"Ly adverbs are bad! Off with their heads!" The self-appointed writing style police bellow. (I could have said yell loudly and watched the critters scream and have fits.)

"Wait," I cry. "Not all words ending in ly are adverbs. " (Have you even had anyone go through your writing and cross out all ly words?)

The glower of the" words we can use" rule makers makes me shiver.

"Lonely is an adjective. Lovely and shapely are adjectives. Adjectives are good, aren't they?" I ask.

"NO!" the style police insist. We must kill ly adverbs. Since some people can't tell their adverbs from their adjectives, we'll kill them all! (the words, not the people)(Hmmm, )

Wait just a minute. We have adverbs and adjectives for a reason. I do feel overuse of anything can weaken writing, as too much salt or garlic can ruin a great sauce.

So, if you realize you have used too many ly adverbs, you might want to replace some of them.

Look below for ways I'd suggest.

He ran angrily from the room .


He stormed from the room.

Don't use an adverb when the meaning is clear without it.

He yelled resentfully. If the resentment is clear, you don't need the adverb.

See if some of the adverbs should be adjectives.

Resentful, he yelled.
Angry, he ran from the room.

He spoke quietly.
could be
He whispered.

Suddenly could be omitted or become in an instant.

Shaking, she waited for Buck to pass her hiding place.

So, when you are polishing or editing your writing, consider this.
If you have a lot of ly adverbs, you probably don't need them all.
Not all verbs need an adverb.
Vary sentence structure, but be careful to make sure your modifiers modify something in the sentence.

If you didn't read the Friday's post, do it now and comment, please.

I recently judged another contest, so today seemed like a good day to post some reminders to everyone who enters contests or sends out submissions.

If you enter contests you are competing with experienced writers, many of whom know how to win. Don't shoot yourself in the foot by sending in an entry doomed to score low.

If you enter contests you will likely disagree with something the judge says or the way he/she says it. Fuss, curse, throw things, call a friend or critique partner and whine, or whatever, but don't stop reading the comments or notations. Note any comments on the backs of the pages, too. Don't allow negative or insensitive comments to keep you from reading the good stuff.

1. Get a copy of the score sheet and read it carefully. Make sure you have the elements on that score sheet covered in the number of pages allowed. Make sure the category would not be in question, that you have shown the judge the elements. Any reader should know if this book will meet reader expectations. Don't make me assume you will get to the paranormal or suspense part, etc.

As a reader I'll keep reading for more pages than the contest maximum, but I don't have that option as a judge. Even a one-page synopsis must tell me if I should expect a murder, a ghost, or that we're in another world, or whatever.

2. Characters are pesky and sometimes hide things from us when we want to make our readers love them. Look at the questions about characterization of the hero, or heroine, or villain, or protagonist, or antagonist. Note the development questions and make sure you give insight that lets me know those characters. If you haven't read about characterization, look at past issues of RWR (Romance Writer's Report) or grab back issues of Writer's Digest for articles. I won't attempt to handle that area here, but you must remember that judges are required to consider how well you develop main characters.

Make sure I know which characters are the main ones. I read several entries with characters I enjoyed but didn't see mentioned in the synopsis. If you include "kill-off" characters in a prologue, ask yourself if they should be in the meager 10, 20, or so pages you have to hook me here.

3. Make the most of your allotted pages. Avoid paragraphs with a single word on the last line. That line should be filled with information you want me to have. Don't give me a page with three or four lines and lots of white space. Readers like white space in books, but you need all the lines on every page for your entry. Tell me as much of your story as possible, especially if there is an awesome line or an exciting scene on the next page after the maximum for an entry.

Edit those words that do nothing but take up space. Few "thats" or "justs" serve a purpose. Have you let your love of words get in the way of telling the story? Not every noun requires an adjective. Use those modifying words I need for clarity.

Example: The tall, dark, bearded man strolled slowly down the rutted gravel drive toward the dilapidated, haunted, gray stucco mansion occupying a small space in the center of an overgrown, ten acre estate near the rocky coast line rife with ship wreckage.

How many of those details do you remember after reading that sentence? Not many, unless you look back over it. Choose details I need now as a reader. Emphasize details that make a point rather than all the details you can find. Make your sentences flow, but don't flow past the point you want to make.

Play with the example above to change the emphasis by omitting some words that describe. Would you use both strolled and slowly when one usually strolls slowly. Are you more concerned that the house is dilapidated or haunted? Is the color important here? Would the area around a dilapidated house be overgrown, anyway? Do we need to know about the rocky coastline or the ship wreckage at this point?

Example: Angry waves crashed on the sandy shore.
What kind of waves crash? I would assume they are angry, and if I needed to clear a line for more information, I'd omit "angry". Is there significance in the fact that the shore is sandy? If not, I'd omit that word, too.
Qualifiers are seldom needed.

Example: They gathered some strawberries. "Some" is so vague and unnecessary, as is the "so" I used.

Example: John was very angry. If you need more than angry, go for a stronger adjective, like livid, or incensed, or one suitable for the character.
Or even better, Anger consumed John as he clenched fists, wishing he could hit something. Or John wanted to smash something. Do we know he's angry?

Example: The house looked like some kind of shoe. The house looked like a shoe. The house resembled a shoe.
Watch the use of vague pronouns: it, they, them, some, or this, somebody.

Example: It makes me sad to see her alone. Better, seeing her alone saddens me.

When characters speak, they usually ask or say. If you want me to laugh, have a contemporary character "query" instead of ask a question. Or have someone "grind out" or "hiss" words that don't have S sounds. Try laughing the dialogue the character laughs, or barks, or growls. Most of the time "said" or "asked" is sufficient and invisible. "Remonstrated" isn't, and anything one remonstrates shouldn't need the reinforcement of that word. Words like "scolded", "commanded", "demanded", "droned", "muttered", "groaned" don't grab a reader's attention, while "ground out" or "spat" will, unless the words are spitable or sound like they've been ground.

4. Why do grammar and punctuation matter in a novel? Because words and the way we group them are our tools. You need tools for building a boat, preparing a meal, doctoring a wound, killing a bear, repairing a car, making a dress, or whatever.

Tell a story using the wrong medication for an illness or the wrong instrument to perform an operation and you WILL hear about that. Use the wrong adhesive to seal parts of a boat and it won't float. Shoot a bear with a BB gun and see how long that will stop the bear. Kill a fly with a hammer and clean up the mess. Combine the wrong chemicals and …

We learn what we need or what we feel we will need. If you missed out on the grammar lessons, now is a good time to refresh your memory.

Sentence Fragments: When you begin a group of words with a capital letter, I assume the thought ends when I see an end mark, a ., or?, or ! That should indicate a complete thought, a subject and verb, - who or what did which action.

Birds fly. 2 words, but Birds is the who or what, and fly is what happens.
Lovely large birds. More words there, but nothing happens.
In the shade of the bent palm tree. What happens? Nothing.
After the books are repaired. Weren't you waiting for me to complete that?
Running the length of the pool. Who does what?

There are times when a sentence fragment works effectively. In an action scene and in dialogue, or internal dialogue, sentence fragments might move things along more quickly than complete sentences.

Example: His warnings echoed in my head. "Hide little girl. I'll still find you."
Where? Oh, God, where? Running, tripping over roots. I can't hide from him. He'll find me. Branches scrap my skin and I cry. No more, please, no more!
Would this have worked better if I had used all complete sentences? Why slow the reader with more words here? Get inside the victim's head.
Use fragments for effect and use them judiciously.

5. Misplaced modifiers.
Example: Looking more handsome than I expected, I wanted him. "Looking more handsome than I expected" is in the wrong place. Such a phrase should modify the subject, "I".
Better: Looking more handsome than I expected, he set my pulse racing. "Looking …" modifies "he".

Example: I saw cows flying across the field. Or Flying
across the field, I saw cows.
Better. Who or what was flying?
Sometimes there's a comma missing. Sometimes you need to rearrange the sentence, sometimes you need to reword the sentence.

Nouns of address.
Example: "Well, now, Mr. Johnson, what have we here? (Mr. Johnson is the noun of address.)
Please, Bob, don't shout. (Bob is the noun of address.)
Child, I've missed you. (Child is the noun of address.)
I won't go with you, jerk. (Jerk is the noun of address.)

Using the correct verb tenses is important, as is the subject-verb agreement, and using the correct form of pronouns. There we have three whole lessons best handled by studying grammar books or web sites on grammar. The same is true of words often confused for each other, like passed and past or too, to, and two or lie and lay, set and sat and more.

Verbs of being (is, am, are, was, were, be, been, being) are not nasty critters, any more than using passive voice makes you a bad writer. However, if you write a lot with being verbs, you miss a chance to put more punch into your writing.

Example: He was the slowest boy in the class.
Stronger: He finished last in every race.
By the time he reached the table, there were no cookies left. You might reword to take out "were".

Active and Passive Voice.
John threw the ball. (Active voice) John, the subject, threw the ball. He acted.
The ball was thrown across the room. (Passive voice) Ball, the subject, didn't do anything. It received the action of the verb thrown.
The ball hit John. (Active voice) Ball, the subject, acted.

6. Make me feel what the characters feel.

Sally paused on the threshold of her room. Cold, the room seemed colder than the hall behind her. That couldn't be, yet she rubbed her arms to chase away the chill. When a whiff of gardenia perfumed the air around Sally, her stomach flipped. Tears stung her eyes. Mama loved Gardenias.
You could underline the last sentence to show direct thought (the words the character would say in dialogue).
If you use a villain's point of view, make us feel what he feels, anger, frustration, pleasure, sexual release, satisfaction, love, or obsession.
Use emotion packed words.

7. POV refers to Point of view. With whom are we to identify in a scene? In whose head are we? Choose a character and show us what that character sees and feels. When you switch back and forth in a sentence, or even a paragraph, you might loose your reader. You will certainly bug most contest judges. If you tend to use more than one point of view in a scene, change that for a contest or risk losing points.
Some authors have web sites with sections devoted to grammar, story elements, and more. (The subject is you, understood as in most commands or instructions.) Check as many as you can and take what you can use. I'll eventually have my own writer's help pages.
Feel free to send me questions about comments you see often on your work.
Keep learning and growing and choose the contest which best fits your stories and style. 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.

If you read this to the end, you are to be congratulated and deserve a reward. Go eat something rich and flavorful and think about me while you please your senses.
We all have our pet peeves, like mine about using "was going to" for future tense.
He wasn't going to take it anymore.
He wouldn't take it any more sounds stronger to me.
Or the weird things we do with forms of the verb to get.
I have more, of course!

Do you have a question or a pet peeve?

I am still basking in the glow of my trip to Egypt.

Let me take you to the Land of The Pharaohs. The old—or maybe young--king just died. His son, the new pharaoh will have to marry his sister who carries the royal blood. Men don’t. His first duty is to give her an heir and a daughter (think royal blood). As important in the line of duty, is to start thinking of his afterlife and build a temple to the gods and a tomb for himself.

The vizir, chief stonemason and architect choose a site. The Valley of the Kings is a great site for a royal tomb. Pharaoh approves. Construction begins by the removal of the surface materials to reach the bedrock. Stone cutters cut the entrance doorway, passages, and chambers. They use copper or bronze chisels struck by wooden mallets. The walls are polished with stones. The surface is given a thin layer of plaster, and then draftsmen sketch outlines of figures and representations in red paint. Next come the sculptors and painters to fill in the background and designs.

The reflected sunlight was used to light the tomb near the entrance. Candles and oil lamps illuminated the depth of the tomb. The walls are decorated with scenes describing the journey of the deceased king with the sun god sailing through the Underworld at night in a boat.

There are three steps for the embalming process of the deceased king:
1- Removal of the brain through the nostril. {Yuck}
2- Extraction of the viscera through an incision in the flank.
3- Anointing the interior of the body and reclosing it.

Then the corpse is covered with natron ( salt) cleaned, dried and wrapped in several layers of linen like a bandage. Jewelry and amulets are put under the wrapping. The eyes are filled with plugs of material and the nostrils closed with resin. And there you have a beautiful mummy to last you 4000 years!!!

The royal mummies have their arms extended at their sides, or placed across the chest.

If you like to travel and love to read, come and enjoy my international romances. I will take you around the world through stories that simmer with emotion and sizzle with heat~

BABIES IN THE BARGAIN, winner of 2009 BEST contemporary romance at READERS FAVORITE and 2009 BEST ROMANCE NOVEL at Preditors & Editors Readers Poll.
Rx For Trust: 5 stars at Readers Favorite.

Sadness CommentsOn

Animation Image 325516
e day I got up and had no where to go. I had just left my job and I thought I'd be really happy about it. But, I felt as if I was in a place where I had no way to use my brain. I was kinda lost. What was my purpose now? I was purposeless!
Photos CommentsI stood on a bridge with no place to go. I had no goals, no new people, no job, no life, nothing.

For over thirty years I had worked in medical and finally in dental offices. My boss was crazy in my last job. That's a book in itself. He was totally inconsiderate of any one else in the world. He had an abusive nature. The first day I saw a clipping on his desk. He had settled in a case of assult with a former assistant. Ha, I thought try that one me bucko! One time he did, we were outside arguing over the way he treated people. Yes, it's true. He kinda got in my face and I shoved him, he hit the door behind him and had a look of shock on his face. I was sure I could take the little weisel so I said. "Try it, just try it, I'd love to beat the crap outta you."Now those of you who know me, know I am not at all confrontational in a physical way. But the look on his face was worth every second of it. So he always respected me and I never took any nonsense from him. I was always stopping him from something. One day a guy came to the front desk. Apparently his wife had been offended by something the dentist said. So he came in to beat the doctor up. I said to him. "Listen, you have a wife and kids, if you beat him up you will go to jail. I believe in karma, he will get it someday." He thanked me and left.

Guys Comments

This stuff happened every day. Why did I stay? We needed the money. He paid me very, very, well. I hate to say it, but that's why. I like to think I helped people. He did excellent work, he was just born an ass. Yes, the donkey, sorry to offend anyone. Yes, I hated my job, but I couldn't afford not to work there. I paid a high emotional price for it.

Sadness Comments

So here I am at home. Bored and wondering if I had any purpose in life. I don't know why, but something made me start writing again. And I thought maybe, just maybe I could finish one of those stories I started. Then I started to think about where I was happiest. That was on the lake in Vermont. What if one traveled back in time?
There is a saying the old Vermonter's have about the lake. It goes something like this:
Storm over Lake Champlain by robswanvt.
The wind she blow on Lake Champlain, the wind she blow some more.
If you do not want to drown, you'd best to stay on shore.

Landscapes CommentsRomantic Comments
I always loved it there and I started to imagine. What if?
Now we have no children, not for want of trying. I felt like a failure, I had no purpose, no special talent. I could always sing, played the guitar, made stained glass pieces, painted, and every other thing I tried. I was always okay but never excelled. I wanted to excel, I wanted to leave my mark behind somehow. Then I got to thinking, someday someone will read my book, maybe ten years from now, and I would be remembered. I could excel, I could publish a book. I'd write a time travel romance novel. I musta read thousands of them. I knew I could write fairly well, but could I do it? Could I write a romance about life over a hundred years ago. Would anybody care?

Elderly CommentsSo I wrote a book. Ha, at least I thought I did. Then I heard about critiquing and suddenly realized I had a lot to learn. So I read everything I could and I sucked it all in. The I wrote some more. Now I had the idea, well basically anyways. I'm still learning every day.
The day I got offered a contract, I could not believe it. I still don't, pinch me so I can wake up. My skepticism just wouldn't let me enjoy the moment. When would they take it all back. And then I got my book in the mail. I opened the box and there it was. It had my name on it.

I was so thrilled. Here in front of me was my own book.

I didn't believe it. It wasn't real still to me. While others were doing the dance of joy, I was doing the, no one will like it. Fear reared it's ugly head again. I had to fight it back. The friends I have in the Florida Romance Writers, The Pink Fuzzy Slipper Writers, The Author Roast and Toast and the other Wild Rose Press authors, all helped me to find the courage to promote.

So here I am at a book signing with best selling author Traci Hall. Gosh I think I've come a long, long, way. And I'm still going! I am hoping to get a contract for my second book very soon.
It just proves to me that learning not to quit is the only way to make it.

Many years ago, I was intrigued by a TV show called Beauty and the Beast. In homage, I wrote my own spin on that story: The Adventures of Sinbad. My Beast isn’t simply a man who by some quirk of birth looks like a lion. He is a lion, a native of Felida where the inhabitants evolved from a feline species instead of simians. Sinbad’s Last Voyage was published in 2007, with Sinbad’s Wife, the story of his courtship and winning of his Beauty, Andrea Talltrees, published the following year.

My Beast is Sinbad sh’en Singh was a smuggler, a man wanted on twelve worlds of the United Federation, with more than a million Credit bounty on his head. That was all right with Sin. He had because he intended to thumb his nose at the TUF for as long as he could, and then he met a little Terran named Andrea Talltrees and got shot right out of orbit…in flames.

His Beauty is Andi, a feisty little woman, raised by the Navajos after her father is killed in the Terro-Felidan War and her mother dies of a broken heart. When her husband is accused of being a spy in yet another war and is arrested, she doesn’t just sit around. She goes to the one person her godfather suggests might help…a certain Felidan smuggler who hates Terran women almost as much as he hates the Federation…

…And that’s the way they met, Andi and Sin seeking her husband and trying desperately not to fall in love with each other. It all ends mostly happily. Andi’s husband Tran turns out to be really a spy and he already has a wife, so Andi’s free to marry Sin, even though he does have only a few months to live. He manages to last past the wedding ceremony, only to collapse into a coma, during which time Andi is threatened once more by an escaped Tran and placed in jeopardy by a lecherous doctor who refuses to save her new husband’s life unless she becomes his mistress. Still, once again, Sin survives, rescuing his beloved, is pardoned by the Federation, and this time, takes Andi to his home planet, along with their assorted offspring—his, hers, and theirs—to live happily after, or at least until Volume 3.

In the third book in the series, Sinbad’s Pride, more problems arise. Re-established as his grandfather’s Pride Heir, Sin has found a way to begin smuggling again, and this time, he’s involving the entire planet in his operation. To Andi’s dismay, everyone goes along with his scheme when he explains that because of a loophole in the Treaty made with the UTF after the war, the Felidan clans can’t be prosecuted. More problems, this time of a marital nature, erupt when participating Pride leaders want an affiliation through marriage, and Sin’s grandfather accepts the offered females in his grandson’s name. Perhaps Sin has finally outsmarted himself, for now he finds himself with not one but two—count ’em, two—concubines, and a wife who’s none too happy with the fact.

Into the mix is thrown Kas sh’en Singh, Sin’s physician cousin, suddenly released from being his grandfather’s heir by Sin’s reappearance and now free to live his own life, and live it he does…traveling to Terra to represent his cousin before the Brotherhood of Dismas in an attempt to get back Sin’s territories, and living it up with Saydee, the socializer from the Asteroid Cantina. That Saydee used to be Sin’s old girlfriend or that the smuggler who received the territories is going to give them a fight before relinquishing them is only a minor problem--or so they think.

In the meantime, Sinbad's son Adam and Andi's son Cash are growing up, becoming men and facing choices leading to happiness for one and disaster for the other, and Sin has to be there for both of them while guiding Felida through its tentative steps in becoming a first class planet again. Through it all, he attempts to assure Andi that no matter how many concubines he has, she’s the only female who owns his heart, or will put up with him.

Sinbad’s Pride was released by Double Dragon Publication last weekend. It’s available as an e-book and in print. It's also available from amazon.com.

You know what I love about THE PINK FUZZY SLIPPER WRITER’S Blog? The diversity of the posts. Even before I’d become a regular contributor, I’d stop by (often) and not only read the blog of the day but also skimmed ones that I missed. Life does get in the way. Quick examples: Because of Joanne’s Deals of the day, I’ve picked up bargains I didn’t know were out there. Because of Beth’s beautiful posts, I’ve learned America's history, gardening facts, and I bought the perfect Christmas presents this past season (BURT’s BEE BALM) for my daughter and DIL’s. (They love them, Beth). Mona has taken me to exotic places. Ones I can only dream about visiting. Mary R’s blogs make me chuckle and we all need to remember to laugh. All the PFS posts are awesome and have taught me so much about the world I live in and the craft of which I’m a student; writing.

So, in keeping with the multiplicity of the blog, I’m writing about my weekend plans and sharing a few great recipes. If you’re following me, you’re probably not only a writer or reader, but also a busy woman. Wait! Is there another kind of woman? I think not. Anyway, anything that makes my life easier I gobble up. I hope you enjoy both the post and the dishes. WINK.

There is something magical about the word weekend. Just saying it makes me want to jump up from my chair, fist in air and yell, “I’m so ready.” The feeling of delight probably stems from my childhood school days. No more math books. No more teachers. No more dirty looks because I won’t put the fiction book aside. Is it the same for you?

As Friday afternoon rolls around, I always start to plan my weekend, making a list of chores I want to tackle and pleasures I want to partake in. If you’re like me, the items on your chore list out numbers the things you really want to do, like kick up your feet, read and relax.

What is not on either list, are meals. It’s a given you’ll have to make them. After all the family needs to eat, right? I actually hate the question what is for breakfast, lunch or dinner. I do. Really. So knowing this, if I want to enjoy my weekend, I plan my meals out ahead of time and head to the market. It’s one less thing I need to think about. So this weekend my DH and I will be enjoying the following recipes and I thought you might like to try them too.

Green Pepper, Cheese And Bacon Omelet

2 eggs , 1/2 green pepper, cleaned of seeds and cut into pieces , 2 slices of bacon also cut into bite size, 1 tablespoon butter and Seasonings to taste

Separate 2 eggs. Beat yolks. Beats egg whites until stiff. Cook bacon and green pepper over med heat with part of the butter in a large frying pan. Until bacon is browned. Remove from frying pan and mix with beaten yolks eggs. Fold in egg whites. Add rest of butter to pan and then the mixture. Flip. Add cheese and fold.

Honey-Rosemary Stuffed Pork Chops
This recipe is from McCormick. It’s delicious. www.mccormick.com/Recipes

Makes 4 servings. Prep Time: 20 minutes Cook Time: 25 minutes
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1/2 cup chopped red onion
1 1/2 cups chopped Granny Smith apples
3 tablespoons honey, divided
2 tablespoons toasted sliced almonds
2 teaspoons McCormick® Rosemary Leaves, finely crushed, divided
1/2 teaspoon cider vinegar
1/2 teaspoon salt, divided
1/4 teaspoon McCormick® Garlic Powder
4 boneless center-cut pork chops, 1-inch thick (about 1 pound)
1/4 teaspoon McCormick® Black Pepper, Ground
1/2 cup reduced sodium chicken broth

1. Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in large skillet on medium heat. Add onion; cook and stir 5 minutes. Add apples; cook and stir 5 minutes longer or until slightly softened. Spoon mixture into small bowl. Add 1 tablespoon of the honey, almonds, 1 teaspoon of the rosemary, vinegar, 1/4 teaspoon of the salt and garlic powder; mix well.
2. Cut a horizontal slit in center of each pork chop to form a pocket. Spoon 1/4 cup of the apple mixture into each pocket. Secure with toothpicks. Mix remaining 1 teaspoon rosemary, remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt and pepper. Coat pork chops evenly on both sides with rosemary mixture.
3. Heat remaining 1 tablespoon oil in same skillet on medium-high heat. Add pork chops; cook 4 to 5 minutes on each side or until browned. Mix broth and remaining 2 tablespoons honey until well blended. Stir into skillet. Cook 5 minutes longer or until pork is desired doneness. Remove pork chops from skillet; keep warm. Cook mixture in skillet 3 minutes longer or until reduced by half. Remove toothpicks from pork chops. Serve pork with sauce mixture.

Molasses Banana French Toast

1 large Egg, 2 Tablespoons of milk, 1 Tablespoons molasses, 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract, 2 slices of Wheat bread, 1 pad of butter, 1 Banana
Beat together the eggs, milk and vanilla in a bowl until smooth. Dip the wheat bread slices in the batter until coated on all sides.
Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Spray with touch of PAM. Place half of the bread slices into the pan, and cook until golden brown on each side, about 3 minutes per side. Place on plate cover with sliced Banana and dizlle syrup on top. The sweetness of the banana makes more molasses unnecessary.

Salsa Chicken

I picked this recipe up somewhere. I can’t remember where. It’s been so long. I’ve tweaked it a little to make it my own. It’s quick (when you’re doing yard work all day that’s important) and oh so yummy. I’m serving with rice and black beans.
Makes 4 servings. Prep Time: 5 minutes Cook Time: 15 minutes
1 package Taco Seasoning Mix, 1 pound boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into large bite size pieces, 2 tablespoons oil, 1 can (14 1/2 ounces) no salt added diced tomatoes, 1/2 cup chopped onion and ¼ chopped green or red pepper, 1/3 cup apricot or peach preserves

Place Seasoning Mix in plastic bag and add chicken and toss, coating the pieces.
Warm oil in large skillet over medium heat. Carefully, add chicken. Cook, stirring often, about five to seven minutes or until chicken is lightly browned.

Stir in the tomatoes and preserves. Reduce heat to low; cover and simmer 10 minutes. I serve over rice with either Black beans or refried beans. Add a little shredded lettuce to the side for visual appeal and crunch.

Favorite Crandchild Stories.

Posted by Mary Marvella | 5:48 PM | , | 9 comments »

Okay, I have no grand children stories but this blog has plenty of grandmas and empty days ahead. If you have a short story to share, make a comment. If you have a longer one, POST IT THIS WEEK! If you aren't comfortable with real names, make them up, the names, I mean. Pam has some really funny ones.

Here are my granddogs, though.

If you delight in fruity minty fragrance and the sight of hummingbirds hovering above brilliant tubular blossoms, try your hand at growing bee balm.  This Native American herb, also called wild bergamot and Monarda, is available in crimson, pink, and purple flowers.  My favorite varieties are the red ones.  They also seem to attract more hummers, at least in my yard, but the other colors are lovely too.

As its name suggests, bee balm is attractive to honey bees. Butterflies also favor it. The red variety is commonly known as Oswego Tea and was used by colonists in place of English Tea after the Boston Tea Party, when they threw the English tea in the harbor to protest the tax imposed on it by the British.

To make a cup of tea, place a tablespoon of fresh or one teaspoon of dried bee balm leaves in a tea strainer or tea spoon and pour one cup of boiling water over it. Allow it to steep for ten minutes and bring the tea out. Sweeten if you wish and enjoy. The leaves can be chopped and added to salads. Flowers can also be used for tea or salads, but in my thinking that’s just wrong.
Bee Balm has a long history of medicinal use by American Indians and settlers, primarily for stomach and bronchial ailments, and is the source for the antiseptic derivative called Thymol. I haven’t used the plant medicinally, but enjoy its beauty and delicious scent in the garden. Hummingbirds appear without fail when my patch of bee balm thrives. Recent droughts have hurt it, so this year I’m setting out yet more starts of this invaluable herb.  *Note I wrote the bulk of this post last spring, so can now report in and say that the plants I set out then made it!  Woo hooo!  But I’d still like more.  I’m quite greedy when it comes to bee balm.

You can grow bee balm in among other plants, but take care that it isn’t crowded out, a mistake I’ve made. And it’s susceptible to mildew, so sunshine and good air circulation are important. Some recommended companion plants for bee balm are: purple coneflower (Echinacea purpurea), black eyed Susan (Rudbeckia), and lavender (Lavandula).
The Old Farmers Almanac (Online site) has a super piece about plants to attract birds and creating a bird friendly habitat.  They say:  “Hummingbirds are happy with nectar from bee balm…The key to attracting hummingbirds to your yard is to plant lots of flowers and provide the habitat that will give them shade, shelter, food, and security.”

For more from this valuable resource visit The Old Farmer’s Almanac and register for their free newsletter.  It’s loaded with valuable info.  The site also offers lovely cookbooks, gardening journals, handy garden snips… for sale.  They have a special Mother’s Day offer on now.  Not to mention that they are often spot on with their weather predictions.

Joanne--Deals of the Day

Posted by Josie | 9:08 AM | 6 comments »

Hello everyone,
It's another day for great savings:

Newegg.com has a lite-on 24 X CD/DVD Burner drive for $20.00 with coupon code: EMCYRNY52

Kohls.com has a Women's Say What? Ruched sweater or cardigan for $3.00 in various colors. Use coupon code NEW6703 for an additional 10% off.

CVS.com is offering $5.00 of of $15.00 with code APRIL5. 15SHIP will give you free shipping. I love CVS!

And, for your spring garden, check out Spring Hill Nursery. Use code 414217 for $20.00 off $20.00. Just pay shipping.

Happy shopping!

Favorite quote: "I can't afford to save any more money."

Joanne--Deals of the Day

Posted by Josie | 8:49 AM | 8 comments »

Hi Everyone,
On this bright Monday morning, I have some great deals to begin a new work week.

First, if you have not checked out the FREE website Southernsavers, now is the time. You don't have to live in the south to take advantage of the great deals posted throughout the day for drugstores, grocery stores, and Target.

Avon.com is offering a 6 piece Bath and Body collection for $9.99, regularly $35.99. For $1.00 extra, add a goldtone wire basket, a $15.00 value for $1.00. Code SPRINGFREE will get your free shipping.

family.1saleaday.com is offering men's Kenneth Cole Reaction sunglasses with pouch. I ordered a pair for my husband for Father's day. Sunglasses are $14.99 with an additional $4.99 for shipping.

Happy shopping!

"I can't afford to save any more money." --Favorite quote

Joanne--Deals of the Day

Posted by Josie | 12:41 PM | 5 comments »

Well, everyone it's that time of the month again--time to save!

Sears.com is offering 30% off energy star appliances through April 24th. It might be the right time to purchase that new washer and dryer.

Newegg.com has a Hannspree, HF207HB LCD monitor for $99.00, regularly $139.00 with free shipping.

Is traveling in your future? Check out Ebags.com For today only, they are offering as their Steal of the Day a professional, deluxe carry-on tote for $19.99, regularly $75.00.

Free is always best. The National Parks service is offering Free admission to 392 National parks from now until April 25th as part of National Parks week. Fire up that grill and lace up your walking shoes.

Happy shopping!

"I can't afford to save any more money." -- Favorite quote

These pics are a photographic collage my daughter Elise took (and some by my husband) of her and my jaunt around the garden, across the meadow, past the pond, and up through the fields to the woods above our farm.

Such an exquisitely beautiful spring day.  Pristine perfection.  Many colored tulips glow like jewels.  Virginia bluebells cover the ground in the dappled shade of the enormous maple tree.  The original plants were a gift from my late grandmother.

Lilacs and flowering crab apples scent the warm air.  Some of the lilacs have been here for half a century.  The jonquils smell wonderful.  Even the earthy fragrance of cows and hay appeals to me, an essential  part of my being.  Find your center place and you will discover what both grounds and inspires you.  For me, it’s the Shenandoah Valley and the mountains…our farm…the garden, the land.  Cherish the earth and it will richly reward you…restore your spirit.

The green meadow spreads, rippling, in the sun.  Elusive meadowlarks trill from the tall grass.  We try, but cannot find the secretive birds.  Their sweet trill beckons from here and then there, always further ahead, or then again from behind.  We are determined to find the singer but finally give up. I once spied a meadowlark perched on a fence post, though not when I was looking for it.  That’s about as high as they fly.  The yellow on its breast was unmistakable.  What a thrill.  They are my favorite song birds.
I love the water birds too.  A type of sandpiper darts around the pond in the low muddy spots and then flies, sounding its funny cry.  There are  a number of them, and the purple martins are back.  Iridescent in the sun.  The swifts and swallows are yet to come, but the pond is glorious.   A frog plops in and we see a string of eggs in the grass at the edge.  Ducks and geese bob over the water glinting in the clear light.

Our farm is the headwaters of an unassuming little creek that flows on through other farms and past the neighboring town, and on, we suppose to the river.   It’s not a grand waterway, but how many of you can claim to live near the headwaters of anything?   So I mention it with some pride. :)
On we wander, back behind our farm, to the remains of an old homestead.  The house burned down years ago but a derelict outbuilding remains with a gnarled fruit tree, wild cherry I think, growing alongside it.  And an ancient barn.  There’s a grassy sort of clearing where the house and yard used to be set in amid lofty, seemingly random, trees.   A large red squirrel lives there now and a startled rabbit.  Lord only knows what else.  I suspect it’s eerie at night.  Maybe even haunted…though during the day everything appears utterly charming.

Then Elise spots the hawk we’ve been on the lookout for.  We are fortunate to photograph the majestic red-tailed bird soaring high overhead, and think he lives in the wooded hills up above the fields.  While he’s on his scouting expedition, the other creatures grow silent.  The wise ones, anyway.  I heard some foolish chatter.
The rose flush of new leaves co-mingle with the many shades of green in the trees.  So many birds call from their branches.  

We seek the songsters, sometimes with luck, sometimes not, but rarely in time to snap their picture.  Red wing black birds call continuously and almost seem to accompany us from place to place.  I’ve never seen so many of them at once.  Must be a sort of bird festival.  They are quite special to me.   Song sparrows sing, a chatty mockingbird, cardinal, possibly horned larks…

Everywhere we gaze, the world is reborn.  Magical.  This is the time to savor the spirit-lifting sights, scents, and sounds.   And remember.

“I do not think I have ever seen anything more beautiful
than the bluebell I have been looking at. I know the beauty of our Lord by it.”
~ Gerald Manley Hopkins

“When bright flowers bloom
Parchment crumbles, my words fade
The pen has dropped …” ~Morpheus

“It is at the edge of a petal that love waits.”
~William Carlos Williams

“In the dooryard fronting an old farm-house near the white-wash’d
Stands the lilac-bush tall-growing with heart-shaped leaves of rich
with many a pointed blossom rising delicate, with the perfume strong I
With every leaf a miracle – and from this bush in the dooryard,
With delicate-color’d blossoms and heart-shaped leaves of rich green,
A sprig with its flower I break.”
~Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass, 1865

Please welcome guest blogger Donna Hatch, who is here today to tell us about pirates (!!) and her new release, The Guise of a Gentleman. Take it away, Donna!

Few words conjure up more dramatic, terrifying, and romantic images than pirates. They captured the imagination of Robert Lewis Stevenson, J.M. Barrie, Walt Disney, and many, many others. I even used pirates in my newest Regency Romance Novel, The Guise of a Gentleman. But what is it, exactly that makes a pirate both the perfect villain, and the perfect hero?

As a kid, one of my favorite rides at Disneyland was "The Pirates of the Caribbean.  I loved Peter Pan, Treasure Island, and any other pirate story I found. The Pirates of the Caribbean movie made millions with fans divided between Captain Jack Sparrow and Will, who pretty much turned pirate to save Elizabeth. When my husband and I were in Las Vegas, we went to the (then) new Treasure Island Hotel which used to (maybe still does) put on a great show outside with a reenactment of the navy battling pirates. When the pirates defeated the navy, everybody cheered.

Are we all a bunch of sociopaths?

Nah. I think it goes back to the bad boy allure. They were non-conformists. They had the courage to buck the system. They wore blousy white shirts instead of those stuffy coats and ugly hats and white powdered wigs. They were totally free to go where ever they pleased and do anything they wanted.  And they had the money to do it, thanks to the plunder they took. In the case of Las Vegas, the pirate captain was hunky and drop dead gorgeous, which never hurts. 

 We think of pirates as swashbuckling hunks who carried big curved swords, although having an eye patch and a parrot on the shoulder never hurts. Not to mention a certain allure in a map with an X that marks the spot to buried booty. Maybe we all secretly wish we could steal from the rich, throw social norms out the window and make our enemies walk the plank.

It's really just a fantasy. Real pirates are nothing like the men in the stories.

I did extensive research for my newest Regency Romance Novel, The Guise of a Gentleman and discovered that pirates were first and foremost sailors. They had a hard life and faced many dangers. They also preyed upon any ship that had the misfortune of crossing their path. Then, they'd go to a nearby port and waste their money. They also often ransacked the town, tortured the men, and ravished the women. And they were notorious slave traders. Not very glamorous, is it?

In my novel, I created a fictional problem of having a lot of out of work sailors and captains of privateering ships now that the Napoleonic War was over. So some turned to piracy and created a pirate ring led by a peer of the realm. In my novel, the hero has to become a pirate in order to infiltrate the ring and expose the leader. After studying real life pirates like Black Beard, Calico Jack, and others, I decided pirates make better villains than heroes. They were for the most part, ruthless and unconscionable. Yet, I still cheered for Jack Sparrow and Will Turner.

So enjoy the fantasy. And "Argh, matey! Don' forgit yer sword!"

The Guise of a Gentleman is available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and The Wild Rose Press

Okay, how to win your free copy (and you have four chances if you do all four):
1. Go to my website, http://www.donnahatch.com, and then find out what is the name of the hero of The Guise of a Gentleman (hint, read the back cover blurb underneath the book cover), then send me an email at donnahatch29@gmail.com, telling me the answer to the question and put "free book" in the subject line.
2. Follow my blog, then send me an email at donnahatch29@gmail.com, telling me you're now following me and put "free book" in the subject line
3. Leave a comment in my blog, www.donnahatch.blogspot.com. Then send me an email at donnahatch29@gmail.com and put “free book” in the subject line.
4. Friend me on Facebook,  (http://www.facebook.com/people/Donna-Hatch/1053967713#!/profile.php?ref=profile&id=1053967713) then send me an email at donnahatch29@gmail.com, telling me you're now my friend on Face book and put "free book" in the subject line.
That’s it!
Remember, for each thing you do, you have another chance to win. Good Luck!!!
Thank you, Donna, for joining us at the Pink Fuzzies. It's been fun!
You can find Donna’s books at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and her website. Donna's fantasy romance, Queen in Exile, is also available at Costco stores across the country and any Deseret Bookstore. The Guise of a Gentleman is also available at www.thewildrosepress.com  Here is the direct link to her book page: http://www.thewildrosepress.com/index.php?main_page=advanced_search_result&search_in_description=1&zenid=08917dd5881d0719ec4a916d602d56d6&keyword=donna+hatch

Writer Cindy Carroll is one busy woman, but she found time to visit us this
week. She writes scripts as well as books and short stories. She teaches
classes, too. (Ask her about them.) Cindy is our fourth blogger talking about
training with law enforcement. She shares her experiences with the Halton
Region Citizen’s Police Academy. She just graduated! Welcome, Cindy

It wasn’t what I expected

It was better. I received the letter in December telling me I was accepted into the Halton
Region Citizens’ Police Academy. I had completely forgotten that I applied because I applied for the September session. A letter came for that one too, saying I didn’t get in but they’d hold onto the application. Sure, I thought. People say that but they never do. Well, they did.

Classes were every week starting January 12. And let me tell you, from the very beginning it was like suspense writer heaven. Almost every unit or bureau was scheduled to talk to us at some point during the 12 weeks of classes. Some of my favourites were the homicide bureau, the intelligence unit and the TRU team (Tactical Rescue Unit).

The classes were invaluable when it came to practical knowledge of things I’d only read about. For instance, a grenade is heavier than it looks.

At least it was to me. The gun we used for target practice was lighter than I thought it would be. It was also way louder and had more kick than I expected. You really do have to exhale and squeeze the trigger slowly until it just goes off. If you think about pulling the trigger you squeeze too fast and you miss your target. The bullet proof vest was also lighter than I expected.

I had my favourite presentations. The intelligence unit officer was awesome. He took us from the beginning of an investigation when they get a call reporting suspicious behaviour right to the arrest. He changed the names and nature of the crime of course. But for that one I took pages and pages of notes.

The one that struck me the most was the crisis negotiator. They’re not called hostage negotiators in Canada because we don’t have a lot of hostage situations. Hollywood usually portrays these people as burnt out, bitter cops. But she was not burnt out, definitely not bitter. She LOVED the job. Got excited by those 2:00 am phone calls summoning her to somewhere in the city to talk someone into not killing themselves and getting help instead. It was also interesting to learn that the crisis negotiating was on top of her regular duties as an officer.

One of the best parts was that it was free. I would have paid to have twelve weeks of access to police personnel, demonstrations, hands on practice, presentations. But it’s part of the community policing initiative they have going on to help citizens better understand what is involved in policing. It gave me lots of information to work with, caused a few breakthroughs in the story I was working on and sparked a few ideas for other stories.

I advise everyone to do a search to see if their city offers a citizen police academy. It can be invaluable to a suspense writer. It can also be a great way to get more involved in your community and understand the police a little better. I already respected them. Now that respect is through the roof.

www.scriptscene.org - Go ahead. Make a scene.

I hope you're enjoying our bloggers this week. All four brave women trained with real life law enforcement agencies. Help me welcome a graduate of the El Paso County Sheriff's Office Citizens Academy. Welcome Donnell Bell, writer and woman with a hair-trigger muse. I'm not talking about a muse with her trigger finger on the hair spraycan trigger, either!

When I started my fiction career, my protagonists consisted of lawyers, politicians bankers and engineers. But I loved mystery suspense so naturally a cop or two always existed on the fringes. Still, I could never bring myself to make my hero a cop. Why?Because even though I’d watched every cop show from Dragnet to the Streets of San Francisco to Hill Street Blues to Law and Order, studied police procedure and bought every Deadly Dose book available, I didn’t know cops. What made them get up every morning or how they thought. And because I didn’t know them, how could I get into the head of one and create a three- dimensional character instead of a paper doll look-alike of one of these famous shows?

So when someone told me that the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office had a Citizens Academy, not only did I enroll, I was the first in line. The secretary handed me the forms saying, “Don’t worry, you have plenty of time.” At that I smiled. She didn’t have a muse sitting on her shoulder arguing the point.

So how did the Citizens Academy help me bring a character from flimsy cardboard to dimensional? It started from the sheriff on down. He started out the six-week session and explained what it was like to be a politician, to answer to the county and its budget constraints, to oversee the massive Criminal Justice Center (e.g. the El Paso County Jail)
and be held accountable. He also talked about personnel, he made us laugh, talking about how deputies can’t drive and how he wished he could take the reverse out of squad cars at times. And then he became serious and discussed the very human component and made us consider the issues we wouldn’t normally consider.

Next came the commanders and the workshops, and again the stereotypes were left at the door. When the Vice commander arrived in his tie-dyed shirt to talk about narcotics, meth labs and undercover work and showed up with a marvelous sense of humor and a twinkle in his eye, he eradicated every preconceived notion I’d ever held.

On television we see the vice cops enter the premises and take the bad guys away. We know there’s often the risk of the lethal bullet. On the other hand, we don’t see the health
risks they take entering these contaminated sites on call outs, or the mental anguish they face when they see what a methamphetamine dealer puts his child through, cooking crystal meth right next to the Frosted Flakes and his teddy bear.

Thanks to the Citizens Academy, I’ll never look at entering a hotel room the same way.
One vice cop said even when he’s on vacation he carries a can of spray starch. When he enters the room he sprays it on the wall. It doesn’t hurt the wall he said, but if the wall turns black, he not only leaves the room, he goes to the front desk and demands his money back then leaves the hotel. Meth not only kills its victims, it leaves a trail of destruction from innocent bystanders, renters, landlords and neighbors. I can’t stress how aware this made me of this cancerous threat to society, or how much I support stiffer laws and penalties of both users and the greedy idiots who make the stuff.

The six weeks covered every department, from computer-aided analysis crime-scene re-enactment, the detective division, guns/shooting range, patrol, the victim’s advocacy,
search and rescue, homeland security/emergency response, internal affairs to a tour of the jail and dispatch. And as I sat through these courses and learned what it took to run this well-oiled machine, I got a glimpse of what made these people tick. One, they were selfless, two they were fearless and three, they didn’t require much sleep or praise.

And the muse sitting on my shoulder went “Aha,” and my first cop protagonist came to life, resulting in a 2007 Golden Heart finalist nomination. Do I recommend the Citizen’s Academy? Heck, yeah. I also recommend taking it a step further. If you have the opportunity to get involved with your local law enforcement, do so. Become a volunteer or even a recruit. That’s what the Citizens Academy’s about, after all. I give you my word; you’ll get more than you’ll ever give back.

Copyright© 2007 Donnell Ann Bell



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Please help me welcome author Melanie Atkins. Here is her bog about working with her local police department.

“Put your hands up! Put your hands up!” three Jackson Police Officers
shouted as theybolted from their patrol cars. Brandishing 9mm Glocks,
they quickly surrounded a darkgreen Acura Legend hidden deep in the
shadows on avacant lot at the corner of Hooker andWillow Streets in
Precinct 2.

The car was occupied by four known prostitutes. All but one
immediately put up their hands. The woman on the front passenger
side stuffed something beneath her seat.

“Get your hands up now,” one of the officers ordered, aiming his
weapon in her direction. This time, the woman obeyed.

One of the officers called dispatch with the car’s tag number.
“Carjacked!” he reported triumphantly. “This one was taken at
gunpoint Saturday in west Jackson.”

He and the other officers ordered the women out of the car,
secured their wrists with plastic tie-wrap cuffs, and separated
them. One was put into the back seat of the cruiser in which I
sat, totally awed by the real-life scenario playing out in front
of me.

The girl started to cry and bang her head on the side window.
“I’m only nineteen. Tell that man to come back over here. I’ll
tell him everything. Everything!”

I’m sure my mouth was wide open, but I didn’t say a word. I
simply sat back and watched the officers search the Acura. One
dug under the front passenger seat and pulled out a brown paper
sack, from which he extracted two small zipper bags. He brought
the packages over to me and illuminated their contents with his

“Crack cocaine,” he said. “And a dime bag of pot—meaning it
cost ten bucks.”

My eyes widened. Having been raised in a vacuum, I’d never seen
real drugs before. The crack rock was smaller than my thumbnail.

The girl in the backseat of the car said, “That ain’t my dope.
No, sir. It ain’t mine. I didn’t have nuthin’ to do with no

A female officer was called to the scene to pat down all four
women, and the male officers searched their purses. No more dope
was found.

After waiting for a tow truck to impound the car, we took the
women downtown to meet detectives with the Violent Crimes Task

This was business as usual for the Precinct 2 officers, but I
was amazed at having seen a real bust first hand. I was there
thanks to the Jackson Police Department’s Citizen’s Police
Academy, which I completed a few summers ago.

In addition to riding along in Precinct 2, I also rode in
Precinct 1—but that evening wasn’t nearly as exciting. My
favorite part was chasing a speeder down Woody Drive--the
irony of which wasn’t lost on me, the queen of the lead foot

The CPA lasted ten evenings, during which we learned about
crime prevention and domestic violence, heard from detectives
in Robbery/Homicide, House Burglary, Auto Theft, Juvenile
Detention, and Narcotics, and visited the Public Safety
Communications Center, where we listened in on police
dispatchers and operators taking 911 calls. We also had a
session on forensics with the Crime Scene Investigation Unit.

My favorite session, other than the Precinct 2 ride along, was
the Saturday morning visit to the pistol range. We had
demonstrations from the Bomb Squad and the Special Weapons and
Tactical Unit (SWAT), and were taught how to handle a Glock 9mm,
JPD’s duty issue weapon. Then we were taken to the range and
were allowed to shoot!

We fired not only the Glock, but also two assault weapons, the
M-4 and a Hechler & Koch MP-5. That was cool. One of the SWAT
guys was really cute, and he helped me fire the M-4. I was a
real pistol-packin’ mama—until the weapon’s Nylon strap caught
on my boob, which was extremely embarrassing. Yet, even with
the hunk's arm around me—I hit the target!

This past fall I participated in another CPA, this one
sponsored by my local sheriff's department. It was similar to
the first, but gave me insight into a different department. And
during that ride-along, the deputy hit 120 mph on I-55
while responding to a call about a 4-wheeler accident. OMG! I've
never gone that fast before.

I now have a greater sense of admiration and respect for the men
and women who face the worst of humanity every day for very
little reward. I recommend that everyone take classes like these,
no matter what you write. It’s a wonderful way to learn more about
law enforcement. My SO is offering another class this summer—it’s
free and open to the public--and I’m considering adding my name to
their sign-up list so I can take it again. This pistol packin’
mama can’t wait to get back to the pistol range.



For our first day with women who trained with law enforcement, please welcome Amy Atwell. Amy is a writer and a motivator. She is a Golden Heart finalist, which will mean more to romance writers than to most folks.

Amy was generous enough to share some of her experiences training with law enforcement. Please make her welcome.

I graduated from my local Civilian Law Enforcement Academy (CLEA) back in 2005. I had recently relocated from California to Florida's First Coast, and I learned about the free CLEA class in my local newspaper. At that time, CLEA was a brand new program offered the St Johns County Sheriff's Office, and the sheriff and his staff did their best to provide the students with every law enforcement experience you can imagine.

As a writer, the class provided great insights to the wide variety of duties covered by law enforcement. I could spend a few weeks here describing things we studied: SWAT operations, bomb squad, K-9, firearms, driving course, county corrections, negotiations and more. Instead, I'm going to discuss two sessions that really opened my eyes.

911 Call Center

My elderly father suffers life-endangering sugar crashes from his diabetes, so I've made a few 911 calls in my day. I know how eagerly someone waits for help to arrive. So, I was filled with questions when six members of our CLEA class visited the 911 Call Center.

The staff of four employees rotated taking and routing calls. Fire and medical emergency calls are routed to the Fire Department's operators. Operators try to quickly identify the needs of the caller and route the nearest help as quickly as possible. Bear in mind, these staffers work 8-12 hour shifts, and the starting annual salary (in my area) is $26K. Operators rarely work longer than 5 years in these high stress roles. One operator we talked to that night had been at her job for 8 years. Think of it: eight years of taking stressful calls, of helping save some lives, and sitting by helplessly unable to help others.

The night we were there, one of the operators took a call from a child who couldn't wake her mom. They dispatched the EMTs immediately. The operator stayed on the line with the little girl, reassuring her that help was coming. We were all hoping for good news, but when the medics arrived, one of them got on the phone to tell 911 that the mother wasn't breathing and had no pulse. They were going to transport the mother to the hospital, but as there was very little hope of reviving her, they didn't want to transport the young girl.

Our 911 operator took over talking with the child while the EMTs prepped to leave with her mother. Meanwhile, the 911 center dispatched a deputy to stay with the child and issued a call to Child Welfare Services. But our 911 operator stayed on the phone with the child even through the deputy arriving, the EMTs leaving, and all the while remained calm and positive. Only we could see the tears streaming down her face.

Talk about unsung heroes. I think a heroine who is a 911 operator would be amazing.

Ride Along

I got to ride along with one of our deputies for three hours one night. First revelation—the amount of technology these men and women have in their vehicles is awe-inspiring. The trunk has all-weather gear, road hazard warning devices (cones & flares), and the equivalent of a filing cabinet with various paperwork and forms for every contingency. The cab of the vehicle is outfitted with GPS mapping technology and radio communications, and a laptop computer fits into a holder by the dashboard. Deputies use this to receive updates and APBs. They can also use the computer to run license tags. This way, if they pull over a vehicle, they can establish if there's a flag in their system about that car. Since deputies rarely travel in teams, this helps the lone officer be better prepared for possible danger.

My evening with the deputy started off slow. I learned about their favorite restaurants, also found out the county has secret gas stations tucked away so all emergency vehicles can stop in and refuel without waiting in line or having to pay. And they do a lot of driving. Our county covers over 2000 square miles.

One radio call changed our evening. The state park staff had locked up its beach parking lot, but there was still a car in the lot. They reported to the sheriff's office, and when they ran the tag and contacted the car owner, the owner reported that a family member who suffered from mental instability had taken the car. This woman had taken the car and left some sort of note about wanting to kill herself.

Before I knew it, we were speeding through the pitch dark along the beach road at over 90 mph (speed limit normally 30). Reaching the state park, we parked by the road. The deputy asked me to stay with the squad car while he walked into the parking lot to check on the vehicle there. Finding it empty, he took his high-powered flashlight and headed down to the water.

To my relief, he returned less than ten minutes later, and he was ushering a woman in her forties who looked a little disheveled but not like she was in imminent danger. He escorted her to the squad car and put her in the back. I took a seat up front, and I was happy for the screen that separated the two halves of the vehicle. She asked me why I'd been arrested and then started to yell at the deputy. He stood outside radioing the hospital to expect us.

We drove her to the emergency room where she was greeted by the staff as an old friend. One nurse confided that they see this woman pretty much whenever she goes off her meds. Fortunately, we were able to sign over responsibility for her to the hospital staff, who said they'd release her to her family when it was appropriate. The deputy was relieved once these papers were signed, and when we got back out to the car, he admitted that if the hospital had refused to admit her, he would have had to take her to the county jail instead. Not what anyone would have wished for.

After that, there wasn't time to patrol neighborhoods. I did get a few tidbits from the deputy while he drove me back to my car. Things like his job really does get crazier during the full moon. Oh, and one of the busiest days of the year for law enforcement? The Sunday of Thanksgiving weekend. He claims it's because families are sick of spending so much time together over the holiday weekend. Lots of domestic calls.

I highly recommend that writers check with their local law enforcement offices to see if a CLEA program is available in your area. Our alumni group still gets together occasionally, and we also act as volunteers. My experience gave me hundreds of tidbits to include in my stories, and I had a blast taking the class and learning so many things first-hand.

Thanks to the Pink Fuzzies for inviting me to participate in this blog week. Great topic, and I salute all of our law enforcement men and women.

Ask her questions!