Monday, May 25, 2015

The Book I Have to Buy Next

Have to brag a bit here. According to a study I read yesterday, my blood pressure is just right. Oops, going by the news on TV this morning, it’s too high. But wait . . . okay, as of the six o’clock news, it’s borderline. . . . And now at ten p.m., it’s okay again. At least my cholesterol numbers are great.

Or are they?

Fugeddaboudit. I’ll just have another cup of coffee – oops, more than two cups will kill me. And now . . . it’s good for my heart. . . . But green tea is better . . .  except that now it has too much arsenic. Stay away!

I feel like a yo-yo, jerked back and forth, up and down, and sideways by all these “new and alarming” statistics we are constantly being fed by experts. Is that you, too?

Today I learned about a book that I have to read so my head doesn’t explode. It wades through all those scientific journals and pharmaceutically contrived data to pull out what’s actually true and what is designed to sell medicine to the gullible public. That would be me and you.

I love the title:  Doctoring Data: How to Sort Out Medical Advice from Medical Nonsense.  It’s written by Dr. Malcolm Kendrick, a family doctor whose problems led him to abandon much of what’s promoted in conventional medicine. In the book are 10 tools the average person (me again!) can use to help identify the truth in any study.

Also in the book, Dr. Kendrick takes apart the studies that have us convinced we will die of high cholesterol if we eat fat, high blood pressure if we eat salt, breast cancer if we don’t get regular mammograms, heart attack if we have more than one glass of alcohol, and any number of diseases if we are overweight. These are just a few of the studies that we’ve been led to believe – some for decades.

I don’t know about you, but this is extremely reassuring to me. I don’t want to be sold a bill of goods. I want the truth. And as he says, “Correlation does not imply or prove causation.”  One example is a study that seemed to prove that people who drank red wine lived longer. What the study didn’t test was whether there was another cause – were red wine drinkers the type to also take better care of themselves? Exercise regularly? But the company that paid for that study didn’t want to know that. And yet we are told that if we drink red wine, we’ll live longer!

See why this book is so intriguing? I don’t like being duped. I don’t want unnecessary radiation soaking into my bones, drugs with side effects that I don’t really need, vaccines that in reality don’t work.

The book is on its way to my house even as I write. And by the way, Dr. Kendrick also wrote, The Great Cholesterol Con: The Truth about What Really Causes Heart Disease and How to Avoid It.  That one is on its way, too.

Turns out the body manufactures cholesterol for a very good reason, and when we suppress it, we leave ourselves wide open for cancer.

The truth

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Mother Nature Can Be Cruel!

by Leann

The joys of nature on the lake are certainly appreciated by an animal lover like me. We see all sorts of wildlife--owls, foxes, turkeys, deer, beavers, turtles, fish, osprey, eagles, hawks,, vultures, bobcats. I could go on and on. Of course the birds are very different in South Carolina than the ones we saw in Texas.

There are so many darling bluebirds. We NEVER saw bluebirds in south Texas. Our neighbor gave
us a bluebird house and sure enough this spring they claimed it as their own. The nesting took at least a month and kept them very busy. When the geese and ducks began swimming by with their recently hatched babies, we could tell the bluebirds had children in that little house, too.

I believe that when we started to see the number of goslings and ducklings decrease each day it was a foreshadowing. First a pair of geese had six babies, then four. It made me sad. But when I received a call from our
next door neighbor to look out the window at our bluebird house, it was tough. A big black snake had managed to slither up the metal pole and before we could react, it was inside that bluebird house and the little bluebirds were gone.

I understand this is how nature works, that every year there is this fight to survive--even that snake has to survive--but it wasn't fun to watch. Of the
three sets of geese who had babies only have two babies left. But they go on with their daily routine. The bluebirds, however, disappeared. Next year, my engineer husband will think of a way to keep the snakes out. It's as much of a challenge for him as it is for those snakes! I think the human will win next time!

I know this story isn't a happy ending, but we will prevail and make our yard a safe haven. Any similar stories? Did you cry like I did?

Saturday, May 23, 2015


By Mary Kennedy                            
Picture this. It's late at night in a major metropolitan hospital at the close of visiting hours. I've been to visit a sick friend on the ninth floor and the wing is nearly empty--the hospital is undergoing renovations. As I walk down the long hallway to the elevator, I suddenly feel like a heroine in a Kevin Williamson movie.
The hallway is dark, deserted, and the only sound is my footsteps on the linoleum floor. Most of the rooms are empty and hospital equipment is stacked in the hall, covered with plastic sheets. I am starting to feel creeped out, but blow off the feeling, telling myself I'm just tired and worried about my friend.
And yet--the feeling won't go away. A little finger of dread curls in my stomach and goose bumps sprout on my bare arms. What in the world is wrong with me? I wonder. I take a deep breath and keep on walking. I reach the elevator, push the button and the doors open immediately.
As soon as I step inside, a man darts out of the shadows, rushes in next to me, presses the "close door" button and leers at me, standing way too close.  He reaches out and lays a hand on my arm. Where did he come from? And worse, what does he want?
I'm teetering on full blown panic, but I spin around with my back to the door, reach over and hit the "open door" button. Now I'm facing him and I hurl a string of expletives at him while I back out of the elevator. He seems shocked as if he didn't expect any resistance. Maybe he thought I was a "girlie-girl." Hey, I'm from New York, I don't do "girlie-girl."
I grab a passing security guard and he quickly radios down to the guard desk in the lobby. It turns out this creepoid has been lurking in the hospital for days, preying on women. They've been unable to catch him--until now.
My instincts were right on target, but I tried to ignore them. Luckily, my story had a happy ending anyway. There's a wonderful book, The Gift of Fear, by Gavin De Becker, that explains why we should *always* trust our instincts. I recommend it to my clients, and I think you might enjoy it.                  
Stay safe, everyone, and always, always trust your gut!
Mary Kennedy

Friday, May 22, 2015

Victoria Square Returns!


Like the picture says, Victoria Square is moving from the back burner to the front.

The series has been languishing while I've turned my attention to other things ... like writing The Booktown Mysteries, the Jeff Resnick Mysteries, the Lotus Bay Mysteries, and the Tales of Telenia adventure-fantasy series ... but readers have been begging for more Victoria Square and I'm happy to finally be able to oblige.

Cozy mystery author Laurie Cass and I will be collaborating on the series.  The next book is already in the works, and should be finished by year-end. Now we're waiting to hear when the series will be put back on the publishing schedule.  We're anticipating 2017 -- but have no fear, we'll let you know if it will be any sooner.

Laurie and I have been friends for years and we're excited to begin this journey together. Check out Laurie's website and if you haven't already read her wonderful Bookmobile Cat Mysteries, I hope you'll give them a try.

Claw_foot_bathtub5BTW, this is my inspiration picture for the next book, which I've tentatively called Dead, Bath, and Beyond or maybe Dead In The Water.  (But don't count on that being the actual title. Marketing always has their own ideas, which don't always coincide with mine.)


Thursday, May 21, 2015

Thriller, filler, spiller

One of the great joys of spring is planting annuals. I love hanging baskets and window boxes and planters. All those magic containers with their bright blooms help dim the recent memories of snow drifts and minus thirty.  I like to make them up myself. 

Our property – as I may have mentioned – is a work in progress. The former owners' gardens were pretty much destroyed.  We are rebuilding, but it will be at least five more years until it suits us. So baskets and boxes will make us happy until the perennials mature and fill in the bald spots and we think of something creative to do with ‘the back forty’.

Time is short this week: something to do with writing books so that people who enjoy the book collector mysteries will have a new one in the works. But I found enough time to go hunting for plants at the garden center of our grocery store in the village. The rule of thumb for baskets is: thriller, filler, spiller.  Was I the last person in the world to learn this?

I needed an attractive eye-catching plant in the center, something on the taller side.  That needed to be surrounding by bright, shorter flowers, to ‘fill in’ the pot.  Finally, some vines or trailing blooms, spillers, to balance out the whole deal.  Here's a pretty bit of lobelia for my first basket.

It’s an easy concept, but I’d never done it that way. I’m all about the fillers and the spillers.  This time I thought to try the thriller.  I started with what I hope is going to be the right soil.  That’s a work in progress too.  We’re always looking for the right mix that won’t drown them or dry out when we have our annual August heat wave.

Here are the first two baskets:  For the first, I picked out a coleus with a lot of spicy red and dark dramatic borders 


 I filled in with some sweet dianthus (do pink carnations take any of you back to the day?) 

Next, I tucked the lobelia around.  Fingers crossed that it will like a sunny spot. If not, we'll switch it out.
  Finally, I just need to find the right spot for it. It won't stay on this chair!

Next, a project with a lovely fescue grass. 

It’s the first time I’ve seen this variation in the local shop.  I decided to surround the fescue with small red begonias. I love them and they’re tough little devils.  I also love the lime-color of the sweet potato vine.

My efforts cost about half the price of the pre-made baskets. Once they have a chance to fill out the basket, I know they’ll look great.  In the meantime, I tucked them into our old wicker hanging basket (garage sale!) sat down to admire, just as the temperature dropped to about forty and the wind caused the trees and the baskets to whip around. Canada. What can I say?
I’ll post pictures later when they reach their peak.  Right now, they're alive and planning to bring me joy this summer.

Next week, please join me for a trip to the market for begonias! 

And now, what about you? Do you have favorite annuals?  Any spring planting rituals you’d like to share?  Baskets or beds? 

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Friends and family plan

Nothing better than friends and families and there are no families or friends closer than Southern families and friends. That’s especially true in Demise in Denim.

Mamma and KiKi were sisters. At birth the muses tangoed over auntie’s crib turning her into Savannah’s dance diva and they wrapped mamma in a blanket with little elephants resulting in this campaign and me getting the name Reagan.

Friendship means being there for each other when the chips are down, like when Walker Boone is wanted for murder.

            I looked at my ’57 red Chevy convertible parked at the curb. “Might as well put a target on my back trying to get away from the cops in this thing.”
           Reagan shoved her helmet at me. “Take Princess.”
          “A scooter? You want me to ride a pink scooter named Princess?”
            “Better than that being your nickname in the big house.”

And there are all kinds of friendships…friendships between guys…

                      Dawg,” Big Joey said to me as I slip onto a stool next to his, everyone in the place giving Joey space. “Know you’d show.”
          Big Joey was built like a Mac truck, muscles buffed to jet black, gold tooth, ponytail and main man of the Seventeenth Street former home and forever family. He was my brother in every sense of the word except parental commonality.

Friendships between girls…

                        Footsteps skittered across the floor over our heads and I tore up the steps, with Auntie KiKi right behind me. We turned the corner at the top and faced a big guy with alcohol-infused breath and wild-looking bloodshot eyes that I could make out even in the dark. The guy took a swing at me and missed. KiKi threw the rest of her martini in his face and I added an added a cocktail shaker uppercut to his jaw.
                       “I give up! I give up!” The guy stumbled back against the wall and slithered down to the floor as I switched on the hall lights.

So who’s always there for you? Who always has your back come hell or high water? 

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

A Message For All of Us

by Maggie Sefton

My mother in 1965, when she was 45

My mother just turned 95 years old on Mother's Day this year, May 10th.  That's quite a milestone.  There was no birthday cake.  The nurses, nurses' aides, and all the other caregivers at the wonderful Skilled Care facility offered her whatever she wanted.  And they were delighted when Mom took a bite of a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.  She went another few days before she ate anything else.  Then on Sunday, the nurses asked her what she wanted, and she once again asked for a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and delighted them when she took two little bites.  Then, later, she had a bite of ice cream.

Hooray for PBJ!  And ice cream.  As you've probably guessed by now, my mother is slowly exercising her right to choose how she wants to pass.  On her own terms, and in no pain.  We should all be so lucky.  I'm visiting every day and sit and talk with her.  She's still reading the daily newspaper that's   delivered to her own room.  And she watches television.  Over the weekend, once again, she chose the channels that show golf tournaments.  It makes me smile.  She likes to talk with me and appreciates my visits, but she always reminds me to turn that TV back on when I'm about to leave.  The woman never played golf in her life, but she loves watching professional golfers on TV.

She regularly asks me "How come I'm still alive?"  To which I reply:  "Because you have none of the Big Three Killer Diseases, Mom.  No heart disease.  No emphysema.  And no diabetes."  The Big 3 take most people's lives earlier than 95 years old.  She doesn't have them.  So, she's still here.  :)  Bless her heart.

My mother is also fortunate in that she can afford to live in a marvelous skilled care facility (they don't call them nursing homes anymore).  And, believe me, it's not cheap.  Back East where I grew up, I'm sure the cost is way higher than here in Fort Collins, Colorado---an hour north of Denver.  Since I was a CPA out there in the working world, I am quite comfortable with numbers.  So, I'll share some of these with you, folks.  I'm sure a lot of you out there have aging parents, so believe me, you WILL face this situation in the future---just as our children will be facing it years from now.

The monthly charge for the Columbine West Skilled Care facility is approximately $7500 each month.  To that charge are added the separate charges for Nurse Practitioner's regular visits plus visits by the  dentist and any other visiting physician and physician's assistant.  Add to that a visit by a specialist, X-rays, other tests, and monthly pharmacy bills.  Easily rounding up to $8000 a month for her own private room.  You can do the math.  That amounts to $96,000.  So,  we can easily say it costs my mother $100,000/year.  

That's a lot of money.  And I think it's safe to say that the majority of Americans could not afford to pay  those bills.  How can my mother afford it?   Well, she has something that most Americans no longer have---and some never will have.  I don't have one.  And that's a pension.  My mother was a single, divorced Working Mom in an Ozzie and Harriet world.  She was smart and industrious and had great secretarial skills which enabled her to take the exam required to apply for a secretarial position with the Federal Government in Washington, DC, years and years ago.

She worked 30 years and retired with a pension.  A year later, she married my stepfather, Stetson, who also worked 30 years for the Federal Government.  Stetson was Chief Historian for the U.S. Army and was the editor of the official history of World War II for the U.S. Army.  Stetson was also a neighbor in Arlington where I grew up.  Stetson's wife, Mary Alice, had died two years earlier from lung disease caused by her smoking for most of her life.  Stetson was older than my mom and died in 1985.  They had eleven wonderful years together.

So----those two pensions plus money from some small investments that my mom and Stetson had accumulated and which I've had to sell off piece by piece have provided the funds to pay all those monthly charges.  As a former CPA, Fiduciary Responsibility runs deep in my bones.  I'm just thankful the money has been there these last few years.  That has enabled my mother to spend these last years of her life in comfortable surroundings with skilled nurses and loving nurses' aides who regularly come in to get hugs and kisses from my mom, Benny.  She deserves it.

And they do love her and take fantastic care of her.  A friend asked if it was sad to watch this happening----this downward path.  We all know where this is going.  One of these days the nurses will walk into her room and find that she's no longer breathing.  Having peacefully passed----in no pain----when she was ready.   On her own terms.  I've always believed that when Mind and Spirit decide to leave-----Body will follow.   We should all be as fortunate as my mother, Benny.  God Bless her.          

Monday, May 18, 2015


by Kate Collins

I haven’t been sick since I can’t remember when -- until this past week, that is, when a stomach virus leveled me. And like any writer with warehouses of curiosity seeking an outlet, I wanted to know the fastest way to get rid of that nasty bug.

As often happens in life, when the student is ready, the teacher will appear, which it did, in the form of an online article by Dr. Mercola ( on astonishing new discoveries about our inner gut biome, and a fascinating webinar on gut bacteria given by a former San Francisco news anchor/investigative reporter.

Some of the important information I learned is:

1. Our genes are controlled mainly by our gut bacteria. The bugs that live within us are changing our genome expression moment to moment.

2. The composition of the gut bacteria has enormous influence on your health, including your brain’s health. determining whether your brain will become diseased or not.

3. Our gut genome had been the same for thousands of years until now because of all the processed foods and toxins we ingest. And because we're changing our gut bacteria, we are also changing the signals that are going to our DNA, producing massive amounts of people with diseases.

4. When your gut lining becomes compromised, you end up with leakiness of the gut. This increases inflammation, which is a cornerstone of virtually all brain disorders, like Alzheimer's, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson's and autism.

5. There is a direct connection between a leaky gut and autoimmune diseases such as MS, Lou Gehrig's disease, Crohn's, and inflammatory bowel disease.

6. The old notion that doctors should look at you as a collection of individual parts is completely illogical. Every system relates to each other in a way that ultimately causes either health or disease.

7. Two key strategies to nourish and protect your gut genome are to limit your consumption of antibiotics to when they're absolutely necessary, and be smart in the food choices you make. Whenever possible, opt for whole, raw organic, non-genetically modified (GM) foods, along with traditionally fermented and cultured foods.

8. Pesticides have also been shown to alter gut bacteria and foster drug-resist bacteria in the soil and food, so organically-grown and raised foods are your best bet.

9. You can rehabilitate your gut bacteria so that they will do the majority of the work in preventing disease and promoting a healthy functioning body and mind.

And that was just the tip of the iceberg. My plan now to completely recover from this flu is to eat fermented foods to heal my gut, continue taking a probiotic supplement (forget processed yogurts. They’re too weak and sugary to do any good), and eat lots of organically grown greens, onions, garlic, and nuts and seeds.

If you’re interested in learning more about how to rehab your gut, I recommend reading Dr. David Perimutter’s, Brain Maker: The Power of Gut Microbes to Heal and Protect Your Brain-for Life, and his previous book, Grain Brain, which topped the New York Times bestseller list for 54 weeks.

Dr. Perlmutter is a board-certified neurologist and a fellow of the American College of Nutrition (ACN).