that thinking will start after about the third cup.

But it’s a quiet time. A private time. When the world is dark, and there isn’t yet a hint of pink over the eastern mountains, it’s very good. We can relax. No one is expecting anything from us right now. Our guilt can take some time off, and we can listen to music or work a crossword puzzle or turn on the TV and watch the weather guy discuss millibars and troughs.

Sunrise at my little piece of Heaven
Soon enough, we’ll have to be out there living for others: our bosses, our customers, our animals, our fields. But right now no one needs us except the dog, and she does well on kibbles and an occasional drive-by ear rumple.

We can look out the window at the eastern glow and wonder what will happen in the hours until our world turns dark again. People will be born and people will die. People will win honors and people will go to jail. People will create things today that live past them and people will disappear forever. People will write about these things and other people will read about these things.

And then the world will go dark and dormant on us again and we’ll think about what happened in our tiny portion of this huge moving amalgam and hopefully we’ll sleep easily tonight. Then, when we arise tomorrow and head for the coffee pot, we can think about what happened today, and how it has made us slightly different for taking on the next tomorrow.

Come to us, daylight. Bring us the new day. But do it gently, please, and slowly enough for one more cup.
If you like what Slim shares here, you will enjoy his books. Check out his author page on Amazon if you have a moment. His books are a delight, and they make perfect gifts for any occasion,

In order to provide these columns for free and still buy groceries, Slim has sponsors, and the current sponsor is Beltone Hearing Aids,  so we do have to do this little ad:

Beethoven never heard his Ninth Symphony, but you can. It begins with a free hearing test. Beltone.  1-866-867-8700.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Monday Morning Musings - Too Much Money?

A few times I've mentioned on my blog my dismay over the widening gap between the very, very rich and the rest of us. Some folks have wondered, by way of a comment, whether I was suffering from a bad case of sour grapes. They have pointed out that this is the way the free enterprise system works, and people should be able to make as much money as they are capable of. That is true on so many levels, and I have never begrudged the financial success of most people.

What I have railed against are the people who have bajillions of dollars and still want more. Shouldn't there be a point where enough is enough?

Photo courtesy of
I was pleased to read a column in The Dallas Morning News yesterday written by Sam Polk, a former hedge fund trader. In the article he chronicled his own addition to greed and what it took for him to reach the point of enough. He was honest about how he, and others like him, made money in 2008, when so many of us were watching our retirement fund wither away to practically nothing. He thought that it was perfectly okay for that to happen, until he heard a callous remark by his boss about the financial crisis. "All I'm concerned about is how this affects our company."

Then he noticed "the vitriol that traders directed at the government for limiting bonuses after the crash."

Polk then wrote, "I'd always looked enviously at the people who earned more than I did; now, for the first time, I was embarrassed for them and for me. What had seemed normal now seemed deeply distorted."

Polk referred to his, and others, desperate need for more and more money, as a greed addiction. A former drug addict, he was well-acquainted with the signs and symptoms of addiction, and that need for more money to him was just like his previous need for more drugs. That addiction cost him his long-time girlfriend who told him "I don't like who you've become."

So I'm going on the record again. There is something distasteful and disturbing about this mad scramble for more and more money, no matter the cost to others. According to Polk's essay, in 2012 the McDonald's CEO, Don Thompson, was paid $14 million in compensation - $8.5 million of that being a  bonus, while at the same time the company published a brochure for its workforce on how to survive on their low wages.

That is only one example of how this disparity affects people and business, and it is sad to think that could be multiplied thousands of times.

What can be done about it? I don't know. Not government interference, that's for sure. Is there a way to teach financial integrity in business programs at colleges and universities?

Polk has taken one small step toward doing something by helping disadvantaged people throughout the world. He founded Groceryships, a program that provides money for families to buy fruits, vegetables, grains, beans and seeds for six months. The program then provides education and support to empower people to increase health by incorporating more of these healthful foods into their diets. Polk also ended his essay with this plea to others who may be addicted to wealth. "If you identify with what I’ve written but are reluctant to leave, then take a small step in the right direction. Let’s create a fund where everyone agrees to put, say, 25 percent of their annual bonuses into it, and we’ll use that to help some of the people who actually need the money that we’ve been so rabidly chasing. Together, maybe we can make a real contribution to the world."

Maybe they can.

Now a reminder about the special sale at Untreed Reads through Valentine's Day. All romance titles are on sale for 30% off. This includes all categories of romance from sweet to sexy, this includes my romance novel, Play It Again, Sam.

And finally, a reminder that spring will come again.

Photos courtesy of Mother Nature and my Nikon Camera

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Book Review - The Year After by Ashley Warner

The Year After
Ashley Warner
File Size: 699 KB
Print Length: 351 pages
Page Numbers Source ISBN: 1489557822
Publisher: Ashley Warner (December 9, 2013)
Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
Language: English

 “With unflinching honesty and unsinkable spirit, The Year After offers a rare and intimate portrait of trauma. .... the daily challenges of recovery from rape at the restless age of 24 are artfully interwoven with reflections from early childhood and twenty years beyond in the search for understanding so familiar to those who have wrestled with life-changing upheaval."

That is part of the Amazon book description, and at first I wasn't sure I wanted to read the story since I have been dealing with my own emotional trauma for the past few months, but I was impressed with the very professional query I received from the author. I was also impressed with the fact that she worked her way through the effects of the trauma from being raped and emerged a strong woman. I like to celebrate strong women.

The book, written in a journal style, is full of honesty and raw emotion: The things that those of us dealing with trauma wish we could say, but so many friends and relatives don't want to hear. They love us, so they don't want to be in the pain with us. They want us to be okay.

Traumatic events such as Warner experienced leave a wash of jumbled emotions in their wake, and people who have been victims of rape and assault feel those emotions at painfully deep levels. One of those jumbled emotions that is the hardest to deal with is anger. Anger is a normal part of the grieving process, and those who have been raped are grieving the loss of the life that was before.

Warner is clear about defining that line of demarcation between life before and life after a traumatic experience, and she validates those surges of anger that can leave one screaming and breathless. It is okay, even necessary, to feel those emotions and deal with them. This "before and after" is just as true for those grieving a loss from death. When we have suffered a great loss, we cannot go back to before. We just have to learn how to live after, and insights on how to do that come through strong in the telling of Warner's story, without some of the platitudes so often thrown to a grieving person like life preservers.

I highlighted a number of passages that resonated with me as I was reading, and I'm sure they would be helpful to others who are walking the path of grief. In response to people who ask how she was doing often Warner would say, "I'm hanging in there." Or, "I'm doing okay." She then wrote, "Doing 'okay' meant only that I was getting up each morning and clawing my way through the day without collapsing."

How the author clawed her way through that first year, and beyond, is a beautifully written inspirational story. While parts of it are so painfully hard to read for the brutal honesty and dark emotions, it is a must read for anyone who is trying to find a life after

Ashley Warner is a writer and psychoanalyst in private practice in New York City.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Friday's Odds and Ends

It seems the very cold winter we've been having has frazzled the nerves of lots of people across the country. I snagged this quote from Becky Lewellen Povich's blog and just had to share it. In commiserating with a friend here in Texas about our cold weather, I told her I couldn't wait for summer, but then we'd probably complain about the heat and wish it was winter. Then I visited Becky's blog and found this.

"Winter is the season in which people try to keep the house as warm as it was in the summer, when they complained about the heat." ~Author Unknown

We can all use a cup of hot Chocolate. Who want's brandy in theirs?

Since I have waited until practically the last minute to get ready for a book signing later today, I must keep this short, so we will skip any rants on news items and go straight for the jokes.

This one is from the comic strip Shoe:

Shoe walks into an ice cream store and two guys behind the counter say, "Welcome to Two-Guys Ice Cream Shop."

Shoe says, "Thanks, but couldn't you guys come up with a better name."

"Nope. All the good names were taken. I'm Ben Baskin and he's Jerry Robbins."

This one is from Drabble:

The kids are looking in the freezer and Norman, the oldest boy says, "Hey what happened the all the other frozen ice pops that were in here? Wwe used to have a whole bunch of them."

Little sister, Penny, says, "I wanted the blue one."

The kids walk into the living room where dad is sitting in his easy chair reading a paper. Norman asks, "Dad did you eat the rest of the ice pops?"

Dad looks up. "Of course I didn't eat them. They're right here. I needed to put ice on my lower back so I stuck him down my pants."

Dad pulls out the ice pops to hand them over and Patrick, the younger brother, says, "I think I'll have a cookie instead."

That's it for today, folks. Have a great weekend. Stay warm if you can, and if you are in a temperate climate, I am so jealous right now. 

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Special Wednesday's Guest

Happy Hump Day everyone. This morning I was going to post another column from Slim Randles, but then Sam started bugging me. Sam, Samantha Rutgers, from Play it Again, Sam, had a few things on her mind, and she wouldn't go away and leave me alone. I'm not making this up folk. Well, I guess I am partially responsible because I did make her up when I wrote the book, but I'm sure all the writers reading this are nodding and saying, "I know what you mean."

Characters become very real to us, and even when the book is finished and has been published, sometimes they come back to talk to us again. On one hand, that can be disruptive when we are working on a new story, but on the other hand, it is kind of neat to have a visit with them again. So, here is Sam with the questions she had for me today. Grab a cup of coffee and a slice of this hot apple pie and join us....

Sam: Now it's my turn?

Me: Yes. What do you want to know?

Sam: Well, first I want to thank you for giving me a happy ending.

Me: You're welcome. Most stories should have a happy ending. Otherwise the reader will be disappointed, especially in a romance novel. So what is your question?

Sam: I wondered why you named me Sam. And why the whole Casablanca thing?

Me: Didn't you like it?

Sam: Hey, I thought I was asking the questions.

Me: Okay, okay. Boy, you sure have gotten pushy now that you are all self-actualized and all.

Sam: Self what?

Me: Sure of yourself. Strong. Confident. Remember how you were in the beginning of the story?

Sam: Oh, right. So anyway, my question?

Me: Okay. When I wrote the story I wanted to say something about a person who starts her life over again, and the phrase "play it again" kept running through my mind. That reminded me of Casablanca, one of the best love stories ever, so I decided to make it a favorite of yours.

Sam: What if I didn't like it?

Me: But you did, right?

Sam: Yeah.

Me: And I didn't make you like it just because I wanted you to, right?

Sam: That's true. At first I wasn't sure, but when I saw the movie I fell in love with it. And then that whole thing you did with Frank when he-

Me: Stop! Don't tell. You don't want to give anything away. Then people might not read your story and see how you became all self-actualized.

Sam: I kind of like that. Self-Actualized. Thanks.

Me: You're welcome. That was all part of your character arc.

Sam: I don't care why you did it. I'm just glad that my life turned out so well after John. He sure did kick the foundation out from under me.

Me: So you built a new one. There's an old adage "That which doesn't kill us makes us stronger." Or something like that. But you know what I mean. You made choices throughout the story that made you stronger, until you became who you are now.

Sam: I did, didn't I.

Me: Yes you did. This was your story. Not mine. So... now could you go away for a while. I do have some other characters I need to be talking to right now.

Sam: Okay, okay. I think I'll go someplace warm and play on a beach. It is freakin' cold here.

Me: Can I go with you?

Sam: Nope. You said you had to work. Chop, chop, girl.

If you enjoyed meeting Sam and would like to know her "happy ever after" ending, Play It Again, Sam is on sale at Untreed Reads for 30% off the cover price from now through Valentine's Day. It is just one of the many romance novels on sale during this special event.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Monday Morning Musings

Today we honor Martin Luther King, Jr. Some people don't think any more of the day other than the fact that it is a holiday and a day off work. Other people are irritated that there is yet another holiday to inconvenience them by closing banks, the postal service, and other government offices. Thank goodness, there are many more who recognize the importance of what he did and the need to celebrate and honor that.

And thank goodness that we teach our children and grandchildren the legacy that King left us. Here in my small town there is an annual celebration that draws close to two hundred people, which is good since the population is just over 3,000. The majority of those people are African-American, but more and more people of other colors and cultures show up each year. There are, of course, the obligatory speeches by city and church leaders, but there is also a wide variety of entertainment, singing and dancing and dramatic readings of some of King's most memorable speeches. It is always a good reminder of what Dr. King stood for.

I was proud to be active in the Civil Rights Movement, and we have made strides in acceptance and equality since the early 60s, yet prejudice and bigotry still impact our society way too much. Dr. King's mission will not be complete until that no longer happens.

Dr. King left quite a list of inspirational quotes, and this is one of my favorites, "Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that."

Wonderful words, but only wonderful if we take them to heart and act on them.

On the opposite side of the "love/peace" coin is the increasing danger students face when they go to school. According to a report in The Beast by Brandy Zadrozny, there have been 24 school shootings since the Newtown tragedy two years ago, the most recent in Philadelphia. While this latest one appears not to be the same as incidents of anger-motivated mass shootings, it still causes great concern. In a more recent article in The Guardian Liberty Voice,  giving more details about the shooting at Delaware Valley Charter High School  Michele Wessel questions how a young man was able to get a weapon into the school that was equipped with metal detectors. 

Good question, but perhaps a better one - how did the kid manage to leave home with a gun?

On another note, as we look ahead to February and Valentine's Day, Untreed Reads is having a special sale on romance novels - 30% off - from now through February 14th. I'm happy that my romance, Play it Again, Sam will be included in that sale along with other romance titles published by Uncial Press. They publish everything from sweet romance to hot, hot, hot, so there is something for everyone's taste in a love story. Visit the Untreed Reads Store to see all the titles in the sale.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Friday's Odds and Ends

A recent story in the Dallas Morning News reported that the reservoirs serving the Dallas-area are 10% lower than a year ago and the continuing drought does not indicate that it's going to get any better. The area is more than 30 inches shy of normal rainfall over the last six years, yet nobody has taken really serious action toward a long-term solution to the water problem, other than looking at ways to bring in more water - pulling from East Texas reservoirs for one.

People still pour gallons and gallons of water on landscaping and lawns every year, in many cases trying to maintain greenery that was not meant to grow in this hot climate. Perhaps people should think more about whether their grandchildren or great-grandchildren might have a glass of water in their future instead of wanting the most luxurious green lawn today.

Jonathan Rauch, contributing editor to The Atlantic, wrote an interesting article about health care for the very elderly who too often end up in intensive care units at hospitals for the last weeks or days of their lives. He believes that is an unnecessary and extraordinary use of healthcare facilities and money. He wrote, "Hospitals are fine for people needing acute treatments, like heart surgery, but they are very often terrible place for the frail elderly."

The article was promoting the idea of home-based primary care, and to highlight the benefits of that approach, Rauch mentioned a program called Advanced Illness Management at Sutter Health, a giant network of hospitals and doctors in Northern California. Brad Stuart has worked there for the past 15 years, developing home-based care for frail, elderly patients, and he estimates that using that type of program and keeping patients out of the hospital saves Medicare upwards of $2000 a month on each patient, maybe more. "For years, many people in medicine have understood that late-life care for the chronically sick is not only expensive, but also, much too often, ineffective and inhumane."

Because Medicare is not set up to work with this type of program, that is one of the reasons that home-based medical care is not widely used across the country. The layers and layers of rules and requirements and policies for using Medicare seem to be cast in stone and don't leave room for a doctor or a patient or a hospital to figure out a more cost-effective way to handle a medical issue. For example,   there were people in the extended care unit of a hospital at which I worked who were receiving 6 to 8 weeks of IV antibiotics. I don't recall the exact cost of daily hospital stay, but it certainly was a lot more than had these people been allowed to go home with a visiting nurse coming in every day to administer the antibiotic, check the IV port to make sure it was working properly, and tend to any other medical needs the patient might have.

One time, two gentlemen who were stuck in this extended care unit decided that they would use that time to appeal to the government to rethink policy. They gathered statistics from the medical social worker on cost comparisons and then wrote letters to political leaders, starting at the state level and going all the way to Washington. The letters, with all the statistics and a recommendation to change the policy, were also sent to the people who manage and administrate Medicare. The responses that they receive back were often just a form letter that simply stated "We are sorry that our program does not allow for this type of in-home healthcare that you are requesting."

Nobody seemed to be able to look at this idea and say, "Hmmm, maybe we should figure out a way to implement this cost-saving measure and save the taxpayers a whole lot of money."

I know, I know. Government bureaucrats don't seem to understand simple and efficient. And from all outward appearances, they don't seem eager to figure it out.

Isn't this a better setting than a hospital? Photo courtesy of My Elder Advocate
It's been a while since I've done Literary Lessons, and this is a good one from Tennessee Williams' classic play "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof." The line belongs to Big Daddy, "Ignorance of mortality is a comfort. Men don't have that comfort, he's the only living thing that conceives of death, that knows what it is, the others go without knowing. A pig squeals, but a man, sometimes you can keep a tight mouth about it."

That's kind of depressing, so let's end on a joke.

"How is it that we put man on the moon before we figured out it would be a good idea to put wheels on luggage?"

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

One Man's Art is Another Man's...

Please help me welcome Slim Randles as Wednesday's Guest this week. I laughed when I read this story from the Mule Barn truck stop. Dud's decision to switch from writing reminded me of the college professor who suggested I take up basket weaving as a creative outlet and forget about being a writer. He was not impressed with my work. However, I am quite impressed with Slim's work. He always brings a smile. This morning I have coffee and shortbread cookies for all. Enjoy.... 

Photo courtesy of The Comfort of Cooking - check the site for the recipe
If you ask Dud Campbell, it’s all right to take a break from the arts now and then. Well …  since the arts are a part of a person, that’s not quite right. All right, it’s okay to switch arts now and then. Dud had pretty much beaten himself to death trying to fathom what to do in the novel about the duchess and truck driver, and it had left him gasping for ideas.

So he went back heavily to his accordion.

From the early lessons of squeaking and squawking and driving most of the cockroaches out of the neighborhood, Dud’s playing had progressed to the point where people actually smiled when they discussed it.

When the cold weather hit, Dud would hurry home from work and pick up the squeeze box and work diligently on it. Polkas and waltzes, primarily. A few of the easier Cajun tunes, too. He concentrated on those left-hand exercises, of course, where hitting the exact right little black bass button every time is a challenge known by all stomach Steinway artistes.

He had told the guys down at the world dilemma think tank (aka the philosophy counter at the Mule Barn truck stop) that he was ready to go out that weekend and squeeze out some money at a local night spot with his music.

Monday morning, Dud pulled in to the counter and flipped his cup back to the upright and fillable position.

“Well?” said Doc.

“Well what?”

“How did it go? The music. The accordion. Lady of Spain out on the town. You know?”

Dud just shrugged and threw some sugar into the coffee.

“Did you make money playing your accordion?” Steve asked.

“Yes,” Dud said, glumly.

“So it was a success, right?”

“Well, not … entirely.”

“Why not?”

“Went down to the Covered Wagon Saturday night. They had a good crowd in there. Played some waltzes and a few polkas to get the crowd warmed up. You know Bill? The owner?”

We nodded.

“He gave me $20 to go play somewhere else.”

If you like what Slim shares here, you would enjoy his books. Check out his author page on Amazon if you have a moment. His books are a delight. 

Slim has sponsors for all of his columns, and this month it is Beltone Hearing Aids,  so we do have to do this little ad: 
How do you control your feet if you can’t even hear the beat? The hearing test is free. Beltone.  1-866-867-8700.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Just Sharing

If I'd planned better before leaving town last week, I could have scheduled a post to magically appear yesterday for my usual Monday Musings, but I didn't - plan well or schedule. So I decided to just share a few pictures from the amazing wedding I attended last Saturday.

My grandson, Bryan married Marion Kennedy at the Duke Chapel, which is so beautiful inside and outside. I did not know beforehand, but this is the second most popular wedding venue in the nation, and I can see why. While it has no specific affiliation to one denomination, it is Christian-based, and it has a very full calendar of services, weddings, recitals, and other events.

Bryan was the Assistant Soccer Coach at Duke and Marion is the daughter of the Deputy Athletic Director, so holding the wedding at the Chapel was a perfect choice. However, their connections to the University did not guarantee that they could get their preferred date for the wedding.  A year ago, they had to stand in line when the 2014 calendar was getting ready to be set, and they actually set up a tent like folks do for Black Friday sales events.

The Happy Couple
A Sparkler Send-Off
Anj, mother of the groom. Bryan's sister Ally and Me at the Rehearsal Dinner
All of the wedding-related events were so much fun and so memorable. I had never been to such a formal wedding before, and those are memories I will treasure for a long time. Bryan and Marion have a wonderful circle of friends and I enjoyed every moment of the weekend. I stayed at the Washington Duke Inn & Golf Club and had my hair done at the Posh Salon - quite an experience for this farmer-girl who lives in jeans and wears a hat on bad-hair days.

This following video has nothing to do with the wedding, but I was so impressed when I saw it this morning, I had to share. Even though I did dance at the reception, my moves were nothing like this amazing couple. I do love to dance and could cut a pretty good rug when I was younger, but I'm not sure I was ever as smooth as this couple.

Wednesday, January 08, 2014

Ebook Challenge

Today's Wednesday's Guest is Jay Hartman, one of the partners at Untreed Reads, a terrific ebook publisher. The folks over there came up with this idea for something fun to do during the bleary days of January. I am pleased to have several of my titles among the hundreds of books offered by Untreed Reads. They all qualify for this special.

Let's all have a glass of lemonade and pretend it's summer. :-)
January is typically the month where people set all types of goals and challenges for themselves. One type of very popular challenge is to read a certain number of books over the course of the year.

We think reading is pretty essential to a happy life, and challenging yourself to read more over the course of a year will keep your brain as healthy as giving up chocolate cake or soft drinks. So we want to make it even easier to help you meet that goal.

We've setup The 2014 Untreed Reads Ebook Challenge to get everyone's brains all fired up. If you'd like to participate, all you need to do is the following:

1. Send your name and email address to . If you're participating in another reading challenge on the Internet, be sure to let us know that too. We won't EVER share your info with anyone else, but we'll add you to our New Releases newsletter so you can see the great new books coming down the get even more coupons!

2. Each month we'll send you a coupon good for a free download from our store ( You can choose any title up to $5.99 and in any format you prefer: EPUB, PDF or Kindle.

3. Read the book and leave a review in our store and as many other places you can, such as Amazon and Goodreads. Please leave an honest review! You'll also need to include in your review that you received a free copy of the book in exchange for a review. The government requires that. Darn red tape!

Don't break your resolution to stop procrastinating! We're only accepting sign-ups through January 31st, so be sure to take advantage of this great opportunity!

On another note, I will be out of town until next week, so I am taking a break from blogging. See everyone next week.For a little bit of fun for your Wednesday check out the nonsense Slim Randles shared at The Blood Red Pencil.

I also want to mention that my mystery, Boxes For Beds, is on a special countdown sale at Amazon through Saturday.  If you missed out  on getting a copy when it was offered free, this is your chance to get it for only $1.99. After that, the price goes back to $3.99. If you don't have a Kindle reader, you can get Kindle Apps for all other electronic devices. Here's what one reviewer had to say about the story, "Excellent characterization and a good plot."

Finally, here are a couple of jokes I stole... er.. borrowed from my friend LD Masterson.

The eighth-graders will be presenting Shakespeare's Hamlet in the Church basement Friday at 7 PM. The congregation is invited to attend this tragedy.
This evening at 7 PM there will be a hymn sing in the park across from the Church. Bring a blanket and come prepared to sin.

That's all folks. Have a great week.

Monday, January 06, 2014

Monday Morning Musings

It is really cold this morning. You might ask, "How cold is it?" To which I answer, "Twelve degrees on my front deck." It will not get above freezing all day today, so that means I will be hauling buckets of hot water out several times to melt the ice in the horse trough. I know that is routine for all you farmer-type folks in the north, but here in Texas we like our water wet.

Yesterday I took the day off from the computer and that sure felt good. Since I did not do a book review, I thought I would tell you about the book I just finished reading, A Fine Dark Line by Joe R. Lansdale. (It's part of the reason I was offline. I had a hard time putting it down once I reached a certain point.)

The story is narrated by Stanley Mitchel Jr., who is 13 in 1958. His parents own the drive-in in Dewmont, Texas where Stanley finds an old tin box with love letters by the burned ruins of an old house at the edge of the drive-in. Stanley, who still believes in Santa Claus at the beginning of the story, does a lot of growing up that summer as he decides to investigate the deaths of two young women some years previous, while also learning about the struggle between good and evil that can touch everyone. He sees first-hand the evil in his best friend's father and the man who stalks Rosy, the cook, and the rich man who thinks he can buy his way out of trouble.

This was an engaging read, and some of the elements I liked most were the bits of wisdom and truth that Buster, the old black man who worked the projection machine, passes on to Stanley. Throughout the story, Stanley learns about racism and how people abuse power and religion to satisfy their needs and justify behaviors..

Joe Lansdale is a prolific writer with quite a wide range of books from horror, to steampunk, mystery, and science fiction, and he definitely defies the advice given to most writers, "Find a genre and stick to it." I had the pleasure of being on a panel with him at a small conference in East Texas where he spoke about writing stories. I remember he said something like, "I don't think of a genre when I sit down to write. I just let the story become what it needs to become."

Or something like that. (smile) I have not read all of his books, as I am not a fan of dark horror, but I've enjoyed many of the others, especially The Bottoms, which was the first book of his I read.

For something else different from my normal Monday's Musings, I thought I would share a bit of a scene I wrote earlier this morning. I'm slowly getting back to writing and some days are better than others. This is from Desperate Season, which will be the third book in the Season's Series should I ever get it finished. (smile)

In this scene, Angel is at her parent's house where she is confronted with her father's bigotry again, and takes a stand.

"Too bad you never did get that transfer back a year or so ago," Gilbert said. "Get partnered up with one of your own kind."

"I never put in for a transfer."

Gilbert looked like he'd been sucker punched. "But it was decided."

"No Daddy. You decided. Not me."

"You're still my daughter and you will do as—"

"Stop right there and listen because this is the last time I want to have this kind of talk with you, Daddy. If that means I've got to stay away, then so be it. But I refuse to accept your orders or your racist attitude."

Frances gasped. "Now honey."

"No, Mama," Angel patted her mother's hand. "I hate to say it, but I mean it. All his life Daddy has hated white folks and that hate has been like a chain keeping him trapped. And he tries to wrap that chain around us."

"Are you aware of—"

"Yes, Daddy. I am aware of the history. I am aware of the injustice. I am aware that there are lots of white folks who rue the day the first slave was brought here and black skin was introduced to white. But I am also aware that we have to stop looking at every thing in life through glasses tinted with racism."

Now, since my fingers are freezing and it is so hard to type with gloves on, I will go make a pot of hot tea and get warm. Join me? I'll share the biscuits.

Friday, January 03, 2014

Friday's Odds and Ends

After checking the national weather and seeing the temperatures on the East Coast: -16 in Boston, I will not complain about the 20 degrees here in East Texas, although my animals were complaining big time, especially the goat and the sheep. Both were shivering like mad when I went out to give them some hay and bust out the ice on their water pans.

This is a strong storm that has brought all the freezing temperatures and hit the Midwest and East Coast with such an impact, but I am a bit surprised, and amused, that the media has named it. I guess simply calling it a winter storm isn't enough for the folks who bring us the news. Naming it Winter Storm Hercules makes it sound much more significant, although I'm sure the people who are experiencing the blizzard conditions and extreme cold are finding the storm significant enough without having to give it a name.

Remember when only hurricanes were named? I wonder if we will now start naming tornadoes and those really horrific thunderstorms that sweep across the country. That might justify the hours and hours spent on reporting the weather. Last night's newscasts, both local and national, led with the weather, and maybe there could have been a better balance between that and other news. Just a thought.

A reminder that spring will come again.

Fun From the Funny Papers - First from Heart of the City by Mark Tatulli

Heart is walking down the street with her side-kick, Dean. She says, "Someday when I'm rich and famous, I'll have somebody to do all my cleaning. I'll have somebody to do my shopping, pay my bills, wash my clothes, drive my car, AND feed my cat."

"So what will you do?"

"Apparently walking around L.A. with a water bottle and complaining about the paparazzi is THE job to have today."

I don't know whether to laugh or cry at this one from Doonesbury. A football player walks into B.D's office at Walden and asks, "Coach, you got a moment?"

"Sure, Anthony, what's up?"

"Coach, I was wondering if I could take time off to go to a few classes."

"Classes?! Are you nuts? Check your contract, son. You're not here to study. You're part of the first cohort of paid Walden athletes. That's athletes, not student-athletes. No more distractions from what's important. I need you to be thinking football every minute of the day. I can't have you wasting time in class."

"How about a library card? Can I at least get a library card?"

"Then all the guys would want one. Think, Anthony. Think."

That's all folks. Bundle up and stay warm this weekend, and I'm sending some virtual hot chocolate to family and friends on the East Coast. 

Image courtesy of My - You can make this with or without brandy, but brandy does keep you warm.
Do you have plans for the weekend that will take you outside? I'm hoping to stay indoors as much as possible. This is a good time to find a good book and curl up under a Snuggie. 

Wednesday, January 01, 2014

The Ghost of New Year's Resolutions

Here's hoping everyone had a fun New Year's Eve, and I wish you all the very best in 2014; good health, joy, and success in every endeavor. I thought I would start off  the New Year with a special Wednesday's Guest, The Ghost of New Year's Resolutions. This piece is one I wrote back when I did my humor column for a newspaper, and it is always fun to revisit it. Enjoy! 

Normally, when it came to New Year's resolutions, I tried not to demand too much of myself, preferring to do something simple like giving up escargot. But one year, in the interest of strengthening my character, I decided it was time to exercise a little self-discipline. I swear it had nothing to do with the strange dream I had the week prior.

In the dream, a cloudy apparition hovered over the foot of my bed and called my name, “Maryann MilIerrrrr."

"Wha ... Who me?"

"Yes, you,"

"Who are you? What do you want?"

''I'm the ghost of columns past."

"Right. And I'm Erma Bombeck."

"Tis not a moment for levity. You have much to account for this night."

"Like what?"

"How about your indiscriminate use of poetic license?"

"It's not indiscriminate. I work very hard at it."

"Aha! So you admit to lying in your column."

"Well… not exactly lying. I prefer to call it 'stretching the truth. '"

"And how do you think your family and friends feel about this?"

"They understand."

"Oh, yeah? What about your friend, Mary? Do you know she was kicked out of the Gingerbread Hall of Fame after you credited her with your fiasco?"

"I didn't know that was going to happen. But you must admit it was a funny story. Honesty would have been very dull.”

"So. Let me see if I've got this straight. You'd do anything for a laugh?"

"Well...almost anything."

"And you are going to persist?"

"Of course. I've got job security to think about."

"In that case consider yourself warned. You might be sorry."

With that the hazy form disappeared, leaving me with much to ponder. Perhaps it was time to ease up a bit. So, I made a solemn vow never to poke fun at my friend, Mary, again ...

Well, maybe I would start the next week. First, I wanted to tell all my readers about the strange punch she used to make.
Have you made resolutions? How long do you normally stick to them? Yesterday at a local pie shop, the owner told a group of customers that she cuts way back on her pies in January because so many folks go on diets. She joked about how production always picks up in February. According to stats compiled by the University of Scranton, only 8% of people keep their resolutions. Wow, I thought the number would be higher.