Monday, September 29, 2014

Monday Morning Musings

Good Monday morning. I trust everyone had a great weekend and are energized for the work week ahead.

What I'm Reading: Her Sister by Karen Rose Smith. This is book seven of her Search For Love series, but the first one I have tried. It is a romance with some mystery and suspense, and so far it is a good read.

What I'm Dismayed About: I read an article in The Dallas Morning News yesterday written by a woman who had a harrowing experience with Child Protective Services. Kari Anne Roy, an Austin writer who writes children's books as KA Holt, had just returned from vacation and was inside her house sorting through mail when a neighbor knocked on her door. When Kari opened the door, she saw that the neighbor had Kari's six-year-old son in hand. The neighbor was overly concerned about the boy being alone in the neighborhood park, which was in full view of Kari's house and only 150 yards away.

The neighbor was convinced that this was a case of child neglect, so she called the police. What the neighbor didn't know, and didn't want to hear from Kari, is that the boy had been supervised by an older sister, who had just run home for a minute and that Kari's children often played outside at the park without an adult on hand.

Courtesy of
While relating the sequence of events that led to the visit by Child Protective Services and the humiliating interviews she and her children were subjected to, Kari kept repeating "They (the kids) were just playing outside." She was dismayed that children can't "just play outside" like many of us did as kids, and I share that dismay. Her kids are now afraid to play outside. Not just because of stranger-danger, but for fear that the police will be called again.

You can read more about the impact this has had on the family on Kari's blog, Haiku of the Day. The post was originally made on September 9th, and the comments opened an interesting discussion of child safety. Well worth a read.

What I'm Happy About: That I could feel fall in the air when I took my walk this morning. There is a certain crispness that heralds the coming of the colors on the trees, and I especially love this time of the year. That's one reason that I loved Slim Randles post here last week, An Ode to Autumn.

Now For Some Fun: My sister sent me these jokes, and the second one made me laugh out loud.

I was with my wife at her high school reunion, and she kept staring at a drunk swigging his drink as he sat alone at a nearby table.

I asked her, "Do you know him?"

"Yes." She sighed. "He's my old boyfriend.  He began drinking right after we split up years ago, and hasn't been sober since."

"My God!"  I said, "Who would think a person could go on celebrating that long?"

And then the fight started...

When our lawn mower broke my wife kept nagging me to get it fixed.  But, I always had something else to take care of. Finally she thought of a clever way to make her point.

I found her seated in the tall grass, busily snipping away with a tiny pair of scissors. I watched silently for a short time and then went into the house. I was gone only a minute, and when I came out again, I handed her a toothbrush and said, "When you finish cutting the grass, you might as well sweep the driveway."

The doctors say I will walk again, but I will always have a limp.

Be honest, you laughed at that last joke, right? 

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Book Review - The Death of Anyone by DJ Swykert

The Death of Anyone
DJ Swykert
Melange Books
224 pages

The Death of Anyone, Melange Books, March 2013, is a fictional story of Detroit Homicide Detective, Bonnie Benham, who convinces the District Attorney to allow a Familial DNA search as she investigates the murder of several young girls. The book reveals standard investigative homicide procedures and the frustration of the officers as all leads go nowhere and the body count continues to mount. A task force is put together and Bonnie and her partner, Neil Jensen, who understands Bonnie’s frustration, become inseparable as they track this serial killer. 

This is a tough, gritty novel with authenticity. The central character, Bonnie, is a really strong, capable detective, and when she is after a killer she is like a bulldog with a bone. The reader also gets to see the more feminine side of the character as well, giving her many dimensions to enjoy. 

I was particularly interested in reading this novel set in Detroit, as I grew up there and looked forward to a virtual visit home. I was not disappointed. The setting was firmly established, and I recognized many of the places and streets referenced in the book. 

Most stories answer the title in a sense. What I mean is that we can often finish a book and think, ah, that explains the title. I'm still mystified about why this title was chosen. One Amazon reviewer connected it to the acronym DOA - Death of Anyone - but I have always thought the most popular meaning of that in police work was Dead on Arrival.

For the most part, this was a very enjoyable read. I liked the characters and the police ensemble cast worked well. Unfortunately for me, it is hard to put my editor's hat aside and just read for fun, so I was tempted to get out my red pencil a few times. That did distract from the read for me, but others might just skim over the minor craft issues.


DJ Swykert is a former 911 operator. His work has appeared in The Tampa Review, Detroit News, Monarch Review, Lunch Ticket, Zodiac Review, Barbaric Yawp and Bull. His books include Children of the Enemy, Maggie Elizabeth Harrington, Alpha Wolves, The Death of Anyone and The Pool Boy’s Beatitude. A list of his books can be found on his Amazon Author Page, and you can find him at: and on his BLOG
DJ will be my Wednesday's Guest this week, so do try to come by and meet him. He is quite fascinated with Familial DNA testing, which plays a part in The Death of Anyone. Perhaps he will tell us a bit more about that. 

Friday, September 26, 2014

Friday's Odds and Ends

Hello, my name is Maryann, and I am a parent who spanked her children. Primarily with my hand and sometimes with a hot-wheel track - my boys can attest to how that stung without injuring them - but never with a weapon that would bruise them or make them bleed. And corporal punishment was reserved for serious infractions such as lying or stealing.  What could a four-year-old child have possibly done that was so terrible it warranted the discipline that NFL player Adrian Peterson inflicted on his son, beating him with a switch until the child bled?

Since the news of what Peterson did broke last week, people are speaking up in defense of his actions, espousing the old adage, "spare the rod spoil the child." His mother was quoted as saying he did it out of love for his child. "When you whip those you love it's not about abuse, it's about love."

Sorry Ms. Jackson, but whipping a four-year-old until he bleeds is not love.
This is a father's love.
Enough about that. Have you heard about the new website for the wealthy among us, Netropolitan? To join, one must ante up $9,000, and the site is billed as "The online country club for people with more money than time." The direct link to the site didn't work when I tried it, maybe because I didn't pay my $9,000, so I linked to an article that has more information. Just in case you might want to join. (smile)

Last Sunday in the Dallas Morning News, Steve Blow's column was about the ongoing debate about the separation of church and state that gains new fuel every time someone objects to a religious symbol in a public place or the religious right petitions to allow prayers at public gatherings. Steve's column mentioned two recent issues in the Dallas area that stirred the embers of the debate. First was a plaque mounted on a school building dedicating the school to "...the education of God's children and to their faithful teachers in the name of the holy Christian Church."

I'm a Christian, but I object to the plaque since some of the students and teachers there might not be Christian. Steve suggested the religious leaders in the town go to the school board and say, "In hindsight, those plaques really do represent public monies promoting one religion over others. That is not the American way and they should be removed."

The other flap is over a request by a group of atheists to be allowed to do an invocation before a city council meeting in Rowlett on a rotation basis with the religious representatives. The hue and cry that elicited has been loud and strong, and I'll admit that when I first heard about the request I wondered why an atheist would want to do an invocation. Who would they be invoking? Then I read Steve's column, reminding us that "Our cherished freedom of religion includes the freedom to choose no religion." He urged the religious leaders in Rowlett to speak those words to the City Council members and ask them to "...allow them (atheists) to bring a secular word of inspiration periodically."

The final point in Steve's column was about why our founding fathers were so careful to keep religion and politics apart. "Just look around the Middle East at what happens when they merge into one.
It’s a mess. A bloody mess.

"Some see the problem as Islam itself. In truth, much of the problem is simply the mixture of church and state into one toxic brew."

So true.

Now to close with some fun from the funny papers. This one is from Crankshaft. Rose is visiting with a lady friend telling her, "My lungs seem to be bothering me. And there's something wrong with my bladder. But those things aren't as bad as the pain I get in my back. I don't know if it's my pancreas, my spleen or my liver. And then I get these heart palpitations that just seem to go on and on."

Her litany of ailments goes on through several panels, then Crankshaft walks into the kitchen and says to his daughter, Pam, "You're missing Rose's organ recital."

Hope everyone has a great weekend. Do you have plans for something fun? I'm going to a play Friday night and will have our monthly writers' group meeting on Sunday. 

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Don't Mess With Old People

Please help me welcome Mags as today's Wednesday's Guest. She is the central character in Nancy Lynn Jarvis's novel, Mags & The AARP Gang. I reviewed the book on Sunday, so you can check that out if you want to. While Mags is entertaining us here, I am over at The Blood Red Pencil with a post about working as a script doctor. So hop on over if you have a moment and see the trailer for one of the films I worked on with director, Stephen Marro. But do visit with Mags first.

 Mags does love her coffee, so let's grab a cup and see what she has to say...

My name is Margaret Sybil Broadly Benson, née Spencer, but you can call me Mags. I told my biographer, Nancy Lynn Jarvis, that I was going to be on Maryann’s blog today and asked if she would write something for me to say, but did she? No, she did not. I’d like to think it’s because she’s involved getting publicity for the cozy mystery writers’ cookbook she edited recently, but the truth is, I think she’s forgotten about me. I’m not complaining, though. In my eighty-three years I’ve learned there are advantages to being overlooked.

Sometimes people make assumptions about the elderly; imagine they know how we think, what we’re capable of, and more importantly what we aren’t capable of. Take me and the AARP Gang, for example. Our mobile home park was about to be foreclosed and we were about to be kicked out of our homes, all political and underhanded what was going on…oh, don’t get me started. Bottom line is it was assumed that at our ages we wouldn’t have any fight left; that we’d just be nice little old ladies and gents and go off quietly to live with family.

What people didn’t realize is we were already a family, and that after a lifetime of living and reaching our eighties, none of us were quitters. No wonder we decided to rob the bank that held our note and pay off our mortgage with the proceeds. We liked the irony of that, besides, the bank was within walking distance, which was handy because most of us no longer drive.

We devised a masterful plan that made the most of our assets. My cohorts disguised themselves as old people (yes, I know we are all already old people, but they still needed disguises) making the most of the unobtrusiveness of age, while I used my rather formidable-if-never-used-on-stage acting talents to become our distraction, keeping people’s eyes busy so they wouldn’t see what was going on behind their backs.

I was doing my award-worthy impression of a dear old lady who had lost her wallet and pleading with the people in the bank to help me find it when Melvin, who managed to bring along a rifle that none of us knew he had, got upset with a teller, brandished it, lost his balance, and fired the weapon, accidentally shooting one of the overhead fire sprinklers. That happenstance caused all the other sprinklers to spurt in sympathy and automatically call the fire department. Oh my! So much for our carefully rehearsed plan.

Did we get away with it, you ask? Well, I am writing from home instead of from a jail cell, but it took quite a bit of complicated maneuvering, a whole novel’s worth in fact, to get from being soggy in the bank to where I am today. Melvin—oh, he’s a hard man to control—in drag didn’t help my case much, not to mention all the trouble Batty Betty with her early onset Alzheimer’s caused what with remembering exactly what she should have forgotten. You can read all about what happened in Mags and the AARP Gang.

Nancy Lynn Jarvis was a Santa Cruz, California, Realtor® for more than twenty years and is still licensed but she’s enjoying writing so much, she may never sell another house. After earning a BA in behavioral science from San Jose State University, she worked in the advertising department of the San Jose Mercury News. A move to Santa Cruz meant a new job as a librarian and later a stint as the business manager for Shakespeare Santa Cruz at UCSC. Nancy’s work history reflects her philosophy: people should try something radically different every few years. 
Mags and the AARP Gang represents a new direction in her writing adventure. After four Regan McHenry Real Estate Mysteries, Nancy put her characters, Regan, Tom, and Dave, on hiatus so she could let Mags and her gang, characters who had been forming in her mind for the past year, tell you their story. 

Monday, September 22, 2014

Monday Morning Musings

This one will be short as I was gone for the weekend and am still trying to play catch-up with my farm work and my office work. Then, too, I want to take time to join my knitting group for a while and just have fun.

What I'm Reading: The Death of Anyone by David Swykert. It's a police-procedural with a female homicide detective as the main character and is set in Detroit. Two reasons it was of interest to me. I grew up near Detroit, so I looked forward to this fictional visit back, and of course I like lead detectives who are strong, capable women. So far it is pretty good.

What I'm Dismayed About: My neighbor's dogs got out Thursday night and one of them got in my back pasture and attacked my sheep. I spent all day Friday dealing with that: taking her to the veterinarian clinic, then getting her back home, talking to my neighbor about his responsibility, forcing some electrolytes into the sheep late in the day because she wasn't eating. Luckily, she seems to be doing better today, but I'm doubting my neighbor will help with the bills.

This is Miss Marie, who was bottle fed as a lamb and very much a pet.
What I'm Happy About: I spent the weekend with some of my kids. Paul and Dany, and we had a jam session with a friend, Cora. Paul and Dany and Cora are all in a church choir together, and when I visit I get to sing with the choir, too. Getting together like this is always great fun as we sing some old songs my father taught us, like "My Grandfather's Clock", some John Denver tunes, and some from The Beatles. Sometimes we even slip in a few church songs, too.
Me, Paul and Dany. They are twins and my babies. LOL

Cora, the lead guitarist at church. Paul playing keyboard. In the first picture he was playing guitar. Show off. LOL
Instead of a Joke I thought I would close today with a video. This is a recording of "My Grandfather's Clock" by Tom Roush. It's a slightly faster rendition of the one my father taught me, but very nice. I noted that Tom has a CD with a lot of old songs, so I am tempted to do some shopping.

So, how was your weekend? What are your plans for the week?

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Book Review - Mags And The AARP Gang by Nancy Lynn Jarvis

Mags And The AARP Gang
Nancy Lynn Jarvis
File Size: 2368 KB
Print Length: 266 pages
Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0983589127
Publisher: Good Read Publishers; 1 edition (November 14, 2013)
Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
Language: English
ASIN: B00A946G3C

Margaret Sybil Broadly Benson, known to her friends as Mags, is 83 years old, and she has a nice routine to her senior-style life. She visits with her friends, has lunch every day with Harvey, a special friend since the passing of her husband, and is content with her rather ordinary life until Harvey comes up with an idea to help the owner of the trailer park where Mags and her friends live.

Raymond owes the bank $170,000 and has received a foreclosure notice. This means everyone will ose their homes, which doesn't set well with Harvey or Mags. So Harvey suggests a plan he's devised to rob the very bank that holds the mortgage and give the money to Raymond. They enlist the help of a few other friends, go over and over the plan, and even practice what they will do, so they are confident that all will go well.

I won't give anything away, but the simple life Mags has enjoyed up to this point takes an abrupt about face. Nothing goes according to the plan, either before or during the heist and this motley crew of elder people must use every wit they have left to get through it all.

While a bit overwritten and too "cutesy" in places, this is a fun story, and who couldn't love an 83-year old woman who is clever, funny, and able to pull off a bank robbery.

One of the things I particularly liked about the book is how it celebrates aging in such a positive way. We are so far past the "rocking on the front porch" stereotype of people over 70, and that is a good thing.
Nancy Lynn Jarvis was a Santa Cruz, California, Realtor® for more than twenty years and is still licensed but she’s enjoying writing so much, she may never sell another house. After earning a BA in behavioral science from San Jose State University, she worked in the advertising department of the San Jose Mercury News. A move to Santa Cruz meant a new job as a librarian and later a stint as the business manager for Shakespeare Santa Cruz at UCSC. Nancy’s work history reflects her philosophy: people should try something radically different every few years. “Mags and the AARP Gang” represents a new direction in her writing adventure. After four Regan McHenry Real Estate Mysteries, Nancy put her characters, Regan, Tom, and Dave, on hiatus so she could let Mags and her gang, characters who had been forming in her mind for the past year, tell you their story.

Mags will be my guest this coming Wednesday, so I hope you can stop by to meet her. She is quite a lady.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Football Fever

This will not be my usual Friday fare. You may have guessed that already by the different title, and I was trying not to write about what is going on with some pro football players. Really I was. I didn't want to enter into the media coverage of the latest "bad boy" behavior in the NFL, but I was disgusted Wednesday evening when I heard of two more players who were arrested for assault, one of those charges involved assault of a child.So I just couldn't keep my keyboard quiet.
Here's the skinny. Arizona Cardinals running back Jonathan Dwyer was arrested on aggravated assault charges, stemming from a domestic dispute. The alleged assault took place in July and involved the woman with whom he has an 18-month old child.

That arrest came not long after Carolina Panthers defensive end Greg Hardy and Minnesota Viking running back Adrian Peterson were placed on the NFL’s “exempt list.” Hardy was convicted in July for assaulting his former girlfriend and threatening to kill her. Peterson is charged with child abuse in Texas,  accused of beating his 4-year-old son last May. One news report indicates that he was investigated for abusing a different son in 2013.

Two weeks ago former Ravens running back Ray Rice was suspended indefinitely by the NFL and released by the team. This came after a video was found showing Rice assaulting the woman he was engaged to back in February in the elevator of an Atlantic City casino.

It's past time that we stopped spoiling athletes with so much money, deference, and hero-worship that they believe they can act like spoiled children and get away with any kind of behavior. I used to enjoy watching the game of football, back when it was somewhat of a gentleman's game and players for the most part were good guys on the field and off. Players weren't paid bonuses for taking out the opposition during a game, and they were dropped if they got into serious trouble. Not just suspended with pay. Dropped. As in football career over. As well it should be.

I know football fans will be booing me and this post. And that is fine. Everyone is entitled to their opinion and choice of entertainment. But I do wish we could take a giant step back in time and raise the standards of behavior and not the salaries.

Now, so this is not all just a rant, here is a joke or two to get you through the weekend. Get ready, it's a real groaner.
      A frog goes into a bank and approaches the teller. He can see from her nameplate that her name is Patricia Whack.   
      "Miss Whack, I'd like to get a $30,000 loan to take a holiday."
      Patty looks at the frog in disbelief and asks his name. The frog says his name is Kermit Jagger, his dad is Mick Jagger, and that it's okay, he knows the bank manager.
      Patty explains that he will need to secure the loan with some collateral.
      The frog says, "Sure. I have this," and produces a tiny porcelain elephant, about an inch tall, bright pink and perfectly formed.
       Very confused, Patty explains that she'll have to consult with the bank manager and disappears into a back office.
       She finds the manager and says, "There's a frog called Kermit Jagger out there who claims to know you and wants to borrow $30,000. He wants to use this as collateral."
      She holds up the tiny pink elephant. "I mean, what in the world is this?
     The bank manager looks back at her and says...
    "It's a knickknack, Patty Whack. Give the frog a loan. His old man's a Rolling Stone."

Don't say I didn't warn you. (smile) Have a great weekend. I'm going to be jamming with a couple of my kids. I do love to dig out my guitar and play music with them. What do you have planned?

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Autumn is Welcomed

I'm so pleased to have Slim Randles as my Wednesday's Guest this week. Instead of his usual humorous offering, he has a rather poetic piece about autumn. I guess since there is cowboy poetry, Slim won't be offended by me referring to this as poetic. Since he is helping us welcome in Autumn, I thought a typical fall drink of apple cider would be in order. Please do join me in welcoming Slim. Enjoy...

Courtesy of Love Your Reflection Blog with a recipe for hot apple cider.
It comes to us slowly and delicately, as all beautiful things should. It’s usually in the early morning. We can smell it. We can feel it. That little nip that teases us … autumn. Almost autumn.

Summer is heat and work and sweat and cold drinks of water and swimming and barbecues. But autumn is Fall … the pinnacle. This is when people have the county and state fairs, because the vegetables and animals are at their peak and ready to show. The heat drove some of us into the house this stifling summer and led us to make quilts, make furniture, can fruit. And now, if they’re good enough (and we know, if no one else does) they can go to the fair, too.

In the mountains, the deer and elk are at their finest, with antlers dark brown with the patina of age and wisdom and those tips white as ivory. Polished. This is the polished time.

We are all at some kind of pinnacle in autumn. We have worked through the heat and now we can plan to ratchet it back a bit. We can take our skills to the mountains for hunting and fishing, or just discover a new hobby there at the house that will keep hands and mind busy during the cold to come.

The children are off to school, preparing themselves so someday their autumns will be like this, sweet with fulfillment, honed to a point, seeping with satisfaction the way ours are.

Autumn … come and whisper to us in the morning. I’m almost here. Almost here. Almost here.
Slim writes the popular Home Country columns, which are syndicated in hundreds of newspapers. Some of those columns have been collected and published in his book, Home Country, and now you can listen to the “Home Country Hour” podcast on your computer or other electronic marvels, at

Monday, September 15, 2014

Monday Morning Musings

I hope everyone had a terrific weekend. Mine was spent at the East Texas Book Fest where I connected with some of my author friends, met some new ones, and chatted with visitors about how much fun it is to read. There is a real passion on both sides of the book, and I find it quite energizing to talk to someone who can get so lost in a good story that everything else is blotted out. That's the way it is for us who put the words on the paper. If we did not have that same passion for story, the words would be nothing but dark smudges on white paper.

There was a reception for the authors the evening before, which was a good excuse for wearing something nicer than my jeans and tee-shirt; my normal attire here at Grandma's Ranch.

What I'm Reading: Sarnia, historical fiction set first in London then on the isle of Guernsey. It is set in the Regency era, but has little of the lightheartedness of most Regency novels and is closer to a gothic. The book was written by a man using a feminine pen name, and I think he did a credible job writing from a female POV.

What I'm Dismayed About: Much is being said in the media about Texas Governor Rick Perry's new serious look. He has glasses with black frames that make him look more studious than country hick, and word is the new image is to help with another run at the presidency. Please, Mr. Perry, don't do it. Stay home and tend to Texas business and answer to your two felony indictments for abuse of power.

What I'm Happy About: My wonderful daughter-in-law, Corina, who is celebrating her birthday today. She has been such a wonderful gift to our family, the perfect partner for my son, Michael, and a terrific mom to their two girls. Happy birthday, Corina.

Now for a Joke or Two:  A nursery school teacher was delivering a van full of kids home one day when a fire truck zoomed past. Sitting in the front seat of the fire truck was a Dalmatian. The children started  discussing the dog's duties.

      "They use him to keep crowds back," said one.
      "No," said another, he's just for good luck.
      A third child brought the argument to a close.  "They use the dog's,"  she said firmly, "to find the fire hydrant."

A grumpy old gentleman in a crowded restaurant was compelled to sit, much against his will, next to the orchestra. He stared at the orchestra leader as a loud jazz selection came to an end. The annoyed patron snorted, and then asked, "Would you be so kind as to play something by request?"
      The leader bowed again and beamed. "Certainly," he replied, "anything you like, sir."
      "Then," snapped the patron, "please be good enough to play a game of checkers while I finish my meal."

So how was your weekend? Anything good happen you'd like to share?

Friday, September 12, 2014

September SinC-Up

Not my usual Friday fare as you can see.

I'm a member of Sisters in Crime (SinC) and heard about this fun blogging event from the national headquarters. Throughout the month of September bloggers will be doing a SinC-Up, and I decided to participate. The guidelines are simple, so if you would like to join in, write a blog post responding to one or more of the questions below, and at the end of the post, link to another author who blogs and who you think your readers will want to get to know. (Letting that blogger know would be a good idea, too!) Bloggers do not have to be members of Sisters in Crime to participate, and there is no sign-up or schedule to follow.

Here are some questions to choose from:
  • Which authors have inspired you?
  • Which male authors write great women characters? Which female authors write great male characters?
  • If someone said "Nothing against women writers, but all of my favorite crime fiction authors happen to be men," how would you respond?
  • What's the best part of the writing process for you? What's the most challenging?
  • Do you listen to music while writing? What's on your playlist?
  • What books are on your nightstand right now?
  • If you were to mentor a new writer, what would you tell her about the writing business?
You don't need to answer them all - just whichever takes your fancy. We want this to be fun! And if you would rather not explain the process for joining the September SinC-Up in your post, you may link to which covers it all.

If you do, please mention and link to Sisters in Crime in your post. So that participants' posts can be publicized through our social media channels, we ask that you tweet your link using the hashtag #SinC-up or #SinCBlogHop and include @SINCnational (if you are on Twitter), or email directly with your link (if you are not on Twitter).

Okay that's the set up, and I am going to link to an author I have gotten to know online. Nancy J. Cohen writes the Bad Hair Day cozy mystery series that features an amateur sleuth. She also writes paranormal romances with a bit of sci-fi or fantasy thrown into the mix. I know books that have elements of several genres are popular among readers, so you might enjoy those. I'm not so fond of mixing like that, but I have enjoyed her cozy mysteries.

Now to answer some of the questions:

Which male authors write great women characters?  I think Craig Johnson does a terrific job with his female characters. I have loved the tough Victoria "Vic" Moretti in the books and the television series, "Longmire". While she has all the feminine qualities that show a bit of a soft side to her character, she is kick-ass tough and believable as a strong woman in law enforcement.

If someone said "Nothing against women writers, but all of my favorite crime fiction authors happen to be men," how would you respond? How many women crime writers have you read? There are a whole bunch of us who can hold our own against the guys, and sometimes women who write using a pen name that sounds masculine are mistaken for a man. When my mystery, Doubletake, was first published under the pen name Sutton Miller, a reviewer complimented Mr. Miller on a terrific thriller. Margaret Sutton and I appreciated the irony of that. 

What's the best part of the writing process for you? What's the most challenging? The best part of the writing process is when the characters are driving the story, and I am just along for the ride - and the typing. That creative highway is such a blast. The most challenging part of writing is the business side. There are very few writers I know who enjoy the marketing and promoting, and those who say they do? Well, I hate to say this about my friends, but I think they are lying just to appear all with it and all that.

What books are on my nightstand? Actually I have a stuffed rabbit and often a live cat on my nightstand so there is little room for anything else. The books waiting for me to read are on the desk in the bedroom or loaded into my Kindle. Yes, I do read quite a bit on the Kindle, especially books for review here on my blog. So, right now I'm reading Sarnia by Hilary Ford, a Victorian-era woman's novel. Interestingly enough, the author is really Sam Youd, so he is another male writer who can create believable women characters. On the desk is The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt, which has been waiting since July for me to make time for it; Silent Prey by John Sandford, and Killer Heat by Linda Fairstein.

I'm heading out today to go to Tyler for the East Texas Book Fest.  Check it out on Saturday if you live near Tyler. Lots of events for the whole family to enjoy, and a good time to pick up gifts for readers. There is nothing I treasure more than an autographed book.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Remembering 9/11

With the passing of time, the urgency we all felt that awful September day seems to have waned somewhat. Now we are more focused on the inconveniences of air travel that event spawned than on what we as a nation and a people experienced in the first weeks and months following the terrorist attacks.

Not that we should keep the fear and anger foremost on our minds, as that terror-mindset just feeds the cause of the terrorists. That was pointed out in a recent column by Steve Blow in The Dallas Morning News last Sunday. He wrote about the hatred against Islam that is sometimes preached in the pulpit and on the airways, pointing out that most Muslims do not support terrorists, especially the most recent activity by ISIS in Iraq.

Steve quotes Robert Hunt, a professor at SMU's Perkins School of Theology, who wishes that the press would be more interested in spreading the news that many more Muslim nations are condemning the violence than the few who perpetuate terrorism. Unfortunately, the old newspaper adage still prevails, "If it bleeds it leads" and "The fact that Islamic society condemns ISIS isn't news. We only hear about Muslims at war because peace isn't news."

Hunt also offers this comment, "If we want to defeat terrorists, we have to refuse to be terrified. And we have to not spread their fear"

And in honor of this day I want to share this video of the Alan Jackson song, "Where Were You "When the World Stood Still?" I get goosebumps every time I hear it, mainly because the song encourages love, not fear and hate.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Special Wednesday's Guest

On this, the eve of remembering 9/11, I thought it appropriate to have a special guest today, Major Heather Penny. I read about this amazing woman last Sunday in Parade Magazine. In 2001 she was an F-16 pilot with the 121st Fighter Squadron of the D.C. Air National Guard at Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland.

A fact not widely publicized that September day 13 years ago, is that she, along with others in her squad, took to the air, prepared to take down the United Flight 93 if so ordered.

The Secret Service had contacted the air base with orders for the Guard to get airborne, suspecting that there was a fourth plane somewhere headed to Washington. United Flight  93 had gone off radar and it was believed to be in the control of terrorists. While most of the squad were guarding the immediate area around the White House, Penny and her commander were on another mission. Find the United plane and bring it down.As Penny relates in the interview in Parade, "Because we'd just returned from a training mission in Nevada, there weren't any missiles or bombs or high-explosive bullets on the airplanes, and it was going to be a while before the weapons people could get the missiles built up."

This is a fully armed F-16
 That meant there would only be one way to take the plane down. Penny's commander, Col. Marc "Sass" Sasseville told her, "I'll take the cockpit." What he was saying was that he would ram the airliner.

"I knew I would take the tail," Penny says. "If you take the tail off an airplane it cannot fly."

They were unable to locate the United airplane and later learned about the passengers taking control and crashing the plane.  Penny considers those passengers as some of the heroes of that day, not her. "They averted further tragedy, confusion, and chaos and thwarted those who would do our nation harm."

The drama of that part of the day played out like the best of suspense fiction, but it wasn't fiction. What a tremendous amount of courage it took to force the terrorists to crash the plane in a rural area in Pennsylvania. Countless lives were saved by that act of bravery on the part of the 40 passengers and crew of Flight 93, and they were true heroes.

About her own act of bravery, Penny says that there was nothing special or unique about what she did, and was willing to do. "If I hadn't been there, another airman would have been, and just as honorably done their duty." 

That may be true, but the point is, it wasn't another airman who joined the commander and took to the sky that day with the intent of crashing into a rogue plane. It was Heather Penny, and I salute her as a special strong woman of courage. Raise a glass with me.

Here is Heather "Lucky" Penny's story in The Washington Post.
If you'd like a joke or two to get you over the hump, visit The Blood Red Pencil where I have some jokes for and about writers.

Monday, September 08, 2014

Monday Morning Musings

First I want to invite you to visit the Bookbrowsing blog by PJ Nunn, where I am a guest today. I wrote about my experience collaborating on the mystery, Doubletake - the challenges and the fun. 

Next, I'm excited to share some news from Terry Odell, author of several mystery series. I especially like her Blackthorne, Inc. series and her latest, Windswept Danger, is available for preorder. To celebrate, she's offering Windswept Danger at a low introductory price of 99 cents. When it goes "live" on October 26th, it'll be $3.99. But if you'd like to have the book ready and waiting on your Kobo, Kindle, iPad or other compatible device, you can order it now.  You can read a sample chapter on her Website, and then decide if you want to order the book.
Buy at Kobo * Buy at Amazon * Buy at Apple

In case you missed my announcement last week, the revised edition of my YA  novel Friends Forever  is also available for preorder. Preording helps improve the book's ranking on Amazon, which is so important as we try to gain visibility for our work.

What I'm Reading: A fascinating book about the oil industry in South America. Law of the Jungle will be published on Sept 23 by Crown, and I was sent an ARC for review. It, too, is available for preorder. The book is about the 20-year legal war between indigenous tribe members in the rain forest in Ecuador and the multinational oil company Chevron. At the center of the tale is Steven Donziger, an American lawyer whose campaign on behalf of the Ecuadorians and the Amazonian environment went horribly awry.

I will be doing a review late in October, and so far I am finding the history and the facts quite intriguing.

What I'm Dismayed About: We hear a lot about the Keystone XL Pipeline and the dangers it poses in pushing Tar Sands Oil through pipes across the middle of America, but we don't hear enough about other pipelines that have already been approved, such as one by Enbridge that will go across Illinois. According to Doug Hayes, an attorney with the Sierra Club, “There’s been a pretty deliberate attempt to try and avoid the permitting process and public involvement. While everyone was paying attention to Keystone, there were all these other projects being approved behind closed doors.”

What I'm Happy About: We are only into our second week of full rehearsals for the original play "Bonnie & Clyde in Winnsboro" that I adapted and am directing, and already the cast is starting to get into character. Here is the Barrow Gang.

Clyde in front, Bonnie to his R. Brother Buck behind on R, Hank on L and Blanche on Hank's L
Now the Joke For the Day
A young man goes into a drug store to buy condoms. The pharmacist tells him that the condoms come in packs of three, nine, or 12, and asks which ones the young man wants. "Well," he says, "Ive been seeing this girl for a while and she's really hot. I want the condoms because I think tonight's the night. We're having dinner with her parents and then we're going out. Once she's had me, she'll want me all the time, so you'd better give me the 12 pack!"

The young man makes his purchase and leaves.

Later that evening, he sits down to dinner with his girlfriend and her parents. He asks if he may give the blessing and they agree. He begins the prayer, but continues praying for several minutes. The girl leans over and says, "You never told me that you were such a religious person."

He leans over to her and says, "You never told me that your father is a pharmacist."

Sunday, September 07, 2014

Book Review - Night Train Express by Ed McGinnis

Night Train Express
Ed McGinnis
File Size: 442 KB
Print Length: 263 pages
Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
Language: English

BOOK BLURB: Jack Harrington—actor, Vietnam veteran, business associate of Los Angeles underworld figures--finds himself in a precarious position: at least two people are trying to kill him. He knows who one of them is. But the identity of the second would-be killer is shrouded in mystery and that killer is targeting others as well.
The deaths seem unrelated to one another and to an earlier attempt on Harrington’s life…at first. Until Jack Harrington connects the crimes and races against time to follow the bloody, serpentine trail back to its very unlikely genesis: the chaotic Southeast Asia of nineteen years earlier and the involvement of Harrington and others in a fateful--and fatal—subplot of the Vietnam War.
The Night Train Express, carrying a bizarre cast of fellow travelers with fatally conflicting agendas, is gathering speed. Jack Harrington will require all of his intelligence, charm and acting skills, his connections in both high and low places and his hard-earned street smarts—as well as a great deal of luck--to avoid being crushed beneath its wheels.
As long as the story stayed with Jack, I really enjoyed it, but the POV switches a lot and it takes a long time to meet all the characters in the story. Then keeping them straight is a bit of a challenge. 

Once I got the characters all straight in my mind, I realized that I was really not liking some of the characters. I know the bad guys are the bad guys and we are not always supposed to like them, but the rogue police officers were way too ruthless for my taste and their scenes were so lengthy that I skip read a lot of those. Other readers might not have a problem with the graphic, ruthless scenes. What we enjoy reading is just a matter of personal taste, and the book is well-written.

The mystery and intrigue were compelling, and I did like some of the secondary characters. Penny the District Attorney was a complex personality, as was Anne, the neighbor who isn't as harmless as she first appears. There are touches of humor throughout the story, mostly from Jack's POV, and that made him an even more endearing character. 

I found the genesis of the title a most interesting plot line, and wanting to know what the Night Train Express meant to Jack kept me reading.

I think folks who like a sweeping story with lots of characters, several plot lines, and on-the-page violence, would enjoy this book.

Ed McGinnis is the author of the novels Night Train Express, The Blue Route and Wildwood. He grew up in the shadow of the Blue Route, on the deceptively mean streets of suburban Philadelphia, where he encountered the sort of real-life characters that inhabit his fiction: shady politicians, pragmatic cops, outlaw bikers, drug dealers, gamblers, mob figures, murder victims and killers. He has worked as an ad agency copywriter, technical writer and editor, in market research and in various capacities in the hospital and health care industry. Ed lives in Delaware County, Pennsylvania. You can connect with Ed at his  Facebook author page his personal website  or his  Amazon author page and follow him on  Twitter 

Friday, September 05, 2014


One year ago on this date my husband died. We had just celebrated our 48th wedding anniversary and were so hoping we would make it to 50. Since his health had been so fragile for a year or more, we both knew that was a real long-shot, but we hoped nonetheless. That's what people do, right? You don't just stop and wait for that final moment.

Now, today, I look back at that awful September day 2013, and I try to take comfort in the fact that we had two weeks of really good days from the time he came home from the hospital August 19 and the day he died. He felt better than he had in months, and that dark mood that had made him so depressed had lifted. He smiled. It was like the sun coming out from a dark cloud. You know. That dazzling brightness that almost takes your breath away.

I think that's why his sudden death that Thursday morning was such a shock. I had dared to hope that those good days would stretch into good weeks, then good months, and maybe a few more good years.

This grief stuff is hard. There's no doubt about that. You know if you have lost your partner, your soul-mate, your best friend.

So today, I am going to be gone for the day with some of my kids. Here are some of my favorite pictures of my husband. This first one is a sketch my daughter, Dany did in 2005. We were all out at the lake having some family fun.

He was a preaching man.

Oh, my God this is good cake!

At our favorite coffee shop in town Art & Espresso - 2012
R.I.P. Carl V. Miller. I miss you.

Wednesday, September 03, 2014

A Girl And Her Horse

Girls are notoriously horse-crazy. I know I was as a child. I collected plastic horses and ceramic horses, and the first stories I wrote were about horses. One of the stories won the Scholastic Writing Awards contest when I was 12, and created a writing monster. (smile)

I couldn't have a horse of my own back then, but when I got old enough to work and earn some money, part of that money was spent at a riding stable. Since then, I've been fortunate enough to have three horses at different times in my life, and currently have my pal, Banjo.

I think he loves me, but it's really the hay.
Most girls outgrow this obsession with horses, but some of us don't, and I imagine my neighbor, Haley, will be in that latter category. I welcome her as my Wednesday's Guest today because I was so impressed with her hard work as she competed for Junior Miss Rodeo Queen for the Franklin County Sheriff Posse Rodeo held this past weekend.

Waiting for the judges decision
Unfortunately, Haley did not win, but she did her best, and she sure sits a horse well. She is also a lovely young girl. She lives next door with her mother, sister, and grandmother, and they are really nice people who help me out a lot with my animals. It is so great to have neighbors like that!

When the family first moved in with their four horses, I remember seeing Haley jump up on the old mustang a few times and ride him with no saddle and no bridle; just hugging the horse's neck and ambling along. Right then I knew that there was a special connection between this little slip of a girl and a horse. 

Still waiting with her mother
At the rodeo, I took the next three pictures after the decisions had been made and the awards given. The girls then took their horses back to the trailer area to be unsaddled. I thought the progression of expressions on Haley's face was very telling.

I will not cry.
Here comes pure determination.

I'll get it next time.

And finally:
Okay, I'm over it.
It's hard to handle disappointment with grace, but I think she did a fine job, and I was glad to be a part of all of this with Haley and her family. My kids and I were some of her sponsors, and we were so happy to do that and support her efforts.  Looking forward to next year!

Are you a horse lover? Do you like to sponsor young people for various activities and events?

Monday, September 01, 2014

Enjoy the Holiday

Just like Memorial Day marks the beginning of summer, Labor Day always marks the end of summer. Besides the Fourth of July, these two holidays probably spawn more picnics and outdoor fun for families than any other day of the year. I'm glad we have a good excuse to go outside and have some fun.

When I was first married, Labor Day was a time for the Miller clan to gather and say goodbye to the lazy, hazy days of summer, but it was also a day to celebrate Mom Miller. Her birthday was September 5th, so this gathering was a good time to bring gifts, have cake, and wish her well for another year. It was also a good day for the kids to spend playing and having a good time before school started. It always started after Labor Day up north, not in August as it does here.

How will you celebrate the day? I will have some brisket and corn on the cob and remember all those wonderful Labor Days of the past.

Several days before the Labor Day weekend, I start thinking about the song, "40-Hour Week" by Alabama, and bits of the lyrics come to mind. My roots run deep in blue collar America, so this song speaks to me and my family. I hope it says something to you, too.

If you're interested here is a link to some neat Labor Day Quotes.