It’s Not All Gravy

Musings on Life and Writing


Book Review: Hawthorn Woods by Patrick Canning

Posted by mcm0704 on August 23, 2020 |

 Hawthorn Woods
Patrick Canning
File Size: 2019 KB
Print Length: 283 pages
Publication Date: August 4, 2020
Sold by: Services LLC
Language: English

 BOOK BLURB:  Summer, 1989. Reeling from a catastrophic divorce she just can’t seem to leave behind, Francine Haddix flees San Francisco for a two-week stay at her sister’s house in Hawthorn Woods, Illinois. The quaint neighborhood of shady trees and friendly neighbors seems like the perfect place to sort through her pain and finally move on with her life—but the tranquility doesn’t last long.

Beginning with a complete stranger throwing a drink in her face at her own welcome party, Francine soon discovers the supposedly idyllic suburb is hiding a disturbing number of mysteries. Why is the handsome-ish guy next door lying about who he is? What’s hidden in the back of the teenage troublemaker’s shed? Who wrote a
threatening message in blood? Which of the smiling neighbors has a secret they’d kill to keep?

Seeking to reclaim a natural passion for sleuthing numbed by her divorce, Francine rewrites her prescription from one of relaxation, to one of investigation. If she can detect the lies, follow the clues, and remember how to trust herself, she might get to the bottom of what’s so very wrong in Hawthorn Woods. She might even be able to
believe the future can be good again—assuming she lives long enough to be in it.

First off I have got to say how much I enjoyed meeting Francine in this story. I loved many of the other characters too, especially Charlie the young boy, and Bruno the mystery man next door, but the flawed, confused Francine spoke to my heart from page one.

Much like the style of Canning’s previous book The Colonel and the Bee, this story is filled with quirky characters and very unusual circumstances that turn the plot in a slightly different direction, adding another layer of reader interest and speculation.  There are also splashes of humor that made me smile and a few places actually laugh out loud.

One of the first things that endeared me to Francine, and made me appreciate the talent of this author, is when she attends her first neighborhood gathering after coming to Hawthorn Lake. She checks out all the men and has this mental observation, “All around, waist lines and hairlines raced away from each other to see which could finish off sex appeal first. Resigned clothing hung from soft shaped bodies below faces with untrimmed mustaches and untreated rosacea.”

I highlighted a number of other places in the book, including this bit of advice that was given to Francine by one her confidants, “When life is good, the bad news is, things change. When life is bad, the good news is, things change. You’re due for good news, my dear. You just have to hold out until the change.”

When you read this book – and I recommend that you do – hold on to your hat when you get to the end. There’s a twist of the plot that I didn’t see coming at all, but when it happened it made some of the earlier story elements make so much more sense than they did at the time. I can’t be specific here, as I don’t want to give anything away, but I guarantee you will appreciate the surprise that the author reveals at just the perfect time.

I find much pleasure in reading a story that keeps me wondering and asking questions, as opposed to one in which the author throws everything on the page. A story is much more engaging when I’m kept just a little off center.That was so true with this book, and because I had to know the “why”, I had a hard time putting down my e-reader when it was long past time for lights-out.


PATRICK CANNING is the author of three novels, including Cryptofauna (2018), The Colonel and the Bee (2018), and his latest, Hawthorn Woods (2020). When he isn’t writing, he enjoys playing beach volleyball, following space exploration, and losing at bar trivia. Patrick lives in Los Angeles with his dog Hank, who some consider to be the greatest dog of all time. You can find book reviews (and dog pictures) on his Instagram: @catpanning, and more of his work at

I hope you enjoyed the introduction to the book, and please do come back on Wednesday when Patrick will be my guest. In an interview we talk a little bit about the book and the choices he made in writing it. You’ll enjoy it. I promise.

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Review and Giveaway – The Secret of You and Me by Melissa Lenhardt

Posted by mcm0704 on August 20, 2020 |




Genre: Women’s Fiction / Romance

Publisher:  Graydon House (Harlequin)

Date of Publication: August 4, 2020

Number of Pages: 352

Scroll down for the giveaway!

True love never fades—and old secrets never die . . . 

Nora hasn’t looked back. Not since she fled Texas to start a new life. Away from her father’s volatile temper and the ever-watchful gaze of her claustrophobically conservative small town, Nora has freed herself. She can live—and love—however she wants. The only problem is that she also left behind the one woman she can’t forget. Now tragedy calls her back home to confront her past—and reconcile her future.

Sophie seems to have everything—a wonderful daughter, a successful husband, and a rewarding career. Yet underneath that perfection lies an explosive secret. She still yearns for Nora—her best friend and first love—despite all the years between them. Keeping her true self hidden hasn’t been easy, but it’s been necessary. So when Sophie finds out that Nora has returned, she hopes Nora’s stay is short. The life she has built depends on it.

But they both find that first love doesn’t fade easily. Memories come to light, passion ignites, and old feelings resurface. As the forces of family and intolerance that once tore them apart begin to reemerge, they realize some things may never change—unless they demand it.


“A compelling story of second chances and being true to yourself.”
Harper Bliss, bestselling author of Seasons of Love“Lenhardt convinces in her portrayal of the conflict between desire and control.” —Publishers Weekly


Interabang Books

(Personalized/signed copies available through Interabang)

Amazon || IndieBound || Bookshop

A portion of royalties are going to the It Gets Better Project.

(Click for more details.)

Love is love no matter the sex of the partners.

If not for living in a small Texas town, deep in the Bible belt, where judgments are strong and people bend to the will of the narrow worldview that is often so common in those towns, Sophie and Nora would have been able to be open about their love when they were teens and not keep it locked away where it fermented and hurt them both for so long.

This was the first same-sex romance novel that I’ve read, and it was interesting to see how the plotting was so closely matches a romance that has heterosexual characters. The main difference being that in this story one of things that keeps the two apart are the attitudes and behaviors of those small-town people. People who wanted to keep the two women apart. People who hid secrets about what Ray and Brenda actually did eighteen years ago that drove Nora away.

There was also the baggage that each woman brought to the present, and it was interesting to see how they worked through the baggage. Sophie and Nora are both flawed characters, and the author deftly handles the push and pull between the women as they work to find their way through the mess of their lives.

I liked how strong the women are in face of the judgments and the obvious homophobia that was thrown their way. At Nora’s father’s funeral when Sophie’s mother makes it all about her grief, Nora’s reaction is described this way, “Everyone waited for me to offer my condolences, but I merely stared at the woman. I’d rather be waterboarded than offer her an ounce of sympathy.”

The book is told an alternating chapters with Nora and Sophie having their own point of view. As with any issue or argument, it is often good to see both sides, but that also can lead to repetition of information and facts. Luckily, that wasn’t an issue in this book. Each viewpoint offered clarity to the struggles the characters were having.
What was a small issue for me was how much the tension in the story centered around the physical. Relationships are so much more than that. It didn’t bother me that the sex was between two women. I have the same issue with stories that have heterosexual couples, and the need for the physical expression of the relationship comes across as more important than the other parts of being a couple.
Still, that didn’t take away my enjoyment of this story of Nora and Sophie and the tough choices they made to make a life together.
Melissa Lenhardt is a women’s fiction, mystery, and historical fiction author. Her debut mystery, Stillwater, was a finalist for the 2014 Whidbey Writers’ MFA Alumni Emerging Writers Contest, and Sawbones, her historical-fiction debut, was hailed as a “thoroughly original, smart and satisfying hybrid, perhaps a new sub-genre: the feminist Western” by Lone Star Literary Life. The New York Times called her sixth novel, Heresy, “An all-out women-driven, queer, transgender, multiracial takeover of the Old West”. The Secret of You and Me, her seventh novel and her first contemporary women’s fiction novel, was published on August 4, 2020.

When Melissa isn’t writing, she’s thinking, “I really should be writing,” and eating Nutella or peanut butter straight out of the jar. A lifelong Texan, she lives in the Dallas area with her husband, two sons, and two Golden Retrievers.

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TWO WINNERS each get a signed hardcover copy of the book and their choice of
either a FaceTime call or virtual book-club visit with the author.

 August 11-21, 2020 ** (U.S. Only)





Or, visit the blogs directly:

8/11/20 Author Interview All the Ups and Downs
8/11/20 Review Tangled in Text
8/12/20 Review Momma on the Rocks
8/12/20 BONUS Post Hall Ways Blog
8/13/20 Review Carpe Diem Chronicles
8/14/20 Top Six List Texas Book Lover
8/14/20 Review Bibliotica
8/15/20 Excerpt StoreyBook Reviews
8/16/20 Guest Post The Page Unbound
8/17/20 Review Missus Gonzo
8/17/20 Review Rainy Days with Amanda
8/18/20 Audio Spotlight Book Bustle
8/19/20 Review Chapter Break Book Blog
8/19/20 Review Reading by Moonlight
8/20/20 Review It’s Not All Gravy
8/20/20 Review That’s What She’s Reading


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Monday Morning Musing

Posted by mcm0704 on August 17, 2020 |

First, I have some exciting news. Desperate Season, the third book in the Seasons Mystery Series is ready for pre-order over at Amazon. I’ve listed it at a special price of only $1.99 for the ebook, so if you’ve been eager to read the next book, now’s your chance to get it for less than a cup of coffee.

I was shocked last time I got a regular coffee at a restaurant and it was $2.39. But I digress.

Here’s a bit about the new book:

Children dying is a cop’s worst nightmare. Throw drugs in the mix, and the nightmare gets worse. Dallas Homicide Detectives, Angel Johnson and Sarah Kingsly, who are still trying to sort out their partnership, race to stop the influx of a nasty new street drug that is killing kids as young as ten. Those kids should be playing in the park, not dying in it.

Who owns the streets of Dallas?

Can the detectives take them back before more kids die?

 PRAISE FOR THE SEASONS SERIES:  “Try this debut mystery by a journalist for its open treatment of current urban problems, clean prose, and realistic depiction of women working together. For readers who enjoy Robin Burcell and fans of police procedurals.” Library Journal

. . . gripping second mystery featuring Dallas, Tex., police detectives Sarah Kingsly and Angel Johnson. . . . The relationship between the women is just as absorbing as the search for the killer. Few readers will anticipate the closing twist.” Starred review for STALKING SEASON from Publishers Weekly.


Are any of you planning to attend the virtual Democratic Convention, or the Republican Convention?

Other than attending the 1984 GOP convention in Dallas to cover it for a regional publication, I’ve never paid much attention to those gatherings. To me, they’ve always been too much like a pep rally, as opposed to offering really substantive information to help a person decide for whom who to vote. I read stories from trusted news sources in making my decisions and gather information from a number of outlets, not just one or two.

I think it is of vital importance, especially now with how quickly mis-information can fly around the Internet, that we take time to check the veracity of what is being tossed out there for our consideration by both parties and both candidates for a position.

Do you have favorite places to find out more about candidates prior to an election? Please do share in the comments.

I’ve had Dear Edward by Ann Napolitano on my wish list at Amazon for some time and the Kindle price just dropped to $2.99, so I grabbed it today.

This amazing story captured my interest when it first came out, but the price was too far above my personal $5 limit to purchase an ebook. Major publishers still release e-books for over $10, which is sometimes more than the paperback.

Anyway, I’m happy to do a shout-out for this book today.

What does it mean not just to survive, but to truly live? 

One summer morning, twelve-year-old Edward Adler, his beloved older brother, his parents, and 183 other passengers board a flight in Newark headed for Los Angeles. Among them are a Wall Street wunderkind, a young woman coming to terms with an unexpected pregnancy, an injured veteran returning from Afghanistan, a business tycoon, and a free-spirited woman running away from her controlling husband. Halfway across the country, the plane crashes. Edward is the sole survivor.

Edward’s story captures the attention of the nation, but he struggles to find a place in a world without his family. He continues to feel that a part of himself has been left in the sky, forever tied to the plane and all of his fellow passengers. But then he makes an unexpected discovery—one that will lead him to the answers of some of life’s most profound questions: When you’ve lost everything, how do you find the strength to put one foot in front of the other? How do you learn to feel safe again? How do you find meaning in your life?


That’s all for me for today, folks. I hope you are all staying safe and well.

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Cooking For Everyone

Posted by mcm0704 on August 14, 2020 |

As always I appreciate my friend Slim Randles for sharing his columns with us, especially when it’s a day for a blog post and I have nothing. I mean no words. No issues to rant about, which may make some of you very happy.  🙂

Anyway, I’m going to let Slim entertain you while I try to find a few words for my new story. While there’s some momentum on that front, I want to keep it going.

Mrs. Forrest is serving fried chicken with gravy. Eons ago, this was one of my favorite suppers, and I once had a neighbor who made the best. I was always delighted when she invited us to share the bounty at her table. So, today I’m sharing Mrs. Forrest’s bounty with you. Grab a fork and enjoy…

Mrs. Forrest has always been a compulsive feeder. Before she retired, she was cooking for the Mule Barn truck stop’s customers, and she’s singularly responsible for about three flabby tons of avoirdupois on this nation’s truck drivers, and may have been marginally responsible, third-hand, for a cardiac event or two.

But now she’s retired, and a widow, and her kids all have kids and are scattered like a covey of quail. Local bachelors of a certain age know if they should just happen to be chatting with Mrs. Forrest on her front lawn along about supper time, there’s a dang-near dead certainty they’ll get a meal out of it.

And, through the magic of telepathic communication and the synchronistic wave lengths of humanity, the message about Mrs. Forrest’s unstoppable feeding compulsion had somehow reached the psyches of the homeless.

At any rate, two of the aforementioned drifters had knocked on Mrs. Forrest’s door and asked if there were any chores she needed done in exchange for some food. Well, you should’ve seen her eyes light up at that question. She said she had a bunch of firewood that needed to be split into kindling and if they didn’t mind doing that, she’d fix them a chicken dinner with cream gravy. Mrs. Forrest puts cream gravy on everything.

So she busied herself in the kitchen, and then went out to see how these fellows were doing. And there, leaning on an ax handle, was one of them, and the other was doing gymnastics in and around the woodpile. It was amazing. He’d come out of a round-off flip flop and then gracefully go into a full layout Sukuhara with a right-hand twist. She watched in awe for a few minutes before whispering to this gymnast’s partner.

“I had no idea your friend was an acrobat,” she whispered.

He looked at her and whispered back, “Neither did I ‘til I cracked him on the shin with this ax.”

Brought to you by Ol’ Max Evans: The First Thousand Years, by Slim Randles.

Check out all of Slim’s award-winning books at his Goodreads Page and in better bookstores and bunkhouses throughout the free world.

All of the posts here are from his syndicated column, Home Country that is read in hundreds of newspapers across the country. I am always happy to have him share his wit and wisdom here.

Slim Randles is a veteran newspaperman, hunting guide, cowboy and dog musher. He was a feature writer and columnist for The Anchorage Daily News for ten years and guided hunters in the Alaska Range and the Talkeetna Mountains. A resident of New Mexico now for more than thirty years, Randles is the prize-winning author of a dozen books, and is host of two podcasts and a television program.

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Blog Book Tour: The Gulag P-Pa Diaries #LSLL

Posted by mcm0704 on August 12, 2020 |


A Bittersweet Memoir of Grandparenting



Genre: Memoir / Christian / Humor / Grandparenting / Family

Publisher: CKN Christian Publishing

Date of Publication: April 22, 2020

Number of Pages: 268

Scroll down for the giveaway!

As new empty-nesters, Harriet and Preston next looked forward to becoming grandparents. Their journey to assuming the names of Mema and P-Pa, however, took a tragic and unexpected turn.


Amazon    Barnes and Noble    IndieBound

As a mother, grandmother, and humor writer I really enjoyed reading this account of the fun and frolicking the author and his wife, Harriet, have with their grandchildren. There were so many clever things done in the book, starting with comparing the week-long visits with four grandchildren coming to their house as a detention camp. That theme of pretending to treat the kids as inmates coming to a Gulag was the foundation of so many of the very entertaining anecdotes.

The lengths that P-Pa and Mema went to to make the visits as much fun as possible was a tribute to first-rate grand-parenting, and I’m sure the inmates will treasure those weeks of internment with fond memories. From the special toys, meals, treats, and movie-making, no effort was spared to make unforgettable moments.

While I enjoyed reading about those visits, I could also relate to the way the author admitted to feeling some relief when the kids left. I know that feeling. And I know there is also a bit of a let down after a particularly fun time with the grands. The author wrote about enjoying the peace and quiet for the first time in six days, but he followed that with, “Bottom line. We survived, though the Camp Mema Compound is a smoldering wreck that may take decades to rebuild without government aid. Even so, you might say we are suffering from post part ’em depression after one of the most fun weeks of our lives.”

Early on in the book the author points out that the big difference between being a grandparent and a parent is that grandparents can form more of a friendship with grand-kids which entails all of the playing and the fun and very little of the responsibilities. But parents need to maintain that stricter presence of parent and authority, because that is part of their responsibility. That doesn’t mean that parents can’t play and have fun with children. But good parenting has boundaries that grandparents can trample all over.

It was great fun to see how the Grands, as the author refers to the grandchildren,  grow up and mature with each visit to Camp Mema and P-Pa, and that fun was in stark contrast to the chapters that recounted the family’s grief over the death of the first grandchild, Benjamin.

The chapters that weren’t diary entries shared memories of Preston and Harriet’s early years of marriage and family life. There was humor there, too, until coming full circle to more details about the loss of Benjamin, and how he was never forgotten. Within those words, I could feel the slight shadow of sadness that there was one grandchild who never grew up to enjoy coming to Camp Mema and P-Pa.

This is a book to be enjoyed on many levels, and I highly recommend it to parents and grandparents of all ages.

Preston Lewis is the Spur Award-winning author of thirty novels. In addition to his two Western Writers of America Spurs, he received the 2018 Will Rogers Gold Medallion for Western Humor for Bluster’s Last Stand, the fourth volume in his comic western series, The Memoirs of H.H. Lomax. Two other books in that series were Spur finalists. His comic western The Fleecing of Fort Griffin received the Elmer Kelton Award from the West Texas Historical Association for best creative work on the region.





Book signed by P-Pa (the author), Mema, and The Grands

Book signed by the author
AUGUST 4-14, 2020


Or, visit the blogs directly:


8/4/20 Review Bibliotica
8/5/20 Author Interview Forgotten Winds
8/6/20 Notable Quotables Texas Book Lover
8/7/20 Review Book Fidelity
8/8/20 Top Tips & Fails That’s What She’s Reading
8/9/20 Playlist All the Ups and Downs
8/10/20 Review Hall Ways Blog
8/11/20 Scrapbook Page The Clueless Gent
8/12/20 Review It’s Not All Gravy
8/13/20 Review Reading by Moonlight


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Of Books and Racism

Posted by mcm0704 on August 10, 2020 |

Last week I was busy plotting a new book. When I finished Desperate Season, the third book in the Seasons Mystery Series, I thought about making that the last book, so I tied up a few of the subplots. Well, sort of. It was more like making suggestions as to how some things would go for the characters once that story was finished.

As it turns out. Sarah and Angel weren’t done with me. My writer friends will totally get that, especially those who, like me, tend to write character-driven stories. Once we give a character the wheel, sometimes they don’t want to give it back until they’re ready.

So, I started thinking about the two things that are most on my mind of late – the pandemic and the protests happening in so many cities in the U.S. – and how I could use them in a story.

The Seasons Series has focused a lot of sub-plot time on racism, and when I did some research for the first book twenty years ago, I thought I understood the Black experience enough to write about it from the viewpoints of a white woman and a black woman forced to work together. But what I’ve learned recently through articles and speeches and interviews with black authors has made me realize just how little I really know.

So I’m learning. And some of that learning is finding it’s way into a new book, tentatively titled Brutal Season.

I’m about 3,000 words into the story. I have the major players set up, as well as the crime and tentatively who did it. That’s about all the pre-planning I put into a book, so I’m enjoying the process of following the lead of the characters.

In the meantime, I’ve been continuing my education, and want to share something I found quite enlightening.

A recent guest on Fresh Air with Terry Gross, Isabel Wilkerson  had some interesting things to say about Caste and Racism, and the difference between the two.

Isabel, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist has written extensively about racial issues in America, and her latest book is Caste: The Origins of Our Discontent.

During the interview she talks with Terry about the laws and practices that created a bipolar caste system in the United States and how the Nazis borrowed from it. The interview is well worth listening to.

Caste, Isabel says, “is the term that is more precise [than race]; it is more comprehensive, and it gets at the underlying infrastructure

Some other important points she makes:

Race and racism is about feelings.

Caste is about structure. Something we’ve inherited. Not personal, but the infrastructure that is the foundation of what we inherited, …”that often we cannot see, but that is there under-girding much of the inequality and injustices and disparities that we live with in this country.”

Responding to a question from Terry about what she, Isabel, would say to people who claim they have no responsibility for the current caste system or racism because they are new to the country, or they never had slaves, or any other reason, Isabel had a great response.

She talked about how if you buy an old house, you aren’t responsible for the wood and the beams and the bricks that initially went into building the structure, but now that you own that house, you’re responsible for it.

No matter how we got here, we are all now in this structure. Whatever is wrong with it is our responsibility.

That was a real eye-opener for me. We white folks can’t just sit back and pat ourselves on the back because we have a few black friends or we personally haven’t discriminated against a person of color.

Those are some of the things I’m thinking a lot about, and they are issues that Sarah is going to face in this new story. How far will she be willing to go to support Angel when Angel joins the Black Lives Matter protests in Dallas.

That’s all for me for today, folks. Stay safe. Stay healthy. And stay happy.

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Feed Your Mule

Posted by mcm0704 on August 5, 2020 |

Oh my, I can relate to this offering from Slim Randles, who is here as today’s Wednesday’s Guest. Anyone who’s been around large farm animals can. Read on and enjoy.

But first, I want to share this photo of another flower that bloomed on my Hollyhock bush. I’m really loving this special surprise that popped up along the side of my driveway, totally unexpected, and is covered in buds.

Now grab a cup of coffee and read Slim’s story.

Dud and I had just about finished solving the problems on page one and were about to start solving sports dilemmas when Bert mumbled something. Now Bert, usually loquacious, was in one of his rare, but deadly, silent coffee mornings. Normally he’d fill the Mule Barn truck stop with his pronouncements on life, love, literature and the price of cauliflower, but not today.

I took a sip and turned to Bert. “You say something, Bert?”

“Seeds and froth,” he mumbled.

“Seeds and froth?”

“It’s not like it was my fault, you know. What did I do? Hey, sometimes seeds and froth just happen to people, and there’s no need to jump all over me about it.”

Dud and I nodded as if we understood. We assumed more would be coming. It was.

“I mean, is it a crime to own a mule? No. So I own a mule. So seeds and froth come along and the mule owner gets it? Where’s the justice in that? Ol’ Jack was hungry. Is that a crime now? And is it my fault? I don’t think so.”

“How is ol’ Jack, anyway?” We all knew and loved the stove-up old retired mule that Bert took so much pride in.

“He’s in the doghouse big time with Maizie,” Bert said. “Why shouldn’t she shoulder some responsibility for the seeds and froth? I mean, you could actually give her some of the blame for this mess, you know. She’s the one left the car window down.”

“Do I have to hurt you, Bert?”

“Huh? Oh, well, see, here’s what happened. Maizie did the shopping and drove in the yard, and you know how ol’ Jack likes to be loose and wander around the yard, right? So she took some groceries in the house, but not all of them, and Jack found the passenger window open and when she came back….”

He put his head in his hands.

“How was I supposed to know mules liked watermelon? You guys ever feed watermelon to a mule? Me neither. Who knew? By the time Maizie got back for her next load, ol’ Jack had eaten about two thirds of that watermelon on the seat. Man, there were seeds and froth all over the seat, the floor, the door, and the mule. And I swear … I swear to you … he started grinning when he saw her coming back out of the house.”

“And I guess you had to clean it up.”

He nodded. “Dang mule has the table manners of a two-year-old. When you mix seeds and froth with mule slobber? Well … don’t do it.”

Brought to you by our radio show, “Home Country with Slim Randles.” Let us know if you like it.

In addition to the radio show, Slim Randles writes the 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 on the blog, you might want to check out the book Home Country. It features some of the best of the columns he has shared with us, as well as the 4 million readers of the newspapers where his columns appear.

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Monday Morning Musing

Posted by mcm0704 on August 3, 2020 |

I had a really pleasant few days last week. One of my sons came on Monday and stayed until Saturday morning to help me with chores around the house. Since he doesn’t live as close as some of his sibs – he’s in Austin with his family, and I’m near Dallas – he wanted to help since I’ve been so sick for about a month.

It was nice to have the company, as well as the help, and he did get a lot of cleaning projects taken care of that I’d not been able to do for a while.

Still, it wasn’t all work that week. One morning we went to the lake for some much-needed outdoor relaxation. It was the first time I took my dog to the state park, and he loved it, as I knew he would.

The swimming beach at the park by Lake Texoma was closed because of pandemic, so the closest we could get to water was this channel where the public boat docks are located. Dusty wasn’t sure about getting in at first, but then he did walk along the edge of the water, mostly to get a drink.

This is as close to a scenic shot as I could get by the boat ramps.

I can’t resist taking a picture of something unusual. Or maybe this is very usual. LOL

When my fun ended, I came head to head with the latest in the news. Not much of it good.

The economic relief for workers who lost jobs has ended, and I’m angry that the GOP has held the new package up because of their demands for an end to the extra unemployment benefits, as well as protection for corporations who may get sued by workers who are forced to come back to work and get infected with COVID-19.

And, too, there’s the added $30 billion for a new FBI building and more F-35 fighters.

Boy how we need those planes and that building to help those most affected by the pandemic.

It’s very disappointing that the two parties continue to politicize the pandemic, causing more difficulties for the average American.

While all that has been going on at The Hill most of last week, 45 has been Tweeting about how the November general election should be postponed. Even going so far as to repeat that in interviews, suggesting he might make the delay happen. Thank goodness he can’t do that. It’s not within the power of the Executive Branch of government, but it’s scary that he repeatedly hints at it. Some pundits are concerned that 45 is trying to position himself in a way as to not leave the White House.

Rep. James Clyburn, D-S.C. gave this statement on CNN’s State of The Union on Sunday,

“I don’t think he plans to leave the White House. He doesn’t plan to have fair election. I believe that he plans to install himself in some kind of emergency way to continue hold on to office and that is why the American people had better wake up.”

Just a quick note to leaders of the Democratic party. While I am more favorable to your platform and candidates, I really, really, dislike getting e-mails with subject lines like:

  • Do. Not. Delete – Guess what button I push on that one?
  • Please don’t ignore – Since that’s a polite request, I might not.
  • Is Maryann ignoring Elizabeth Warren? – No. Just prefer to skip another plea for money.

Those constant requests to donate are intrusive and frustrating. I donate when and how often I can. Don’t bug me!! Or try to guilt me!! And when this current election cycle is over, please address the need to shorten the time-frame of election campaigns to about 6 months from start to finish. What a relief it would be for everyone involved, from politicians to supporters.  We could all go about our work without that constant need for raising money and campaigning, or deciding who to support and how.

What a concept!!

In closing, I want to share this well-put sentiment from P.A. Geddie, writer, editor, and publisher of County Line Magazine. That’s a terrific magazine distributed free around East and Northeast Texas, that celebrates the people, the places, and the arts of the various areas. If you live in Texas and aren’t familiar with the magazine, check it out. You might really like it.

And maybe folks who don’t live in Texas might like a glimpse of what life is like here in my corner of the world.

Here’s what P.A. wrote in the introduction to the County Line Weekly:

We’re all feeling a little out of our element these days, or as one friend puts it, “in a warped other dimension.” It’s important to hold your friends and family close and realize they’re way more important than missing a few parties.

Embrace the “Pandemic Pause” we find ourselves in and dig deep for worthwhile activities and most importantly, build meaningful memories with those you love and a few kind strangers that share the gift of their time along the way.

“Pandemic Pause” has such a positive connotation as compared to lock-down or quarantine or isolation. I will try to remember that term and focus on the positives more as these days and weeks drag on. I hope you can do the same. Stay safe. Stay well. Be as happy as you can.

As always, I welcome comments on the content of the blog. I just request that they are respectful and civil. 

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#FridayReads – DESPERATE SEASON Excerpt

Posted by mcm0704 on July 31, 2020 |

Well, I finished my self-edit of Desperate Season, the third book in the Seasons Mystery Series, and it is off with another editor for that ever-so-crucial final proofing. That is a step some new authors who are self-publishing skip, as well as getting a pro to format the interior of the book, and a graphic artist to design a cover.

As soon as I get the manuscript back from the editor, I’ll send it on to get properly formatted for digital and print, but I’ve already received the final covers from the artist.


While my “pretend” cover wasn’t too bad, it certainly didn’t have the professional touch it needed. The artist is Lauria, and I found her at Fivrr. I think she did an excellent job. What do you think?

Now, here is the excerpt, picking up from where I left off last time I posted some of the story. 

Angel met her at the elevator when she got off at the entrance to the CAPERS department. Sarah liked the name – Crimes Against Persons. Made her feel like the guardian police officers were supposed to be. Too often, the job involved horrible crimes and innocent victims that they hadn’t been able to save, but every now and then, they did get there in time to save the woman from an abusive husband and that felt good.

“McGregor wants to see us,” Angel said by way of greeting.

Sarah followed her partner, wondering if the abrupt comment meant anything other than the fact that Angel was in a hurry. Sarah wondered a lot; afraid that she had inadvertently said or done something to put them back to square one in their partnership. “Something wrong?” she asked.

Angel slowed her steps and let Sarah come along side. “Sorry. the lieutenant just sounded like he wanted us there pronto. I think this latest dead girl was one too many.”

“Any dead girl is one too many.”

“Amen to that,” Angel said as she opened the door to McGregor’s office.

Every time she came in, Sarah marveled at the total disarray of the room. Boxes of files concealed most of the carpeting on the floor, and the stacks of files on his desk looked like they could create a paper avalanche at any moment. How he kept track of cases was beyond her, but he obviously had a system that worked for him and satisfied Chief Dorsett.

“Did you talk to Walt?” McGregor said, giving Sarah a nod to indicate the question was for her.

“Good morning, Lieu.” Sarah pulled one of the battered metal chairs from the wall and placed it in front of his desk and sat down. “Yes. I did.”

McGregor didn’t respond to the sarcasm in her voice. He just waited for Angel to empty another chair of its contents, then he waved a hand at Sarah to continue.

“Walt’s doing the autopsy this afternoon. Said he’d send the full report over later, but he did confirm that the girl was shot at pretty close range in the back of the head.”

That got his full attention. “She was targeted?”


“Christ.” Mc Gregor wiped a hand through his thinning hair. “Who’d do that to a kid?”

“Well, as Walt reminded me yesterday, that’s what we need to find out.”

McGregor glared. He was doing a lot more of that now that he was no longer drinking. Still, Sarah was glad he’d stopped. Not only had the move saved his job, but now his office no longer smelled like the back-alley vent from a bar. Like smokers who were unaware of the lingering aroma of stale tobacco, people who drank too much never seemed to know how the sour odor of liquor would seep from their pores.

A few months ago, when she found out that he was going to AA, she’d asked if there was a twelve-step program for cussing. Maybe she should clean up her mouth. He’d looked at her and dead-panned, “Maybe you should.”

As silly as some kind of program for curbing the urge to cuss sounded, Sarah knew it wouldn’t hurt to at least try to limit the colorful language. How many times could she say “fuck off” to the brass and get away with it?

“Sorry, Lieu,” Sarah said. “Just trying to inject a little humor here.”

“Well, humor me, and tell me what else you’ve got.”

“Actually, we got nothing, Lieu. Nothing at the crime scene and nothing conclusive from the family.” Sarah finished by quickly filling him in on their interviews with the family.

“We are going to take a look at the father,” Angel said. “Sarah seems to think he might be somehow involved. I’m a skeptic, but at least eliminating him will give us something to do.”

“Can’t imagine a father killing their own kid that way.” McGregor shook his head. “I know fathers kill their kids all the time. But it would take a cold-hearted bastard to do it up close and personal. Is the father a bastard?”

Sarah thought about the guy’s behavior. If they asked the wife, she might say her husband wasn’t the kindest man. But was he rotten? Not like some people she’d helped put behind bars. “I’d have to say no. But he was evasive and basically shut us down in the interview.”

“Wasn’t just grief reacting?”

“Could’ve been,” Sarah acknowledged. “But we’ve got to cross him off the list one way or another.”

“Okay. Try again. But go at him easy.”

That’s it for me for today, folks. I hope your weekend is a good one, despite the frustrations and limitations that the pandemic has brought to our lives. Be safe! Be well!

I hope you enjoy reading these excerpts, and I’d love any feedback you’re willing to give. If you’d like to get the first two books in the series, Open Season and Stalking Season, they’re available for many reading devices from Draft2Digital; as well as Amazon. Open Season  ** Stalking Season

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Down at The Swimming Hole

Posted by mcm0704 on July 29, 2020 |

Ah! I love this essay from Slim Randles, who is today’s Wednesday’s Guest. It reminds me of the swimming hole an uncle in West Virginia took us kids to one summer when we were visiting. I don’t remember a tire swing, but I do remember the deep, crystal clear water and the dead tree at the bottom. We would take turns diving down, pretending we were finding lost treasure. Oh, the joys of childhood. Thanks for the reminder,Slim. 

It’s too hot for coffee, so iced tea is on the virtual menu. Help yourself and enjoy…

Iced mint tea


There is in the splashing of the creek a great spray of diamonds. As each youngster sails like an astronaut out on the tire swing, then releases the hold on the earth to flail, suspended in time and space for that brief second or two, there is a timelessness, a postponement of all things evil and destructive, an affirmation of joy.

The swimming hole in Lewis Creek has been there since Indian times, of course, and the tire swing was probably preceded by simply a rope with knots in it. It is one of the summer lodestones of our existence. Each summer we have to make our pilgrimage in the hot sun to the hole below the little waterfall, to the place were Lewis Creek widens and deepens for the benefit of hot, dry people before becoming just a creek again. And in this widening of the creek, this sacred place in our summer lives, we also play witness to the passage of years.

Across the creek from the tree with the tire swing, the gravelly bottom extends gently with almost no current for ten feet or so. This is the baby beach, where squealing tots are allowed to cool off without benefit (or hindrance) of any more covering than the smiles of their parents.

As the children grow, they venture farther out into the current of the creek and test their strength against the forces of nature. By the time a youngster is eight or ten, the seduction of the tire swing becomes overwhelming and the flailing of the arms and legs against the blue of the sky begin.

Later still, when gangliness becomes fluidity and sleekness, and we want to make catlike moves to attract the opposite sex, the tire is used as a swinging platform for exquisite dives into the deep part of the creek where the big trout lie in cold holes.

And as we age, and we watch our children come to love the hole in Lewis Creek, and as we sip lemonade in the shade as our grandchildren work their ways up the swimming hole chain of life, we can look at the splashing of the creek and see, with each sleek dive, with each laughing belly-flop, the diamonds of the creek sent skyward, and the laughter stays with us and keeps us strong and makes us feel rich, and fortunate.

It is unnecessary to say the hole in Lewis Creek is an important part of our lives, because it, along with so many other treasures of the years, really is our lives.

Brought to you by  “Ol’ Jimmy Dollar,” a children’s book by Slim Randles.

 *** 2016 SPUR Book Awards, Western Writers of America ***
Finalist Western Storyteller, Illustrated Children’s Book: “Ol’ Jimmy Dollar” by Slim Randles and illustrated by Jerry Montoya

Slim Randles writes a nationally syndicated column, “Home Country” that is featured in 370 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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