Wednesday, July 30, 2014

A Little Peek

Today I’d like to give you a little glimpse of my new mystery, The Super Bar Incident. Its official release date is August first, which is this coming Friday and I’m beyond excited. In this one I put Minnie on a diet, introduce Briscoe Nichols and his crotchety Mom, find a doggy pet for Rashawna, and – oh yeah – get everyone mixed up in a murder investigation. The mystery shop angle is still going strong and this time our crew is checking out the Lovely in Leather shops in and around Albany, NY.

What you’ve just read is a formula for a light read I hope you’ll enjoy. And to pique your interest further here’s a glimpse at what Minnie has to go through when she faces her greatest enemy – her bathroom scale.

      I have my own unique way of stepping on a scale. I exhaled and eyed the thing. I put a foot on while hanging onto the bathroom sink with one hand, and then I watch with one eye as the dial begins to move up. I let go of the sink slowly as I put the other foot on, look at the number real quick and jump off. But that morning when I looked, I saw that I was down two pounds from the morning before.

     The Hallelujah Chorus began pealing in my head. Holy cow, two whole pounds! I was beyond ecstatic. I leaned over the sink and giggled at my reflection in the mirror as I fluffed my hair. I bowed, put one hand on my hip, and strutted in my towel like a runway model into the bedroom. All my suffering from yesterday had paid off and I was loving it. My cell phone rang and ruined the moment, but I answered smiling.

Can you relate? My book launch is Saturday, August 9th, and I have all kinds of wonderful people helping me out. We’ll be ensconced at the Kinderhook Elks Lodge on Route 9H in Kinderhook, NY beginning at 10 AM and going strong until 12 PM. And beyond if there’s a crush at the door. I'm grinning. 

I just love being a writer. Thank you for reading!

 Image: Free Digital Photos

Monday, July 28, 2014

Rainy Monday Trivia

Okay, time for a bit of trivia again. It’s pouring down rain here today and if you have “weather” going on where you are you might appreciate this brief distraction. I have many trivia books and I’m pulling these at random. I don’t want you to think I’m some kind of brilliant oracle who just knows this stuff. Oh? There was no danger of that? Okay, then. Here we go.

Did you know –

The first person killed in an airplane accident was Lt. Thomas Selfridge, 26. The pilot was Orville Wright.

The glabella is the space between your eyebrows (who knew)?

Squid is the number one pizza topping in Japan.

You can use potato chips to start a fire (I knew that – not!)

A group of rhinos is called a “crash”


1.    This sport bans lefties.
2.    True or false – Any month that starts on a Sunday will have a Friday the 13th.
3.    What presidential daughter had a pony named Macaroni?
4.    If you just made a fillip, what did you do?
5.    Where is the Little League World Series played?

Before I give you the answers here’s a conundrum: Even if you give it to someone else you still get to keep it. What is it?


1.    Polo
2.    True
3.    Caroline Kennedy
4.    Snapped your fingers
5.    Williamsport, PA

Conundrum: Your word

There – now go and face your Monday. Have a nice one. 

Image: Free Digital Photos

Thursday, July 24, 2014

The Zipper Incident

When our kids were young we did a lot of summer road tripping. Sometimes it was related to my husband’s work. Like the time we traveled to Washington DC where he had to work for a week instructing on computers at NSA. We thought it would be great to expose the kids to the history of the place so we all trooped along.

It was hot. There were five of us journeying in a NOT air conditioned car. Our youngest was about seven months old so he sat on my lap for a good part of the trip. We lived in New Jersey at the time, which is pretty hot in July, but not like DC. The closer we got the more the flames of Hades licked at the tires. The kids were like dishrags and I wasn’t much better.

But I’m the mom so I had to be the cheerleader. “We’ll stop for supper early and maybe have ice cream after,” I said trying to be chipper. Mumbles from the back seat with an occasional growl when one brother, the Confederate, approached the “invisible divide” that kept the other brother, the Yankee, from making any moves towards war. They were holding off. Just barely.

“Aw,” said the driver, their dad, “a cold beer.” That thought had him straighten up a bit and search  earnestly for road signs indicating sure relief.

It didn’t take long. We pulled in, unbuckled and hauled ourselves through the door of a small Italian eatery. It was blessedly cool inside, the waitress was upbeat, and the tablecloth was of the checkered variety. We gratefully plopped down and that cold beer was ordered quicker than a Congressman can draw up a new regulation.

We all sat and stared at each other just trying to absorb the coolness and think about eating. Well, except for the seven-month-old. In this sudden oasis he sprung to life. Pudgy little hands grabbed my napkin. Bright eyes zeroed in on the cheese shaker. A toothless grin was aimed at his brothers. Hey, why didn’t we come here before, Mom?

Then we saw the tray on her hand. Pepsi, lemonade and a Cold Beer were headed our way. “Oh, here we go,” I said. Frosty mugs were plopped down – It almost  felt like we were in a cartoon – cool liquid sloshing, everything in slow motion. We gave up a collective sigh as Dad’s beer was set down last. The lust in his eyes was priceless. And as it sat there waiting to be quaffed, the man turned to thank the waitress while by stealth a dimpled hand shot out and gave a mighty tug on the pretty checked tablecloth. This radical movement sent Dad’s beer plunging. Oh. No. It skipped his mouth, his throat, his spare tire – and headed straight for his zipper.

Have you ever heard a grown man gasp? I mean really gasp? And then lurch backwards into the chair behind him with a look of spectacular surprise on his face. No? Well it was an incident worthy of a Fox News Alert blazing across the bottom of your screen.

Except Fox wasn’t around back then so  you’ll have to take my word for it. It was a truly memorable moment, frozen in my brain for all time. Just like  the beer that froze his – well, you know.

Summer – gotta love it.

Image: Free Digital Photos  

Monday, July 21, 2014

Things That Last

Just reading that title brought a few things to mind, didn’t it? As I stood in the garden yesterday, hands full of onions, it occurred to me that gardening has lasted. I thought of my five-year-old self standing in my grandma’s garden in Northern Minnesota gorging on peas. She didn’t mind at all. Saved her having to cook them I guess. Another scenario came to mind as I pictured my sister Shari and I leaving the farmhouse to go to the outhouse. We tripped merrily along and swung the door wide. YIKES! A garter snake had also had “to go” and his presence scared the pee right out of us. I’m sure glad outhouses haven’t lasted!

Ponytails have been around a long time. I think the girls like to feel them swishing along behind them as the round the bases – like at Anna’s softball tournament yesterday. Maybe a ponytail makes them feel swift and powerful like Pegasus. Plus it’s a good way to get your hair off your face on a hot summer day. For a while there guys , especially older ones, gave ponytails a shot. Dude. Most of you are NOT going to be called on to do a romance novel cover when you let your hair down. Cut it off.

Cool. That word has stood the test of time, right? I think using it to describe all things amazing, inventive, artsy,  came along in the late 50’s and we still use it today to describe such things. Even young people –like – under 40 can be heard saying it. How cool is that?

Dancing. With a partner or breaking it on the street to please the crowd. People love to move to the beat. King David danced in the Old testament. With rare exception dancing is a happy thing. My husband and I used to square dance and we always looked forward to those evenings. I had a number of swirly dresses and a 50 yard crinoline. When I do-si-doed, skirts flying, I felt more girly than doing almost anything else. And think of how many people count the days until the next Dancing With The Stars show. Dancing’s not going away any time soon.

Lots of other things come to mind. Cupcakes. Lawn chairs. Best friends. God. To name a few. I almost wrote down submarine races but I think that trend only lasted a few years in lame jokes told by old comedians back in the 60’s. So I’m leaving that out.

What things came to mind as you read this? This inquiring mind would love to know.

Image: Free Digital Photos

Friday, July 18, 2014

The "W" word

I wrote this back in February of 2013 and happened upon it this morning. We’re in the dead opposite season now, but I know Winter is packing its bags and looking forward to a visit. In not that many months. Anyway, I hope you enjoy this repeat and the summer day you're reading it in.

Sunday was a yucky day but instead of getting all bummed about the mud, dirty snow and lack of sunshine, I decided to make stew.  Usually I bake, but I have some store bought cookies (gasp!) and that will do for now. Anyway, this stew I make requires peeled tomatoes, so I took myself down to the basement and grabbed a jar. There are still quite a few of them from last summer’s garden and I feel downright wealthy when I look at the shelves full, or almost full, of the food I worked so hard to put up.

I bipped back up to the kitchen where I chopped up the vegetables and the meat, seasoned it all and then I opened the jar of tomatoes. Thwok!  Off came the Mason jar lid and there they were, all red, plump, and juicy just as though I’d only spooned them in there yesterday.

I couldn’t resist. I stuck my nose in and sniffed. That’s when summer hit me in the face. Kitchen scenes popped into my head. It’s August, it’s hot and the tomatoes are sitting in pots, buckets and pans all over the floor and I’m wondering if I’ll get it all done. Spaghetti sauce, ketchup, stewed tomatoes, Peruvian sauce – a kind of relish made with apples. What a time consuming, perhaps unnecessary, way to pass an afternoon – or several of them. Was I nuts? Spaghetti sauce is on sale at the grocery story all the time and so is ketchup. C’mon, ketchup; who makes their own ketchup?

But, no, I couldn’t let those counter productive sentiments creep into my thinking. I sniffed the jar again and other thoughts presented themselves. Like the picture of my good man who plows and plants, weeds and harvests so I can have this end of February experience – August in a jar. This tomato-y, briny smell did that in an instant and I gotta tell ya; the hard work seemed as nothing compared to this. It was almost as good as a trip to visit family in sunny Southern California. Almost.

We planted some watermelon and tomato seeds this past week. Got those little peat pots to start them in. What I put up last year will be all gone before these seeds, these tiny seeds with their promise of bounty, will become what God programmed them to be. And I can wait. The jar of tomatoes is just a foretaste of what’s to come. Yeah, I can wait.

But in the meantime, I’m making stew and looking out the window at the waiting garden plot. Give us a month or so and that foretaste will become a full blown appetite.  

I’m looking forward. How about you?

Image: Free Digital Photos


Wednesday, July 16, 2014

My Walk and The Poem

You know how I love my after supper walks. A few nights ago I took another after I realized how long it had been. It amazes me – every time – how I can walk the same road and see new things. Or, perhaps I should say, my mind wanders in new directions. This time poetry tapped me on the shoulder and I got this down almost before I had my sneakers off. So here’s a peek into my evening.

Back Road

I walked the back road tonight
while the sun tugged the sky away
Houses huddling against the tree line
gray fox dashes away there ahead of me
glancing back quick

The air silken and sweet
all ready for the buck moon rising
Calling from around the corner
a deep patch of fragrant red clover
I stoop to pick three

Blackbirds greet me at the bend
aware but not looking
pecking bits from the ground
I get too close
off they go!

Thorny blackberry branches reaching
for the last sunny rays
winter’s not far – don’t think that!
Mr. squirrel, that scamp
of the woods, scurrying away

Now at the crossroads
where a neighbor planted pines
giant sentinels saluting the
cautious  remnants of a summer day
God’s royal guards

The house is not far now
waiting for me, solid and still
glad that I’m returning
clover in hand and already
sighing for tomorrow

Image: Free Digital Photos

Monday, July 14, 2014

Words Charming and Alarming

The other day I happened to overhear my husband give an order to Agnes, our cat. It’s Vietnamese and sounds like ‘deety mouw’ . It  means hurry  up and I chuckle every time he says it. He and Agnes have a strained relationship and when she’s wanting to go out and he’s impatiently holding the door – well – sometimes salty language is called for. He was in Vietnam back in the late 60’s and brought home stray remnants of that culture. Fitting for our stray cat, I guess.

I’ve always been fascinated with the Amish and I have a few of their cookbooks and one on quilting, too. In the back of one of the cookbooks there are some phrases of interest, but the one that’s stuck with me over the years is, “Stay outen the light.” That’s what is said to the last cook leaving when you want the light in the room put out. Pretty cute, huh?

My Swedish cousin, Ulla, gave a little talk at last year’s family reunion. She was trying to teach a room full of vacationing Americans a few words in Swedish. Poor Ulla but she hung in there.  My favorite word, carved into my brain now forever, is “Bra!” It has nothing to do with keeping the “girls” in place or the virtues of padded versus underwire. Nope. In Sweden when something is “Bra!” it’s good, like maybe beer or cheese or, sure, that great underwire you found on sale last Tuesday. Simple as that.

You ladies will appreciate my distaste for this next word. Grande. In Spanish it means large. Not a bad word for the most part, but when they use it on the tags in the cute t-shirt you  have in your hand for 70% off at Kohl’s it feels rude. To me “grande” seems so much bigger that plain old Large. Then again it could be tagged Muy Grande – very large and when I need that it’s time to hit the veggie burgers and tofu for a while. “No Haagen Daz for you!”

One of my favorite foreign phrases also comes from the Spanish lexicon. Vaya con Dios. I listened to the song of that name on Mom’s radio when I was a little girl.  It was made popular by Les Paul and Mary Ford whom I’d never heard of until my husband talked about them. Really. You don’t remember who sings your favorite tunes when you’re little – and I was very little – but you remember how it made you feel. Les and Mary were able to wrap that song around you like a warm blanket on a chilly day.

Vaya con Dios means “go with God” and that’s what I hope for you this week.

Have a Bra! Monday.

Image: Free Digital Photos

Friday, July 11, 2014

Friday in the Garden

Today I’m thinking of gardens. Ours is going like gang busters and some of the crops, like the peas, are just about done. We’ll rip them out and plant something else maybe more green beans. So with earth caked under my fingernails and a canning pot at the ready, a verse of poetry came to mind and I bothered to find it. To my surprise the whole poem is longer that I’d imagined, but intertwined with my favorite bit are pictures from our garden past and present. I  hope it inspires you.

                          The kiss of the sun for pardon

                       The song of the birds for mirth

                       One is nearer God’s heart in a garden

                      Than anywhere else on earth

The whole poem is speaking of quite a different garden and I urge you to read it. You can find it here, as I did, and think about what it really means. Quite enlightening. 

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Welcome, Linda O'Connell

Please welcome my friend and fellow writer, Linda O’Connell. I’ve been a fan of her blog for several years and know how much her heart is in her work. I’m so pleased to be able to interview her here about her work on the Not Your Mother’s Book  . . .On Family anthology. Thanks for coming by, Linda!

Linda O’Connell, is an accomplished writer and seasoned teacher from St. Louis, MO who has just launched a book. A positive thinker, she writes from the heart, bares her soul and finds humor in everyday situations. Although she has won awards for poetry, inspirational prose and fiction, she prefers writing personal essays. Her true stories have been published in 22 Chicken Soup for the Soul books and many other anthologies and publications. Linda enjoys a hearty laugh, dark chocolate and walking on the beach.
How did you become involved in developing Not Your Mother's Book...On Family?
I was recruited by Ken and Dahlynn McKowen of Publishing Syndicate to assist them in co creating this anthology. Dahlynn and I had a previous relationship. She had worked for Chicken Soup for the Soul for ten years.

What was the process for acquiring stories?
We solicited true, first person stories through the Publishing Syndicate website, the WOW Principles Newsletter and through social media and other writer's sites. We received hundreds of stories from all over the world, and we selected 60 stories. They were read by me and several editors, but the publishers made final decisions.

How is Not Your Mother's Book...On Family different from other anthologies?
The stories are not syrupy sweet or sad and sappy. They are a bit edgy, contemporary, humorous and real, confirming the fact that families are not always perfect. The family book contains stories by both men and women telling tales out of school. Some will make the reader nod in agreement, shake their head in disbelief or laugh out loud.

Did you collaborate or work alone?
Dianna Graveman, a St. Louis writer, and I worked closely with the publishers to develop two separate books. It was a labor of love that lasted almost two years. Dianna co created Not Your Mother's Book...On Being a Mom. The stories in her book range from birth to empty nest and are about mothering in the modern age. These first person accounts are relatable, fun poignant and funny.
Not Your Mother's Book...On Being a Mom is the seventh release, and Not Your Mother's Book...On Family is the eighth. has callouts for many new titles in development. 

Do you have a book launch event scheduled?
We are planning a joint book signing for both titles at STL Books, 100 West Jefferson, Kirkwood, MO on 7/15 from 6-9 p.m. There will be as many as two dozen contributors participating.

A portion of the proceeds will benefit The Family Resource Center, a not-for-profit agency which helps families in need.

The books are available at book retailers and on line.

I would like to thank you, Susan for the opportunity to share this information with your readers.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Like Father, Like Son, Like Grandson

When my husband was in eighth grade he played basketball. Catholic school. Strict nuns. Made him what he is today, I’m pretty sure. But husband also had a mom who was concerned with his grades. Three cheers for mom, right? But then she got a note from Sister Clara (I think) who informed her that basketball was endangering the grades. Big game coming up. Big tension in the house. Basketball lost to  Mom and the nuns and one young boy was devastated. Many years later she told me about it because he never could.

Fast forward to our number one son, a baseball player. Loved the game.  A popular player and dad for a coach. What could be better? Many times son came through for dad and the team and glory rose all ‘round. Until the day that has assumed the mantle of Casey at the  Bat for us. Remember that old poem about the hero of Mudville? Until he struck out. All hopes were pinned on our son just as the hopes of Mudville were pinned on Casey. “Get ‘em!” his teammates hollered. Lots of chatter from the outfield. Mom and brothers eyes all clued to our favorite batter – who struck out. On the ride home our Dodge maxi-van was barely able to hold the grief and this mother wanted to cradle her baby so badly and could not.

Pull the story into the present and another star has been born. Mr. Personality. The male heir. Funny, scary smart, and, best of all to Mom and Grandma, tenderhearted. Well, except when it comes to pounding his sister, but that’s a whole other post. It’s a kid thing. But yesterday our star faced a challenge that has rocked our world. He had to absorb, cope, think about and rally against a perceived injustice. Tie score, worthy (and a bit cocky) opponents, and a chance to break a tie to win against a team with no losses. Our boy rounds third like a locomotive and  heads for home. Where chaos reined. Dust all over the place, an outfielder hum-chucking the ball for home plate. The player just ahead of Sam scoring, parents on their feet cheering, and their itty bitty catcher smack in the way. Sam’s way.

Do you know how hard it is to stop a locomotive? You do? Then you know Sam couldn’t stop. With every sense dedicated to scoring and his judgment on call, he spotted the prize and decided not to slide. He tried not to but he took itty bitty out at the knees. CRASH! Down went the poor guy and outrage exploded. On their side for the turtle-on-its-back catcher. On our side for Sam who was suddenly caught up in a melee that got him thrown out of the game and threatened with suspension. “Yer Out!” the umpire screeched. Our boy with a red face and Niagara Falls wanting to spill from his eyes on the humiliating walk to the dugout.  And this time a mom and a grandma who could not cuddle their baby.

With all this drama and with a head full of memories all I can say is, there was more love in that van ride home than I’ve seen anywhere in a long time. And I’m sure there was the same on the ride home for that catcher.

Some things are so hard. But our choice in the tough times is to rage on or to hope. And I think, for our family’s part, we’re going with hope. You won’t fail if you aren’t out there trying, but you can’t win, either. A decision on the suspension is pending. I’ll let you know if Sam gets to play on Tuesday.

Image: Meawpong3405                                                             Free Digital Photos                                             

Friday, July 4, 2014

Land That I Love

Today, in honor of Independence Day, I’m offering this repeat. I know you’re all busy baking pies, making potato salad and listening to patriotic music. But maybe you’ll find some echo in  your own heart as you read my notes here on country and kin.

Happy 4th of July!

We hopped into the car, anxious to get going, to yet another ballgame. We have three outstanding young athletes in the family and try to get to every game. The other night on our way to one of them, we passed two kids on bicycles. I was instantly transported to a place in my mind where somehow boys on bikes make me think of what a great country this still is. The bikes were not fancy. Nope, they looked like they could be hand me downs. You know, kind of wiggly, maybe in need of some paint. The boys? Jeans, t-shirts, and crew cuts. Does it get any more Americana than that? I’ve seen similarly dressed boys walking, fishing poles over their shoulders, on their way to the bridge in Niverville that crosses over the outlet for the lake. Like Tom and Huck. So cool.

One town over, in Kinderhook, there’s a People’s Parade on the 4th of July. Folks put red, white, and blue bandanas on their dogs and kids. Radio Flyer wagons are festooned with crepe paper and little flags for the toddlers to be pulled along in. Small marching bands and the local Elks club pull out all the stops rousing the crowd with their music and courage. And when the parade is over, right there on the village green, the Declaration of Independence is read while everyone munches on hot dogs, yells at the kids, settles the dog, or listens with quiet intensity. How cool is that?

Today I’ll be in the strawberry fields picking with my daughters-in-law and the grandkids. Shortly thereafter my kitchen will become a jam factory. We all ran out of jam way too early from last year’s efforts so we’re going into overdrive this year. We’ve done this for the last many years and it’s a glorious chaos of kids running around, fingers red from hulling fat berries, and someone calling over the noise “what do you want on your pizza?” when the men venture into the kitchen later looking for food. We’ll make them go and pick it up, too. I love that there are acres of strawberry fields, jam filled Mason jars, slamming screen doors, and pizza around the corner in my life.

Every time I sing The Star Spangled Banner, go to a church supper, hear the crack of a bat against a baseball, gab with a neighbor at the grocery store, zip by a field of corn reaching for the sun, or dip my toes into Kinderhook Lake, I feel grateful. Silly, sentimental woman that I am.

How about you? What are some of the simple ways you enjoy this land where we  live? 

Image: Free Digital Photos

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Mysteries - What's Not to Love?

Since I’m about to throw a new mystery out into the world, of course I’m wondering how it will do. You know how I wonder about things. My brain wandered all over the whole idea of what a good mystery is and how  each reader seems to take away something different from the same book. In addition, mystery types abound. I write cozies. I’m more comfortable writing that sub-genre than any other. But you may be looking for something more gritty or your taste may run to the action packed. So let’s share. Here are a few of my favorite mystery writers and why I like them. Then it’s your turn. Don’t be shy.

Elizabeth George – She’s a little bit gritty, sometimes a lot, but her in depth character studies make her stories come alive for me. Her books are long, but just as I’m thinking she’s dragging out a scene it changes and the tale moves along. In her Inspector Lynley mysteries George has created a character in Barbara Havers whom I can truly relate to. I love her for that.

Alexander McCall Smith – I’ve written about him before. We all go off to Africa with his #1 Ladies Detective Agency stories and I always love the trip. I’ll never visit there for real, but I sure do appreciate the time I spend with Precious Remotswe and Grace Makutsi as they tackle the intrigues that come their way. Simply delightful.

Donald Westlake – The man up and died before I could meet him, but boy could he write. In his John Dortmunder mysteries this character comes off the page and makes me laugh at the most unexpected moments. Other of his books, like THE AX, sent chills up my spine as I read, but I couldn’t put the book down. How versatile was this guy? And how sorry am I that I never attended his local book signings.

There’s my few. There are many others, but you have other things to do today so I stopped at three. Nice of me, huh?

Won’t you tell us just one of your own faves? Thanks.  

Image: Free Digital Photos