Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Guest Post from Slim Randles

Thank goodness I can always count on one of my friends to supply me with an article when I need something new for my blog. Slim is a terrific writer, and even though I no longer publish his columns in the online magazine I used to manage, he still sends them for me to enjoy and share. Thanks, Slim.

When we first noticed the baby sparrow, here at the house, it saddened us all. He had fallen from his nest and was slowly walking around the front yard under the tree while his mother and father had an absolute fit.

We knew we were looking at a dead baby bird, as it was only a question of who does it, where it is done, and how long before it happens. Years of experience in these kinds of things have taught us the finality of a baby bird falling out of a tree. Would the end come from a cat, or from a raccoon wandering up from Lewis Creek, or a snake? One of the problems with being a baby bird is that almost everything with teeth wants to eat you, and if you can’t fly, there’s not much you can do about it. We learned that picking the baby up and putting him back in the nest wouldn’t work, so we were forced to just watch his timid movements around the yard and whisper to him, “I’m sorry, pal.”

You might think that the older we get, the tougher our shells become to these little natural tragedies, but it doesn’t seem to work that way. Maybe it’s because we now have children of our own, and grandchildren, too. Maybe that’s why it actually hurts more to see a helpless baby bird today than when we were 11 and riding our bikes on the river trails.

Back then we were bulletproof, flexible, and immortal. But we learned things over the years. We saw people our age die. We saw younger people die. We accumulated our own little collection of personal tragedies.

Then the baby found the drain spout. Yep, that little rascal hopped into the drain spout coming off the roof and had sense enough to stay in there, coming to the edge of his “cave” only for meals from his anxious mother. A week later, I thought I recognized him sitting on a tree branch, looking smug. He wasn’t in the drain spout and I didn’t see any feathers around on the ground.

We live in an age of small miracles.

Sponsored by:  Farm direct, delicious, California navel & Valencia oranges.

Slim's Web site  And check out Slim's books: Sun Dog Days, Raven's Prey, and The Long Dark.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Monday Morning Musings

Last week I read a column in The Dallas Morning News by Steve Chapman who raised the issue of environmental changes that have dire consequences and some people who pretend no danger exists. He cited a comment by Sarah Palin who was attending a motorcycle rally and said, "I love that smell of emissions."

She had apparently taken a deep breath just prior to the comment, as if trying to indicate there is nothing harmful in a lung full of carbon monoxide and whatever other chemicals are in emissions from engines.

And she could actually speak afterward?

It is hard for me to imagine that there are still people who think there is nothing bad going on with the air we breath, the food we eat, and the measures people will go to to get rid of bugs.

Hello? Where do you think all the bees and butterflies have gone? And what is the long-term impact of that?

Chapman's column was written as a challenge to the Republican Party to get serious about conservation and environmental protection issues as they formulate a platform for the 2012 elections, but I see it as a challenge to all politicians. We need to get serious about protecting the earth for the generations to come, and stop plundering it to meet immediate needs.

It should also be a challenge to every individual to try to do one thing a day to help reduce global warming. One of the simplest things we can do is to limit driving. Plan to run errands all on one day if possible. Car pool. And try to cut out unnecessary trips. One day without driving has a significant impact when millions of people are doing that.

Recycle and reuse items instead of buying new. We have such a disposable mentality that if something breaks we think we have to buy new instead of seeing if the item can be repaired. And when we do buy something new, it helps to find it in packaging that can be recycled.

Plant a tree. A single tree will absorb approximately one ton of carbon dioxide during its lifetime. All plantlife absorbs carbon dioxide and gives off oxygen, which is one of the reasons that rooftop gardens are becoming more and more popular. It is one way to get greenery in the midst of a cement jungle that is what most of our large cities have become.

Rooftop gardens were once thought of just being atop luxury penthouses, but they are now being put on many other buildings, as well as some homes. Here is a link to a site with more information about growing things on a roof:Rooftop Gardens

If you are interested, here are two other sites with information on how to get active in efforts to save the earth.

Stop Global Warming Organization

50 Things to do to Stop Global Warming

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Book Review - Invisible Path by Marilyn Meredith

Invisible Path
By Marilyn Meredith
ISBN: 978-1-60659-239-7
Ebook ISBN: 978-1-60659-238-0
2010 Release from
Mundania Press. 224 pages

This charming story from a veteran author is the ninth in her series of Tempe Crabtree crime novels.  Tempe is a deputy sheriff in the small town of Bear Creek near an Indian reservation in the mountains of central California.

A young man named Daniel Tofoya is murdered, and it develops that while he was a talented and often charming athlete, he could be a nasty bully if the mood took him. There are several possible perpetrators, but as often happens, most attention focuses on a stranger who has come to live on the reservation. The story is complicated by the appearance in town of a small separatist movement, stockpiling supplies in anticipation of a coming explosion of what could be racial and class warfare.

All of this gets sorted out by the patient and wise Deputy Crabtree. With help from her long-suffering pastor husband and exuberant son, Tempe is able to avert several disasters and calm some difficult situations.

The novel is in the classic traditional mystery mode with a lot of emphasis on character development and setting.  Relations between members of different races and religious beliefs are very well handled with insight and care. This is another enjoyable and satisfying adventure with Deputy Tempe Crabtree.

Carl Brookins Case of the Great Train Robbery, Reunion Red Sky

Friday, June 24, 2011

Friday's Odds and Ends

The Dallas ISD spent $57 milllion over a four year period on pricey mieals, costly consulting contracts and hotels. Meanwhile, teachers were paying out of pocket for students to eat during travel to UIL competitions because travel expenses for students was cut.

Do I even have to ask what is wrong with that picture?

Columnist, Lyn Woolley wrote in The Dallas Morning News that the removal of all references to God in schools has "left the schools without a moral compass."

Actually, our whole society has lost its moral compass and that has more to do with what we deem as acceptable in entertainment and general behavior that whether we can say "God" in public.

Speaking of uttering the g-word in public, Texas Governor Rick Perry plans to do that in a big way. He is inviting national leaders to a day of prayer and fasting on August 6, and expecting such a large turnout he is renting Houston's Reliant Stadium.

Hmmm. I thought one of the basic tenets of the separation of church and state meant that no government or government official could impose his or her religious beliefs on others. Since Perry is a Christian, I'm guessing there is going to be a whole lot of Christ-centered praying going on. Where does that leave national leaders who are atheists, or Jewish, or Muslim? And how come Perry can do all that in public and high school graduating classes cannot offer a prayer of any kind?

To end on a more upbeat note, my husband and I are going to Dallas today to attend the wedding of our son, David. We thought he was destined to be a bachelor forever, but several months ago he met a wonderful young woman, Rebecca. She is from Taiwan and has only been in the States for about 18 months.  He popped the question early in May, and they were originally going to have the wedding in September. However, she is going to school and classes start about the time they were thinking, Since neither one of them are teenagers, or even twenty-somethings, they decided there was really no reason to wait.

We are delighted to welcome Rebecca into our family. Now we have one daughter-in-law who can make us authentic Mexican dishes and another who can make authentic Chinese dishes.  We're trying to decide what ethnicity we want our third son to go for.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Summertime Blues

Here is an excerpt from my humorous memoir, A Dead Tomato Plant and a Paycheck, which is now under consideration by a publisher. The book is a compilation of columns I wrote when my kids were young and I figured if I found a way to laugh at our foibles, maybe I would survive.

Once all the kids were in school full time, summer time took on a whole new dimension. When they were all little and underfoot, seasons streamed one into the other without much impact on family life. We continued doing what we always do, just changed clothes to suit the weather.

That all changed when the kids were all gone for most of the day during the school year, then suddenly, summertime came and there they all were, cluttering up the house. Every last one of them. Every day. All day.

Often, as the end of the school year drew near and I looked ahead to the days of summer vacation stretching endlessly before me, I had a feeling of impending doom. Maybe that was because we usually failed miserably on the first day of summer vacations. Sort of like time trials in car racing. If you make it through without a mishap, you've got a chance at the race.

I would barely make it through the first two hours of:

"I've been waiting all winter to watch this show. You can watch your dumb show tomorrow."

"That's not fair! You can't watch TV anyway. You didn't do your work."

"What are you? The resident policeman?"
"I'm just trying to help. Keep things running smoothly so Mom won't get upset."

Meanwhile I was in the other room suffering from terminal motherhood, expecting all the fuses to blow any second. I had visions of that kid walking through the entire summer in a black and white striped shirt with a whistle in his mouth.

Maybe I should have just let him have a go at it.

As the fight over the TV would increase in tempo and volume, I would have definite impulses to do violence of some sort. And just in case that went beyond the impulse state, I had a defense plan prepared.  By reasons of insanity:  "Your Honor, no one in their right mind would ever throw a toaster at their own television without provocation."

Things went steadily downhill from there, and I questioned whether I would make it another day. Already I had laryngitis and I think I ruptured something in my throat. God wouldn't do this to me, would He? He wouldn't expect me to stumble through the summer without a voice to yell with?

I might have made it through that first day by sheer force of determination, if it hadn't been for this little kid who kept following me around asking me when we were leaving on summer vacation.

"We are on summer vacation!"

"No we're not! Vacation is going somewhere, and we're not going anywhere."

I wonder if a one way ticket on the next space shuttle fits the criteria of "going somewhere?"

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Guest Blogging

This is my day to contribute at the blog, All Day, All Night, written by a group of us who all share the same name. The spelling might be different, but we are all Maryann's. We are not, however, "down by the seashore sifting sand."

We are all writers busy at work.

My blog post today is all about cats. Come on over and see what Big John has been up to lately.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Monday Morning Musings

It is hot here in Texas. Blistering, mind-numbing hot with a wind that is leeching any drop of moisture from the soil and driving dust through any crevice in the house.

And we haven't had any rain in forever.

Every morning, I go out in the mornings to give my animals fresh water and hay - forget about the summer pasture for my horse. It has burned up and is literally blowing away. Then I water a few flowers in pots that have managed to survive.

Last week, I watched my vegetable garden burn up - some of the tomatoes actually started cooking on the vines - and I thought about how much harder it was for the early settlers of Texas to deal with drought that would wipe out their livelihood for an entire year.

We will survive without the garden. Sure it's nice to have the fresh produce, and when I fix a meal that is comprised primarily of items I have grown, there is a great sense of satisfaction. But even if I can't pick a fresh tomato, we will still eat. We have a grocery store and some money. The early settlers had no such recourse.  When they lost their crops, they lost everything.

When sweat is pouring off me after working outside in the heat, I can go inside where there is air-conditioning. And a shower with two speeds. Just a few generations ago there was no air-conditioning and people bathed in a wooden tub.

The only good thing about the heat and drought is that there are no mosquitoes and I haven't had to mow or clear brush in weeks, but I would gladly take the mosquitoes and work a little harder for a good, hard, rain that lasts for a week or so. We call those a gully-washer.

Bring it on....

Friday, June 17, 2011

Friday's Odds and Ends

Okay, professional sports has gone way beyond nuts. Used to be when a team won a major title the home city had a nice parade, with maybe some confetti and lots of cheering fans. But there was no violence. No riots. No looting. Then somewhere along the line all that got added to the victory celebration and the cost for cleanup was substantial.

I thought that was bad enough, but in a new twist, this week there were riots and looting in Vancouver, but not for winning the Stanley Cup. Thousands of fans took to the streets and trashed the city, injuring 150 people, because the Canuks lost the championship hockey game.

Could we all just grow up?

The latest news to come from the riots is a picture of a couple kissing in the midst of the rioting. A young photographer caught the moment and the photo has gone viral on the Internet. Ned Potter of ABC News wrote:
One headline called it "love among the ruins." History will decide, but one could imagine it becoming as iconic as the famous Life magazine shot of a sailor kissing a nurse in Times Square the day World War II ended.
 I think not and I think it is an insult to make that association. Here is a link to the photo. You judge for yourself. 

So Weiner finally decided to resign. Good thing, too. I'm not sure I could have listened to his whiny little voice making another excuse for his behavior. And the latest news is that Hustler Magazine has made him a job offer. I thought it was a joke, but it's not. Details here if you are so inclined.

If anyone is dying to buy my book, One Small Victory, in Turkish, here is your chance. I just received links from the Turkish Publisher.  

The book is listed on a number of sites and the publisher sent me links to all. Of course I vistited each one and it was all Turkish to me. LOL

I do like the cover. What do you think?

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Book signings can be fun

The business part of my trip was almost as much fun as the personal part. It is always great to meet new bookstore staff and spend time sharing what kinds of books we like to read and why. Sometimes I am even tempted to buy a book the staff recommends and expand my reading habits.

At The Book Rack in Moline, IL, I had a chance to visit with some customers who enjoy mysteries and had a pleasant afternoon. The store specializes in used books and only carries a few new ones. It works much like Half-Price Books and is a good way to recycle paperbacks when you run out of room on your bookshelves.

Our daughter, Dany, took her role as my assistant seriously and helped get tables set up at each store. She also took books and flyers to other stores in the strip mall in Moline, to generate some interest in my appearance. She talked one man who was putting up a sign for a new business into coming in to buy a book.

In Cadillac, MI at Horizon Books, the staff welcomed me for my third visit to the store and were very gracious. I got a complimentary scone and coffee from their coffee shop, and both were delicious. The store is very busy on Saturdays, so I got to meet a lot of people. One lady bought one of my books, then told me about a book she had just read that she loved. Copies happened to be on the table right next to mine, so she handed me one. The title is Thrift Store Saints, Meeting Jesus 25c at a Time, and was written by Jane Knuth, who had spent years working at a St. Vincent de Paul thrift store in Kalamazoo MI.

I bought the book for several reasons. First because the writing was engaging.  Second because I thought it would be a nice gift for my husband, who had spend a number of years working in a St. Vincent de Paul thrift store in Omaha NE. And lastly because it was published by Loyola Press, a Jesuit Ministry. I have a special affinity for the Jesuits and anything they endorse is good for me.

In Ann Arbor, MI, I got to visit Aunt Agatha's Mystery Bookstore. I had heard about the store for a long time and always wanted to visit. Who wouldn't want to see a store that shares a name with the awesome Agatha Christie. I didn't have an event scheduled there, but, Jamie, one of the owners, had ordered some copies of my book for me to stop by and sign. That's called a drive-by signing, which is much nicer than the other kind of drive-by's we read about.

The next stop was in Bloomington, IN at Howard's Books, located in the square around the Monroe County Courthouse. It was a slow night at the store the Thursday I was there, but we had fun meeting the cats. There is something about bookstores and cats. I know a number of store owners who have cats that wander freely at the stores, and some cats even live there.

Joie Canada, the owner of Howard's, said that since cats don't like to be moved from place to place, her cats stay at the store. People stopped in that night just to visit the cats, and I wasn't sure if I should be insulted, or just join in the fun.

There was Merlin, above, who Joie guessed was about 22 years old, and Lulu, who is much younger. Lulu was quite fascinated with my books and then she discovered the kitty that travels with me to every signing event. Lulu decided that the kitty would be good to eat, and even tried to get it out of my bag when I put it away.

There were no cats at Davis-Kidd Bookstores in Memphis, but I enjoyed meeting the staff there when I did another drive-by signing. The girls who assisted me were very gracious, and if I closed my eyes I could pretend I was Sue Grafton being given the royal treatment. No, wait, there would have been a line a mile long to meet her.

But, I have never measured the success of events by the number of books sold. Good thing, too, says my husband who reminds me that I never come out ahead when you figure all the expense of a book tour. What makes it a success for me is meeting new readers and new store owners and staff, which down the road may lead to more sales. 

As expected, I did come home with a lot of books that I had purchased, but my husband didn't complain too much since most of them were for him.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Monday Morning Musings

Last Monday I promised I would recap my vacation and book tour, and I try not to break promises, so here is the first installment. Our youngest daughter, Dany, the graphic artist and Web designer, went on the trip with me, and it was great to spend that time together and not have to drive alone. Plus, she was such a big help at the signing events. I can't thank her enough for taking the time to go along.

Me and my mother
On a professional level, the book tour was very important, but on a personal level the visit with family meant more to me. In fact, it was a desire to visit my mother and sister that spurred the idea to drive 3,000 miles in two weeks. Yikes, written like that makes me tired all over again.

My sister, Juanita
It took three days to get to Lake City, Michigan where my mother lives with my sister and her husband. I hadn't seen my mother in two years and I wasn't sure what to expect from a lady 92 years old, but she looked much the same as last time. A little slower to move around, but there is nothing slow about her mind. She is still very sharp and missed little as conversations flowed around her.

Mother with Katy
We spent a week with the family in and around Lake City. I have two nieces and a nephew there, as well as some great nieces and nephews and I got to see them all. Katy, the oldest great niece, graduated from high school. I didn't realize it beforehand, but her graduation was the same day - and time - as my signing event at Horizon Books in Cadillac. She came over to the bookstore after the ceremony so Grandma-Great, which is what they all call Mother, could see her.

Mother Sketching
A visit up north always involves a day at the lake and Mother was up for going again, although strolling the beach is no longer an option. In the past we have spent hours walking along the water looking for shells and rocks. This year, we sat in the pavilion with our sketchbooks. We always like to draw, and one time when we went to the Grand Hotel on Mackinaw Island, the waiter asked if we were famous artists. Mother remembered that and we had a good laugh.

Going to the farm that my niece and her husband own is also on our list of "must do" when going up north. They have a beautiful old farmhouse, barns, and this year baby calves that, Jacob, their five-year-old son couldn't wait to show Aunt Maryann.

My nephew, Dayle, who works with his father in the construction business and farms, had to check out the hay meadow while we were there.

Oh, I almost forgot the spa day when we all painted our nails with funky crackle polish and did tattoos. Even mother got into the spirit of it all and got purple crackle polish and a rose tattoo.

One of the best things about going back is the chance to connect with old friends, and I saw one of my best friends, Flo. She drove up from Coldwater, MI to spend several days with her family in Cadillac, but also to visit with me and my family. I first met Flo right after high school when we both worked at the same restaurant. She was the first one to introduce me to the Cadillac area. long before my sister met and married a man from McBain.  Flo and I used to drive from the Detroit area to spend weekends up north.

I hadn't seen Flo in twenty years and the first thing she said to me was, "God, you've gotten old." Like she hadn't. Mother enjoyed seeing Flo again, too, and reminded her of when she used to come to the house and stir Mother's fish bowl. "Just giving the little fishes a ride," Flo would say.  When she stopped coming over, the fish died.

Flo is still funny and fun, and offered to sign books for me if I needed to take a break.

Michael, Me, John
After leaving Lake City, we drove "downstate", as the folks there like to say, and went to visit my brother, Michael,  in Lapeer, where he lives with his partner, John. The visit was short, just an afternoon and overnight, but we had a nice time. John is a wonderful cook, so we had some good food and a pleasant morning in the garden. John is a landscape artist, as well as a potter and sculptor.

We also got to visit some more nieces and nephews, and I got to put on my editor's hat for a moment and help a great-nephew with a paper he was writing for school. He was hesitant at first, but his mother talked him into bringing the paper out and it was quite good.

Sarah, Pam, Emily, Paul Van Gilder
The last few days of the trip took us to Bloomington, IN for a signing, then on to Memphis to visit my brother Paul and his family. While we were there, we went to the animal shelter to help them pick out a new puppy for their daughter, Sarah. Paul and his wife, Pam, thought Sarah could benefit from having a companion dog, and there was this darling puppy at the shelter that really needed a home. I discovered, again, that I should not visit shelters. Had we not been two days from home, there might have been a few kittens in the car.

From Memphis, Dany and I went to Hot Springs, AK, to take advantage of the bath houses there. I've never been much for that kind of pampering, but Dany convinced me that a massage and some time in the mineral waters would be a great way to end the trip. She was so right. And I even got to do a little research for a book that is set there in the 60's that I hope to finish this summer.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Book Review - The Innocent Woman by Parnell Hall

 Another review from Carl Brookins. This one is short and sweet. Thanks, Carl.

The Innocent Woman
By Parnell Hall

A Steve Winslow zinger.

Here's an author who can write! Parnell Hall  has enough novels out you'd expect that, right? This was my first Steve Winslow mystery. It won't be my last.

Fine, distinct interesting characters. Limited cast. A creative defense attorney hard at work for a surprisingly uncooperative client. First she's fired after accusations of theft from her employer, then one of the owners of the firm is shot to death and Winslow's client is arrested.

Watching this lawyer both in and out of court is a real treat.

The dialog crackles, the pace is next to pell mell and the explanations are precise. There is a good deal of detail, especially at the end. I would have preferred a more succinct closing to the novel with less sniping between attorneys, but it was a small price to pay for a fast, well done story.


Carl Brookins, Case of the Greedy Lawyer, Devils Island,
Bloody Halls, more at Kindle & Smashwords!

FTC Disclaimer - I don't know if Carl bought this book or it was sent to him, or if he gained any compensation for writing his review. I only know the author probably will, as I am sorely tempted  to buy his book.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Friday's Odds and Ends

Okay, who doesn't care about Weiner's wiener? Raise your hand. So glad to see all my friends and family waving madly.

Ack! Tell me it isn't true. The latest news report says Texas Governor Rick Perry is ready to launch a White House campaign. As my husband said, "O goody, now he can screw up the other 49 states."

Police in Kansas City, MO, are treating the death of an 18-month-old boy who drowned in a bathtub as a potential homicide, after a 5-year-old girl told social workers that she held him under water to stop his crying. Police said the girl, who was left with other children in the care of a teenager, was considered a possible suspect in the toddler's death last week, raising complicated legal questions about how a court could proceed with a case against such a young suspect.

I have nothing snarky to say about that. It is just a horrible tragedy, and I am glad I am not the person having to decide how to handle the case. How could a five-year-old even know what she was doing?

A recent column by Leonard Pitts quoted the results of a study of Historical Illiteracy that found that a majority of college seniors could not identify the words of the Gettysburg Address, and they didn't know the significance of Valley Forge. His column was in response to Sarah Palin's gaffe regarding Paul Revere and his infamous ride. The point that Leonard made so well is that, as a nation, Americans are poorly educated when it comes to history. Classes in history are no longer required at a lot of the nation's top schools.

Leonard ends his column by highlighting some of the most important events in history and writing, "And we allow all that to be forgotten at our own peril. How can our children write the next chapter of a story they don't even know?"

I have nothing to say to that, either. Leonard said it all.

Thursday, June 09, 2011

Guest Blogging

Today I am a guest at Ginger Simpson's blog Dishin' It Out, where I am sharing some of the back story to my new short story collection. The Wisdom of Ages.  This book was recently released by Books We Love Publishing Partners as an e-book for all reading devices.

Stop on by if you are interested in finding out how my muse gifted me with these stories and read excerpts from all three stories.

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

Guest Blog - Lauren Carr

Please help me welcome mystery author, Lauren Carr to the blog today. 

Having a Life: The Wonderful Problem

The last few days, my husband has been mentioning an acquaintance who is having a hard time right now. Barely out of his teens, this young man has just graduated from college, has no job, no friends, no girlfriend, no wife, no kids, and lives in his mother’s basement.

He has no life.

A few years ago, I attended a book signing for John Lamb, author of the Bear Collector Mysteries   He is a  retired police officer who collects teddy bears, and his life mirrors that of his protagonist Brad Lyon, also a retired police officer who collects teddy bears. Yes, John Lamb’s life is a cozy mystery! During our conversation I learned that Mr. Lamb is able to devote eight hours a day to his writing and churn out two of his bear mysteries a year.

Me: Between husband, son, two dogs, and at that time taking care of my elderly father-in-law who has since passed away, it was all I could do to squeeze in four hours a day for writing and get one book out a year.
“Oh, so you have a life,” John Lamb replied after hearing my tale of woe. Not that he doesn’t have a life, it was I who had one.

Back before I had a husband that couldn’t cook; son that feeds his homework to the dogs for breakfast; kitchen that can’t stay stocked; laundry that won’t stay clean; and soccer team that scored a goal yesterday for the other team-oh-my!; I would have given my left arm to not have a life and devote eight hours a day to my writing career. I’m left-handed.

Like George Bailey in It’s A Wonderful Life, I yearned for what I didn’t have while not thanking God for the many blessings I did have. 

What has happened to make me appreciate the obstacles in my life that keep me from writing eight hours a day and churning out two books a year and having that glamorous writing career I always dreamed of having? No, it didn’t happen all in one night in which an angel got his wings after showing me what life would have been like for those around me if I weren’t around to coach them in how to score goals for the other team. I guess it was the natural realization that comes with approaching middle-age.

 As I was approaching my fiftieth birthday, I had a moment in which I looked around me and saw those, like the young man my husband had noted, who had not been blessed with the family and friends I had. Then, like the beginning of It’s A Wonderful Life where the audience saw significant moments in George Bailey’s life, I recalled a night a lifetime ago in mine.

It was one of those nights that many young women have. 

My heart broken by who I had thought was the love of my life, with all my friends married or engaged and starting families, I spent one night praying to God for a husband and family. At that moment, my greatest fear was not that I wouldn’t have a career as an author, but that I would end up alone without people in my life who cared about me. 

My greatest fear was not having a life.

Yes, God does answer prayers.

So now, as I sit here typing this as fast as my fingers can fly across the keyboard because my son is burning down the kitchen while cooking breakfast because he can’t wait one minute longer for me to come cook it; and the dogs are wrestling at my feet threatening to knock the computer out of my lap while I try to finish this because I missed my deadline because I had to do the laundry because my husband insists the whole world will know if he wears the same pair underwear two days in a row, I have to say –

It’s a Wonderful Life!
Lauren Carr fell in love with mysteries when her mother used to read Perry Mason to her at bedtime. She wrote A Small Case of Murder after giving up her writing career to stay at home with her now twelve-year-old son. Her first book, A Small Case of Murder, was named finalist for the Independent Publisher Book Awards. Old Loves Die Hard is the second installment of the Mac Faraday Mysteries, which take place on Deep Creek Lake. She lives on a mountaintop in Harpers Ferry, West Virginia, with her husband and son.

Monday, June 06, 2011

Monday Morning Musings

I'm back from my two week vacation/book tour. My daughter went with me, and we got back late yesterday afternoon. We put over 3,000 miles on the car and packed a lot of visiting in those two weeks. Next week I will post some pictures and recap the trip, but for now I will just say that we had a great time visiting family and friends, and making some new friends along the way. We stopped in Hot Springs Saturday and spent some time at one of the spas. That might have been the best way to end such an arduous journey.

Today I will be on Blog Talk Radio on Sylvia Dickey-Smith's show, Writing Strong Women, which is aired each Monday afternoon, live, from 1 to 1:30 p.m. Central time on the main channel of Blog Talk Radio.  

The show is then  replayed twelve hours later that same day. Each show will be archived for listening 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The archives are also available for MP3 downloads. 

Since I don't have an MP# player, I'm going to have to see if my daughter can download it on hers.

If you would like to listen to the show today, here is a direct link:  You are welcome to call  (1.347.843.4128) and join in the conversation with questions or comments. 

Later... got some laundry to do before I assume the role of "famous writer." 

Sunday, June 05, 2011

Some Sunday Fun

Since I don't have a book review to post today, I thought I would share some jokes that were sent to me from my sister. 


A father was approached by his small son who smiled and said, "I know what the Bible means!"
"Okay," said his father. "What does the Bible mean?"
"That's easy, Daddy..." the young  boy replied," It stands for 'Basic Information Before Leaving Earth.' 


There was a very  gracious lady who was mailing an old family Bible  to her brother in another part of the  country.
"Is there anything breakable in here?"  asked the postal clerk.
"Only the Ten Commandments." answered the  lady.


"Somebody has said  there are only two kinds of people in the world. There are those who wake up in the morning and say, "Good morning, Lord," and there are those who wake up in the morning and say, "Good Lord, it's morning."


A minister parked his car in a no-parking zone in a large city because he was short of time and couldn't find a space with a meter.
Then he put a note under the windshield wiper that read: "I have circled  the block 10 times. If I don't park here, I'll miss my appointment. Forgive us our trespasses."
When he returned, he found a citation from a police officer along with this note "I've circled this block for 10 years. If I don't give you a ticket I'll lose my job. Lead us not into temptation."


There  is the story of a pastor who got up one Sunday and  announced to his congregation: "I have good news  and bad news. The good news is, we have enough money to pay for our new building program. The bad  news is, it's still out there in your pockets."


While driving in  Pennsylvania , a family caught up to an Amish carriage. The owner of the  carriage obviously had a sense of humor, because  attached to the back of the carriage was a hand printed sign... "Energy efficient vehicle: Runs on oats and grass. Caution: Do not step in  exhaust."


A Sunday School  teacher began her lesson with a question, "Boys  and girls, what do we know about God?"
A hand  shot up in the air. "He is an artist!" said the  kindergarten boy.
"Really? How do you know?"  the teacher asked.
"You know - Our Father, who does art in Heaven... "

Friday, June 03, 2011

Where on Earth is Maryann Miller?

Today in real life I am in Memphis visiting family. But in cyberspace I am a guest on Joslyn Vaughn's blog. If you have a minute stop by her blog for a visit.

I should be back home over the weekend, and will recap my vacation and book tour over the next week. In the meantime, here is an excerpt from my humorous memoir, A Dead Tomato Plant and a Paycheck. Enjoy....

This is the beginning of a chapter on family pets:
No a Crocodile Does Not Make a Good Pet

No family would be complete without their pets. We have had a number of them through the years, and they all have a story.

When Anjanette and David were young and Michael was just a baby, we had a cat, Nicky, who wasn’t too crazy about living with little people who pulled her hair and chased her. She had been my cat before I married Carl, and she just barely tolerated him before and after we got married. She would often get on the bed and insinuate herself between us, then push on him with her paws.

"Is she doing that on purpose?” he’d ask.

“Oh, I hardly think so,” I said.

Then a paw would hit a tickle spot and he’d go flying out of the bed. “That cat’s a menace,” he said. “She pushed me out of bed.”

“Honey, listen to yourself. You’re a grown man and she’s just a little cat. Besides, I’m sure she likes you.”

Well maybe,” he conceded, giving her a sideways glance.

“Of course she does. Aren’t you the one who plays with her every day with the crazy ball? She loves that.”

“Well, if you’re sure.”

“I am. Now get back into bed.” I moved the cat and patted the bed.


The problem was that Nicky was not as reasonable as Carl and this nightly routine repeated itself often.

NOTE: Now we share the bed with two cats and a small dog. No wonder I end up on the couch sometimes.

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

My ‘sweet ride’ is a yellow school bus

Today I am in Ann Arbor Michigan, where I am going to stop by Aunt Agatha's Mystery Bookstore. I have always wanted to visit that store but my trips to Michigan never took me close enough. My daughter has friends in Ann Arbor and asked if we could go visit them. I couldn't say no. I didn't find out that we would be stopping there in time to set up a signing event, but one of the owners, Jamie, was kind enough to order a few copies of OPEN SEASON for me to autograph. In author lingo that's called a drive-by signing. Tomorrow I will be at Howard's Bookstore in Bloomington IN from 6-9pm. If you live nearby, I hope you'll consider stopping by. I would love to meet you. The link will take you to a map.

Here's another column from Tracy Farr. Enjoy...

I’m proud to say that I’m a school bus driver. Not only that, but last year one of my riders gave me a certificate that says I’m the greatest bus driver in the world – which makes me an Award-Winning School Bus Driver. The certificate is hanging up in my office. Feel free to drop by and see it.

Being an Award-Winning School Bus Driver is not all glamour and paparazzi. Yes, there are perks that come with the job (I’m still searching for mine), but there’s also a certain amount of responsibility that comes with the award.

Bus drivers have to be friendly and ready to wipe up liquid motion sickness at a moment’s notice. Bus drivers have to be welcoming, but ready to give students the “evil eye” when they’re not following the rules. Bus drivers have to understand a little bit of child psychology, be able to work under pressure, and have the ability to tune out distractions while keeping their eyes and ears open for Little Johnny who loves to use his markers to color on things – especially other riders. And bus drivers have to carry an extra bottle of deodorant with them because driving a bus is a sweaty job, and stinky school bus drivers don’t get certificates.

Driving a school bus is not for everybody, and to be a school bus driver is to be practically superhuman but without the cape and spandex. That’s why I’m surprised there aren’t more movies made about them.

“In a land where time has stood still, where American values are as deep-rooted as the Rockies, there lives a man who is more than what he appears to be. His name is Bud Randle. He drives a school bus twice a day, but he’s hiding a secret that will soon amaze all his friends and neighbors. And in the end, he will save us all. Transport Pictures presents Johnny Depp in a Peter Jackson film – ‘Mr. Bus Driver: The Movie.’ Coming to a theater near you.!”

I’d gladly pay my money to see a movie like that, and I might even spring for some hot-buttered popcorn and an ice-cold soda pop. Wouldn’t you?

Driving a bus doesn’t have the greatest of reputations. The buses rarely have air conditioning, the heaters barely work in the winter, they’re slow, the engines are loud, the brakes squeal, the children sometimes get noisy and obnoxious, and dealing with a bunch of hot, sweaty kids on a hot, sweaty day is worse than having a root canal without medication. But other than that, it’s not too bad – especially if you have a Little Emily onboard.

“Mr. Bus Driver, why are you whistling? Whistling isn’t allowed on the bus,” said Little Emily.

“Who says whistling isn’t allowed on the bus?” asked Mr. Bus Driver.

“I did,” said Little Emily.

“You did? So, you mean when I’m happy, I can’t whistle?”

“Well, I guess I can make an exception. But just this once,” she said.

Little Emily has plans for her life. Maybe she’s going to be a nurse, or a lawyer, or the CEO of a global financial institution that will decide whether or not I should get the loan I need to one day take my family to Europe for the trip of a lifetime. Who knows? What matters today is that she doesn’t mind riding to school on the bus. She’s been doing it since kindergarten. It’s just a morning and afternoon ritual that will continue until she can drive herself to school. But until that time, she relies on me, the bus driver, to get her there safely so she can become the person she’s meant to be.

So like I was saying, driving a school bus is a big responsibility. Not everybody can do it, but those who can should be respected, admired, and valued as important members of our society. And the best way that you can show your appreciation for the thankless job these school bus drivers do is to remember two things:

1)    Stop when you see their red lights flashing. There’s a Little Emily on every bus, and they all want to grow up safe and sound; and

2) Bus drivers love to eat. A couple of glazed donuts or an apple fritter in a bag is sometimes better than money.

Now, if you’ll excuse me – I’ve got riders to pick up.


Tracy Farr is a teacher living in East Texas and drives a school bus for the fun of it. In his spare time he plays the banjo, but never on Thursdays.