Monday, December 30, 2013

Monday Morning Musings - New Year's Eve a Day Early

Since I won't be posting tomorrow, I thought I would look ahead to New Year's Eve. First, I want to share a glass of bubbly with everyone. Cheers!

As the year winds down it is traditional for folks to look back and consider the important things that shaped our lives the past 12 months. So it is no surprise that the news is filled with The Year in Review, highlighting the good, the bad and the ugly from 2013. Of all the links I found on the Internet, one I liked the most was Dave Barry's 2013 Year in Review. It starts with:
It was the Year of the Zombies. Not in the sense of most of humanity dying from a horrible plague and then reanimating as mindless flesh-eating ghouls. No, it was much worse than that.
As bad as a zombie apocalypse would be, at least it wouldn’t involve any further discussions of Anthony Weiner.
It is always so much more fun to review the news with a sharp edge of humor, and Barry does not disappoint. He covers the highlights for every month, so there is plenty to laugh at.

If you want a serious look at the top stories from 2013, complete with pictures, Yahoo News has The Year's Top News Stories 2013. There are some things we do not want to make fun of, like the tragedy in Boston, the school shooting in Colorado, the death of Nelson Mandela, and more.

If you are a hockey fan, you can find the Top 10 Players of 2013 at Puck I didn't even know there was such a site. Silly me.

For the the Top 10 Everything of 2013,, has lists in arts, social media, sports, pop culture, business and more. I was so hoping one of my books had made it to the top ten on the books list, but alas, that didn't happen. I was delighted to see the number one book was Life After Life by Kate Atkinson. I have not read the book yet, but I have heard great things about it.

What are your plans for New Year's Eve and New Year's Day? I am making chili and black-eyed peas and have invited neighbors over to watch some bowl games on Wednesday. Here in Texas eating black-eyed peas is supposed to bring good luck. Since I am hoping for a better year ahead, I'm going for the luck. What are some traditions you have for good luck in the New Year?

Photo Courtesy of The Food Network - Recipe courtesy of the Neelys.
If you are celebrating tomorrow night, have fun and be safe.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Book Review - Caprice by Laura Parker

Caprice: The Masquerade Series - Book One
Laura Parker
File Size: 2259 KB
Print Length: 342 pages
Publisher: Diversion Books (November 26, 2013)
Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
Language: English

This delightful historical romance set in the Regency Era was first published in paperback, as were the other four books in the series, and now they are all available as e-books. This first one is free, and the others are reasonably priced:
  1. Book 1: Caprice: The Masqueraders Series - Book One
  2. Book 2: Mischief: The Masqueraders Series - Book Two
  3. Book 3: Beguiled: The Masqueraders Series - Book Three
  4. Book 4: Emerald and Sapphire: The Masqueraders Series - Book Four
  5. Book 5: The Gamble: The Masqueraders Series - Book Five
Even though I am not a huge fan of romance novels, I read all the books in the series when they first came out in paper, and I enjoyed them all. I have always appreciated Parker's books more than some other romances because the heroines are always such strong women and strong characters. They are not bested by the hero; they often stand toe-to-toe with him and don't back down from any challenge. Parker also shies away from any hint of sadism, rape, or other distasteful sexual practices, and her love scenes are truly love scenes, not just sex scenes.

In Caprice, the hero is Hadrian Blackburne, who has just returned to London from the war. His death at Waterloo had been reported months prior, so his return is a surprise to family and the London social set. What they don't know is that he had been in Persia, acting as a spy for the Crown, where he had become a master of intrigue. Once confronted with family problems, primarily his brother's gambling debts, and the expectations of his standing as Lord, he wishes he were back in the thick of things of more substance and importance.

The heroine, Clarissa Willoughby, has no experience in intrigue, but when her Aunt Heloise suggests a ruse, Clarrisa is hard pressed to say no. Even though her year of mourning following the death of her husband is not over, Clarissa does want to help her aunt get back into the Regency Social scene. They create a "character" for Clarissa to play, so she becomes Princess Sultana el Djemal.

The charade begins as great fun, but soon creates layers of complications. Hadrian is enchanted with this woman some refer to as The Mysterious Veil, and he makes it his mission to find out who she is. Once he begins his pursuit of “Sultana,” Clarissa realizes how much she cares for him and must now figure out how to end the masquerade. Will he care for her as Clarissa, or is his passion just for the exotic princess?

In addition to this series, Parker has written a number of other historical and contemporary romance novels, and they are all part of the year-end sale at Kobo. All books there are 50% off until midnight December 31. To take advantage of the sale you need to use the code 50DEC at checkout. Here is the link to Laura's Books at Kobo.  If you buy from Kobo, you can get versions for all electronic reading devices.

There are a lot of other books on sale on the Kobo site in all genres, so this is a good time to load up those devices. I am pleased to have several of my titles available there, too: One Small Victory and Play it Again, Sam,  and the short stories: Making it Home, SAHM, I Am, The Visitor, and The Last Dollar. With the discount the short stories are under a dollar, and the two novels are well below $5

Friday, December 27, 2013

Friday's Odds and Ends - Pretty Presents and More

One of my publishers, Untreed Reads,  just let me know that all the books at the online bookstore, Kobo, will be 50% off through December 31st, so readers can load books into their new electronic reading devices at a huge savings. The code can be used over and over through the end of this month. How cool is that. I may have to go check out some books for myself. Some of my favorite authors have some books there, so this is a great time to pick up some new ones.

If you are interested, here is the code to use - 50DEC - and here is the link to the Kobo site. I am pleased to have several of my titles available at Kobo: One Small Victory and Play it Again, Sam,  and the short stories: Making it Home, SAHM, I Am, The Visitor, and The Last Dollar. With the discount the short stories are under a dollar, and the two novels are well below $5.

Christmas was bittersweet this year, considering the big empty spot in our family, but we did manage to do some of the normal Miller traditions: Christmas Eve lasagna and White Elephant gift exchange, then dinner on Christmas Day followed by a movie.
In addition to the fun gift exchange, we do exchange other gifts, and my main gift from my kids was this beautiful stained glass artwork. I actually got it back in October, as my youngest daughter, Dany, saw it at an art fair where I was offering my books. She went around visiting all the other artists there - yes, writers are artists - and she saw this piece. She contacted her siblings to see if they wanted to chip in, and the vote was unanimous. 

This was taken with the picture leaning against the window where it will eventually hang.
This picture was taken with the glass leaning against the drawers in my desk. I thought the changes to the colors was interesting.
I also got another lovely piece of glass art from my oldest grandchildren. Owls and horses adorn many of my walls and shelves. Not literally, of course, but you know what I mean. (smile) I've heard that owls are a sign of good luck in many Asian cultures. I think horses are just a source of joy. 
This is a serving tray that I may just leave on my table for a while so I can enjoy it.
Finally, let's end on a fun note with a joke from Pearls Before Swine: 

Pig is sitting behind a desk and he says, "Hey, Rat. What you doing here?"

Rat replies, "Goat said you got an office job. I told him I had to see it for myself."

Pig says, "It's true. I go to meetings, read reports, write memos."

Rat says, "What? You don't know how to do any of that stuff."

Pig says, "No but I can learn."

Rat says. "Learn? These corporate types will eat you alive. What are you going to do the first time some boss comes in here to chew your head off about some stupid memo?"

"I've got a Time-to-Duck hole."

Rat says, "You're gonna duck?"

The Guard Duck pops up out of a hole on the desk, aiming a missile and says, "We're gonna tell him to write his own blankety-blank memo."

Pig says, "Everyone needs a Time-to-Duck hole," and from inside the hole the Guard Duck says, "Can someone bring me a doughnut?"

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Merry Christmas

For all of my Christian friends and readers, I want to wish you all a Merry and Blessed Day today. For those celebrating other winter solstice holidays, I wish you peace and blessings, too. I don't think one holiday takes away from any other, as this is a time of goodness for all.

When trying to decide what to post for today, as well as following up on Monday's post with holiday music, I found another song to share. This is the trailer for the movie to be released in February, "Son Of God". When I watched  the video and listened to Jewel sing one of my favorite Christmas Carols, I had goosebumps.

For all of you, I hope this is a day filled with joy, good times, good food, and good company. I'm off to celebrate with some of my kids.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Christmas and Holiday Music

A link to this fun blog post about the grammar and spelling in Christmas songs was posted on one of the group lists I belong to. I thought it was cute, and I especially liked the grammar lesson on the proper use of "lay." When I am writing I write all around that particular action so I don't inadvertently have someone "lay down on the couch." In the case of the carol, "Away in a Manger" the question is where Jesus puts his head.

"Away in a Manger" is one of my favorite carols, and I found several versions on YouTube, including this one by children.

I think this is at heart a child's song, and I love to hear sweet young voices singing it, but adults do it justice, too. I found this lovely rendition by Casting Crowns.

Another special carol is "Silent Night", and when I first started playing it on guitar, someone told me the song was originally written for guitar. I decided the check that fact out and here is what I found on Wikipedia:
The song was first performed on Christmas Eve 1818 at St Nicholas parish church in Oberndorf, a village on the Salzach river. The young priest, Father Joseph Mohr, had come to Oberndorf the year before. He had already written thelyrics of the song "Stille Nacht" in 1816 at Mariapfarr. The melody was composed by Franz Xaver Gruber, schoolmaster and organist in the nearby village of Arnsdorf. Before Christmas Eve, Mohr brought the words to Gruber and asked him to compose a melody and guitar accompaniment for the church service. Both performed the carol during the mass on the night of December 24.
So I guess what I had been told was partially true.

Another interesting fact about "Silent Night" is that  it was sung simultaneously in French, English and German by troops during the Christmas truce of 1914 during WWI, as it was one carol that soldiers on both sides of the front line knew.

Here is a wonderful rendition of "Silent Night" sung in German by a young boy's choir.

I've always enjoyed the holiday music, and every year I could not wait for the radio stations to start airing the music. The carols all have such beautiful messages, as do some of the other songs. In addition to the traditional carols, I like "White Christmas", especially the Bing Crosby version, and "Silver Bells". Oh, and I can't forget "Frosty the Snowman" and "The Little Drummer Boy."  When my kids were young, those were the two most requested songs when I got out my guitar, and it still gives me great pleasure to play and sing and remember those eager smiles. It never seemed to matter to them if I hit every note just right.

Actually, there are so many holiday songs and carols I like, it would be impossible to list them all here. What are some of your favorites? Do they bring back happy memories? Do you have holiday music filling your home, your car?

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Countdown to Christmas

It's obvious to the most casual observer that there is no book review today. Since I decided at the very last minute, I mean just the other day, that I would not pretend that Christmas is not happening just because I didn't want to face my first Christmas without my husband, I have been busy trying to get a few presents purchased and wrapped and maybe think about baking one thing. So that has kept me busy, and my friend, Carl Brookins, has not sent one of his reviews, which has always been my salvation on the Sundays I don't do my own.

So instead of a review, I thought I'd share a bit of holiday fun I wrote that first appeared here in December 2010. Enjoy.

Tis the day before Christmas and all is not done,
Things on the “to do” list number a million and one.
There are cookies to cut while the oven is hot,
And a gift for Aunt Mildred. Egad! I forgot.

There are presents to measure, to balance and wrap,
If the stacks are not even the kids will know in a snap.
The turkey is snug in the freezer so cold,
Will anyone notice if I put dinner on hold?

Tis the day to test stamina, courage, and brawn,
The survivors are heroes at next morning’s dawn.
Just when I thought I was running out of time
A stranger appeared with a smile so sublime.

He was dressed all in silver from his head to his toe.
And I blinked my eyes twice to see if he would go.
He patted my shoulder and gave me a latte,
“Your’re almost there,” he said. “The rest will be easy.

“Don’t worry, don’t fret, don’t get in a frazzle,
Together we’ll do it with narry a hassle.
I’ll hang the tinsel and check all the lights,
You bathe the children and kiss them goodnight.”

The kids were all tucked in their beds nice and warm.
(A threat to their presents always works like a charm.)
I’d finally decided, of course. It’s a dream.
That’s a mirage on my sofa eating toffee ice cream.

I was amazed at the picture that greeted my eyes,
My living room looked like Currier and Ives.
The stockings were stuffed, and so was the bird,
What magic he used was beyond any word.

He smacked his lips, gave a sly little wink,
“It’s time I was off to help other, I think.”
He twirled around once, then three time and more,
And in a twinkling was headed out my front door.

There’s no doubt about it; it was love at first sight,
For that stranger who saved me on Christmas Eve night.
No matter his name, he was really such a dear.
I wonder, will he return again in another year?

Merry Christmas to all, and to all, Good Cheer!

Friday, December 20, 2013

Fridays Odds and Ends - Christmas Lights and More

In browsing around the Internet this morning, I came across a post by Rosemary Harris on the Femmes Fatales blog that was all about her excitement as a child to be driven around to see the holiday lights after the family bought a Christmas tree. That's something we did with our kids when they were young, but we never saw displays as elaborate as the ones she shared on the blog. I can't even guess the number of days it would take to create something like this.

Courtesy of Rosemary Harris
When I read her post, not only did it bring back sweet memories, it reminded me of a TV show I watched recently - "The Great Christmas Light Fight." Like so many of those competition-type reality shows, this one spent too much time with back story on each family and focus on the celebrity host, but the light displays were awesome. They are so different from a few strands of lights around windows and the roof and the one pine tree in the yard that was common when I was a child, but in some ways I think they are too much. What do you think?

On a totally different note, I also came across a wonderful post by Jan O'Hara on Writer Unboxed. The article was all about the struggles to get unstuck when writing by the seat of your pants and the methods ? tried until she came upon a lake at a retreat  and just sat there telling the story to the lake. She says that worked for her because she was relaxed, not trying to force her way through the stuck place, and she concluded with this suggestion:
So if you’re a stalled pantster who has tried all the text-based methods of brainstorming, and who likes to figure things out for yourself, do this: Find a calming setting that’s dislocated from your usual writing haunts. Leave your materials behind. Give “verbal” a try.
Who knows? On your next acknowledgments page, perhaps you’ll be giving credit to a stream or a mountain.
One of the neat things about visiting blogs is getting to meet fun, interesting people, and Jan is one of those for sure. I love her blog, Tatitude, and hope you can hop over there and meet her. She is another funny lady.

Today I have a post up at The Blood Red Pencil blog with some editing comments - all about those little mistakes we sometimes make while writing and overlook in the editing because we are focused on the story. It is one reason I LOVE working with another professional when I'm ready to publish a book, whether I'm doing an indie release or going with a traditional publisher. Editing makes a good book so much better.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Urban Fantasy - Guest Post by Margo Collins

Please help me welcome Margo Collins as today's Wednesday's Guest. She is here to tell us about her top five favorite urban fantasy series. Grab a scone fresh out of the oven and sit back and enjoy. Then let us know which book(s) snagged your interest.
Picture courtesy of Foodtastic Mom Cooking Blog
One of the things that I love best about paranormal fiction is its crossover potential. It’s not uncommon to find paranormal novels that have elements of mystery, romance, fantasy, or even science fiction. But because of this tendency, it’s easy to find a single novel filed under a variety of categories, and the catchall category for these kinds of novels is “urban fantasy,” a term that is even now being renegotiated (as I note in my review ofThe Urban Fantasy Anthology published by Tachyon Press. Terminology quibbles aside, though, the following books are the first in some of my favorite urban fantasy series.

Guilty Pleasures(Anita Blake, Book 1) by Laurell K. Hamilton 
This was probably the first book I ever heard called a “urban fantasy”—though the term Hamilton used for it was “paranormal mystery.” In the early novels of this series, Anita Blake, is based more on the gritty noir detective than the romance heroine. Though the series shifts toward the erotic later, the early novels are still among my favorite paranormal mysteries/urban fantasies.

Stray (Shifters, Book 1) by Rachel Vincent 
Stray is definitely one of the urban fantasy series that draws heavily from the romance-novel tradition. But I especially like the way Vincent deals with gender issues in the series—Faythe, the narrator, belongs to a race of big-cat shapeshifters that produces very few females, so she is a strong woman in a deeply misogynistic world.

Kitty and the Midnight Hour  (Kitty Norville, Book 1) by Carrie Vaughn  
The initial premise, a werewolf named Kitty, made me laugh out loud, and the first novel hooked me. I’m impressed by Vaughn’s continuing ability to keep the series going, despite moving beyond many of the romance-novel tropes that plague much urban fantasy. 

 Nightlife (Cal Leandros, Book 1) by Rob Thurman  
What I love most about Rob Thurman’s books is that she is so very adept at lulling the reader into complacency, into accepting the narrator’s version of events, and then twisting the story in ways that are shocking and delightful. Nightlife does this beautifully, but so does Trick of the Light, the first Trickster novel. That Thurman manages to do it again and again is part of what keeps me coming back to her work!

Skinwalker (Jane Yellowrock, Book 1) by Faith Hunter 
I’m a fan of shapeshifter novels in general, and of this series in particular. I like Hunter’s twist on the shapeshifter standards—in these novels, Jane shares her body and her consciousness with a big cat she calls Beast. Watching the two of them negotiating their shared life is almost as much fun as watching them work through whatever mysteries and problems come their way because of Jane’s job as bodyguard to vampires.

Margo's urban fantasy, Legally Undead, is due out in 2014 from World Weaver Press. I really enjoyed her paranormal mystery, Waking Up Dead, so I may have to try the new book. 

Waking Up Dead -available in  Paperback and Kindle from Amazon - Paperback from these booksellers:

Margo Bond Collins lives in Texas with her husband, their daughter, several spoiled cats, and a ridiculous turtle. She teaches college-level English courses online, though writing fiction is her first love. She enjoys reading urban fantasy and paranormal fiction of any genre and spends most of her free time daydreaming about vampires, ghosts, zombies, werewolves, and other monsters. Waking Up Dead is her first published novel. Her second novel, Legally Undead, is an urban fantasy forthcoming in 2014 from World Weaver Press.

Connect with Margo
Email:    * Website:  * Twitter:   @MargoBondCollins * Google+  * Goodreads Author Page 

Book Trailer for Waking Up Dead:

Monday, December 16, 2013

Monday Morning Musings

This will be a short post as I still have company today. My daughter, Dany, came to go to the art fair with me yesterday. We had a grand time visiting with artists we'd met back in October and meeting new friends. Two ladies who are just beginning to write stories stopped by my table and it was so energizing to share in their excitement of becoming writers. Sometimes we get so caught up in the business of books and publishing, we forget about that excitement. It was so nice to be reminded.

I do hope you will come back Wednesday, when Margo Collins will be my guest. I reviewed her book, Waking Up Dead a couple of weeks ago here on It's Not All Gravy, and she is going to introduce us to some of her favorite urban fantasy series.  I was surprised at how much I enjoyed her book, even though I am not fond of paranormal, so maybe I might venture out of my reading comfort zone.

In closing, I want to share a quote that a friend sent to me today:  Since this is the season of PEACE on EARTH  and love one another...I found this Pablo Casals quote quite appropriate......

Say to your children, "Do you know what you are? You are a marvel. You are unique. In all the world, there never has been a child like you. And when you grow up, can you then harm another who is like you, a marvel? You must cherish one another. You must work...we must ALL make this world worthy of its children."

Amen to that. 

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Book Review - Born Wild by Joe Camp

Joe Camp
File Size: 19086 KB
Print Length: 274 pages
Publisher: 14 Hands Press (December 2, 2013)
Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
Language: English

Joe Camp has done it again with the sequel to the National Best Seller The Soul of a Horse – LifeLessons from the Herd. When I read that first book about how to establish a trusting relationship with a horse, I went out to the pasture with my horse and Joined Up - a technique of horsemanship that lets the horse choose you and starts a training process that does not involve fear.

This latest book is another story about trust; about how you can build stronger relationships with all animals, including people, by first forming that trusting bond. It means focusing on the needs and wants of the other person, or in the case of animal training, the animal. Advice that Joe repeats for emphasis is, "Relationship first continues to be the key. And the relationship is not set until the horse makes the choice, of her own free will, to say I trust you to be my leader. That's when everything changes for the better."

In Born Wild, Camp chronicles the experiences he and his wife, Kathleen, have had after adopting two wild mustang mares who were pregnant and raising the foals. As he states in the book, "This was uncharted territory for us," and he shares the good and the bad and the ugly with his engaging narrative style. His passionate love of animals resonates throughout each chapter, and, like he did in The Soul of a Horse, he includes chapters that are presented from the POV of a herd of wild horses that is trying to survive on land that is supposed to belong to the wild mustangs and burros. Those chapters are fiction, of course, but it gives insight into the way horses are meant to live and how they can thrive in an environment closer to what is natural for them.

"The bottom line is that whenever there is a question about lifestyle, diet, feet, behavior, or just about anything else related to the horse, the answer can be found in the answer to this question. What would the horse be doing for himself if he were living in the wild of the American West? Because every horse on the planet was born wild. And genetically speaking still is. By no means does any of this imply a life without humans. The horse loves to be in a relationship. Prefers it. Even with us humans, if the relationship is approached with understanding, respect, and compassion."

Born Wild  takes the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to task for its treatment of the wild mustangs and burros. The Wild Free-Roaming Horse and Burro Act of 1971 allocated land for the preservation and protection of these wild species, and the BLM is charged with enforcing that law. However, instead of upholding the law, the agency moves the horses to smaller areas so the land can be leased to ranchers for forage for their cattle and sheep. The fees the ranchers pay are much less than if they were to lease the land from private land owners, It costs the taxpayers $65 million a year to support the current approach to management, and if the wild horses were simply allowed to live free on the land that was allocated to them, the cost would be considerably less.

Not only is the poor use of taxpayer money of significant concern, the roundups are handled in such a way that the horses suffer and many of the very young horses die. It is also terribly frightening for an animal that is prey, such as a horse, to be chased by helicopters. Horse advocates such as Ginger Kathrens have documented the cruelty to the horses and have video that shows the helicopters hovering just feet above the running horses. She has made several documentary films that are well worth watching.

The way the animals are treated is a situation that Joe and Kathleen Camp find deplorable, and therefore they spend part of their time and effort working with others to try to spread the word that the current BLM program should be changed. That is part of the reason they have written this book, to shed a light on the problems and encourage people to become part of the solution, but the book is so much more than that. It is a testament to the love between a man and his horse that has been part of legend and lore for so many years. Joe Camp, and others like him who take a natural respectful approach to horsemanship, are just raising the bar.

You don't have to own a horse or even love a horse to be able to appreciate the messages in this book because the bottom line of trust is so important in any relationship. But if you do own a horse, reading this book could forever change the way you think about and interact with your four-legged friend.
Here is a link to my review of The Soul of a Horse. This other link is to an interview with Joe Camp, published shortly after the review.

And just for fun, here is a picture of my horse, Banjo.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Friday's Odds and Ends

I read in the paper about a new reality TV series - Best Funeral Ever. Really? Did nobody stop and think about how folks who just buried a loved one might feel about such a show? I hate to admit that the show is filmed in Dallas, and I am so glad I live 100 miles away.

The whole concept is so disgusting to me, I am not going to even provide a link for more info. Just trust me, this is for real.

To get the bad taste of that announcement out of my mouth, I thought I would share some fun that a
friend sent me in an e-mail. I found the source of the jokes, so I want to thank Alicia Moss, who first compiled these funny airline announcements and posted them on Will and Guy's Funny Clean Jokes.

1. On a Southwest flight (SW has no assigned seating, you just sit where you want) passengers were apparently having a hard time choosing, when a flight attendant announced, "People, people we're not picking out furniture here, find a seat and get in it!"

2. "There may be 50 ways to leave your lover, but there are only 4 ways out of this airplane."

3. "Thank you for flying Delta Business Express. We hope you enjoyed giving us the business as much as we enjoyed taking you for a ride."

4. As the plane landed and was coming to a stop at Ronald Reagan, a lone voice came over the loudspeaker: "Whoa, big fella. WHOA!"

5. After a particularly rough landing during thunderstorms in Memphis, a flight attendant on a Northwest flight announced, "Please take care when opening the overhead compartments because, after a landing like that, sure as hell everything has shifted."

6 From a Southwest Airlines employee: "Welcome aboard Southwest Flight 245 to Tampa To operate your seat belt, insert the metal tab into the buckle, and pull tight. It works just like every other seat belt; and, if you don't know how to operate one, you probably shouldn't be out in public unsupervised."

7. "In the event of a sudden loss of cabin pressure, masks will descend from the ceiling. Stop screaming, grab the mask, and pull it over your face. If you have a small child traveling with you, secure your mask before assisting with theirs. If you are traveling with more than one small child, pick your favorite."

8. "Weather at our destination is 50 degrees with some broken clouds, but we'll try to have them fixed before we arrive. Thank you, and remember, nobody loves you, or your money, more than Southwest Airlines."

9 "Your seat cushions can be used for flotation; and, in the event of an emergency water landing, please paddle to shore and take them with our compliments."

10 "As you exit the plane, make sure to gather all of your belongings. Anything left behind will be distributed evenly among the flight at tendants. Please do not leave children or spouses."

11. Heard on Southwest Airlines just after a very hard landing in Salt Lake City the flight attendant came on the intercom and said, "That was quite a bump, and I know what y'all are thinking . I'm here to tell you it wasn't the airline's fault, it wasn't the pilot's fault, it wasn't the flight attendant's fault, it was the asphalt."

Before I go, I want to share this lovely piece of music played on the most unusual instrument. The same friend who e-mailed me the jokes sent the link to the music. You've got to love a friend like that. Enjoy....

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

The Perfect Christmas Gift

My friend, Slim Randles is back as today's Wednesday's Guest, sharing what some of his friends are dreaming about as the perfect holiday gift. Enjoy....

There is a secret selfish longing we all share this time of year. It is traditional to give gifts at Christmas, of course, but there’s always the chance that those who adore us for our sterling qualities won’t give us what we really want or unquestioningly deserve. Therefore … we are allowed to have Christmas present dreams.

Just take Doc. He knows he’ll be getting neckties from the grand-kids and socks and underwear from Mrs. Doc. His daughters? Well, they’re the wild cards. They work hard each year to get Doc something different and special. But for Doc, when he sits quietly and dreams, there’s just that nine-foot Sage fly rod. Oh yes. With that, he’ll be able to feel the fish breathe down in Lewis Creek.

Photo Courtesy of Front Range Anglers
Anita Campbell knows Dud will give her clothes that look really good to him but are either the wrong size or the wrong color, or they are a style she wouldn’t wear to the grand opening of a septic tank. But she always wears them for one day, anyway, and it’s a day when Dud is home and she knows she doesn’t have to go anywhere.

Her secret Christmas dream has a lot to do with warm, sandy beaches, a tall, fruity adult beverage with an umbrella in it, and surfing lessons. She’s willing to compromise, of course, because of the expense. It doesn’t have to have an umbrella.

Photo Courtesy of Breathing Space Blog
Steve, like many cowboys, has been gratifying his secret Christmas dreams in the well-worn pages of catalogs. His compadres in the bunkhouse will shower him with Snoose, of course, as that is his drug of choice, but for himself, there’s that pair of Tony Lama boots. Oh yes, the ones with the filigree-looking tops. He knows he’ll just naturally ride Ol’ Snort better if he’s wearing them.

Photo Courtesy of The Rusty Zipper Vintage Clothes
You know, every bride has this registry thingie she uses so Aunt Mims won’t get her a butter dish that doesn’t match the sugar bowl, so why doesn’t someone come up with a Christmas dream registry? You’re welcome. No charge.
 If you like what Slim shares here, you would enjoy his books. Check out his author page on Amazon if you have a moment. His books are a delight, and they make perfect gifts for folks on your Christmas list.

Slim has sponsors for all of his columns, and this month it is Beltone Hearing Aids,  so we do have to do this little ad: Give the gift of hearing this Christmas. Start your loved one off with a free hearing test at BELTONE. Call 1-866-867-8700.

Grandma thought he said “you’re the crest,” ‘til she took her free hearing test.

Monday, December 09, 2013

Monday Morning Musings

It was a brisk 30 degrees when I went for my walk this morning. Probably a warm spell for you folks north of the Mason Dixon Line, but for us in Texas that is cold, cold, cold. However not as cold as it was this weekend when temps dipped into the teens and we there were ice storms in West Texas that slammed into the Dallas/Fort Worth area.
Courtesy of The Dallas Morning News
We were lucky here, 100 miles east, and only got a bit of ice that did not stay long and did not hamper driving.What it did was hamper our weekend performance of our holiday show, Calliope's Christmas. We had to cancel the Friday performance, but did manage to get Saturday and Sunday performances, and we had terrific audiences for both shows.

I was intrigued by today’s Google Doodle so I clicked on the link to go to the Time Magazine feed to see who that lady was sitting in front of what looked like the computers that did the data processing in the early years of data processing. It took a whole room full of large machines to do what many small processors are able to do now, and I remember going to where my husband worked and visiting the computer room. It was larger than my house and had rows of tall, metal machines that hummed and crackled with activity.

Today the doodle celebrates what would have been the 107th birthday of computer pioneer Grace Hopper (1906-1992) just in time for the “Hour of Code” kicking off Computer Science Education Week. Hopper created COBOL (Common Business-Oriented Language,) the program that allows computers to communicate through language as well as numbers. That was the language my husband used as a programmer, and it has given way to far more sophisticated languages.

My book, One Small Victory, will be featured Tuesday at The Fussy Librarian, a new website that offers personalized ebook recommendations. Subscribers choose from 40 genres and indicate preferences about content and then the computers work their magic, sending recommendations for new reads. I joined a few months ago, and I really like getting information about new books. The whole idea is pretty cool, and you might want to check it out -

Has the weather been kind to you this weekend?  Had you heard of Grace Hopper before? I will be honest and say I had not, but what an impressive resume she had. For those of you who have done computer programming you might be interested in how the term "bug" came about. She coined it. Check out the Time article for the details.

If you have a moment and want a bit of a humorous break to your day, join me at The Blood Red Pencil where I wrote about the joys of trying to work with little kids under foot and in your office.

Saturday, December 07, 2013

I'm Late, I'm Late...

Yesterday was rather a blur for me, literally as well as figuratively. I have been having issues with vertigo, and took some meds that didn't set well with me. Had an allergic reaction that kept me up most of Thursday night, so needless to say, I was wiped out most of yesterday.

To top off my incredibly horrid day, there was an ice storm in Texas that hit the Dallas area hard. It was supposed to come here, so we cancelled the opening night of our holiday show, which was probably good for me since there was no way I could stand up and do music. The weather today is a tad better. No precipitation, but it is very cold. Our story takes place in Southern California, so we are just going to have to pretend that we have warm weather for our surfer dudes.

This morning I discovered that Nelson Mandella died, and the news saddened me. What a remarkable man he was, even though our government, and others, considered him a terrorist.

It is true that Mandela’s group, the ANC, which was leading the black struggle against the apartheid regime, did engage in violence, but it was a fight against oppression. Mandela was imprisoned in 1964 after being arrested and charged with sabotage, specifically a campaign against the country's power grid, and plotting to overthrow the government. No one was injured in the sabotage campaign. He was released in 1990, at age 71. He was elected president of South Africa in 1994, in the country’s first full and free elections, and served until 1999.

For more thoughts on the legacy of this man, visit 

I also want to take note of the historic significance of this date - December 7th. Rick Moran, a blog editor at The American Thinker, shares his thoughts about this day on The PJ Tatler

It was my honor to stand on the memorial for the USS Arizona in Pearl Harbor some years ago, and I will never forget the emotions I felt as I thought about what happened there and the men and women who lost their lives.

Wednesday, December 04, 2013

A Surprise Guest

Today's Wednesday's Guest is Leslie Richards, the central character in my mystery, Boxes For Beds. She popped into my office the other day and we had a nice little chat.

Leslie: Hey there, am I interrupting?

Me: Well, I am a bit busy. What do you want?

Leslie: Mandy is off to school and I'm a bit lonely. Plus I have a writing problem that I thought you could help with.

Me: Ah, still writing then?

Leslie: Trying to. But it was so hard to get my focus back after all that has happened.

Me: Maybe you should focus on promoting instead. Do a blog book tour.

Leslie: A what?

Me: Visiting blogs on the Internet. Telling people your story. Like you are doing here.

Leslie: People? What people? It's just the two of us, sitting here and having coffee. 

Me: Actually, it's not just us. I'm sharing our conversation on my blog. I'll share some virtual coffee, too. I always do on Wednesdays.

Leslie: You lost me. I have no idea what you are talking about. Blog? Virtual coffee? Or that other thing. What was it? The Internet?

Me: Sorry. I'm so used to all that, I forgot you wouldn't be. So much has changed since 1961. So let's see. How do I explain it?

Leslie: Maybe you shouldn't try. I don't even know what that thing is you are typing on. Why aren't you using your typewriter? It looks a lot like mine.

Me: This is a computer. What I type goes into its memory, then I can send pages to this thing. It's called a printer. I haven't used that old Royal since I got my first computer in 1975. 

Leslie: You mean you don't have to type each page of a manuscript and try to get it perfect? No more correction fluid? No more smudged pages?

Me: Yup.

Leslie: Wow.

Me: So, other than the effect on your writing, how are you coping with the aftermath of being arrested and almost going to prison?

Leslie: I'm managing. My friend Pauline has stuck with me through it all, and we talk almost every day. I've been helping her with her lending library.

Me: That's good. What about Mandy? How's she doing?

Leslie: Better than me, I think. You know how resilient kids can be sometimes. Once I was cleared and back home, she was relieved. And having Ronald there helps.

Me: Ah, so he stayed around?

Leslie: Yeah. He really has been a steadying influence. For Mandy and for me.

Me: Are you and Ronald making plans for a wedding?

Leslie: Not yet. Our relationship has had so many ups and downs, I want to make sure that we are both ready for something permanent. It's just so hard to trust my emotions right now.

Me: Waiting is probably a wise decision. But do let me know when things change. Maybe I could write about it. There are readers who are curious.

Leslie: How do you know?

Me: They've asked in comments they leave at Amazon.

Leslie: Amazon? Do you mean they are leaving messages at the river in South America?

Me: No, silly. It's on the internet. A place where books are sold.

Leslie: Okay. This is too confusing. Maybe I should just go back to my own time period, but before I go, do you have any advice about my writing problem?

Me: That's a hard one, but I think if you just try every day, eventually you will tap back into your creative well. And do something everyday to make you feel good about yourself. That positive energy helps. So does a nice chocolate mocha.

Leslie: A what?

Me: Never mind. Go. Get out of here so we can both get back to work.

Monday, December 02, 2013

Monday Morning Musings - Cyber Monday Sales

There are a lot of terrific sales going on for Cyber Monday, and this is my preferred way to shop rather than deal with the crowds at the stores over the weekend. I found a website, Cyber Monday 2013 Deals, that has 29 pages of links to special deals. I like being able to find things in one spot, rather than having to check all the online retail sites. 

A special sale on e-books has begun with 50% off all titles from Untreed Reads, This includes books published directly by Untreed Reads, as well as books they distribute for publishers like Uncial Press and Books We Love. The sale runs until just before midnight tonight, and most short stories only $0.25 each. There are hourly special deals, as well, so check the main page of the store to find out about those. I'm pleased to have my holiday short story, The Last Dollar, as part of that sale, along with my other short stories, so this is a good time to load up an e-reader for yourself or as a gift.

The Holiday show I have been working on at the local art center will open this Friday, so I am going to be busy all week with the last minute things that always seem to pop up. This is a special show that has some music in addition to a short original play, Calliope's Christmas. The story concept was developed by a local lady, and she gave me free rein to adapt the story to a stage play. It has some wonderful characters, primarily a cat and a hare who learn the meaning of Christmas, thanks to Max, the dog.

It has been great fun working with the kids to prepare the show, and I have had great assistance from so many people who have helped with costumes and set decorations. Many hands working together certainly does make any job easier and more fun. But I must say it was quite a challenge to make a costume so the boy playing the hare would look like a real animal.

Are you taking advantage of the Cyber Monday sales? Did you do Black Friday? Are there favorite holiday shows that you like to see at a theatre or on Television?

Sunday, December 01, 2013

Book Review - Waking up Dead by Margo Collins

Waking up Dead
Margo Collins
File Size: 4126 KB
Print Length: 214 pages
Simultaneous Device Usage: Unlimited
Publisher: Solstice Shadows Publishing (November 11, 2013)
Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.

Product description from Amazon: "When Callie Taylor died, she expected to go to heaven—or maybe hell. Instead, when she was murdered in Dallas by some jerk with a knife and a bad-mommy complex, she went to Alabama. Now she’s seen another murder, and she can’t just let it go; she must find a way to make sure the police figure out who really killed Molly McClatchy before an innocent man goes to prison, all the while trying to determine how and why she woke up dead in Alabama."

It was that description that prompted me to get this book. I don't normally read paranormal. In fact, I avoid it most of the time, but there was something intriguing about this premise, and when I read the first few pages and met Callie, I was hooked. Callie is funny, smart, and her sarcasm has just the right edge. This whole "being a ghost" thing is so new to her, she has trouble adjusting to the limitations, as well as the advantages, and it was fun to go along with her as she learned about this new life, er, non-life.

In her efforts to find the killer, Callie is aided by a few people who can see her; Ashara and her grandmother Maw-Maw, and Stephen. These are wonderful supporting characters and add their own brand of humor and sarcasm to the story. Maw-Maw is the kind of grandmother everybody would like to have, loving and doting, and Ashara could be anybody's girlfriend, even Stephen's.

There is a hint at the end of the story that this could be the first book in a series, and perhaps these characters will return to solve another mystery. If so, I'd come along for another ride with them.

Friday, November 29, 2013

No Black Friday Shopping for Me

I wrote the following in 2010, and sadly it is still relevant. If you are one of the avid Black Friday shoppers, I apologize if this upsets you. It is meant as social commentary, not a personal slam.

I remember a time when shopping the day after Thanksgiving was fun. A lot of people were doing the same thing, but there was no pushing, no shouting, no mad rush to get the latest must-have toy, and nobody grabbing it out of your hands once you had it.

For the most part, everyone was relaxed and in a Holiday mood. Smiles were exchanged and clerks and cashiers wished everyone a Happy Holiday. It always made me think of the wonderful Christmas song, "Silver Bells", and I could imagine we'd entered some magical place where people passed "meeting smile after smile. And on every street corner you'll hear..."

It was also a time when stores opened at a normal time, and people came and went, then more people came and went. Stores did not open at some ungodly hour in the AM, so shoppers had to set alarms to get there on time. Folks also didn't camp out in parking lots and on sidewalks for days to be the first ones in. And they   didn't stampede into a store and injure other people in their desperation need to make sure they got the best deals offered.

For most of this past week, we were bombarded with reminders of this all important retail day. The media made a big deal out of Black Friday, airing what I'm sure they thought were cute human-interest stories about what people were doing to prepare. Plus there were all the ads from department stores, and it seemed like they were competing to see who could open the earliest. Some were even open on Thanksgiving and just stayed open all night and into today.

Watching this all unfold, I realized that Thanksgiving is getting lost. Think of all the retail personnel who were not able to truly celebrate the day because they had to get ready for The Big Day. And what about all the people who opted out of getting together with family at all because they preferred to be the first in line at Best Buy. One local man was interviewed on television and said, "Sorry, Grandma, we're not coming for Thanksgiving."

He laughed. The news anchors laughed. But I wanted to call up Grandma and tell her how sorry I was that her family preferred the X-Box over her.

What about you? Do you think society has taken the holidays way too far into the retail arena?

Thursday, November 28, 2013

A Thanksgiving Reflection

For all of my American readers, I send out a heartfelt Happy Thanksgiving. I hope your day is blessed by the love of family, good food, and all the things that make lasting memories. And also wishing all my Jewish readers a Happy and Blessed Hanukkah.

The following is a piece I wrote in 2009 and I thought I would share it again.

There's an old Thanksgiving song that starts out, "Over the river and through the woods to Grandmother's house we go..."

When I was a child, my Dad would break into that song as we crossed the Pennsylvania border into West Virginia on our annual pilgrimage to celebrate the Holiday with his family. "The horse knows the way to carry the sleigh, through the white and drifting snow..."

The closer we got to his childhood home, the heavier his foot rested on the gas pedal as our Chevy station wagon climbed the hills on twisting roads and flew on the downside. His rich baritone voice belted the song, and in my imagination we were on that sleigh behind dapple grays in their rhythmic trot. I could hear the clump of their hooves and feel the blowing snow bite my cheeks as we were carried along.

It was magic, pure and simple. A magic that continued for the few days that we stayed in that 'otherworld.'

Today as those memories float pleasantly through my mind, I can almost smell the wonderful aromas of sage dressing, pumpkin pie, and mulled cider that permeated my grandmother's house. And I can hear the bustle of activity accompanied by short bursts of conversation among the women in the kitchen. The front bedroom is where the men gathered and brought out instruments. Their music became another soundtrack.

My brothers, sisters, and I would join other cousins in the back bedroom in between our numerous trips outside. Our biggest challenge was to see who could roll down the hill and retain the most amount of snow, turning ourselves into living snowpeople. The second biggest challenge was to see who would have the honor of receiving the drumsticks. They were dolled out on a 'merit' system based loosely on which of us waited the most patiently for the great announcement, "Dinner's Ready."

With memories like that, it was hard for me to face the formidable task of creating Thanksgiving Days that would live in glory for my children.

We were living in Texas, so mountains and snow were out of the question, and my singing never could quite match my father's. I didn't possess even a tenth of the culinary skills of my grandmother and my aunts, so the meal would probably be lacking. And we were more than a thousand miles away from cousins to help distract my children from their impatience.

But despite those limits, we managed to muddle through. I did manage a passable dinner and my husband actually raved about the German dressing. The pies were a major hit, all ten of them, and everyone was willing to eat the broccoli for the promise of a second piece of pie. And after cheering the Dallas Cowboys to another victory, most years, we would all tumble outside for a family game of touch-football.

In sifting through all these random memories I realize that the memory itself is not what is important. What is, is the fact that we have memories and they don't happen by accident. No matter what we do to 'mark' these important occasions, it is vital that we do 'mark' them. Even if our process doesn't live up to a Martha Stewart image or our own fond remembrances of childhood.

So here's to our memories, no matter how we create them.