Sunday, March 31, 2013

Happy Easter - Happy Spring

Just want to wish everyone who celebrates Easter a happy and blessed Holiday. No matter what religion one espouses, spring is always a time of great renewal of our earth as flowers blossom, trees burst forth with new leaves, and there seems to be an air of great anticipation and eagerness about us. So I hope all my friends who read this feel that sense of renewal and excitement in their lives.

May the Easter Bunny bring you lots of Chocolate
 On another note, the A to Z Challenge officially begins tomorrow, and that is no April Fools joke. (smile) I will be participating again this year and hope to be able to get a post done every day. Many will be short and sweet - well, hopefully sweet. I hope you will play along and visit when you can. You can also visit the other participants and read some fun posts this next month.

For more about the challenge and a list of participants visit the official A to Z Challenge blog site.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Blog Award

I'm doing something different this Friday. My friend Nancy Cohen honored me with this lovely blog award recently, and I want to thank her for considering my blog worthy of an award. Nancy is the author of a cozy mystery series that feature a sleuth who is a hairdresser. I have read Shear Murder and enjoyed it a lot.

 The rules for this award are:
  1. Link back to and thank the blogger who nominated you.
  2. Post the badge on your blog.
  3. Answer the questions posed to you.
  4. Nominate five bloggers who shine a little light in your day and notify them.
  5. Ask five questions for your nominees.
Since I always hesitate to impose rules on my blogger friends, I encourage those that I nominate to think in terms of guidelines, not rules. And now to answer some of Nancy's questions.

1. What genre do you read for fun? I read primarily mystery for fun.

2. Do you revise as you go along or wait until your first draft is done? I do some revising as I go along. Often my writing session begins with reading through the last chapter or scene to jump-start the next action in the book, so I will tweak some as I am doing that. Still, I will also end up doing one or two revisions when the whole story is complete.

3. What advice would you give aspiring authors? I would encouring aspiring authors to learn perseverance and develop a thick skin. Those that succeed are those who keep writing, and those who improve their craft are those who are willing to take constructive criticism and editorial input. I would also tell them to read as much as possible in all genres, as we absorb good writing techniques as we read.

4. Do you have beta readers and who are they? For my latest release my beta readers were Dani Greer and Cathy Richmond. Dani is the acqusitions editor for Little Pickle Press, and Cathy is the author of best-selling Christian fiction. Both are writers for whom I have a great deal of respect.

Now I would like to pass the award on to:

Helen Ginger, who has a terrific blog where she shares information on writing and the publishing business, as well as some great book reviews.

LD Masterson, who always has something fun and interesting on her blog. Love her Hump Day

Susan Swiderski, who does fun posts with lots of pictures and clever captions. It's always fun to visit her blog.

Marilyn Meredith, who is an amazing woman and my idol. She is not afraid to admit her age, 87, nor how many books she has written and published, 35. 

Joan Reeves, who is always promoting fellow authors, as well as offering all kinds of helpful posts from editing to setting up an office.

And my questions for my friends - should you choose to answer:

1. How long do you spend putting together a blog?

2. What other writing do you do?

3. Do you blog because you like to, or because you were told you have to by a publisher?

4. What is a story your family likes to tell about you?

5. When you visit another blog, do you promote it on social media?

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Thanking a Veteran

I am honored to share this poignant story from Slim Randles as Wednesday's Guest today. It doesn't have to be only on Veteran's Day that we remember. Enjoy....

We buried Marshall Sprack last Saturday, and we will miss him. Ol’ Marsh was the cheerful old-timer who could be seen each day walking his two tiny dogs around the neighborhood. He always had a smile and wave for everyone.

He was a very private guy, however. We all knew him, but didn’t really know him, if you get my drift.
He’d been retired for more years than some young married folks here had been alive. And he wasn’t the kind of guy who needed to come down to the Mule Barn coffee shop and settle the world’s troubles like the rest of us do. He stayed home and he walked the dogs. 

We didn’t really know Marshall Sprack until Saturday, really. On Saturday, as we gathered to say goodbye to him, the military honor guard showed up. He was buried in his dress uniform from a war most of us can’t remember. His medals were on display next to the casket. The honor guard carried his flag-draped coffin to the grave-site, and other honor guards fired a three-volley salute to Marsh. Then the flag was folded carefully into a tight triangle and presented to Marshall’s daughter.
When the chaplain rose to speak to us, it was about Master Sergeant Sprack. It turned out that Marsh did things in combat that none of us could imagine him, or anyone else, doing. Later, we said the miracle of Marsh’s life was that he made it home. Now, at last, we understood the reason for his slight limp. And we can also understand a bit more why he didn’t go in for the shallow, flippant conversation we practice daily. He had things he could have said, but he didn’t have to because he knew them.
Well, we started out on Saturday thinking we were burying our old pal Marsh, the morning dog walker. But by the time that bugler played “Taps,” we realized that we didn’t bury him at all. His country showed up to bury him and say goodbye.
Marsh … thank you.
Brought to you by Home Country. The book, which is a collection of some of the best of Slim's weekly Home Country columns, has many stories that are humorous, as well as more that are thoughtful and poignant. Check it out.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Monday Morning Musings

Well, I missed posting a book review yesterday. I decided to take most of the day off from anything online, and that felt good. I think we do need to disconnect sometimes. I went out to lunch with my hubby, and then we watched TV shows we'd taped, and I finished the jigsaw puzzle I'd been working on.

I've seen two of the birds, cardinal and bluebird, already this spring.
Last week, Dallas Morning News columnist Jacquielynn Floyd wrote about the recent decision by the  Transportation Security Administration to allow small knives and other sharp implements on airplanes. There has been quite a backlash since the decision was announced a few weeks ago, with many people saying it is a dangerous move.

Floyd asks us to look at the decision with reason instead of emotion. We all still have strong emotional reactions to what happened on 9/11, and many people are anxious and fearful when they are flying, worried that their plane could be hijacked the way the terrorists took over the planes that fateful day. Floyd quotes James Fallows, a correspondent for The Atlantic, who has written extensively about flight safety. He contends that "reinforced coskpits and alert passengers make it impossible for a handful of terrorists with small weapons to hijack or crash a plane."

Patrick Smith, a commercial pilot agrees. He has written in his column for the Boston Globe that the 9/11 terrorists plan "relied almost entirely on the element of surprise, not weapons," and that surprise was a one time event." He believes that hijackers will never be able to take over an airplane with small knives again.

Whether or not we agree with those opinions, I think we should agree that we should bring more reason to the discussion, or any discussion, and not always act on an emotional knee-jerk reaction.

And now for a bit of fun. In the comic strip One Big Happy, Ellen, Ruthie's mother, is helping her with homework.

Ellen: "What type of sentence is each of the following - telling or question? Is that a banana?"

Ruthie: "That's easy. It's a question! And a dumb one! What else could it be? An Avacado?"

So what did you do this weekend? Anything more interesting than a jigsaw puzzle?

Friday, March 22, 2013

Friday's Odds and Ends

Are we ready for a computer driven car? Google is apparently developing a self-driving car, as are a few other companies, and we can look forward to a time when a computer will handle all the driving tasks that we now perform. Some say a computer will be better at handling the thousands of decisions we make as we drive, such as when to brake or when to turn to avoid an accident, but what if the computer has a glitch? Or heaven forbid it is run by Windows and Windows decides to do an automatic update right in the middle of your trip to the grocery store?

I also wonder how they are going to get all that equipment into the dashboard. (smile)

I agree with those who have railed against the ruling by a three-star general that overturned a sexual assault conviction for Lt. Col. James Wilkerson. Senator Claire McCaskil of Missouri said, "This case has opened a window into what I think are some very weird provisions of the Uniform Code of Military Justice, and they are the kind of provisions that are offensive to most Americans."

Amen to that.

Now some more news regarding the XL Keystone Pipeline. This press release was sent by "Stop Dirty Tar Sands", an organization lobbying against the pipeline:
The largest onshore oil spill in U.S. history, Enbridge’s 2010 tar sands spill in Michigan’s Kalamazoo River, will cost nearly $1 billion to clean-up. The unique chemical properties of dilbit (diluted bitumen) that is extracted from Alberta’s tarsands fields cause the oil to sink in water—rather than float like traditional crude. To add insult to injury, tar sands bitumen carriers are not required to pay into the Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund that is used to help pay for devastating leaks, thanks to what can be thought of as an "Irrational Exemption." Enbridge, like TransCanada, gets a free ride that ignores the elevated risks of transporting tar sands crude oil relative to conventional crude.
The Keystone XL tar sands pipeline route would cross the Ogallala aquifer, which provides drinking water and irrigation for millions of people in the American heartland, and two thousand miles of farmland. TransCanada has a poor safety record, including thirteen spills, in the United States alone, on its first Keystone pipeline in the first year of operation. And according to a report from Mother Jones today, TransCanada played a part in influencing the flawed State Department report evaluating the environmental risks the Keystone XL pipeline would create. the exclusive story found, "A top expert who helped write the government's latest Keystone report previously consulted on three different TransCanada projects—a fact the State Department tried to hide."
A tarsands spill on the two thousand miles of farmland or in the aquifer would have disastrous consequences for generations of farmers and for millions of Americans who get fresh drinking water from the aquifer.

I keep hoping that our political leaders will stop listening to the big oil lobbyists and think about the long-term welfare of our earth.

On a totally different note, I was visiting some other blogs this morning and ran across this neat badge on Tara Tyler's blog:

If you regularly visit blogs, you may have run across these annoying attempts to weed out spammers from the comments. And if you are like me, you probably have given up on trying to leave a comment because you could not even make a wild guess as to what those blurred letters were supposed to be. There are so many other easier ways for human verification on a blog, we really don't need this.

Literary Lessons:

From The Weeping Chamber by Sigmund Brouwer  "It is far worse, is it not, when you can only blame yourself for what is lost? When what you have lost becomes much sweeter because you will never have it again?"

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

A Lesson From an Old Coot

Today's Wednesday's Guest is our friend, Slim Randles, back with another bit of wit and wisdom from his popular newspaper column, Home Country. 
It occurred to me the other day just what a blessing it is to be a grandfather. The children think we’re all powerful, a fount of knowledge and wisdom. Then they turn three …

Photo Courtesy of Phillip Martin
 We could all use coot lessons.

Yes, the enigmatic old coot in every small town like ours has wisdom corralled, knowledge tucked away for a rainy day, and is especially mysterious. So here are some coot lessons. 

Lesson One:  Look colorful. Wear a hat that was found buried at Gettysburg or Thermopylae. Don’t clean it up. Wear boots that aren’t polished with anything not provided by horses and cows. Red suspenders are called for. Extra points for stains. 

Lesson Two: Learn a coot skill. These include whittling, rope tricks, sharpening pocket knives and sleight of hand. You get extra points for playing something recognizable on the harmonica. A jaw harp is good. All you have to do is twang it, because no one can recognize a tune on it anyway. If you play piano, deduct 10 points. 

As to the whittling, you just keep your knife sharp and shave sticks thinner and thinner. Hold it up to the light and turn it. Extra points for a notch or two carved in it. Then you hand it to a kid to keep.

“What is it?” a rude kid might ask.

That’s when you screw up your grizzled face, wink at the kid, and say, “I’m sure you must recognize that, kid. You look pretty smart to me.”

And now the all-important Lesson Three: Never let them pin you down on ideas. Oh, we know they’re right. The problem is, some college-trained punk will pepper us with facts and make us look bad.

Here’s an example of Coot Tact:

Young punk – “The world’s heading for catastrophe.”

Coot – “Son, that’s what they want you to think.”

Then snap your red suspenders and tip him a conspiratorial wink.

(Never, upon pain of root canal, explain who “they” are)

The word will spread and you will be credited with bringing civilization to the world, inventing the solenoid, rescuing fair maidens and discovering fire.

And if you do this long enough, you’ll outlive anyone who can call you a liar.
Brought to you by Home Country (the book).  

Monday, March 18, 2013

Monday Morning Musings

Our little town of Winnsboro. Texas is filled with creative people who love to share their artistic talents. We have singers, musicians, visual artists, actors, writers, photographers and many, many folks artists, who are all responsible for the vibrant downtown area that has live music every weekend, exhibits, and of course our plays at the art center.

One of the really fun events is the 3rd Friday Art Walk that was started when we were named an official Cultural Arts District by the State of Texas. Each month has a different theme - sometimes it is Steampunk, which draws a lot of people from all over the state. This past weekend the theme was Pioneer Days, connecting to the history of Winnsboro that was featured in an exhibit of old photographs at the Winnsboro Center For the Arts.

Also at the center, was a reception for the 10th Anniversary of Winnsboro being named a Main Street City, and people met there for refreshments before heading out to parade around town in costumes. We go into businesses and restaurants and talk to people, assuming the character we are dressed as. I went as Mrs. Gibbs, the role I'm playing in "Our Town." She was not really a pioneer woman, but close enough.

I had great fun with Doc Davis, a local actor and historian, keeping him in line because he started proposing to every pretty woman he saw.

Photo Courtesy of Michael Alford
 When we come in and start engaging people, most of them join in the fun after the initial shock wears off. We are hoping that they go back to Dallas, or wherever they are from, and tell their friends, "You have got to go to Winnsboro and see these people who dress up and parade around town. It is so much fun."

Since I had company most of last week, I did not get much writing done, nor was I online much, but we had a good time visiting with our daughter and her husband, and our son and his wife.

Being with the kids made me remember those years when they were little and I never knew what to expect from them. Maybe that is why Sunday's Baby Blues strip made me laugh out loud. The strip features Hammie, who is excited about his upcoming field trip at school. In the first panel he is telling his mother, Wanda, "Mom, I get to go on a field trip in two weeks!"

In the subsequent panels, he is still excited, telling dad or mom how many days are left. On the final day Wanda comes into his bedroom to wake him up. "Wake up, Hammie. Today is your field trip."

He bounds out of bed and starts digging through his backpack. "Oh, that reminds me..."

He hands Wanda a paper. "...a doctor needs to sign this before I can go."

Moms, how many times has that happened to you?

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Celebrating the Green

I thought I'd skip my usual book review and take a moment to celebrate St. Patrick's Day. The number of people who claim some connection to Irish heritage always grows enormously every middle of March, as we all like to join in the fun of leprechauns, shamrocks, and green beer.

Did you know:

That more people celebrate the day in the United States than the number of residents in Ireland?

The first St. Patrick's Day parade took place in Boston in 1737? The first parade in Ireland was in 1931.

That Saint Patrick was not Irish by birth? He was born in England.

What the first color associated with St. Pat was? Hint, it was not green. Ready? It was blue.

Trivia facts thanks to The Huffington Post.

Here's wishing all who celebrate a Happy St. Patrick's Day and good fortune to come.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Friday's Odds and Ends

Yesterday's blog hop was so much fun. I hope you had a chance to go visit some of the blogs and see where people went via the wormhole.

The big news for Roman Catholics this week is the election of a new Pope, Francis the First.   Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Buenos Aires was chosen on Wednesday, and reactions from most Catholics has been positive. There was some advance speculation that Cardinal Bergoglio was high on the list of favorite candidates, so there is not a lot of surprise with the choice. It will be interesting to see if he will take the church in a new direction, or it will be more of the same'ol same'ol.

In other news, the U.S. government is still grappling with setting a new budget. It is politics as usual with both parties looking after party interests instead of the interests of the people. And of course the items being cut, or under consideration for cuts, are programs that directly help the people. Nobody has talked about cutting some of the totally unnecessary items like portraits of cabinet secretaries and administrators. Big bucks are spent on those portraits. The Environmental Protection Agency spent nearly $40,000 on a portrait of Administrator Lisa P. Jackson, while a painting of Air Force Secretary Michael B. Donley will cost $41,200, according to federal purchasing records.

Didn't we just elect a president? Now there is already talk of who is running next. Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush recently said, "I'm not saying yes. I'm just not saying no."

The city of Austin, Texas has banned the use of plastic shopping bags for some time now, and Rep. Drew Springer of Muenster, has introduced a bill to overturn the ordinance. He calls the bill "Shopping Bag Freedom Act." Okay, of all the freedoms being threatened in our country, is this one really that crucial?

Now for some fun from Garfield.  Jon is holding a door open for Liz, saying, "Allow me to get the door for you, Liz. I'm always the gentleman."

To which Liz responds, "That's the closet."

Garfield has one of his inimitable comments, "He said he was polite, lady. Not smart."
Literary Lesson: "Dreams never die. Sometimes you think they are dead, but they are just hibernating like some big old bear. And if that dream has been hibernating for a long time, that bear is going to wake up hungry and grumpy." A character from Harlan Coben's Fade Away

Thursday, March 14, 2013

National Wormhole Blog Hop

While I don't normally post on Thursdays, I couldn't resist this one. Thanks to a couple of my writer friends, Stephen Tremp, and  Laura Eno, I found out about this fun blog hop to honor Albert Einstein on the occasion of his birthday. What all the participants are doing is writing a short piece on where they would go, either back in time or forward, if they could jump in a wormhole. Probably the biggest challenge for most of us will be keeping the post to 100 words or less, but I'll give it a whirl.

Come with me into the past:

"Wyatt? Wyatt Earp?"

"Yes'm, and who are you?"

"Maryann. I just got here."

"How? Don't see no horse or carriage. An' the stage ain't due till tomorrow."

"I came through a wormhole."

"A what?"

"Uh, I'm guessing you wouldn't understand. But now that I'm here, would you teach me to shoot? I always wanted to be Annie Oakley."


"Annie Oakley. You know, the woman sharpshooter. And boy could she ride a horse at a full gallop. I haven't done that in too long."

"Never heard of her."

"Okay, but what about it? Will you teach me to shoot?"

"Meet me at the OK corral."  

Photo courtesy of Wikipedia

Photo courtesy of Wikipedia

 Here is  a list of other blogs that are in the blog hop. Enjoy the stories.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

One Sweaty Night Results in Debut Novel

Please help me welcome Anne O'Connell as today's Wednesday's Guest. She is here to share how her first book came about.

I’m thrilled to be here on It’s Not All Gravy on the occasion of the launch of my first novel, Mental Pause. I’ve been a writer all my life but mostly corporate communications and PR but I’ve always had a flair for the dramatic and dreamed of one day writing fiction. About three years ago I tested the waters and submitted a couple of short stories to The Fiction Writers Platform (now The Writers Platform) and both received an editor’s choice award!

Prior to that, I had started freelancing and was doing corporate copy writing while thoughts and dreams of being a novelist did a water ballet in the back of my mind. Simultaneously, I began experiencing some rather uncomfortable peri-menopausal symptoms. I honestly didn’t know what was happening at first, only that I was horribly irritable. So much so that I couldn’t even stand being around myself. I was also having crazy thoughts, tinged with paranoia, along with such startling memory loss that it felt like I had had a lobotomy.  It wasn’t until the night sweats started that it finally dawned on me that I was experiencing ‘The Change.’  It was a shocking revelation as I was still in my early-40s. It made me feel a little better knowing there was an explanation for it all but didn’t make it go away.

Buy it At Amazon
Then one very sweaty, steamy night as I was lying there in a disgusting pool of sweat, even though the A/C was blasting, and trying not to slime my poor husband sleeping soundly beside me, I did what any writer would do… hit the keyboard and poured out what I believed to be the mad ramblings of a peri-menopausal woman. If anyone had seen me they would have thought I’d lost it! I stifled the giggles so as not to wake my husband and wiped the tears and just kept writing. I thought I might turn it into a blog but wasn’t really comfortable exposing myself that openly. Then the idea hit. I could have even more fun with it if I turned it into fiction.

As luck would have it, I had recently heard about National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), which was about to start, my husband had recently retired and we had just moved to Thailand. I hadn’t really met anybody and had a lot of time on my hands. I signed up and plunged in headfirst.

I started segmenting the ‘ramblings’, categorizing and developing a loose plotline. The first chapter sort of spilled out and characters started to take shape. The more I wrote the more I dreamt about my main character, Abbie, her thoughts and feelings, family and friends. I’d wake up with a start and run to my computer to type out a description of one of my characters that I had seen so vividly in a dream. The best plot twist in the book (in my opinion) came in a dream!

It was really cathartic to write it because no matter how bad I was feeling, how crazy my mood swings or wild my thoughts were, Abbie’s were always worse. I could also live vicariously through her. Without ruining the story for anyone who plans to read it, I can share that I’ve always teased my mom that we’d both get tattoos when I turn 50 and she turns 90! I’d really never do it because I have absolutely no pain threshold and the thought of even one needle makes me go weak in the knees, so I had Abbie get one.

Focusing on writing and publishing Mental Pause has really helped ground me and allowed me to face my change with a more positive attitude. I talk more openly about it now and hope that, along with enjoying the storyline, it can help other women as well. My mood swings seem to have tapered off; I’m not having nearly as many night sweats and the hot flashes aren’t noticeable since I live in a very warm and humid climate anyways.

I’m already working on my next novel so I hope that my diminishing symptoms won’t limit my creativity! Having said that, I will happily seek inspiration elsewhere.  

Thank you for your guest post, Anne. I've heard of creativity coming from a lot of sources, but this is the first to come from menopause. (smile) I can't wait to read the book. 
For more about the book and Anne, check my Sunday post.   You can visit Anne on her blog, Facebook, and Twitter.  

On another note, and certainly not to take the spotlight away from Anne and her new novel, I do need to announce the National Wormhole Day Blog Hop sponsored by Laura Eno and Luanne Smith. Participants will be sharing where they would go if they could go forward or backward in time via a wormhole. This is to celebrate Albert Einstein's Birthday on March 14th. Come back tomorrow to see where I will go.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Monday Morning Musings

First, let me join the thousands of others who HATE Daylight Saving's Time. I struggle to wake up every day at a reasonable hour so I can get my chores done outside and get to work in my office before noon.

I used to think that adjusting was just a matter of convenience, but apparently the difficulty we have in adjusting has some other risks. I came across this article by Doctor Joseph Mercola who outlined some of the specific health issues caused by our observance of Daylight Saving's Time. He noted some results of scientific research:  
  • Heart Attacks: A 2012 University of Alabama study found that heart attacks increased by 10 percent on the Monday and Tuesday following the time change to DST. Heart attacks decreased by 10 percent on the first Monday and Tuesday after clocks are switched back in the fall.
  • Heart Attacks: A 2008 Swedish study found your chances of having a heart attack increase in the first three weekdays after the switch to DST, and decrease after you set your clock back to standard time in the fall. Heart attacks increase by five percent the first Monday after the time change, and 10 percent on Tuesday.
  • Suicides: Suicide rates for males rise in the weeks following the start of DST.
  • Automobile Accidents: Traffic accidents increase by eight percent on the Monday following the changeover to DST. And fatal alcohol-related traffic accidents increase for the first week after setting the clocks ahead. Workplace accidents and injuries increase by 5.7 percent, and 67.6 percent more workdays are lost as a result of injuries following the change to DST.
  • Productivity and Quality of Life: People are less productive once DST is implemented. Till Roenneberg, a Russian chronobiologist, reports that most people show “drastically decreased productivity,” decreased quality of life, increased illness, and are “just plain tired.”
When told the reason for daylight savings time the Old Indian said, “Only the government would believe that you could cut a foot off the top of a blanket, sew it to the bottom, and have a longer blanket.”

 Let's hear it for the Indian.

Last week was exciting for Read an E-Book Week, and there were lots of contests and free books offered by a number of authors. I was pleased that so many people were able to get my short story, The Visitor, and my new historical mystery, Boxes for Beds, free. I look forward to hearing from some of those readers after they finish the stories.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Book Launch - Mental Pause

A new book, Mental Pause, launched on March 8th, International Women’s Day, and is available on Amazon in both print and on Kindle. The author, Anne O'Connell, is on a blog tour, and will be my Wednesday's Guest this week. I do hope you will come back and help her feel welcome.

I have this book on my TBR list, but was not able to read it in time to do a review. I am in production for a show at the local community theatre, both directing and acting, and when I am doing a play, I stay immersed in that story and don't read anything else. It does get tedious reading the same story over and over, but it is the best way for me to learn lines and get the nuances of characterization. Enough about me, though. I do look forward to reading the book in the future as it sounds like a good read, and it is already getting some terrific reviews on Amazon.

Here is what one early reader had to say:  “Abbie is riding the hormonal roller coaster and hanging on for dear life. She finds herself in a body she no longer recognizes, a marriage that feels overwhelming, and she questions her very sanity. Her existence has become one big hot flash inflamed by killer moods. A chance meeting seems to give her the escape she's desperate for but at what cost? Accused of murder she finds herself in a jail cell accompanied by her regrets and the gnawing fear that her life may be changed forever. It’s a kind of mental pause that Abbie has never imagined, in a story that offers no letup from start to satisfying finish. Change of life, anyone? Mental Pause promises to take you way beyond.” Stacey Donovan, author/editor, Donovan edits.

The book crosses genre lines; chick lit and mystery, but apparently it is doing it well.

Author and freelance writer, Anne O’Connell, originally from Halifax, Nova Scotia, has lived in Toronto, Florida, Dubai and now Thailand since 2011. Since 2007, she has worked as a freelance copywriter, writing coach and consultant, specializing in social media, marketing, corporate communications and public relations. She is a regular contributor to Global Living Magazine and Expat Focus. In between clients she squeezes in time for her newly-found passion - writing fiction. She and her husband have a passion for travel as well, and that adventurous spirit has taken them all over the world. She is the author of @Home in Dubai   *  Getting Connected Online and on the Ground, 10 Steps to a Successful PR Campaign – a Do-it-Yourself Guide for Authors and Mental Pause, her first novel.

Friday, March 08, 2013

Friday's Odds and Ends

Here's some recent news regarding the Keystone XL Pipeline. Twenty-eight Vermont towns added their voices this week to the chorus of national and international; opposition to tar sands expansion by passing “tar sands free” and related tar sands resolutions in the past two days. This recent batch of local resolutions brings the total number to 33 in the region, and 49 when including resolutions in Qu├ębec. The U.S. resolutions state concerns about the environmental and public health hazards of tar sands or explicitly oppose sending tar sands through ExxonMobil’s Portland-Montreal Pipeline.

Tar sands oil is a particularly dirty form of oil that utilizes a carbon-intensive process to transform the tar into usable oil. The State Department just reported that the tar sands in Keystone XL will release up to 19 percent more greenhouse gases than conventional oil. Tar sands spills are particularly risky and difficult to clean-up given the oil’s unique properties that cause the oil to sink in water.

If you are interested in adding your voice to the opposition, you can sign a pledge with CREDO Action. The oil companies have their voices in Washington, we have to add ours. 

Protect the Earth

Now just for fun, some comics:

This one is from B. C. - one of Wiley's proverbs - "Give a man a fish and he can eat for a day. Teach a man to fish and he'll drink beer and pass out with a pole in his hand."

Another from Pearls Before Swine last Sunday. Pig is complaining to goat about his sister who is always borrowing something every time she comes over.  Goat tells pig to just tell her how he feels, and pig says he has tried but she doesn't listen.

So goat tells pig to draw it out for her. "Say, look sis, we're like planets, ech moving in our own ellipse, but sometimes outr orbits intersect and during that time you always want things."

Goat draws the intersecting planets and then Pig's sister walks in, asking to borrow a tack. Pig says no, and the sister pushes until Pig says, "Read my ellipse, no new tacks, sis."

In the last panel, goat goes to Stephen Pastis and says, "You ruin my entire Sunday."

This has been an exciting week, celebrating Read An E-Book Week. I have run two specials and am so happy that people were able to get my stories free for a few days. My historical mystery,  Boxes For Beds will still be free through Saturday, so grab a copy if you have not already. And if you are so inclined, leave a review on Amazon. That is always so helpful to other readers who may be considering the book for purchase later.

Pardon me while I experiment with embedding a Tweet. I am trying to learn how to embed videos and other things.
 Hey! It worked. What do you know. (smile)

Wednesday, March 06, 2013

A Fictional Guest

Today I want to introduce a character from my latest book.  In Boxes For Beds, Deputy Gus Shumaker works with Sheriff Bates in a small town in rural Arkansas in 1960. He has been clamoring for a chance to speak, so I thought I would let a character from my latest book have the spotlight here as Wednesday's Guest.

Maryann: So, Gus, what is on your mind that you woke me up at 3 this morning wanted to talk?

Gus: Some things need to be cleared up about how I work before too many people read the book and get the wrong idea.

Maryann: Why would that happen?

Gus: Because folks don't know how it was back then with the mob all over Hot Springs. And people in power liked to stay in power.

Maryann: What do you mean?

Gus: Bates, for instance. He really likes that he is a law unto himself. He can do any dang thing he wants. And I don't want folks to think that I supported that. If you hadn't kept pulling me back I would have explained more about that.

Maryann: So that's it? You're mad because I didn't let you take over the whole story? 

Gus: Well, yeah. Sort of.

Maryann: Gus, Gus, Gus. I really hated to have to put you in your place. Honest. You are a great character, and I probably could have written a whole book with you as a central character. But this is Leslie's story.

Gus: Does that mean I might get my own story?

Maryann: I don't know. I have a lot of other stories... wait... don't pout. That doesn't become you. Maybe I can write something in the future. Would you like to be in on cleaning up Hot Springs? 

Gus: Yes, Ma'am. I'd like nothing better. Chase all those gangsters back to Chicago where they belong.

Maryann: Um, Gus, as a law enforcement officer, wouldn't you want to see them all in jail, not in Chicago?

Gus: Our jail's too small. Let the officers in Chicago lock them up.

Maryann: Okaaayyy. So, is there anything else you would like to say while you are here? Last chance.

Gus: Let me think a minute. Oh, yeah, I hope people like the book, and me. I did try my best to do the right thing. It's hard to stand up to people like Bates, and I know I should have tried harder at times. And I guess I should say I'm sorry for waking you up so early.

Maryann: Apology accepted. But please, the next time you want to talk, there are lots of daylight hours you know.

Gus: Well, back here in your creative subconscious, we don't know night from day.

Maryann: True. I'd forgotten about that. Now are you ready to go back there and let me get on with my next story. The sooner I finish that one, the sooner I might be able to get back to one about you.

Gus:  Leaving now. Don't let me hold you up.

Boxes For Beds was just released last week, and will be a free read for the next three days, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday for Kindle. Please hop over and grab a copy, and if you do, I would love for you to leave a short review when you finish reading.

Monday, March 04, 2013

Monday Morning Musings

A recent article in The Dallas Morning News offered an interesting take on the Bible. Gordon Keith, an Emmy-winning broadcaster for KECK-AM (1310) The Ticket, in Dallas, suggested that the Bible is an ongoing project. In his article he says "It's OK to step back and see the Bible with your own eyes."

I'm sure his comments will spur a rash of letters from fundamentalist believers who take the words in the Bible literally and say we should never deviate from them. They also believe that the Bible is the final word of God. Keith contends that it is not. "If God is still whispering into the hearts of men and women, why is it a stretch to think that humans can no longer transcribe that dictation?"

When I read that, it reminded me of a spiritual exercise I took part in on a retreat one year. This was part of my chaplaincy training, and the retreat leader had the attendees write their own gospel. When she first said that, I was shocked. Me? Write a gospel? When she explained that the gospel was just recounting how we experienced God at that moment, it made sense.

She encouraged us to get into a contemplative state of mind and then just write as the thoughts and words came to us.

Later, we shared our gospels and talked about the gospels in the Bible - how they might have been written through a similar process of being open to the spirit.

In his article, Keith was not suggesting that we should abandon the Bible. He just thinks we should not focus so much on ancient stories that we "blunt our ability to listen to the word of God currently being written. In books, plays and prayers."

Think about it. If the word of God was just in those ancient writings, why do we need preachers and theologians? 

On another note, Read an E-Book Week started yesterday, with lots of authors offering free or deeply discounted books for all electronic reading devices. Read an E-Book Week was started in 2004 to spread the word about the pleasures and advantages of reading electronically. If you visit the website, there are links to the authors participating, as well as other interesting information about e-books.

To join in the celebration, I have two specials running this week. Readers can enjoy my short story The Visitor as a free read directly from my website. Those with a Kindle can also get that version free for the next three days. Later this week, I will have my newest book, Boxes For Beds free for three days. That special starts Thursday.

Sunday, March 03, 2013

Book Review - Code of Silence by Sally Wright

It's always a pleasure to share a review from Carl Brookins. Not only does he write some good reviews, he also writes some top-notch mysteries.

Code of Silence
Sally Wright
Kindle e-book
February, 2012

 I found this prequel to the Ben Reese series to be an odd book for the genre in a couple of ways. First, the author’s style. It’s pretty far from being similar to Agatha Christie. I like the style. It grew on me. What’s more, it changed in subtle ways from beginning to the end. At first, the rhythms are abrupt, blunt-edged. There are few compound sentences and any number of sentence fragments. Second, while the author is celebrated as a top mystery author, and has several fine mysteries to her credit, this novel has little mystery, being more of a taut suspense-laden thriller. The tension rises and becomes more intense as the novel progresses until we arrive at an excruciating and satisfying climax.

 This is the 6th Ben Reese mystery, and is set in a time frame before the others in the series. It is a historical novel with roots in the relationships between the US and European nations, principally the Soviet Union during and after WWII. The novel begins with a murder that occurs in 1947 in Washington, D.C. As an aside, it feels a bit odd to this reviewer to refer to a book as historical that deals with an important part of this reviewer’s life.

 A decade later a second murder occurs near a small university town in Ohio. Several troubling events with no initial connection to the murder have happened to an Alderson University academic. Ben Reese, who trained as an Army Ranger and then served in WWII as a scout behind enemy lines in Europe has joined the staff of the university. He served with various units, including Canadian soldiers at the invasion of Fortress Europe. Now, this talented archivist and ex-military scout, Ben Reese, steps out of the shadows of his wartime career to locate and stop a man who seeks to eliminate all evidence of his previous espionage against the United States by murdering those who know the truth.

 The novel is distinguished by the author’s meticulous and extensive research which buttresses the authenticity of conversations between various characters. As always one of the hallmarks of Wright’s writing is her development and presentation of the contextual basis for the actions that take place in her novels. If this novel is flawed it may be, for some readers, the sometimes rambling if thoughtful dissertations on the ever-shifting geo-political realities and the secrecy that surrounded events and decisions that were made at the highest levels of governments.

 The novel bears the stamp of a careful writer who doesn’t shy away from descriptions of more brutal aspects of war and their aftermath. For fans of Ben Reese this novel reveals much about the experiences that shaped the character’s attitudes. And, as with other novels in the series, readers will be left with deep appreciation for marvelous character descriptions as well.

Carl Brookins  BLOG:  -BOOKS:  Case of the Great Train Robbery, Reunion, Red Sky

Friday, March 01, 2013

Friday's Odds and Ends

This is the latest in the ongoing saga of the Keystone XL Pipeline vs the environment. The southern route of the pipline recently sprung a leak in Tyler County in Texas. The 20,000 gallon leak that contaminated the Neches River is the latest in a series of recent spills and leaks, and it was detected by a resident, not by leak-detection technology.

 The Neches River is designated as one of Texas' last remaining "wild" rivers, extending more than 415 miles. The river and its tributaries flow through  the Big Thicket National Preserve and feeds numerous water supplies for Southwest Texas.

In other news, Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer, announced this week that employees will no longer be able to work from home. She contends that productivity will increase if people have to show up at the office. to turn around the ailing company. So, employees will have to add driving time to their daily schedule, deal with interruptions and distractions at their cubicles, attend numerous meetings, and still try to get a reasonable amount of work done.

Doesn't sound like a smart move to me. Every person who has worked at home has told me that they are more productive when they are able to get up, have breakfast, walk into their home office and work for several hours. They screen calls, so they are not interrupted by family or friends, and they don't have any of the distractions that occur in a large office area.

Then, too, there is the environmental impact of forcing everybody to come to an office. Think of all those cars on the road every day, burning gas, polluting the atmosphere.

On a personal note, I have some good news. A new mystery, Boxes For Beds, has just gone live on Amazon for Kindle and Kindle Apps. This is an historical mystery set in the 60s near Hot Springs, Arkansas, at a time when the mob ruled the resort town and police corruption was rampant. When babies start disappearing in a nearby small town, a desperate sheriff wants to blame it on the lady who just moved in and may be one of those Yankee do-gooders who are trying to tell folks in the south how to treat their "nigras".

Besides the short stories I've published on Amazon, this is the first truly indie book for me, and I am happy that it is now available. It has taken almost a year to complete the manuscript, work with an editor to get a final draft, and get a cover made. I can now see why it takes traditional publishers so long to get books out. 

If you do happen to pick up a copy, I would love it if you could do a quick review at Amazon. Reviews are so important in helping to spread the word about a book you have enjoyed.