Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Waiting for Sandy

As I sit here writing, it’s Monday around lunchtime, we still have power, and we await the arrival of Hurricane Sandy, perhaps most the most deadly storm to hit the Eastern seaboard since the storm that hit in 1938.

So, is it just a wee bit unseemly to be happy that because of this storm, me, hubby, and kid #2 have two days off with nothing to do? (Kid #1’s college is also closed but since she doesn’t live here, she doesn’t get to enjoy the relaxing day.)

I’m trying to look at the silver lining but I have never encountered an event in which every business known to Type A personalities has been shut down, making it virtually impossible for any of us to toil as we would normally do on a regular Monday, Tuesday, or even Wednesday (when it seems that things will slowly start to reopen).  Even when we have snow days, work usually continues apace, with husband having to go to school which isn’t cancelled unless Mayor Bloomberg issues an edict.  And he issues very few edicts on the closing of school.

I sent a few emails and I have been checking Facebook to make sure friends are safe but I write this just a few short minutes before I do what I planned to do when I found out that work would be cancelled:  I’m going to take a nap.  A long nap.  Under the covers.  It’s sad that in today’s world it takes a natural disaster to bring life to a complete halt and force people to “relax,” as much as one can with an impending hurricane, but there you have it.

So, I’m making a large vat of tortellini, just in case the power goes out, because that is an item you can eat cold. And I’ve stocked up on water (and not surprisingly, wine).  We have chocolate.  Some leftovers.  I think we’re set.

I’ll update you when I can and let you know how cruel Sandy was to us.

Maggie Barbieri

Monday, October 29, 2012

On The Books by Dru

What is your longest running series you continue to read? I have several and the five listed below are coming out in November. With over 12 books in their respective series, I look forward to my annual visit with these characters. The books range from a cozy, a humorous read to a thriller.

Looking for Yesterday by Marcia Muller, #31 in the Sharon McCone mystery series.
Three years ago, Caro Warrick was acquitted for the murder of her best friend Amelia Bettencourt, but the lingering doubts of everyone around Caro is affecting her life. Sharon McCone is confident that she can succeed where other detectives have failed (though at times it's hard to shake her own misgivings about what happened), but when Caro is brutally beaten right at Sharon's doorstep, the investigation takes on a whole new course. How many more people remain at risk until Amelia's murderer is finally caught?

The Buzzard Table by Margaret Maron, #19 in the Deborah Knott mystery series.
Judge Deborah Knott and Sheriff's Deputy Dwight Bryant are back home in Colleton County with all their family and courthouse regulars. But there are a few new faces as well. Lt. Sigrid Herald and her mother, Anne, a well-known photographer, are down from New York to visit Anne's ailing mother, Mrs. Lattimore. When the group gathers for dinner at Mrs. Lattimore's Victorian home, they meet the enigmatic Martin Crawford, an ornithologist who claims to be researching a new book on Southern vultures. More importantly, he's Mrs. Lattimore's long-lost nephew, and Sigrid and Anne's English cousin. With her health in decline, Mrs. Lattimore wants to make amends with her family--something Deborah can understand as she too is working to strengthen her relationship with her stepson, Cal. But for all his mysterious charm, Anne can't shake the feeling that there is something familiar about Martin...something he doesn't want Anne or anyone else to discover. When a murderer strikes, Deborah, Dwight, and Sigrid will once again work together to solve the crime and uncover long-buried Lattimore family secrets.

Notorious Nineteen by Janet Evanovich, #19 in the Stephanie Plum mystery series.
After a slow summer of chasing low-level skips for her cousin Vinnie’s bail bonds agency, Stephanie Plum finally lands an assignment that could put her checkbook back in the black. Geoffrey Cubbin, facing trial for embezzling millions from Trenton’s premier assisted-living facility, has mysteriously vanished from the hospital after an emergency appendectomy. Now it’s on Stephanie to track down the con man. Unfortunately, Cubbin has disappeared without a trace, a witness, or his money-hungry wife. Rumors are stirring that he must have had help with the daring escape . . . or that maybe he never made it out of his room alive. Since the hospital staff’s lips seem to be tighter than the security, and it’s hard for Stephanie to blend in to assisted living, Stephanie’s Grandma Mazur goes in undercover. But when a second felon goes missing from the same hospital, Stephanie is forced into working side by side with Trenton’s hottest cop, Joe Morelli, in order to crack the case.

The real problem is, no Cubbin also means no way to pay the rent. Desperate for money—or maybe just desperate—Stephanie accepts a secondary job guarding her secretive and mouthwatering mentor Ranger from a deadly Special Forces adversary. While Stephanie is notorious for finding trouble, she may have found a little more than she bargained for this time around. Then again—a little food poisoning, some threatening notes, and a bridesmaid’s dress with an excess of taffeta never killed anyone . . . or did they? If Stephanie Plum wants to bring in a paycheck, she’ll have to remember: No guts, no glory.

Merry Christmas, Alex Cross by James Patterson, #19 in the Alex Cross mystery series.
It's Christmas Eve and Detective Alex Cross has been called out to catch someone who's robbing his church's poor box. That mission behind him, Alex returns home to celebrate with Bree, Nana, and his children. The tree decorating is barely underway before his phone rings again--a horrific hostage situation is quickly spiraling out of control. Away from his own family on the most precious of days, Alex calls upon every ounce of his training, creativity, and daring to save another family. Alex risks everything--and he may not make it back alive on this most sacred of family days. Alex Cross is a hero for our time, and never more so than in this story of family, action, and the deepest moral choices.

Nightshade on Elm Street by Kate Collins, #13 in the Flower Shop mystery series.
In addition to running her flower shop, planning her wedding, and juggling two mothers who both want to host an elaborate bridal shower, Abby Knight is facing another complication. Her ditzy cousin Jillian asks her and her longtime beau, Marco, a private detective, to find a woman who’s gone missing from the exclusive beach house belonging to Jillian’s in-laws, the Osbornes. The missing woman is also the fiancée of Pryce Osborne, a wet noodle with a big bank account who dumped Abby just before their wedding several years ago. Merely being anywhere near Pryce makes Abby’s insecurities grow like kudzu. Then a woman’s drowned body surfaces, and Pryce becomes a prime suspect in her death. Unless Abby and Marco can get a killer to come clean, their bridal shower will turn into a complete washout...and Pryce will be exchanging a sunny beach for a prison cell.

Have you read any of these series long-running series?

I'm an avid reader who finds adventures in reading. Visit dru's book musing at

Friday, October 26, 2012

Getting It Together

“Someday I’ll get it all together,” my husband mutters morosely as he struggles with something that slipped through the cracks in his ultra-busy life. I’ve done the same myself many times. We’re all juggling so many plates that it’s no wonder when one of them crashes to the floor or is rescued from that fate only by a quick diving grab.

About a year ago, however, I promised myself that I’d stop using that term “getting it all together,” because I know—we all do, actually—that no one ever gets it all together. In fact, it’s just a nice camouflaged way of saying, “Someday I’ll be perfect.” And we wouldn’t say that out loud anywhere anyone else could hear us, would we?

Of course, we wouldn’t, but every time we say, “I’m going to get it all together,” we are pushing ourselves into that perfectionist role. I bring this up because it’s something with which I’ve struggled all my life. I aim for competence, wanting to be the best I possibly can, the top of the class, in all areas of my life. But none of us can be the top of the class in everything.

Over the years, I’ve had to realize that I’m never going to win the Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval—certainly not for my housekeeping! As I’ve become more involved in the world of writing novels for trade houses who want at least one novel a year, I’ve just given up on the house. And very early in my life, I came to grips with the fact that I will never be a fashionably-dressed, perfectly-made-up, stylish woman. I make up for these failings in many other areas. But like many of us, I suspect, I judge myself against the best in each area of my life. Against the woman who’s cold to her family and has no friends, I hold up not my loving family and friends but my messy home against her spotless, department-store-window house. Against the woman who’s superficial and shallow, I hold up not my lifetime pursuit of learning or my passionate concern with issues but my bare face and comfortable shoes against her fashionista appearance.

I know I’m not the only one who does this comparison of someone else’s strong point against my weak point. I suspect it’s actually pretty common. But I’ve decided that I’m no longer going to do this to myself—and part of overcoming it is discarding the concept of “getting it all together.” Even those who seem on the surface to have it all together, don’t. We’ve seen that again and again—the wealthy, famous, beautiful people who seem on top of everything yet go plunging down the slopes, the woman (or man) we always admired because she seemed to have everything in her life under such good control, only to find she was flailing every day behind her impeccable façade. Yet still, we put this burden of “getting it all together” on our shoulders—and wonder why we walk slumped over.

So here and now, I’ll admit that I don’t have it all together, nor am I probably ever going to have it all together. I have too many areas where I’m simply not really together at all or only partly together, on Wednesdays and Sundays. But I do have a few areas of strength where I’m really at the top of my game—and I think those are where I’m going to focus my energy now instead of trying to become the fashionista or uber-hausfrau that I’m not. So, look out, world. Hear me roar! Just don’t look at the shoes, please.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

The Other POV

by Bethany Maines

Tis the season again.  The political season that is.  And Washington State being Washington State we’re facing a couple of contentious issues, including gay marriage, marijuana legalization for everyone over 21, and that old chestnut, the Presidential race.  Although, it should be noted that since we are Washington State the REAL hippies are against the marijuana legalization initiative because it doesn’t go far enough.

I strongly believe in our democracy and I do my best to learn what I can about the issues and cast my vote accordingly. But I have to say it’s a bit of childhood dream dashed to discover that frequently both sides of an issue have points in their favor. What happened to absolute certainty and knowing which way to go? Who wants to grow up and see the other guy’s point of view?  It makes me want to curl up on the couch and watch Rio Bravo (or Eldorado, really doesn’t matter which) because you know where you’re at with a John Wayne movie.

Although, it has recently come to my attention through this great blog entry by Anne Kreamer for the Harvard Business Review that my mother may have ruined my ability to see the world in black and white. By encouraging me to read fiction my heartless mother was teaching me to how to be empathetic and how to build a “theory of mind” (the ability to interpret and respond to those different from us).  What was she thinking?  Oh wait, I can totally understand what she was thinking because I have the skill to see the world from her perspective.  Why, Mom, why??!!!

While being able to think from another point of view may have ruined my black hat/white hat theory of politics, it has served me well in writing.  One the tricks I find most useful for teasing out a plot tangle is to write out a synopsis of the story from the Villains point of view. With all my attention being focused on the hero or heroine sometimes I’ll make the error of simply moving my Bad Guy off stage.  For all intents and purposes he’s just out there in the wings, twiddling his thumbs, and waiting for his cue to come in and twirl his moustache and chew a bit of scenery.  But when I write the story from his POV I realize that those plot holes have been holes because I haven’t been giving the Villain a chance to actually be a person. Real people have goals and motivations beyond moustache twirling and the story only gets better when I let my Baddy show there’s more to him than an awesome moustache.  And although moustaches are great, I think we can all agree that no one will ever really be able to compete with Sam Elliot, and my Villains probably shouldn’t even try.

Bethany Maines is the author of Bulletproof Mascara, Compact With the Devil and Supporting the Girls.  Catch up with her at or check out the new Carrie Mae youtube video.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

What do you want to be when you grow up?

By: Joelle Charbonneau

I have no idea what I want to be when I grow up.  I thought I wanted to be a music theater and opera performer.  At least, that’s what I spent my undergrad and post-graduate schooling studying.  And I guess I actually wanted to do that since I did the professional singing, dancing, acting thing for a number a years.  While I bellowed arias and show tunes on stage, I also worked as a systems administrator and report analyst, which stretched my mind and pushed me to learn new things.  And somewhere along the way I started teaching and wow do I love it.  Helping students discover not only their singing voices, but confidence in themselves and their futures is a pretty amazing thing. 

Oh yeah – and now I write.  And I love that too.  Some days, the need to fill the blank page stresses me out.  There are moments where I wonder why I chose to sit behind a screen worrying about what comes next.  But I wouldn’t give it up for anything.

The funny thing is, I never took a college level English class.  I never took creative writing.  And I am a writer. 

I point this out because as a teacher, I work to help prepare my high school students for college.  The one thing that strikes me over the years is the notion that high school students have to *know* what they want to be when they grow up.   From the time students enter their freshman year of high school, there is a strange notion that they should be working toward a specific future goal.  Not just getting into college or having a happy future, but taking the right classes to get them into a specific college for a future they might not even want to have when they know more about it.

I *knew* what I wanted to do with my future when I entered college.  I wanted nothing more than to spend my life singing and dancing on the stage.  And I still love that.  But I have grown and changed and learned so much since those high school days.  I’m not longer that person.

So, I guess my point to this rant is that I hope we all work to encourage our children to study something they love.  To strive to learn things that matter to them because those are the things that shape their lives.  I believe that filling the soul is just as important as filling the mind.  When we fill both—amazing things can happen.

So---dare I ask?  What did you want to be when you graduated high school and what are you doing now?

Monday, October 22, 2012


by Evelyn David


It might surprise you to learn that most older houses and public buildings are haunted by a ghost or two. Or at least that's been my experience. Some are just hanging around, doing the same thing repeatedly like a faded video programmed to play an endless loop. They have no awareness of the living. Others are very different. They can interact with the living and if they want to be seen or heard, they're usually not shy about confronting me – day or night.

Beverly and I had been in the Foreman house almost two hours and I hadn't seen anyone. I was beginning suspect that Ghost Ned wasn't that "into me" after all.

The second floor was in slightly better shape than the downstairs. At least it was marginally cleaner. It had been remodeled sometime in the last 50 years with bathrooms added to each of the five large bedrooms. The living Ned Foreman had told me the plumbing in the house actually worked. I'm sure we'd have cause to verify that statement for ourselves before much longer.

A wall for a probable sixth bedroom had been removed and the space now served as an upstairs sitting area. The removal of the wall also allowed natural light from the window in the former room to light the landing area. Beverly and I agreed this would be a good spot to set up camp.

Leon found a spot of fading sunlight on the old wooden floor and caught a nap. I'd been watching his reactions as we'd toured the house. Except for his barking after the door in the library had slammed, he'd seemed his normal placid self. If there were ghosts around, they were of no concern to him so far.

Beverly and I made multiple trips to the car for our gear, some folding chairs, and an ice chest. In less than an hour, we were ready. Good thing too, the sun was starting to set.

Battery-powered lamps created a six foot island of light. Beyond that, the house was in shadows. Another hour and we wouldn't be able to see anything without the lamps and our flashlights.

"These recorders are voice activated, right, if I turn them on?" Beverly was testing one of the hand held units I'd ordered on line.

I'd just taken a bite of one of the chicken sandwiches from Tiny's that we'd brought to keep us from starving to death during our overnight stay in the house. I nodded and continued chewing.

Beverly began talking into the recorder. "My name is Beverly Heyman. I'm 29-years-old. I'm a dispatcher for the Lottawatah Police Department. I used to sing part-time in a country band. I'm married to Mort Heyman. I got married right out of high school and I have six children. Ashley is 11. Sophia is 9. Jason and James are 7. Melissa is 3 and Mort the III is almost four months old. We own two cats, Popcorn and Cupcake. The twins named them after their favorite things."

She turned off the recorder. "So the way this works is that I just play it back and we listen for other voices?"

"According to what I've seen on television." I grinned. "I haven't actually needed to use one before. Play it back and let's listen. Next time we might have to ask them some questions."

"Right, sorry." Beverly smiled. "I was nervous."

Awake if not alert, Leon ambled over and nudged my knee. I tore off a piece of my sandwich and handed it to him. He'd had his dinner, but, apparently, was still peckish. I'd need to take him outside for a short walk soon. Of course with the length of his legs, all walks were short.

"Let's hear it."

"Okay, here goes." Beverly pressed play and we listened.

"These recorders are voice activated, right, if I turn them on? Why are you here? My name is Beverly Heyman. I'm 29 years old. I'm a dispatcher for the Lottawatah Police Department. I used to sing part-time in a country band. Sing? I'm married to Mort Heyman. I got married right out of high school and I have six children. Ashley is 11. Sophia is 9. Jason and James are 7. Twins? Melissa is 3 and Mort the III is almost four months old. You shouldn't leave your babies. Go home now. We own two cats, Popcorn and Cupcake. Meow, Meow.  The twins named them after their favorite things."

Beverly's voice was clear. The second voice was scratchy, older, but clearly also female.

The surprise, to me, was the cat. I knew there were shadow animals, but hadn't actually heard one before. I'd have to ask if Georgia had a cat while she was living.

"Whoa! Who does she think she is?" Beverly's face turned white. "Why does she get to have an opinion about how I take care of my kids?"

Beverly was missing the point at the moment, but it would come to her. We weren't alone. Ned Foreman wasn't alone. There was at least one other ghost in the house.
A Haunting in Lottawatah - Kindle (exclusive to Amazon this month)
The Ghosts of Lottawatah - trade paperback collection of the Brianna e-books
Book 1 - I Try Not to Drive Past Cemeteries (includes the first four Brianna e-books)
Book 2 - A Haunting in Lottawatah (includes the 5th, 6th, and 7th Brianna e-books)


Sullivan Investigations Mystery
Murder Off the Books Kindle - Nook - Smashwords - Trade Paperback
Murder Takes the Cake Kindle - Trade Paperback (exclusive to Amazon)
Riley Come Home (short story)- Kindle - Nook - Smashwords
Moonlighting at the Mall (short story) - Kindle - Nook - Smashwords

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 (exclusive to Amazon this month)
Lottawatah Twister - Kindle - Nook - Smashwords
Missing in Lottawatah - Kindle - Nook - Smashwords
Good Grief in Lottawatah - Kindle - Nook - Smashwords
Summer Lightning in Lottawatah - Kindle - Nook - Smashwords

The Ghosts of Lottawatah - trade paperback collection of the Brianna e-books
Book 1 - I Try Not to Drive Past Cemeteries (includes the first four Brianna e-books)
Book 2 - A Haunting in Lottawatah (includes the 5th, 6th, and 7th Brianna e-books)

Love Lessons - Kindle - Nook - Smashwords

Friday, October 19, 2012

An Ordinary Time Machine

by Laura Bradford

As I get older, I find that flashes of the present transport me into the past all the time. And each time it happens, it's like an unexpected gift that almost always leaves me with a smile on my face.

It happened again just last night. My husband and I went to see Fiddler on the Roof at a nearby dinner theater. The first number in the show--Traditions--was an instant flash back to a time when Dear Daughter # 1 (who is closing in on 18) was just ten. She was part of an amazing kids' production of Fiddler during the year I homeschooled her and her sister.

In that production, DD # 1 was a Jewish man--equipped with black vest, black hat, black pants, beard, and wig (to cover her almost white-blonde hair). Suddenly, I was back in the auditorium, watching her instead of the actual cast on the stage in front of me. I saw her arms shoot up every single time theirs did. I saw her dancing to the left and the right. I know I was smiling through the memory, but I also know my eyes were misting, too.

Then, later on in the show, the four male actors start doing the bottle-dance. And, once again, I was back in that auditorium, watching my little girl dancing with a bottle atop her head. I could see the concentration and pride on her face as the audience clapped. I saw the momentary disappointment when, during one of the performances, the bottle slipped off her hat the last time she rose from her knees.

Boom. Eight years disappeared before my eyes.

And I loved every single moment of it.

These flashes happen often. For both girls. Sometimes, they're triggered by a song. Sometimes, they're triggered by a book. Sometimes, they're triggered by the girls, themselves--a certain smile or look. But no matter what it is, I'm always so grateful for the trip down memory lane.


Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Social Media and the Art of the Reasoned Debate

Is it my imagination or does everyone seem to be at cross purposes these days, lambasting one another for their tightly held ideals, political views, and opinions?  Has social media made it appropriate—if not convenient—to start political debates that go nowhere fast?

Count me out.

Put simply:  I read Facebook for the updates on what everyone had for dinner, cute kitten pictures, funny memes, and George Takei’s thoughts on life.  If you’re going to spew about this candidate or another—or God forbid, any of their spouses—please keep the vitriol to yourself, because I am just not interested.  Consider yourself not “unfriended but “hidden.”

I know for a fact that a few of my fellow Stiletto wearers feel the same way based on what they have posted on their own pages.  And one, in particular, agrees with me on this point:  you’re not going to change anyone’s mind, so just leave it alone.

I read a fascinating interview in O Magazine last night that really drove this point home for me.  Donna Brazile, a woman who has worked on dozens of Democratic political campaigns and who helmed Al Gore’s presidential campaign, and Mary Matalin, spouse of Clinton friend James Carville but a staunch conservative, are best friends.  Crazy, right?  Well, turns out that they do discuss politics and other charged topics but they both know that their hearts are in the right place and that their opinions stem from individual lives lived with sincerity.  They discuss topics but never try to change each other’s minds and if they are to be believed—and I have no reason not to believe them given the frankness of their answers—they do not go for each other’s jugular if they disagree.  They have dinner together, they travel together, they drink together, they even dance together, yet fall on completely opposite sides of every imaginable political issue.

Mature, right?

The one thing that struck me about the interview was that the women still had high standards when it came to good taste and manners.  They felt that discussing politics without bringing respect and politeness to the conversation was the height of rudeness, something their mothers would not condone.  Stirring the pot at a cocktail party, in their opinions (and mine), was just in bad taste.  Finding a proper forum—and having a discussion with the proper decorum—was what made a good debate.  Yelling, talking over someone, or spouting negativity in the name of supporting one’s ideals…not so much.  And this applied equally to face-to-face discussions and those that take place virtually.

I am a fan of social media.  It makes life for someone like me—an extrovert who works alone and at home—more enjoyable.  I love seeing what everyone has to say about what they’ve got going on in their lives.  What I don’t love is talk of politics of any ilk, particularly when it is filled with half-truths, disparaging comments and an assumption that if you’re on the other side of the debate, well, you must be just plain dumb.  (And this applies to both left-leaners and right-leaners.)  We all bring our own life experience to bear on our beliefs and that doesn’t make them right or wrong—just ours.

So, if I haven’t commented on Facebook your definition of socialism or redistribution, or given my opinion on how 5 trillion dollars can be cut from the federal budget, or discussed how I feel about birth control and who should pay for it, it just means that I’m staring at a cute photo of a kitten tucked into the warm cocoon that its mother has made for it.  Or that you’ve been “hidden.” Don't worry:  once the election is over, we'll all be friends again and you can unhide me, too.

Maggie Barbieri