Trinidad and Tobago

Posted by Jianne Carlo | 1:02 PM | 9 comments »

Today Trinidad and Tobago celebrates 47 years of independence.

Talk about come a long way, baby!

Back in 1962, principally white. British citizens held all the top positions in the country whether it was Government, business, or society.

In a country ten (that’s right -10) degrees above the equator, men wore three-piece suits to work. That’s right, jacket, vest, and trousers (okay, the latter is still necessary except at Carnival time). The point here is the vest, not to mention the tie.

School girls, particularly this one school girl - moi, had to wear a long sleeved shirt, a tie, a hat (talk about keeping the heat in), a pleated woolen ((you read right - woolen) skirt, a full slip beneath all the aforementioned, and tall socks pulled up so not a hint of knee showed. The first day of school, I fainted.

On this day in 1962, the first television station began broadcasting. I remember my dad went out and got a TV immediately. The picture was so fuzzy you had to squint and get real close to the screen to figure out what was what. For about the first couple of years we had two hours of television daily, the news from 5-6 p.m. and then one hour of British documentary.

The newspapers reported the first broadcast of Bonanza! I fell in love with Hoss and Little Joe.

Today, Trinidad is referred to as the “Hong Kong” of the Caribbean is now reffered to as “the Murder Capital.

With the only oil and methanol reserves in the Caribbean, the country grew wealthy off the oil boom of the 70s, and the riches rolled through the population creating something rare in the Caribbean, a stable middle class.

During the last decade that stable middle class began voting with its feet by immigrating (I’m a prime example).

Several Factors prompted the erosion of the middle class: two Coup D’├ętats (is that a plural?), drug trafficking as a major source of income for the poor and money laundering as a major source of income for the rich, a police force and government riddled with corruption, an education system in disarray, legendary traffic jams, and a legal system mired in legislative swampland.

There is also the fact that the murder rate has doubled in the last two years. In a sixty- by- forty island, there were 550 homicides during 2008. And as for the kidnappings for ransom, there are no figures available.

Here’s a list of accomplishments by Trinidad and/or Trinidadians.

• A Trinidadian created the only musical instrument invented in the Twentieth century, the steel drum (steelpan in Trini-speak)
• Trinidad is the birthplace of calypso and the limbo (contrary to popular belief, Jamaica can only lay claim to reggae)
• The Trinidad Carnival is the greatest festival on the earth - take my word for it, Brazil is second and New Orleans a poor third (sorry Lynn)
• The Trinidad Soccer team made it to the World Cup finals, amazing for a country of its size
• Peter Minshall, a brilliant Carnival ‘Mas leader and artist, helped design the opening and closing ceremonies for the 1987 Pan American Games, the 1992 Barcelona Olympics, the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, the 1994 Football World Cup, and the 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Olympics
• Sir Vidiahar S. Naipaul – Writer – Nobel Prize Literature, 2001
• Trinidad has won the Miss World and Miss Universe contest three times since 1966
• Brian Lara , a Trini is regarded as one of the finest batsman in the sport of Cricket - ever
• Hasley Crawford – 1976 Montreal Olympic Gold Medal 100m.
• Ato Boldon – 2000 Australia Olympic Sliver Medal 100m, Bronze Medal 200m; 1996 Atlanta Olympic Bronze Medal 100m & 200m, and co-broadcaster for track and field events during the last Olynpics
• Edwin Roberts, Wendell Mottley, Edwin Skinner, Kenneth Bernard – 1964 Toyko Olympic Bronze Medal 4 x 400 m Relay
• Wendell Mottley – 1964 Tokyo Olympic Sliver Medal 400
• Edwin Roberts – 1964 Tokyo Olympic Bronze Medal 200m
• George Bowell – 2004 Athens Olympic Bronze Medal Men 200m Individual Medley Swimming
• Rodney Wilkes – 1948 London Olympic Sliver Medal Men’s featherweight Weightlifting, 1952 Finland Olympic Bronze Medal Men’s featherweight Weightlifting
• Lennox Kilgour- 1952 Finland Olympic Bronze Medal Men’s 90Kg class Weightlifting
• Jean Pierre – 1979 World Netball Champion Competition.

It makes me wonder, how a country so rich in natural resources, so rich in the talents of its people stumbles and fritters away the chance to establish paradise.


Jianne Carlo


Posted by Autumn Jordon | 8:27 AM | 21 comments »

“The Magic Key. Who has it?” She leans closer and whispers, “Or is it a Magic handshake?”

I look at her, studying her, trying to decide if she can handle the secret that will open the publishing world to her. After a very long ten seconds I say, “You really want to know?”

Her head joggles like a bobble head doll as she reaches for her pen and notepad.

My eyes shift around the room. I slant toward her and say, “Five words.”

I can see a speck of moisture form at the corner of her mouth as she waits for the tidbit.

“Trial and Error. And hard work.”

The raring-to-go newbie’s spine stiffens. The sparkle in her eyes dim. “That’s it? That’s not a secret.”

“No, it’s not.”

“I guess you don’t know it.”
I shrug. “If you don’t believe me, then go ask Nora, Sherilyn, Suz, Kasey, Jan, Brenda, Nancy, Vicki, Ann, Deb, Jordan, Misty, Steph, Beth, Linda, Carolyn, Allison, Charity, SEP, Karen, Jen, Kathy, Hank, or Roni,? I can give you a few more names. ”

“Humph.” She walked away already in search of someone else to befriend in hopes of finding the magic key.

Success is earned through gaining knowledge of your industry, hard-work and determination. JMO.

While I'm not yet published, I read a lot and I have taken a ton of writing workshops and read writing books. I also taught writing for 15 years.

Once upon a time we wrote our stories in longhand or typed them, or did both. Some people still write their stories in longhand. I would if I could read my handwriting.

We read what we had written, then made changes and recopied the pages or retyped them. Some of us worked with sections until each suited us before going on. Others began at the beginning and read all the way through, making changes on the current draft, then typed the whole thing again.

Since the computer allows us to edit as we read, it can be tempting to expect to do the whole story in one draft. That means we might not like making big changes or we can cut and paste ourselves into a less than clear whole manuscript.

Proofing means looking for typos and errors in spelling or punctuation. You must do this or even get someone to read your work with a fresh pair of eyes.

Editing is a bigger process. Editing should make your book better, stronger and can use the suggestions below.

I suggest you write the story before you try to pack every scene with all the elements other writers say you need in your stories. Keep your pace and let your characters speak to you. Even if you plot and do character sketches, you can learn things from your characters as their story progresses. If you learn something so big it changes the beginning of the story, take a limited time to go back and make the changes you need, or make notes to yourself to go back and fix things after you finish the story. These suggestions here can be used to help you write yourself out of a slump or writer's block.

Once you have a completed draft, you can go back and build in layers.

If you know what you want your reader to get from each scene or chapter you can play with the words. Each time you infuse emotion, you seduce your reader into caring more. Add emotional words and strong verbs. Go back and look for things to clarify or sharpen.

As you read, look for places where you told the reader things she doesn't need to know at that point or at all.

Read scenes and see if they serve a purpose. Don't dump scenes until you finish the story and see what you need and what you don't. At the end of each scene have you given your reader a reason to keep reading the next scene? At the end of each chapter have you teased the reader into reading just the first page of the next chapter, then one more, then one more?

Texture includes adding the sensory details to make a story mean more to readers. We can't control our readers' frames of reference or likes and dislikes. We can't make every reader love our characters and stories. We can use things that mean something to us and make us feel. Look at each scene and see if a reader can see, smell, hear, and taste? Remember that we feel hot and cold, rough and smooth. Different fabrics have different textures. Foods have different textures and tastes and smells. Have you used these to evoke reactions in us as readers or in the characters? Do these mean something to the characters? Can you let your characters experience memories or react to what they touch, smell, hear, taste, etc.?

I find doing this in stages, scene by scene, helps.

Telling a good story is the most important part of writing novels, but doing it well helps. Write your story. Fill it with interesting characters. Refine it with the tools you have, using words that pack a wallop. Arrange them in an order that shows what you want me to see or feel or smell, or hear. Make me read nonstop and take me on a journey I don't want to end.

Comments or suggestions? Don't leave me alone here!

I admit it, I’m a procrastinator. A major, died in the wool, card-carrying, put-it-off-as-long-as-possible procrastinator. My motto appears to be “never do anything today that can be put off until tomorrow.” I’ve had this affliction all my life. I come from a long line of procrastinators. My daddy, rest his soul, was a procrastinator, as was his dad before him. I’m not quite sure why I took after daddy rather than momma, who was a get it done now type lady. The only excuse I can offer is that her “get it done now,” usually involved me doing something. I sometimes think my abhorrence of housework is rooted in that period of my life, of course, that could just be a convenient excuse for not doing housework that can patently be put off until later.

Over the years I’ve learned to deal with my affliction. Notice I’m careful not to say conquer, cure or get over it. No one ever gets over being a procrastinator. I am thoroughly convinced the affliction is genetic. We are not in control of the make up of our genetic disposition, so it is left for us to find ways to cope with the little foibles we inherit.

I’m a teacher. This requires massive amounts of work to be completed and recorded on time. It is not an easy feat for a true procrastinator. I learned to survive by making lists and following routines. I live by them.

My desks, both at school and home, are a study in organized chaos. No one can find anything there, but I know exactly which stack to look in for what I need. DO NOT touch my desk. Don’t try to organize me. Leave my clutter alone. Once my students cleaned my desk in a good natured attempt to be helpful, it was the beginning of the next school year before I found some of my paperwork!

Now I find myself with a dilemma. I have another request for a complete manuscript. I’ve written just over three chapters. I want to finish this manuscript quickly, yet I find my procrastination demons ruling when I need to lock them securely in the closet. Even now, I know they are running the show, because I’m writing this blog instead of working on my manuscript.

I’ve decided to try once again to turn over a new leaf and over-come the procrastinator gene! Baby steps, little by little. Tonight this blog, tomorrow chapter four.

What about you? Are you a procrastinator? If you are, how have you over come it? If you are one of those lucky over achiever gene people, please share with us how you motivate yourself to keep working.

Presidents, States, and Capitals

Posted by Jianne Carlo | 7:15 AM | 9 comments »

The Founding Colonies – Massachusetts

In case you’re new to this blog, I’m on a citizenship quest and I’m determined to know each state one by one. I’ve started with the Thirteen Founding Colonies, and I’m doing those in alphabetical order. After that, I’m going to go through the 50 states as each one joined the constitution.

I’ve been to several conferences in Boston, the extent of my travels in the state of Massachusetts. I loved the European flavor of the city, the parks the trees, the wide waterways, and even more, that people are always walking about. It feels like a livable city, like there’s a sense of community, and of course a great deal of pride.

The DH says the culture of the state revolves heavily around politics and sports. With teams like the Boston Red Socks, the New England Patriots, the Celtics, and the Boston Bruins, and four presidents and three VPs, it may be that he’s right.

So below are the Maryland facts.


Capital: Boston
Size: approximately 10,555 square miles with 192 miles of coastline
Size Rank: 44
Bird: Chickadee
Admitted to Statehood: February 6, 1788, 6th Constitution
Population: 6,349.097
Presidents (birth): John Adams, John Quincy Adams, John Fitzgerald Kennedy, George Herbert Walker Bush
Vice Presidents (birth): John Adams, Elbridge Gerry, George Bush

The list of famous Massachusetts residents is astonishing ranging from Benjamin Franklin to Bette Davis. I had not realized that Louisa May Alcott was born and raised in the state.

Home schooled by her father and friend to both Emerson and Thoreau, Louisa wrote her first book, Flower Fables, to entertain Emerson’s first daughter. Determined to contribute to the family income she went to work taking jobs considered below her station, working as a servant, a seamstress, and during the civil war, as a nurse.

The letters Lousia wrote to her family during the war were published under the title, Hospital Sketches. Shortly after that she published her first novel, Moods, and Little Women followed four years later in 1868.

I don’t know about you, but Little Women was one of my first books, and it still remains one of my favorites. Most experts consider the book autobiographical with Louisa being played by Jo March. Whenever HBO replays the recently made movie starring Winona Ryder, I always watch it. Such a heartwarming movie.

Susan B. Anthony, the famous suffragist who's credited with starting the movement for equal rights and pay for women, was also a Massachusetts resident. She is the face of the one-dollar coin minted from 1979 to 1981, and again in 1999.

Clara Barton, the founder of the American Red Cross, was also from this state. During the civil war she organized supplies, nursed soldiers in camps and battlefields and eventually became known as the Angel of the Battlefield.

After the war President Lincoln charged Clara with locating missing prisoners and identifying those dead in battle. In Europe for a conference after that, the Franco-Prussian war erupted and she stayed to work with the International Red Cross. Shortly after returning to the U.S. Clara founded the American Red Cross.

How inspiring, the lives of these two women, and what a great way to start the day with such success brimming in my brain.



I am delighted to welcome author Autumn Jordon, a fellow Golden Heart® finalist and Wild Rose Press author anticipating her first release, Evil's Witness. I've lobbed some questions at her which she's fielded very well. I enjoyed getting to know more about this exciting new author. Thank you, Autumn, for being with us today.

What do you think makes (your upcoming book) different? What will draw readers to it?

Hmmm. My voice is what will make Evil’s Witness different than other suspense novels, and the twists. We all wonder what we’d do if thrown into extraordinary circumstances. Evil’s Witness is a story about an ordinary woman who’s life is becomes a nightmare after she witnesses a murder. Readers will fear for and cheer for my heroine, Stephanie, as she fights for her life and the lives of her children.

How long have you been writing?

Seriously, about eight years. But, I wrote a short story I believe in the fourth grade which sold two copies—one to my mother and the other to my best friend. I was also a reporter and then editor for my high school paper. After college, life took over and I put writing aside and raised a family until I decided now was my time.

Are you a Plotter or a Pantser?

I’m a hybrid. I usually begin a story by writing the first three chapters. Then I jot down a short synopsis where I highlight my characters’ GMC and ARC. Afterwards, I just write. One or two of characters always take the lead and the story changes and in the end, sigh, my synopsis has to be rewritten.

How would you describe your voice?

I’ve been told I have a very strong voice. While suspenseful, it’s laced with humor.

What is your favorite part of the writing process?

I love editing. The basic story is puked out and I’m relaxed. I can pick apart every sentence making it clearer, stronger and as interesting as it can be.

Where do you find your inspiration? Come up with your ideas/plots?

Are you kidding, inspiration is everywhere. I see something or hear a bit of a conversation and think what if? Ideas pile up from there. For example, I work for a trucking company. We hauled a few loads for the US Treasury. I wondered what if the tractor-trailer was hi-jacked. The question led to the story line for Evil’s Witness which was a 2009 Golden Heart Finalist and will be released by The Wild Rose later this year.

Do you write in long periods or short stretches?

Definitely shorter. I’m up early every morning. During the week, I write for about forty-five minutes before heading out the door to work. On the weekends, I get to write for a couple of hours while the family sleeps in. My motto is: Word by Word. Line by Line. Page by page. I’ve finished five novels, several short several and about a hundred articles this way.

Do you write in silence or listen to music?

It depends. During my usual forty-five minutes, I listen to Yanna, Eyna or classical. But there are times that silence feeds the muse.

Do you research your story before you write it? Or as you go?

Both. There is always the preliminary research that needs to be done, but since I write by the seat of my pants new elements are always popping up. Like is there cell service on top of Mt. McKinley? Or how would the villain take out a whole motorcade in one swoop? You get the picture.

What have you learned through research that you will remember for the rest of your life?

Check several sources. You’d be amazed how many professed experts there are who really aren’t experts at all.

Does all your writing take place on a computer or do you ever write using pen and paper? Do you ever act your scenes?

I write on the computer, edit on hard copy. No, I’m not an actor. I do play out scenes in my mind though, like watching a movie.

How long do you wait once your story is finished to revise it?

I usually let it sit for two weeks, while starting a new project and then I go back and start the first round edits. Then it sits another couple of weeks before I start again. I do this over and over, until I feel the WIP is the best I can do. Then I send it to my critique partner and she tears it apart. Then I advise again.

Do you allow family and friends to read your writing?

No. Family and friends tend to tell you how good it is when it’s really not publishable. I learned this lesson writing my first book.
I want to make my stories the best they can be. My critique partner and I have an understanding. We don’t say it’s good unless we can’t change one word to make the work stronger.

Do you have a favorite character?

My villain in Evil’s Witness, Victor.
I found myself falling in love with him. I have this thing for bad boys. LOL. I wanted to keep him on for the series. And no, I’m not saying another word about that.

What is one thing your readers would find interesting about you?

I’ve been in involved in two cases of armed robberies. Not as the perp. As the victim. I won’t talk further about the experiences.

Has your writing journey been a smooth or bumpy ride?

I would describe my writing journey as a steady ride up an incline. Sometimes the slope seemed to be very steep, but I kept (and still do) putting one word in front of the other.

What advice would you give to a new/ aspiring writer?

NEVER stop believing in yourself. Study the craft and write everyday!

What is your favorite writing memory?

Getting my scores back from the very first contest I entered. I didn’t final. I didn’t expect to, but the feedback and encouragement was priceless. I will add, go with gut when accepting feedback. Don’t change your story because someone said so. It’s your story. It has to feel right to you.

For more on Autumn's work, please visit her website at:

We are avid readers who enjoyed books since a tender age. Our pink fuzzy slippers warming our feet, we love to snuggle in front of a cozy fire and immerse ourselves in a beautiful romance.

We are dreamers who rearrange the present, linger in the past, jump into the future, or keep bouncing between centuries. Some of us travel to fairy words they create or change their human appearances while a few share their experience in soul-lifting stories.

We are writers who weave love stories, challenge our characters with obstacles and conflicts but grant them a happy ever after when they reached the goals we set for them.

Come and meet us:

Mary Marvella:
I am the blog Mama (Moderator sounds so formal.) of the Pink Fuzzy Slipper Writers blog and I have completed novels in paranormal romance, romantic suspense, women’s fiction, and good old contemporary romances: The Gift, Protective Instincts, The cost of Deception, Protecting Melissa, Haunting Refrain, Cheerleader Dad, Margo's Choices, Forever Love, The Demon's Daughters (Sisters Four)

~~I live in Georgia. After teaching English/language arts and working as a school counselor, I became a story teller, a writer and a tutor. I have beautiful daughter, handsome son-in-law, and 2 grand dogs.

Linda Nightingale:

I write paranormal romances. Black Swan released February 25 from The Wild Rose Press.

Originally, this story—or part thereof—was written for an anthology called Loving the Undead, but it was rejected with a nice note saying that it wasn't quite what she had in mind. The characters walked on stage to tell me about being Black Swans, mortals who submit to the vampire's kiss to experience euphoria and sexual ecstasies. At birth, Black Swan had a twin story. My wonderful editor, Callie Lynn Wolfe, told me I had one story, and with her help, the Black Swan and Swan Song became one spicy vampire story.

Beth Trissel:
I'm an award winning historical/light paranormal romance author. I have four releases out with the Wild Rose Press: Somewhere My Love, Daughter of the Wind, Enemy of the King and Through the Fire, were all voted Best Book of The Week at the Long & Short Reviews and are bestsellers at TWRP. Through the Fire was nominated for Golden Heart award. Somewhere My Love, was winner of Preditor's & Editor's Readers Poll.

~~Married to my high school sweetheart, I live on a farm in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia with children and multiple animals. The beauty of the valley and surrounding mountains are my inspiration, as are my roots which go well back into Virginia's history.

Joanne Barnada aka Josie Riviera:
I write historical, 80,000-100,000 word manuscripts. Fatal Fortune, Fatal Flaw and Fatal Fascination, my current whip. The manuscripts are set in the Tudor era, with a young King Henry VIII on the throne, and were carefully researched for Gypsy traditions, superstitions, spells, and language. Fatal Fortune has won the Virginia Fool for Love, the prestigious Golden Pen, and the Dixie First. Fatal Flaw has won the Golden Acorn, the Wallflower, and is currently a final in the FTH Golden Gateway.

~~When I am not writing, I am teaching at my music school, tending to my Ebay music store, "A Grand Time," finding "Deals of the Day," and ferrying my "model" teenage daughter to her modeling auditions and jobs. I've been married to my wonderful husband for 34 years. We are northern upstate NY transplants now living in sunny and warm South Carolina. We also have two adult sons, both professional musicians, who thankfully live near us.

Mona Risk:
My romantic suspense novels are published by Cerridwen Press: To Love A Hero, set in exotic Belarus and French Peril, set in the historical Loire Valley. I also write sweet and spicy medical romances, published by The Wild Rose Press: Babies in the Bargain, was voted Best Book of The Week at the Long & Short Reviews and is a bestseller at TWRP, and Rx for Trust is due in December.

~~A former chemist and Analytical Director of an environmental company I visited over fifty countries on vacation or business trips and I love to set my stories in the foreign places I enjoyed. I have been married to my hero for many years. Now that our son and daughter are married and have their own families, my husband and I settled in sunny Fort Lauderdale but often visit with our four adorable grandchildren. Recently, I have been spending my days next to my sick mother writing, editing my new manuscripts or answering emails and blogs. When I can spare a moment for myself, I swim in the ocean.

Barbara Monajem:
My paranormal romance, Sunrise in a Garden of Love and Evil, will be published by Dorchester Publishing next spring. Recently, I sold a historical short story to Harlequin, which will also come out next year. I have won several writing awards, including the Daphne du Maurier, the Jasmine, and the Maggie, and am currently at work on more paranormal and historical romances.

~~Now my kids are adults. I live in Georgia with an ever-shifting population of relatives, friends, and feline strays.

Mary Ricksen:
I write paranormal romance, Tripping Through Time is published by The Wild Rose Press and was a bestseller. The sequel, Burned Into Time, is due next year. Love, happiness, a little bit of magic, and a hunky hero with a happily-ever-after ending is my favorite thing to read or to write. Especially if they are time travel.

~~ I live in Florida, but love Vermont and North Carolina in the mountains and animals, horses, cows, and critters who live in the wild. Small town life is my future haven after big city madness. I made up my mind that someday I’d be back in the country, even in just in her books.

Dayanna Knight:
I picked up a pen at a very young age and kept going with it. Love all things paranormal and gothic. I have several published works including poetry, short stories, craft articles, and novels. Curse of the Marhime, Eternal Obsession, Bestial Cravings, published at The Wild Rose Press. Eternal Obsession earned a perfect review and Bestial Cravings was a bestseller at TWRP.

~~I live in sunny Florida and juggle a fulltime job and writing.

Judy Keim:
I started out writing children's stories for magazines before turning to women's fiction and bigger children's stories. The following are three stories that were published: Jonathan's Great Idea - Children's Playmate ; The Easter Pig - Jack and Jill; The Secret of the Red Wagon - Highlights for Children . Land of Fire and Ice: The first book in a series of books about Agor, a young boy who lives in a primitive land of long ago. Summer in Mossy Creek, Belle Books; Chicken Soup to Inspire a Woman's Soul, Stories Celebrating the Wisdom, Fun and Freedom of Midlife.

~~Presently I live in Florida, with my husband Peter. We've been married many years, have two sons and two granddaughters, and have enjoyed a good life together. We've had the opportunity to do quite a bit of traveling and, always, I've been amazed at the beauty of the world. Simple things, like the sound of ringing cow bells falling down the mountains in Switzerland or gazing at the flowers in my own back yard, bring me great joy. It is this idea of the magic of it all, the logic of it all, that I hope comes through in my stories and touches the child in each of my readers, young and old.

Jianne Carlo:
I love writing sensual romances where East meets West, cultures collide, passion sizzles… Available at Loose-id, Manacled in Monaco, Notorious in Nice and White Wolf are set in Mediterranean cities and have earned raving reviews. D is for Desire, T is for Temptation are published by Siren Publishing.

~~I went to college in Canada where I met my own hero. We married and raised three wonderful sons and live in sunny Florida. I work as a software expert during the day and write at night and whenever I can steal time.

Toni V. Sweeney:
My friends say I am a prolific writer!! Here are the books I wrote under my own name:
Spacedogs' Best Friend; The Rose and the Dragon; Dragon in Chains; Murder in Old Blood; Bloodseek (Book One of the Chronicles of Riven the Heretic)Blood Curse (Book Two of the Chronicles of Riven the Heretic)Sinbad's Last Voyage (Book One of the Adventures of Sinbad) (audio and print)Sinbad's Wife (Books Two of the Adventures of Sinbad)Walk the Shadow Trail (Audio and print)Vengeance from Eden (audio and print)Blood Sin (Book One of the kan Ingan Archives)"Love, Vampire Style"; "Demon in Blue Jeans"; Serpent's Tooth (TBA)numerous short stories for and assorted magazines

I also write under Icy Snow. Here are Icy Snow’s Books: The Irish Lady's Spanish Lover;Three Moon Station; Jericho Road; Earthman's Bride (winner of the 2009 "Reveal Your Inner Vixen" award for best alternate/fantasy romance, by Missouri Romance Writers Association (MORWA); When the Condor Returned (TBA); Bargain with Lucifer (TBA)

~~I was born on a Sunday--Married on Saturday, gave birth on a Friday, divorced on a Thursday-- Moved to Nebraska on a Monday, to California on a Friday, back to NE on a Wednesday-- Signed my first book contract on a Tuesday, my last on a Sunday,and that's the story of Toni V. Sweeney.

Good afternoon readers! I am just plain tuckered out. And why would that be you might wonder?( Like you're just panting to know? Ha!)

Well, Scarlet and I fed out brains with a smokin' hot writing workshop in Birmingham, Alabama. For some folks that's not a long way to go. But from Atlanta, Georgia, that's not just around the corner. There were folks there who had driven farther than I did and I know they're tired. Southern Magic, the Alabama chapter of Romance Writers of America hosted us and even fed us hot dogs with all the fixin's and desserts to tempt anyone's sweet tooth and sabotage my diet for the day.

FROM THOUGH TO PLOT, A Break into Fiction @Program given by the illustrious authors Dianna Love Snell and Mary Buckham was intense and awesome. I won't give away the workshop but the ladies used personality profiles and worksheets to give us insight into ourselves. Then we looked at how we could use the personality trait charts to make out characters more real. I must say the exercises were eye opening!

Yes, I could have stayed home and had all day to write but I needed the workshop to feed my brain. If you write, you need to do workshops when you can. There are many online workshops about everything. RWR, the magazine from Romance Writers of America has articles about writing every month. Writer's Digest has articles anyone can buy in a bookstore and even get online. They even have tons of craft books for sale and a book club to make it easier.

As writers we need to read books, as many as we can! Fiction writers need to read fiction, any genre books or shorts. Harlequin has a community at to sell books and to showcase their writers and offer articles about writing and explain what they want in each of their lines, writer's guidelines and a way readers can know what to expect in books in each line.

Now, I'm headed to a local hardware store to see if liquidation prices are really bargains and maybe buy a few things.

Feel free to add any sources for brain food for writers or anyone else. I promise to return and add lines and tell you if there were any good looking guys at the hardware store.

I'd like to discuss something we all can't do enough of and that is PROMO. Once you get the promo bug--Thank you, Catherine!--you constantly strive to find different ways to keep your name and books in the proverbial limelight.

Loops, blogging, visiting all the blogs you can manage, belonging to any loop, group, network you can helps but there are downfalls to this. One problem I find is there is not enough hours in a day, days in a week for me to be everywhere I need to be! Escpecially when you work a full time job as well. So how do I manage all this? I can't really. No honestly, it is very hard to be everywhere at once, so what I try to do is cycle around to everyone's blogs and pick and choose the networks I join.

If you have been following my blog I am constantly striving to find new ideas to gain followers. I have joined networks like Twitter, MySpace, and Facebook, which have been advantageous. And I have to say easily maintained. I have pages at WDRF, Coffee Time Romance and am guilty of not keeping them up as diligently as I should. Lord knows, I would love to be on top of it all.

I belong to PFSW, TWRP Author's loop, LASR loop and many others but again it is sooooo very hard to keep up with them all. How many of you find you also have difficulty keeping up? I'd like to hear what you do to keep visible.

Some things I have done:

~Keep blog and website current. This is a major priority for me.

~Let the public at Twitter, MySpace, and Facebook know what I am up to at least once a day.

~Visit blogs at least every week and leave comments.

~Keep up with friend's invites for new releases and blog events.

~Read and review new releases.

~Grab attention to your blog by coming up with new ideas to draw visitors, IE, recipes, craft articles and issues such as my "Pirating" article which drew a lot of interest and commentary.

~Newsletter and a loop "Dayana's Happenings" which clues members in monthly at what I'm up to.

~Be active in local Chapter groups and join local activities such as booksignings, writing groups, etc. Socializing with peers is a wonderful thing to do as well and build lasting friendships.

~Create a Fan Page at Facebook. I really haven't figured out how much exposure this will be but I do try to update it at least weekly and push people over to view it when I think of it.

~Give peers the opportunity at promotion on your blog which draws them attention and you more attention as their following will discover you! Guest bloggers are fun and my newest venture is offering "Author Spotlights" weekly. I already have a list of authors to schedule:)

The key to keeping attention on you is to keep it fresh. Keep venues updated and interesting. Investigate new avenues. Perfect example is Catherine Bybee's video blogging. I'm not that techno but hey! maybe sometime in the near future:)

Anyway, I hope this article has been advantageous and helpful. Thanks for dropping by and reading. As always, comments welcome.


Catherine Bybee Blogs for the PFS

Posted by Mary Ricksen | 3:00 PM | 36 comments »


 KiltWorthy_w3419_300                             soul mate200x300

I’d like to welcome Catherine Bybee to the Pink Fuzzy Slipper Writers blog today. Catherine is an incredibly talented author whom I met through The Wild Rose Press. She has a great blog herself on which she does video shorts, which are informative and very cool. Let’s give her a warm welcome and a cup of hot chocolate with the slippers we gave her.

Thanks for having me here today, Mary… and all you Fuzzy Slipper Ladies.

You’re welcome Catherine, I am thrilled to have you! Tell us about your newest book.

I’m celebrating my second release this month. Soul Mate is my werewolf novella from Red Rose Publishing.

Here is the blurb: Kari Pearce lives the life of a lone werewolf. No one knows of her affliction, not even her sister. When she hears of a missing child up in the Sequoias, Kari goes on the hunt to find the child and her abductor before tragedy can occur. Saving the child is easy, avoiding the FBI agent associated with the case, is not.

Agent Nick Murdock knows he's seen Kari before but damn if he can remember where. There's one thing he knows for sure. Kari Pearce with her blonde hair and piercing blue eyes is hiding something. And Nick is going to find out what.

Ah, a paranormal suspense! I just love shapeshifters. It takes a great author to be able to capture your audience and you Catherine had no problem grabbing my attention.


As she walked away, his eyes followed the gentle sway of her hips. Damn, she was something to watch.

Once out of sight, he turned in his seat and brought the coffee cup to his lips. As he swallowed, his eyes landed on the car keys sitting next to Kari’s empty plate.
With a wicked smile, he covered them with his hand and headed toward the door.
Outside he watched her fumbling through her purse while standing in front of a four-wheel drive rental car. A strand of blonde hair slid over her face; she tossed it back in frustration and mumbled a curse.
“Looking for these?” He held up the keys and shook them with a jingle.
Her head shot up, eyes narrowed.
“You left them on the counter,” he found himself explaining.
Taking a step in his direction, she reached out to capture them from his fingers. Nick playfully pulled them out of reach. She cocked her head to the side and dropped her hand.
“Have dinner with me,” he spoke before she could say anything.
“What?” She looked at him as if he was crazy.
“You know, dinner. Kind of like breakfast, only later and with wine.”
“Are you always so forward, Mr. Murdock?”
“Are you always so forward, Nick?” she emphasized his name to express her annoyance.
“I believe in being direct.”
She took another step in his direction and smoothed her hair back. Her tongue shot out and moistened her lips. The action shot heat to his groin. “I’m glad to hear that, Nick. I believe in being direct, too.” Stepping closer, she brought one hand up between them, tilted her head back to gaze into his eyes. Low lashes fluttered in a way that proved she knew her affect on him.
A small shock registered when she trailed a finger down his arm. “I think you are very attractive.”
“That’s a start.” His voice grew husky. “But...”
“But,” she sighed and walked her fingers down his arm. “I don’t like being held hostage for a date.” With that, she grabbed her keys from his hand and turned to walk away.

Now you have grabbed my attention. I love a woman who is sassy but classy.

Kari knows how to handle herself. It’s Nick that needs a few lessons from her. lol

What was your biggest moment in the publishing process?

Most people would say that their biggest high is getting “The Call” However; in the e-publishing world, we don’t receive a call so much as an e-mail. Even then, that wasn’t my favorite moment in this process. Long before I worked up the nerve to submit a manuscript to an agent or publisher, I told my BFF Sharon M. to read the beginning of Binding Vows. I printed out the first three chapters of my very rough draft and gave them to her.

Then, during a very boring PTA meeting a few days later, she leaned over and said. “Oh, my God, Cathy… This is really good.” I went on to tell her she didn’t have to say that if she didn’t like it, I’d understand. Besides I knew she didn’t even read romance novels. After her continued gushing, I worked up the nerve to sub Binding Vows. I’m happy to say that book will be out in December both in e-book and paperback.

And well, you know there’s a follow up book to that one, Mary. One I’m very excited about. Proving to my self that I could carry characters through a full-length novel and then onto a trilogy, has been huge for me.

Writing a full-length novel takes a lot more effort.

I actually feel that writing a full length is easier. You have more time to develop your characters and more time to make everything believable.

What is the biggest help to your writing process?

There are two things that come to mind. You may think I’m crazy when I say this but, the biggest help has been all those rejections in the beginning. If it wasn’t for those, I wouldn’t have sought after a critique partner. And in doing that, my writing has grown enormously. Without a CP’s set of looking over my work, I’d have received even more rejections.

I know that a critique partner or two is one of the biggest helps an author can have. They see things you cannot see. Sometimes just a word or two of help from your critique partners and your story comes alive!

Was there a moment when you realized you really were an author?

The first time an agent asked to see an entire manuscript. It didn’t pan out at the time, but I knew then that I had some talent for this business.

When I write, it has to be totally quiet, for some reason I am easily distracted.

Do you need quiet when you write, or can you write through anything?

I can listen to music when I write, but if my kids are harping on me to do something for them my brain turns to mush. I’d love to be able to block them out and write… but I can’t. This isn’t always a bad thing. They’ll only be young for so many years and I don’t want to miss any of them. Well, the teenage thing is a bit overrated. I could skip the attitude and hormones without loosing sleep. LOL

I just entered a contest where the prize is $100,000. I’ve been dreaming about what I’d do with it.

If you won $100,000 dollars, what would you do with it?

I’m not going to say pay bills or invest… That would be beyond boring! I’d buy that lil’ Mercedes convertible. Take an all-inclusive trip to Scotland and buy some clothes. LOL. And a few books for the plane ride.

A trip to Scotland, wow what a thrill that would be! I’ve never been any further then

Canada. It could end up being very romantic for you and your DH.

So when you figured out your talent was with words you decided to write a book.

What made you want to write romance books?

Romance is my first love of reading. I gobbled them up at 16 and learned more about sex from a book then I ever did my parents. And thank God for that. My family tree is full on step this and step that. The 60’s & 70’s were great for my gene pool. Even grandma was married seven or eight times. The last time she married, she was pushing 88 and she married a man in his early 40’s… No shit! I’m not making that up. I told her on the phone, “Don’t expect me to call him grandpa when he’s younger than my husband.”

Boy didn’t I get scorned for that sassy comment. But you have to admit, it was funny.

Romance novels and their ever present happily ever after is all I need to escape.

Grandma was married eight times. And the last one was in his 40’s, she must be one hot grandmother!

I agree the happily ever after is a big appeal, and so are the hunky hero’s you write about.

We all spent a good part of our childhoods thinking and dreaming about the future.

When you were growing up did you have a dream? And did it ever come true?

I wanted to find a wonderful, stable and awe inspiring husband. And I did. My lovely hubby and I have been married for 16 years and together for 21. I live a Diva’s life and I have time to enjoy my children. I am living the dream and loving it.

Thanks again for having me here today. To download your copy of Soul Mate step on over to Red Rose Publishing:

To find out more about me, and my future books visit my website at:

Don’t forget to catch Catherine’s unique blog. When she does the videos, I just can’t pass it up! Romance By Catherine at

Thanks Catherine for taking the time to blog with us and for a look into the mind of a great author. Anyone who can come up with the title ‘Kilt Worthy’ has a great imagination. Your August 5th blog had a short video commercial on it which I loved. It sure shows the reason we all love a ‘Kilt Worthy’ man. I sincerely wish you great success with your newest release. I expect to see it on the bestseller list at TWRP for a long time to come.

The last thing I’d like to say Catherine, with a big sincere smile on my face is that I am so glad to call you my friend. What better accolade could a person get?

Recently, my granddaughters Jenna (9) and Josie (10) flew by themselves from Seattle, Washington, to spend a week with “Mimi and Papa”. We and several others anxiously awaited the flight, wondering if the girls had experienced fright, fought with each other or encountered any problems. When they burst forth from the exit after landing, they were calm, cool, collected and two of twelve children traveling unaccompanied!
Today’s youngest women are strong, inventive and willing to take risks in ways that weren’t even dreamed of not too many years ago. It made me wonder what the heroines in the books of tomorrow might be like.
History and social mores have determined, to a large degree, the limits of a woman’s role, but the inner strength of women at any given time is a mighty thing to behold. And the willingness to bolster others with that strength is something women everywhere simply do.
In my book FAT FRIDAYS, five women of varying ages and backgrounds meet for lunch on Fridays—no calories counted. Each supports the others as they struggle to find that inner core of strength in order to be true to herself.
In the future, heroines might travel to the moon or even to other planets as a matter of course and not a matter of fantasy. They might do things that seem unimaginable in today’s world. But I believe women of any time and place will continue to prove worthy of being real heroines even if their individual stories are never told.

Posted for Pam Varnado

For the past few days I have been up in time to see the sun rise. It was an amazing thing to see. Not only was it a beautiful sight, it was the start of a new beginning for me. Those of you who know me can attest that I am not an early bird. Waking up around nine is more my style. But I realized that if I wanted to accomplish everything on my To Do list for the day, I needed to add more hours, which translated into waking up earlier.

We all know what Ben Franklin said: "Early to bed and early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise." How right he was. I have been able to do all that I’ve planned and the feeling of accomplishing something is euphoric. By the time I would have awakened I’ve already finished projects on my list. How’s that for time management?

Now, if you’re a night person like me, getting up early is not easy. But it’s something you can learn to do. Here are a few tips that will have up you before the rooster crows.

1. Go to bed around ten o’clock and set your alarm for six. That gives you eight hours.

2. Establish a bedtime routine. Me, I like to take a warm bath and read.

3. Make sure the temperature in the room is perfect for you. The experts recommend a cool environment, but if you like it warmer, do what makes you comfortable.

4. Take the necessary steps to ensure your sleep is restful. Wear an eye-mask to block light or earplugs if your significant other is a snorer.

5. While in bed, do some muscle relaxation exercises. Starting at your toes, tense your muscles then relax them. Work through your toes, calves, thighs, stomach, arms, back, and neck. The entire routine should take no more than three to four minutes.

Making yourself into a morning person is easy if you learn to enjoy it. Have a cup of tea and watch the sun come up or use the peace and quiet to journal or meditate.

Make time for yourself, you’re worth it. It’s a learning process for me, so if you have any ideas write and let me know.


Presidents, States, and Capitals

Posted by Jianne Carlo | 9:52 AM | 11 comments »

The Founding Colonies – Maryland.

In case you’re new to this blog, I’m on a citizenship quest and I’m determined to know each state one by one. I’ve started with the Thirteen Founding Colonies, and I’m doing those in alphabetical order. After that, I’m going to go through the 50 states as each one joined the constitution.

We drove from Delaware to Maryland last year over a narrow, soaring bridge that went on for miles and miles or so it seemed. The DH does not like heights of any sort, and believe me that’s the understatement of the year. I feared for both our lives during that 30-minute drive.

Maryland whirled by as we both tried to recover, I remember seeing signs for Annapolis, but that’s about the extent of my memory of the state. (I do so want to visit Annapolis and ogle those yummy, bare-chested (preferably) Naval Academy students...sigh, the stuff of fantasies.

So below are the Maryland facts.


Capital: Annapolis
Size: approximately 9,775 square miles with 31 miles of coastline
Size Rank: 42
Bird: Baltimore Oriole
Admitted to Statehood: April 28, 1788, 7th Constitution
Population: 5,296,488
Presidents (birth): None
Vice Presidents (birth): Spiro T. Agnew

The smallest town in Maryland is Port Tobacco with a population of just 15 according to the 2000 census (aren’t we due for a new census?). Sadly, Port Tobacco was once the second largest city in Maryland.

According to the Legend of the Blue Dog after the revolutionary war, a solider, one Charles Thomas Sims, and his dog were killed on Rose Hill while returning home from a local tavern. A local resident and agent of the confederacy, Olivia Floyd, told The Port Tobacco Times that she’d seen the ghost of the “blue dog.”

Lore has it that Henry Hanos of Port Tobacco murdered Sims and his dog (why kill a poor doggie?) for his gold and a deed to an estate. Henry then buried Sims, the dog, and the gold (okay, I can see burying the man and the dog, but the gold? Not a thinking criminal obviously) under a Holly tree on Rose Hill. When he went back to dig up the gold, the Blue Dog scared him away, he contracted a mysterious illness, and died suddenly. To this day, the Blue Dog guards his master’s treasure.

Babe Ruth, Billie Holiday, John Wilkes Booth, Thurgood Marshall, Leon Uris, and here’s a surprise, Frank Zappa were all born in Maryland.

I’ll leave you with a selection of the criteria to enter the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis.

Basic Requirements for Eligibility:

1. United States citizen:
2. Good moral character;
3. At least 17, and no older than 23
4. Unmarried
5. Not pregnant and no dependents.

Passing a physical fitness tests that consists of:

1. a one-mile run
2. a 'shuttle' run
3. a kneeling basketball throw
4. abdominal crunches
5. push-ups
6. pull-ups or a flexed-arm hangs for women (when pull-ups cannot be accomplished).



BABIES IN THE BARGAIN (sweet and spicy in the genre of ER and Grey's Anatomy): Ebook/paperback at The Wild Rose Press.

Romance Junkies:

BABIES IN THE BARGAIN is one novel that pulls you into the story and holds you captive to the last page. My heart broke for Marc and the touching way little Paulito comes into his life. At the same time, the baby forces Holly to acknowledge her feelings for Marc – feelings she’s been trying hard to ignore. Mona Risk delves into the intense life and death situation babies in the NICU face and tempers that overwhelming emotion with a high intensity romance in a storyline that will truly touch the reader’s heart.

The Long & Short Reviews

Ms. Risk has done an outstanding job with Babies in the Bargain and is a very talented writer who gives the reader what they are after. The plot line was amazing and I found the entire book to be spot on with the medical terminology and procedures. Ms. Risk was able to evoke raw emotion from me throughout the book and I found it to be a most exciting and thrilling read. I highly recommend this book to those who love Medical Romances. This one will keep you on your toes and make you beg for more. I can't wait to read more of Ms. Risk's work in the future.

Short Synopsis:
With only one year left to complete her medical training in Neonatology, Dr. Holly Collier vows not to let anyone mess up her sacrosanct schedule. Especially not the drop-dead gorgeous Dr. Marc Suarez who broke her heart seven years ago.

When a tragic accident transforms the carefree playboy into a dedicated but novice father to his nephew, Holly gives in to her maternal instincts and turns her structured life upside down for the orphaned preemie. But can she learn to trust Marc again and believe in true love?

Marc stared at the infant suckling and the gorgeous woman feeding him as if he was her own child. A perfect picture of maternal love. For a moment, he imagined her in a silk dishabille, baring a breast to a hungry child, while his knuckles caressed the baby’s cheek and the mother’s flesh in the same loving gesture.

Blonde and lovely Holly.

Mesmerized, he sucked in a deep breath and squatted beside the rocking chair, clenching its arm with itching fingers.

Paulito needed a loving mother, but even with imaginative effort Marc couldn’t picture himself married. At least not yet.

Holly could be the closest thing Paulito would ever have to a mother, if...

“Move in with me,” Marc whispered.

“What?” The bottle dropped from her hand. Her gaze shot to him, incredulous and bewildered.
“What did you say?” Her voice lowered to a rough murmur.

“Come live in my condo,” he said, with a firm tone to convince himself his request wasn’t completely crazy.

His eyes strayed over her blushing cheeks, her parted lips. He inched closer, unable to resist the sweet temptation...then jerked backward.

Conflicting feelings twitched his insides. His baby needed Holly, the best mother in the world. If she agreed to live under his roof, he swore he’d never take advantage of their proximity in the same house. He’d behave like a gentleman—even like a monk—to make her forget his playboy reputation. And he’d battle his attraction to Holly every step of the way, so as not to scare her away.

“Are you crazy?” Her jaw sagged and her eyes rounded, two beautiful turquoise pools shimmering with uncertainty.

“I’ve never been more serious in my life.” He stroked the baby’s scalp. “Paulito needs you and you love him.” It was the only possible way he could give his son a loving mother...and protect himself from a noose around his neck and his Abuelita’s nagging.

She exhaled, her gaze following his fingers’ gentle motion on Paulito’s head. “Of course I love him, but I have my work. I’m as busy as you, if not more.” Her lips pinched as she narrowed her eyes.

“If you move in with me, we could dovetail our shifts and share his care.”

Please, Holly, say yes.

“You and me, living together? Just like that?” She flipped her hand open. “How could you even think about it?”

“Oh, I didn’t mean to imply any...hmm.”


He blinked. The thought had filtered through his mind, but to his credit, he’d discarded it right away. “It’s just a roommate arrangement. Consider it a business proposal, cross my heart.” With all due respect and no hanky-panky, so help me God.

Marc gazed at her with deep longing. This arrangement would torture him for sure, but to have Holly caring for Paulito, Marc would squeeze every bit of lust out of his system. He silently vowed to maintain his part of the bargain if she agreed.

Buy link: at TWRP


One thing about writing about a dynasty--it covers a whole lot of territory and a whole lot of people! When I decided to write a family saga, I took the easy way out. Writing about the rule of the kan Ingans of the Emeraunt Galaxy, I decided to tell only the stories about the beginning and end of that particular reign. My series, The Chronicles of Riven the Heretic (Bloodseek, Blood Curse, A Singing in the Blood, and Barbarian Blood Royal) recorded their origins. My series, the kan Ingan Archives, told of their scandal-laden and inglorious end thirty-one hundred years later. The second series didn't start out as a series, but--as usual with characters with whom I have dealings more than once--Aric kan Ingan and his Black Shield friends yanked the book out of my hot little hands, and, in their superiorly militant way, took over. If they'd let me handle things, the story might have ended differently; then again, knowing my penchant for Unhappily-Ever-After endings, perhaps not!

Suffice it to say, writing a family saga isn't easy. Whatever is said in the original book has to be maintained in all the others. It can't be changed unless there's a very good reason. If a character is taken on an ocean journey by his father and he's five-years-old at that time, you can't have another character state dogmatically in another book that he was seven when it happened. Don't think some eagle-eyed little nit-picker of a reader won't catch it and promptly fire off an e-mail to your website, pointing this out. (I know; I'm guilty of doing just that.) Same with spellings. A character's name has to be spelled the same way throughout; if it's italicized in one book, keep it consistently italicized in all of them. A person's character may change, his faith and his philosophy may be converted--indeed, that's the stuff stories are made of because they involve conflict--but unless you state specifically there's hair dye or colored contacts involved, make certain his blond hair stays blond and his brown eyes brown. (Of course if it's science fiction, you can change his appearance with impunity.) I always think of Stephen King's example when he was writing Christine: A specific make of car drove into an alley, a different make of car came out. I did that once myself. Not with cars, but I had a character who was blond only to suddenly become a brunet without explanation (or the use of Clairol for Men.) Thank Goodness for the delete/replace button!

Family sagas are a lot of work because you have to keep track not only of the characters' names and physical appearances, but also of their ages, especially if each novel encompasses a number of years. Sometimes it's easier to make a chronological chart, a family tree or spreadsheet with all the relationships, ages, etc., so it can be referred to from time to time. In Blood Sin, the main character, Aric, goes from age twenty to thirty; the second novel (tentatively titles Sinner's Exile) opens ten years later and covers five years of his life. In the third novel, at the age of 46, Aric returns to Arcanis. When Aric left his home, the woman he will eventually marry was six-years-old. When he meets her again in the third book, she's twenty-two, and his decision to marry her scandalizes his friends because he's now twice her age. (They consider he's having an Arcanian mid-life crisis.) Age plays a very important part in these stories so I had to keep close tabs on how old everyone was and when.


And what is all this leading to? Haven't you guessed by now? To the promo for my new book, of course! Blood Sin, the story of a man who falls in love with the wrong woman. (Don't they all?) A man who was destined to be the most powerful person in the galaxy. A man whose anger--or benefice--would make worlds tremble. And then that winged troublemaker Cupid skewered him with one of those pesky little darts. Instead of gaining a throne, he became a man accused of committing a crime, a man unable to prove himself innocent because to do so would reveal he had committed an ever greater one. It's got plenty of love, sex, and violence. A real winner!

Check it out.

Blood Sin is available as an e-book and in print from Leucrota Press.

As I drove from Suwanee to Macon on the way to my first class reunion in many years, I wondered I could really expect. Would anyone remember me? I was a bit of a nerd when we still called ourselves squares and basically loners. (HINT: I graduated in 1961, shortly after the Russians sent a dog in space in Sputnik and before the US sent men to the moon. There were kids who were athletes, cheerleaders, and other VIPs. I tended to be in none of those groups.

I haven't made it to many of my high school class reunions. For some I was out of the state and for others I was working with my "ex", photographing weddings.

A couple of weeks ago I headed down to Macon, Georgia from Atlanta for my first high school reunion in probably ten years. It was time to reconnect with my old classmates from 1961. Friday evening we met at the old Capital Theatre in downtown Macon.

I need not have worried. I'm no longer shy but I was glad I had reconnected with
a few of my older classmates on

The hot sultry weather was no big surprise usher in August.

FYI. Our public high schools in Macon weren't co-ed until years after I graduated. Macon
held out long after all other school systems in the South.

We laughed and had fun waiting in line, even in the sweltering heat. It had rained earlier, turning the heat muggy - good for skin, bad for some hair styles.

In a crush people I managed to find some of my old classmates, eating Fincher's Barbeque and Nu-Way hot dogs, with slaw, chips, and all the fixin's for both. As an aside, I'd packed Alka Seltzer and other antacids. I actually didn't need them, though I ate my share of the spicy foods.

See, I wasn't kidding. Fincher's Drive-in was a popular hangout for teens and college students.The place is an institution in Macon and has served the best barbecue and Brunswick stew in the world. Families enjoyed an occasional trip to there to eat in or for takeout.

For a trip down Memory Lane some of us loaded in a "bus" and revisited Fincher's and our youth. This bus in no way resembles the yellow Blue Bird buses we used back in those years. Tthough I didn't make bus trips to ballgames with the cheerleaders and the football players, I had memories of chorus trips and singing and laughing with the girls.

The girls in the back of the bus.
The girls in the back of the bus


Some of us met Saturday for lunch.
Some of us met Saturday for lunch.


And then we partied Saturday night!


And we visited and caught up.


I have more photos in my Facebook albums.

*Closeup of the Facial Image as it appears to the eye (right) and on a photographic negative (left)

Controversy has raged for centuries over the validity of the Shroud of Turin. In a short post, I can only touch on the trove of information surrounding this sacred Christian relic, but I encourage you to learn more on your own.

Some of you may ask, ‘what is the shroud of Turin?’

It’s a 14 ft. long burial cloth with the image of a man on the linen who suffered a violent death by crucifixion. Many believe the image is that of Jesus Christ embedded on the cloth by the vast energy released at the moment of his resurrection. Others regard it as an elaborate forgery.

I recently rented the documentary from Netflix on Jesus And The Shroud of Turin; I’d become acquainted with the shroud years ago through the avid interest of a friend, but like many, I thought it was a hoax. However, after watching this film and reviving my curiosity, I'm rethinking my position. Whether or nor the film and new evidence that has come to light makes a believer of you, the history of the shroud is fascinating.

For instance, The Knights Templar, the religious order that existed for two centuries during the Crusades in the Middle Ages, took care of the cloth for more than a hundred years and kept it from falling into the hands of heretical groups that might have destroyed it. Anything having to do with these Knights interests me.

There are many online sites devoted to the history and ongoing research of the Shroud. The main one seems to be:
To quote from The Shroud Website: ‘Modern science has completed hundreds of thousands of hours of detailed study and intense research on the Shroud. It is, in fact, the single most studied artifact in human history, and we know more about it today than we ever have before. And yet, the controversy still rages…we believe that if you have access to the facts, you can make up your own mind about the Shroud.’

From Wikipedia: The image on the shroud is much clearer in a black-and-white negative than in its natural sepia color. The striking negative image was first observed on the evening of May 28, 1898, on the reverse photographic plate of amateur photographer Secondo Pia, who was allowed to photograph it while it was being exhibited in the Turin Cathedral. According to Pia, he almost dropped and broke the photographic plate from the shock of seeing an image of a person on it.’

I thought this negative image that showed up in the photograph is one of the most remarkable aspects of the shroud.
This shroud site says, ‘New Information: A team of nine scientists at the Los Alamos National Laboratory has confirmed that the carbon dating of the Shroud of Turin is wrong. See the Fact Check and Carbon Dating Tabs at Shroud of Turin Blog.

That the original carbon dating may be wrong is an extremely important development because it had placed the shroud in the Middle Ages. Now, it seems the cloth may actually date back to the time of Christ.

To quote the Shroud of Turin Blog:
'Is it real?
Scientifically, we don't know the age of the Shroud of Turin. However, we do know it is at least twice as old as the now discredited carbon 14 date. As for the images, we have no idea how they are formed. But they were not made by any known artistic method.

The Atheist, the skeptic, the rationalist must accept the scientific facts just as any Christian should. To deny that the shroud is authentic requires a leap of faith. So does affirmation. But the evidence suggests that it is a late-Second Temple era burial shroud of a crucifixion victim. From that, much can be inferred.
Mita Jain is quoted on the blog as saying, “There has been a lot of debate about whether this was actually the cloth, in which Jesus was buried, or if it was someone else or perhaps if it’s just a hoax. Carbon 14 dating was done to verify the time of the linen cloth, and it was found that the cloth was from Middle Ages, ie about 1300 years after Jesus’s death. This dampened the believers’ spirit. But a follow up research, proved that the sample cloth chosen initially was a bad one because the cloth had been repaired in Middle Ages. The cloth also survived fire, and hence could have radiocarbon content indicating towards wrong age.
Some people still believe that Turin’s shroud is a proof of Jesus’s sacrifice for the mankind. The others do not.

I believe that it doesn’t matter whether the shroud is actual or not. Even if it’s not real, if it can bring some kindness and peace to today’s human race, then there is no harm believing in it. If it can bring out goodness in today’s world, then there is no harm worshipping it. The power of belief and faith can do wonders. After all, isn’t this what religion is all about?”

In conclusion, all I can say is that the shroud is amazing. I got goosebumps looking at that picture. I believe it may be real, but my faith is not dependent on the shroud being genuine.

This link takes you to a page where you can click on any part of the image of the shroud and it will allow you a closer examination.

Posted by Beth Trissel

“Is their way of living different from ours?”

That's the question many people asked me when I came back from a trip to Sydney.

Yes, the Aussies drive on the left of the road! I gasped every time our car took a turn, thinking we were going to hit the incoming traffic.

At first sight, Sydney may look like an American city. From New York, the Statue of Liberty greets the visitors. In Sydney, the Opera House is the world-known landmark. Other than that, the downtown big hotels, high-rises, MacDonald’s are everywhere.

The differences are not in the big cities appearances, but in the way the Aussies live. I noticed they were more laid-back. Work is not the main goal of their lives as it is for us. We were invited to dinner at three clubs. Apparently, it’s common practice to be members of clubs where you can enjoy drinks or dinner, play at the mini-casino, watch a show or a movie, or dance on a Saturday night. I never heard of similar clubs in the U.S.

In Sydney, the winter temperature is mild. Most Aussie houses don’t have heating or air-conditioning. If it’s too cold in winter, they use electrical heaters in the room where they sit. Remember that their winter months are June, July and August. I saw the laundry drying on ropes in the backyard. No dryer. They consider the sun and wind a healthier way to dry the laundry.

Food and clothes are more expensive than in the U.S. But the people I met dressed quite elegantly, spend a lot on their clothes and often eat out. Gasoline is outrageously expensive, $ 4/ gallon. Jewelry and luxury items, silver, gold, diamond, are almost twice as expensive as in the U.S. So how do the Aussies manage to live well, better than we do?

They have kangaroo, koala bear, austrich, and an awfully ugly pig-like animal (can't remember it's name).

And the Botanical Garden have the weirdest trees with swollen trunks.

I tasted and loved the Tim-Tam (chocolate wafers), vegemite (low-calorie yeast spread you eat on a buttered toast), Pavlova (a delicious almond and meringue cake).

The Aussies I met are more relaxed than my American compatriots. They don’t try to save for the future. They don’t need to. Their social security (I can’t remember what they call it) is by far better than ours. They have great health care plan, better fringe benefits, long maternity leaves, fantastic hospitals, easier public transportations (we used the train to downtown twice).

Mona Risk's BABIES IN THE BARGAIN is medical romance in the genre of ER and Gray's Anatomy and a bestselling romance at The Wild Rose Press. Also selling at, Fictionwise, Barnes&Noble,...