Sunday, August 31, 2014

Book Review - Live Free or Die by Max Gordon

Live Free or Die
Max Gordon
File Size: 361 KB
Print Length: 207 pages
Simultaneous Device Usage: Unlimited
Publisher:, Inc. (March 1, 2014)
Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
Language: English

BOOK BLURB: When travel writer Katherine “Kit” McCormick honestly reviews her life, she can give it just three stars out of five, until a freak accident catapults her out of her lethargy and into the middle of a grisly murder case: a loathsome real estate mogul turns up dead in her office. As the ex-lover of the dead man’s wife, Kit makes the shortlist of suspects—and becomes the killer’s next target. Kit finds herself drawn deeper into the intrigue, and toward Detective Kasey Chakarian. Together they unravel the complicated knot of corruption, illicit liaisons, and shameful secrets, but every clue leads to further entanglements—and traps Kit in the killer’s deadly web.

The book opens with a dramatic moment for Kit, who had hopes of a nice normal birthday. Instead she has an accident when the brakes go out on her car while she's driving on a country road. "When you're about to die, people say, your life flashes before your eyes in perfect clarity. Apparently, I was not about to die, since what flickered into my head as I hung upside down by my seat belt in a glassless sedan was a tired cliche: bad things happen in threes."

This was a very engaging introduction to the protagonist, and I liked her right away as she hoped that this was number three, and no more bad things would happen. The reader quickly learns that Kit is accident prone, and maybe I could relate because I share that trait. I also liked the way the mystery slowly unfolded and suspects emerged, then faded into the background as new ones were discovered.

Kit and Kasey were well-drawn characters and how their relationship developed in the face of professional boundaries worked. Those boundaries can be tricky, and the author made this believable. At least for me. Dana, Kit's ex-lover, was an interesting character, but I had a hard time seeing her as a real person. While there were some good scenes with her, in others she came across as too much of a type - selfish, self-absorbed, and a user, and some of the things about her that were revealed at the end came with no foreshadowing.

Still, I really enjoyed the story and the writing was engaging. Scenes were set well, and I could picture the lake in New Hampshire and experience the emotional ups and downs along with Kit. Many things about the way the people in the small town interacted were so much like any small town in America, and this passage reminded me of my little town here in Texas. "No one knew for sure if Margaret herself were a widow, a divorcee or just a single woman in her fifties - but then, small towns feed on innuendo and intrigue. It's what keeps them together."

MAX GORDON’s grandmother was the librarian in their tiny upstate New York town, and never restricted Max to kiddie books: if she could reach it, she could read it. Inspired by what she read, and by the desire to share a shelf with her favorite authors, Max probably wrote and illustrated her first story the day she learned to hold a crayon—and she’s been scribbling ever since. After earning a master’s degree in writing and publishing from USC, she worked in publishing, typesetting, marketing, design, and procrastinating, but has never stopped being a writer. She has one son (the light of her life) and a partner (the soundtrack of her life), and lives contentedly wherever there’s waterfront, WiFi, and great coffee.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Friday's Odds and Ends

A recent article in the Dallas Morning News about taking on too much responsibility by Jonathan Look made me stop and think about the difference between responsibility and "response-ability." He wrote, "If we have the trappings of success, but through our lack of 'response-ability' have eliminated the time to enjoy them, has this pressure made us any happier?"

I'm sure many of you feel the same way I do at times. That we have too many things to do to stop and take moments for ourselves. After reading his article, I'm starting to rethink some of the things I do, or don't do, and make sure that I am not overloading myself. I don't have to say "yes" to every request. "No" is a perfectly reasonable response. Jonathan concluded his article with, "We only get one shot at life. Wouldn't it be great if we too the time to enjoy it."

Wise words.

I think this kitty has mastered the art of relaxing. :-)
Saw this picture on Facebook and thought it was such a nice thing to do for our Fur Friends and our environment.

And now for a little fun. A woman went to the doctor's office where she was seen by one of  the younger doctors. After about four minutes in the examination  room, she burst out screaming and ran down the hall.

An older doctor stopped her and asked what the problem was, and she told him her story.

After listening, he had her sit down and relax in another room.

The older doctor marched down the hallway back to where the young doctor was writing on his clipboard.

"What's the matter with you?" the older doctor demanded."Mrs.Terry is 71 years old, has four grown children and seven grandchildren, and you told her she was pregnant?"

The younger doctor continued writing and without looking up said, "Does she still have the hiccups?"

Here's some more fun to set you off on your weekend. This is one of the performances by Robin Williams that most people are not familiar with, but it is so clever and funny. Enjoy....

Hope everyone has a wonderful, relaxing weekend. And if, perchance, you need to buy a gift for a young reader in your life, my YA book for Tweens, Friends Forever, has a new look and a new publisher. The official release date is September 16, but it can be preordered for Kindle and in paperback.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

The Joys of Farming

Today's Wednesday's Guest is Slim Randles, who is here to share the joy of working the soil and planting the seeds and living the farming life. While I haven't reclined on the ditch grass, I have sat out on a stump and looked at my little farm and breathed that same sigh of contentment. There is something wondrous about being so connected to God's green earth. I think I'll just go pull a red, ripe tomato off the vine. You bring the salt shaker.

Harley pulled the tractor over to the ditch and cut the engine. He climbed down stiffly, walked to the water and soaked his head and shirt. Then he looked around. No cars were coming down the county road. No one at the house could see him.  So he smiled, sat on a rock and leaned back against the ditchbank.

 A farmer’s recliner, he thought, wiggling slightly to avoid kidney puncture by a twig. He was smiling that dignified farmer’s smile on the outside but laughing on the inside. So nice to just rest here for a minute in the sun. Oh, he wouldn’t have done it if he’d left the engine running. Waste of gas. But the engine was off, all the seeds were in for this year, and all he was doing was plowing summer fallow now. No rush. Do it any time.

So Harley locked his hands behind his head, lay back against the ditch grass, and just looked around.

Marshmallow clouds today against a dark blue sky. Crows flying in to Harley’s fields from Roger’s. He paused a moment from pure observation to lean a bit on philosophy. He considered that fences and land deeds and farming contracts meant nothing to these birds. There is more than a bit of envy there, but just for a minute. Harley stood, stretched his back and drank from the canteen on the tractor.

Crows didn’t worry about deeds, he thought, but hey, they didn’t get to watch football in the fall, either.

All in all, on a nice summer’s day like this, there’s nothing wrong with being a farmer.

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

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

A Bit of BSP

Friends often tell me that I am the world's worst when it comes to promoting my books, and I'll admit they are right. I never know exactly how to do it without coming across as the proverbial salesperson with an arm full of books knocking on your door. However, if I don't ever knock on any doors, how are people going to know my books are even available? I read an article at Galley Cat recently that said Amazon gets a new book every five minutes.

That's a lot of books, folks, and it is no wonder that it is getting harder and harder for indie authors to get their books noticed. So... here I am knocking on your door. I won't keep you but a moment, I promise.

Knock, knock.

Who's there?


Maryann who?

Maryann Miller, and I just want to let you know that Stalking Season, the second book in the critically-acclaimed Seasons Mystery Series that started with Open Season, is an ebook, available in a number of places. The hardback edition was published in December 14, 2012 for library sales, and in February of this year I had a new cover made and released it as an ebook for Kindle and Kindle apps. More recently, I used Draft2Digital to make the book available at Scribd * Kobo * Apple * Inktera * Nook

Here are snippets from the major reviews the book has received. It still makes me smile to read them.

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

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

Okay, you can slam the door in my face now.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Monday Morning Musings

In keeping with my theme of celebrating strong women, I want to acknowledge the birthday of Althea Gibson. An American tennis player and professional golfer, she was born in South Carolina on August 25, 1927 and was the first black athlete of either gender to cross the color line of international tennis. In 1956 she became the first person of color to win a Grand Slam title. Wikipedia 
Courtesy of the
WHAT I'M READING: Live Free or Die by Max Gordon for review this next Sunday. It just happens to have a strong female protagonist, and the way she's introduced in the opening scene makes her very real and memorable. 

WHAT I'M LAUGHING AT: Myself. I reached into the bathroom cabinet for the hair spray this morning and grabbed the wrong bottle. 
WHAT I'M DISMAYED ABOUT: The ongoing genocide in Iraq. Romeo Dallaire, who was the United Nations Force commander for the U.N. Assistance Mission to Rwanda in 1994, wrote an article that first appeared in The Washington Post and was published yesterday in The Dallas Morning News that expressed his concerns over the parallel between what happened there and what is happening now in Iraq. "Children are being used as fighters and weapons of war. And still, the world does little to stop it."
Children are also targets of the violence as the Islamic State forces attack markets, cafes, schools, places of worship and playgrounds. The long-range impact of what is happening to these children on both sides of the battleground is tremendous, not just measured in loss of life, but the emotional and psychological damage as well. For more on the subject, Dallaire's article is well worth the read.

I also have to add that I am dismayed about Governor Good Hair, that's Rick Perry for those of you not familiar with his nickname. My son in Austin says most people call him that. Anyway, he says he is not going to run for president in 2016, yet where was he this past Tuesday? In New Hampshire. Isn't that one of the states potential candidates visit to test the political waters?

During the demonstrations in Ferguson, MO this past Wednesday, protestors were chanting, "Time to kill a cop." How sad. More violence is not going to bring back that young man who was shot.

AND NOW JUST FOR FUN: This is from the comic strip, Shoe. Roz is serving coffee to her friend, Doreen and says, "You know, Doreen. After all these years I still have a photgraphic memory."
In the next panel Roz says, "Sigh! I just don't have same-day processing any more." 

And this from Zits: Mom and Dad are carrying picnic items into a clearing in the woods. Jeremy is carrying  several electronic devices under one arm, with the plugs in his other hand. He says, "What kind of stupid place is this for a picnic??"

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Book Review - A Voyage Remembered by Leslie Snow

A Voyage Remembered
Leslie Snow
Hardcover: 220 pages
Publisher: Peter E. Randall Publisher (March 18, 2014)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1931807787

BOOK BLURB: This is a story of a man and a woman with vastly different backgrounds who overcame obstacles and created art and living experience. Leslie Snow was a dancer, painter, and poet; Louis Féron was a goldsmith, jeweler, and sculptor. A Voyage Remembered chronicles the fascinating lives of these two distinguished artists, their international journeys, their connections with famed artists, individuals, and patrons, and their thirty-six years of marriage. Louis and Leslie believed the mind and feeling must be united to be free, and to be free is the greatest quality that exists.

Printed on rich paper that is a delight to touch, A Voyage Remembered is one of those books one would keep handy on a coffee table to peruse now and then. It has two sections of pictures - one in color the other black and white - of the art created by Feron who was an amazing sculptor and goldsmith, and I have gone back several times to enjoy them again. The story of the relationship between these two creatively gifted people is is filled with interesting bits of history that shaped the artists they became. For instance, Feron did not have a formal education due to a childhood of poverty, and during World War I he developed his strong work ethic, perhaps because war made him more aware of his mortality.

The book opens with a short memoir of Leslie's early life as she recounts her first introduction to the magic of dance. It is very factual, and a bit more of an emotional response to the situations in her life would have made this more engaging. I did enjoy the poems that she wrote and there the reader does get a sense of what she has felt, especially over the loss of Feron. Her "Song to Louis" recounts in verse how they met and fell in love, and "Passage" touches on her grief. It begins, "My loss remains a desert of shifting sands..."

Leslie Snow grew up in South Orange, New Jersey and spent the years 1950–1963 performing with the Martha Graham Dance Company, the Charles Weidman Dance Company, and the Mime Theater of Étienne Decroux. She has published two other books, Leslie Snow Paintings and Drawings and Poems of Leslie Snow. She currently resides in New Hampshire. LOUIS FÉRON (1901–1998) was a world-class goldsmith, jeweler, and sculptor, trained in Paris as gold and silversmith winning the title “Meilleur Ouvrier de France” in 1933.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Friday's Odds And Ends

Did you know it is National Tooth Fairy Day? Neither did I, until I saw a mention on Facebook. Then I did a search and found out that there are actually two dates for National Tooth Fairy Day, August 22 and February 28.  Why people cannot settle on one day of the year has not been explained on the Internet. I remember as a kid being so excited about the prospects of a visit from the magical fairy. We were even known to tie a string  to a tooth that might be barely hanging on and tie the other end of the string to a door knob. Slam the door and get ready for the cash. Of course, back then we were lucky to get a nickle or a dime. Times were really great when the payout jumped to a quarter.

It is also National Pecan Torte Day. At least according to some sources online. Others say it was actually yesterday. My thought is, who cares. Any day is a good day to celebrate a rich, usually multi-layered, dessert filled with whipped cream, butter cream, mousse, jam, fruits or nuts.

Courtesy of The Baking Pan on Pinterest
 I think I'd rather have a piece of that torte than a dime under my pillow. What about you?

For more little known August holidays visit Holiday Insights: August 2014.

The other day I went to see the movie, The Giver. Have you seen it? It was based on a novel by Lois Lowry and stars Brenton Thwaites, Jeff Bridges and Meryl Streep. I had not seen the young actor before, but love Bridges and Streep and had always been a fan of Lois Lowry's work. I used to read her books some years ago when I volunteered in the school library. I liked children's and YA novels, and always read the Caldecott and Newbery winners. I even got to meet Lois once when she came to visit our school.

Now just for fun:  A man hated his wife's cat so much that he decided to get rid of it by driving twenty blocks from home and dumping the cat.

But as he got back home, he saw the cat wandering up the driveway. So he drove the cat forty blocks away and dumped it.

Again when he arrived back home, there was the cat waiting for him at the front door. In desperation, he drove the cat fifty miles out into the country and dumped it in the middle of a woods.

Four hours later his wife got a phone call at home. "Darling," said her husband. "Is that cat there?"

"Yes," said the wife. "Why?"

"Just put him on the line will you? I need directions."

Aha! A man will not stop at a gas station to ask for directions, but he will ask a cat. LOL

Here's hoping everyone has a great weekend.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Writing by the Numbers and Playing by the Rules

Today's Wednesday's Guest is Stanley Schatt who is here to share about how his mystery, Silent Partner, came to be. Sometimes we writers to like to give a bit of the backstory. We are all influenced by other writers whose books we enjoy, and the story ideas don't always come out of thin air. I do enjoy finding out from other writers where their ideas come from, and I hope you do as well.

I forgot to ask Stan what he might like in way of refreshments, so I decided to go with what I would like this morning, and that is a cup of coffee and a Danish. Help yourself if you'd like and settle back to enjoy....

Every genre has its own rules. Try writing a fairy tale without beginning with “Once upon a Time” and see what your audience’s reaction will be. Try writing a love story in which you change the formula from “boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy gets girl” to  “boy meets girl and they hate each other and never meet again.” Your readers will boo you out of the library. Similarly, try writing a modern mystery in which you use some of the gimmicks found in the old Perry Mason TV show. Have someone no one ever suspected as the killer suddenly jump up in court and confess.

Readers today have certain expectations. When they sit down to read a mystery, they expect the writer to follow certain rules. They want to follow detectives as they try to solve a crime, look over their shoulders, and guess right along with them.. They don’t mind being led astray by a few red herrings, but they expect to see the detectives solve their cases by using logical deductions and modern police procedures. Readers don’t want an entirely new character to appear in the last chapter and confess. That’s cheating! If a couple of very suspicious characters turn out to be good citizens, that’s okay because all of us misjudge people on occasion.

So, you can understand my dilemma when I sat down to write a police procedural mystery with a paranormal component. I couldn’t have the ghost perform any tricks to help solve the crimes. I couldn’t have the ghost whisper to Josh Harrell that Mr. Jones is the killer. What kind of experience would that be for my readers? Instead, I had to make absolutely sure that Detective Frankie Ryan solves the case logically so readers can guess along with her and feel they haven’t been cheated.

What I wound up doing in Silent Partner was to have a two-pronged search for a killer. Frankie uses modern police procedures while Josh gets occasional hints from his spiritual guide. As long as they both wind up at the same place at around the same time, the process works.

Having said that, I want to point out a number of other elements of my novel that fit neatly into the modern police procedure mystery; I’m talking specifically about the detective-hero, the protagonist in so many modern mysteries. Think of Harry Bosch in the Michael Connelly novels as an example. The detective is generally a loner, even if he or she works with a partner. The detective often is at odds with departmental chiefs because they are more concerned with protecting their jobs than in solving cases. Similarly, the detective often disregards departmental rules for the greater good.

Most detectives have personal problems; they tend to be a lonely group that drinks heavily. They are very moral, though, and incapable of selling out. They are fearless and relentless when it comes to solving a case, even if that means putting themselves in danger.

Often detectives relate best to the “little people” within the department, the hardworking CSI technicians who aren’t political. Detectives are very bad at politics. They don’t have the heart to kiss up to those above them. They frequently are in danger of being fired or demoted; other officers don’t understand their passion for their “mission” and think of them as a bit deranged.

So, even though I did add a paranormal element to my novel, I followed the rules for the most part when it came to my detective. She’s a female version of a long line of detective-heroes leading up and including Harry Bosch. In fact, my intention in writing Silent Partner was to create a female Harry Bosch.

I hope you enjoy reading Silent Partner and following the clues strewn throughout the book. I’ve certainly seeded the trail with plenty of hints. See if you can discover the killer before Detective Frankie
Ryan or reporter Josh Harrell do.

You can find out more about Stan on his WEBSITE, where he has a blog and follow him on TWITTER     His publisher is offering a 15% discount of the $14.97 cover price for pre-orders that will ship on September first. You can order from the Pen-L Publishing Website

Monday, August 18, 2014

Monday Morning Musings

WHAT I'M READING: Hangman by Faye Kellerman. I do love her ongoing series with Detective Peter Decker and his wife Rina Lazarus. I have read almost all of the books since the first in the series, and enjoy spending time with them and their family.

WHAT I'M SMILING ABOUT: Some good news on the publishing front - my publishing front. Friends Forever, My YA novel for young teens has been updated and re-released by a new publisher, White Bird Publishing. The official release date is September 16, but it is available for preorder for Kindle and Kindle apps. The new cover was made by the talented Dany Russell.

 WHAT I"M DISMAYED ABOUT: The violence and looting in Ferguson, Missouri following the police shooting of Michael Brown, an 18-year-old black teen who was unarmed. Why do some people think the best response to any perceived injustice is violence? I have never understood it, and agree with this man who was at the scene. "It's not serving the purpose," said James Bryant, a 31-year-old from St. Louis, as he watched a young man rummage through a mobile-phone store after smashing a glass door. "The cause was to prevent police brutality."

Kudos to Michael Brown's family and friends who have been holding peaceful demonstrations and vigils and call for an end to the looting and rioting. Missouri Governor Jay Nixon imposed a curfew on Saturday in hopes of stemming the violence.  "This is a test, the eyes of the world are watching," Nixon said in an interview with ABC News. "This is a test to see if this community can break the cycle of violence and replace it with peace."


AND NOW JUST FOR FUN: The following is from the comic strip Luann by Greg Evans.

Luann's parents, Nancy and Frank, are sitting on a sofa watching television. Nancy hears the bip, bip, bip, of some electronic device going off, and she says to Frank, "Your phone is bipping, Hon. I think you missed a call."

"That's your phone. I changed my "bip" to "bloop" cuz you were using "bip" for calls."

"No," Nancy says. "I use "whoosh for calls. I thought you used "bloop" for your alarm."

"I used to. But it sounds too much like "zoop." So now I use "doink"."

"You can't use "doink" honey. I use that for calendar alerts."

"I thought you used "poing" for that."

In the next frame the parents have their phones out and Nancy says. "Ugh! We need to re-coordinate. I'll change my "doink" to "tinkle"."

"I use "tinkle" for mail. Do you use the "dong"?"

Luann pops in from the kitchen. "Did you guys make popcorn? The microwave's bipping."

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Book Review - Silent Partner by Stan Schatt

Silent Partner
Stan Schatt
Published by Pen L Publishing
ISBN: 978-1-940222-45-5
Release date 9-01-2014
246 pages

Haunted by her past, Detective Francis “Frankie” Ryan must race against time to solve a double homicide and find a sadistic killer. Besieged from all directions, the only person she can trust is Josh, a tabloid reporter who also writes the Midnight Whisperer’s psychic column, Ask Miss Myrna. He finds to his surprise that he not only has psychic abilities, but that only he can see the sexy ghost serving as his rather inept guardian angel. Is he crazy if he develops feelings for a ghost?

This mix of standard police procedural and paranormal was something new for me, as I am not fond of mixing genres like that. However, this story worked and the ghost was quite a likeable character. The scenes with her and Josh were some of the best in the book, and I really became intrigued as to how that relationship would be resolved.

The law enforcement side of the story was pretty much what one expects, and that was handled nicely for the most part. Frankie came across as very capable and three dimensional, but her partner, Landry was too much the typical male cop who doesn't like being partnered with a woman and has little respect for her abilities. 

Readers who enjoy the mix of genres in a mystery will find this a good book to add to their wish lists.

Stan will be my Wednesday's Guest this week to give some background on how the story came to be, so please do try to come back and make him feel welcome.

His publisher is offering a 15% discount of the $14.97 cover price for pre-orders that will ship on September first. You can order from the Pen-L Publishing Website

Stan Schatt is a futurist, technologist, novelist, and a person curious about many things. His writing takes advantage of his wide-ranging work, from autopsy assistant to police department administrator, salesman, literature professor and telecommunications professor, technology analyst, and research director. He has always loved technology and politics almost as much as writing. Stan is also volunteer job acquisition facilitator for the unemployed in San Diego. He writes mysteries in Carlsbad, California, where he lives with his wife, Jane.

Friday, August 15, 2014

A Lovely Summer Evening

Since I got swamped with a lot of work and did not have time to put together my usual Friday offering, I thought I would let Slim Randles come over to entertain you. This is a particularly nice piece that warrants a slow, easy read. Let the mood wash over you like a warm summer breeze. Since most folks take a cool glass of something out to the porch of a summer's evening, I thought we could share some good ol' Texas sweet tea.

The evening was one of those that come back to you time after time, year after long year. It comes back and whispers of how good life can be when you’re well fed, enjoying life, and a good friend shares the front porch with you on a summer’s evening.

It was that way with Doc and Steve the other night. Doc thought he might have to do a scientific paper on the soporific effects of ice tea, fried chicken, and corn on the cob. As long as it didn’t take any effort.

So when this huge meal had been bull-snaked down, the two grinning friends came out to the porch to watch the sun go down behind the trees along Lewis Creek. The air had that orange and russet glow, and the breeze, that little one that caresses the neck, came slowly down from the hills and made their shirt collars wiggle ever so slightly.

It was like taking a dry bath in paradise.

Doc sidled up to one of the porch posts and gently tested it to see if it could hold the extra weight he was carrying with that meal. It stood fine, so he leaned against it seriously and looked out on the evening’s warmth.

Steve, who was enjoying having a fine meal that someone else cooked for a change, leaned against the post on the other side of the steps.

And then they just stood quietly, watching the day make beautiful skies as it ended.

The shadow on the ground foretold the presence of the circling bird. Doc and Steve paid no attention at first. Then a few minutes later, it was joined by two more circling birds over Doc’s house.

“Buzzards,” Steve mumbled.

“Yep,” said Doc.

They circled some more.

“I think one of us should move a little …” said Doc.


“Well … to let them know … you know.”

Steve sighed, then glanced over at Doc. “Flip you for it.”

Slim Randles writes a nationally syndicated column, Home Country, and is the author of a number of books including  Saddle Up: A Cowboy Guide to Writing. That title, and others, are published by  LPD Press.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Some Mid-Week Family Fun

Let's all grab our sippy cups and welcome Meredith Peters Hale as today's Wednesday's Guest. She is the author of the humorous look at motherhood, Mommy A to Z: An Encyclopedia of the Joys, Wonders, and Absurdities of Motherhood, which I reviewed last Sunday. The point of the sippy cup will become clear as you read the fun interview with the author, conducted by her children, and you can put the beverage of choice in your cup. Mine will have coffee, and as you can see, I have a tippy cup, which is what I remember calling a sippy cup when my children were young. But that was so long ago, who can trust my memory?

While Meredith and her children are entertaining us here, I am attempting to entertain readers at The Blood Red Pencil with a few jokes about writers. Come on by if you get a chance. 

The following is an imaginary interview with Meredith, conducted by her five-year-old daughter and one-year-old son. The children were not compensated for this interview, unless you consider string cheese and free room and board for eighteen years to be compensation.

Daughter: Today we are interviewing my Mommy, who wrote a book about me.

MPH: Well, actually, honey, it’s based on you and your brother. But it’s really about all mommies, and what it’s like to raise small children. From those moments when you feel complete, unbounded joy, to those times you want to lock yourself in the bathroom—except you can’t, because your toddler’s already locked himself in there, and you’re waiting for the locksmith.

Daughter (whispering): But Mommy, it’s mostly about me, right?

MPH: Yes, honey. It’s mostly about you.

Son: Ma-ma! Ma-ma! Cheese! Cheese!
(Interview pauses while Mommy gets cheese for Toddler, who has climbed onto the table and is jumping up and down like the gorilla in Donkey Kong.)

Daughter: So, what made you write a book about me?

MPH: Well, it’s not all about you, honey . . . never mind. One thing I talk about in the book is how I never planned to pursue humor writing. For a long time I wanted to write a great work of literary fiction, exploring deep, existential issues. But when I sat down to write this masterpiece, I found myself writing about . . . sippy cups. Motherhood had become a part of my life, a part of me. Suddenly it felt unnatural to write about anything else. Sippy cups it was!

Son: Cup! Cup! Cup!
(Interview pauses while Mommy gets cup for Toddler, who has climbed onto his sister’s head and is trying to eat her hair.)

Daughter: Are there princesses in the book?

MPH: No, no princesses. But lots of things that mommies can relate to, like attending three princess birthday parties in one weekend, or surviving the grocery store, or making small talk with your kid’s imaginary friend. Mommy A to Z is also about the joyful moments of motherhood—like when your baby bursts into giggles at his first game of peek-a-boo, or when your daughter blushes with excitement as she blows out her birthday candles, everyone she loves cheering her on. Because ultimately, while motherhood is full of chaos, it’s also filled with unimaginable love and happiness.

Daughter: Are there stickers in the book? Good books have stickers.

MPH: Well, it’s an eBook, so no stickers. One of the fun things about the book is that it’s organized as an encyclopedia. So, you have twenty-six chapters, one for each letter of the alphabet, with short entries designed to fit into a mom’s busy schedule. Entries cover all the day-to-day experiences of motherhood, such as “A is for Art Projects,” “B is for Birthday Parties,” “C is for Conception” . . .

Daughter: What’s “conception”?

MPH: Um . . .  did you have any other questions, honey?
(Interview pauses while Mommy chases Toddler, who has grabbed a roll of toilet paper and is proceeding to redecorate the hallway.)

Daughter: Will kids like the book?

MPH: It’s really a book for mommies, although there are also entries about dads and grandparents, and what makes those relationships so special. I love when readers tell me how relatable they found the book—how it captured the realities of motherhood while making them laugh.

Daughter: How do you get a book? Does it cost a hundred dollars? I have four dollars in my piggy bank, but I wanted to buy a My Little Pony.

Son: Pony! Pony! Cheese!

MPH: The book only costs $5.99, and I think the nice lady that invited us here today has links for people who want to buy it. It's available at Amazon and Barnes & Noble  and the Apple iBookstore. 

Daughter: OK, that’s all. Now I’m going to dress up in my Frozen gown and freeze my brother forever.

MPH: That sounds nice, sweetie. Don’t forget to clean up your room when you’re done.
About the Author:
Meredith Peters Hale is an editor and writer whose work has appeared on sites including The Huffington Post, and She has recently launched a new humor blog based on her book, Meredith currently resides in Westchester, New York, with her husband and two feisty (and energetic) children.

You can connect with Meredith on her  BLOG, FACEBOOK, GOODREADS, TWITTER and at her WEBSITE

 Buy the book at Amazon *** Barnes and Noble *** Apple

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

R.I.P Robin Williams

I could hardly let the passing of one of the great talents of recent times go unmentioned on my blog. Robin Williams was such an amazing actor, and I remember when I saw him in "Good Morning Vietnam" the contrast between his comedic and dramatic scenes was stunning. That's when I realized the full scope of his acting talent. Not many could be so good at making us laugh or making us cry.

I don't know the source of this picture. It was posted on Facebook, and I thought it conveyed something special about the man and the entertainer.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Monday Morning Musings

Good Monday morning. I hope everyone had a great weekend. Mine was busy with auditions for our fall production at the Winnsboro Center for the Arts. We are doing an original play, "Bonnie & Clyde in Winnsboro" written by a local actor, Randy Lindsey, who has given me the freedom to adapt the play and direct it. Anyone who has any connection to theatre and playwriting knows what a generous gesture that was on his part.  The story is based on historical fact. The infamous couple stopped in Winnsboro often as they made their way east from Dallas to Louisiana, and the play puts those facts into dramatic form.

WHAT I'M READING:  Prayer by Phillip Kerr. I'm not sure I would finish this one except for the fact that I am leading a discussion of the book for an online mystery book club to which I belong. The central charater, Gil Martins, is an FBI agent, but except for the fact that he drops the F-bomb quite frequently, he doesn't come across as a law enforcement professional. And even some of them don't feel the need to bomb every line of dialogue.

WHAT IS MAKING ME LAUGH: Two squirrels chasing each other up and down the big pine tree just outside my office window. In fact, it is so distracting, it's taken twice as long to write this blog post.

WHAT I'M DISMAYED ABOUT: That we're once again interfering in Iraq, and it looks like that interference is going to go on for a lot longer than first anticipated. No doubt we needed to give the humanitarian aid to the refugees, but that should be the extent of our involvement.

AND NOW JUST FOR FUN I thought I'd share an excerpt from my humorous memoir, A Dead Tomato Plant and a Paycheck. It's been a while since I posted an excerpt, and I forgot to get the Sunday paper with the good comic strips.

This excerpt seems appropriate since school will be starting soon in many parts of the country. Gee, I remember when school started in September. What about you?

The beginning of each new school year is always met with varying degrees of eagerness and excitement. There are some kids, like Jason in the comic strip Fox Trot, who live for each school year so they can amaze a whole new set of teachers. Others go begrudgingly because in some respects it is better to have something to do every day than be home with Mom who might find some unsavory job to do, like clean the toilets.

Mother’s are generally thrilled to have the kids gone most of the day, but first there is the mad rush to get them all outfitted with a few new clothes and the 10-page list of school supplies.

One year, a couple of days before school was going to start, I went up to our local grocery-drugs-everything-under-the-sun store to get those school supplies. When I arrived, I discovered that I wasn't the only one who'd waited until the last minute to perform this little task.

The aisles were crammed with shopping carts, harried mothers and a multitude of kids, which created more confusion than in the pits at the Indianapolis Speedway. The mothers wore a grim look of. determination which clearly said, "I can only suffer through this indignity because it is all for a greater good," as they jiggled crying babies, fought their way up and down the aisles, and did their best to ignore the earnest pleas of their kids.

"Oh, Mommy, please! Can't I have this organizer? See it has Star Wars stuff on the front and this neat thing for paper. And I won't ask you for another thing extra, I promise."

"I know it's not on the list, but I really need these felt-tip markers, and the big box of crayons and some of these notebooks."

For the first time in my life I actually had the presence of mind to think ahead and only brought one kid with me on this shopping trip, and he had masking tape over his mouth. So I was in a position to see a little humor in the human drama occurring around me. Although I did have to hurry to cosmetics if I felt a laugh coming on to avoid the risk of being attacked by a horde of irate mothers armed with wooden rulers.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Book Review- Mommy A to Z by Meredith Hale

Mommy A to Z
Meredith Hale
File Size: 2893 KB
Print Length: 158 pages
Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
Language: English

The full title of this humorous book about raising "tiny humans" is Mommy A to Z: An Encyclopedia of the Joys, Wonders, and Absurdities of Motherhood and the book is broken into chapters headed by, you guessed it, the letters of the alphabet. Each chapter has funny anecdotes and clever parenting advice, such as what to do with the overflow of artwork that your child wants attached to the refrigerator and how to deal with the young artist's ego when she notices a treasure is no longer there.

Meredith said that this is not a how-to parenting book, but she does offer tidbits of wisdom along with the witty commentary on the antics of her children. When she wrote about letting go of our children in small increments, that really resonated with me. She mentioned all the little ways that her daughter was asserting her independence and wrote: "But this was the first time I'd had to let go, to grant her some independence. It was a glimpse into part of what motherhood is: putting what's right for your child ahead of what's necessarily comfortable for yourself."

Having raised five children, I can attest to that push-and-pull between wanting to hold them tightly and learning to set them free.

Meredith also says in her introduction that sometimes laughter is the only barrier between motherhood and madness, and to that I can also attest. I got my start as a professional writer doing a weekly humor column that kept me from permanent residency in the closest mental hospital. Laughter is so good for us in so many ways, and certainly does make the "medicine" of parenting go down a whole lot easier.

While I marveled at how mothering has changed in the, ahem, many years since my kids were toddlers, there were still so many parts of the book I could relate to. So many sections had me laughing out loud, I was so glad I had swallowed my coffee beforehand. The book is written from a mother's perspective, but I think many fathers would enjoy reading it, too. It is a warm, funny, wonderful testament to the joys of motherhood.

About the Author:
Meredith Peters Hale is an editor and writer whose work has appeared on sites including The Huffington Post, and She has recently launched a new humor blog based on her book, Meredith currently resides in Westchester, New York, with her husband and two feisty (and energetic) children.

Meredith will be my guest this coming Wednesday, sharing a fun author interview conducted by her young daughter, who considers herself a princess. Please do try to come back to visit on Wednesday. In the meantime you can connect with Meredith on her other  BLOG, FACEBOOK, GOODREADS, TWITTER and at her WEBSITE

 Buy the book at Amazon *** Barnes and Noble *** Apple

Friday, August 08, 2014

Friday's Odds and Ends

Well, last night President Obama took some drastic action in Iraq. I'd been so disconnected from the news for so long, I had no idea things had been heating to a boiling point over there. I do applaud the action of dropping much-needed food and other supplies to the Iraqi religious minorities that are stranded on top of a mountain. Tens of thousands of people are being displaced as the terrorists attempt to take over the Iraqi government. Check out the story on ABC News.

However, I'm wary of  engaging the militants in any way. The President has authorized U.S. airstrikes in northern Iraq, if necessary, to counter advancing Islamic militants and the threat they pose to Americans as well as Iraqi civilians.

Let's just hope and pray it doesn't come to that.

Since that news is so depressing, I decided to go play with some memes this morning. We see them all the time on Facebook, but I have never tried to create my own. Here are a couple I did with some of the pictures of my animals.

The cat was Orca, and he and Poppy were actually good buddies. When Orca disappeared, we were not sure who missed him the most, us or the dog.

This next one is an image I saw on the site where I played with the memes, MemeGenerator, and it made me think of the old Budweiser beer commercial. How many of you remember the line?

And now the joke for the day:
Reaching the end of a job interview, the Human Resources Officer asks a young engineer fresh out of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, "And what starting salary are you looking for?" 

The engineer replies, "In the region of $125,000 a year, depending on the benefits package."

The interviewer inquires, "Well, what would you say to a package of five weeks vacation, 14 paid holidays, full medical and dental, company matching retirement fund to 50% of salary, and a company car leased every two years, say, a red Corvette?"

The engineer sits up straight and says, "Wow! Are you kidding?"

The interviewer replies, "Yeah, but you started it." 

Wednesday, August 06, 2014

"Netwars" - Innovative Multi-Faceted Project

Today I have as my guest "Netwars" author M. Sean Coleman. Several weeks ago I was contacted by
the PR firm handing the promotions for the project to see if I would like to have Sean visit as Wednesday's Guest. I must say this is quite a departure for me.  "Netwars" explores the threat of cyber warfare, and it is a cross-platform product that can be used across a variety of platforms—a graphic novel app, e-book, enhanced e-book, audio download, web documentary or TV documentary –or used individually. I'll admit that I am pretty much lost when it comes to all that technology, but I know computer savvy folks and gamers will be all over this. Since the project comes from Germany and I know Germans do like a nice cold beer, I thought we could share a mug as we get to know more about "Netwars."

    Q:    Where did the idea behind "Netwars" stem from?
The idea came when I was approached by filmtank – the German production company responsible for the whole cross-platform project that became "Netwars". They were already making a documentary about the threat of cyberwar and cyberterrorism, and they wanted a fictional element to go with it. They   wanted to do a graphic novel, and they asked me to come on board as the writer. We had a big meeting with everybody involved in the project in Berlin  where we workshopped possible ideas. Then I wrote up some of the options.

At first, my ideas were wild and Bond-like and a bit silly, really. It was all conspiracy theories and urban myth. But, because the graphic novel was going to tie in with a documentary feature and a web documentary, I worked with the cyberwar and cyberterrorism experts that were feeding into those pieces in order to come up with something plausible for the graphic novels. Then, when the publisher came on board for the graphic novels, they asked if I could write a novel too. I was thrilled, but I knew that the story had to stand alone, and yet feel like it was part of the same world. In the weeks that preceded the commission from Bastei Lübbe, I had been reading a lot about the Deep Web – that place underneath the World Wide Web that isn’t scanned by regular search engines and on which you can openly and (almost) anonymously buy drugs, weapons and even hire a killer. It’s a crazy place, and one which most people still believe is in the realms of fantasy.

       Q:   Did you learn anything surprising while doing research for "Netwars?"
I think the two things that surprised me most were a) how vulnerable we all are and b) how unaware of the real risks we all are. So many people have spoken to me about the project as though it is pure science fiction. Perhaps that is because of the computer element, but I think it is because it just seems so unreal. When I tell them that it is actually possible to hack right now a (modern) car, or a building, or their smartphone, and with enough ingenuity, use it to cause a terrible accident, they are shocked.

Obviously, the book makes it seem easier and more glamorous than it is in reality, but that’s my prerogative as a fiction writer. For my own part, I wasn’t shocked at all when I discovered exactly how dark we could go using tech against humanity, but I was surprised at how easily available the information to carry out those kind of hacks was. I think the thing that really surprised me was that we don’t see more attacks of this nature happening, but then I was reminded by many of the experts that I spoke to, that it is still easier to rob, kill, and even deal drugs in person, rather than online.

     Q:   Your publisher, Bastei Lubbe, is releasing e-books and digital apps in the U.S. for the first time. How do you think "Netwars" will be perceived by an American audience?
Of course I’m hoping they’ll love it. I have tried hard not to make it a ‘British’ book, despite it being predominantly set in the UK. The graphic novel is set in Germany and Norway, and I hope that it is also accessible to anyone. I read a lot of American crime thrillers, so I wouldn’t be surprised if the style feels familiar to US audiences.  I’m hoping that good story will translate across the ocean as much as it does in Europe. I think, in popular culture, we borrow a lot from America anyway, here in the UK, so I hope I haven’t made the world too insular. 

     Q:  What do you want the people who immerse themselves into the "Netwars" world to take away from the experience?
As a team, we wanted to give people a solid understanding of what the current and future risks of cyberwar, cyberterrorism and cybercrime. We wanted people, from the ground up, to think about the risks they were taking every day, and how vulnerable they were making themselves every time they went online, and shared their location, and gave away their personal details. Social Media has made us too complacent about our private data, and rapid advances in our technologies have made our power stations, hospitals and national infrastructures vulnerable to attack.

One of the phrases that stuck out to me most was that many of our most vital national infrastructures run on systems that were designed before terrorism. It seems like a silly thing to say, but the reach of terrorist organisations, or malicious actors, has been extended by technological advances, and we are all struggling to shore up our defences. I guess we just wanted the audience to be aware that they are not as safe and protected as they might think. The only way to get that message across successfully, we believed, was through immersive, engaging experiences and good story. Hopefully we have done that. What I like about the scale of the Netwars project is that each of the parts can, and do, stand alone, but they are all connected too. You don’t have to have experienced all of them for the project to make sense, but the more you consume, the more you learn about the subject matter, and the subject matter is vast! When you find a theme that is so rich, it would be an injustice to just make a single platform project about it.
You know what? After playing around on the "Netwars" site for a while, I almost understand some of this tech stuff. What a shock. My kids and grand-kids who are avid gamers will be thrilled. And the graphic are amazing.

To find out more about the author visit his website and here is another link to the "Netwars" site. You can follow "Netwars" on Twitter and Facebook.

Monday, August 04, 2014

Monday Morning Musings

I thought I would try a little different format for my Monday offerings. I've been accused of never wanting to change a thing - not even to move a sofa in my living room - so I am just showing some folks how versatile I can be.
WHAT I'M READING: Several books on tap for reviews. First up will be a humorous look at parenting, Mommy A-Z, which is scheduled for next Sunday. Good read so far. After that will come Silent Partner, a mystery that I am resisting the temptation to start reading. Need to do things in order, right? No link to that book as it will be released September 1.

WHAT I'M LAUGHING AT: The cat races that just started at my house. My cats love to chase each other from one end of the house to the other. If they would slow down, I'd try to get a picture.

WHAT I'M DISMAYED ABOUT: I may get lots of boos for this one, but I am really concerned about the doctor infected with Ebola coming to the U.S. Yes, great precautions have been taken as he was transported to Emory University Hospital in Atlanta, but this is a very deadly virus, and according to experts, it is not entirely clear how Ebola is spread. Most commonly it is spread to a human by contact with an infected animal's bodily fluids. Transmission from first human infected can occur  through direct contact with blood or bodily fluids from an infected person. Others can also be infected by contact with contaminated medical equipment, particularly needles and syringes. While direct contact is the most common form of transmission, it is likely that it can also occur through oral exposure and through conjunctiva exposure. That has proven the case with non-human primates.

Dr. Mike Brantly is a 33-year-old father of two young children who works for the North Carolina-based Christian organization Samaritan's Purse. He was in Liberia responding to the worst Ebola outbreak on record when he contracted the disease. Since February, more than 700 people in West Africa have died from Ebola, a hemorrhagic virus with a death rate of up to 90 percent of those infected. The fatality rate in the current epidemic is about 60 percent.

More about Ebola from the World Health Organization. While all of us pledging to remain civil about this, what do you think?

WHAT I'M LUSTING AFTER: BTW, this might not be a regular part of my Monday blog, but I just had to share the picture of this wonderful guitar owned by singer/songwriter, BettySoo. She did a concert this past Saturday at the Winnsboro Center for the Arts, and I fell in love with her guitar. The concert was great, too, but the guitar....

Thanks to the talented Michael Alford for the wonderful picture.
BettySoo said there are only four of these guitars in existence. The possibility of me getting one are so slim, I wish my waistline looked like that. Well, maybe not. I do need some meat between my belly button and my back bone. But am I right about this being a great guitar?
AND NOW JUST FOR FUN: This one is from Shoe by Gary Brookins & Susie MacNelly.

Shoe walks into his favorite bar and says to the bartender, "Hi, Fred. What's new?"

"Sigh... Nothing good, Shoe... My divorce from Ethel has been finalized."

"I can sympathze with you. How did the settlement turn out?"

"It became quite the nightmare," Fred says. "Once I realized the decimal point was just a bagel poppyseed."

And this from Mallard Fillmore by Bruce Tinsley.

Mallard is on the news anchor desk and says, "As 'Back-to-School' time nears, we're joined now by our Mediocrity Correspondent, Dylan Custard..."

Custard says, "I'm seeing some really encouraging signes in the mediocrity movememnt. For instance, more school systems are ending the elitist practice of naming a valedictorian!"

Mallard responds, "Woo. You must be excited."

"Guaredely optimistic. But there are still some disturbing statistics like these." He hold up a paper.

"What do they show?"

"Who knows?! They're all fill of numbers! Math-adverse students immediately feel marginalized..."

Sadly, that is not so far removed from what really happens in so many schools across the country.

Saturday, August 02, 2014

Book Review - Silent Prey by John Sandford

Silent Prey
John Sandford
File Size: 596 KB
Print Length: 400 pages
Publisher: Berkley; Reprint edition (March 1, 1993)
Series: A Lucas Davenport Novel (Book 4)
Sold by: Penguin Group (USA) LLC
Language: English

A follow-up to Eyes of Prey, the book that featured a psychotic pathologist Dr. Michael Bekker, this book takes Lucas Davenport to New York where Bekker has started killing again after escaping at the end of the previous book. NYPD Lt. Lily Rothenberg, a former lover, asks Davenport to come to Manhattan and assist with the investigation.

In addition to tracking down Bekker, Davenport is asked to work undercover to find the group called "Robin Hoods," a vigilante group believed to be comprised of cops. The rogue cops have been taking out criminals, so some people think it would be okay to just look the other way. Rothenberg and Davenport have a higher standard of ethics and don't want to look the other way.

I read this book back when it first came out, not long after reading Eyes of Prey, and in some ways it was like reading one long book with a break in between, mainly because of the central characters facing off, Bekker and Davenport. However, there were enough fresh elements added to the story to help it stand alone.

Lucas Davenport is one of the best detectives in fiction today, and I especially like his sense of humor. That is such a nice counter-point to the hardass cop side of his character. Sandford's stories always move at a rapid pace, and the plots are complicated enough to keep the reader guessing and turning pages.

I'm doing a Kindle Countdown Deal for my mystery, Boxes For Beds. On July 31 the price dropped to just 99 cents, and later today - Sunday - the price will jump to $1.99, where it will stay until midnight, August 7th before going back to the regular price of $2.99. This is my first time to do the Countdown Deal, and if you have not already gotten a copy, this is a good time to snag one at a good price. The book currently has 98 reviews - most of them very positive - and I am thrilled that so many people have enjoyed the story. For those who subscribe to Kindle Unlimited, the book is available there for free any time.

Friday, August 01, 2014

Friday's Odds and Ends

 One of the things I like to do for fun is work jigsaw puzzles. I just finished this one last night, after working on it off and on for a month or so. I do take time out for writing and visiting friends and playing games, so it takes me a while to finish a puzzle. All the while I was working on it, I was craving chocolate. Maybe I need to do a non-food related puzzle next.

Topping the national news this week was this little tidbit:  Speaker John Boehner and House leadership did something that's never been done in American history. They voted to sue the President.

When I read that, I couldn't believe it. Talk about an absurdity. That one tops them all. And what is even worse is that a whole lot of people think that is just okay.

Enough said about that.

Yesterday it rained off and on all day here in East Texas. During one short break, I did manage to get out and pick up branches and limbs that had fallen. I couldn't believe that I was working outside in Texas in July wearing a flannel shirt, and I wasn't even hot. We are all wondering when summer will get here.

Early in the day yesterday, the veterinarian came out to float my horse's teeth, and when I told some of my non-horsey friends, they were puzzled. One asked, "What is he going to do? Take the horse's teeth out and throw them into the pond to see if they float?"

We all had a good chuckle over that, then someone asked why the procedure is referred to as "floating" so I thought I would do a trusty little Google search. Don't you just love it? Have a question? Ask Google. Anyway, the term comes from the rasp or "float" that is used to file down sharp enamel points that form on a horse's back teeth. These points can rub on the horse's cheek when he is chewing and make it uncomfortable to eat.

There are Equine Dental Specialists in some parts of the country, but here in rural East Texas, most large-animal doctors do the dental work.

It's been a while since I've had a stray cat show up on my place. Lots of people dump cats and dogs out here. Don't you just hate that? This kitty showed up on Wednesday.

Most of the time my dog, Poppy, runs off any strays that come on her property. It is hers, by the way. So I don't often have a cat make it to the deck where I can see it. Of course if I see a cat on the deck, I have to take it in - I can't let it be coyote lunch - but I really do need to find a home for this kitty. She is sweet and friendly, but I already have four cats, who are all very unhappy that an interloper is in the sun room where they usually get to play every day.

Now to end with a joke.

A census taker in a rural area went up to a farmhouse and knocked on the door. When a woman answered, he asked her the names and ages of her children.

She said: "Let's see now, there are the twins, Billy and Bobby, they're seventeen. And the twins, Seth and Beth, they're sixteen. And the twins, Benny and Jenny, they're fifteen."

"Wait a minute!" said the census taker. "Did you get twins every time?"

"Heck no," answered the woman. "There were hundreds of times we didn't get nothin'."

Have a great weekend.