Friday, May 26, 2017

Remembering and Remembrance

Thought for the day: Being kind is more important than being right.

I read somewhere that the original reason women carried bouquets of flowers during their wedding ceremonies was to mask unpleasant body odors. Not a terribly romantic notion, but in those days, I reckon bathing was about as rare as a martini bar in the middle of the Sahara.

Still, for whatever reason the tradition started, most brides still carry flowers, no matter how large or small their ceremony may be. Heck, flowers play a part in lots of different occasions.

Like poppies.

Since Lt. Col. John McCrae penned the poem In Flanders Field on May 3, 1915 from a WWI battlefield in Belgium, the poppy has been a symbol of remembrance and is closely associated with Memorial Day and Veterans Day. Today is our country's first National Poppy Day, and going forward, the Friday before Memorial Day will continue to carry this designation. Ever wonder about the significance of the red crepe paper poppies made and distributed to the public by veterans every year? The red represents the blood of those who gave their lives; the black represents mourning; and the green leaf represents regrowth following the devastation of war. Did you know there's even a correct way to wear a remembrance poppy? It should be worn on the left side, closest to the heart, with the leaf positioned at the 11:00 position, in honor of the 11th hour, 11th day, 11th month ending of WWI.

I only intended to write a short intro before sharing the following anniversary re-run, but I guess I got carried away. This past Wednesday was our 48th wedding anniversary, and next Monday is Memorial Day, so this post is in honor of both those occasions. I will always remember our wedding, and we all must honor and have remembrance for those who made the supreme sacrifice. Freedom is not free.

The following was originally posted on May 24, 2013, with the title Still Celebrating. 

It'll probably take me a little longer than usual to respond to your comments, because, ya know, our celebration continues... Forty-eight years. Life is good.

                       Until next time, take care of yourselves. And each other.


Thought for the day:  Our wedding was many years ago. The celebration continues to this day. [Gene Perret]

Yeah, our wedding was a few years ago.

I love being married. It's so great to find that one special person you want to annoy for the rest of your life.  [Rita Rudner]

Lucky me, I found that one special person at a very young age, and have been annoying the crap out of him ever since. Met him at the scabby-kneed age of twelve. (And married him anyway!) Okay, so we looked a little different when we got married in '69. Yeah, yeah, yeah...  he had hair... I had a waist. Lots of ups and downs since then, too, but one thing that hasn't changed? Our sense of humor. We're still laughing. Still working hard to pull the proverbial applecart in the same direction.

Still loving.

A successful marriage requires falling in love many times, always with the same person.  [Mignon McLaughlin]

Of course, if you ask Smarticus how to make a marriage last, he'd probably say what he always says. He says the secret lies in him saying two simple words, whether he means 'em or not: Yes, dear. (He's kind of a smart ass.)

I say a successful marriage requires hardhats, because it's an ongoing project, and never really doneA successful marriage is an edifice that must be rebuilt every day.  [Andre Maurois]

Doggone it, there's no such thing as resting on your laurels when it comes to marriage, is there? Or as Smarticus says, "It only takes one aw sh*t to wipe out two attaboys." (Told ya he's a smart ass.)  Lily Tomlin expressed it a bit more delicately. She said, The road to success is always under construction.  
So maybe a successful marriage isn't something we ever achieve, but if you think about it, that's a good thing, because if we think we've already arrived, we may no longer strive.  Best to keep wearing those hardhats, to keep building that road to success, and to savor every bit of joy and humor we find along the way. Gotta have fun. Gotta laugh.

Talking about fun and laughter, remember Red Skelton? He was a very sweet, very mild-mannered PG-rated comedian. Anyway, he and his wife were married for many, many years, and here's his Recipe for the Perfect Marriage:

  • Two times a week, we go to a nice restaurant, have a little beverage, good food and companionship. She goes on Tuesdays, and I go on Fridays.
  • We also sleep in separate beds. Hers is in California, and mine is in Texas.
  • I take my wife everywhere ... but she keeps finding her way back.
  • I asked my wife where she wanted to go for our anniversary. "Somewhere I haven't been in a long time!" she said. So I suggested the kitchen.
  • We always hold hands. If I let go, she shops.
  • She has an electric blender, electric toaster, and electric bread maker. She said, "There are too many gadgets and no place to sit down!" So I bought her an electric chair.
  • My wife told me the car wasn't running well because there was water in the carburetor. I asked where the car was, and she told me, "In the lake."
  • She got a mud pack and looked great for two days. Then the mud fell off.
  • She ran after the garbage truck, yelling, "Am I too late for the garbage?" The driver said, "No, jump in!"
  • Remember. Marriage is the number one cause of divorce.
  • I married Miss Right. I just didn't know her first name was Always.
  • I haven't spoken to my wife in eighteen months. I don't like to interrupt.
  • The last fight was my fault, though. My wife asked, "What's on TV?" and I said, "Dust!"

No telling what we're gonna do over the weekend, but I know it'll be an adventure. When you're married to a smart ass, every day is.

A long marriage is two people trying to dance a duet and two solos at the same time.  [Anne Taylor Fleming]

                                     Until next time, take care of yourselves. And each other.

To those who died, honor and eternal rest; to those still in bondage, remembrance and hope; to those who returned, gratitude and peace.  [words engraved on the Illinois Vietnam veterans memorial]

Friday, May 19, 2017

Sweating in an Alaskan Cooler

Thought for the day: Books can describe the deepest depths of human depravity, but we the readers have the good fortune to read about them from a safe distance. [me]

In support of the lovely Yolanda Renee's newest book release, The Snowman, I'm taking a flight of fancy to the maximum security prison of the Spring Creek Correctional Center in Seward, Alaska, to visit its most notorious inmate, serial killer Stowie Jenkins, AKA the Snowman...

ME: Oops, I must have screwed up. This can't be the right place. My Flight of Fancy gizmo must've slipped a cog again. Maybe if I slap it here and smack these buttons—

SNOWMAN: Don't be stupid, lady. I'm Stone Jenkins. Welcome.

ME: (nervously reaching in pocket to check for Glock) Where are you?

SNOWMAN: Behind you.

ME: (yelping and whipping around way too fast for an old broad) Where are the cells, and why the hell aren't you in one?

SNOWMAN: (shrugging) I'm confined to this area. It isn't great, but it's the best Mommy could do.

ME: (looking around) Holy crap. My first apartment wasn't this big. I guess your mother had something to do with the clothes you're wearing, too?

SNOWMAN: (fingering his silk shirt appreciatively) That's right. I have delicate skin, and she didn't want me to get a rash.

ME: (shaking head) This isn't at all what I expected. I thought you'd be in the deepest darkest bowels of some vile penal hellhole.

SNOWMAN: (laughing) How gauche! As you can see, my mother's money is keeping me quite comfortable. Oh, please forgive my bad manners. Would you care for a glass of wine?

ME: (licking parched lips) I'm not thirsty.

SNOWMAN: (pouring himself a glass of wine) Suit yourself. I trust you have some questions?

ME: A couple. Do you regret killing those women? They were so young—

SNOWMAN: My only regret is not being able to continue with my artwork while I'm in this disgusting place. Those women were blessed to be chosen by me, because we created one-of-a-kind masterpieces together. (sighing) Sketchbooks and oil paint are fine for some artists, but it takes a genius to realize the most exquisite tools are blood and the human body.

ME: (taking a step back) Some people think you're insane. Matter of fact, I expected you to be wearing a strait jacket and padlocked into a chair.

SNOWMAN: (laughing) Like Hannibal Lector? How droll. There's a fine line between insanity and genius, and I'm clearly on the Mensa side of the line. It takes a brilliant mind and a keen sense of beauty to appreciate my work. (cocking his head and looking at me like he's regarding a side of beef) Have you seen any of my photographs?

ME: I prefer the Old Masters.

SNOWMAN: It was too much to hope for that you shared my vision. Your loss. Anything else?

ME: I'm still trying to digest the fact that you don't regret torturing and killing those women.

SNOWMAN: Well, I do have one other regret. I so wanted to make that pain-in-the-ass detective pay. (smiling) But my vision for him is as strong as ever, and I still hope to realize it some day. He's a marvelous specimen. I might even turn his hair into a hat... what do you think? I think his ponytail would look much better on me.

ME: I think you're going to spend the rest of your life in this so-called prison.

SNOWMAN: I wouldn't count on that. Genius cannot be denied. (strokes chin, considering) You look pretty good for an older woman. Much better than Mommy. Maybe my next series of art should focus on older women.

ME: (taking another step backwards) Well, I'd better be going.

SNOWMAN: Do you take a blood thinner? That might change the patterns, but I could make it work. Might create more of a lacy effect...

ME: (frantically punching buttons on the Flight of Fancy gadget) Gotta go!

SNOWMAN: (in a gradually fading voice) If you plan to return, you'd better make it soon, because I don't plan on being here much longer.

ME: Whew! I'm back home now. (looking around) There must be a bottle of wine around here somewhere...


It’s a pleasure to be participating in author Yolanda Renée’s THE SNOWMAN Blog Tour through MC Book Tours today.

This is a prequel to the author’s Detective Steven Quaid Mysteries. This story tells of Steven's first case as a rookie detective. It takes place 10 years before the events in MURDER, MADNESS & LOVE, the first book in the series.

The author is offering a tour-wide giveaway featuring
both print and eBook copies from her series. More information on the giveaway is listed below.

◊ by Yolanda Renée
◊ Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Suspense
◊ Publisher: TRACE Enterprises
◊ Series: Detective Quaid Mystery
◊ Novella
◊ Print & eBooks
◊ Contains explicit sex & violence

It takes a true artist to pursue his victims in the art of seduction, and Stowy Jenkins is no exception, especially with blood as his medium.

          Stowy Jenkins, aka, Stone, and as Alaskans refer to him, the Snowman, is a true artist.
His muse, Gigi, is the ultimate inspiration for his painting. Her rejection inspires him to use a very unusual medium...blood.
          While art may be his passion, the taste for blood is his obsession, and multiple murders, the result.
          Rookie, Detective Steven Quaid, is no fan of the Snowman’s murderous exhibitions. A twisted and deadly relationship bond the two men and neither knows who will come out of it alive.

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The other books in the Detective Quaid Series include:

          A killer plays cat and mouse with a young widow against the snowy backdrop of an Alaskan winter. Branded a black widow after the suspicious death of her millionaire husband, Sarah Palmer flees Seattle for Anchorage. However, the peace and quiet she hoped to enjoy in her hometown is soon shattered. A killer is murdering Sarah look-alikes on the 14th of each month, taunting Sarah with a valentine of evidence. After her experiences in Seattle, Sarah is slow to go to the police. When she finally does, she finds Detective Steven Quaid—Anchorage P D’s hotshot investigator—has not only heard the rumors, he believes them. Worse, her aloofness and composure only confirm his suspicions. Is Sarah a victim or a very skilled manipulator?

World damnation is a psychotic man’s goal, but two obstacles stand in his way, greed and a dedicated detective.
Catching Alaska’s most notorious serial killer as a rookie made Detective Steven Quaid a hero, but falling in love with the victim of his last case tarnishes that status. While attempting to repair both his personal and professional life, he stumbles upon an unusual case–and an even more extraordinary foe: a man who believes he is Lucifer. An insidious man who delivers Quaid the ultimate choice: save his fiancée from an assassin’s bullet or stop the sacrifice of a young girl.

burn between a hardboiled cop and a gifted artist, but soon extinguish as another man’s obsession ignites into an inferno of desire, driving him to destroy the object of his madness.
Detective Steven Quaid is ready for new challenges as Anchorage's top detective, but not until he marries the woman of his dreams on New Year's Eve. Determined to give Sarah the wilderness honeymoon she desires, he turns his grandfather's cabin into the perfect honeymoon retreat. After the final details are complete, Steven treks into the mountains to hunt. On his return to the cottage, instead of Sarah, he is greeted by several police officers and a bloody crime scene. Accusations fly, and Stephen flees into the wilderness, his heart racing and thoughts etching into his soul. The wilderness is unforgiving, but Steven faces it head on: Caught between a massive grizzly and a black bear in a deadly tug of war, he is barely saved from death's door by the fortuitous appearance of his uncle. Despite surviving multiple injuries, Steven continues his investigation as he recovers, but answers don't come quick or easy. Having enlisted the aid of his number one suspect, Steven faces a struggle that has become more than personal. This one just may cost him his heart.

You can find out more about the books and the author by following the tour HERE. You can also include your chances of winning in the giveaway.

This tour-wide giveaway features both print and eBook copies of the four books in the Detective Quaid Series. The giveaway will end at 12 a.m. (EST) on Tuesday, June 6.

The prizes include:

* Grand prize - Winner receives a print copy of all
four books in the Detective Quaid Series (U.S. and Canada only).
* First place - Winner will receive a $25 Amazon gift certificate.
* Second place - Winner will receive eBook copies of all four books in the Detective Quaid Series.
* There will be 3 runner-up winners and each will win an eBook copy of THE SNOWMAN or one of the other books in the series (winner's choice).

To enter the giveaway, just click on the Rafflecopter widget below and follow the instructions. The widget may take a few seconds to load so please be patient. If the widget doesn’t show up, just click HERE and you’ll be directed to the widget.

Thanks for stopping by and be sure to follow Yolanda on her month-long tour. You never know what you might find out.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

                  If you haven't read any of Yolanda's books yet, what the heck are ya waiting for???

                            Until next time, take care of yourselves. And each other.

Friday, May 12, 2017

The Nearly Naked Truth

Thought for the day:  A mother is a person who, seeing there are only four pieces of pie for five people, promptly announces she never did care for pie. [Tenneva Jordan]

It's true. Mothers have a distinct way of making little, often unnoticed sacrifices. When food is running low, they aren't hungry. When one of the dinner plates is chipped, it always manages to find itself in front of her spot at the table. If her children need shoes or clothes or glasses, she decides her own, no matter how old or shabby, will do just fine. It's simply what they do. They have our backs... and cover our butts.

With Mothers' Day coming up this Sunday, I thought it was a good time for me to be lazy re-run one of my favorite posts about mothers. It originally ran in 2011 as Mothers Cover Our Butts, and the following year, it ran again as Still Covering Our Butts. My brother informed me that our grandparents didn't actually enter the U.S. via Ellis Island; they came into Boston. (oops!)  But regardless of their entry point, the rest of this story is absolutely true.

To all of you moms out there, I wish you a fantabulous weekend.  If your mother is still with you, be sure to give her an extra big hug and let her know how much you appreciate her.

Okay, ready? Here goes...


Thought for the day:  If it's not one thing, it's your mother... 

With Mother's Day right around the corner, I'd like to share a story about my grandmother. In early 1923, she, my grandfather, my father and his brother left Scotland and set sail for the United States, essentially abandoning the only home they'd ever known so they could sail off into the great unknown and start all over again. Must've been scary, don't you think? A huge sacrifice. But like countless other immigrants, facing the unknown was a sacrifice they were absolutely willing to make for the sake of their children and their children's children. NO sacrifice was too great, right? Then again, the (ahem) naked truth is, by the time they reached the United States, poor Mom-Mom learned that she'd sacrificed more than she'd ever intended.

Try to picture it. Can you imagine how everyone on that ship must have felt when they finally caught sight of Lady Liberty for the first time? My guess would be intense excitement and pride, mingled with a shot of apprehension. Probably a good deal of relief, too, not to mention exhaustion.

For Mom-Mom, I have a hunch relief was tops on her emotional menu. Relief that the seemingly endless trip was finally coming to an end, and relief at the prospect of standing on dry stable land again. Because my poor grandmother pretty much puked her way across the Atlantic. From the time they left Europe, she had such debilitating seasickness, she rarely left her bed.

Which left Pop, a rather dour Scot, in charge of the kiddies.

My father was still in diapers at the time, and though Pop, a master carpenter, was quite skillful at building a custom cabinet, he wasn't at all accustomed to being saddled with the business of childcare. So he improvised. He blithely tore up my grandmother's clothes and, one by one, used them to diaper my father's bottom. When a diaper got dirty, he simply tossed it overboard and reached for another dress.

So by the time the Statue of Liberty came into view, a long trail of improvised nappies stretched clear across the ocean, and my grandmother? Let's just say that she came perilously close to being one of those naked masses yearning to breathe free, with few clothes to her name beyond those she'd been wearing in her sick bed.

Years later, when Mom-Mom told me this story, she was laughing, but I doubt if she found much humor in it back in 1923.  Trust me, Pop paid for his blunder, though. As I remember her, my grandmother had an extensive wardrobe from some of the best stores in Baltimore.

For those of you who are mothers, I wish you a very happy Mother's Day. For those of you who are fortunate enough to still have your mother with you, do your best to spoil the living daylights out of her. After all, she may not have sacrificed all her clothes to cover your butt, but I'm sure she made many other sacrifices, and covered your butts in many other ways. For those of you who've already lost your mother, this is for you:

Your mother is always with you. She's the whisper of the leaves as you walk down the street, she's the smell of bleach in your freshly laundered socks, she's the cool hand on your brow when you're not well. Your mother lives inside your laughter. And she's crystallized in every teardrop. She's the place you came from, your first home; and she's the map you follow with every step you take. She's your first love and your first heartbreak, and nothing on earth can separate you. Not time... not space... not even death.

Sorry. I wish I did, but I don't know the origin of that little piece. Someone sent it to me without attribution many years ago.

For those earlier Mothers' Day posts, I included a recipe for some fabulously delicious strawberry pie that my mother used to love. It's still fabulously delicious, and if you want it and don't mind using a good bit of sugar, you can still find it by checking out the tag words in the side bar, but I'm gonna share something different with y'all this time around: an unbelievably good recipe for sugar-free cheesecake with sugar-free blueberry topping. It took me a number of experiments and a good bit of ingredient-juggling to come up with something that reeeeeeally works, but I promise, you will NOT be able to tell the sugar is missing.

Okay, first, the crust. That's the easiest part, if you wanta be lazy smart. Buy one of those extra-serving graham cracker crusts. Yeah, there's some sugar in them, but not enough that I worry about making the crust from scratch. If you'd rather make your own with or without sugar, go for it.

Now, the filling. Plop two packages of Neufchatel cheese into a bowl and let it come to room temperature. (Or you can use regular cream cheese, or reduced fat cream cheese, but the Neufchatel is lower in fat, costs less, and works well.)  While you're pulling the cheese out of the fridge, pull out four eggs and let them get closer to room temperature, too. Or not. If you'd rather just use the cheese and eggs cold, go for it. No skin off my nose. It's just a little easier to work with after they've warmed up a bit.

When you're ready to start, add 1/4 cup of Truvia (a non-caloric natural sugar substitute made with stevia leaves) to the bowl with the cheese, and blend well with an electric mixer. Mix in a tablespoon of flour and a teaspoon or two of vanilla extract. (to taste) Beat in the eggs, one at a time. Then blend in a cup of sour cream and pour the mixture into your pie shell. Bake at 350 degrees for about 45 minutes. To prevent the top from cracking, put a pan of hot water on a lower shelf in the oven.

While your cheesecake is baking, you can whip up the topping. Put 1/4 cup of water and 2 tablespoons of Truvia into a saucepan and bring to a boil, stirring frequently. Add 2 cups of fresh berries. (It's good with 2; even better with 3.) Lower heat and continue cooking until it ... looks like blueberry topping. (About three minutes, tops. You COULD add a tablespoon of arrowroot or cornstarch to thicken the topping, but I think it's fine without it.) Other options: If you happen to have a fresh lemon in your fridge, squirt a little bit of juice into the pan to add a little pop of citrus. Also, if you're a big fan of cinnamon and/or nutmeg, you can add a pinch of one or both.) Remove from heat, and add another cup of fresh berries. Chill. The topping, that is. Well, I suppose you could chill, too, because you're gonna have to wait a little while until you can sink your teeth into the cheesecake. It's best served chilled.


                               Until next time, take care of yourselves. And each other.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Coming in for a Landing

Thought for the day: The bad news is time flies. The good news is you're the pilot. [Michael Altshuler]

[image courtesy of morguefile]
Watch out! This ol' gal is fixing to land...

Yeah, I know how trite it is to say that time flies, and no writer wants to be accused of being trite, right? But what can I say? Time really DOES... um... you know. I was just starting to settle all nice and cozy into my month-long break from blogging and... poof!... it's over.

So here we are at the beginning of a brand new month, which means it's also time for another IWSG post.

Happy May, everybody! For those of you who participated in April's A-Z challenge, I hope it was both an enjoyable and a successful one for you. For all the rest of you, I hope it was a terrific month for you, too.

[image courtesy of perfectlytimedphotos]
All is well here. I'm nearly finished with the first draft of my WIP and am enjoying what I like to call the jet-assist period. If you think about it, writing a book is a lot like making a long solo flight to the destination of our dreams. When we start out, enthusiasm and excitement about the wondrous place we're going provide plenty of impetus, but as the journey continues to go on and on and on, the seemingly endless flight becomes more of a slog, and all we want to do is land already. When that initial jet-assist poops out, we're left huffing, puffing, and flapping our wings like crazy just to keep from crashing. Then the end's finally in sight, and we're miraculously infused with a second wind, and the original jet-assist excitement is back again in all its glory. We're almost there! Ain't it grand?

Another thing that's grand is this Insecure Writer's Support Group. The brain child of Alex Cavanaugh, this group provides support, solace, and yes... jet-support impetus... to all writers of all kinds. If you'd like to join, or are interested in following links to other participants for this month's post, please go HERE

Now then. Let's move on to this month's question: What is the weirdest/coolest thing you ever had to research for your story?

Weirdest? Coolest? I dunno. I don't think anything's too weird, and research is all cool. However, for the book I'm nearly finished, I did a bunch of research on homemade explosives... how to make them, where to get the ingredients, and all of that good stuff. Really interesting. (My dear oh-so-helpful Smarticus informed me that if someone from NSA comes knocking at our door, he'll promptly direct them to my office.) I'm not sure if perusing posts written by anarchists qualifies as weird or cool, but some of the research I did for Book Two of my trilogy definitely pegged the cool-o-meter for me. I wanted to find out if Maryland had a reform school for girls in the late '50s and early '60s. Not only did I find such a place... and in the perfect location for the purposes of my story... but I found a Yahoo group comprised of women who were IN that reform school during those years! Talk about a treasure trove of information. GOLD MINE! I don't know if all writers enjoy the research side of things as much as I do, but to me, the research is a joy in itself, and ya know, I'm just about convinced that the Internet can answer just about ANY question. (Whether or not the answer is correct may be a different story... ) What's the neatest treasure trove of information YOU ever discovered?

It's good to be back, y'all. Until next time, take care of yourselves. And each other.