Tuesday, December 20, 2016

The $56 Cookie

I went to the store last week and bought the fixings for making Christmas cookies. You know, sugar, chocolate chips, butter, coconut, nuts, and such. I threw a couple of other little things I needed into the cart, too. The total came to $56. When I got home, I realized that for $56, I could have bought a LOT of cookies. And they’d all come out perfect and I wouldn’t be left with an aching back.

So why do we women do this every year? Why do we feel it’s necessary to spend money and time baking something that we get scads of from other people? Right now, my house looks like cookie central. Don’t get me wrong, they’ll all get eaten one way or another. Now is the time to indulge so we can at least pretend we’ll keep our New Year’s Resolution of going on a diet.

I could no more not bake cookies at Christmas than I could not put up a small tree adorned with meaningful decorations or not thrill over every Christmas card that arrives or not listen to my favorite Christmas music, or not have twinkling lights inside and outside the house. Baking is part of the whole Christmas package. You leave out any one part and it diminishes the rest.

So, I’ll continue to spend a wad of money and a lot of time and an aching back on cookies I could much easier buy, because it is, after all, Christmas. And we do have to have something to serve our guests who are already trying to get rid of cookies like summer zucchini, don’t we?

Merry Christmas and Happy Hanukkah to all my wonderful friends and family!

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Stuff Your Turkey with a Poem

A very long time ago, when I was in junior high in Vermont, we read (and I believe had to learn) a poem called The Landing of the Pilgrim Fathers in New England by Felicia D. Hemans.

It has ten stanzas; the first two are:

The breaking waves dashed high
On a stern and rock-bound coast,
And the woods against a stormy sky
Their giant branches tossed:

And the heavy night hung dark
The hills and waters o’er,
When a band of exiles moored their bark
On the wild New England shore.

Since Vermont is not on the coast, my picture of the Eastern seaboard was a “stern and rock-bound coast.”  Imagine my surprise when we moved to Connecticut and lived a block from Long Island Sound where the beach was filled with sand, shells and stones, but no high cliffs with waves pounding against them. Sometimes it pays to get out of our own little corner and see a broader view of the world. California beaches were a far cry from a ”wild New England shore,” but that’s a whole other story.

Still, all these years later, this poem is as much a part of Thanksgiving, in my mind, as is turkey and stuffing and cranberry sauce, jellied of course.

The poem’s last stanza exemplifies why this country was founded.

Ay, call it holy ground,
The soil where first they trod;
They have left unstained what there they found, --
Freedom to worship God.

I wish all of you a Thanksgiving that includes food, friends, family and perhaps a moment to reflect on our country’s past and future and the liberties we hold most dear.

Happy Thanksgiving to you!

Quote of the Day: Amidst the storm they sang/And the stars heard, and the sea/And the sounding aisles of the dim woods rang/To the anthem of the free. Felicia D. Hemans

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Bacon, Hot Dogs, and the Howling Cow

I did something fun this week and I’m trying to figure out how to work the writing world into it. All I can come up with is that Barb, from my writing group, and I went to the North Carolina State Fair on Tuesday. That’s as close as I can get to talking about writing since this was purely for pleasure.

The day was gorgeous; actually, the temperature hit 88 degrees. Not bad for a mid-October day. Since we’re both old, at least over 65, admission was free. It was Senior Day at the Fair so Bojangles sponsored a free breakfast. It was nothing great, but it was free.

Speaking of food, for lunch I had a hamburger and Barb had a hot dog, but there was an abundance of food to choose from. All the typical fair food called out to us every few feet, plus some concoctions I’d never heard of. Are you up for deep fried (yes, we’re in the South) Gummy Bears? How about deep fried Jell-O? If chocolate is more to your liking, what about chocolate covered bacon on a stick? I kid you not.

Although there were ice cream stands everywhere for walking sundae cones and such, Barb, who is a Frequent Fair Fanatic, said there was only one place to get ice cream and that was at the Howling Cow building. Don’t ask, I have no idea why the cow was supposedly howling. She should have been laughing since the line snaked around like an A ride at Disneyland because their ice cream is so popular. We got in line and inched our way slowly toward the front and placed our order. We both ordered chocolate chip mint, paid for it, then walked around to the side of the tent where some very busy young adults handed our bowls to us. We then went to the grandstand and sat on seats in the shade to enjoy our treat.

From where we sat, we could look across the track to some of the rides that I suppose people are silly enough to actually get on. Not me. I didn’t get this age by taking daredevil chances. I did count at least four Ferris wheels when we entered the fair, and those I wouldn’t mind riding. They don’t twist and turn and go upside down, they just give you a nice ride and a bird’s eye view of the fair.

We spent time in the building where people vie for ribbons. We looked at art, woodwork, paper crafts, and more. Some young people do some amazing work.

I wore my pedometer so I could feel good about how many steps I took that day. The number 8000 made me feel good, but taking the actual steps was another matter. By mid-afternoon I was practically crawling, my legs hurt so. Barb was dealing with a bad back, so when we entered a demonstration building with massage chairs, each of us tried one out. This was unlike any such chair I’ve ever been in. Once it got going, it started pressing me from the sides until I felt like an orange being squeezed for juice. I had to ask the attendant to stop the machine because it was hurting my hips, legs, and feet. I thought massages were supposed to feel good?

It was time to have fun, so we went to a booth where I got three chances to break a balloon with darts. I broke two out of the three, but then the sign DID say everyone is a winner, so I went home with an adorable little stuffed cheetah to show off my prowess.

When Barb and I left the fair it wasn’t because we’d seen and done everything, it was because we had both reached our limit and couldn’t walk another step. Sitting in her car for the ride home was the best ride of the day.

Quote of the Day: The healthiest response to life is joy. Deepak Chopra

Friday, September 16, 2016

A Penny For Your Thoughts

Hey out there! Are you thinking of quitting your day job and making money writing the book that will set America on its heels? I have one word for you—DON’T.  Don't quit your day job, that is. By all means, write the book.

Let me tell you what just happened to me. Granted, I don’t have a day job to quit, but on the other hand, the money I make on my books would barely buy a cup of coffee at Starbucks.

All of my books are with Amazon and happily so. Some are in print, some in digital, some in audio, some are in all three forms. Every month I get an email or two from Amazon telling me that on the 29th I’ll be getting my royalties deposited into my bank account. They give me ten days to look forward to that wondrous event. In July I had the whopping sum of $7.30 added to my bank account for digital royalties.

In August I got two separate deposits; the first I assume was from print books and was for the sum of $3.34. Wow, no Starbucks this month. The second royalty was from digital books in the sum of ………………are you ready?  The gargantuan sum of one cent. That’s right, they deposited one penny into my bank account as a royalty payment!

Now I have my thoughts on this, one of which I’ll tell you and the others, well, they’re not quite suitable for tender ears. Since absolutely NO royalties are as low as one cent, I can only conclude that they made a mistake in July and my amount should have been $7.31 and they corrected their error in August by adding the one cent.
Does this mean I’ll say to heck with it and stop writing because it isn’t worth it? Not by a long shot. I don’t write for the money (obviously), I write because I love writing. It makes me happy and, just maybe, it makes other people happy, too. I can make up a world and fill it with the people I want in my world and have them say and do what I tell them. Well, okay, more times than not they tell me what they’re going to do. That’s where the fun comes in—I have no preconceived idea what’s going to happen in my stories, I just let the story go where it wants. At the end, I’m as surprised as you are!

So don’t think writing is going to make you a millionaire, or well-off, or even comfortable, unless your name is John Grisham, Stephen King, or J. K. Rowling, and, trust me, those names are already taken. If you write, write because you have something to say and you love having a chance to say it. 

Quote of the Day:  Live out of your imagination, not your history. Stephen Covey

Monday, August 29, 2016

She's Done it Again

Summer may be almost over, but this lady's writing career is just getting into the swing of things. I'm talking about my guest, Marcia Buompensiero. This is my third interview with this sweet lady (who usually writes murder stories). 

Good afternoon, Marcia. Let's remind my readers where you live.
I live in San Diego with my husband Joe. All my stories have San Diego settings.

Does your current book, Sumerland, differ from your previous books? Why and how?
Sumerland is a departure from my Theo Hunter Mystery Series. Sumerland was inspired by a true story, childhood events, and the oral history handed down from my grandmother who’s past was shrouded in secrets and shadows.  For that reason, Sumerland is written under my real name, not my “Loren Zahn” pseudonym.

Give us a brief synopsis of your book.
What if the “not so” dearly departed could return from the other side of the grave to make amends and right the wrongs they committed during their lives on earth? 
Francis and Marie-Claire Liebersohn have unfinished business—they want someone to set the record straight—eighty years after their deaths.  

Kate Post just inherited the old Liebersohn mansion—her estranged mother's bizarre bequest to the daughter she rarely saw and barely knew. Kate doesn't want the house, nor any reminder of her mother's abandonment. When an odd inscription on a slab of concrete beside a garden pathway haunts her dreams and drives her back to the old place, she decides that a period restoration will make for a quick sale. But Kate's plans and the long-dead Liebersohns' scheme are about to collide. The result will unhinge Kate's world, uncover haunting family secrets, and set her on a mission to undo the wrongs that only she can set aright. 

What prompted you to write it?
Sumerland is a “ghost story” but, first and foremost, it is a family fable. It is an homage to our ancestors and a declaration of hope that future generations may learn from the mistakes of the past—and not repeat them. Everything we are today has its beginnings in the lives of those who came before us. In my own family, my grandmother’s estrangement from her husband (my grandfather) resulted in a family split that lasted for generations. Meeting my cousin Linda for the first time did not occur until most of the players (our grandparents, my father, her mother) had passed away. It would be 90 years after our grandparents’ separation that we would meet. That is the story that became the catalyst for Sumerland.

Linda and I both wonder if Sumerland might really be more fact than fiction. Grandmother Clara was a great storyteller. Her tall tales about growing up in the back woods of Canada were dark and pulsed with characters who were mired in misdeeds and tragedy. I always believed her stories were fiction. Now, I’m not so sure. As a child, it was grandmother’s voice that fueled that my imagination. She is why I write today. 

How long did it take you to write this book?
I’d have to say the story is a culmination of a lifetime of memories. However, I didn’t put pen to paper until early in 2016. Once I was able to connect with the germ of the story, I completed the book in about ten months.

Do you have a favorite line from the book?
The advice from Kate’s mother:  “Everything you’ve ever wanted is on the other side of fear.”

Is it published and, if so, when and by whom?
Sumerland was published by Grey Castle Publishing, my own publishing company.

How can my readers get a copy?
Sumerland is available on Amazon.com: http://smarturl.it/sumerland

What is your advice to would-be writers?
That’s easy: Don’t give up. Keep at it.

What’s next for you?
I began the third book in the Theo Hunter Mysteries, Fatal Little Lies, earlier this year. I stopped work on it to write Sumerland. I hope to get back to it and complete it by spring 2017.  I'm also in the process of converting my mystery books into audio books for Amazon. That has been an exciting endeavor and I hope to complete that in 2017.

Thank you, Marcia. And all you out there--make sure you get this book and read it. You won't be sorry.

Quote of the Day: I cannot tell why this imagined despair has fallen upon me; the ghost of an ancient legend that will not let me be. Heinrich Heine, Lorelei

Saturday, August 13, 2016

A Riddle for You

I have a riddle for you my friends. What can you make that has no form and no weight and can only be used in the future? The answer is not blowing in the wind, but is, in fact, a memory. Memories are made in the here and now, but can only be called memories at some point in the future.

I just spent two weeks making more memories than are usually made in months. I can’t do my trip to Connecticut justice in a short article, but I’ll touch on some of the highlights.

I drove a total of 1667 miles in my “new” Prius and spent a grand total of $69 for gas! You can’t beat that. Two days up to Connecticut, ten magical days spent with family, and two days driving back with my grandson, Monterey.

A beautiful butterfly
With my daughter Tammy, we went to church, we toured the Harriet Beecher Stowe home in Hartford, and in Deerfield, Mass visited the Yankee Candle Company and Magic Wings, an indoor butterfly conservatory where we walked among a tropical setting with hundreds of butterflies flying around us. I felt like I was in an animated movie, or maybe Avatar. One even landed on my hand and stayed there for the longest time. Tammy and I were able to spend time back at her house talking about writing—hers and mine—and showing her how to self-publish on CreateSpace. Her husband Curtis and his friend treated us to a mini guitar concert one night.

I made this
Me, Monterey,Curtis
With my son Mike, we went out for pizza and then to a dairy farm for fresh homemade ice cream with Monterey, Tammy, and Mike’s fiancĂ©e, Kari. Another day, Mike and Monterey took me to a chocolate factory where we learned all about how chocolate is grown and made AND we each got to make our own chocolate bars and taste samples. Now THAT was a lot of fun! And delicious, too. Mike checked my oil, put air in my tires and hosted a good-bye breakfast the day I left. I think it was the best pepper and egg sandwich on a hard roll I’ve ever had. Seems only in New England can you get such a delightful sandwich. Tammy drove down and joined us for breakfast, so the entire morning just got better and better.

A selfie
With my sister Donna and her husband Joe, we went to church Sunday then went out for pizza, Chinese buffet another day, and hamburgers at a seaport marina called Captain’s Cove on yet another day. I helped her with the computer and to get HER book ready for self-publishing. We are a literary family! Also at my sister’s house, our third “sister” Cookie drove up from Queens to spend the night. She’s a writer, too. We’ve known each other since we were 5, 6, and 7. We are now 75, 76, and 77. That’s seventy years, folks! You can read about how we met in my book, If You Don’t Like Worms, Keep Your Mouth Shut. Tammy drove down from Manchester with her photographer’s hat and tripod and took pictures of the three of us.
Another selfie at
the Natural Bridge
Monterey at Natural Bridge

With Monterey, we made the drive home stopping in Virginia at the Natural Bridge, one of the seven natural wonders of the world. It is an incredible sight.

I am now home, back to business as usual, but with enough new memories made to last a lifetime.

Quote of the Day: Oft in the stilly night/Ere slumber’s chain has bound me/Fond Memory brings the light/Of other days around me. Thomas Moore

Monday, July 18, 2016

Anchored Nowhere: A Navy Wife's Story

I’m reading a book that makes me smile and, at times, makes me just plain laugh out loud. The name of the book is Anchored Nowhere; the author is Barbara Keirsbilck Bennett.

It just so happens that I know this author personally (we’re in the same writing group) and I’m sitting with her right now. It’s my pleasure now to introduce this lively lady to you.

Hi, Barb. I’m excited to have you here today. Please tell us where you live and a bit about your family.
Hi, Linda. I'm originally from Rochester, NY, but have lived in Raleigh, NC now for 20 years. In between, I have lived all over the world following my career Navy husband. Our two daughters, corresponding sons-in-law and seven grandchildren ranging in age from 6 to 22. live here as well.

Please tell us how long you’ve been writing.   
I was always the kid passing notes in school and the first to finish book reports and the obligatory "How I Spent My Summer Vacation" essays. During our first overseas tour of duty, in Athens, Greece, I sent our families long narrations of our adventures.

What type of writing do you normally do?
Mostly true life, usual humorous stories. I left my poetry writing years back in my teens. It was, after all, the 60's so we all wrote poetry! I have done some fiction that could grow up to be full novels.

Give us a brief synopsis of your book. 
ANCHORED NOWHERE: A Navy Wife's Story, is the very humorous trip through our 26 moves in 17 years. It's not about the military; that's just why we managed to be in the places that provided the opportunities for some exciting adventures. From being lost in the massive flea market of Athens to finding a half-naked stranger on our bathroom floor in the middle of the night in Japan, and passing through the gates into communist China, it was quite the adventure.

 What prompted you to write it?  
The real catalyst crashed into my life unexpectedly.  Within ten days, our older daughter got married, our younger daughter left for Army basic training, and the company I worked for announced they were closing.  Talk about an empty nest!  Both my children and my job were gone in a week and a half. My husband said, "For twenty years you've been saying you were going to write a book about being a Navy wife. Do it."  So I collected unemployment and spent six months writing the manuscript before looking for a new job. 

How long did it take to write it?  
I spent the next three years editing it. I think at some point, I realized a book is like your children; you just have to let them go and stand on their own merits.

Do you have a favorite line from the book?  
Indeed, I do. Shortly after our transfer from Athens, Greece to southern Spain, the change in the water got to Kimmie, our only child at the time. It caused a sudden case of diarrhea, her first experience with it since becoming potty-trained.  I still chuckle whenever I flash back to her frightened call to me from the bathroom, "Mommy, my fanny's throwing up!" 

Is Anchored Nowhere published and, if so, when and by whom?  
During the three years of re-editing, I sent out weekly batches of queries to agents and publishers.  It didn't take long to realize very little, if anything, was even being read at the other end.  So I started reading up on self-publishing and formed my own publishing company.  Of course, that leaves all the marketing to me, but it was never about the money anyway, so I'm okay with that.

How can my readers get a copy? 
Anyone interested could contact me directly.  The cheapest way ($13) is to e-mail me at barbaraj.b@yahoo.com for my address.  Or it can be purchased through Amazon.

What do you do besides write?  I retired last year following the loss of my husband and have gotten back into crafting as well as writing.  I make baby blankets, purses, aprons, some jewelry and of course offer autographed copies of my book.  I love getting to interact with people attending the craft fairs and shows.

What is your advice to would-be writers? 
I think it's important to decide why you want to write.  If it's for yourself, then just write.  If you enjoy it and it's meaningful to you, then I encourage you to say what you want to say, regardless of where it goes once it's written down. If, like me, your main goal is to provide a legacy to successive generations, I encourage you to include as many of the details as you can. If you are writing to become rich, all I can do is sincerely wish you good luck.

What do you wish you knew when you started your writing career?
I was astounded at how much information is available on the Internet.  I also did not know how plentiful writing groups are in many areas. That would have been a big help.

What's next for you? 
I am currently working on the sequel to that first book.  I am simply writing individual squares of situations that I eventually hope to be able to knit into an afghan of the past 30 years.  

Saturday, July 2, 2016

Wishing I could start with the push of a button!

What’s better than a new month with a clean slate ahead of us to write our history on? I’ll tell you, it’s a new, or at least new-er, car!  

In early June I slowly came to the realization that the 2000 Pontiac Bonneville I was driving, was approaching old age with, like some of us, more parts that didn’t work than did.
The a/c didn’t work, the windshield washer didn’t work, the turn signals worked only when they felt like it. The Service Engine Soon light was constantly glaring at me no matter what I did. For the car’s annual registration inspection, the service station did a smoke check (blowing smoke into the pipes to see where the obstruction was) and that turned the light off, finally. The next time I put gas in the car, the light came back on and stayed on. Besides that, the tail lights would fill up with water every time it rained, so when I opened the trunk to take grocery bags out, water poured into the trunk. All that water took its toll on the interior, leaving a horrid musty smell.

The car did have one good feature. Even though it was sixteen years old, it only had 77,000 miles on it. Regardless, it was time to bid it adieu and start looking for a better car. Realize, almost any car on the market would have been better than that wreck!

I started looking on line for a car in my price range and when I narrowed my search to a couple of places, I called in the cavalry.  Bill and Cyndi came up on a Tuesday, June 7 to be exact, and went car shopping with me. I wanted Bill there because he knew what to look for in a car and what to avoid. I wanted my daughter Cyndi with me because she’s a little pit bull and would in no way let anyone take advantage of her mother who, in car years, was about the same age as the Pontiac.

My choices the week before were down to a Buick, Honda, or Toyota. The more I researched, the more I kept landing on a Toyota Prius hybrid. Fred and I rented a Prius in 2008 for our cross-country trip. We put 10,000 miles on that car and loved every minute of it. I would never ever have thought I’d someday own a Prius, but, fast forward eight years and I now own a Prius!

It’s a 2007 Prius, gold with tan interior and is more fun to drive than you could ever imagine. The doors unlock by themselves when I get near the car, the car starts with the push of a button and goes into Park by pushing a button. It has a back-up camera, terrific a/c, and roomy interior and trunk. AND, there’s no water in the tail lights!  When it's running on electric, it's so quiet you don't think it's running. Then it switches over to gas.
I feel downright regal driving it, and very safe. I also like getting 45–50 miles to the gallon!

I don’t feel I deserve such a nice car, but since I have it, I shall enjoy the heck out of it!  Bill is happy, too, even though it means his unpaid career as mechanic to my Pontiac has come to an end.

Quote of the Day: There is no man living that cannot do more than he thinks he can. Henry Ford

Saturday, June 11, 2016

The Voice Behind the Microphone

I have a special guest with me today. Her name is Sharon Blumberg and she's a narrator for ACX, the audio leg of Amazon. Since I normally interview authors, I thought this interview would take us into, and shed light upon, a mostly unknown world to us.

As I've mentioned in previous posts, I've uploaded my books to ACX to be made into audio versions. My nonfiction book, Stop Procrastinating - Get Published! is narrated by Sharon and is now available on Amazon--in print, Kindle, and audio. In fact, for a short while you can get the audio version at no cost to you! (Go to www.amazon.com and type in my name, then click on the book title.)

Welcome, Sharon! Thanks for being here today.  Can you tell us what it took to become a narrator for ACX?

I trained for about five months with a voiceover coach through online training, but it could also have been done in person. We worked together as I practiced reading scripts, recording them, and sending them to him, so he could listen to them. I also had to learn how to edit what I recorded, so it would have a great sound. Then I signed up to set up my voiceover artist profile, to become a narrator through ACX. Before June of 2014, I was a Spanish and English teacher for over 20 years. In addition, I'm also a writer.

How long have you been narrating for ACX?

About two years.

You narrate about how many books a year?

In the past year and a half to two years, I have narrated a little over 20 books.

That's a lot. When you narrate a book, is it difficult to do the different voices?

It can be difficult, but once you get into the character and feel comfortable doing it, it gets easier.

Do you read the book through first before starting the narration?

Yes. I either read through the whole book first, if it's a children's book, or I go through the book by chapters. I also color code the characters' lines.

Do you need any special equipment?

I use my Mac computer, and online recording and editing systems such as Audacity and Twisted Wave. I also use a plug in microphone and an interface that connects to the computer and microphone.

Do you like being a narrator?

Yes, very much. But it often gets a little disappointing, when you get rejections from your auditions. There are also other forms of voiceover work, and I aspire to do more of that also in the future.

I'm sure my readers want to know if a person can make a living doing narration?

Yes, once you do it full time with some big projects, the income can build up over time.

What’s your favorite part of the process?

My favorite part is the relationships I create while working on projects, and completing projects I feel proud of having created.

How do you feel the process could be improved?

As I narrate and produce audio books, I feel there are still more things I can learn about, and that's one thing I look forward to. We can always learn more by taking classes and training programs.

Of the books you’ve narrated, which one did you like best?

I have a number of books I enjoyed in different ways, but what I loved about your book, Linda, was that it was the perfect length, and it is such a darling book that not only can serve as a training manual for new writers, but it also serves as a novel as well. I thought it was so cleverly written, that I chose to audition for it. I am so glad that you chose me to narrate for you! 
I'm glad, too! Thank you, Sharon, for inviting us into your world and giving us a glimpse of the voice behind the audio books microphone. For more information on having your book narrated or being a narrator, go to www.acx.com.

Quote of the Day: If a nation loses its storytellers, it loses its childhood. Peter Handke

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Old Ladies Need Their Sleep

I just got home from a two-week vacation immersed in family. Good, warm, loving, God-fearing, decent people, all of them. And all of them spread across the state of Connecticut.

Tammy and Curtis
Cyndi and Bill
Cyndi and Bill were planning to drive up and invited me to hitch a ride with them. They didn’t have to ask me twice! We arrived in Manchester, CT, east of Hartford, on a Thursday night. My daughter Tammy and her husband Curtis were waiting for us with open arms. The beds they provided were welcome after a fourteen-hour drive. We made ourselves at home there for the next few days. It seems, however, that we left the warm weather of the south behind; the days at Tammy’s were bitter cold and windy. There was even talk of snow right there in mid-May! Thank heavens we didn’t see any.

Tammy and Cyndi with
cousins Bob and Nancy
Sunday we attended a wedding of my kids’ second cousin. The ceremony was outside in the cold and wind but, thankfully, the reception was inside where we thawed out and enjoyed getting reacquainted with family members we hadn’t seen in a while. It was topped off a few days later with a lunch with my sister-in-law (we married brothers many years ago.)

Mike, Monterey, Kari
Not to bore you with our family home movies, but let me say we spent a good day in Seymour, CT with my son Mike, my grandson Monterey, and Mike’s fiancee, Kari. 
Cyndi, Mike, Tammy

 Then we went to my sister’s house in Fairfield, CT where we stayed for the rest of the time. Mike and Monterey and Tammy came down on a Friday for dinner and a lot of clowning around.  

Donna and Linda, the old ladies
One really funny thing happened during our week in Fairfield. I’m 75 and my sister Donna is 77 and more and more when we look in the mirror, we see our mother looking back at us. That would be okay, except occasionally this last week I would slip up and call Donna “Mom.” And as if that wasn’t bad enough, she did the same thing to me. She’d ask Cyndi to “Go ask Mom what she wants to eat.”  Sometimes we didn’t catch ourselves until one of us erupted in laughter. 

She and I spent a relaxing afternoon one day having a manicure/pedicure, then lunch outdoors (it had warmed up by then) at Panera’s. The person giving us a pedicure asked if we were twins. At least she didn’t ask if I was Donna’s mother! I went to church Sunday with Donna and Joe at a small New England country church--white steeple, trees all around. Wouldn’t you know, I fell asleep. With only twelve people in attendance, I couldn’t very well hide behind someone! It’ll be a while before I live that one down.

This bridge is 17.6 miles long and
 includes two tunnels under the
We took two days to come back home in order to take the coastal route and go over the Chesapeake Bay Bridge which also takes you through the tunnel that goes under Chesapeake Bay. Now that’s an experience! You try very hard not to think of what would happen if a crack should appear in the tunnel wall.

We’re home now with happy memories of quality time spent with family including Curtis serenading us on the guitar, a trip into the country for ice cream, thrift shop shopping, and birthday celebrations with Curtis and Monterey.

And that is why I’m now on the East Coast!

I guess it’s time to get back to writing.

Quote of the day:  The little world of childhood with its familiar surroundings is a model of the greater world. The more intensively the family has stamped its character upon the child, the more it will tend to feel and see its earlier miniature world again in the bigger world of adult life. Carl Gustav Jung

Monday, April 25, 2016

Magic Strings and Dancing Flames

There are a few things that calm my soul and put a smile on my face. Hopefully, you can relate to my list and add a few more items of your own. Here’s my list:

Waves lapping the shore on a sunny day
Flames dancing in a fireplace
Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 20 in D Minor
Hearing from a friend or family member
Reading a good book.

And speaking of a good book (you knew I had to get that in somewhere), I’ve just finished a novel I want to tell you about. First off, it’s by Mitch Albom, the great author of Tuesdays with Morrie, The Five People You Meet in Heaven, For One More Day, and others. So if he’s the author of this latest book, how bad can it be?  Not bad at all. In fact, there are very few books that grab me, reach into my soul, take hold and won't let go. This is one of them. The title is, the magic strings of Frankie Presto, published by Harper Collins.  

What’s different about this book? I’m glad you asked. For one thing, it's narrated by Music. That’s right, Music. The premise is that when a person is born, he or she sees a variety of brightly colored lights each representing a particular talent. Whichever light appeals to the baby and he reaches for, is the talent he will have. The book’s character, Frankie Presto, reaches for music.

The book begins at Frankie’s funeral. Music is hanging around waiting for the service to end so he can take back Frankie’s talent and give it to another newborn. While he’s waiting, he tells us the story of Frankie’s life. Here is what Music says, in part:

    “I am Music. And I am here for the soul of Frankie Presto. Not all of it. Just the rather large part he took from me when he came into this world. However well used, I am a loan, not a possession. You give me back upon departure. I will gather up Frankie’s talent to spread on newborn souls. And I will do the same with yours one day.
    “There is a reason you glance up when you first hear a melody, or tap your foot to the sound of a drum. All humans are musical.
    “Why else would the Lord give you a beating heart?”

As the story unfolds, we see Frankie grow and develop his talent. Along the way, he interacts with Hank Williams, Elvis, Little Richard, the Beatles, and other well-known artists, keeping the story even more interesting than it already is.

Why are the strings magical? You will see that every time Frankie gives of himself to help someone else, one of his guitar strings turns bright blue. When his last string turns blue . . . well, I won’t spoil it for you. Just let me quote a snippet from the book of an earlier time in Frankie's life as told by Music.

     Frankie fingered a chord. Hampton choked up.
    "Ain't no tellin' what mighta happened to me."
    "You'll be all right, Hampton."
    "Thanks to you."
    "I'm going to sleep a bit now. Maybe say a prayer."
    The old mechanic closed his eyes, so he did not see what happened next: the D string on Frankie's guitar turned a burning shade of blue. Frankie stared at it. He felt a chill run down his arms and legs You have wondered about the critical passages in my child's story? Here is one:
     In the quiet of a hospital room, to the sound of an old man's breathing, Frankie Presto finally understood that, somehow, through those strings, he held life in his hands.

There are so many unexpected twists and turns in the story, you won’t be able to put the book down. I bought mine through Amazon. Whether you get your copy like I did, or at your local bookstore, or from the library, I highly recommend you get it and read it.  

Quote of the day: And the song, from beginning to end, I found again in the heart of a friend. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Good News!

I have news I’m excited to share with you my dear friends and family.

If you remember, back in November I participated in National Novel Writing Month in which participants are challenged to write a fifty-thousand-word book in one month, from November 1 to November 30. I accepted the challenge and wrote furiously for thirty days. At the end of the month, I had 45,000 words written. I was short of the goal; nevertheless, I felt pretty darn good about what I’d accomplished.

Over the next four months, I added those missing five thousand words plus nearly three thousand more. The book was finished except for a bit of fine tuning to make it publishable.

One little thing the book lacked was a title. This story of mine went from From Ashes . . . Come Blossoms, to Hope Grows, to who knows what. This poor book has had more titles than Carter has little liver pills. Eventually, I settled on the very first name I had considered but dismissed, that being Finding Gary.  

If you’ve read my book, Leaving Mark, then you know Mark Fortier has a good friend named Gary Haywood. In that book, Gary is the voice of reason in Mark’s erratic journey to manhood. In Finding Gary, we learn more about Gary’s childhood and what makes him tick.

Here’s the back cover blurb: Gary Haywood is a thirteen-year-old who, unhappy at home, runs away. When his abusive father finds him and delivers him back home, he comes up with a more drastic idea to escape his miserable life. A counselor, Marty Colson, is appointed by the court to help Gary realize his worth. One thing Marty doesn’t count on is the strong attachment that develops between him and his client.
This is a coming-of-age story involving a suicide attempt, prison, love, heartbreak, basketball, God, and lilacs.

As promised, here’s the good news! Yesterday I published Finding Gary through CreateSpace and it is now, or within days will be, available on Amazon, both in print and Kindle versions. Get your copy now and be the first on your block to read my latest book. But be warned, you’ll want to keep a handkerchief handy.

For you dear friends who leave a review on Amazon by May 31, I will pick a name at random and send the lucky winner a paperback copy of either Finding Gary or Leaving Mark; your choice.

Happy Reading.

Quote of the Day: The novel is something that never was before and will not be again. Eudora Welty