Monday, December 31, 2012

Happy New Year

I know it is not officially the New Year until tomorrow, but in some place in the world it is already tomorrow, so it is okay to start the good wishes flowing. Note, I said, good wishes, not champagne, although some of that is perfectly okay in my book.

Tonight, I will be celebrating with friends at our local art center where we have a special New Year's Eve party with live music by an amazing jazz band, Miss Demeanor and the Groove Felons. This is a new band that just got started this past year, but one would think they had been together for years when listing to the music. My claim to fame is that I have sung with the lead singer, Shannon Monk, at a few benefits when I had been asked to help entertain. I was always so thankful to have Shannon there with me. She is a pro. I am not. But we do share a love of music.

My wish for all my friends, both in real time and here in cyberspace, is peace, happiness, success, and good health for the New Year. Celebrate well as we usher in another New Year, and be safe. Don't drink and drive.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

No Review Today

This darn flu is really kicking my butt. I am still not able to do very much, either mentally or physically, so today I will share a couple of links to book review sites that I thought you might like.

First off is Kevin R. Tipple's blog, Kevin's Corner, that features book reviews and more. Kevin has been reviewing books for a number of years and does more than just give an endorsement for a book. His current review is of Thorns on Roses by Randy Rawls. Kevin reviews mysteries most often, but sometimes he will review other genres. I noticed recently he had a review of a craft book. Interesting.

Another good review site for mystery books is Buried Under Books, the blog owned by Lelia Taylor. Lelia operated the mystery bookstore, Creatures and Crooks, for many years, so she knows how to evaluate a new book. Sometimes she does author interviews, and now and then features a special guest post about cats. She loves cats. Maybe that is why I liked her right away when I first met her online.

This last offering is not a review site, but it is a good resource for finding new books and new authors, as well as some authors you may already be reading. All Mystery e-newsletter was started by Rebecca Dahlke, and regularly features a quick introduction to several new mysteries in each issue. I am pleased to have Open Season featured in this week's issue. 

Okay, that's it for me for today, folks. Tissues and tea calling....

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Boxing Day

All I got for Christmas was an iPad and the flu. No, seriously, I did get a number of other lovely gifts, which I have not been able to enjoy because of the aches and chills, and fever and coughing, and wanting to sleep for hours.  Therefore I failed to get this posted yesterday, which would have been perfect because yesterday was Boxing Day. Boxing day is a holiday unique to the British Commonwealth  wherein people of means would box up gently used items and share with those less fortunate. At churches, the alms boxes would also get special attention on Boxing Day. 

I like the idea of sharing, so I will probably be boxing up some things to take to our local church-sponsored thrift store, but I won't give them my iPad.

While you consider what you might give away for Boxing Day, enjoy this take on the holiday by Slim Randles. His explanation is a lot more fun. 

  ‘Twas the morning after Christmas, and all through the Mule Barn truck stop’s philosophy counter …

  “Happy Boxing Day!” said Herb, settling in and flipping his cup to the upright and fillable position.

  “Boxing Day?” said Steve.

  “It certainly is,” Herb said. He’s like that … a lot.

  We looked at each other. Doc put down the crossword puzzle he was working on.

  “You think there’ll ever be another Mohammed Ali?” said Dud.

  “The best,” Doc said.

  “How about Sugar Ray Robinson?” Steve said. “A toast to the great ones!”

  Cups were raised.

  “Guys?” said Herb. “Boxing Day isn’t about … boxing.”

  “I knew this was coming,” Dud said.

  “Boxing Day goes back to medieval times …”

  “Like Doc?”

  “Seriously,” Herb said. “It was the day after Christmas, and the masters of the castles and manor houses would give the servants the day off to go see their families …”

  “Because on Christmas they had to stay in the castle and feed the duke?” Steve asked.

  “Precisely. So the lord and master would give each servant a box with goodies in it for the servant’s kiddies and send them on their way for a day.”

  “Is this what started the Boxer Rebellion?” Dud asked. Dud collected strange knowledge.

  “No, no!” Herb said, “That was in China …”

  “Don’t they make boxer shorts in China?”

  We watched Herb. “I don’t even know why I bother …”

  Neither do we.

  “You guys ever see Mike Tyson’s uppercut?”

  “I know he’s hard on ears.”

  “I heard about the War of Jenkins’ Ear,” Dud said. “Maybe that was hooked up with the Boxer Rebellion?”

  We finally got Herb to groan.
Brought to you by  Home Country,  the best of the first six years. Read a sample at 

Free for today and tomorrow, The Visitor, a charming short story that is a retelling of Goldilocks and the Three Bears. Just who is the strange visitor to Amanda and her family in their Colorado mountain cabin? 

Monday, December 24, 2012

Merry Christmas

I know the politically correct thing to say at this time is Happy Holidays, lest we offend someone who doesn't celebrate Christmas, but I feel like being a rebel today. Besides that, I don't get the least bit offended when someone says Happy Hanukkah or Happy Kwanzaa.

Those wishes mean something special to the folks who celebrate those holidays, the same way Merry Christmas means something special to me, and it doesn't take anything away from me for people to express their good wishes the way they want to.

If we all spent more time living up to the inherent meaning in all these holidays and expressions of good will, there could be no offense taken at the words used. There wouldn't be a "we" and "them" mentality that pushes us apart and makes us sensitive and defensive. There would just be "us". Mankind. Humankind. However you want to label us.

So my hope for all of us is to have a season of peace and a sense of inclusion instead of exclusion.

I will probably take most of the next two weeks off from blogging so I can celebrate Christmas and New Years with family and friends. I hope that all of you have many opportunities to likewise share the Holiday cheer, and I will see you in the New Year.

Even though I already gave you a Christmas gift with my free short story, The Last Dollar, a couple of weeks ago, I couldn't resist the impulse to give another free story. From December 24 through December 28, another short story, The Visitor, will be free for Kindle. Enjoy. 

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Book Review - Swimming Upstream by Ruth Mancini

Swimming Upstream
Ruth Mancini
Paperback: 256 pages
Publisher: (October 18, 2012)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 178176882X
ISBN-13: 978-1781768822

Lizzie Taylor has begun to achieve all the things she thought she had ever wanted. She is in a relationship with Larson, a man she has loved for years, and while her career could be better, it is at least satisfying. Yet, she is not happy. There isn't anything specific she can name to cause that unhappiness, but there is that sense of discontent.

When she is hit by a car and is injured, that event propels her in a new direction. Larson is not helpful or supportive in her time of need, so she decides to leave him and move to London. She has the offer of a better job there, and maybe it is time for a change.

Lizzie battles to overcome the legacy of her past, while reconnecting with friends Zara and Catherine. Each friend has a secret that is slowly revealed to Lizzie, and her natural impulse is to help her friends. Catherine has been habitually abused by a boyfriend, who also seems to have a yen for Lizzie, and the zaniness that has been endearing about Zara is actually the manic stage of bipolar disorder. When the depression hit, it pulls Zara into the darkest corners of her mind.

Attempting to support her friends in their challenges while sorting out her own life provides a story that is vivid, poignant, and sometimes humorous. It is also harshly real in places, and the author does not hold back on the tough subjects such as date rape, mental illness, and domestic violence.

This is an enjoyable read, and I wanted to cheer for Lizzie every time she made a good choice and overcame another obstacle.

Friday, December 21, 2012

The World Did Not End

Good morning. We are all still here, so obviously the prediction that the world would end because the Mayan calender did was wrong. Funny how that happens with predictions.

It's also funny how plans go awry. This time of the year is busy for everyone who celebrates winter holidays.  For me it is Christmas, and I had a carefully laid out plan for this week. In addition to preparing to celebrate with family, I am facing a January 15th deadline for a history book I am writing with a Winnsboro historian. As with all deadlines, this one creates a panic that I don't have everything in place yet. (I hope my editor is not reading this. I just promised her we would have the book done on schedule.)

Anyway, back to my plan to work diligently on the book every afternoon. It got skewered the other night when we had a horrific wind that blew through during a thunderstorm, and a number of trees come down in our back pasture. Of course, one had to fall on the fence. Luckily, my animals had not been hurt. The horse ran to the far corner where there are no trees, and the goat and sheep made it into the small barn, which was not hit.

Still, there was this breach in the fence that could not be ignored. So I was out in the middle of the night, in the middle of the storm, stringing wire to patch up the opening until I could get someone out to cut the tree and get it off the fence.

After that midnight adventure, I was not functioning at top speed yesterday, so I did not get much done on the book. In between arranging to get the downed trees taken care of and chasing the goat back into the pen several times- they do have a way of finding an escape route - I sat at my computer and promptly fell asleep.

So now that we have been spared annihilation, I will spend a good chunk of my day working with the folks who are coming out to clear. I was out early this morning getting some of the mess piled up and burned, and we will burn a lot more later.

While I was working, I glanced up at the sky and saw this neat cloud formation. I wonder what spot this X marks? Is there a treasure in the sky?

If you would like to see more pictures today, I encourage you to visit my friend Terry Odell's blog. She has a regular feature on Friday's called Field Trip Friday and always has beautiful photographs. Some she has taken herself and others are from members of her talented family or other professional photographers.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Saving Historic Homes

Please welcome Nell Carson to It's Not All Gravy.  No cookies today, but how about a nice piece of Gingerbread courtesy of ALL RECIPES.COM  I thought that apropos considering then title of Nell's new book.

Thank you, Maryann, for inviting me to guest post! 

I thought I’d write today about a subject I learned a good deal about while writing my second novel, The Gingerbread House—historical preservation. In the book, Greta Kendall, is fighting to save her beloved Queen Anne house from being torn down by a company bent on putting up a new mall on the site.

While researching the ins and outs of historical preservation laws, I read about a U.S. Supreme Court ruling from 2005 (Kelo v. City of New London) in which the court decided that under Eminent Domain a city can legally take someone’s private property—their home—and transfer it to another party, in this case a developer, against the will of the homeowner. 

In the Kelo case, the City of New London in Connecticut condemned Susette Kelo’s Victorian home that had been renovated only three years earlier, along with several others, so a developer could build a new marina. Kelo took to the courts, arguing that Eminent Domain should mean for public purposes only, not for private development. 

The power of Eminent Domain is limited by the Takings Clause of the Fifth Amendment which states that private property shall not be taken for public use without just compensation. The city argued that the development was ultimately good for the public by way of increased revenue. In a 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court sided with the city and Kelo’s home as well as her neighbors’ were slated for destruction.

Rubbing salt into the wound, the city decided to charge the residents rent for their property dating back to the start of the proceedings—five years—claiming they were technically living on city property even though the homeowners were fighting against the city’s actions. Thankfully the governor intervened and the city eventually compensated the homeowners for their homes and ultimately issued an apology. 

Compensation and apologies aside, most of the homes were destroyed and that can never be undone. No one knows this better than the renovation crew in France that just a few weeks ago accidentally tore down the 18th century chateau they were supposed to rehab instead of the guest house. Oops

Another argument to support the use of Eminent Domain is to rid cities of blight, but as Justice Anthony Kennedy said, ‘Blight is in the eye of the beholder’. An enthusiastic rehabber might look at a blighted section of town and see an opportunity to bring the historic structures back to life. In Denver, for instance, there’s our ‘LoDo’ or Lower Downtown area of town, a former skid row turned tourist attraction with its pricey restaurants and exclusive boutiques, run-down warehouses and factories turned into expensive lofts and offices. Sure the old structures could have been torn down to make way for more modern buildings but the character that comes from age is priceless and that would have been lost forever. (I try to keep this in my mind with each new wrinkle that pops up in the mirror!)

My husband and I are the proud owners of a 1922 bungalow that wasn’t in the best shape when we bought it, and for five years we’ve been working on its seemingly endless renovations, project by project. Slow going and expensive but incredibly satisfying once it’s done. You have to really love something to work so hard for it, and I can only imagine how horrible it would be to have it taken away for the ‘greater good’. I feel for these people. 

But I also feel for the city. We all demand top-notch schools, fire departments, police, etc. but balk when it comes to tax increases. So what’s a city to do? The money’s got to come from somewhere. 

Unfortunately desperation can lead to short-sighted action, in this case tearing down historic structures in the hopes of a quick cash fix that ultimately didn’t even pan out in New London. In a sad twist to the Kelo case, the developer couldn’t find enough funding and abandoned the project leaving only an empty lot where the homes once stood. It was used as a dump for Hurricane Irene debris in 2011. It now stands vacant.

I guess the solution, if it could be called that, would be to take these situations on a case-by-case basis, objectively evaluate the finality of the destruction versus the possible revenue that could be generated and make smart decisions for both the long and short terms. I, for one, hope the preservationists win out whenever possible. The state of the economy flows in ebbs and tides but once these structures are gone, there’s no turning back.

Forever is a long time.
Coffee's hot. Enjoy!
Nell's book, The Gingerbread House, is a sweet romance. Here is a link to a REVIEW I did last Sunday.

Monday, December 17, 2012

School Shootings

It's hard to let the tragedy in Newtown, Connecticut last Friday pass without a comment. I know there are no words that can take away the awful pain of loss so many are experiencing, so all I can offer is my support and prayers that the families and friends of those who lost their lives will have the strength to weather the storms of grief.

Let the Memories Burn Bright
I thought President Obama did a fine job in his speech last night at the memorial, and I am glad that he let the people know that the nation is mourning with them. I did cringe just a little bit, however, when he said that we as a government will do all we can to ensure that this does not happen again.

Those are nice words, but hardly ones we can live up to. The government has no control over whatever it is that motivates someone to pick up a gun and go on a shooting spree.

It is true that we need better care for those with mental health issues. Most of the time we find out, after the fact, that a person who commits such atrocities does suffer from mental and/or emotional health problems. But that certainly does not mean that every person who has a cognitive disease is prone to this kind of violence.

Then there's the issue of gun control. Already there are groups of people calling for stricter gun laws, and with enough emotion pushing that cause, the right to own a gun might be seriously curtailed. Will that help? Probably not. If someone is intent on using a gun to kill people, he or she will be able to get a gun, whether legal or not, and if a gun is not available, other weapons will be used. There have been attacks on elementary school children in China by men wielding swords and large knives. The most recent on the same day as the Sandy Hook school shooting.

When I did the research for my book on gun violence in schools, I found that the factors that contribute to violent behaviors are many, so there isn't going to be one simple solution to make students safe. One thing that we can do as a society, however, is to take a stand against media and entertainment that glorifies violence and makes it appear harmless.

It is anything but harmless. A professor of criminology that I interviewed for my book twenty years ago said, "How many times can we watch The Texas Chainsaw Massacre without it giving us a subconscious message that killing and maiming people is okay?"

He also said that once we as a society had no lines that we would not cross, we would be a society out of control.

Think about it. Where are the boundaries today?

On Another Note: I want to remind you to come back on Wednesday to welcome Nell Carson. Do you know how hard it is to get a building designated as historically significant? She will share what she learned in her research for her book, The Gingerbread House

And Yet One More Note: Today is the last day to get your Holiday gift, The Last Dollar,  which celebrates the magic of giving. Thanks to all who have already downloaded the book, it is now #24 on the short story best-seller list.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Book Review - The Gingerbread House by Nell Carson

The Gingerbread House
Nell Carson
An Avalon Romance
ISBN-10: 0803474695
Hardcover: 192 pages

In this sweet romance, Greta Kendall has come back to her roots and established a bridal shop in the first floor of a lovely Queen Anne Victorian near Aspen. The house has been in her family for years, and her mother, who is in the early stages of Alzheimer's, lives with Greta above the shop.

Conflict comes in the name of Stephanie Harwood, who is acquiring property to build a shopping mall and plans to raze the beautiful old house. Greta has tried to get the house listed as historically significant, which would protect it, but efforts so far have failed, and it looks like Stephanie is going to win. 

The love interest in the story is Gray Daniels, who comes to the bridal shop to have his grandmother's wedding dress restored for his bride-to-be. Turns out that fiance is Stephanie, and Gray is connected to the efforts to acquire the home and business that Greta loves so dearly.

There is enough suspense in the story to keep a reader fully engaged. Will Greta lose her home and her business and the man she is starting to care for? How long will she be able to care for her mother at home? And who is the stranger who is trying to help her save the house?

On the way to answering these questions the author does a fine job for the most part. The book is well written in terms of establishing characters and places. The dialogue is also very smooth and natural, and the reader gets a real sense of who these people are in how they speak.

In some places, however, the characters did or said something that stretched believability for me as I read. For instance, there is a nice connection between Greta and Gray with parents who suffer from dementia, but Gray opening up so completely and emotionally to Greta about that right after they met, seemed odd to me. Still, there is much to like in this little book that could be read on one lazy Sunday afternoon.
Please come back on Wednesday when Nell will be my guest with a post about historical preservation. She learned some interesting things while researching the subject for her novel.

Friday, December 14, 2012

A Holiday Gift


As we get caught up in the hustle and bustle of preparing for the holidays, it is easy to forget what the season is all about.

After my husband and I moved to Texas from Michigan, we rarely made it back to our home state for holidays, and my mother always sent handmade gifts for Christmas. The necessity of counting pennies has ruled her entire life, and we became accustomed to not expecting gifts of any great monetary value. Even so, the arrival of her annual box always sparked an eagerness in me that I never fully understood. The gifts were either hand made or just a small trinket, and sometimes there were even gifts for ‘we-don’t-know-who’.  There were also times we didn’t even know what the gift was or what it was for; usually something she knitted or crocheted that could be a small afghan or a large lap blanket.

When the kids were young, they never understood my excitement over mother’s box, either, but I couldn’t fault them for that. It's easy for a simple gift to be diminished when stacked up next to one larger and more expensive, and like the kids, I often saw my mother's efforts as a mere gesture.
But the year that necessity forced me to make gifts, was the year that I finally understood what a gift really is, whether handmade or purchased.

A gift is not just a thing. It's a connection between the person giving and the person receiving that says something special about the relationship between the two. And a gift should never be rushed. The longer you think about it, plan it, and work on it, the stronger the connection.

That's the special, intangible ingredient my mother wrapped up and sent to us for all those years.

So that is the intangible ingredient I wrapped up in this short story that is my gift to you this Christmas. It was written a number of years ago with a dear friend, and every year since when I read it again at Christmas, I can't help but think of the magic of this season.

The story will be free through December 17th, so you can get a copy for KINDLE or read it on my WEBSITE     ENJOY!

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Cheers Alex J. Cavanaugh

Today is the last day for the blogfest celebrating Alex J. Cavanagh, so I thought I would do a continuation from Monday's post and give you a list of all the bloggers participating in the nonsense... er... fun.

Obviously, I did not read the rules that had specific questions we were to answer about Alex, such as what he looks like - does anyone know? - and who might play him in a documentary. Some names that have been tossed out include, Jimmy Stewart - sorry, he's dead,  Tom Cruise - he's busy right now trying to be Jack Reacher, and Ralphie. Hmmm, that has possibilities.

Anyway, this has been a blast. I've read a number of the blog entries and they are all creative and some are laugh-out-loud funny. If you have a bit of time to spare, visit a few and get your chuckle for the day. 

Monday, December 10, 2012

Alex Who?

Welcome to the “Cheers, Cavanaugh BlogFest.”  Today through Wednesday bloggers are honoring Alex J. Cavanaugh, also known as the Ninja Captain. The blogfest is hosted by Mark Koopmans, Morgan Shamy, David Powers King and Stephen Tremp, and runs from December 10 - 12.  Here is a full list of bloggers who are celebrating the Ninja Captain.This is going to be great fun with stories, and, I'm sure, a bit of humor along the way.

When I first met Alex it was via a comment on my blog. He has this weird little AlexIcon that shows up as an avatar- and quite frankly I still can't make out what it is, but then, my vision is not what it used to be. Anyway, I was a little wary of someone that didn't have a face.

After a while I noticed that Alex kept showing up on lists I belong to and commenting on blogs that I visit. He always had interesting things to say, so I decided to go over to check out his blog. It appears he's a big sci-fi fan, which I am not. So I wondered how we could become more than casual Internet acquaintances. Maybe that's really what we still are. I comment now and then on his blog and he comments now and then on mine.

About six months ago something weird happened. I realized that while I could not be a huge fan of the genre in which he writes, I could become a huge fan of a writer who supports other writers so completely. If you read his blog, you will notice that he is always sharing good news from his writer friends. Sure, sometimes he has news about his books, but that is always shared almost as an aside from his news about others, as well as his movie and music reviews.

Introducing Alex to folks who have never met him, the conversation might go something like this:

"Alex? Alex who?"

"Cavanaugh. You know, the writer."

"Um. Sorry. Haven't heard of him."

"Well, he has this really neat blog. And if your interested, he writes a great sci-fi series. Cassa Star was the first book."

"I don't read sci-fi."

"You know, neither do I. But I bought a couple of the books for my husband. Of course, I had to read some of the first book. Just to make sure the writing measured up before buying it for a gift. And you know what?"


 "It was pretty damned good."


"Yeah. I kinda liked it. And so did my husband."

"Hmmm. Maybe I'll go check out his books and his blog."

"Before you go, do me a favor?"


"Tell me what this AlexIcon is. To me it looks like two tiny Mexicans wearing sunglasses and  sombreros that got caught in an updraft."

"Um... I'll get back to you on that one."

Sunday, December 09, 2012

Book Review - November Hunt by Jess Lourey

Here's another review from Carl Brookins. He is able to read and review a lot more books than I ever can, and I appreciate that he shares the reviews with readers here.

November Hunt
By Jess Lourey
ISBN: 978-07387-3136-0
A 2012 269 page TP release
From Midnight Ink Books

 The eleventh novel in her Murder By The Month series brings sometime librarian-cum-private investigator Mira James squarely up against some respected town leaders. Mira is angling to become a licensed P.I. and needs many hours of supervised investigation in order to qualify. Given that her account in the local Battle Lake bank is flatter than the pancakes served at the local eatery, she has two powerful motives to take on the investigation of a local philanthropist and business man’s murder by his long time buddy.

 November in Minnesota can be cold. Not only does the weather provide impediments, so do many of the town’s citizens, but Mira perseveres against bone-cracking cold and icy stares.  The author is a good writer and the story is enhanced with clever characters, and a lot of tongue-in-cheek dialogue.

The series is known for the self-deprecating insouciance of the main character and her slightly twisted outlook on life. The danger of this kind of approach is in going over the cliff. Sometimes the impact of a really powerfully crafted scene can be lessened by the odd verbal swipe.

 The plot is well designed and while there are few large surprises, the author spins this tale tightly and nicely to its conclusion with the aid of several interesting and amusing characters. This  edition contains a series of discussion questions which can be useful to book clubs.

 In the spirit of full disclosure, I note that the author and I are long-time acquaintances.
Carl Brookins  BLOG:  -BOOKS:  Case of the Great Train Robbery, Reunion, Red Sky

Friday, December 07, 2012

The Next Big Thing

My writer friend, Stephanie Neighbour, gave me the job... er, challenge... er honor of participating in a game of virtual tag. Stephanie asked me to participate in The Next Big Thing where I will answer ten questions about my work in progress and choose five other writers/bloggers/authors who will be tagged at the end of this post. Stephanie really  had fun with her post, so I thought I would give it a whirl.

1. What is the working title of your book? My current WIP, which has all of 5,000 words written is the third book in the Seasons Series and is titled Out Of Season. While there is plenty of room to change the storyline in the next 75,000 words, I think the title will stay. (OMG, why did I have to remind myself of how much more I have yet to write?)

2. Where did the idea come from for the book? When I first started the mystery series, many moons ago, I did all the things a writer is supposed to do to try to market a series. I wrote the first book, Open Season. Did a detailed synopsis of the second book, Stalking Season, and did an overview of the whole series with short synopsis of story ideas for several more books. The idea for Out of Season was one of those story ideas that came to me when I imagined what kind of grisly cases a pair of homicide detectives in Dallas might face. Little did I know it would take a hundred years for the series to get published.

3. What genre does your book fall under? This is a police procedural mystery.

4. Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition? I have a good friend here in my neck of the woods who is a terrific actress and I think she could bring Sarah to life on screen. Not only that, she keeps asking when auditions are. For Angel, I would love Halle Barry to consider the role.

5. What is the one sentence synopsis of your book? ACK! I'd rather stand on my head for an hour - if I could - than figure out a logline. I usually can't do that until I am at least halfway into a book, and even then the logline basically sucks.

6. Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?Actually, neither, although I would love to have an agent. (hint, hint) Hopefully, the book will be accepted by Five Star Cengage, the company that published the first two books in the series. Since Stalking Season got a starred review from Publishers Weekly , I think my chances of acceptance is pretty good. Unless I totally bomb with the writing. Please tell me I won't bomb.

7. How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript? This first 5,000 words took three days. For previous books, it took the better part of a year to do the first draft, then almost another year to do rewrites. If I was a more disciplined writer, I would probably turn out books faster, but I get sidetracked with the business of promoting, doing some editing or other freelance work to pad my bank account, or taking time out to play on stage.

8. What other books would you compare this story to within your genre? My books are similar to the 87th Precinct Series by Ed McBain (Evan Hunter). In fact, his books are what inspired me to write police procedurals.

9.Who or what inspired you to write the book?  Do I repeat myself or just say "see above?" (smile)

10. What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest? The Seasons Series has been described as "Lethal Weapon" set in Dallas with female leads. Readers who enjoy a bit of humor with a gritty mystery might like the books.

I love to promote my friends and am happy to introduce you to Stephanie and her terrific blog. She is a comedian and there is lots to smile about in her posts. However, I do hesitate to ask some of my other friends to add one more thing to their to-do list, so I will only tag a couple of folks. If anyone else would like to join in the fun, just let me know in the comments and send me a link to you blog that I will promote next week.

My tags are:   Terry Odell, Laura Eno, and Morgan Mandel

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

Wednesday's Guest - Nancy Madore

Please help me welcome Nancy Madore today. Pull up a chair and get acquainted. Virtual coffee and cookies available.While Nancy is entertaining you here, I'm over at Dru's Book Musings where Angel, one of the characters in the Seasons Mystery Series, is sharing what it is like to be a homicide detective.

 Hello everyone  and thank you, Maryann, for having me. 

I just released The Hidden Ones, the first in my new series, Legacy of the Watchers, which digs up the past (ancient Mesopotamia) in search of answers to a modern day mystery. It is historical fiction with paranormal elements.

How did you come to write in the genre you chose?

I didn’t really choose the genre; the story did. It’s a story I wanted to write my entire life. Ever since childhood (and my religious upbringing) I’ve been fascinated with ancient Mesopotamia and its many mysteries which remain unsolved to this day. The timing couldn’t be better for exploring the possibilities, as science fiction has never been more versatile, blending with other genres and even luring women readers like never before.

Have you always wanted to be a writer, or have you come to writing after another career?

I always wanted to write. The question was never ‘if.’ It was ‘when.’ But I married and started a family while I was still quite young. This consumed my life to the point where I put off writing, promising myself I would begin the minute the kids left home. Strangely enough, this is exactly what I did.

What is your fondest childhood memory?

I feel like I should have some monumental moment to share, but the truth is my childhood was unremarkable. I was a loner, awkward and shy, with my head constantly buried in a book. I was always being reprimanded for ‘daydreaming.’  And I suppose it must have been true because my childhood did sort of pass in a haze. But I distinctly remember one autumn day, walking home from school, alone, my feet crunching on the fallen leaves, the sky a brilliant blue, the sun glimmering through the leaves in that way that blinds you a little, with nowhere to be, just experiencing the utter pleasure of being happy and free. Life seemed full of possibilities! I think of that day every year when the leaves start to turn, and sometimes I’ll even venture out for a long walk to try and recapture that wonderful feeling.

What is a typical writing day like for you?

Every day is more or less the same for me. I wake up, read something literary for a half an hour, then I get my coffee, situate myself in front of my computer and write. I’ll write until I have a minimum of a thousand words.  My writing takes precedence over everything (literally, a hurricane could be coming and I wouldn’t evacuate until my thousand words were in). Then I’ll start my day. Depending on the kind of writing day I’m having, this could be anywhere from noon to 3:00 in the afternoon.  Normally, I could now be persuaded to stop working, but since I have a new book out, I still have another three or four hours of promoting. On a bad day, I’m still working late into the night.

What is the most unusual or interesting research you have done for your books?

I’ve done a lot of interesting research over the years. When I was writing erotica for Harlequin, I did a lot of research on women’s sexuality. I had originally planned to write strong female characters in dominant positions, but I was surprised to learn that the dominant female is more of a man’s fantasy than a woman’s (in the bedroom, at least). I was even more surprised to learn that one of women’s most popular fantasies during sex is to imagine themselves different, better, “perfect.” This led to more research, which seemed to indicate that the media is not only having a negative effect on women’s self-esteem, but their sexuality as well. It is an interesting topic I would like to see authors explore more.

What is the hardest thing about writing?

Being consistent. That’s why I do it every day, even on weekends. Like anything else, it’s the accumulation of little efforts that brings about success. If you think in terms of the finished product, it can be very intimidating. I always focus on what I’m going to write that day.

Where do your stories begin? With character or plot?

The Legacy of the Watchers series is really about the characters I grew up with—the angels who ‘fell’ to earth, their giant offspring who would later become the ancient ‘gods,’ Solomon,  and his djinn—all of these had been simmering in my consciousness for decades, just waiting to be brought back to life.

Nancy Madore achieved enormous critical acclaim writing ‘female friendly’ erotica in her Enchanted series. Now, following her life-long interest in history and mythology, Nancy Madore is making her debut into the historical and science fiction genres with her new series, Legacy of the Watchers, beginning with The Hidden Ones.


Thanks for coming by. Have a cookie.

Monday, December 03, 2012

Flying by the Power of the Sun

Last night on Sixty Minutes, Bob Simon presented a fascinating story about a solar powered plane that can fly long distances, even at night, without using any fossil fuel. The plane is called Solar Impulse, and it is powered entirely by the sun. It is not the first solar airplane, but it is the first that can fly at night.

The plane was created by two men in Switzerland, Bertrand Piccard and his business partner, Andre Borschberg. Andre is a pilot and an engineer but never worked on building an airplane. Bertrand is a psychiatrist, and he didn't even know how to pilot a plane until 6 years ago.
Photo Courtesy of

On the broadcast last night Bob Simon said, "This state-of-the-art plane sometimes looks like it had been put together by a 6-year-old with an erector set"

From a distance, it does look like a toy, and the cockpit is so small it is not something I would want to fly in for hours, but that is what the partners plan to do next spring. They are going to fly across the United States, with future plans to fly around the world.  

What I found most interesting about the story, besides the most unusual airplane, is the potential for this type of solar energy to replace dependence on fossil fuels. Let's face it, we cannot just continue to destroy the earth to find more gas and oil and coal.

The solar cells that comprise the wings of the aircraft capture the energy of the sun and transform it into electricity. That electricity goes simultaneously to the engines and to the batteries. At night, the plane relies on the batteries to stay airborne until the next sunrise when the cells can capture the sun again.

During the interview Bertrand Piccard said, "If we can fly in a solar airplane like Solar Impulse with no fuel, just on solar power, then all the technologies here can, of course, also be used in the daily life for cars, for houses, for heating systems, cooling systems and so on."

Imagine the significant positive impact that would have on the environment. I mentioned that to my husband as we were watching the program and he laughed. "Imagine the oil and gas companies giving up their choke hold on energy," he said.

Of course, that got my dander up. It is past time for those companies to cease their quest for the last dollar they can squeeze out of our dying earth and look ahead to preserving something for future generations.

Bob Simon ended the piece by saying,  "Bertrand knows it's unlikely a solar plane will fly commercially in his lifetime, but feels he has done something more than invent something new. He has combined technology with poetry and proven what our ancestors knew thousands of years ago -- that the ultimate power is the sun."

What do you think? Is it possible to have total dependence on solar power?

 DON'T forget to come back on Wednesday to meet Nancy Madore.

Sunday, December 02, 2012

Mixing Genres - Nancy Madore

My guest this coming Wednesday will be Nancy Madore, who is promoting her newest book, The Hidden Ones, which is book one of the Legacy of the Watchers series. The book is a real mix of genres: historical, paranormal, sci-fi, with a bit of romance, and I will admit I was a bit put off by the mix. I don't like mixing a lot in books I read or on my dinner plate. My vegetables stay a discreet distance from my meat like my meat. (smile) However, I did read the sample pages of Nancy's book on Amazon and was taken in by the writing, which is very well done and engaging.

Since I have not read the entire book, I didn't think I should write a full review. That felt too much like cheating to me, but I did check the reviews on Amazon. Here is what one  reviewer, Mark, had to say:

"This book has turned out to be a rare find in the current literary world. It not only has an interesting and smoothly-paced plot, it is well-written as well. Ms. Madore doesn't just write a book, she tells a story. You are quickly sucked in, and disappointed only when you run out of pages to read. 

Another selling point for this book is that, while it does have its romantic moments, it has plenty of action to hold a guy's interest. The book seems to have something for everyone. From casual reader to Biblical scholar, this book will be an enjoyable experience for everyone who reads it. I highly recommend it."

That almost makes me wish I'd taken Ms. Madore up on her offer of a copy for review, but I still might pass as I have so many other books that have been sent for review consideration. If you are a fan of mixing genres, as apparently a lot of folks are, then I do recommend this book for the quality of the writing.

I hope you will come back on Wednesday and meet Nancy. She has some interesting comments about the growing interest in this type of mixing and stirring genres. Nancy achieved enormous critical acclaim writing ‘female friendly’ erotica in her Enchanted series. Now, following her life-long interest in history and mythology, she is making her debut into the historical and science fiction genres with her new series, Legacy of the Watchers, beginning with The Hidden Ones.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Geocaching: The Best Hobby You’ve Never Heard Of

Please welcome Morgan C. Talbot as she shares an interesting hobby that is central to her new book First to Find. My apologies to Morgan and her publisher for messing up the November book tour schedule. Those of you who read my blog regularly know what a crazy month this has been for me. Because I do like to support other authors, I will leave this up until Sunday.

Geocaching is a versatile hobby, engaged in by millions around the world, that has been variously referred to as “using million-dollar satellites to hunt for Tupperware in the woods” and “a high-tech treasure hunt.”’s succinct description describes it thus: “Geocaching is a real-world, outdoor treasure hunting game using GPS-enabled devices. Participants navigate to a specific set of GPS coordinates and then attempt to find the geocache (container) hidden at that location.” Yes, geocaching is all of this, and more. 

Geocaching allows you to search for hidden containers at your own pace, whether they be easy and close to your urban parking spot or sneakily camouflaged at the end of a three-hour hike through the wilderness. It takes you to places in your own hometown that you never knew existed, like that tiny little park with the duck pond, or that great view from the top of the historic bell tower. Geocaching makes you pause to appreciate interesting locations you would otherwise never have sought out—a collection of bronze gongs behind a church, or a quiet cul-de-sac with a secret path into the back end of an enormous riverside park.

Geocaching teaches you to become more aware of the subtleties in your surroundings: that railing by the library could have a small magnetic container under it, and why is there a hole in that old brick wall beside the bakery, anyway? Geocaching adds another layer to your business trip, your family vacation, your trip to the mall. You can hunt for geocaches for as long or as short as you want, no matter where you are.

Geocaching encourages you to prepare for the unexpected—do you have a First Aid kit in your car or geocaching backpack? How about extra logbook paper, in case the log you find is wet? A flashlight, headlamp, or light app in case it gets dark, or if you need to peer into a mysterious crevice to search for an elusive container? What if the geocache doesn’t have a pen inside? Better bring a couple of your own—they run out of ink at the darnedest times. Some helpful geocachers even carry small replacement containers and pens, in case they find a geocache that’s been damaged or burgled. And if you or your children like to trade small items, best to have a handful of fun little things from the dollar store for swapping.

Geocaching gets you outside and moving around. Its tech aspect is a great way to get the indoor geeks outside and enjoying themselves—my father loves to control the GPS unit when my parents go out geocaching. This hobby helps you appreciate a well-maintained trail or road, readable street signs, and the adventure of heading out into the unknown…even if it’s just around the corner or down the block. Your GPS unit will always tell you where you are and where you’re trying to go, but getting there is so much easier when the signs are clear and the way is smooth! (Of course, there are those who appreciate the bumpy road not taken…)

Geocaching lets you venture forth alone or with as many people as you can find. Many eyes searching for a sneaky hide makes the discovery more fun, but some days, you just want to hear the sound of your own thoughts, or the rushing water, or the birds, and that’s okay. Geocaching lets you take your dog, your children, your camera, and your phone, and often these companions enhance your experience. People ask fewer curious questions when you’re chasing your dog or taking nature photographs, or if you’re crouching down next to your daughter’s pink stroller while your hand is fumbling around below the bush behind you, hoping to feel the nice plastic container you’re searching for. Geocachers will sometimes use a lifeline and call other cachers for a hint if they’re having difficulties in the field. And posting pictures of your adventures on the online geocache pages can make your experience come to life for others, too!

Geocaching is the most flexible hobby many people have never heard of. Grab a GPS unit or download a geocaching app and see what’s hiding in your neighborhood. Who knows what you will discover when you step outside your door?
"Death is the hardest puzzle to solve. Margarita Williams escaped death at a young age, but its shadow has followed her all her life. Now, amidst the chaos of a new Australian roommate and mysterious, menacing neighbors, Death has set the puzzlemaker a puzzle of her own. Someone is killing her fellow geocachers, one by one." First to Find


Morgan is an outdoorsy girl with a deep and abiding love for the natural sciences. Her degrees involve English and jujitsu. She enjoys hiking, camping, and wandering in the woods looking for the trail to the car, but there isn't enough chocolate on the planet to bribe her into rock climbing.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

A Different Kind of Wednesday Guest

The other day I received this press release from  Jane Kleeb, who writes for BOLD Nebraska
Because I believe strongly that this pipeline is bad for America on many levels, I decided to post the release.

ICYMI: Ex-worker says TransCanada ignored problems with Wyoming pipeline 

TransCanada continues to use the talking point that the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline will be the "safest pipeline ever," but their credibility and safety record continue to come into question. In just its first year of operation, Keystone leaked fourteen times, a hundred times more leaks that TransCanada predicted. Federal pipeline safety officials have shut down the pipeline because of mechanical issues, and a former employee reported that systematic shortcuts were taken in the construction of Keystone I which compromised its safety.

And now, a worker on TransCanada's Bison natural gas pipeline is reporting similar issues.

From the Associated Press:

A former TransCanada engineer claims the company knew that its Bison natural gas pipeline in Wyoming had faults before it ruptured last year but ignored the problems in the rush to bring it online.

He told the newspaper that he saw problems with pipe alignment welding, excavation and backfilling. He said rocks were left in the pipeline's ditch and they could have caused dents in the line.

A 60-foot section of the pipeline exploded on July 20, 2011, 20 miles northwest of Gillette, shaking the ground and spewing a brown cloud into the sky. The gas didn't ignite. The pipeline, which runs across southeastern Montana into North Dakota, began operating in January 2011.

The U.S. Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration is still investigating the rupture. The company will also soon be audited by Canadian regulators.


For more facts about the pipeline, here is a list of resources compiled by BOLD Nebraska:

Dr. Stansbury, from UNL, report on worst case spills: 

Oil Not Destined for United States report:

UNL Dept. Ag Economics paper on the pipeline:
Bold Nebraska resource page:

Sierra Club profile of individuals affected by pipeline:

Joint report on pipeline safety:

TransCanada uses faulty steel report: