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Friday’s Odds and Ends

Posted by Maryann on February 24, 2017 |

Here we are at the end of another week. Hope yours has been a good one.

Had to chuckle when I saw this. I remember those times well.

My plan on Monday – looking ahead to a busy week – was to pre-schedule just a fun post for today. Well, as so many plans go, that one went awry.

There will be some fun a bit later in the post – can’t have Friday without some funnies – but I ran across an article by Chris Hedges titled James Baldwin and the Meaning of Whiteness, and I just had to share a bit.

Those of you who have read my books know that I explore issues of racism, especially in the Seasons Mystery Series, so I am always interested in something new on the topic to consider.

Chris starts his article with a review of “I am Not Your Negro,” a new documentary film from Raul Peck, based on an unfinished book by James Baldwin, Remember This House.  This is part of that article, and I do hope you click over and read the rest.

The newly released film powerfully illustrates, through James Baldwin’s prophetic work, that the insanity now gripping the United States is an inevitable consequence of white Americans’ steadfast failure to confront where they came from, who they are and the lies and myths they use to mask past and present crimes. Baldwin’s only equal as a 20th century essayist is George Orwell. If you have not read Baldwin you probably do not fully understand America. Especially now.

History “is not the past,” the film quotes Baldwin as saying. “History is the present. We carry our history with us. To think otherwise is criminal.”

I remember reading two of Baldwin’s books when I was in college,  Nobody Knows my Name and The Fire Next Time. Both gave me insights as to what life was/is like for African Americans and sparked my activism in the Civil Rights Movement. The Fire Next Time examines the consequences of racial injustice, and, back in 1963 when I first read it, I was horrified to find out that people think that a person of color is somehow less of a person.

Sadly, too many people still think that. Maybe I should dust off my copy of The Fire Next Time and pass it around.

Okay, moving on.

FRIDAY FUNNIES

There was a papa mole, a mamma mole, and a baby mole. They lived in a hole out in the country near a farmhouse. Papa mole poked his head out of the hole and said, “Mmmm, I smell sausage!” Mamma mole poked her head outside the hole and said, “Mmmm, I smell pancakes!” Baby mole tried to stick his head outside but couldn’t because of the two bigger moles. Baby mole said, “The only thing I smell is molasses.”

(BTW, those moles are living in my pasture.)

Did you know that dolphins are so smart that within a few weeks of captivity, they can train people to stand on the edge of their pool and throw them fish?

I drove my sister’s guinea pig to the vet this morning. My new golf clubs work great!

Two caged circus lions break free and corner a clown in his dressing room. One lion says to the other, “Forget it, those things taste funny.”

On his first visit to the zoo, a little boy stared at the caged stork for a long time and asked his dad, “Why doesn’t the stork recognize me?”

If con is the opposite of pro, then is Congress the opposite of progress?

A young gay man calls home and tells his Jewish mother that he has decided to go back into the closet because he has met a wonderful girl and they are going to be married. He tells his mother that he is sure she will be happier since he knows that his gay lifestyle has been very disturbing to her.

She responds that she is indeed delighted and asks tentatively, “I suppose it would be too much to hope that she would be Jewish?”

He tells her that not only is the girl Jewish, but she’s from a wealthy Beverly Hills family. She admits she is overwhelmed by the news, and asks, “What is her name?”

He answers, “Monica Lewinsky.”

There is a pause, then his mother asks, “What happened to that nice black boy you were dating last year?”

Jokes courtesy of The Laugh Factory

That’s all for me for today, folks. If you have a joke you would like to share, please do, and I hope you have a great weekend. Do you have plans?

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Author Interview With Craig Lancaster

Posted by Maryann on February 22, 2017 |

Please join me in welcoming Craig Lancaster as today’s Wednesday’s Guest. He is the author of a number of books, including a series that features a man with Asperger’s Syndrome as the central character. I reviewed Edward Unspooled – the third book in the series – last Monday, and here is a LINK in case you missed it.

And now, without further ado – I’ve always wanted to say that – here is Craig Lancaster, answering some interview questions.

Sunday, March 16, 2014.Craig Lancaster
Photo by Casey Page

1. How did you come to write a book about a man with Asperger’s?

The Asperger’s aspect was actually a bit of a back construction. The original idea centered on a man who was so bound by his routines that a series of fairly quick, fairly major events in his life would totally upend him. In imagining the story, I saw the comedic possibilities first—you know, the whole idea of throwing fastballs at his knees and making him react. The human tenderness came in later. As for his developmental disorder, that was simply a matter of saying “OK, this is what he’s like, so what’s his issue?” I knew enough about Asperger’s anecdotally to figure that was probably it.

2. Is Edward patterned after someone you know?

Edward, for better or worse, is entirely a work of my imagination. He has some surface-level similarities to me (the band he digs, the TV show he enjoys, the football team he roots for), but I didn’t choose those things because he’s me. I chose them because I’m fundamentally lazy and already had the information embedded in my head.

3. What kind of research did you do?

Less than you’d think. I knew that if I read a textbook I’d probably write something entirely too clinical and not nearly human enough, so I tried to stick to acquainting myself with behaviors and traits, then transferring those to Edward while giving him plenty of room to become himself. That, I think, is the magic of writing fiction that nobody really understands until they start doing it. The characters and events and places really do speak to their own ways and desires, and you impede them if you try to control things too much. It’s like the old .38 Special song: hold on loosely.

It helped that I heard from friends and acquaintances who have much more in-person experience with autism than I do. There’s a saying: If you’ve met one person with Asperger’s, you’ve met one person with Asperger’s. That gave me the latitude to let Edward be an original rather than a template.

4. Will Edward’s story continue?

That’s always the big question, isn’t it? I’ve stopped committing myself one way or another. When I finished the first book, 600 Hours of Edward, several years ago, I was forthright about not continuing the story. I thought I was done, and I thought he was done. Three years later, I found out otherwise, and out came Edward Adrift. All I can really say is that Edward Unspooled ends with a lot of material still on the table, and this particular character, more than any other I’ve written, has a tendency to show up again and be insistent with me. So we’ll see.

5. Have you always wanted to be a writer, or have you come to writing after another career? What was that career?

I grew up in a writer’s household. My stepfather, who raised me along with my mom, was a sportswriter at the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. So I had early exposure to the idea that one could make a living with words. As you might imagine, it was the kind of home where books and ideas had a lot of currency. By the time I was in high school, I was pretty well set on making my way with words, and that’s what happened. I spent 25 years as a professional journalist before leaving to write full-time in 2013. By then, I’d published three novels and a collection of short stories. This spring, my seventh novel will be published.

6. How did you come to write in the genre you chose?

I think part of my problem, from a commercial standpoint, is that I really don’t have a genre. My stuff sometimes gets classified as literary fiction, which isn’t really a fit for me, and sometimes gets called contemporary fiction, which is probably accurate but doesn’t really say anything. My own aim is to land in that sweet spot where well-written, challenging fiction meets commercial interest. Sometimes (as with the Edward books) I’m more successful than others.

I hear a lot from readers who preface things with “ordinarily, I would have never chosen this book,” which of course delights me that I broke through with them but also frustrates me because I wonder how many readers I’m missing. In the end, all I can do is write the best book I can. What happens in the marketplace is another beast entirely.

7. What is your family’s favorite story to tell on you?

Oh, there are a couple. Probably the funniest is the one where I’m 3 years old, and my mom and I have just moved to Texas to be with her new husband, who doesn’t know me very well yet. We were living in an apartment in Euless, and Charles, my stepdad, calls me in for dinner. I tear into the house and say, “What are we having?” He looks down at me, scrunches his face, and says, “Liver and onions.” I start hopping around. “Woohoo! My favorite!”

I don’t remember this, but that’s the story. I was a weird kid.

8. What gives you the most pleasure in writing?

Just the act of writing itself. Long before book contracts or marketing strategies or sales or worrying about reviews, there’s you and the paper (or the screen). It’s all about choosing the right framework, the right approach, the right word. It’s time spent in your own head. I love everything about the process, and all the vicissitudes that flow from it: the enthusiastic beginning, when you’ve got an idea you’re eager to explore; the murky middle, when you wonder how you’re possibly going to make it; the downward momentum toward the finish. God, it’s just the best.

9. What is the hardest thing about writing?

Everything else. Because writing is so intimate and personal, and because publishing and selling are so public and inscrutable, it’s hard to protect your sense of self from the vagaries of the marketplace and reviewers. I’ve really had to learn how to separate myself and my sense of worth from how a book actually does once it’s out. I think I’ve won that fight, though, and it’s saved my sanity.

I’m also challenged by the fact that I’m just not really a joiner, so the venues where other writers can tend to their self-esteem—things like literary festivals, etc.—don’t hold much appeal for me. Don’t get me wrong: I love talking with readers, but sitting around with a bunch of writers and talking about the business, sharing war stories, etc., just bores me.

10. What did it say about you in your high school yearbook?

Our yearbook wasn’t really structured that way. But if I take it off the shelf—and I just did—and look at it, I show up in all kinds of places: on the school newspaper staff, as the writer of some of the stories, in Who’s Who, the National Honor Society, the academic decathlon team. I was a kid who didn’t really have a crowd; I had friends across the school, from the student council to the auto shop guys. That’s been true in my life since, too. I’m incredibly blessed by the diversity of my friends.

11. Do you have a pet?

I have two dachshunds, Bodie and Zula. I co-parent them with my ex-wife. Seriously. Every day, Monday through Friday, I drive over to her place, load the dogs into my car, and bring them home with me. At the end of the day, they go back to her. It works. And the cooperation has made us much better exes than we ever were married people.

12. What is the most interesting job you ever had?

The summer after I graduated from high school (1988), I went to work for my dad in the eastern Colorado oilfields. It was total grunt work, setting up cathodic protection for oil pumps. A lot of trenching and digging and filling in holes. I learned how to change the transmission on a Ditch Witch. You’d be surprised how little that comes up these days. And I worked with this horrible epoxy that took forever to scrub away if it accidentally got on your hands. I’m 47 years old; my hands are 92.

But here’s why it’s interesting: Because there are millions of people who do jobs like that, and nobody really knows anything about it. It’s just the kind of job that keeps America moving. I gained a deep appreciation for hard work—and memories of being out there, the sun beating down on me all day, kept me in proper perspective when my phony-baloney office job seemed overbearing.

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Buy Edward Unspooled HERE 

Visit Craig at his WEBSITE * his FACEBOOK Page * and follow him on TWITTER

Lancaster lives in Billings, Montana, with his wife, bestselling author Elisa Lorello

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Book Review – Edward Unspooled by Craig Lancaster

Posted by Maryann on February 20, 2017 |

Edward Unspooled
Craig Lancaster
File Size: 3117 KB
Print Length: 286 pages
Simultaneous Device Usage: Unlimited
Publisher: Missouri Breaks Press (July 23, 2016)
Publication Date: July 23, 2016
Sold by: Amazon Digital Services LLC
Language: English
ASIN: B01I2D7HU2

BOOK BLURB: Change keeps stalking Edward Stanton. He and his new wife, Sheila, have retreated to his small house in Montana after an unsuccessful attempt at operating a motel in Colorado. That failure has left wounds, especially for Sheila, and now they face a bigger challenge: pregnancy and impending parenthood.

Edward begins penning notes to the child (ever precise, he refers to the gestating being as “Cellular Stanton”) as he navigates married life with Sheila, who is unhappy and unfulfilled in Montana; a work partnership with his friend Scott Shamwell, whose own life is teetering; and the emergence of a long-buried family secret and the effect of this revelation on his relationship with his overbearing mother.

Even as Edward’s world expands, he must confront questions about whom to let in, how much to give, the very definition of family, the fragility of hope, and the expanses of love.

REVIEW: This story is written via letters that Edward is writing to his unborn child, with responses from his wife, Sheila. The technique works on so many levels, the main one being that Edward, a man with Asperger’s, finds it so hard to express himself. The insights that each character gains along the way of the story are striking and add conflict and drama in all the right places.

In one section, where Edward is writing about his wife being so emotional, he says, “Dr. Arlene Hayworth said pregnancy is like dumping every emotion you ever had out onto a table and then playing with them randomly.”

So true, and only one of the many thought-provoking quotes I highlighted in the book.

There is also a lot of humor in this book, something I enjoyed so much in the first two books, 600 Hours of Edward and Edward Adrift.  Edward has a very dry wit, and his friend Scott Shamwell has a barroom humor that is very amusing. At least to the reader, not always so amusing to Sheila.

When Edward is writing one of his letters to his unborn child he is telling the child that at that point the “…baby is the length of a zucchini, which is something I found out on the internet, which has any number of places that will compare the size of a gestating child to a fruit or vegetable. And there’s also this. If you’re a boy, your testicles are descending into your scrotum. That is exciting. If you are anything like Scott Shamwell, you’re going to touch and talk about your testicles a lot.” That made me laugh out loud

Then Edward follows that section by writing that he loves the baby even though he hasn’t met the baby. And he writes, “I love a little zucchini that may or may not have descending testicles. Who knew? That’s just a joke kid I’m pretty funny sometimes.”

During the course of events that touch Edward’s life in this story, and as he works his way through the complications, there are many life lessons that he learns that are also applicable to everyone. One of those is when he has been given an ultimatum by his mother that puts him in the position of having to choose between two people that he loves. Edward thinks about what the psychiatrist that he had been seeing years ago said to him about that. “People who force such decisions do so to get confirmation of their own importance to you. The irony is, it erodes the love and trust you’ve worked so hard to build.”

That contrast between insight and humor is one of the strengths of Craig Lancaster’s writing and makes his books such a delight to read. The characters are so vividly drawn, they become like good friends that we can share a few laughs with, as well as a heart-to-heart connection. I eagerly await the next installment in the series about Edward.

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**BUY LINK**

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Craig Lancaster is the author of numerous novels and a frequent contributor to magazines and newspapers as a writer and an editor. 600 Hours of Edward, his debut novel, was a Montana Honor Book and the 2010 High Plains Book Award winner for best first book. His work has also been honored by the Utah Book Awards and with an Independent Publisher Book Awards gold medal, among other citations.
Before writing fiction, he worked at newspapers, big and small, in Texas, Alaska, Kentucky, Ohio, California, Washington and Montana. Lancaster lives in Billings, Montana, with his wife, bestselling author Elisa Lorello (Faking It, Pasta Wars, The Second First Time).

MEET THE AUTHOR on his WEBSITE ** and AMAZON AUTHOR PAGE

Follow him on TWITTER
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And do come back on Wednesday when Craig will be my guest. We had fun with the interview questions.
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BOOK LIST: 600 Hours of Edward (2010 High Plains Book Award winner; 2009 Montana Honor Book)
The Summer Son (2010 Utah Book Award finalist)
The Art of Departure (gold medal winner, West-Mountain fiction, 2012 Independent Publisher Book Awards; High Plains Book Award finalist)
Edward Adrift
The Fallow Season of Hugo Hunter
This Is What I Want (2016 High Plains Book Awards finalist)
Edward Unspooled (now available in paperback, Kindle and audiobook editions)
Julep Street (coming May 2017)

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Book Preview – Sylvie by K. Langston

Posted by Maryann on February 17, 2017 |

Sylvie
K. Langston
Paperback: 282 pages
Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform (February 15, 2017)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1543151779
ISBN-13: 978-1543151770

BLURB

Broken Shattered Destroyed Will she ever find a way to overcome the guilt? The anger. The pain. Healing seems impossible. Moving on… Unbearable Until him. He’s the only one who can save her. But it comes with a heavy price.

Sylvie and Linc were best friends since 5th grade. Their lives were always intertwined until one night for Sylvie changes everything. A night on her 16th birthday when she gave herself to Dean because she couldn’t tell Linc how she felt. That one night that changed her life in more ways than she could imagine. Now she is a single mom and reeling with guilt over what happened to Dean. In her eyes, she doesn’t deserve to be happy.

EXCERPT

Today, I’m helping Linc finish packing. He didn’t have much left to box up. The movers had done most of the heavy stuff already, but there were some personal stuff he didn’t want them touching. Like his father’s things. Most of which he kept in his office. His father’s medals from the war were displayed in a glass case, along with the folded, framed American flag from his funeral. I remember when he died, how devastated Linc was. It took him months before he would even talk to me about it.

It was music that helped him through that dark time of his life. It’s what kept him going.

Carefully, I wrap up the remaining photos in his office. There are several of him and his father when he was younger. One where they are camping. Linc’s father was a real outdoorsman, loved wildlife and nature. They were always going on camping trips. When we were younger, I even tagged along a few times. There are a few shots of his mom and dad together over the years. It’s so obvious by the look on their faces how much they love each other, and I silently wonder, as I tuck another newspaper-wrapped frame inside the large cardboard box, if people say the same thing about us.

Do they see it written all over our faces? How much we love each other, how deep that love runs?

When I turn around to grab the next picture from the shelf, my breath catches in my throat. I blink, not really sure of what I’m seeing. It’s a picture of me, taken when I was about sixteen. I’m sitting on the bed of his truck, my bare feet dangling while my hands cup the edge of the tailgate. I’m leaning forward, a half smile on my face and my hair blowing on a slight breeze. The edges look to be crinkled and worn, as if someone has spent a lot of time looking at it. Tears prick my eyes.

If I only knew then what I know now.

“Beautiful, isn’t she?” His deep baritone voice sends a shiver down my spine.

I gasp and look over my shoulder at Linc. “Jesus, you scared me.”

Linc softly kisses my cheek before slipping the picture from my grasp. He looks at it thoughtfully, a wistful smile playing on his lips as he rounds the desk to sit in the big leather chair behind it.

He holds the photo close, as if seeing it for the first time. “There are certain days that stand out the most in my mind. Like the day we met. The day I sang to you the first song I ever wrote. The day we went swimming at the lake and you lost your top. Prom.”

Exhaling a long sigh, he continues. “We didn’t do anything special this particular day. We’d been to the lake, then shared a pizza at Emilio’s, then we hung out at my house for a while my mom was at work. We sat on the tailgate and I played around on my guitar. It was a day like so many before, yet so different. You kept telling me how proud you were of me and how someday I would shine brighter than any of the stars in the sky. But all I could think about was how the setting sun would catch your eyes just the right way and how they would sparkle every time you smiled. How the summer wind whipped your hair across your face, the delicate strands kissing your porcelain skin. I knew I had to capture the moment or it would be lost forever. So I ran inside and grabbed my mom’s digital camera. You called me a dork, among other things, and refused to smile for me. But I did manage to get this one. Then the very next day I had it developed.”

I stand in front of him, my eyes filled with unshed tears. “I’ve carried this around in my guitar case ever since. Every time I opened it you were right there, smiling at me, encouraging me. I can’t tell you how many times I wanted to give up, but every time a door would slam in my face I would look at this picture and remember this day. You’re the reason I kept going. You’re the reason I never gave up.”

I climb onto his lap, draping my legs over the arm of the chair while tucking myself into his arms. “You’re not the kind of man who gives up on anything.”

“I came pretty damn close a few times, with my music and trying to make it in this crazy fucking business, but I could never give up on us.”

BUY  LINKS

Amazon US: http://amzn.to/2kT1Q7s
Amazon UK: http://amzn.to/2lhLjuW
Amazon CA: http://amzn.to/2lhYL1N
Amazon AU: http://amzn.to/2kyaSmX

LIVE @ MIDNIGHT!! 

iTunes: http://apple.co/2ktXqR7
Kobo: http://bit.ly/2kubmdZ
B&N: http://bit.ly/2lgRmQd

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Book Review – Tainted by Love by Gillian Jones

Posted by Maryann on February 15, 2017 |

Tainted By Love
Gillian Jones
File Size: 3249 KB
Print Length: 342 pages
Simultaneous Device Usage: Unlimited
Publisher: Gillian Jones (February 13, 2017)
Sold by: Amazon Digital Services LLC
Language: English
ASIN: B01N1EWB5F

ABOUT THE BOOK
My name is Hendrix Hills.
When I was twenty-nine, I fell in love with a girl.
We loved fast. We loved hard.
But our love was tainted.

My name is Trinity Adams.
When I was twenty-seven, I fell in love with a boy.
We loved fast. We loved hard.
It’s too bad my blood was tainted.

Warning: Not your traditional HEA. May contain emotional triggers for some. There will be things that you won’t like and some you will, but I hope you have fun finding out!

REVIEW 

As a reviewer, and a reader, I found this book a bit hard to stay with at first. Had I not agreed to do the review and promo, I might have stopped reading after the first few chapters, but I am glad I hung in there.

First, the very good parts of the book, for me at least, were those that focused on how Trinity dealt with her HIV status. That was a terrific glimpse into all the ramifications of having the disease, that many of us have no clue about. It was all very well-written and believable, and I especially liked how proactive she was in sharing her testimony to help others. Early on in the story, she is talking to high school students, and the questions raised were sometimes challenging to her, but she did not shy away from an honest answer.

While I liked Trinity almost right away, I had a hard time connecting with, and liking Hendrix, as he was too much of a user – in the sense of using women for his pleasure and moving on. Perhaps I am too firmly rooted in a time when people held sex to a higher standard than just an evening’s entertainment. But then, I am old. LOL

Fans of the really steamy romances, and erotica, will probably enjoy this book, and not have the issues with it that I did. While I ended up skipping past the graphic sex scenes, I enjoyed much of the rest of the story. The emotional roller-coaster that the two main characters are on is very compelling, and that was the part of the story I found satisfying.

BUY LINKS

Amazon US:
Amazon UK:
Amazon CA:
Amazon AU:
KOBO, NOOK, iBooks:

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

I’m a wife, mother, and a crazy Canadian, living in Ontario with the loves of my life-my amazing hubby and sweetest little boy. I’m admittedly addicted to my friends, red wine, and laughter. A lover of alpha males, hot sex, coupled with the perfect side of angst all topped off with the epic happily ever after.

Other works – My Mind’s Eye, On the Rocks, One Last Shot, Call Me

All available at Amazon. Full list on Gillian’s Amazon Author Page

MEET THE AUTHOR

On Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, and Instagram

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Who Wants the Stuff?

Posted by Maryann on February 13, 2017 |

Good Monday morning, everyone. I do hope you had a great weekend and did something fun. I spent Saturday at the Winnsboro Center for the Arts; first volunteering to keep the doors open so visitors could see the one-woman exhibition of the work of Barb Richert, then at a concert by John Gorka. In addition to his wonderful music, I loved his shtick. He has wonderful comedic timing, and there was much laughter with the applause.

Just one of the pieces in the exhibition.

Sunday was a quiet, relaxing day, catching up on some business in the morning, then watching episodes of The Blacklist for a while.

One of my daughters and her husband do not have a lot of “stuff” in their home. They don’t seem as attached to things as I am, and how my mother was. We loved to look at trinkets and jewelry and pictures and other things, recalling where we got them and what they meant to us. Her apartment was cluttered with those kinds of things, as well as things she had made, and we never seemed to mind the clutter.

Not so for some of the younger generation.

I thought perhaps my daughter and her husband were unique, or just didn’t like to dust, but then I read this article, Sorry, Nobody Wants Your Parent’s Stuff”  at Next Avenue, written by Richard Eisenberg. He quotes a number of people who have had dismal luck trying to sell items from their parents’ estates, making the point that hanging on to things of sentimental value may be a thing of the past.

So, I look around my house at things that I brought from Michigan when my mother died a few years ago and realize that my kids may not want them.

What do I do with them?

Perhaps you are in a similar situation, with parents who have collected a lot of things that you or your kids may not want. If so, you might want to click over to read the whole article by Eisenberg. He gives a number of concrete suggestions of what do do, starting with, start planning now.

Some of the items your parents have might have some value, so if there is time to start researching now, before parents die, the items could be sold to collectors.

Furniture may be the hardest items to sell, as not many people are interested in antiques. I can remember that was all the rage when I was a young wife and mother, but that was a long time ago. Homes are not decorated with antiques like they used to be, and not that many grand-kids care about sleeping in grandma’s bed.

Knowing that many of the things I treasure, and my mother did, may not be passed on to future generations, makes me a little sad. While I understand that the kids do not have the attachment to “things” that I do, I wonder what they will pause to look at in some future time to remember a special moment from this time? Or will it even matter?

Heavy thoughts for this Monday morning, so I will leave you with a joke.

A Texas State trooper pulled over an old dusty pickup driven by a cowhand from a nearby ranch as he headed east on I-10. The trooper asked, “Got any ID?”

The cowboy replied, “Bout’ whut?”

~ ~ ~ ~

Are you a collector of things? Do you have family heirlooms that you treasure? Do you know who will get them next?

Did it take you a second or two to get the joke? I had to translate it all to Texan Talk before I got it.

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Friday’s Odds and Ends

Posted by Maryann on February 10, 2017 |

Happy Friday Everyone

This has been a busy week for me. I am about to finish work on the history book, Reflections of Winnsboro, that I am compiling for the Winnsboro Historian, Bill Jones. It has been a joy to work with him again, and hopefully, the book will be out by the end of March. It needs to go to another editor for copy editing, then to a layout professional to get it all set up properly for paperback and digital release.

I’m also working with the folks at S&H Publishing to get my online workshop on editing ready. It is slated for June, but the prep takes time. This project has nudged me toward learning how to use Power Point. I like it.

How has your week been? Do you take stock at the end of the week to pat yourself on the back for what you accomplished? Or slap your forehead for wasting a lot of time?

Sometimes I spend far too long looking at old pictures of my cats. I’d forgotten about this meme I made of Orca. He was our Miracle Cat, for reasons I wrote about HERE, and he loved to sprawl in front of my monitor.

Kitty Porn

IN THE NEWS

Earlier this week, Trump replaced the acting head of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, a holdover from Barack Obama’s administration, as he battled mounting fallout over his controversial immigration orders.

No reason was given for the decision to replace Daniel Ragsdale, announced barely an hour after Trump fired another Obama appointee, acting attorney general Sally Yates, for breaking ranks over the ban on travelers from seven Muslim-majority nations.

Ragsdale’s replacement, Thomas Homan, will help “ensure that we enforce our immigration laws in the interior of the United States consistent with the national interest,” Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly said in a statement.

Perhaps advisers should advise Trump that this is not Celebrity Apprentice.

FRIDAY FUNNIES

“Do you believe in life after death?” The boss asked one of his employees.

“Yes, sir,” the new employee responded.

“Well that makes everything just fine,” the boss went on. “After you left early yesterday to go to your grandmother’s funeral, she stopped in to see you.”

It was Palm Sunday, and, because of a sore throat, five-year-old Johnny stayed home from church with a sitter. When the family returned home, they were carrying several palm branches.

The boy asked what they were for, and his mother said, “People held them over Jesus’ head as he walked by.”

“Wouldn’t you know it,” the boy fumed. “The one Sunday I don’t go, He shows up!”

One Easter Sunday morning as the minister was preaching the children’s sermon, he reached into his bag of props and pulled out an egg, He pointed at the egg and asked the children, “What’s in here?”

“I know!” a little boy cried out. “Pantyhose.”

The prospective father-in-law asked the groom-to-be, “Young man, can you support a family?”

The surprised young man said, “Well, no. I was just planning to support your daughter. The rest of you will have to fend for yourselves.”

A little boy in church for the first time, watched as the ushers passed around the offering plates. When they came near his pew, the boy said loudly, “Don’t pay for me, Daddy. I’m under five.”

“Oh, I’m so happy to see you,” the little boy said to his grandmother on his mother’s side. “Now maybe Daddy will do the trick he’s been promising us.”

“What trick is that?” Grandma asked.

“I heard him tell Mommy that he’d climb the walls if you came to visit,” the boy said.

Little Johnny asked his grandmother how old she was.

Grandma answered, “Thirty-nine and holding.”

Johnny thought for a moment, and then said, “How old would you be if you let go?”

WRITING WISDOM

Over at Writer Unboxed Allie Larkin wrote about the writing life before we got so caught up with all the distractions from the Internet. I particularly liked:

Social media wasn’t a big deal yet. Streaming video wasn’t a thing. My phone only made phone calls. There was much blank headspace to be had. Even when I had a full calendar, I still got stuck in line at the post office, and we did not yet have the technology to tweet about it. My writing time felt like downloading. I’d write eight pages for writing group in a few hours on a Sunday night, because I’d spent all week  thinking about it.

Her post made me stop and think about how productive I used to be before I could so easily be pulled away from my best-laid plans to increase my daily writing time.

The post also looked at ways that we can feed our creative spirits, and there were some great comments from authors on what they do that feeds their writing. I shared some of the things I do; drawing, coloring, and playing on stage.

What are the things you do that help empty your mind, so story ideas can flood in?

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Aha! A Mystery.

Posted by Maryann on February 8, 2017 |

Please welcome Slim Randles with another story from the guys down at the Mule Barn Truck Stop. One of the reasons I enjoy his stories so much is because they remind me of listening to the farmers and ranchers who gathered at a small diner I went to when my husband and I first moved to the country. I loved to eavesdrop as they talked about the cow that got stuck in the bottom when it rained and how many friends it took to help pull the cow out; or about the price of hay and the price of beef. Would that latter be higher than the former?

So, I’ll grab a cup of coffee and have a listen to Slim and his friends. Join me and enjoy….

The problem was Mrs. Doc, you see. Oh, don’t misunderstand. She’s a perfectly wonderful lady and we all think the world of her, and as far as we know she has yet to burn down a house or start a war or anything.

But the problem is, we don’t know her first name.

If you just come out and flat ask her, she’ll smile and say, “Well, don’t you think Mrs. Doc is a nice name? I’ve had it for a long time now.”

But I guess there’s something deep inside us that hates a vacuum … a vacuum of knowledge, that is.

We’re still curious about exactly where Old Man Jenkins’ cabin is, for example. While he was alive, we never thought to bug him about where he lived, because we also cherish a man’s right to privacy. But Jenkins died on one of his trips to town, and we still didn’t know where his cabin was.

So that began a number of semi-serious expeditions into our nearby mountains to try and solve the mystery. Hasn’t happened yet, but there’s always hope deep in the souls of true explorers.

And so it is with Mrs. Doc. She introduced herself to all of us as Mrs. Doc, and … as wife of our local sawbones … she automatically deserves respect, even if that respect means maintaining a mystery.

But in a way, Mrs. Doc has added something tangible to our little society here in Home Country, because if we should ever falter for a subject of intense discussion, we have the mystery of her first name to fall back on.

Doc’s a true pal, of course, but there’s no way he’d betray his missus on this. We did ask him one time if he actually knew her first name. He gave us the strangest look and said, “What do you think? I met this girl in college named Mrs. Doc and asked her to marry me?”

The speculation has run the gamut of everything from her having a first name meaning a poisonous flower, to body parts, battleships, national parks, and disastrous storms. If we did accidentally trip over her real name, neither she nor Doc would confirm it.

So while we’re looking for Jenkins’ cabin, we can contemplate that very nice lady … Mrs. Doc.
—–
Home Country is now a radio program in 17 states. Have a listen at www.homecountrydemo.com/

Slim Randles writes a nationally syndicated column, “Home Country” that is featured in 380 newspapers across the country. He is also the author of a number of books including  Saddle Up: A Cowboy Guide to Writing. That title, and others, are published by  LPD Press. If you enjoy his columns here, you might want to check out the book Home Country. It has some of the best of his columns.

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Friday’s Odds and Ends

Posted by Maryann on February 3, 2017 |

First Something to Bring a Smile

Now just a bit from the news.
Trump’s cabinet picks, as well as some of his closest advisers, continue to come under scrutiny. Here are a few of the reactions after Rex Tillerson, former CEO Of Exxon Mobil, was sworn in as Secretary of State. This was taken from CNN News:

Sen. Chris Murphy, a Democrat from Connecticut, opposed Tillerson’s nomination, questioning whether the Texan’s close business dealings with Moscow would impact his response to any Russian aggression and arguing that “it is not the same thing to run a global business and run the State Department.”

“We have reason to fear that Mr. Tillerson would run the State Department like he ran Exxon, where he repeatedly worked against US national interests,” Murphy said Tuesday.

He noted that Tillerson opposed sanctions against Russia after its invasion of Ukraine and “was awarded the Order of Friendship by Vladimir Putin,” Murphy said on the Senate floor. “We have a President who has openly mocked human rights, who has supported vicious dictators, and a secretary of state who has made a career of doing business with some of the worst human rights violators in the world.”

The day before the confirmation of Tillerson, the European Union president said that the Trump administration poses a “threat” after Trump said that NATO is “obsolete.

On Wednesday, former CIA Director David Petraeus hammered home the message that the US’ alliances are a crucial part of its national security.

“Americans should not take the current international order for granted,” Petraeus told the House Armed Services Committee. “It did not will itself into existence. We created it. Likewise, it is not naturally self-sustaining. We have sustained it. If we stop doing so, it will fray and, eventually collapse. This is precisely what some of our adversaries seek to encourage,” he said, mentioning Russia in particular.

Friday Funnies

These quips were borrowed, with permission, from a new Twitter friend, Beth Drennan Jokes, who writes humor for anyone who wants to pay her a buck for a joke. She can be pretty funny, while others just make you think with a smile on your face.
If I were paranoid, I would hate being on Twitter. I would constantly have the feeling that people were following me.

Human speech makes us dominant over the plant & animal kingdoms.But if you’re facing sharks, bears or poison ivy, speech don’t do shit.

New kind of dog training called Kwik Train. Your dog is vicious? Hire a Kwik Trainer. He puts the dog on a train,1-way ticket. Problem solved.

Don’t be afraid to rewrite. Dickens’ Tale of Two Cities started out as Tale of Ten Cities, then Nine Cities, then Eight, Seven, Six…

Child Believes He is World Traveller. Father Drives Him Two Hours From Home, Stops Car, and Tells Him “Look! We’re in Europe!”

As a child, I learned about sex. So in church I’d look at the church ladies and couldn’t believe they got naked and did the wild thing.

That news was sobering. But I was already sober. So I had to get drunk.

If it weren’t for combustion engines, we’d be dragging our cars behind us everywhere we went!

Writing Wisdom

This bit of advice about writing the back-cover copy for books was written by Sophie Masson at Writer Unboxed. There was also great advice in the comments by a professional copywriter, so I urge you to hop over and read the whole article and the comments.
“What exactly are the elements of a good book blurb? Speaking both as a reader and a writer, for me a good back cover blurb includes:
  • A mention of setting and time period of the story
  • A mention of the main character
  • An intriguing glimpse of the plot, but with no reveals
  • A question, or hook, at the end
 I checked some of my book blurbs after reading Sophie’s article. I was pleased that most of them met these criteria. What do yo think makes a good back cover blurb? Do you struggle like so many of us with writing those?

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Be Careful What You Lie About

Posted by Maryann on February 1, 2017 |

Here’s some mid-week fun from Slim Randles. I do enjoy the guys down at the Mule Barn Truck Stop, and their silly twists of mind as they sip their coffee. Grab a cup for yourself and enjoy…

Delbert McLain came by to have coffee with us the other day. He’s our Chamber of Commerce, you know. Delbert’s mission in life seems to be to promote our little valley into becoming so important and prosperous that we won’t want to live here anymore.

But he does try hard, and we admire that.

“Got an idea, guys,” he said. He swept his necktie out of the way so he wouldn’t accidentally butter it. “A contest.”

“Like the knife-sharpening contest you thought up, Del?”

“No, Doc. That didn’t pan out. See, what I’m thinking is, we should play to our strengths here. You know, delve into our plusses, put our minuses on a shelf somewhere, and show the world what we do best!”

“Drink coffee?”

“Of course not, Steve! I mean, we need to hold a liar’s contest!”

Dead silence. All eyes on Delbert.

He looked around at all the solemn faces. “You know what I mean …”

More solemnity.

“It could really draw crowds.”

Then Doc, our unofficial spokesman because he has more degrees than a thermometer, spoke up.

“And just who would the liars be?”

“Well … you know, like Steve here. Remember Steve when you said you once rode a bucking horse while sitting backwards on it? Things like that.”

“I did that, Delbert,” Steve said.

“I saw him do that,” Dud said.

“Oh. Well, Dewey once told me he’d put a cow into the branches of a tree. We could start off with something like that.”

“Three of us were there when Dewey did that,” Steve said. “Ran that cow off a little bluff. We had to cut the tree down.”

Delbert sipped his coffee and ate a slice of toast. He’d forgotten to put any jelly on it.

“Doc’s squirrel?” Delbert said.

Now Doc’s fictitious squirrel, Chipper, was a lie. But it was the kind of lie that takes on a life of its own until … well …

“You talking about Chipper?” Dud asked.

“If that’s his name,” Delbert said.

“How is ol’ Chip, anyway, Doc?” asked Steve.

“Doing okay. Sleeps a lot these days. Hibernation, you know.”

Delbert left a tip and got up to go pay.

They waited until he was gone before laughing.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Brought to you by “Sweetgrass Mornings” by Slim Randles. Available at UNMPress.com

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Listen to the Home Country gang (even Delbert) on www.homecountryshow.com

Slim Randles writes a nationally syndicated column, “Home Country” that is featured in 380 newspapers across the country. He is also the author of a number of books including  Saddle Up: A Cowboy Guide to Writing. That title, and others, are published by  LPD Press. If you enjoy his columns here, you might want to check out the book Home Country. It has some of the best of his offerings through the years.

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