Friday, August 31, 2012

Friday's Odds and Ends

Initially my plan for today's blog was to write about Robin Roberts and all the attention she is getting regarding her illness and treatment. My husband commented yesterday that he found all that media attention a bit disheartening since there are so many other everyday people who are fighting terrible diseases, and they do not get any attention. He wondered what makes her a hero and not those others.

However, after reading the news about Robin's mother's death. I will leave her alone. My heart goes out to her as I know how close she and her mother were. I'm sure that Robin was hoping to have her mother's support during her treatment.

If you like YA novels, you might want to head over to The Blood Red Pencil and meet Michelle Gagnon, who has written a new thriller. She says that while the book is for teens, she thinks adults will enjoy it as well.

Cleaning up my desk the other day I ran across an article by Jacquielynn Floyd in The Dallas Morning News that I had been saving. I tend to stack papers on one corner of my desk with the thought that I might comment on a story. This one is still relevant because it is about the huge salaries that DISD administrators are getting, including the $185,000 to a young chief of communications. I'd do the PR work for a mere $100,000, but I digress.

The point of Jacquielynn's column was to express a hope that the administrators actually do some good for the school district to earn those exorbitant salaries.

Isn't it a shame that the bulk of education money goes to the top?

A recent Non Sequitur cartoon made me laugh out loud. Danae and her father are standing near the edge of a cliff where a group of men carrying American flags are walking off the edge. Dad says, "That whole thing about lemmings is just a myth. Political parties on the other hand..." Check the link for today's strip. Another good one.

Today's writing tip from the comics comes from One Big Happy

Ruthie and Joe and James are trying to write a story. Ruthie throws up her hands and declares, "There's no story to this story, people. What can you say about a character named Ricky Roadkill?"

With great delight, James says, "You could tell how he got squished."

Ruthie says, "Hmmm... Yeah..."

Then Joe says, "But forget about a sequel."

For the next three days my suspense novel, One Small Victory will be free for Kindle. This will be the last time that book will be free, but I will occasionally have other work free. With so many other reading devices out there now, I just don't see the wisdom in keeping the novel limited to Amazon. Grab your free copy while you can, and if you like it, please do let me know by leaving a short review. You would be amazed how those reviews help an author.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Having a Bit of Fun at a Yard Sale

Before we get into the fun part of today's post, I just want to mention that my short story, The Visitor, is free today then tomorrow, One Small Victory goes free for five days. This will be the last time One Small Victory will be free, but I will occasionally put a short story free again for Kindle. With so many other reading devices out there now, I just don't see the wisdom in keeping the novel limited to Amazon.

If you do download the stories and are so inclined, I would love it if you could leave a short review on Amazon. It is amazing how those reviews can help an author.

And now please welcome my frequent Wednesday's Guest, Slim Randles, with a bit of country humor. 

The hassled, red-faced man cruising the neighborhood Saturday morning in the pickup truck is good ol’ Bert, of course. It’s a Saturday in summer, which means only one thing in our part of the country – yard sales. That’s why the charming lady riding next to him, his wife, Maizie, was wearing a big grin.

“There’s one Bert,” she said. “On the right. Pull over and park.”

G645CMissionLamp.jpg (99397 bytes)
Not exactly Maizie's, but Close
It took Maizie almost 20 minutes to work her way up the driveway. There were three boxes of paperback books to go through first, then a shelf full of various knobs.

After getting two paperback books that she hadn’t read in several years, there was a little stack of doilies to go through.

“We don’t need doilies,” Bert said.

“Hush!” said Maizie. “People will think you aren’t friendly.”

Then she spotted the lamp.

It was only five bucks, and it was a golden brown like a big fat vase and had a nice amber shade on it.

“Oh Bert,” Maizie said. “It’s a lot like the one we used to have. Remember that one? It used to sit on the end table closest to the door to your den. I really miss that lamp. Let’s get this one, Bert. It’ll remind us of the one we used to have, OK?”

“It is kinda nice,” Bert said.

Maizie bought it and Bert loaded it in the pickup, along with the new ironing board, game cartridge for the grandkids, plant pots for the geraniums, dishes for Maizie’s dish collection, a serving spoon holder from Niagara Falls, and a five-gallon milk can to put magazines on.

When they got home and were unloading, Bert noticed Maizie’s initials on the bottom of the new table lamp. Didn’t the Johnson’s buy this from them in their yard sale about 10 years ago?

Oh well, nothing shines like a new lamp, and Bert might be tired of yard saling, but he is still gentleman enough not to spoil it for Maizie.
Brought to you by the new book Home Country ,at 

Monday, August 27, 2012

Have You Ever Forgotten to Blog?

It's Monday morning and I was so busy trying to get QR Codes for all my books and finalize a flyer to take to an upcoming book festival, I almost forgot to do a blog. Have you ever done that? Get so wrapped up in a task you forget something important. Not that blogging is all that important in the overall scheme of world events, but if you say you are going to blog on certain days, it really does mean you probably should.

On the topic of my distraction this morning, did you know you can get QR Codes from Tiny URL? Do you know what at QR Code is?

According to Wikipedia: QR Code (abbreviated from Quick Response Code) is the trademark for a type of matrix barcode (or two-dimensional code) first designed for the automotive industry. More recently, the system has become popular outside the industry due to its fast readability and large storage capacity compared to standard UPC barcodes. The code consists of black modules (square dots) arranged in a square pattern on a white background. The information encoded can be made up of four standardized kinds ("modes") of data (numeric, alphanumeric, byte/binary, Kanji), or through supported extensions, virtually any kind of data.

For those of us not that conversant in computerese, a QR Code is a square with funny black symbols on a white background. Scanning devices can "read" these codes and take a person to a product site. Here is a QR Code that I made for one of my books, Play it Again, Sam:
I think the cover is much more attractive.

I have heard from other authors that it is a good idea to have a flyer or bookmarks or some kind of handout that has the QR Codes for you books. That way when you are at an event you can encourage people to take a flyer. Then if they are interested in buying one of the books later, they have a quick connection to a sale page by scanning the Code with a Smart phone.

There are also apps that you can get that allow you to process sales on your own Smart phone. That would necessitate one has a Smart phone. I do not. I do not even have a stupid phone. So I will be reduced to having to actually take real money from folks who want to buy my books at the upcoming festival.

The East Texas Bookfest will be September 8th in Tyler, TX from 10 to 4. I will be there with many other Texas authors, and it will be a fun day.

And now since the morning here is almost gone, I will have to forgo my enthralling blog about Minute Rice and move on.

Hope everyone has a wonderful, productive, and fun week.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Book Review - The Spaniel Family's Thanksgiving by Sharon Ellsberry

The Spaniel Family's Thanksgiving
By Sharon Ellsberry
Illustrated by Amy Fox
ISBN 978-0-9790777-2-2
You may have noticed that I love children's books. With no young kids or grandkids to read to in recent years, I'd forgotten how much I loved them, until I started meeting some authors who write children's books. One of those authors is Sharon Ellsberry who writes the Spaniel Family series.

The series started with The Spaniel Family Goes to the State Fair, and this latest is the fourth book that features Spaniels named Maggie, Joe, and Daisy. Maggie, a Springer Spaniel, is the oldest of the trio and takes her role very seriously, trying to keep the others out of trouble. Joe loves to sing, and each book includes an original song. Daisy is Joe's sister and perhaps the instigator of all the trouble, er, adventures the dogs encounter.

In this latest book,  Maggie, Joe, and Daisy invite a variety of animal friends to help them celebrate the season and find reasons to be thankful. One of the subtle messages in this book is inclusiveness. The animals that come to share the meal include a cat, a bird, rabbits, a skunk, and an iguana, all creatures who normally feed on each other. Instead, they sit at a table and eat the food that the dogs have gathered from the pet store and the farmer's market and the park, where they got nuts and tree bark.

Ellsberry has created each of her stories around what she calls a "Character Development Value," and The Spaniel Family's Thanksgiving highlights the fact that "every day is a thankful day when you can share a meal."

Parents can use those values to start a conversation with their child about the message that each book puts forth, or the story can just be read for the fun of finding out what the Spaniel Family is up to. Ellsberry knows dog behavior and captures that so well in her prose.

I love the primitive style of the illustrations that are done with pastels. They seem to invite a child, or an adult, to grab a crayon and draw their own version of Maggie, Joe, or Daisy.

Sharon is a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, the Christian Small Publishers Association, and participates in several writers critique groups. Her Pen Pal book was honored at the North Texas Book Festival, in the spring of 2008 as a finalist for the Children’s Book Award. In 2010, her Dog House Mystery book was suggested for the master reading list for the Texas Bluebonnet Award. Her State Fair book is now in its third printing. She enjoys presenting her books with her creative storytelling and skits. Sharon has done numerous programs for schools, libraries, bookstores, and organizations and has entertained thousands of children in her travels.
For more about the series and the author and illustrator visit the website for the spaniels.
FTC Disclaimer:  Unlike Todd Ruthorford who is paid thousands of dollars for doing reviews. I get paid nothing. Well, okay. I get the book. But that's all. Although, after reading the article in the New York Times about Ruthorford and his business, I may quit writing reviews for nothing and start a whole new business. But wait. I could never do that. I still have a scrap of professional integrity left that won't allow me to review a book unless I have read it, liked it, and find it worthy of my promoting it.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Friday's Odds and Ends

Today, I'm over at The Blood Red Pencil where the topic is the differences between the way men and women talk. Hop on over if you have a moment.

A high-rent area of Dallas, Highland Park, is banning the use of artificial grass. "Plastic grass is not in keeping with the quality of design we want to have in our town," says a city council member.

Sure, let's stymie a home-owner's attempt to save some water. It's not like Texas has not been in a drought for three years.

Where's Tweetie?  Police in Florida are still looking for two people they say stole more than 500 canaries from the home of an 87-year-old Florida man back in May.  The birds, valued at $30 each, were then sold to at least three pet shops.

That gives new meaning to the word Tweet.

Speaking of new words, did you know that F-bomb is now included in a mainstream dictionary?  The term "F-bomb" surfaced in newspapers more than 20 years ago but just this past Tuesday was included for the first time in the mainstream Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary, along with sexting, flexitarian, obesogenic, energy drink and life coach. For more on how words get added to the dictionary, as well as how the f-bomb qualified, here is the full story.

You've got to love this one. Representative Ralph Hall of Rockwall TX - the oldest member of congress at age 89, is going skydiving next May. "Sometimes you have to do crazy things," he says.

Way to go, Ralph.

Not so smart were the three men in Las Vegas who tried to ride a mattress down a flood channel in Henderson after heavy rains on Wednesday. A police helicopter caught up with them and ordered the riders out of the dangerous, fast-moving water.

What were they thinking? Oh, right. Probably not thinking was the problem.

Then there  was the man in Montana who was charged by a cow. The construction worker was helping police corral a runaway cow when the animal charged at him "like a bull at a rodeo," tossing him into the air before continuing its rampage through the streets of Montana's largest city. Story and pictures HERE

Just for fun. This came from the comic strip, One Big Happy. Ruthie walks into the kitchen to announce, "Boys are mean and stinky."

To which her mother responds, "Now Ruthie that's a generalization. Not all boys are mean and stinky. In fact, some are just the opposite."

Ruthie makes a new announcement,  "Boys are stinky and mean."

And now for a word from our sponsor. My short story, SAHM, I Am is free for Kindle readers today and tomorrow. If you missed it the last time it was free, now is your chance to get it. It is a humorous look at what happens when a computer meets an indestructible force. If you do get the story and enjoy it, I'd love for you to leave a short review on Amazon.

I just saw that my publisher has put my short story collection, The Wisdom of Ages, free today for Kindle. One of my fans said she liked this book the best of all of them. 

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Living in Hawaii

Please help me welcome Doug Corleone to It's Not All Gravy. Doug is the author of the Kevin Corvelli crime novels published by St. Martin's Minotaur.  A former New York City criminal defense attorney, Doug now resides in the Hawaiian Islands, where he is currently at work on his next novel. My daughter was stationed in Hawaii while she was in the army and as her brother said, "What a terrible tour of duty." So I am not sure I feel too terribly sorry for Doug.

It’s tough to complain about living in Hawaii.  And I don’t do it often. But as an American writer, I do often feel isolated, as though I’m still on the outside looking in. When a friend launches a new book at the Mysterious Bookshop in New York, I wonder if I made the right decision seven years ago when I moved away from the Big Apple. When the Southern California chapter of the Mystery Writers of America emails me an invitation to a gathering at a bar in LA, I immediately feel a pang of regret before striking the delete button. I’ve asked my literary agent and fellow writers, even my editor, about whether moving back to the mainland would be best for my career. But in this digital day and age, when the world is so small and everything moves at the speed of light, the answer I receive is consistently no. And they’re right.

Authors are touring less. Fewer physical books in existence means fewer books are being signed. Yet readers are closer to their favorite authors than ever. On Twitter, you can follow the writers you most admire throughout their day, learn what they eat, how much they drink, and where they shop, all in 140 characters or less.  On Facebook, you can often see photos of authors reading their books at packed events, or even shooting hoops in the driveway with their kids.  Many authors today maintain blogs. It’s almost as though you can sneak into their bedroom and thumb through a few pages of their journals or diaries each night after they fall asleep.

Still, living in Hawaii, I often miss sitting down to dinner or having a drink with my colleagues. I keep in touch with many authors via email, but of course, it’s not the same. That’s why I so look forward to writing conventions and conferences and other mainland events. My favorite event over the past three years has been Bouchercon, the annual world mystery convention. In San Francisco and St. Louis, I was afforded the opportunity to discuss the craft of writing with fellow scribblers, not just on author panels but at awards ceremonies, publishing parties, and simply sitting around the hotel bar.

As I write this I’m counting down the days until October 3rd when I’ll leave Honolulu for Cleveland for Bouchercon  2012.  For four days I’ll be surrounded by readers and crime writers from all over the globe and I’ll relish every second of it. 

In the meantime, I’ll just have to pass the time here in Hawaii. It’ll be tough. But somehow, someway, I know I’ll make it through. 
In Doug's latest book, Last Lawyer Standing, hotshot defense attorney Kevin Corvelli is juggling clients as high profile as Hawaii's governor and as gritty as the career criminal who once saved Kevin's life.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Celebrating Our Wedding Anniversary

Today is our 47th wedding anniversary, so I will just make a quick blog entry, then spend the rest of the day with my husband.

Sometimes I am amazed that we have made it this long. In terms of relationships, there isn’t a lot of longevity in my family. My parents were divorced when I was about three and my father remarried when I was five.  I was raised primarily by my mother, but did spend a lot of time with my father and his new family, which is where I got to experience the joy of living in a house with 15 other people and one bathroom.

My mother’s parents split when she was quite young, and I recently found out my grandmother was somewhat of a harlot. She liked her beer and her men. That side of the family is rift with divorces and multiple marriages, and it would take a whole book just to talk about all of that. So I won’t.

When Carl and I married, it was with the vow and the hope that we would manage to stay together for the long haul. Often we would joke that we couldn’t get a divorce because I needed him to tune my guitar and he needed me to chase the snakes out of our woodpile.

I still have the guitar, so I guess we're stuck with each other for a few more years.

To Us

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Book Review- Last Lawyer Standing by Douglas Corleone

Last Lawyer Standing
Douglas Corleone
Hardcover: 352 pages
Publisher: Minotaur Books; First Edition edition (August 21, 2012)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0312552289
ISBN-13: 978-0312552282

Kevin Corvelli, the protagonist in Douglas Corleone's legal thriller series is anything but the ordinary lawyer. While he fights for truth and justice with almost a Don Quiote type of idealism, he is a bit more like James Bond in his ability to get himself out of tight situations with amazing kutzba and strength.

And he does tend to get into a lot of tight situations.

In Last Lawyer Standing, the latest book in the series set to release this month, Corvelli is up against some crooked cops, some Vietnamese gangsters, and some American gangsters while defending a career criminal who once saved his life. His other client is the governor of Hawaii, who may or may not be connected to some of these criminal elements.

Investigation of the cases puts Corvelli back in touch with a lovely lady named Audra that he knew back in high school. Now she is all grown up and on the island as the new Assistant US Attorney (AUSA). While this association might be an overused ploy in too many novels, what is nice about this relationship is that it doesn't follow a predictable course. It builds carefully throughout the story and experiences some surprising detours before any physical intimacy occurs.

The mystery contains some surprising detours as well, and has some terrific courtroom scenes.

Every series hero has his or her sidekick, or at least some of them do, and Corvelli has Flan, the investigator for the law firm. He also has a new, tougher sidekick, Scott, who was sent to Hawaii by Corvelli's mentor in New York, Milt Cashman. Scott is an ex-con who would like to break from his family that is connected in New York, but there are serious complications. There is a hit out on the family, including Scott, so he needs a safe place to lay low. Hawaii seems like a safe place.

Scott proves to be a valuable asset when Corvelli is facing some particularly dangerous people, so the lawyer figures the man is earning his keep.

For the most part, this is a terrific story with great pacing and plot, although I would have liked a little more character development for everyone. The reader gets to learn what Corvelli thinks about the law and criminals, and prosecutors, but not a lot of other information is given. The same is true for the other characters. They are well-defined within the confines of their jobs, but other information that would make them more three-dimensional is sketchy. I would also have liked to have more of a sense of setting. Hawaii is such a beautiful place; a bit of atmosphere would have helped the reader. (I think I had the same caveat when I reviewed an earlier book, Night on Fire.)

Still, this is a good book with some chilling scenes, wonderful dialogue, and enough intrigue to keep one guessing until the end.

Please come back on Wednesday when Doug will be the guest here  sharing about how tough it is to write in Hawaii. What a shame. (smile)

FTC Disclaimer: The author sent me this book for possible review, knowing that I would only review it if I liked it, and I did. Authors contact me frequently for reviews and some of them are writers I've met online and gotten to know them a bit. I really have a hard time reviewing a book just because an author seems so nice, but perhaps the book really isn't up to a professional standard. Maybe that's just me, but if I recommend something I don't want those who read my reviews to come back and say, "What were you thinking, Maryann?" I don't get a dime for doing this. I do it because I love to read and I love to let others know about a good book.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Battleing West Nile and Staying Green

Due to an outbreak of West Nile virus in Dallas County that has had nearly 200 cases of human infection and 10 deaths, the city is conducting the first aerial spraying of a pesticide in the city since 1966. There are people who are all for the spraying, just kill all the mosquetos with little concern for what else will be killed.

Mariana Green, who writes regularly for The Dallas Morning News (DMN) about gardening and backyard chickens, expressed considerable concern about the spraying and outlined in Thursday's column what she is doing to try to protect her chickens and the beneficial insects such as bees. At a time when the bee population has been on a drastic decrease, do we really want to kill thousands more?

Photo courtesy of

 The biggest concern for Mariana, beyond the safety of her chickens is the fact that the healthy ecosystem she has created over the past 28 years will become toxic overnight. In addition to covering her chicken coop with tarps, she is covering as many shrubs and plants as she can, hoping to keep the toxins from the spray off. She is also trying to figure out a way to protect two feral cats that she has been feeding. The main pesticide in the spray is permethrin, which is toxic to cats, so the wild cats have to find shelter. Domestic cats should be kept indoors until the spraying is over.

People like Howard Garrett, an organic gardener and also a DMN columnist, asked  the Dallas City Council not to approve the spraying, encouraging alternative ways for people to be safe.
  • Avoid going out at dawn and dusk when mosquitoes are most active
  • Wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants
  • Rubbing exposed skin with a fabric softener sheet repels mosquitoes
  • Eliminate standing water on your property
That last suggestion is hard to comply with for folks who are using rain barrels for irrigation to save water.  I have several around my property and have only had to water with a hose a few times this summer, so I do not want to dump all those containers of rain water. A solution is to use Mosquito Dunks. They can be used in all types of standing water sites where mosquito larvae grow before becoming adults and have no poisonous chemicals and are harmless to other living things.

Proponents of the spraying put forth the argument that human life is more important than insect or animal life, and that is true. However, they forget that killing the bees is endangering human life. If we lose bees, we lose the natural pollinators that help produce the food that feeds the humans. A scientific study, written about in the New York Times by Carl Zimmer, indicates that the use of pesticides has paid a major role in the decline of the bee population over the last twenty years since the new pesticide,  neonicotinoids, was introduced.

It's time to stop these sort-sighted responses to issues and problems and think about the long-term effects. It is also time for people to think about ways of taking care of themselves instead of insisting that some government entity jump up to protect them.

Now for some fun from my favorite comic strip, Pickles. Earl is on a recliner and his grandson, Nelson comes up asking, "Can you take me to the park, Grandpa?"

Earl: "I'm kind of busy right now."

Nelson: "What are you doing?"

Earl: "Contemplating the meaning of life."

Nelson: "Have you tried Googling it?"

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Who Needs the Olympics?

My guest today is humorist Slim Randles with another offering from the guys down at the Mule Barn. Enjoy...

Whenever Delbert McLain – our chamber of commerce here – gets a new idea, he generally shows up at the Mule Barn for coffee. He likes to try the ideas out on bonafide members of the world dilemma think tank before springing them on the world.

“What I’m thinking, guys, is this,” he said, “We need to bring the Olympic Games here to the valley!”

You could almost hear his balloon of happiness pop when we reminded him of a few drawbacks to his plan: it would cost millions to build all the necessary facilities, there is no place to put all the athletes, and the Olympic parade could march from one end of town to the other in 10 minutes. He sulked in his coffee and then ordered a sweet roll to take the sting out of reality.

But just about the time Herb mentioned there not being a place for all the athletes to spend the night, Bernie was walking behind us, headed back to his table. According to Bernie, he won the European war almost single-handedly, with just a little help from General Patton here and there.

“Olympic athletes?” Bernie said, looking down on us from on high, “You sure don’t want them here. Ain’t safe.”

Okay, so someone had to ask him why not.

“Aliens,” he said. “Ain’t human. This is just their way of taking over our way of life. You know, get themselves on TV and first thing you know …”

“Taking over …?”

“Sure,” Bernie said. “You see those pole vaulters? Those high jumpers? It’s from training where there isn’t as much gravity. And where would that be? Aha …you see now?

“And those little girls who go flippity flippity? You think real girls can do that? Not on your tintype, boys! Just ask Doc here. Doc, can a human being do flippities like that?”

“Well …”

“See what I mean. You don’t want to invite them to come here and flippity flippity, guys. First thing you know, our kids will be wanting to do that and they can’t, of course, and that will give them inferiority complexes and once we’re inferior …”

He looked up toward the ceiling as if he were searching for spacecraft.

There didn’t really appear to be anything to say to logic like that.
Brought to you by the new book  Home Country at 

Monday, August 13, 2012

Monday Morning Musings

Call me old-fashioned, but when did sex become just another form of amusement? I thought it was a way to express love for one another, a way to strengthen intimacy on all levels; not just a vehicle for personal pleasure.

A recent letter to Dear Abbey is what sparked this blog post. In the letter a woman wrote that she needs sex several times a month and her husband is unwilling. "He would rather pleasure himself."

This couple has not had sex for two years, even though she stated that they have a good marriage.

Huh? how can you have a good marriage and have this kind of problem? To satisfy her need, the woman is having an affair, even though she wrote that she would rather have a sex life with her husband.

This type of problem stems from the current attitude that sex is just another toy, and I find that disheartening. Not that we have to go back to the Puritanical philosophy that ruled for so many years, but the modern thinking is pretty scary in some respects. Remember what the world was like before the fall of the Roman Empire? There were few sexual boundaries then, too.

Using newly available technology, a University of Texas seismologist tracking small earthquakes in the Barnett Shale play area of North Texas has found a correlation between geological disturbances and hydraulic fracturing. This was reported in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

I guess it does take a scientist to prove what common sense would tell anyone. If you start exerting extreme pressure inside the earth, whether from explosives or high-pressure injection wells, something has to give.

To end on a lighter note, here is something fun from a Garfield comic strip. In the first panel he is staring at an open laptop computer. In the next panel Jon steps in and asks, "Why not turn the computer on?"

Garfield says, "And ruin a perfectly good day?"
Have you ever felt that way?

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Just For Fun

There is no book review for today, so I thought I would share a link to a terrific site that has book reviews: So many books, so little time    The most current review is of   The Dark Side Of Night (H.O.T. Watch #1)The Dark Side Of Night by Cindy Dees  

The site is owned by a terrific lady, Lainy, and I have enjoyed her reviews a lot.

On the fun side of today's post, I have a few things that caught my eye in yesterday's comics section of the newspaper.

First off is a cartoon from Non Sequitur. Two ladies are sitting in a booth to raise funds for a charity. The sign reads: Help find a cure for egocentricity. A man stands in front of them and says, "Sure, I'd like to help, but what's in it for me?"

This is from Pickles - one of my favorites. Earl and Nelson, his grandson, are sitting on the couch watching TV. Earl says, "I rmember the day I got my first pair of glasses. I could finally watch the radio without having to squint."

Nelson:  "You watched the radio? Don't you mean the TV?"

Earl: "Nope. We didn't have TV. We all sat around each night and stared at the radio. Those were the happiest times of my childhood."

The next panel has Nelson walking away, talking to the dog. "That explains a lot about Grampa."

This last one is from The Argyle Sweater. Three cowboys are sitting around a campfire at night. The man in the middle looks decidedly uncomfortable. The caption reads: "As the distant cry of a lonesome coyote pierced the tense silence, Grady regretted asking if the Tucker boys were on Pinterest."

Friday, August 10, 2012

Celebrating Strong Women

I am really late getting my blog updated today. We had quite a nasty storm blow through last night, and I had several trees that came down, one on the gate of my front pasture. Several trees came down in the back pasture, too, but luckily none of the animals were hurt and none of those trees damaged the fencing. I did have some large branches down, and I had to check the whole fence-line to get it cleared. We only have two acres fenced in the back, so it is not like I had to check a half-mile of fence, but I still felt a kindred connection to the cowgirls who have done this through the centuries. The rest of the morning was spent arranging for someone to come and cut the big tree off the front gate and get me a new one. Gate, not tree.

So my post will be short and sweet today. First I want to congratulate all the women on the U.S. Olympic team. Talk about strong women.  Of the 90 total medals won by the U.S. team, the majority have been won by women. I searched for the exact number, but could not find it. Yesterday I saw this on USA Today: The USA has 34 gold medals, and women account for 23 of them. I thought that was pretty impressive.

I also thought the two women from Saudi Arabia, the first ever female athletes to be allowed to compete in the Olympics, were pretty impressive. The first, sixteen year -old judo athlete Wojdan Shaherkani was the first to compete, only to lose in her first round. The other female athlete, nineteen year-old Sarah Attar, has a dual Saudi and American citizen. She, too did not have an outstanding showing as a runner in the 800-meter race, but that did not keep the crowd from cheering anyway.

(Lucy Nicholson/Courtesy Reuters)

 Both of those woman fought hard to just be allowed to compete for their country, and for that, I consider them the strongest women in the Olympics. 

And now for a little fun. The other day Trish Jackson blogged about how our right and left brains work together - or not. (smile) She has an interesting test on her page, as well as a link to a test you can take to see if you are right or left brain dominant. Interesting test, and my results are below, along with a link to the test if you would like to take it.

Right Brain/ Left Brain Quiz
The higher of these two numbers below indicates which side of your brain has dominance in your life. Realising your right brain/left brain tendancy will help you interact with and to understand others.
Left Brain Dominance: 9(9)
Right Brain Dominance: 14(14)
Right Brain/ Left Brain Quiz

Wednesday, August 08, 2012

What Was Your Childhood Monster?

Today I have a lot of guests on my blog. I am taking part in a fun blog fest, What was Your Childhood Monster?, started by Christine Rains. Christine is an author, and her latest book, a  paranormal romance novella, Fearless was  released yesterday. She came up with the idea of having lots of other folks write about the monsters of their childhood as a fun way to promote her book.  She says on her website that one of her favorite parts of writing the story was creating monsters spawned from children's imaginations. Some of them are silly, but there's no rhyme or reason to a child's fears.

There are 49 authors participating in the blog fest, and the stories are varied. The blog fest started yesterday and will conclude tomorrow. If you have time over the next few days, visit a few of the other blogs to see what monsters frightened some of my author friends. A full list of the blogs is at the conclusion of this post.

My childhood monster always came to me in a dream that recurred frequently over a period of about a year or so when I was about 7 or 8 years old. This was a human monster who chased me from the field on the corner of my street, brandishing an ax. In my dream I would always slip and fall on the gravel driveway leading to the house and would have blood seeping out of the scrapes as I ran into the house.

There I saw my mother at the stove so I called to her, "A man is chasing me with an ax. Don't tell him where I have gone."

Then I would run and hide deep in the closet that ran under the staircase, listening as the man burst into the house. I heard him say, "Where is the girl?"

"Under the stair case."

I would always wake up just as the man pushed clothes aside and found me, which was a good thing. Some experts at interpreting dreams say that if you die in a dream, you actually do die. I wonder if that is true?

Now that I am all grown up - well, maybe - I have forgiven my mother for the betrayal, although I always did wonder why she was so cavalier in giving away my hiding place. In my dream she always just kept stirring the pot on the stove and nodded toward the hall leading to the bedroom and the closet.  I asked her once and she just told me to stop being silly. In some ways I'm glad I didn't listen to her.

So what is the monster from your childhood? We'd love to know so you can share your story in a comment here or any of the other blogs. Have fun!

Monday, August 06, 2012

Taking a Stand

Most of you who follow my blog know that I am opposed to the XL Keystone Pipeline that is to carry tar-sands oil from Canada to the Gulf Coast where it will be refined and then shipped out - most of it to go to foreign sales. Here is a link to a previous blog that outlines some of the environmental issues we could face if there is a break in this pipeline once it it complete.

It looks like we are not going to win our fight to keep the pipeline from coming through Texas, although one woman in North Texas is giving it her best shot. Julia Trigg Crawford, a former corporate headhunter who retired to run the family farm, has filed a suit based on the eminent domain laws in Texas. According to those laws pipelines, like railroads and utilities, can be privately owned but they must provide access to other companies to move their products. They cannot be for the use of a single private company. In her lawsuit, Crawford contends that the Keystone pipeline does not meet those standards. It is for the benefit of TransCanada alone and has not provided for third-party contracts.

"The line in the sand for my family is that we don't believe a foreign company building a pipeline to put money in their pockets can take a Texan's land. If you're going to take it, you're going to have to prove that you can," Crawford said in an interview with Christy Hoppe of the Austin Bureau of The Dallas Morning News.

Crawford is also concerned for the environmental impact of the pipeline, although she has concentrated on the eminent domain issue in her efforts to stop it.  Up to this point, landowners have had no choice but to either take the monetary offer for their land, or have it condemned and taken by eminent domain. That is what has happened to Crawford, as well as many other Texans who did not want this pipeline because of environmental issues.

The material TransCanada plans to send through the pipeline has the consistency of roof tar. It does not flow like regular crude oil. The chemicals used to help keep the tar-sands oil moving are deadly and any leak could destroy an eco system for generations. If it seeps into an aquifer, it would poison the water for up to 100 years.

If there is not a court order to stop them, TransCanada could start laying pipe across Crawford's land any day. They have acquired 100% of the land they need to go from Oklahoma to the Gulf Coast. So why does she keep fighting. "You learn even if you're the last-seeded team going against the national champions, you still suit up, even if you are going to get the snot kicked out of you," she said. "I need to be able to say to myself that I did all that I could."

 When we feel that strongly about an issue, it is important to take a stand. I admire Crawford for her courage and strength.

STOP Tarsands Oil Pipeline organization.

Sunday, August 05, 2012

Book Review - Sorrow Wood by Raymond L. Atkins

Sorrow Wood
Raymond L. Atkins
Medallion Press, Inc
ISBN: 9781934755631
Hardcover $25.95
August 2009

Reva Blackmon is the probate judge in the small town of Sand Valley, Alabama. Her husband, Wendell is a policeman in the same town where his duties largely consist of breaking up dog fights, investigating alien abductions, extinguishing truck fires, and spending endless hours riding the roads of Sand Valley. The book opens with Wendell contemplating a dead dog and trying to decide if he really wants to arrest Deadhand Riley and Otter Price again. Since Reva and Wendell live above the jail, which is located in a rock castle with turrets and a moat thanks to Franklin Roosevelt and the New Deal, Wendell is not too fond of the idea of having Deadhand for a houseguest, so to speak.

Something of much more import quickly takes his attention as Wendell is dispatched to a real crime scene. A burned body has been discovered at a local farm named Sorrow Wood, and it is believed to be that of a self-proclaimed witch who has a reputation for promiscuity. As the investigation progresses a long list of suspects includes Wendell’s deputy, the entire family of the richest man in town, and nearly everyone else who belonged to the coven or otherwise knew the departed.

While the mystery does propel some of the story, this is not a straight mystery and mystery fans should not come to this book with that expectation. This is a story primarily about relationships and some of the difficult things that people face in their lives. The relationship between Reva and Wendell, which she believes transcends time, is paramount. While she believes in God, reincarnation, and Christianity, Wendell believes in Reva. He has no idea if they have loved in past lives, but he knows how much they have loved in this life.

Reva and Wendell are wonderfully drawn characters, as are the others who people this book, so real they could walk off the pages and join the reader for a cup of coffee. The narrative is rich with exquisite detail as illustrated in this passage, “Jacob was suffering from Alzheimer’s disease… and slowly but steadily, fragments of his memory were flaking off and drifting away with the breeze. He was fading into oblivion one recollection at a time, losing the good along with the indifferent and the bad. It was a sluggish, merciless way to go, as bad as Eunice’s Parkinson’s in its own way, and no less final. Eventually he would forget how to eat, how to breathe and how to live.”

As a counterpoint to the very serious parts of the story, Atkins offers up plenty of humor. Reva is a master of the “understatement” and her quips make the reader smile as much as Wendell does. And Wendell has a good twist of mind as well.

Sorrow Wood is now available as an e-book.

Raymond L. Atkins first novel, The Front Porch Prophet, was published by Medallion Press in 2008. His stories have been published in Christmas Stories from Georgia, The Lavender Mountain Anthology, The Blood And Fire Review, and The Old Red Kimono. His columns appear regularly in the Rome News/Tribune and Memphis Downtowner Magazine.

Friday, August 03, 2012

Strong Woman - Gabby Douglas

I could hardly celebrate strong women without featuring Gabby Douglas today. Just in case you have not heard the news, she is the USA Olympic Gymnast from Virginia Beach, VA, and yesterday she made history as the first African American to win a Gold Medal in the women's gymnastics all around. In a report on USA Today online, Douglas was quoted as saying "Someone mentioned that I was the first black American (to win the all-around gold), and I said, 'Oh yeah, I forgot about that!' I feel so honored."

Miami Herald columnist Leonard Pitts would be proud of her for saying that. He has been very vocal about his wish that color did not matter anymore. But that is a topic for another time.

Today, I want to celebrate Gabby for the magnificent performance on all the apparatus in the competition. To watch her fly on the parallel bars and soar on the vault was amazing, but the floor routine was a highlight for me. I wish I had taped it so I could watch it again. She managed to couple athleticism and grace and beauty in a way that took my breath away.

According to reports, balance beam has not been a favorite of hers,  but she had no trouble with it on Thursday. Just look at that height, that perfect form. Wow!

Photo courtesy of UPI

Photo courtesy of Hip Hop Wired

Douglas took the gold with a score of 62.232, which makes her the fourth USA Olympic women's all-around champion in history. Douglas, who is only 16, is also the second U.S. woman to win multiple gold medals at an Olympics in 16 years. U.S. gymnast Shannon Miller achieved that feat in 1996.

Douglas also became the fourth U.S. gymnast to capture the coveted all-around title, following the success of Mary Lou Retton, Carly Patterson and Nastia Liukin. The vivacious young gymnast also became the first American to win the team gold and the all-around gold in the same Olympics.

Wow, amazing amazing accomplishments for the girl who has sacrificed so much for a sport she loves. Kudos to her and to her family for coming so far.
Gabby with her mother, Natalie Hawkins (R) and host "Mom", Missy Parton.

 To read about Gabby's incredible journey from her first taste of gymnastics to now, visit her website  

Wednesday, August 01, 2012

Excerpt From my New Book

I do not have a guest this week for Wednesday's Guest, but I do have a link to my friend, Tracy Farr's blog where there are some cute cartoons. Check them out if you need to take a break for a little fun.

Today, I am over at The Blood Red Pencil, sharing a bit of my experience with our short story collection, The Corner Cafe.  It has been quite a ride.

To entertain you here, I am posting the opening to a new book that I hope to have available at the end of this month as an e-book.  Boxes For Beds is an historical mystery set in Arkansas in 1961. Enjoy....

"Hush little baby, don't you cry ... " The plaintive melody whispered in the otherwise resounding silence.

One small candle flickered hesitantly atop the dust encrusted chest of drawers, the feeble light unable to dispel the gloom born of the murky darkness. The yellow flame wafted in a sudden draft, casting macabre patterns on a precarious stack of old boxes supported by an intricate network of cobwebs. The pale light briefly touched a figure hunched over an open trunk.

The figure loomed more like a shadow than a real person and reached out a hand to lightly trace the features of the tiny bundle nestled within the trunk's musky interior.

"Would you listen to me. Singing to a doll-baby just like you was real."

Wide, unblinking eyes stared back.

"Sometimes I wish ... but no. It's better this way. If you was was real, then I'd have to tell you to hush for sure. The Man don't let me play with no real babies. Says I might hurt 'em. But he don't know. I can be real gentle. Ain't my fault those others broke. You ain't gonna do that are you?"