The Crystal

Posted by Sandra Cox | 9:31 PM | | 1 comments »

The Crystal
“Only the chosen ones or their mates will ever be able to see the magic contained in the Globe.” Caught in a downpour, Gabriella Bell enters a trendy little shop and discovers a crystal ball in which she sees the face of a hard-eyed stranger. Drawn by a force she doesn’t understand she buys the crystal, unaware she is purchasing stolen property that belongs to the aunt of a premiere cat burglar known to polite society as Christopher Saint and to the underworld as The Tiger. She soon discovers that not only does Christopher want the mysterious globe but so does a beautiful jewel thief who will stop at nothing, including murder, to possess Christopher and the crystal ball. In The Crystal, Gabriella discovers the road to true love isn’t just rocky, it’s downright dangerous.

Thought for the day

Posted by Beth Trissel | 12:24 PM | , | 1 comments »

"If it seems you haven't 'felt at all how' for a long time, look behind you. It could be that your tail is missing...when your tail is missing, remember that you have every right to Mope."

From Eeyore's Gloomy Little Instruction Book

Naps are well worth the time, a good investment in one’s day. Sometimes if things are wrong when I lie down, they are somehow righted when I awake. Only if I were taking one now I would have to ignore the geese up in the barn squawking about whatever it is that geese squawk about, and several of the cows are bawling. I’ll call it lowing. That sounds more appealing. But they aren’t. They’re really carrying on about whatever it is that annoys the mess out of cows, to use my eldest daughter, Alison's, phrase. Not that I listen closely. I’ve never found cows had much to say that interested me. They tend to repeat themselves and are rather fixated on food. Not unlike some people, or Mia, the funny-looking dog we rescued from the animal shelter.

Mia watches us intently for the slightest indication that food may be involved in whatever we’re doing. If she's asleep in the next room, she will poke her head into the kitchen when she hears the rustle of crackers or the ping of a toaster. Someone (me) shares their crusts with her and tosses her the odd cracker. My youngest daughter, Elise, is also guilty. And we discovered Alison feeding Mia entire sandwiches until we pointed out that the vet had urged us to put her on a diet. Mia is short but rather wide, portly even. So Alison cut back on her tithes.

Mia feels entitled to a portion of the take, though. She insists snacks were included in the contract we signed with the SPCA and that she will file a complaint with her benefactors if we default. She'd been in residence at the shelter for over a month when we adopted her and was partial to junk food. Several of the volunteers took a real liking to her and fed her cheese puffs and the corners of candy bars. A vet’s dream diet for dogs. They felt sorry for her because she'd been found abandoned in a derelict house and was so traumatized they thought she was mute. That, and her being half African basenji. She never even woofed. They said she might yodel. Basenjis do, but it seems Mia is unaware of this hidden talent.

I’d be rather surprised to discover her yodeling and playing the accordion. Either one. But she’s given up her vow of silence and sounds the inside alarm whenever the outside dogs go off at the slightest provocation...which brings me back to disturbances during naps.

©2007 Beth Trissel

Please spay/neuter your pets

Posted by Sandra Cox | 7:11 AM | | 0 comments »

Hi Folks,
If you've read The Crystal and noticed that a couple of the characters, Ned and Jericho, have four legs instead of two, you've probably figured out that I'm an animal lover. So I'm going to chat today about something near and dear to my heart: spay/neuter.

I believe that most people are responsible pet owners and that more and more people are hopping on the spay/neuter bandwagon everyday. But even with the great strides being made today we still have a ways to go.

Stats and facts:More than 70,000 kittens and puppies are born daily in the United States.In the county I live in the animal shelter averages 6,000 cats and dogs euthanized per year. This is just one county in one state.For the entire United States it jumps up to 10 million per year.The offspring of one unspayed female cat and her mate and all their offspring producing litters can total a staggering 11,606,077 cats in 9 years. Whew!So please spread the word to friends and family to spay and neuter their pets.And give your dog or kitty a big hug and tell them how lucky they are to have a home with you.Thanks for stopping by.

Hair is Murder

Posted by Liz Jasper | 3:54 PM | 6 comments »

I got my hair cut yesterday. If you were a member of my family, you'd be making snide remarks now on the order of "it's about time." Of course, if you were a member of my family, you'd also be questioning what right I had to be writing about hair care. And I'd be responding back with a string of words inappropriate for this venue.

Where was I? Oh yes, hair care. Admittedly, I am no expert on hair care. But after years of slogging through school and doing research and being an analyst, I feel perfectly capable of asking a professional to share her expertise and then writing about it.

Which is exactly what I had planned when I made my hair appointment for yesterday and then signed up to blog today. But as is often the case, the conversation I imagined having with Molly and the conversation I actually had, were two different things.

Liz: (By way of introducing the topic of hair care) You know, I think I have to break down and have a headshot done. Do you have any suggestions for…

Natalie: (The receptionist) You should have Molly do your hair for it!

Liz: (Horrified at the very idea of doing it herself). Absolutely. Which brings me to…

Molly: How is your book doing?

Alex: (The hairstylist at the next chair). In your next book, you should have the murder take place in a salon. Have a take place here!

Natalie: That would be great! You should totally do that. You can call it Underdead With Scissors or something like that.

Molly: You could put us all in it!


What's interesting about this (yes, I know it's not the dialogue, as I've recounted it.) is that when I got my hair cut at a different place last year, the stylists and I had practically the same conversation. As soon as the topic of my mystery came up, they all leapt on the idea of me writing the next one about people getting killed in hair salons. Their hair salons. I could have the killer spike the hair coloring stuff with some sort of poison that absorbed through the skin or electrocute someone with a blow dryer, or do any number of unmentionably horrific things with scissors.

And it makes me wonder. What is it about being around hair all day that turns otherwise delightful people into bloodthirsty murder plotters? No other professionals I’ve encountered volunteer their place of business as a fictional crime scene.

I have no idea what’s in the water at local hair salons. But I can tell you this: when I do get my hair done for the headshot, I’m going to leave a note where I’ve gone. And do one of those “Mail my mother a list of their names” things characters do in mystery books. And leave a trail of breadcrumbs. And go during daylight hours. Just in case.

But I'm also going to bring a pen and a notepad, because some of their ideas aren't half bad… And with any luck, I may even learn something about hair care.

--Liz Jasper, whose hair looks GREAT today, even if she has no idea why, or how to replicate it without Molly welding the blow dryer.

(With apologies to Natalie, Molly and Alex)

Author of the cozy vampire mystery, UNDERDEAD, available now at

Music As Muse

Posted by Cinthia Hamer | 7:37 AM | 2 comments »

This article originally appeared in The Galley, the newsletter for Georgia Romance Writers. Subsequently, it was reprinted in several other RWA chapter newsletters.

I'm sitting here listening to Andrea Bocelli's Viaggo Italiano, and it occurred to me that it's extraordinary and often wonderful how music can affect our moods and more importantly, our creativity.

The gray days of winter seem to sap the life out of me and can easily put my creativity into a state of semi-hibernation if I’m not vigilant.

Right now I'm on rewrites of Opus #5, which is set entirely in Italy. After reading through the first draft, I discovered that I needed to make some radical changes. This necessitated inserting a whole new chapter between two previously written ones. This is about as easy as putting on a bra while wearing a pullover shirt. It's doable, but tricky and not something I want to attempt when I’m not at my best.

My solution to this dilemma is simple:

If I'm feeling stressed or blocked, all I have to do is put on a CD of Italian music and close my eyes for a few minutes. In my mind’s eye I can see the Roman Coliseum, the rolling hills of Tuscany, and the blue-green waters of the Amalfi coast.

Slowly the muscles in my shoulders and neck unknot, and the endorphins begin to seep though my body and into my brain. A sense of well-being and happiness floods through me.

Then I think about my characters. They live here in this beautiful country. What are they doing right now, this minute?

It’s market day in the town where Elise lives. What is the weather like today? Is the sun shining so brightly she must wear her sunglasses or is it drizzly and cool?

What is she shopping for? What does she smell? Ripe strawberries perhaps? Maybe a farmer’s wife offers her a sample of the fresh cheese she has for sale. What does Elise hear? The cluck of a chicken or the laughter of two old men reminiscing beneath the shade of a nearby tree?

After a few minutes of thinking, I find I can return to my computer with renewed energy and eagerness to put fingers to keyboard. Sometimes my thoughts flow faster than my fingers can type. This is good. This is what the writing life is all about.

Release Date

Posted by Mona Risk | 10:43 PM | 6 comments »

I just received the happy news. My first book TO LOVE A HERO will be released by Cerridwen Press on January 17, two days before my birthday. Isn't that the nicest birthday gift?

Mona Risk

Which plant can you depend on to flourish in your garden year after year?

If, by late August, a gardener is wondering how long it will be until frost arrives and tidies up the robust weeds growing in and among everything, or if she/he is thinking of tacking up a sign to declare the grounds a wild game preserve, then that person has lost the battle. Again. And, as usual, I remind myself to look for the beauty amid the tangle. It is there, in the soft pink anemones, bold zinnias and bright orange tithonia, Mexican sunflower, that towers above the black-eyed susans and rose-colored cleome.

Masses of fall asters bloom in shades of lavender and blue and butterflies flutter all over the place––monarchs, swallowtails, orange skippers, and tiny blue hairstreaks. Hummingbirds are darting, and the moths that resemble them. Goldfinches streak from sunflower to sunflower singing in that euphoric chatter that finches have. When I was a child a close friend made the observation that our family hummed happily at meal times. Well, so do birds in their way.

The writing spider (see Charlotte’s Web) has woven stories throughout the garden, intelligible only to her and perhaps the fairies. Blue-green dragonflies hover over the pond, ducks bob, and squeaky frogs plop into the water every time we walk past. At night, the peepers sing from the tall grass in the meadow, and the crickets and katydids. Owls hoot and screech, bats zing through the dusk and nighthawks pirouette. Come to think of it, this is a wild life preserve.

Shenandoah Watercolors ©2007 Beth Trissel

There’s a country saying about the number of foggy mornings in August being an indicator for the amount of snows we will have this winter. A great many, at this rate. But this weekend a cold front blew through and a crisp north wind chased away the clouds that had hung over us for days. The van was making disquieting noises, so my husband and I borrowed our son’s truck and headed up to the Blue Ridge Mountains along the Skyline Drive. The ridges were free of their hazy shroud and every tree stood out with clarity in the beautiful green-gold light. It was one of those clear blue, see forever days and we gazed out over miles and miles of the lush valley and the Massanutten Mountain range. The Alleghenies loomed in the far distance.

Lunch at the Big Meadows lodge was a delight with a seat by the window overlooking the magnificent panorama. Then we hiked the rocky path up Bear Fence Mountain, stepping on a bit of smashed up rattlesnake tail on the way. It was my fervent hope not to encounter any living relations as we climbed from stone to stone. The sign that told about the trail had advised caution, but said it wasn’t a dangerous trek. Well, no, not if you don’t fall to your death.

As we neared the summit, the arrangement of the jagged rocks reminded me of the fence that early settlers built around their pig pen to keep the bears from snatching the bacon and must be where that unusual name comes from. My husband ventured farther up the pinnacle than I did, but he’s part mountain goat. The gaps between the jutting stones kept me to the initial level. He wanted to pull me up to his vantage point but that would have meant letting go of my tenuous hold with at least one hand. Even so, I absorbed enough of the dizzying vista below for my spirit to soar with the eagles. As we drove back out of the park we saw a line of stopped cars and people pointing to something hidden back in the trees––our third bear sighting this summer. Must be a good sign. Bears are mystical creatures with much power, according to the Shawnee.

©2007 Beth Trissel from Shenandoah Watercolors

Eating Italian

By Helen Scott Taylor

Quiet night in alone? Then why not spoil yourself and have an Italian.

Selection of your main ingredient is crucial to ensure maximum dining pleasure. Make sure you chose a fresh specimen, but check to ensure it’s mature and properly filled out as the skinny young ones may leave you wanting more.

Preparation is a delicate process. All outside layers will need to be peeled away. This in itself can be an enjoyable experience if done properly. You’ll know when you reach the skin as in the ideal specimen it will be smooth and firm with an olive tinge.

Once unwrapped, there are various methods of preparation. Some women like them oiled or soaked in warm water. I personally like the idea of covering my Italian in whipped cream with strategically placed cherries or nuts, but many types of fruit work well, and chocolate is ideal if it’s a special occasion.

The recipe can be adapted to individual preference, so be as inventive as you like!

Once prepared, enjoyment is enhanced if you stand back and admire your handiwork for a while before partaking.

Happy eating!

© 2007 Helen Scott Taylor

For all of you Grey's Anatomy fans, who agrees with me that both Izzie and Callie will wind up carrying George's baby? Or is that a no-brainer?


When We Ran Out of Miracles.

Posted by Mary Marvella | 9:30 PM | 6 comments »

Author's Note: This is a very emotional piece for me because it is true. I don't usually write inspirational articles but I entered this in a Southeastern Writers Workshop in the Inspirational category and was a finalist. It helped me heal.

My sister Carolyn and I stood in the small dark chapel of the Medical Center in Macon, Georgia. We’d spent Thanksgiving day in the hospital. Mama had sent us there to pray.

I'd spent plenty of time thinking during the two-hour drives from north of Atlanta to Macon, then back every two weeks the year before we moved Daddy to a personal-care home. For the nine months he was there I visited often. I thought about how long my parents had been together and how hard it must be for Mama to leave him in someone’s else’s care. I thought about what his illness would do to him. Our miracles had run out.

I'd shed tears already. Mama and I had discussed every aspect of his Parkinson's Syndrome and Alzheimer's, his dementia, and every cleanup problem he caused. She also shared each cute or funny story. We'd go over anything as often as she needed, thought sometimes I wanted to cry instead of laughing. She liked to laugh.

I'd prayed during the hours of traveling and every visit. I'd asked God to make Daddy’s passing quiet, quick, and painless. Daddy had been sleeping most of the time and was usually disoriented and lost. Nine months didn't seem quick, but I knew some people had been in personal care homes for years. Pneumonia, which had put him in the hospital this time, wasn't painless.

We were with him at the end, touching him, talking to him and reassuring him, even when the only response was a grimace on his face or moan of pain.

Carolyn and Mama kept saying Daddy might get better. Not a chance. He was down to less than one hundred pounds and had pneumonia for the second time in three weeks. I think God had decided it was time to take him home. We authorized every miracle of medicine available to make him more comfortable.

Carolyn had mentioned miracles. Maybe the part of the miracle was that I could take time to stay with him since my daughter was grown by then. Maybe part of the miracle was the strength my sister found, in spite of her own physical problems. Maybe part of the miracle was that Mama was able to endure the long hours we devoted to being there for him.

I felt we'd had our share of miracles. Besides, what miracle was there to ask for him? A recovery wasn't in the cards. Recovering from the pneumonia to go back to a nursing home to hurt and become even weaker wasn't what I'd ask.

So, why were we in the hospital chapel? To please Mama. It was just a place to me. I did have an eerie feeling being where people came for peace from their despair. We signed the book, in case Mama checked.

People had written their names and prayer requests and more. Finally I knew what to write.

"The family of James Overby has had more than our share of miracles. We ask that God will grant a miracle to someone who needs one more than we do, maybe a family whose loved one has not yet lived a full life or who has young children." That certainly activated my allergies and put a lump in my throat. Lack of sleep for four days and nights could have caused the same symptoms. We won't even mention the grief.

How can I not feel another miracle was due? There are surely miracles I hadn't heard about, but there were plenty I had. They weren't accompanied by flashes of light or thunderbolts or bright lights or angelic voices.

Fifty-four years before seventeen year old James Overby was scheduled to go to Germany with his military unit in world War II. He was honorably discharged when his mother wrote his commander that he wasn't eighteen yet. Most of his unit didn't return.

Six years later I visited my daddy in a VA hospital in Augusta. He was in for tests, then sent home with months to live. The dark spots his doctors had seen on his x-rays had disappeared two months later, after no treatment. He lived to raise three children, go back to school, even with only a sixth grade education, and become a minister and a teacher.

Ten years later, Daddy was chaperoning high school seniors at Tybee Island, near Savannah, Georgia. On the first day of the trip his excited charges were caught in an undertow caused by a whirlpool. Daddy had driven the bus and was tired, but he went into the water and saved the frightened students.

He pulled the last one into shallow water, then collapsed. Students pulled him the rest of the way out. Surely God gave him the strength to save his students and to survive nearly drowning.

In 1964, while he was on the way to graduate classes at University of Georgia, a car accident nearly demolished his car but left him unscathed.

Ten years after one heart bypass surgery Daddy had another which didn't go so well. We learned, after it was all over, that the doctors and nurses hadn't expected him to live. I think God wasn't ready for that my dad to leave the earth yet.

Fifteen years after that, we learned Daddy had Parkinson's syndrome, and Alzheimer's. Mama had retired from her job at the Mercer University library at seventy in February. Daddy was diagnosed later in June.

On February 16, 1998, his birthday, my gentle father became violent and we had to call for help and put him in the hospital for evaluation. Mama would have to let someone help her take care of him. Where's the miracle here? He wasn't hit by a car, lost, or harmed. He could find the car keys but couldn't unlock the car or start it.

Before Daddy was hospitalized, Mama had two heart attacks she didn't recognize. She took his nitroglycerin, as a last resort, and stopped the symptoms. During those times Daddy didn’t burn the house or wander off as he could have. He took his medicine without a hassle, ate foods he could open and eat uncooked, and lay beside her to comfort her.

More miracles? Once Mama adjusted to the changes, she organized an Alzheimer's support group at her church. Their group grew, reached more people, year after year. People in her church became involved and inspired by her dedication.

Daddy lingered long enough to get his family together and for Mama to make burial arrangements. I felt his last breaths and his passing was gentle and peaceful.

Seventeen year old James Overby from Enterprise, Mississippi, found seventeen year old Mary McKeown in Augusta, Georgia, I'd say God sent a miracle. She said it was the other way around.

Not all miracles are big, or impressive, or recognized as miracles. There may be no choirs of angels singing or glowing lights. I haven't seen any. The miracle may not be what we requested or what we thought we wanted or needed.

Just when I think I've run out of miracles, one slips in and surprises me.

Calendulas wink cheerily in the flower bed that stretches along the road like a colorful island in the middle of a grassy sea. These calendula are special with their dark eyes dotting the centers of orange, saffron, yellow, and apricot flowers. A wealth of lore is invested in these simple plants, also known as “pot marigold,” and the blooms Shakespeare had in mind when he spoke of marigolds. The Old English called them golds and ruddes.

An ancient herbalist states: “Golde is bitter in savour. Fayr and yellow in his flowur. Ye golde flowur is good to sene. It makyth ye syth bryth and clene.”

It is said, only to look on marigolds will draw evil humours out of the head and strengthen the eyesight. The petals may also be ingested in a conserve of sugar to be taken during times of plague and pestilence, or dried and added to broths. And if you’ve been robbed, marigold will give you a vision of the thief. But it must be taken “only when the moon is in the sign of the Virgin and not when Jupiter is in the ascendant, for then the herb loses its virtue. And the gatherer, who must be out of deadly sin, must say three Pater Nosters and three Aves.”

Question of the Day:

Posted by Mona Risk | 12:05 AM | | 6 comments »

What is a hurricane for you?

An interesting news item? A suddenly annoying situation if you have to cancel a cruise in the Caribbean? A moment of anguish if you know a relative who lives in the south?

OR is it a fearsome announcement that means prepare yourself because the eye of the storm is heading straight toward your town?

Living in Hurricane Land.

Posted by Mona Risk | 11:54 PM | , | 7 comments »

I live in Fort Lauderdale, FL, and I survived hurricanes Frances in 2004, Katrina and Wilma in 2005, and now they are talking about Dean who is beating up on Mexico while the sun shines gloriously and the ocean is as even as a lake here in Fort Lauderdale.

It’s difficult to decide how to prepare and behave when the forecast predicts a hurricane. To panic and evacuate as we did during our first summer in Florida, or stay and weather the storm hoping it would bypass us?

In Florida, we survived Frances and Katrina, then relaxed and forgot. So when the TV asks everyone to prepare for Wilma, we did it with a know-it-all smile on our lips. There was no way on earth we were going to panic and leave our apartment.

Little did we know that two days later we would be sitting in the living room of our apartment, listening to the wind blowing at hundred-fifty miles. The sound was horrendous. I never saw or heard wolves in my life but to my feverish mind the wind sounded like the howling of a pack of wolves. There was no electricity and no telephone. The hurricane shutters tightly closed left us in the dark except for a candle lit in the bathroom and another in the kitchen.

In the middle of the day, more precisely at 11:20 am I felt the building shaking. We live on the eighteenth floor and the ground moved under us. I grabbed my husband’s hand and said, “Do you think the building can collapse?” He said he was more worried about the glass door to the balcony shattering. Together we stuck towels against the panels to stop the shaking of the glass and the seeping of the water.

After ten hours, the noise subsided and the storm abated. We climbed down the eighteen floors and reconnected with our neighbors. We were among the lucky ones who didn’t suffer broken windows or major damage. One of our neighbors reported the wall between her bedroom and the next door neighbor’s living room had collapsed.

The next day the neighborhood was unrecognizable with devastation everywhere, cars smashed on top of each other, broken electric lines lying across the street, uprooted trees, windows, chairs and tables messing the beach sand.

But the hurricane brought people together, those without damages helping those severely affected. We gathered on the terrace of the building, barbequed and ate together for five days while waiting for the electricity to be restored.

Two years have passed by since hurricane Wilma, but some us in Fort Lauderdale are still waiting for repair to be done or insurances to cover the cost. Now while we watch hurricane Dean spread its ravages in Mexico, we wonder what is in our forecast for the next two months.

So what does a hurricane mean to you?

Baby here!

Posted by Beth Trissel | 8:54 PM | , | 5 comments »

Darling little Emma Rose has safely arrived! My first granddaughter.
Weary but happy dancing. :)

Coming Together For the Cure

Posted by Sherry Morris | 10:10 AM | 1 comments »

Coming Together for the Cure is a multi-author erotic romance anthology published by Phaze. 100% of the proceeds go to the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation. It includes a vampire paramedic story, A Town Called Night, by Pink Fuzzy Slipper Writer Sherry Morris aka Sammie Jo Moresca.

Author Alison Kent has committed to buy one copy of Coming Together for every 10 comments on her blog, up to 25 copies. Let's make sure she gets her wish to buy 25! So please visit her blog and make a comment, for the cause ;)

Children and Pets

Posted by Carolyn | 10:01 PM | 2 comments »

Well, here I am, only two days old—I mean as a member of the group, and already I’m blogging. Actually, I like blogging, I like sharing things with people—well, actually, I really like to talk to anyone who’ll listen.

Last week, we spent seven glorious days in Cape May, New Jersey with family. We rented a big old colonial house with eight bedrooms and seven bathrooms. The grandkids range in age from 10-4 and it’s been an interesting ride watching them grow from babies.

Peter, the eldest of the clan is growing into a nice young man. The only problem, if you can call it that, is he’s very precocious. He only watches the History or Discovery channels on television. When he wakes up earlier than his parents, he reads. Geez, he’s a pretty smart kid—probably smarter than me, but we won’t tell him that.

Then there’s Owen, he’s eight and he aspires to be like his older brother. His big thing this year is being almost as tall as me. So, now we have another precocious kid. Owen was telling me a story last week about someone, and he actually said, “The guy is a paranoid schizophrenic . . . .” See what I mean? I didn’t know these words until I was married. I guess the History and Discovery Channels are working after all.

We lucked out with a little girl. Her name is McKenna and she's also eight. Talk about a ball of energy, she's like a whirling dervish. McKenna is new to our family and we all just adore her. She's a soccer champ, a real buddy to her dad, and she has no fears about trying anything. Underneath it all, she's still girly and enjoys girly things, like getting manicures and pedicures. Now that's fun.

Then there’s Joshua, who’s seven. He’s doing all sorts of fun things that kids do, like playing baseball, learning how to use the boogey board; he’s taking piano lessons and plays the drum like an adult. I swear—this kid is going to be a musical wonder. Okay, maybe I’m a tad partial, but I know it’s going to happen. You can mark my words.

This past Xmas, we were over his house visiting and I heard someone playing the drums. I asked my daughter if her husband had come home early. She gave me one of those proud peacock grins and said, “Nope Mom, that’s Joshua.”

When Joshua came upstairs, I complimented him, and that’s when he asked if I wanted to be the manager for his band. I was really flattered, to say the least. I mean, really, I was the only member of the family who hadn’t been offered a position in his band. And then, you know what? I got all syrupy on the kid and he fired me before I even got a chance to show him my managerial skills. But, that’s okay--I still love the little munchkin. So what if I have to sit in the audience and cheer.

Then last, is Zachary. Talk about cute!!! This little guy is four, and man, what killer eyes. They are the deepest shade of blue I’ve ever seen. He’s a little bit of a devil. His mom would say that’s putting it mildly.

To give you an idea, this little tyke is like Spiderman. Seriously, I really think he believes he is Spiderman. I think my daughter’s wondering the same thing.

Zachary likes excitement—my daughter, on the other hand, would be thrilled with a quiet evening. For example, his other grandparents gave him a shiny bright red Radio Flyer car for Christmas. He was so excited he couldn’t wait to drive it around the house. Well, one day, his mom was down in the basement with the door open getting the laundry out of the dryer to fold when she heard a loud rumbling noise coming fast and furiously. It wasn’t long before she heard a long “Wee,” as Zachary flew down the stairs in his little red Flyer. Shortly after he hit the carpeted basement floor, she heard a series of “Ahhhh’s.”

Mom practically tripped over the basket to get to him. When he saw the worried look on her face, he sat upright with his little palm, face up in the air, and said, “I’m okay, I’m okay.”

Now that everyone is back home, and our dogs have all been retrieved from the kennels, life is back to being normal—whatever that is.

Contributed by Carolyn Hughey © 2007 Carolyn Hughey

Thought for the Day

Posted by Beth Trissel | 11:39 AM | 2 comments »

From Eeyore's Gloomy Little Instruction Book

"Just when you think no one has taken any notice of your birthday, here come two friends with an empty honey pot and a broken balloon."

Beth, whose mother reminded her that it's her birthday.

I'm so new at this blogging thing I squeak, but I do have a few helpful beauty hints

Dry lips? Many of us have dry lips. They can be caused by medications, allergies to lip products, constant licking , and/or our choice of toothpaste.

If you feel lipstick is the culprit, consider how the lipstick smells and tastes. If the lipstick smells pretty, you should avoid using it for a few days. You can use a vitamin E stick or a lip balm under your lipstick. Using mat or long wearing lipsticks can cause your lips to dry out as can using your lip pencil over the entire lip. Look at the ingredients for drying chemicals.

If you have tried every brand of lipstick available, you might try switching your toothpaste. Products that whiten teeth likely contain soda and/or other drying chemicals. Strong mouthwashes dry lips and gums, too.

If you aren't willing to change toothpaste, you need to keep as little toothpaste on your lips as possible. You could coat your lips with rich lotions, vitamin E or A products or aloe before you brush and afterwards.

Have questions? Ask away.

England, April 1667

“She’s here,” Alexander Fletcher said to the lanky rider beside him. “Would that I had declined the king’s request.” From his vantage point on the hill facing Drayton castle, he scowled through the misty rain at the coach halting before his door.

“At least she’ll be silent,” his neighbor Robert Cooke said. “She’d make a perfect wife.”

“To anyone but me.” Alex shifted in the saddle to conceal a sudden, ridiculous loneliness that banded his chest. Crushing the feeling, he studied the prize sent to him by King Charles II, noting that she alighted from the coach with no companion. One pale hand at her throat clutched a cloak that covered her from head to knees. She paused, and her upper body bent and shook with what looked like a bout of coughing.

Even at this distance, Alex sensed her desperation. Useless sympathy sparked, and died, within him. “She looks sickly. Perhaps ‘twas another reason fat Rochester made her cry off their betrothal after she became destitute.”

“Mmm. Ailing, poor, and mute.” Robert shook his head, causing the drop of rain on his hooked nose to fall. “And likely mindless from the fire. You have the luck.”

“‘Twasn’t luck that brought her to my doorstep.” Alex didn’t explain further. Despite what her father had done, there was no cause to invite malice toward her from others. He watched his cousin Elizabeth appear at the door to greet the woman. “Forsooth, I’ll rid myself of her without delay.”
Robert glanced at him. “You won’t act on the king’s suggestion?”


“‘Tis well you do not,” Robert said. “Taking a woman like that to wife—God knows she would cause you no end of trouble. And your pain over Mary’s death still runs deep.”

Alex was silent, his hands fisting around the slippery wet reins. Abruptly, he pivoted his horse toward the open fields. “Enough. We’ll check the north end for your runaway mare. But I’ll wager she’s returned to her stall by now.” He pressed in his heels. “Fly, Neos!”

In seconds Robert’s mount galloped beside his. Alex stared straight ahead and allowed the wind to whip back the hood of his cloak and the rain to slap the bitter past from his thoughts.

**Look for the next scene in On Silent Wings September 6.**

For those of you who know me, don't faint, I was actually tossing some articles I've saved from older Writer's Digest magazines. One that caught my attention dealt with focus.

Focus. Now that word can send chills to my heart. I'm not the kind of person who maintains focus in many areas of my life. I certainly can't keep my focus on cleaning. I don't focus well on organizing or filing.

At different times in our lives we need to focus on different things.

From the time I discovered the bookmobile I focused on reading. (A bookmobile is a traveling library. I was in first grade and suffering from withdrawal pains. Summer meant no school and no school library.)

Even as a teenager I focused on reading, making the school library and the public library my second homes. Oh, yes, I did other things. I did homework, played the oldest sister, and helped around the house while my parents worked. I took piano lessons but read novels instead of practicing.

For years I had to focus on motherhood, teaching, and helping my husband build a photography business. There was no time to focus on anything else, including reading for pleasure.

I couldn't focus on writing until I left teaching and my daughter entered high school and began to work part time at her dad's studio. My focus on writing developed as I discovered the new Macintosh computer at the studio. I had access to it after studio hours and worked after everyone left for the day. Often I worked until dawn. No way would I leave the studio at 2 or 3 AM, so I kept working.

During my daddy's illness, I changed focus to him and Mama. Both have left us and I sometimes question my focuses before those later years. Often as families grow and scatter, our areas of focus change. Our spouses and kids demand our time and attention, leaving less for our parents and siblings and extended family.

Since my daughter is married and my husband is now my EX, I can focus on my writing, my critique groups, and my friends. Because of my focuses, most of my friends are writers. I did not mention cleaning as a focus, because it isn't one.

Mary Marvella Barfield

We must each decide if now is the time to focus on writing in a big way or as one of the things we do. We are entitled to have some things that bring us pleasure.

We can focus on writing for pleasure or on writing to publish. Whatever you do, don't give up the joy of writing.

What is your focus when you write?

What do you write? Do you write stories in the same genre, the same kinds of stories?

I find that whether I write suspense, or women's fiction, or romance, one focus is always there. Family - family lost, or gained, or valued. My heroes and heroines or protagonists are loyal to family and value family. Family that's there for them, or family they wish they had, or family they miss. Sometimes the family consists of a parent and a child. Some families include couples and sometimes parents and siblings.

Do you have one central focus in your projects? I prefer to call mine stories.

Question of the Day

Posted by Beth Trissel | 11:32 AM | 5 comments »

Is there anything cuter than those chubby cheek, cherub-mouth litte baby smiles? Those grins from such a tiny soul go right to my heart!

Beth Trissel, loving her new grandbaby :)

Contributed by Beth Trissel ©2007 Beth Trissel

I stand on the edge of this sacred land the Shawnee people call the Great Turtle Island, where the water meets the shore. Salt spray brines the air. Gulls wheel, crying, in the blue and pelicans bob on the waves as the ocean rocks me like a primal cradle. In and out rushes the endless tide, frothing the glistening sand with millions of tiny diamonds. That eternal sound is always in my ears, calling to me. People from all walks of life are drawn to this ancient place seeking some gift from the sea.

Sunburned men with a beer in one hand and a pole in the other fish as though their very sustenance depends on it. Bikini-clad women lie like beached whales basking in the sun, or jog along the shore. Three teenage girls dressed in long navy jumpers wade into the surf squealing in delight. Perhaps this is their first visit to the Carolina coast, or any other. Near them stands an old man, pants hiked to his white knees, gazing out at the waves with contentment on his face. He has come home. Curly-headed children dance in the tumbling foam. One little red-haired girl plunges bravely in while her chubby-legged brother flees to his watchful mother and snuggles against the baby in her arms.

Young builders cluster on the sand with buckets and spades, intently fashioning castle turrets and digging motes. Is there anyone as utterly contained in the present as a child at play? Parents join in the fanciful creations and for that moment lose their cares in the sea. A shark emerges under fingers, large and small, with harmless teeth of splintered shells––as ephemeral as the day. No lasting work is done, yet they build on while people paddle on rafts or dive into waves. Seekers all. The orange sun sinks low in the cloudy palette of colors and casts fire on the waves. People linger, reluctant to go inside. What do you search for? What do I?

Our family has always sought gold doubloons from sunken Spanish galleons in the battered shells left behind by the tide. Not a likely find, though we heard of one man who did. Still, we look for the coins and passing whales.
One day I saw great fins and splashing tails, a whole pod of whales. Not because they were truly there, but because I chose to. Led by me, my mother and teenage daughter saw them too and were disappointed when they had gone. Schools of dolphin really did skim through the wake behind shrimp boats, but I fondly remember the whales and keep an eye out for white-sailed clipper ships.

The ocean is a fertile place for the imagination, also to find healing for the soul. Journeying to the beach is annual pilgrimage for many families. What of yours?

Earning Sweet Dreams

By Sherry Morris

Don’t fly often? Do you pay your credit card balances in full every month? If the credit card interest rates aren’t an issue, consider earning hotel rewards instead of frequent flyer miles or cash back bonuses. By charging your family’s normal daily transactions, you can earn free nights at your favorite hotels.

We opted for a Visa Card and an American Express Card that accrue points toward free stays at the hotel chain we prefer, the Hilton family. For every dollar charged to the Visa Card, we earn two points toward hotel stays. For every dollar charged to the American Express Card, we receive three points. The dollars spent at the hotels in this group are rewarded with five points. Free nights can be redeemed for as little as 10,000 points.

We charge everything possible: gasoline, groceries, retail shopping, restaurants, postage, online purchases, eBay wins, we even have our cellular phone bill and newspapers automatically billed to our American Express Card. Just from our normal monthly budgeted expenses, we typically amass enough points each year to enjoy a week of free nights at a first class hotel, anywhere in the world. The room and all relevant taxes are included; there are no fees to us, unless we indulge in valet parking, room service or in-room movies.

The whole family enjoyed three free nights in a luxury apartment style suite at the Homewood Suites by Hilton in Minneapolis, across the street from the Mall of America. My son and I spent two free mesmerizing nights in front of a 42” plasma screen TV in our room at the Millenium Hilton in Manhattan, overlooking the World Trade Center site. My daughter and I enjoyed three days in a room with an ocean view at the Cocoa Beach Hilton. For a family on a fixed income, we are able to visit some nice places.

If you see me smiling at Wal*Mart as I run my American Express Card through the scanner, it’s because I’m calculating my points and dreaming of the next getaway.

For those of you interested in turning your daily purchases into sweet dreams, here is a listing of hotel families offering credit cards to enhance their frequent guest programs:

For Best Western, you can find information on their Gold Crown Club and link to their Best Western Platinum Master Card from Juniper Bank at Call toll free at 1-800-237-8483.

For Comfort Inn and Suites, Quality Inn, Sleep Inn, Clarion, Main Stay Suites, Econo Lodge and Rodeway Inn, you can find information on their Choice Privileges Rewards Program and link to their Choice Privileges Visa Credit Card from Bank of America by visiting Call toll free at 1-888-770-6800.

For Hilton Hotels and Resorts, Conrad Hotels, Doubletree Guest Suites and Hotels, Embassy Suites Hotels, Hampton Inn and Suites, Hilton Garden Inn, or Homewood Suites by Hilton, you can find information on their Hilton HHonors Rewards Program and links to their Platinum Credit Card from American Express and their Visa Signature Card from Citibank, by visiting Call toll free at 1-800-445-8667.

For Holiday Inn Hotels and Resorts, Holiday Inn Express, Intercontinental Hotels and Resorts, Crowne Plaza Hotels and Resorts, Staybridge Suites and Candlewood Suites, you can find information on their Priority Club Rewards and link to their Platinum Visa Card from Bank One by visiting Call toll free at 1-888-211-9874.

For Marriott Hotels and Resorts, Renaissance Hotels, Courtyard, Residence Inn, Fairfield Inn, Towne Place Suites and Spring Hill Suites, you can find information on their Marriott Rewards and link to the Marriott Rewards Visa Signature Card from Bank One at Call toll free at 1-800-932-2198.

For Sheraton Hotels and Resorts, Four Points by Sheraton, Westin Hotels and Resorts, St. Regis, The Luxury Collection and W Hotels, you can find information on the Starwood Preferred Guests Program and link to their Starwood Preferred Guest American Express Credit Card by visiting Call toll free at 1-888-625-4988.

©2007 Sherry Morris

Excerpt from Hundred Dollar Bill

by Sherry Morris

Chapter One

Washington, D.C.

February 16, 1945

Sometime before midnight, freezing rain pelted out a maddening symphony on the window. Benjamin Franklin gazed compassionately from the bloody hundred dollar bill floating near Miss Chloe Lambert’s breasts. The redhead lay soaking in a claw-footed tub at Mrs. Grogan’s boarding house on Nichols Avenue in the District of Columbia.

Her skin was flushed from the steamy water, but she was sure she’d never feel warm again. With eyes dehydrated from crying, Chloe stared at her black, blue, green and yellow bruises.

* * * * *

Earlier that night, across town, Mrs. Anna Eleanor Roosevelt’s footsteps resonated army-like as she stormed the west wing. A black Scottish terrier rounded a corner and scrambled toward her. “No, Fala, no!” Dodging his excited leap, she caught the fluffy sash of her emerald evening gown on the edge of a marble pedestal displaying the bust of Abraham Lincoln. She twisted and caught old Abe, but the taffeta tore. Eleanor replaced the sculpture, picked up the little dog and marched to an office.

She shoved the door open. Stepping inside, Mrs. Roosevelt vigorously petted the wiry-haired pooch while closing the door with her back. It hit the jamb with an audible resolve. “Vera, I am well aware of your…your little game, and I’ve had quite enough of you.”

Mrs. Vera Blandings stopped typing. The long-legged brunette stood, removed her librarian’s glasses and snuffed her cigarette in an overflowing ashtray. She blew a plume of smoke at the first lady before running manicured fingers along her starched beige shirtdress. A smirk twitched the corners of her scarlet lips. She crossed her arms and turned toward the wall.

The first lady crinkled her nose and bent down. Fala leapt from the crook of her arm. He scampered over to sniff the closed door to the Oval Office.

Eleanor rose, thrust her shoulders back and stomped to the rear of the desk, launching a rolling chair out of her way. She squeezed between her husband’s newest secretary and a portrait of George Washington.

Vera took a step back, grinning.

Mrs. Roosevelt demanded, “Just what will it take to make you disappear?”

“A new job.”


“A role in the next Alfred Hitchcock movie.”

Eleanor laughed.

Vera glared. “I’m quite serious.” She cocked her head, retrieved her chair and tucked it under the desk. Pulling out the bottom drawer, Vera removed her reptilian pocketbook and gently shut the drawer.

Eleanor silently seethed in the stale smoky air while composing a response. I will not allow this woman to slip me into unsavory territory. “Fine then. So be it. Pack your snakeskin. No more games in the interim or—”

The magnetic purse clasp clicked when Vera opened it. After removing a pack of cigarettes and a box of matches, the President’s secretary sashayed out of the office.

The first lady glanced at her diamond watch and groaned. She pulled the chair out and plopped herself down. It hissed as the cushioned seat compressed. She opened Vera’s top desk drawer and rummaged through stubby pencils, rubber bands, a loose deck of playing cards, a crumpled issue of True Romance magazine that was caught in the back, a piece of yellow police chalk and several pistachios. Eleanor briefly picked up the waxy chalk. What in the devil is she doing with this? The stuff they outline corpses with…

She shrugged her shoulders and dropped it back inside with a clunk. Digging out a paper clip, the first lady wove the coiled wire through the soft frays of her ripped sash. It popped right off. She noticed a little chalk had transferred from her fingers to her gown. What else can happen?

Yanking the middle drawer open, she found a stapler inside. After three squeezes and some creative tucking of the taffeta, she was good to go. When Eleanor replaced the stapler, a metallic glint in the back caught her attention. She opened the drawer all the way and pulled out a pearl-handled pistol. What the…

Eleanor heard giggling. Her eyes darted around the office as she shut the drawer, shoved the gun under her waistband and covered it with the sash. She jumped up, wrapped her arms around her midsection and tiptoed to the open door to peek into the corridor.

Eleanor watched Mrs. Stoneburner meandering toward the kitchen. Claude Fuji, the President’s valet, was finishing up a good bubbly laugh.

“Hello Missus First Lady. You are so beautiful in jade.”

She exhaled and stepped into the hall.

He reached out to shake hands with Mrs. Roosevelt, as was his nature, but she awkwardly declined.

“Thank you, Claude.”

His face saddened at the slight. “Anything I do wrong to you?”

“No, Claude, no…oh…come on to my study. Follow me.”

Mrs. Roosevelt’s evening gown swished as they hurried to her private room.

“Close the door, Claude.”

He obliged.

Eleanor gingerly peeled back the delicate folds of taffeta and yanked the gun out.

“Look what I found in his secretary’s desk!”

“Missus First Lady, please do not go waving that thing at Claude.” The valet snatched the firearm from her.

Eleanor moved closer, hovering over him. Her stomach knotted as she whispered, “Is it loaded?”

“Please step back,” he said with a sternness she’d never before witnessed.

She complied.

He proceeded to her small desk. An envelope flew to the floor as he shoved a stack of stationery away to clear a space. He emptied the chambers into his hand and then spread the contents on her desk. Yanking the chain on her desk lamp, Fuji picked up one nine-millimeter brass bullet and held it under the light. “Blanks.”

“Blanks? How can you be sure?”

“The ends of the casings are crimped down and sealed. Live ammunition is rounded and smooth. These are definitely blanks. Look.”

Mrs. Roosevelt leaned down and examined the projectile as he twirled it slowly.

Just what are you up to, Vera?

Claude Fuji replaced the projectiles. “Put back where you got from. We watch her.”

“You mustn't tell the President about Vera’s gun. I don’t want to upset him unnecessarily.”

“What gun? No gun.”

©2007 Sherry Morris

Photo by John Churchman

Shenandoah Watercolors: Hiking in the Blue Ridge Mountains at Milam’s Gap

By Beth Trissel

The sun was low in the sky and the woods dusky as my husband and I hiked the Milam’s Gap trail in the Blue Ridge Mountains. How green and still it was among the hay-scented fern, and the twilight mild and sweet, like a melody softly played. Few birds called. The flutelike trill of a thrush sounded overheard and a robin flew into the ancient apple trees that mark the beginning of the walk. Gnarled, lichen-encrusted, branches thrust high above us.

Milam’s Gap apple trees are far removed from the modern day dwarfs. These relics from the past were planted by the mountain people who once lived here and were coveted as the apples for cider and apple butter making. An old mountain woman told me. The ridges and hollows still bear the names of these stalwart souls, like Lewis and Dean Mountain, Hensley, Kemp and Corbin Hollow, Hannah Run Trail, and Mary’s Rock.

More menacing names, Rattlesnake Point, Dark Hollow and Ghost Forest also remain. The invisible presence of these people seemed to linger in these woods where their log homes once nestled, smoke rising from the old stone hearths, corn cakes sizzling on the griddle. What must life have been like for those hardy folks? Cold much of the time, and hard, I should think.

I envisioned the women and girls in calico dresses, the men and boys in worn pants and overalls, gathering chestnuts, hazelnuts and wild berries, clearing patches of ground to grow corn and vegetable gardens, sorghum for molasses, struggling to keep a few pigs, chickens, and cows alive. A bear snatching the pig the family had been fattening to supplement their winter diet must have been quite a loss. Trips to town would have been arduous and rare, the supplies purchased slim: perhaps flour, sugar, salt and cornflakes for a special treat, cloth, gun powder and shot for hunting. Timber, orchards, livestock and the lucrative moonshine trade helped to supplement what was quite a self-sufficient lifestyle.

Doctors were hard to come by and the people often doctored themselves. Anyone who was a healer, whether with plants, charms or incantations, would have been highly sought after. Some healers specialized in one thing, like wart removal, or in the stopping of blood from a gushing wound. Others claimed to have special stones called mad stones to cure the dreaded bite of a rabid animal. We can only imagine this long gone time.

©2007 Beth Trissel

Sherry's Neapolitan Cookies

1 Pkg or Can (7 to 8 oz) Almond Paste

1 1/2 Cup (3 sticks) Butter

1 Cup Sugar

4 Large Eggs, Separated

1 Teaspoon Almond Extract

2 Cups Unsifted All-purpose Flour

Red and Green Food Coloring

1/4 Cup Raspberry Jam

1/4 Cup Apricot Preserves

1 Pkg (6 oz) Semisweet-Chocolate Pieces

Preheat oven to 350°. Grease bottom and sides of three cookie sheets; line with waxed paper; grease waxed paper.

In large bowl, with electric mixer, beat almond paste, butter, sugar, egg yolks and almond extract until fluffy; stir in flour.

In small bowl, beat egg whites until soft peaks form; stir into almond-paste mixture.

Place 1 1/3 cups of the batter in each of two small bowls. Add red food color to one and green food color to the other. Spread red batter in one cookie sheet. Spread green batter in second cookie sheet. Spread plain batter in third cookie sheet. Bake each for 15 minutes at 350°; Remove from oven and cool completely.

On large cutting board or additional cookie sheet, invert green layer; spread with raspberry jam. Add plain layer; spread with apricot preserves. Top with red layer; cover with wax paper or plastic wrap; set heavy pan on top; refrigerate overnight.

The next day, in small glass bowl, microwave chocolate pieces on HIGH 3 minutes, stirring once; spread over red layer; trim edges. Let chocolate set slightly; cut crosswise into 1/2 inch strips; cut each into four pieces.

Makes about 8 Dozen.

I have tweaked this recipe to perfection. My 14-year-old just made them and they were by far the most delicious cookies we've ever enjoyed-- even better than Neapolitans from the Mr. Cookie bakery in New York. These cookies require two days of hard work. The almond paste is hard to find and costs about $5.00, but my oh my are they worth it. I highly recommend them to everyone, especially if you have a special occasion where you want to impress and spoil people.

©2007 Sherry Morris

We are a quirky group of romance and mystery novelists who blog in the style of an off-center woman's magazine.

The membership cap for columnists is 15. If we are full and you'd like to join, we do have a waiting list. You must be a romance or mystery writer to be considered.

Twice a month, we each schedule a daily topic to blog about:

Sunday: Recipes
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Twice a month, we each submit prose to showcase our talent and give our audience a free story. This can be a published or unpublished novel excerpt, a teaser from your work-in-progress, a short story, creative nonfiction, poetry or essay. You may include your book cover, link to your website or to buy the book, and contest information if you'd like.

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