Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Taking a Week Or so Off

Due to a family emergency, I will be offline and not doing my regular blog posts for a while. Carry on without me.

If you are in the mood to pick up some bargain books, my publisher is putting two of my titles on sale the rest of this week and into next.

My short story collection, The Wisdom of Ages, is on sale for only $.99 for three more days for Kindle and Kindle apps. My novel for young teens, Friends Forever will be going on sale March 27 - April 3. The books are available for Kindle worldwide and the sale prices are
effective in the UK, too.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Monday Morning Musings

A frat without alcohol? That was a question posed and answered by Caitlin Flanagan in a column in The Dallas Morning News on Sunday. Flanagan is a journalist who spent a year investigating fraternities for a story she did for Atlantic "The Dark Power of Fraternities."

For some students the "Greek Life" is a major component of their college experience, and partying and drinking are usually synonymous with being a member of a fraternity. Unfortunately the drinking, partying, and hazing has led to assault, rape, and accidental deaths, negative consequences that take away from the goal and purpose of a fraternity.

A few fraternities have taken bold steps to solve those problems, but none as bold as Phi Delta Theta, which in 2000 mandated that all 165 chapter houses become alcohol-free. According to the article by Ms. Flanagan, some people thought it would be the death of the fraternity, but it has proven to be a boon.
Who would possibly want to join a frat without beer? Huge numbers of young men, as it turns out. In the years since the policy was introduced, Phi Delt’s membership has increased 25 percent. The number of men willing to join its alumni boards — to lead and advise undergraduate members — has increased more than 300 percent.
Most dramatically, the number of insurance claims against the fraternity has dropped 64 percent, and the financial severity of those claims has declined an astounding 94 percent. In addition to being one of the safest frats in the country, its reduced insurance liability has made Phi Delt the most affordable.
Kudos to Phi Delta Theta, and here's hoping more fraternities and sororities follow suit. After all, those organizations are supposed to be about helping to foster leadership. True leadership risks taking an unpopular stance for a more positive outcome.

In reading the newspaper yesterday, I also found this interesting tidbit in a  review of Walter Kirn's new book, Blood Will Out, The True Story of a Murder, a Mystery and a Masquerade. The book is about a serial liar and murderer known as "Clark Rockerfeller" who was also a friend of Kirn. In the book Kirn reflects on what Clark did, inventing new personas and pulling from real life events to flesh them out. "A writer is someone who tells you one thing so someday he can tell his readers another thing," Kirn writes. "A writer turns his life into material, and if you are in his life, he uses yours, too."

People often ask how much of ourselves and our life experiences are in our books, and I think Kirn gave the definitive answer.

What a wonderful way to start off the week and celebrate an amazing talent, I want to share this video of a nine-year-old girl in Holland, Amira Willinghagen, who wowed the judges on Holland Has Talent. Her voice and her choice of music will wow you, too.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Book Review - The Holy Mark by Gregory Alexander

The Holy Mark
Gregory Alexander
File Size: 457 KB
Print Length: 247 pages
Publisher: Publish Green (January 19, 2014)
Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
Language: English

 The path from the beginning of the story when Joe Miggliore, later to become Father Tony, is born and his immigrant Italian grandmother sees a odd mark on his head and declares it to be a sign from God—a “segno sacro”, to the ultimate downfall of Father Tony doesn't always go in a straight line. This I found to be a bit of a problem. When the author stopped and took the reader off on a tangent, I wanted him to stay a bit more on track. It seemed to take too long to get from that beginning to the heart of the story.

However, that is the only quibble I have with The Holy Mark. Despite those tangents, I kept getting pulled back into the story as Father Tony relates it on the occasion of his 25th anniversary as a priest.

The Miggliore family has money, lots of money due to their ties to the New Orleans mob and the clever way Father Tony's grandfather stashed the family fortunes. Unfortunately, as is so common in families with lots of money, greed and avarice raise their ugly heads and create conflict. Tony's uncle vows to destroy his nephew, and the uncle has enough connections to the hierarchy of the church in New Orleans to make good on that vow.

In some ways this is a coming-of-age story as we follow Joe from his childhood and his first introduction to sexual acts between young boys to his eventual fall as a priest. This happens when he is in charge of a home for boys, and thankfully, nothing is written in graphic scenes.

As a Catholic who was very aware of, and incensed by, the sex scandals in the Roman Catholic Church over the past thirty years, I was pleased on one hand that Father Tony had to pay a price for what he had done. But I also found it very hard to dislike him. I think that was in part because of the calm narrative voice the author used to tell the story and the careful wording of sections that people would find distasteful. It wasn't right what Father Tony did, but the "why" was carefully laid out in this well-written book. It is also important to note that the author does not defend the priest, he simply presents a story. Granted, a difficult story to read at times, but maybe one that should be read.

About the Author:
Greg Alexander grew up in New Orleans, and after graduating from a Catholic high school for boys, he went on to the University of New Orleans where he earned an undergraduate degree in Psychology and a Masters in English with a concentration on American Literature. He taught for twelve years, predominantly at Cabrini and Jesuit, two prominent New Orleans Catholic high schools.

While teaching, Greg began writing short fiction and submitting his stories to literary magazines across the country. After 168 rejections (“Yes, I counted them,” Greg laughs today), his first acceptance came for “The First Lady Barber in New Orleans,” a fine sketch of Greg’s grandmother Josephine, who was actually the second lady barber in the city.  (Family lore claims that her cousin was the first!)  The story appeared in the fall 1995 issue of ELM (Eureka Literary Magazine), Ronald Reagan’s alma mater in Illinois.

More at his Website * Connect on Facebook

Friday, March 21, 2014

Friday's Odds and Ends

I'm so excited. I received my first ever written review for a performance for my role as Big Mama in "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof." The entire review is by Terry Mathews, the Arts Editor of the Sulphur Springs News-Telegram, has some wonderful things to say about the entire cast, especially the actress who played Maggie the Cat and the man who played Big Daddy.

The headline read: Cast brings life to ‘Cat on a Hot Tin Roof’ - Leah Conner and John D’Avignon lead with brilliant performances

And the section about me:  Maryann Miller as “Big Mama” is to be commended, too, as the wife of a rich and powerful man. The play was written in the mid-1950s, so Big Mama is drawn as a woman who ran the house and her family with little concern for the rest of the world. She fusses, stews and frets about Big Daddy's health and fawns over Brick, to the dismay of Gooper and “Sister Woman,” who have their eyes set on the future – when they'll be running things, along with their six children. Miller brought just the right balance of confusion, devotion and denial to the part.

This is the scene in which I get the "news" about Big Daddy
I know I'm supposed to be humble and all that, but I just love reading the last line of the review, especially since Mathews, who rumor has it is very hard to impress, came to last Sunday's performance when I did the last two acts so sick I wasn't sure I was going to make it through the play. 

This  wouldn't be Friday without a bit of a rant, so.... I'm wondering if the rising gas prices are a result of the oil companies pressuring President Obama to approve the Keystone XL Pipeline. "Of course not," the spokesman for EXXON Mobil might say, but we all know the power of the oil industry.

Since I am still sick, I will keep this post short and end with a joke, courtesy of Funniest Clean Jokes :

One evening I went to visit my elderly grandparents. When it started getting late I asked my grandfather if he had the time, as I didn’t have my watch with me. “I don’t have a watch or clock around here he tells me.”

“Then how do you tell the time?” I asked.

“You see that trumpet in the corner? That’s how!” He picks it up, and thirty seconds later an angry neighbor shouts, “2:30 in the morning and your playing the trumpet!”

Finally, I'm pleased to announce that Doubletake, the first mystery I wrote years ago with a collaborator, Margaret Sutton, has been updated and re-released. It is now available in paperback and as an e-book. It was first released by a small publisher who did no marketing and the book languished until I got the rights back.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

What Theatre Can Teach About Writing

Please help me welcome J. David Core as my Wednesday's guest. We both share a love of theatre, so I was pleased to have him tell us some of the ways he has learned more about writing by being active on stage. I am still sick, but I have sprayed the blog with sanitizer, so there are no germs to share. Unfortunately, there are no goodies to share, either. Thank goodness J.D. sent me the article well enough in advance that all I had to do was write this little introduction and publish the post. Enjoy....I'm going back to bed.

I began my love affair with writing at almost the same moment that I began my love affair with theater. In high school my friends were all theater and band geeks, but I had no musical talent, so if I wanted to hang with them I had to audition for plays. Now that I am writing fiction, I always remember the lessons I learned as an actor reading scripts and following stage direction.

Remember my blocking. Dramatists continue to tweak their scripts through early rehearsals for several reasons. One of the most common is blocking problems. When several characters are on stage, it becomes difficult to recall where the main character is in relation to the character he/she is addressing, and whether having the character turn might cause that actor to be upstaged by a tertiary player. The same can happen when wiring a story, particularly in a fight scene of even an erotic interlude.

A character cannot throw a punch if both hands are choking an assailant. A man cannot kiss a woman’s lips if she’s chewing a piece of cherry he just fed her; or, if he does, the half-masticated berry should be noted.

Be aware of the fourth wall.
Sometimes a character will find himself spotlighted while the other characters either freeze in tableau or continue milling about in semi-darkness silently mouthing words. An occasional exception is when a playwright intentionally employs the trope of breaking the fourth wall; the imaginary plane at the footlights – the wall on which the audience is a fly.

Sometimes, however, an accident (or bad scripting) will result in breaking that fourth wall. This can also happen in writing a novel or short story if the author suddenly steps out of narrator-mode and addresses the reader directly. It can be done effectively, or it can ruin a reading experience if done clumsily. Ask how you would feel as a reader or audience member if this happened while you were engrossed in the experience. Would you easily fall back into the world of the story, or would you be too aware of the writer’s conceit to easily go-with-the-flow?

Keep it simple.
In comedy-of-error or farce there’s often a lot of sub-plotting an audience has to keep track of. Oscar Wilde and Gilbert &Sullivan were experts at keeping various discordant mis-communications between characters in play. Alistair Foot & Anthony Marriott and Neil Simon are modern experts at the technique. However, it’s a tricky thing to accomplish.

Intricate story arcs can have this same drawback. A good rule-of-thumb is to write a separate character side for each major player in the story and track his or her POV at each stage in the plot. Odds are if their motivations and actions stop making sense to you, they won’t gel for a reader either.

Finally, Stay true to the character.
During a community theater performance of the musical "Grease" where I played Eugene, the school nerd, there was a scene where the director had us all on stage miming behavior in the background as the focus was on Danny and Sandy, the hero and heroine of the story. Somehow I wound up seated next to the Rizzo character, and the director brilliantly instructed the actress to remove my glasses and tease me with them by trying them on herself, but then clean them with her nylon scarf before returning them to me. None of this was in the script, yet by having the actress taunt the nerd, she remained true to character; but by cleaning the specs before returning them, she remained sympathetic for any audience members who allowed the background to distract their attention from where it ought to have been, on Danny and Sandy.

The fact that our interplay in no way advanced the story was immaterial. We had to remain in character. Had we, for example, suddenly embraced and had an impromptu make-out session, any audience members who noted it would be unable to enjoy the rest of the play. Why was Rizzo necking with the class geek? That would be the only thing they’d be asking and the only story resolution they’d be seeking for the remainder of the play.

What it all comes down to in the end is that a writer is directing a play in his or her head as the story comes to life. Ultimately it will be a play presented in the imaginations of a hopefully massive audience, one performance at a time for a one seat theater with no final curtain call. Each performance will be a little different, but the script has to have the bugs worked out so that the imaginary actors are not tripping on each other or confusing the occupant of that lone seat, and I have my time on stage to thank for helping me hone that skill.

Amazon paperback    **  Amazon Kindle  **  Nook  **  iBookstore  ** Smashwords
 With a profound interest in religion, liberal politics and humor, Dave began writing in High School and has not given up on it since. His first professional writing jobs came while attending the Art Institute of Pittsburgh when he was hired to create political cartoons for the Pitt News and to write humor pieces for Smile Magazine.

Dave has worked in the newspaper industry as a photographer, in the online publishing industry as a weekly contributor to, and was a contributing writer to the Buzz On series of informational books and to the Western online anthology, Elbow Creek. His science fiction novel, Synthetic Blood and Mixed Emotions, is available from

Dave currently resides in his childhood home in Toronto, OH with his beautiful girlfriend and his teenage daughter. He enjoys participating in local community events and visiting with his two adult children and his grandson.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Monday Morning Musings

I won't be doing much celebrating today as I am really sick. A cold that I managed to keep at bay so I could finish the last weekend of our play has burst through the levee, so I am down for the count.

Here is a picture from one of our last performances. I think I was sick in this one, too, as I started getting sick on Friday, but the show must go on. This is from the scene where the doctor is giving Big Mama the real news about the report from the Oshner Clinic about Big Daddy in Tennessee Williams' "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof." What a terrific run we had, and other than the fact that I can crash for a couple of days and not have to drive 60 miles for rehearsal or performances, I am sad it is over.

I will take care of two important pieces of business this morning, then find my green afghan and crash on the sofa.

Have fun partying everyone.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Book Review - Common Sense by J. David Core

Common Sense: A Lupa Schwartz Mystery
J. David Core
Series: The Lupa Schwartz Mysteries
Paperback: 186 pages
Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform; 1 edition (February 26, 2014)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1494392194
ISBN-13: 978-1494392192

The mystery revolves around a dead body that was found in a lake, and the victim is an investigative reporter. His ex-wife, Cattleya Hoskin does not believe that her ex-husband wouldn't have gone out night-fishing by himself in the middle of an investigation. To the local authorities it looks like a simple case of accidental drowning. Cattleya knows that her ex was investigating theft from the power grid in a small Ohio town, so she asks her friend Schwartz to help her in the investigation.

They discover some crooked contractors and wonder about the white van that seems to be following them at times. But Cattleya is determined to find out what happened. 

This is a cute story and the mystery is a good one. I did not guess the killer. I thought some of the antics of Schwartz were a bit over the top and too much time was spent with information related to those antics. For instance his deciding to pretend he was Muslim. The book is not quite a cozy, but has a bit of a cozy feel.

J. David will be my guest on Wednesday, so I do hope you can come back and find out how his experience with theatre has influenced his writing. I was interested in getting his input on that, as I have found my theatre experience very beneficial for writing.

Amazon paperback    **  Amazon Kindle  **  Nook  **  iBookstore  ** Smashwords
 With a profound interest in religion, liberal politics and humor, Dave began writing in High School and has not given up on it since. His first professional writing jobs came while attending the Art Institute of Pittsburgh when he was hired to create political cartoons for the Pitt News and to write humor pieces for Smile Magazine.

Dave has worked in the newspaper industry as a photographer, in the online publishing industry as a weekly contributor to, and was a contributing writer to the Buzz On series of informational books and to the Western online anthology, Elbow Creek. His science fiction novel, Synthetic Blood and Mixed Emotions, is available from

Dave currently resides in his childhood home in Toronto, OH with his beautiful girlfriend and his teenage daughter. He enjoys participating in local community events and visiting with his two adult children and his grandson.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Friday's Odds and Ends

This one will be really short today. I have lots of company and a really busy day ahead. This is the last weekend of the play I am in, and we will be playing to sold-out houses this weekend. So excited, especially since some of my kids have come to see the show.

One of my sons is also going to help me fix some fencing. The other day I found my horse on his side with his back legs tangled in the fence. Either he tried to jump it or had kicked at the horses next door and got a hind leg caught high on the fence. I thought he'd broken his leg, but miraculously he did not. He has some lacerations on both hind legs and was very stiff in his hind quarters for 24 hours, but seems to be walking better today.  

This is a pre-accident picture of Banjo

I couldn't believe this small horse, only 14 hands high, would try to jump a fence that is 4 and a half feet high, but he does not get along well with the horses next door. We are going to get some cattle panels and attach them to the existing fence poles, making a higher barrier. Hopefully, that will keep him in and the other horses out.

Now I will leave you with a couple of jokes brought to you by good clean jokes:

Student: Could I get in trouble if I didn't do something?
Teacher: Well, I don't suppose so.
Student: In that case, I didn't do my homework.

Jim: What's white, steep, and has ears?
Tara: I don't know.
Jim: A snow-covered mountain.
Tara: What about the ears?
Jim: Haven't you ever heard of mountaineers?

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Novelist in the Making - Kathryn Craft

Please help me welcome Kathryn Craft as today's Wednesday's guest. She has a different kind of post for us today, a charming story from her childhood she calls, "Novelist in the Making". So grab your beverage of choice, and a donut, and enjoy the story. When you are finished here, you might want to hop over to The Blood Red Pencil where I've shared a little fun from the comic strips.

In memory of my father, who did not live long enough to see me complete my journey to publication.

Sandy sits at the kitchen table with an impressive array of art supplies in front of her. I pull out a chair and sit down to watch.

“Whatcha doing?”

“A long-range project. All the sixth graders have to do one.”

The way she says this burns me up. I am in fourth grade, and whatever she’s doing I could do too, I bet, but I have no idea what a long-range project is. So I say, “What is the objective?” (One of my spelling words, used in a sentence.)

She tells me she has to research a country and write a report about it. Here’s the best part: she must glue pictures onto construction paper and make the whole thing into a book. She has already colored in a map of Africa using Dad’s forbidden Prismacolor pencils.


Sandy picks up the scissors and starts to cut a picture from National Geographic.

“Dad is going to kill you for cutting that up.” National Geographic is a keeper. Ripping pictures from it would be like tearing a page from the dictionary. Even worse, she has torn off the covers.

 “These aren’t Dad’s.”

So Sandy has her own source for National Geographics and gets to do a big project to impress her teacher and make a book and get attention from Dad?

I want in.

My father is not the type to leave love lying around the house where you might trip over it; you must rise to where he keeps it. I want to make that climb, so at dinner I always make sure I have something to report. “Daddy, I got the fastest time in the obstacle course.” I always scramble as fast as I can, as if he were cheering me on, and it hurts that he doesn’t acknowledge this achievement.

But Sandy has my father’s attention; she is talking about her long-range project. Jacquie is jiggling her leg until the whole table shakes because she wants more mashed potatoes and my mother is telling her she can’t have more until she eats her vegetables and Nancy is saying Jacquie can have her mashed potatoes. I don’t know it will suddenly get quiet as Sandy takes a bite of her meat, my mother wipes mashed potatoes out of Nancy’s hair, and Jacquie spits chewed vegetables into her napkin and I say, “DADDY, I GOT A 104% ON MY MATH TEST.”

“You don’t need to speak so loud, Kathy. I’m sitting right next to you.”

My cheeks burn. This is not how I hoped this would go.

So I have to do it.

“Guess what, Daddy?” I look at Sandy out of the corner of my eye. “Mrs. Arnold gave us a long-range project today. We have to research an African country and write about it and make a book.”

“But that’s the same assignment Sandy has. You’re only in fourth grade.”

“I know,” I say, rolling my eyes. “Can you believe how hard she makes us work?”

“Well, pick the Congo. You can use the same magazines I bought for Sandy.”

Sandy is looking at me as if she was the queen of the Congo, and I just invaded it.

“I already signed up for Tanzania.”

The next night Dad comes home from work with a stack of National Geographics—this time, for me. I savor every moment of this project. My father leans in close to show me how to make bar charts and I love that he shares his art supplies with me. When the magazines don’t have enough pictures of Tanzania for the scale of my project (I interpret “long-range” to mean I will be working on this a very long time, since, strictly speaking, I have no turn-in date), he goes out looking for more.

Finally he’s had enough and calls Mrs. Arnold to complain about the amount of work she’s asking me to do.


My long-range project came to an abrupt termination date. But he couldn’t exactly punish me for wanting to work too hard, could he?
Kathryn Craft applied this tenacity to the writing of her debut novel, The Art of Falling, (Sourcebooks) and a second novel, due out Spring 2015, based on true events of the standoff that resulted in her first husband’s suicide. Her work as a developmental editor at follows a nineteen-year career as a dance critic. Long a leader in the southeastern Pennsylvania writing scene, she now serves as book club liaison for the Women’s Fiction Writers Association. She hosts lakeside writing retreats for women in northern New York State, leads writing workshops, and is a member of the Philly Liars Club.

See my review of The Art of Falling

Monday, March 10, 2014

Monday Morning Musings

Anyone who has ever been involved in theatre, either professionally or in community theatre, knows how that run down to opening weekend can consume every thought and every moment of your day. That is what it was like for me last week as we prepared for the production of "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof."

Celebrating Big Daddy's Birthday
In addition to learning lines and blocking and figuring out how to portray a character, all of us in the cast were responsible for finding costumes and many of the props. Small community theatre troupes are, well, small. Sometimes there is not someone who can step up to be a stage manager. In professional, and large community theatre groups, a stage manager is the one who handles costumes and props and set dressing, as well as helping cast remember their cues for entrances.

Large theatre groups also have tech crews who do light and sound designs.

So with each production that I do at the the theatre in my small town, or the larger city of Sulphur Springs, Texas,  it is a bit of a gamble whether there will be people to help the cast and the director pull a show together. That we can do it is a testament to how dedicated we are to the stage and how much we love to bring a story to life for the enjoyment of the audience.

The story of "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof" has many layers, but it is primarily a story of redemption. Redemption between Maggie and Brick and redemption between Big Daddy and Big Momma. I thought of that when I saw this video on Saturday.

On another note. I read an article in The Dallas Morning News by Neil Gershenfeld and JP Vasseur about the Internet of Things. Some of the geek-speak was beyond my comprehension, but the bottom line is that the geeks have made it possible to have a small Web server that can do amazing things.
When embedded in everyday objects, these small computers can send and receive information through the Internet so that a coffeemaker can turn on when a person gets out of bed and turn off when a cup is loaded into a dishwasher, a stoplight can communicate with roads to route cars around traffic, a building can operate more efficiently by knowing where people are and what they’re doing, and even the health of the whole planet can be monitored in real time by aggregating the data from all such devices.
When I read that article, I couldn't help but think of my short story SAHM I Am. When my husband first told me about a computer that could be a Self Activated Household Manager, (SAHM) that was back in the 70's and I couldn't imagine what that would be like.

Did you know there is a real problem with people taking the wrong medications with really dire consequences? Ruth Marcus wrote about that in a column Sunday in The Dallas Morning News. The column was titled Look-Alike Pills Endanger Everyone and was focused on Kerry Kennedy, who was just acquitted of “drugged driving”. You may recall the new reports when Kennedy was charged after she mistook a sleeping pill for her thyroid medication and had an accident. Marcus also mentioned other cases in which people, including Tom Brokow, took the wrong medication because the pill and the container looked so much like the pill the person was supposed to take. A simple fix, according to Marcus, would be for pharmacies to put different colored cap on bottles containing sleep aids.
This step could be required, or smart pharmacies could do it on their own. After all, the manufacturer of my contact-lens cleaner knows enough to put a red top on that bottle so I don’t mistake it for the wetting solution.
 That's a great idea. I hope the pharmacies pick up on it. 

Sunday, March 09, 2014

Book Review - The Art of Falling by Kathryn Craft

 The Art of Falling
Kathryn Craft
File Size: 1184 KB
Print Length: 368 pages
Page Numbers Source ISBN: 1402285191
Publisher: Sourcebooks Landmark (January 28, 2014)
Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
Language: English

What a wonderful story of celebrating life. To really appreciate the joy of living, one must first have pain, and Penelope Sparrow has plenty of pain, physical and emotional and spiritual. The journey Penny takes from the darkest moment of despair to the light of joy is not an easy one, for her or for the reader at times. The author did not pull back from the agony one feels while watching someone she loves slowly kill herself and the internal conflicts that creates.

Penny is a dancer, struggling with her self-image, struggling with her obese mother, and struggling with life in general, when she takes a fall from her 14th floor apartment window and somehow survives. But can she go on, especially since she cannot remember how she fell or what happened just prior to it?

She does, however, remember dance. She remembers taking the stage and her last dance with Dmitri, the man she has given herself to body and soul.

With the help of Marty, the baker, and Angela, a young woman who is suffering from cystic fibrosis, Penny champions her way through all the challenges of the physical and emotional trauma. The relationships with these new friends helps Penny focus on what is important, and the way those friendships grow is a wonderful layer to the story. Except for the fact that Marty in the classic screenplay by Paddy Chayefsky was a butcher, there are some subtle similarities in the characterizations. I often thought of the movie Marty when Marty the baker was in a scene in The Art of Falling. I don't know if Kathryn made the same association, but it was a nice one.

Using the themes of dance and letting the reader feel what it is like to be one with the air and the music really helped propel the story and connect the reader to Penny in an innovative way. This is a thoughtful book that one should read with plenty of time to savor the subtleties of the writing. Everything about this book is top notch from the characters, to the pacing, to the story structure, to the magical, lyrical prose.

Kathryn Craft has certainly mastered the craft of writing, and she will be my guest this coming Wednesday, sharing a charming story from her childhood. I do hope you can come back on Wednesday and meet the child who grew up to be a novelist.

Friday, March 07, 2014

Friday's Odds and Ends

This has been a very busy, hectic week getting ready for the opening of the play I am in at a local community theatre, The Main Street Theatre in Sulphur Springs, Texas. We are doing "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof", and I play the role of Big Mama. We opened last night and will perform again tonight, tomorrow night, and next week on Thursday, Friday and Saturday. I am working with an amazing cast and the players doing the two lead roles, Maggie and Brick, are terrific. So is Big Daddy. When he goes on his tirade against me, I can feel all his anger and his frustration.

This picture is from one of our rehearsals where Big Daddy is yelling at me to leave him and Brick alone. The scene is from act two where Brick and Big Daddy are having their "come to Jesus" talk. Very intense scene, and it upsets me to hear them shouting at each other.

On opening night, Thursday, the audience could feel all that emotion, too, and it is that connection we always want to make with an audience or with readers.  I love being reminded of that while playing on stage.


Maggie "The Cat" played by Leah Conner. Image Courtesy of The Front Porch News where you can read a review and see more cast pictures.You can also get information on tickets, etc, if you happen to be in the East Texas area and would like to see this classic show.

Today I am the Friday's Featured Author at J.M. Kelley's blog and we had fun talking about high school days, favorite books, and the ultimate hamburger. Come on by if you have a chance. Like so many other authors who are generous with their time and their little corner of cyberspace to support other writers, J.M is helping me spread the word about the recent release of Stalking Season as an e-book. 

I just love the cover that artist, Dany Russell did, so I have to share it again. For those of you who may have ever been in Reunion Arena in Dallas, you may recognize the view, minus the police badge of course.

Now just a couple of groaner jokes, thanks to

Q: What did the baby corn say to the mama corn? A: "Where’s Popcorn?"
Q: What do you call sad coffee?" A: Despresso.

Today's Literary Lesson comes from "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof." In act one Maggie says, "When something is festering your your memory or your imagination, laws of silence don't work. It's just like shutting a door and locking it on a house on fire in hope of forgetting that the house is burning. But not facing a fire doesn't put it out. Silence about a thing just magnifies it. It grows and festers in silence, becomes malignant."
The play is filled with such wonderful insights, which is part of the reason it has been such a joy to experience. Every rehearsal we found a new nuance of human behavior and philosophy to ponder.

What have you learned from plays or books that made you stop and really think about how it applies to your life?

Wednesday, March 05, 2014

Fun at The Opera

Please welcome humorist, Slim Randles, back as today's Wednesday's Guest. I don't think I want to follow his advice about the proper way in which to enjoy the opera, but it may work for Three-Chord Cortez. I'm not sure what is served in the way of refreshments at an opera, but probably something fancy like a petit four. We can have those, and maybe some biscuits and gravy for the guys down at the Mule Barn Truck Stop. I doubt they know what a petit four is.

Image Courtesy of Diana's Desserts
Image Courtesty of Jenn's Food Journey Where You can Get a Recipe or Two
Our resident cowboy, Steve, brought us the shocking news: cowpuncher Three-Chord Cortez, that bunkhouse balladeer, plans to study opera, in hopes an aria or three will make him even more attractive to girls during a serenade. Apparently, singing "La Donna Mobile" might be more effective than “You don’t know what lonesome is ‘til you start herding co-o-o-ows” … especially if she doesn’t speak European.

I thought I’d jot down a few opera truths for ol’ T.C. just to help him out.

1. Take off your hat. You can keep Jujubes in it if you want.

2. If you like a particular aria, you can yell Bravo! if it’s a man; Brava!  if it’s a woman; or Bravisimo! if it’s an isimo. It’s considered poor form to yell “Eeeee-HAAA!” or “You get ‘em, Hon!”

3. One of the strangest operatic devices is called recitative – pronounced rest-a-TEEF – (don’t ask), and is a combination of singing and speaking that is used when the composer wants to hurry through a song because he wasn’t too fond of it in the first place but it was in the contract and he wants it out of the way quickly. Feel free to mention recitative to a woman at half time. Operas have two half times.

The speaking part of the recitative is done like a machine gun, and then you break into song when you get tired of that, and it can happen in the same sentence. For example:

“Don’t make me come down there, don’t make me come down there, don’t make me come down there and k-i-i-i-I-I-I-I-i-i-ck your bu-u-u-u-u-tt.”

4. That bit of music they play before the curtain goes up is called the overture, and not foreplay. It’s to give you a hint of what’s to come, in case you decide to leave early. You might listen to the overture and say, “That allegretto tickles my fancy, but if that tenor duet goes on for more than two minutes, I’ll get the scours.”

This makes a guy a connoisseur, you see. Connoisseur is European for smart aleck.

And finally, 5. Don’t forget to clean your boots.

If you like what Slim shares here, you will 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 any occasion.

In order to provide these columns for free and still buy groceries, Slim has sponsors, and the current sponsor is Beltone Hearing Aids,  so we do have to do this little ad:

A free hearing test will ease the grief if you can’t hear the recitative. Beltone 1-866-867-8700.

Monday, March 03, 2014

Monday Morning Musings

As I saw the clock winding down to noon, I thought of the song, "Monday Morning Coming Down." That was a classic from Johnny Cash, so I thought I would share that video with you.

I was gone over the weekend to the art fair in Killeen, Texas, and came home to an ice storm in North Texas. It is really, really cold here, and I spent most of the morning deicing water and feed pans for my outside animals and getting them hay and feed.

While I was freezing my tush off, my dog, Poppy didn't mind the cold at all. She still wanted me to throw the ball and she didn't even mind it when she slid across the ice.

Can you see the ball by her front paw?
When I finished all the outside work, I was happy to come back into the house and get a hot cup of coffee. Then it was time to catch up with e-mails that had piled up over the weekend, which left little time for writing a new blog.

So enjoy the music, and I will see you on Wednesday. Hopefully, by then I will be back on schedule.

Sunday, March 02, 2014

Something Different This Sunday

Since I have no review for today, I thought I would share a couple videos with songs that have spoken to my heart of late. This first one is from Amanda Marshall, a Candadian pop-rock singer with her amazing song "Believe in You." I think all the strong women I celebrate here had someone in their lives who told them that often. The video is as touching as the lyrics as we watch this man from infancy on as he runs the race of life.

This next one is from another Canadian singer, Michelle Wright, and it is a sad song, especially for those of us who are grieving a loss. I've had her CD "Everything and More" for a while and just popped it in when I was driving the other day. I'd forgotten about this song, and when I heard it again that day, I thought, "Yes, this is for me today. I Don't Wanna be That Strong."

I think we all have days like that, and we just need to be there for that day. Maybe the next day we will feel strong again, but for one day we can just say we don't want to do this today. Michelle's song is about love that ended in divorce, but it has a message for love that ended for any reason.

Ironically, Michelle's latest album is titled "Strong." Maybe it's time for a new CD.