Wednesday, August 31, 2011

In Defense of the Food-Borne Illness

I just saw a report that says that 90% of the perishable food in our kids’ packed school lunches get to temperatures high enough to induce food-borne illness.

You don’t say?

I could have told you that.  That’s why, like every other good mom in America, I buy an insulated lunch bag every year for child #2—child #1 is almost an adult and usually purchases her own lunch so she’s on her own—which inevitably gets misplaced around November 15th, only to reappear around February 1st, between which dates we’ve already purchased a brand new insulated lunch bag.  Or two.

This, like many other reports that come out, always give me a chuckle and begs the question:  how did those of us born before the year 2000 survive to adulthood?

Here are some things that we used to do as children:

1.     Ride in cars without seatbelts.
2.     Not ride in car seats.
3.     Play stickball in the middle of the street only moving when a car approached.
4.     Lay out in the sun (ok, that’s a bad one and something that almost killed me—glad we don’t do that anymore!).
5.     Eat lunches that had been prepared either the night before or in the morning, shoved into a brown paper bag, and carted around in the overheated school building until it was time for lunch.  Said lunch was consumed with a warm carton of milk that cost ten cents.

Consuming a warm—and in this case, I mean “not good kind of warm”—lunch day after day at a barely clean lunch table surrounded by other children eating the same was a routine back in the day.  I can trace my hatred of onions back to one particularly gross offering of egg salad mushed into two slices of Wonder white bread into which my mother—in a fit of pique obviously brought on by watching Graham Kerr’s “The Galloping Gourmet”—had the idea to spice things up by chopping up little pieces of white onion and putting them into the egg salad.  Call me crazy, but when I bite into something that is supposed to be smooth, don’t mix things up and put something crunchy in there.  Ever since that day, I amuse/bore/offend anyone I’m dining out with (I’m looking at you, Northern half of Evelyn David) when I ask my intrepid server, “Does your ___________________ have onions in it?”  Northern half of Evelyn David is now so used to this that before I prepare to order a chicken salad on rye with lettuce and tomato at our favorite Kosher deli, Epstein’s, she pats my hand gently and says, “Remember.  There are no onions in the chicken salad.”

But back to my original question:  How did we survive?  And beyond that, what are we supposed to do, now that we know that all of the lunch food our kids are eating is probably contaminated?  I’m drawing the line at sending the kid to school with a Playmate cooler and since he walks, it probably isn’t realistic to put ice packs in his lunch; he’s weighed down enough as is with massive tomes of fantasy books for “free reading time.”  There are just so many days in a row you can eat peanut butter and jelly before you start to go mad and I refuse to send him with those prepackaged lunches that contain more nitrates than anyone could ever consume in a lifetime, let alone during a twenty-minute recess.  Sure, they’re safe…for now.  But who knows what they’ll do to your internal organs down the road?

Like with most topics/revelations that inconvenience me, I’m choosing to ignore this and continue to send child #2 to school with a lunch in an insulated bag.  I could always do what my mother did for as many years as I brought lunch to school:  on Sunday, she would purchase two pounds of baloney (and I refuse to write “bologna” because it’s not pronounced that way so I’m not spelling it that way), two loaves of the aforementioned Wonder white bread, two boxes of Devil Dogs, and put my grandmother to work.  Grandmother would make twenty baloney sandwiches on white bread, put them in plastic bags and stick them into the freezer, where the Devil Dogs already resided.  In the morning, each of the four of us would come down for breakfast and right before departure, grab one frozen sandwich and one Devil Dog from the freezer. We had already been given our dimes for the lukewarm milk, so we were ready to go!  By lunchtime, depending on the weather, your sandwich was somewhere between semi-frozen and overheated to the point of almost being a baloney Panini, its flatness only rivaled by the steam coming out from between the two slices of bread. 

I’d like to say that it was a little slice of culinary heaven, but I can’t.  It was horrible.  I can’t imagine giving my kids something like it.  But to my mother’s credit, it was brilliant.  No more making lunches at seven in the morning.  No more wondering if one of the four kids needed something different; everyone got the same thing.  It was budgeting and time management at its finest.  But whenever one of my siblings or I think about taking a shortcut without kids and stress about doing so, we can always comfort ourselves with the fact that we’ve never sent any of our children off to school with a previously frozen baloney sandwich made by our septuagenarian mother after Sunday Mass.

Food-borne illness be damned, I think we need to harken back to the days when everyone pulled a flattened pbj, or a onion-speckled egg salad sandwich, or a cryogenically frozen baloney sandwich out of their Partridge Family lunchbox and wouldn’t think anything of shoving the whole thing in their mouth while talking about the latest “Planet of the Apes’” movie and washing it down with ten cent warm milk.  Because those, my friends, were the good old days.  Not only did we not know what food-borne illness was, we wouldn’t have thought of bringing an insulated lunch bag to school, for fear of a schoolyard beat down. Who needs an insulated bag when you’ve got a frozen sandwich?

Tell me, Stiletto faithful, do you have any tricks for keeping your kids’ lunches fresh and tasty?  Or like me, and my mother before me, do you think your kids will be fine with whatever they pull forth at the noon hour?

Maggie Barbieri

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Goodnight Irene Diary

Saturday, August 27 - morning
I hesitate to write this, because we've still got three more hours on the storm clock, but thankfully this hasn't been as bad as the pundits predicted, at least in my area. I'm not complaining for one second. I'm grateful, eternally grateful. But given that the week started with an earthquake, which is to say the least unusual for New York, and ended with a hurricane, following a summer of desert-like temps, I couldn't help but wonder if there were some celestial message I was supposed to divine from all these events. At Passover, we intone the ten plagues that befell Pharoah before his whole world fell apart. Should I be looking for locusts next?

But I also confess there is something about hunkering down before and during a storm that appeals to the pioneer woman in me (and it's hard to be much of a pioneer woman when you're 20 miles from the Big Apple). But I put in my supplies (chocolate chips and chocolate ice cream), and baked and cooked like we were going to be stranded on the prairie for weeks on end.

In what must be one of those memories from childhood which is delightful to the kid, less so to the Mom, I remember a huge snowstorm that paralyzed Baltimore. My Dad traveled for work, and my mother used to insist that he'd read the weather reports and head for the state line every time a storm approached. And this one was a doozy. No electricity or heat for days. No telephone or television. My Mom heated canned soup in a coffee carafe over a sterno light. I thought it was the coolest thing ever. At night, we slept at a neighbor's house (why he had heat and we didn't I have no clue). The kids had a super sleepover, and the adults stayed up late and played cards.

I have nothing but fun memories of that Baltimore blizzard, but I'm pretty sure that Mom and Dad had a lengthy conversation when he returned.

So we seemed to have skated through this latest storm with but a few branches on the ground and maybe a few extra pounds from all the "hunkering down" we've done.

Saturday, August 27 - afternoon

I spoke too soon. An hour after writing the blog entry we lost electrical power. Very frustrating.

Sunday, August 28 - morning

Still no power. The subway flooding means my husband will have to drive my daughter back into NYC this evening. My pioneer spirit is fading. I need to check out how much it will cost to buy a generator and have it installed.

Sunday, August 28 - evening

The force is with us again. Yea! We have hot showers, television, and enough light to read. Life is good.

Monday, August 29 - morning

We lost electricity again last night - about 10 pm. ConEd predicts repairs will be completed on the downed lines in our area sometime around midnight on September 1 - Thursday. I know others have it much worse, but I'm having a hard time finding a positive life lesson in all this.

Tuesday, August 30 - morning

Stiletto Faithful, can you share your best – or worst – storm memories? Remember misery loves company - or in the alternative - a good laugh. I'll be reading your comments on my laptop at the public library, an oasis of normal in our small town. They still have books, power - and free internet!

Marian, the Northern, wet half of Evelyn David

Want to read more?
Check out the Brianna Sullivan Mysteries e-book series. 

Brianna Sullivan Mysteries - e-book series
I Try Not to Drive Past Cemeteries- Kindle - Nook - Smashwords
The Dog Days of Summer in Lottawatah- Kindle - Nook - Smashwords
The Holiday Spirit(s) of Lottawatah- Kindle - Nook - Smashwords
Undying Love in Lottawatah- Kindle - Nook - Smashwords

A Haunting in Lottawatah - Kindle - Nook - Smashwords
***New - Lottawatah Twister - Kindle - Nook - Smashwords

The Sullivan Investigation Series
Murder Drops the Ball (Spring 2011)
Murder Takes the Cake- Paperback - Kindle
Murder Off the Books- Paperback - Kindle
Riley Come Home (short story)- Kindle - Nook - Smashwords

Love Lessons - Kindle - Nook - Smashwords

Monday, August 29, 2011

Lori's Book Sense

Lori's Reading Corner

Welcome to this months edition of Lori's Book Sense. 
I hope you enjoy these great titles I've chosen for you this month.

He mutilates his victims. Slices their throats. And carves an X into their flesh. Five years ago, he claimed the lives of six women. Then the killings abruptly stopped - no one knows why. Ex-homicide detective Frank Quinn remembers. Which is why he's shocked to see one of the dead women in his office. Actually, she's the identical twin of the last victim, and she wants Quinn to find her sister's murderer. But when the cold case heats up, it attracts the media spotlight - and suddenly the killings start again...

After all this time, the feelings between Frank and Pearl seem to still simmer below the surface.  But that soon changes when Pearl meets Yancy Taggart and their whirlwind relationship begins. Can Frank deal with his feelings about this relationship while at the same time hunting a deranged serial killer?  And when tragedy befalls one of them, will they all be able to go on?  The hunt for The Carver and Chrissie heats up and based on information obtained during the investigation, Frank brings in a family member to help draw both The Carver and Chrissie out.  The race to stop the killings leads to a stunning, yet deadly conclusion. One that still leaves them with unanswered questions and will have the reader thinking “Holy …..”   John Lutz is a masterful story teller who has written a tense, action packed novel filled with so many twists and turns you’ll think you are on amusement park ride. Mister X is a superb suspense novel that will have you reading well into the night, keeping the lights burning bright, while at the same time getting up constantly to make sure all of the doors and windows are locked tight. X definitely marks this spot!

When seven-year-old Bethany meets her six-year-old cousin Reana Mae, it's the beginning of a kinship of misfits that saves both from a bone-deep loneliness. Every summer, Bethany and her family leave Indianapolis for West Virginia's Coal River Valley. For Bethany's mother, the trips are a reminder of the coalmines and grinding poverty of her childhood, of a place she'd hoped to escape. But her loving relatives, and Bethany's friendship with Reana Mae, keep them coming back.
But as Bethany grows older, she realizes that life in this small, close-knit community is not as simple as she once thought. . .that the riverside cabins that hold so much of her family's history also teem with scandalous whispers. . .and that those closest to her harbor unimaginable secrets. Amid the dense woods and quiet beauty of the valley, these secrets are coming to light at last, with a force devastating enough to shatter lives, faith, and the bond that Bethany once thought would last forever. Spanning four decades, Sherri Wood Emmons' debut is a haunting, captivating novel about the unexpected, sometimes shocking events that thrust us into adulthood--and the connections that keep us tethered, always, to our pasts.

From page one,  you will become entrenched in the lives of Bethy, Reana Mae and the rest of their family. Your heart will ache for their past sufferings, and your mind will scream at them for the situations they now find themselves in. Can this current generation overcome the sins of those that came before them? Or are they destined to repeat those same mistakes? Will lies continue to be told? Will the prayers finally be answered?  The raw emotion, the angst of the teenage years, the desire to be wanted, needed, and loved, the hatred, the lies, the secrets, the pain, the joy and the yearnings of Bethany and her cousin Reana Mae will take hold of your heart from the very first page and never let go. An amazing story of love, friendship, and the test of time that will stay will you long after you turn the last page.

Playing with Matches by N.C. Hyzy
Tough and tenacious, Riley Drake is a first-class private eye who runs background checks for a dating service on the side. But she has zero interest in helping billionaire John Stratton clear his name so the man can resume dating again. The handsome widower would be quite the catch---if it weren’t for the fact that he probably murdered his wife. Stratton’s woes are only part of Riley’s problems. Other clients—a TV celebrity with sexual-perception issues, a Trump-like entrepreneur with an embarrassing fetish, and a worshipful drug-addict trying to go straight—keep her running through the streets of Chicago, ready to take down anyone who gets in her way. Riley is determined to uncover all their secrets, even though she knows that playing with matches means you sometimes get burnt.

Mainstream mystery lovers should welcome N.C. Hyzy with open arms, as she’s sure to quickly become a favorite. You may know her better as Julie Hyzy, a gifted cozy author (see The West Wing Chef mystery series and the Manor of Murder mystery series.)   With Playing with Matches  N.C. has changed course from the books she’s known for and written a book with a bit more edge, more grit, stronger language, and a tougher heroine from what you would find in her other books. Creating a pen name will work to separate her two personas, so that those who prefer her cozy mysteries won’t be disappointed - or offended, if they should pick up a copy of Playing With Matches and find it’s not what they expected it to be. What you can expect is that it has everything and more that a solid mystery should be: great supporting cast of characters, a mystery that you’ll be hard-pressed to figure out on your own, twists and turns galore, and a kick-ass heroine. There is so much to love and learn about Riley (and her seemingly sad past) that I will be anxiously awaiting the next installment in this amazing new series.

Until next month.....

Friday, August 26, 2011

How to handle life (and what to avoid in the school cafeteria) as told by a 9-year-old

by Rachel Brady

It happens to every blogger at some point: Idea Freeze.

Fortunately, I have kids. So when I get blocked, I ask them stuff. This time, I had a conversation with my middle daughter.

RB: Thanks for sitting down with me to help me organize some thoughts. Do you ever suffer from unorganized thoughts?

LB: Sometimes. Mostly while I'm being distracted when I'm trying to work, like when funny things happen or a smoke alarm goes off.

RB: What things do you think grown-ups should do more often to clear their minds?

LB: Take a second to relax. Breathe very slowly.

RB: Do you know what a comfort food is?

LB: No.

RB: It's a favorite food some people eat when they're freaking out. Do you have a comfort food?

LB: No.

RB: What are your thoughts on sleeping in?

LB: I like to!

RB: Let's hear about the three situations that aggravate you the most and the ways that you handle them.

LB: One. When (my sister) is mean to me. I tell her to stop. Two. When I get hurt. I try to relax and heal it for a while. Three. When I got stung by the bee, I really wanted to smoosh it, but since it was already dead I just tried to relax and handle things normally.

RB: How do you feel about pets and about how animals make humans feel better?

LB: When I'm feeling bad and I pet them, they're so soft. I get all caught up in my pets and how cute and soft they are. They help me get through it.

RB: What would you most like to get out of fourth grade?

LB: To try to get smarter and have more knowledge about all the subjects. To learn more things that are new to me.

RB: What advice would you give to your grown-up self if you could meet her in the future?

LB: Um, I don't really understand this question?

RB: Let's try it a different way. What advice would you give to your kindergarten self if you could go back in time?

LB: I would tell her things I already know so maybe she'd learn even more in older grades.

RB: What three pieces of advice would you give to other parents like me who want to do the very best job they can for their kiddos?

LB: One. Stay in work so we can have money and survive. Two. Try to be your normal self because I like you. Three. It's really fun being a parent. I know that from you. Is it fun because you get to boss people around?

RB: That is one of the perks. What's your favorite food in the school cafeteria?

LB: Pancakes. And nachos.

RB: At the same time?

LB: No, on different days.

RB: What's the worst food?

LB: Um, are you showing this to my school?

RB: No.

LB: Then it's the steak fingers. They have a terrible aftertaste.

RB: What else should I ask you?

LB: I could ask you some!

RB: Okay, you're allowed three. Go.

LB: What is one of your favorite places?

RB: I love to go running on nature trails in the woods. Yours?

LB: At the YMCA playing soccer. Where would you like to be when you're alone and mad?

RB: Either lying down in my bed relaxing or out for a walk. You?

LB: Probably in my bed like you.

RB: What makes you that mad?

LB: When (my sister) calls me bad words.

RB: Ignore her.

LB: Yep. Do you like to shop?

RB: I hate shopping. I don't like to spend money! You?

LB: At the Dollar Tree, everything is a dollar. When I was little I got a purple horn there.

RB: How are you feeling about the first day of school tomorrow?

LB: Nervous and excited all at the same time.

RB: You'll do great. Goodnight, pal. Thanks for answering my questions.

LB: Love you, Mom.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

The Help

You is kind. You is smart. You is important.

Finally. A movie that lives up to the book.

A couple of years ago when I first saw the cover for The Help in a bookstore, I scratched my head. I was in Athens, Georgia doing a book signing at the B&N (or was it a Borders?) and the staff there were all wearing buttons to push The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society (a book I haven't read yet but have always admired the title even if its just because someone convinced someone at marketing to go with that mouthful). But I digress. I had to stop and pick up The Help, just because the title was so unusual. After reading the back cover, I realized help wasn't a verb, but a noun. The premise of the book intrigued me and a couple of months later I bought the book on my Kindle. I absolutely loved it. I laughed, I cried, I was rapt with attention from cover to cover. I told everyone I knew about the book and convinced my book club to read it. They all loved it too.

Then I heard they were making it into a movie and I was skeptical. Because we all know what Hollywood does to books we love. They change things around (including endings) and mess with the author's words and characters until you don't even recognize the story anymore. But I had hope. I saw the trailers and loved the actresses who were playing all the key characters and I thought, why not give the movie a try? The day after the film came out I went to see it with my two daughters (who had also read the book at my recommendation). We all loved it. We all laughed. We all cried. We were all rapt with attention from the second it began to the second it ended. I loved it so much, I then went to see the movie again the following weekend with my sister. If someone calls me right now and asks me to go to the movies to see it a third time, I'll be there. It will also be part of my DVD collection the day it comes out. I truly hope Viola Davis gets a Best Actress Oscar nomination for her role as Aibileen because she totally deserves it.

Have you seen the movie yet? Have you read the book? What movies from books have seen and loved? Or hated?

Maria Geraci writes fun, romantic women's fiction. The Portland Book Review calls her latest novel, THE BOYFRIEND OF THE MONTH CLUB, "immensely sexy, immensely satisfying and humorous." Check out her website at

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Working Toward Creativity

If My Demands Aren't Met There Will Be Blood
by Bethany Maines

So this is a blog, right?  That means I can I rant?  I can just have a bit of a shouty fest for a minute and no one will mind?  Whew… because I’ve been hoarding this one for a day or two.

I’m a writer and a graphic designer and I work from home.  And apparently that’s the trifecta for someone to suggest that I play all day and get paid for it.  “Must be a sweet gig!”  Yeah… there is some of that, but I have to say that the best part about working from home is that I generally get more laundry done.

There also appears to be a misconception among the general public that the only thing separating them from something that I do is a tool.  With knowledge of Photoshop they too can be a graphic designer! (Actually, only using Photoshop gets you pretty much bupkiss. You don’t even know how much you don’t know!! Gah!).  And of course, anyone can write, because, you know, that’s just typing.  Apparently, it’s rather rude to reply to someone’s face that while yes, anyone can write, not everyone can write well (then stare meaningfully at them with a raised eyebrow). The underlying prejudice is that authors and creative types don’t work. 

As I was going through school I remember a story about one graduate who had a mind-numbingly boring job (cutting paper, I can explain if you really want to know), but my professor couched the story as though it were great thing.  This person, my professor said, could rest their brain all day and then pursue their true passion at night.  And I remember thinking… “Well, that’s crap.”  That’s like trying to work out at the end of the day – you never really want to do it, no matter how boring the day job was. Why?  Because, believe it or not, creativity is work. 

Don’t be fooled by the stereotypes of long-haired ex-pats drinking wine Pamplona and churning out novels on a whim.  Artists and writers work at their craft.  It takes hours, sometimes many hours (sometimes more hours than you put in at your office job – more pointed staring), to come up with a creative product.  I do not sit down at my computer and 20 minutes later produce a logo.  (Ok, there was that one time, but that was an act of God, and I still went back and refined it later.)  Each book I produce is a culmination months (if not years) of my life.  I’m not suggesting that my work is a trial – I generally love my work.  But to suggest that it’s something I haven’t trained and studied for and that I don’t put in work to achieve it devalues me and it devalues my work.  So you, Joe Public (yes, I’m looking at you), stop doing it.

Thus endth the rant.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Making dessert from disaster

by: Joelle Charbonneau

I make lots of mistakes. LOTS of them. I have the tendency to trip over my own feet when wearing high heels, save documents in places on my computer that guys at MIT would never be able to find and occasionally, I have been known to bake oatmeal cookies with no flour.

Funny about the oatmeal cookie thing. On a good day, I’m a decent cook. However, this time the cookies lost all shape and melted all over the cookie sheet into a big mess. After one look, my inclination was to pitch the whole mess into the garbage can and start over. Only, I am a touch crazy and I took a taste. Yum. I then shoveled the crumbly mess into a bowl and used it to top ice cream. Double yum.

Baking is not the only area in which I’ve found a mistake can turn into an unlikely opportunity. A few years ago, I set aside a manuscript I’d been editing and started writing a totally different kind of book for kicks. It was the most fun I’d ever had writing. Any goofy or strange idea that popped into my head went onto the page. And to top it off, I was writing in a genre I hadn’t studied much.

Everyone always says you should study the genre before you start writing. I used to believe that. Scratch that. I still do. Only, I made a mistake. I didn’t really know the subgenre I was writing in when I started. Heck, I don’t think I’d ever heard the term for the subgenre. Belonging to RWA, I knew all the romance subgenres, but I wasn’t writing a romance. (To tell the truth, I was bad at writing romances….and I tried. Honest. I did. Another mistake, but one I learned from.) So instead of knowing what I was writing and making sure that I created a story that fit the expectations of the editors and readers of the genre, I just wrote.

Once I was done writing, I realized I had no idea what I had written. Yes, Skating Around The Law was a mystery, but what kind of mystery? Turns out I wrote a book that follows the cozy mystery guidelines but isn’t really a cozy. Well crap. I’d made a HUGE mistake. Everyone knows that it is easier to get a book published if it falls squarely in one genre. Yes, people blend genres all the time, but editors have a harder time selling those books to their editorial board because they are riskier. Double crap.

And yet, like the flattened oatmeal cookies, I couldn’t bring myself to throw that manuscript into the trash. It didn’t taste so good on ice cream, but I loved it. Turns out my agent and editor did, too. Thankfully, they also liked the soon-to-be-released SKATING OVER THE LINE, too!

The one thing I’ve learned from the experience is that sometimes mistakes are more than good lessons. Sometimes they are opportunities. You just have to take a step back from the mistake and decide which one it is. Sometimes, if you’re lucky, you’ll find your mistake is both. I bet if you think about it, you have a few tasty mistakes out there of your own that I’d love to hear about.

Monday, August 22, 2011

A Force of Nature

I have a dream that little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

Next Sunday will mark the 48th anniversary of the March on Washington. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s stirring "I have a dream" speech still resonates. Sadly, his dream is not yet fulfilled, despite the intervening years.

I was there that sweltering summer day. I knew as the words rang out that it was a call to arms. But almost 50 years later, what I also want to pay tribute to is the woman who took me on the bus from Baltimore to be a part of that momentous day; the woman who taught me the importance of never judging anyone by the color of their skin, their religion, or their sexual preferences. As she took her young daughter to the March on Washington, she also took Helen Jones, the lady who came once a week to clean our house. I was too young to go by myself; Helen too scared. Both encouraged, supported, and protected by Big Evelyn, as my mother was known in her family (as distinguished from Little Evelyn, her cousin, who was indeed six inches shorter than she), Helen and I walked with Mom from the Washington Monument to the Lincoln Memorial, surrounded by hundreds of thousands of others, united in our quest for justice.

I've been thinking a lot about my mother. Her birthday is next month. She's been gone for 23 years – just six weeks after my daughter was born. I am convinced that was no coincidence. She was so very sick, but absolutely determined to live to see her oldest grandchild graduate from high school and to hold her only granddaughter in her arms. My mother was a force of nature. There must have been times when she was scared and worried, but I never saw it. She was a product of the depression, an orphan by the age of 25, widowed by 28 with a 14-month old daughter to care for. But she took a second chance on love and married my Dad, and then had me. She taught me that you play the hand you're dealt, you cope because that's what you do. She laughed louder and longer than anyone. Loved designer clothes and put them on layaway to buy them. Had big feet – and a bigger heart.

She wasn't perfect. She had a trigger temper, but didn't hold a grudge. Demanded that you had good manners and showed respect for all people. Her best Jewish guilt line, that inevitably got me to do what I fervently didn't want to do was: "Marian, you know what the right thing is." Phooey, she always had me with that admonition -- even when I was married and had kids of my own. She insisted that I do the right thing, even when the wrong thing would be easier and more fun.

She fought against injustice wherever she saw it. Her best friends reflected her belief that you choose your companions because you like them and share common interests, so they included an Orthodox Jew, a devout Catholic, an African-American Southern Baptist, and a host of others. If you enjoy good conversation, laughter, the theater, jazz, and yes, mystery novels, you'd have loved my mother.

It's hard to live up to someone like Mom – and she'd be furious with me that I worry about that. But as I think back to that March on Washington, what an incredible gift she gave me. The lessons I learned from her, the original Evelyn, have lasted a lifetime.
Thanks Mom.

Marian, the Northern half of Evelyn David

Want to read more?
Check out the Brianna Sullivan Mysteries e-book series. 

Brianna Sullivan Mysteries - e-book series
I Try Not to Drive Past Cemeteries- Kindle - Nook - Smashwords
The Dog Days of Summer in Lottawatah- Kindle - Nook - Smashwords
The Holiday Spirit(s) of Lottawatah- Kindle - Nook - Smashwords
Undying Love in Lottawatah- Kindle - Nook - Smashwords

A Haunting in Lottawatah - Kindle - Nook - Smashwords
***New - Lottawatah Twister - Kindle - Nook - Smashwords

The Sullivan Investigation Series
Murder Takes the Cake- Paperback - Kindle
Murder Off the Books- Paperback - Kindle
Riley Come Home (short story)- Kindle - Nook - Smashwords

Love Lessons - Kindle - Nook - Smashwords

Friday, August 19, 2011

I Will Survive Alien

What? you're muttering to yourself, that title makes no sense.  Ah, but it must to someone (or rather, a couple of someones) as it's one of the search phrases used to find The Stiletto Gang.  My best guess is that there's a post somewhere in the archives mentioning that classic disco tune, "I Will Survive."  Not so sure about the "alien" part.  Unless the searcher wants to know how he or she will survive an alien visit, or perhaps they're feeling feisty, like they want to tell the galaxy, "I will survive, alien!"  Okay, I give up.  Your guess is as good as mine.

Another search phrase that had me reminiscing was "hissing garter snake."  It brought back memories of several springs ago when I was cleaning leaves out of a window well by the patio.  A tiny garter snake reared its pinky-sized head to hiss at me.  Yes, I screamed, but then I took the dustpan, scooped it in, and flung it into the ivy.  Ah, good times.

How about this one:  "obese belly dancer."  Hmm.  I don't remember anyone writing a post on the subject.  Maybe I was on vacation (wait, I don't take vacations). 

A handful of curious people found Stiletto by looking for "caramelized hair color," which intrigues me.  I've always thought I'd love to have caramel-colored highlights in my tresses.  From the looks of things, I'm not the only one.

Then there's the seeker of "outdoor ground cover w/ 7 leaves and flowers."  Ah, how fortuitous that such a search led them here!  Because we're all about, um, ground cover.  And what ground cover is better than that with seven leaves and flowers?  Although if you need to know the right type of mulch to use, I'm guessing a blog about plants might have more answers.

And last but surely not least, there were over 30 interested parties seeking information about being "naked at the mall."  I do, in fact, recall writing a post called "Walking Naked at the Mall," after Maggie and I had a discussion about dreams that mean you're feeling vulnerable.  There were no photos of naked mall walkers inserted nor any physical descriptions, which I'll bet left most of those interested parties feeling a wee bit let down.  What this tells me is that using "naked" in your title will draw readers who normally wouldn't visit a book blog.  (I know, you're thinking, brilliant theory, Einstein.)

Now I'm wondering, what's the weirdest thing you've ever searched for online?  Or if you have a blog, what are the strangest search terms that have led someone to it?  Inquiring minds want to know!
P.S.  Little Black Dress is out next Tuesday, August 23...squeeeee!  You can pre-order online from booksellers and e-booksellers now!  Here's a helpful link.  Or you can Google "book with magic black dress" and see if that'll lead you to it.  Seek and ye shall find...something.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

To the young man who wrote my daughter a poem

by Maria Geraci

First off, I'm glad to say that my daughter doesn't read my blogs, so I feel pretty free to say whatever I please here without fear of the dreaded "Mom, you didn't write that, did you?" repercussion. That said, I can continue. I'm currently down in Orlando, getting my youngest daughter settled into her freshman year at the University of Central Florida (the nation's 2nd largest university with a student population of over 56,000!)

We've now made 3 trips to Target (latest figures have us at the 1,000 dollar mark), 2 trips to Bed, Bath and Beyond, a trip to Publix (to stock her up on her organic cereal) as well as a trip to the outlet mall to take advantage of tax free weekend to buy clothes. Both me and my credit cards are exhausted. Let me just tell you, boys are much cheaper and easier, so thank God I have one of those as well.

On day 2 of our moving in the dorm expedition, we took a break to eat lunch at Panera. It was an odd time of the day  (2pm) so the restaurant wasn't crowded, although it was pleasantly full. We got our food and sat at our table, when I noticed a young man (close to my daughter's age) check her out (we moms are eagle eye experts at this). He had a computer and some writing supplies in front of him, so I assumed he was probably a student. After a while I noticed he went back to his computer and writing so I didn't pay him anymore attention. My daughter and I finished lunch, and left the restaurant.

On our way outside to the car, this young man followed us outside and called out to my daughter,
"Miss!" My first thought was that we'd left something behind.

"I'm not a stalker or anything," he said (this is when I started getting a little nervous.)

"Um, okay, " my daughter said.

He then handed her a folded piece of paper with the words "to the girl with the black hair". "I wrote this for you. You'll never know my name, but I wanted to give this to you."

My daughter looked a little stunned, but she took the paper from him. We got inside the car and looked at one another. "I hope it's not porn," I thought.  My daughter opened the letter and read it to me as we drove back to her dorm. Shame on me. It was not porn. It was one of the loveliest love poems I've ever heard.

Now, maybe this guy sits at Panera all day long and gives different girls a similar version of this poem. Or maybe not. It was so specific to my daughter and to the events that were happening around us while we ate, that I have to think that he did indeed write it just for her (or else he's just really good at putting in spontaneous details). Regardless, my daughter was completely charmed (and so was I).

"Keep that," I told her. "You might never get anything like that again."

She smiled and tugged it away in her handbag. "I'm going to pin this to my bulletin board and when I'm having a really bad day, I'm going to read it."

Who said romance was dead?

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

The Comfort Zone

I’ve been thinking a lot about my comfort zone the past few weeks, and in another week or so, I’ll be able to tell you why. (Insert smiley face that looks like the cat swallowed the canary.) It seems like that term is popping up all over the place. Is it because I just had another birthday and feel like I have to push the envelope even further with the passing of another year? Or is it just the effects of the waning summer when fall is approaching, schedules will be reinstituted and new endeavors seem to be the norm? I’m not sure, but I do know that I’m not the only one thinking about the comfort zone.

I ran into a dear friend the other day while walking along the beautiful Hudson River walkway a few blocks from my house. She asked me what I was thinking about before I approached her and I told her—my comfort zone. She looked at me, surprised, and said, “I was thinking about the same thing!” She said that she was reflecting on her diverse group of friends and how each one pushes her to go beyond what she feels is comfortable, most often to great effect.

I picked up the New York Times a few weeks back after seeing a news report on one of my heroes, Diana Nyad. No, I can’t swim, but I have always admired this world-record holding swimmer and her determination. She has circled Manhattan in the water, swam from Bimini to Florida over a two-day period, and now, had plans to swim from Cuba to Key West. At age sixty-one. Color me impressed.

According to the Times piece, while swimming, she would ingest a liquid cocktail of predigested protein (I don’t even want to know what that is, let alone taste it), maybe a little banana or some peanut butter. She would probably hallucinate and be stung by jellyfish repeatedly. Her tongue would swell as a result of ingesting salt water, and her skin? Well, suffice it to say that it won’t be the same as when she jumps in the water.

The trek is 103 miles and infested with sharks. If that’s not going outside your comfort zone, I don’t know what is. So why did she decide to do it? Nyad said that turning sixty had a powerful effect on her and made her want to “stir up her energy and ambition.” She had failed once to do this swim and wanted to try it again. She was in a bit of a malaise and needed to snap out of it. To put my own spin on it, she wanted to push herself out of her comfort zone.

Update: Nyad didn’t make it to Cuba, only about halfway. It was treacherous, yes, and filled with sharks, and jellyfish, but she basically just swam off course. I am wondering if she’ll give it another try, maybe when she’s seventy? I hope so.

We need to shake things up every now and again. I’m not saying that we need to attempt a one hundred and three mile swim in shark-infested waters, unless that’s the one thing that we think we need to do. For me, it was getting outside of my writing comfort zone and doing something totally different. I was terrified to tackle a new and different project. What if it was bad? What if I couldn’t do it? What if I failed? Ultimately, I decided that all of these things were keeping me from pushing myself farther, from becoming a better writer, and am more fulfilled person, creatively. I took a deep breath, jumped in, and went into the shark-infested waters of my mind.

And you know what? It wasn’t so bad. It actually may be good. But I never would have known unless I tried.

I’m not sure if Diana Nyad, the most bad-assed sixty-one-year-old woman I have ever read about, will undertake this swim again, but if she does, I’m going to send her a silent thank you for being a champion against malaise, complacency, and all those things that stand in the way of us getting out of our own way.

What types of things do you do to get out of your own personal "comfort zone"?

Maggie Barbieri

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Summers Past

It's fun to think back over the good times you've had in the past. Since it's summer, I've been thinking a lot about how I spent my summers over the many years.

When we were little kids my dad built this unusual trailer that when you got to a campground the sides folded out and made beds. He had all sorts of cupboards and gadgets on it that contained all our camping gear. This was long before the same thing was invented and I'm sure my dad never even considered getting a patent. The summers I remember best when we slept in that trailer, my sister was still a toddler and I was around six or seven. We camped in Yosemite, yes, back in the days when you could camp right along the Merced River. Every night there was a fire fall off of Half Dome. (At least I think that's where.) And you could go to the garbage dump at night and watch the bears come in and eat.

When we got a bit older (my teen years) my dad decided to start building boats. First, it was a little outboard and we spent our vacation at Bass Lake. Here we camped in tents right at the edge of the lake. (No longer allowed.) The next year he built an inboard motor boat so we could learn to water ski--and yes, he made the skiis too. I loved water skiing. My dad told everyone that I got up on the skiis before he even got the boat started. (He thought I could do anything.)

We stayed at the lake for 3 wonderful weeks and made all sorts of new friends--I even had a couple of summer romances. Dad let us kids take the outboard motor boat all over the lake by ourselves. What fun. We investigated hidden coves and swam in places we thought no one else had ever been.

Camping was the only way we could afford any kind of a vacation after hubby and I married. With our kids we pitched our tent in nearby campgrounds around Southern California, places we could drive to in an hour or two. We usually camped with friends who had kids and I learned how to cook about anything over a campfire.

With the youngest three of our kids, we loaded up our VW bus and a tiny trailer hubby had made to haul our supplies for three weeks and we took off across country. I'd planned all our meals for cooking on a camp stove and had the ingredients for every meal except for the fresh stuff we'd have to buy along the way. I'd saved $500 and that had to pay for gas and when we couldn't find a free place to camp. (We didn't have any such thing as a credit or gas card.) I did have a book that listed all the campgrounds in the country and how much they charged. We tried to stay in a free one for two nights, then one with showers and laundry on the third--for obvious reason. Our goal was a family reunion in Maryland.

To make a long story short, we arrived a day late. We'd been having trouble with our VW bus, it wouldn't start without me and the kids pushing until hubby popped the clutch and it would get moving. We could only visit in hubby's home town a few days, because we needed to get back on the road toward home. We went home a different way so as we drove we could see new things.

No matter where we put up our tent it would rain. It got to the point where hubby would say, "What cloud are we parking under tonight?" It took us one hour at night to get everything set up and cook dinner and one hour in the morning to eat breakfast and break camp.

We did make one sight-seeing stop on the way home. We camped near the Carlsbad Caverns and took the amazing tour to see the beautiful formations. When we went to bed in our tent that night, a huge windstorm came upon us and blew our tent down on top of us. We were fortunate, some of our camping neighbors' tents actually blew away!

We made it home when were supposed to, but I'd enough tent camping. I told my husband we were going to buy a camper or I wasn't going on anymore camping vacations. And that's what we did. I really did do even more primitive camping later on, but that's another story.


Monday, August 15, 2011

VIPER by John Desjarlais

For the last two years, I have been a Mexican-American woman.

Well, figuratively speaking. And only when writing. The protagonist for my latest mystery is Selena De La Cruz, a feisty Latina insurance agent who was a minor character in BLEEDER. Once she walked onto that stage in those three-inch-heel Giuseppe Zanottis, I knew she had a story of her own and she had to be the lead figure for the sequel, VIPER.

But I’m a fifty-something Anglo guy, and so I was terribly worried about getting this character and her culture right. It wasn’t that I hadn’t written from a woman’s point-of-view before; I had done so a few times in earlier novels. But those were only short scenes, and I was faced with the daunting task of sustaining a credible presentation for a whole book.

So I immersed myself in the experiences of Latin women vicariously in many ways.

I read a few books by Latinas about Old-World expectations placed upon women who are trying to fit into New-World American society. Like any good researcher, I took many notes – just as with any other research I had to do for VIPER (DEA undercover operations, police interrogations, firearms, Aztec myths, snake handling and such). I subscribed to Latina magazine for fashion, beauty and lifestyle issues. I visited Latinas’ blogs and web sites to see what they talked about, paying special attention to anything related to living with a bi-cultural identity. Just like the Dad says in the movie Selena, “We've gotta be more Mexican than the Mexicans and more American than the Americans both at the same time. It's exhausting!"

I interviewed Latinas, too, and from all this built a composite that reflected their experiences. I browsed through my notes repeatedly to remind myself of small details that were of possible use as ‘bits’ in the story, as in this description of Selena visiting her old neighborhood in Chicago:

When Selena wheeled the Charger onto 18th Street in Chicago’s Pilsen neighborhood, the throaty rumble of the big engine turned the heads of young men in tilted White Sox caps. In the air, Norteño bands playing plaintive corridos on button accordions competed with the thump-thump of quebradita, a blend of North Mexican banda and Aztec punk rockers singing in Spanglish. Like Julia Alvarez once said in a poem, Selena felt her Spanish blood beating.

She crossed herself and kissed her thumb and forefinger held together when she passed Saint Adalbert’s Elementary in the shadow of the church’s skyline-dominating steeple. In the sixth grade, Sister Mary Beatrice -- who every kid called Sister Mary BattleAxe -- caught Selena speaking Spanish in the back row. She was asking Gloria García for an eraser. Sister pulled Selena by the ear into the corner.

“You’re in America now,” the Polish nun had reprimanded, her milky finger in Selena’s mocha face. “We speak English here. If you want to be an American, speak American. If you want to speak Spanish, then go back to Mexico.”

Selena asked if there was a difference between speaking English and speaking American.

Sister Beatrice kept her after school for talking back.

“Ay, you don’t talk back,” her mother chided her when she got home. Mamí’s high Zapotec cheekbones colored like the red hot lava of Mount Popocatépetl and the obsidian-black bun on top of her head, Selena could have sworn, was spinning.

“Muchachitas bien criadas, girls brought up well, don’t mouth off,” her mother said, wringing the dishtowel. “Do you want to called habladora? A big mouth that talks too much? Is that what you want?”

“Mamí, all I did was ask a question.”

“En boca cerrada no entran moscas,” her mother said, tapping her lips with a finger. Flies cannot enter a closed mouth. “You must be quiet, and keep your eyes low in respeto, like La Virgen de Guadalupe.”
There’s a line in the movie “Selena” where the father complains, "We've gotta be more Mexican than the Mexicans and more American than the Americans both at the same time. It's exhausting!" It’s a tension I hoped to capture in the book. A Latina translator who helped me with the Spanish and reviewed the work-in-progress said at one point, “I am SO into Selena!” Then I knew I was getting it right.

My reviewer also made great suggestions for Selena’s footwear. Latinas dig the zapatos.

John Desjarlais

Visit Johnny Dangerous

VIPER - Amazon links – USA paper

BLEEDERS - Amazon links – USA paper, Kindle, & UK paper, Kindle

RELICS - Amazon link - USA paper 
THRONE of TARA - Amazon links - USA paper 

Friday, August 12, 2011

Laura Spinella


Every season has its cues. Not necessarily the weather ones, though when you live in the Northeast they’re hard to ignore. Just when we’ve acclimated to leaves on trees and short-wearing weather, things start to change. Yesterday, in barely mid-August, I saw a maple tree with a tint of red while an evening chill had me digging in a drawer for sweatpants. The North, maybe New England in particular, also comes with strong sporting cues. It’s definitely a sign of the season when the Fenway Faithful prepare to make way for a rush of fall football, due to arrive in full Patriots gear. In the North, we also like to combine history with sports, mixing it into metaphors whenever possible.

Without a doubt, school is the big signal that the times they are a changin’. The South is known for its wicked early starts. My sister, who teaches first grade, has been back to class for a week. I suppose it evens out, as she’s sipping wine coolers poolside before Memorial Day weekend. But being Northern bred, I’ve never been able to adapt to the notion. It’s not unlike the like the holidays. I love the South, I truly do, but palm trees will never inspire me to break out the mistletoe or even the first verse of White Christmas—though I believe that’s in reference to the L.A. variety, but you get the idea. Regular school doesn’t start here for a few weeks, but yesterday I sent a kid packing back to college. She, of course, attends a Southern university. Having her around for another week or two would have been okay with me, though she did remark that good writing was just around the corner. “You know, Mom, you always do your best writing after Labor Day.”

I thought about that for a while, and I think she’s right. Early fall brings lots of inspiration; maybe it’s the chill in the air or a guaranteed rainy day each week. I drag in the summer, never really craving that umbilical cord attachment to a laptop that I do during other times of the year. So I suppose I’ll be reading the signs before long, revving up for lots of cool weather writing. However, it’s not completely without distractions. My Sox are looking pretty hot, which could mean being waylaid by a World Series. An incredible sacrifice, but one I’d happily make. And, oh, there is the aftermath of the kid who left the building, though she certainly had no qualms about leaving her mess behind. Real writing will be delayed as I transform her bedroom into something habitable, spending at least half a day finding the floor. Over the summer, she’d gotten into a habit of lying on her bed with her feet pressed to the wall. The day before she left, I asked if she planned on cleaning the footprints that marked her presence. I got the cursory shrug and a rolling of eyes. Not long after she and her father headed south, car packed to gills, I poked my head inside her room. I still couldn’t find the floor. Adding insult to injury, her brother decided to drag his mattress in and have a sleepover the night before. A pile of clothes and pocketbooks, things she deemed too last year to make the trip were everywhere. But taped to the wall, right by the footprints, was a scrap of paper. It read: JAMIE WAS HERE. See you on Turkey Day Jay, when the leaves are guaranteed to be gone and you might even be treated to a few flakes of snow. And who knows, by then I might have written something wonderful.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Taking A Chapter from Lottawatah Twister

Excerpt from Lottawatah Twister by Evelyn David

Sassy Jackson said all the right things but she and I both knew the truth. She'd rather have her teeth pulled and run naked through the ladies auxiliary meeting at the First Baptist Church than have me hiding out at her house.

Sassy's real name was Sylvia but no one called her that. Having accidentally poisoned her with shellfish at an earlier social event, I'd finally gotten to know both her and her husband, Wayne, over Thanksgiving. In fact I'd met Cooper's entire extended family, including a few dead ones, that holiday. Sassy wasn't one for believing in ghosts. God, Satan, and perhaps angels were as far as her concept of reality would stretch. You can see why she'd have problems with a "so-called" psychic dating her favorite and only son. I think she'd been hoping that Cooper would lose interest and she could write me off as a bad memory.

After a hot shower and a set of clean clothes, jeans and a t-shirt that probably belonged to Katie, Cooper's younger sister, I felt almost human again. Katie didn't live with Sassy and Wayne but she spent a lot of time at the family farm. I was under orders to hide in the attic if she showed up. I got along with Katie okay, but she couldn't keep a secret. And my being alive was supposed to stay a secret for as long as possible or under Cooper figured out who was trying to kill me.

Over a bowl of stew and several pieces of the best cornbread I'd ever eaten, I tried to make conversation with Sassy.

"Is Aunt Ida here?" Ida was actually Cooper's great-aunt. She lived at the farm but I hadn't seen her since Cooper dropped me off looking liked a drowned rat. I'd bet money the house slippers I was wearing were hers. They were all I could tolerate on my blistered feet.

"No." Sassy started cleaning the stove and the pot she'd reheated my stew in. Guess I wasn't going to get seconds. I wrapped my arm around my half-finished bowl and grabbed another piece of cornbread before the plate holding the crusty stuff disappeared too.

"Visiting someone?" I really did need to know if the old lady was coming back soon. Cooper hadn't given me any instructions about his great-aunt but I needed to decide how much to tell her.

Sassy sniffed and glanced at the apple clock on the wall. "She's in San Antonio with her Red Hat group. They're supposed to be touring the Alamo and other historic sites. But from what she's said on the telephone, the group is spending a lot of time drinking margaritas on the River Walk and complaining about the pigeons. She won't be back until next week. Surely all this fuss will long be over with by then."

What she meant was that I'd be home or dead by then. "Thanks for your hospitality. I'll try not to get in your way while I'm here."

Sassy gave me another look and I pushed my empty bowl towards her. It went into the dishwater and was cleaned and drying in the wire drainer in seconds. "I need to get supper started. Wayne will be coming home soon. We eat dinner at 6 pm every night."

I took a look at the wall clock. It was almost 5. Perhaps I shouldn't have filled up on cornbread, but having missed lunch and after burning a zillion calories getting out of the well, I'd been starved. She'd taken pity on me and reheated some leftovers. One thing I had to give her, Sassy Jackson was an excellent cook.

"Would you like some help?" I was only asking to be polite. Sassy might put me to work on the cleanup crew, but she wasn't going to let me do any actual cooking.

She tried to smile but it ended up looking more like a grimace. "Why don't you rest awhile? Cooper said you'd had quite an ordeal."


Want to read more?
Check out the Brianna Sullivan Mysteries e-book series. 

Brianna Sullivan Mysteries - e-book series
I Try Not to Drive Past Cemeteries- Kindle - Nook - Smashwords
The Dog Days of Summer in Lottawatah- Kindle - Nook - Smashwords
The Holiday Spirit(s) of Lottawatah- Kindle - Nook - Smashwords
Undying Love in Lottawatah- Kindle - Nook - Smashwords

A Haunting in Lottawatah - Kindle - Nook - Smashwords
***New - Lottawatah Twister - Kindle - Nook - Smashwords

The Sullivan Investigation Series
Murder Drops the Ball (Spring 2011)
Murder Takes the Cake- Paperback - Kindle
Murder Off the Books- Paperback - Kindle
Riley Come Home (short story)- Kindle - Nook - Smashwords

Love Lessons - Kindle - Nook - Smashwords

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

What They Don't Tell You About Writers Before You Marry Them

by Bethany Maines

So first things first… Ladies, take your calcium and do more weight bearing exercises! Osteoperosis is not a joke – a fact that I’m sure my mother-in-law will attest to considering that my husband and I spent most of last weekend in the hospital with her and her fractured pelvis. She slipped and fell while taking a walk on a beach with a friend – yes, the rocks were slick, but stronger bones would have helped.  More preventative care for the rest of you please!

And now to the part about writing… a dirty little secret of writing, in fact. I also made great progress on my manuscript weekend.  I whipped through chapter 4 and straight into chapter 7.  We’re in Act 3 folks and that’s a good thing, as The Martha would say.

The hospital was about an hour away and there were several “breaks” where my husband and I were sitting in the waiting room twiddling our thumbs.  Only, I didn’t twiddle my thumbs – I drug out my laptop and worked on my manuscript. And this isn’t the first hospitalization that helped increase my writing quota. Waiting on someone else’s baby is the best – they’re good news, they take forever, and peripheral family members usually bring food.  But it occurred to me, as I hammered out a few paragraphs during a nurse visit, that there is something slightly… inappropriate about the way I’ve capitalized on other people’s hospital visits. Something slightly callous, carnivorous, and more than slightly selfish. 

I’ve known for quite some time that writer’s are an exploitive lot.  My brother put down my first book, looked at me in exasperation and said, “Damn it, now no one’s ever going to believe that I came up with that line.”  Two days later he called me up...  “You said you using my story about Bangkok, but I didn’t think you were, you know, using the whole thing.” But somehow in my head, putting to print the story about my friend having to climb underwearless up an elevator shaft (“It was a long skirt! Who knew I’d be stuck in an elevator with my boss and company’s VP?”) while possibly a friendship infraction is sort of… well, it’s what you get for telling a writer that story.

I also tune people out during boring conversations. I’m sure they’re saying something vastly important about TPS reports or whatever, but I’ll never know because I just came up with a great way to kill someone off.  And once I named a really despicable little character after an English teacher who told me I wasn’t very creative.  “I will eviscerate you in fiction,” are not just pretty words for a writer (thank you Paul Bettany/Chaucer in A Knight’s Tale).

And I can’t say I feel guilty about any of that. But as I sat in the waiting room I wondered if writing during tragedy might actually be bad.  My mother-in-law will recover (after 3-4 months bed rest, loads of pain medication, and physical therapy), and at the time I was writing I knew she was in capable hands, but shouldn’t I have been worrying more?  Shouldn’t I be pacing the halls like they show in the movies?  Is it bad that I hear “hospital visit” and I reach for my laptop bag?

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Being interesting

by: Joelle Charbonneau

I’m sick. Or perhaps I should say, I'm as sick as I am allowed to be. There's still work to be done, lessons to teach, writing to do, etc… The tot is also coming down with a cold and if things play out as usual, the husband will be showing signs of illness soon. Which means as much as I’d prefer to stay in bed with a good book and a cup of tea, I'll instead be tending to my family while pretending I don’t feel like a truck ran over me.

Which got me to thinking. In the books I read, none of the protagonists get sick. I mean, not really. They might have broken bones, or are in wheelchairs or they might even have a cold – but they aren’t allowed to be sick.

You know what I mean. I’m certain it happens at your house. You have a 101 degree fever, but there is dinner to make or a meeting you can’t possibly miss at work. So you pretend you aren’t as sick as you feel. You load up on orange juice and whatever antihistamines you have in your cabinets and off you go to live your life as though nothing is bothering you.

Protagonists in books are the same way. No matter how bad they feel, they aren’t allowed to be sick. They might sniffle a bit and tuck some Kleenex in their purses, but that doesn’t stop them from tracking down clues, being a support system to their friends and solving murders. Cause let’s face it, no one wants to read about a person who is sitting in bed waiting for their illness to pass them by. The illness makes them sympathetic, but it is everything else they do that makes the character and the story interesting.

So, while this week progresses, I’m going to pretend I’m the protagonist of my own personal drama. When I’m getting annoyed that no one is letting me be sick, I’m going to remind myself that really they are just encouraging me to be interesting. Please feel free to play the game with me. Tell me what you wish you’d be allowed to slack off on this week and how you plan on being very interesting instead.

Monday, August 8, 2011

My Kindle - August 2011

It's hot! In Oklahoma, this summer has been super hot. Temperature records have been broken and the unrelenting heat and drought continues. At 115 F outdoor activity is limited. We've had about a month of plus 100F days in a row - perfect time for reading inside under the air conditioner. Would that my air conditioner were working effectively (sigh), but that's a story for another day.

This past month I read:

Never Knowing by Chevy Stevens

Never Knowing is the second book written by this author that I've read. The first, Still Missing, was about the kidnapping of a real estate agent, her ordeal, and the aftermath. The story was told from the point of view of the agent as she relayed the details to her psychiatrist. I couldn't put it down. In Never Knowing, the author again uses the psychiatrist to relate the story of a woman who searches for her birth mother. She finds answers and a serial killer. The first book I considered a mystery, this one was more of a thriller. I recommend both but with a caution for readers who don't care for graphic violence.

Sarah's Key by Tatiana de Rosnay

Sarah's Key by Tatiana de Rosnay is told from two points of view - Julia, the modern day journalist living with her family in Paris and Sarah, an eleven-year-old Jewish girl living in Paris during the occupation of France during 1942. I couldn't put this book down even though the themes are extraordinarily dark. The writer gives the reader no reason to suppose that either of the two main characters will live happily ever after, but that doesn't prevent the reader from hoping. When Sarah's voice goes silent, the reader is forced to finish the book via Julia's research. I searched for this book after recently seeing a trailer for a movie of the same name. If you like contemporary mysteries mixed with historical events, you'll find this book one of the best. I knew very little about what was happening in France during the Holocaust. This book described one horrific event that should not be forgotten.

I'm currently reading:

The Girl Who Disappeared Twice by Andrea Kane

The Silent Girl by Tess Gerritsen

What are you reading this month? If you're an author and have a new book out in August or September, post your pitch in the comment section! The weather guys are predicting another month of this heatwave and I have room on my Kindle for many more books!

aka The Southern Half of Evelyn David

Brianna Sullivan Mysteries - e-book series
I Try Not to Drive Past Cemeteries- Kindle - Nook - Smashwords
The Dog Days of Summer in Lottawatah- Kindle - Nook - Smashwords
The Holiday Spirit(s) of Lottawatah- Kindle - Nook - Smashwords
Undying Love in Lottawatah- Kindle - Nook - Smashwords

A Haunting in Lottawatah - Kindle - Nook - Smashwords
***New - Lottawatah Twister - Kindle - Nook - Smashwords

The Sullivan Investigation Series
Murder Drops the Ball (Spring 2011)
Murder Takes the Cake- Paperback - Kindle
Murder Off the Books- Paperback - Kindle
Riley Come Home (short story)- Kindle - Nook - Smashwords

Love Lessons - Kindle - Nook - Smashwords