Wednesday, July 29, 2015

What happened…

Duffy Brown here…
Okay, it’s August and where has summer gone? I have so much to do and only one month left. With two weddings this has been the summer of mass confusion. So, I started making a list to try and squeeze it all in, or at least some things in. Maybe one.

First it would be nice to get my summer clothes out and hung up in my closet, they are still in the basement. I’ve been running up and down the steps all summer long. I guess I’ll forget it with September one month away.

I still haven’t gotten my bike out of the garage! I had great plans of riding every week. Both tires are flat.

I wanted to plant a few new rosebushes. Yeah, like that’s going to happen. I don’t think there are any roses left to buy.

I did make a tabletop for my outdoor table that got the top shattered in a storm. But it needs painting and could be better than boards across a frame.

I did wash my car...once. So much for the weekly plan to keep it nice.

I intended to plant herbs. I’ve have mint stick in a glass of water for the last month. At least it’s still alive.

I really wanted to go to the farmer’s market every week to get fresh produce and eat healthy. I never made it once. I’m lucky I get to the grocery store. If the cats didn’t threaten to run away if I didn’t get them food I probably wouldn’t even do that.

The one thing I did do was not strangle my daughters. They are getting married and to really great guys.

So, I guess this summer isn’t a complete loss but to tell you the truth I’m already longing for next year. Things have got to be better next year…right!

So the question is, what did you plan on doing that never made it? I sure hope you were more successful than I was.

Hugs, Duffy

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

New York, New York. . .It's a Wonderful Town!

by Maggie Sefton

Last week I attended the Romance Writers of America conference in New York City.  It's a great conference to meet readers as well as have meetings with your editor and agent.

Above:   Sheila Connolly, Linda O. Johnston, & Maggie Sefton

Since it was held at a Marriott hotel right in Times Square, right in the heart of the city,


I thought I'd post several views of all the people---
and the sights you'll see as you stroll back from dinner at night.  

Monday, July 27, 2015


by Kate Collins

I’ve been wondering this for quite a while, because it seems every day there is a new weather disaster. Massive rainfalls, even in areas that don’t normally get much rain, more numerous and more powerful than usual lightning storms, cooler summer temperatures in some areas, hotter than normal in others, rising sea levels, rivers in Europe so low, riverboats are unable to sail, unheard of high temperatures in moderate climates, earthquakes, droughts so severe ginormous wildfires burn for weeks – and on and on.

 In the Midwest, we’ve had such copious amounts of rain that crops have been damaged, fields flooded, farmers unable to even plant. June’s weather was more like April’s, and then we were launched suddenly into high temperatures and humidity. Last year we had one month of summer – in July. That was it.

Polar freezes in the winter, unusual conditions in the summer, violent storms – doesn’t it seem like Mother Earth is angry?

Perhaps the planet is trying to shake off all the toxins, wash off all the dangerous chemicals in the soil, blow away all the air pollutants, and fry all those genetically modified crops.

Whatever the reason, let’s hope our dear Mother gets it out of her system soon. I want my four months of summer back!

How’s the weather in your hometown?

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Fun With Graphics

by Leann

Because I have had a summer cold all week and am not feeling too creative, I've decided to share some of the wonderful graphics that a friend made for me to offer a few hints about next week's release of The Cat, The Sneak and The Secret. Yes, August 4th is a little more than a week away. Meanwhile, I am working on next year's installment--The Cat, The Collector and The Killer.

In no particular order:

Saturday, July 25, 2015


by Mary Kennedy                                  

I'm getting ready for a trip to Paris next month and decided to brush up on my French. What to do! So many choices.

Did you know you can take online classes for free? One of my favorite sites is Duo Lingo. You can start at your own pace and spend just 20 minutes a day, practicing conversation. The site is user-friendly and tries to make language learning fun with games and prizes. And it's free!

Another site I enjoy, both for its amazing photographs and helpful every- day expressions is French Word a Day by Kristin Espinasse. Kristin is an American who lives in a charming, rustic house with a vineyard in the south of France, with her husband who she calls "Chef Grape." You can sign up for her French Word a Day blog and it will appear in your inbox twice a week.
Of course, there are some excellent books and tapes you can buy or rent from the library. I enjoyed an audio set by Pimsleur. If you like multi-tasking (and who doesn't?), you can play Pimsleur while you go about your everyday tasks. Be sure to take part in the conversation, though, don't just let the dialogue wash over you. Engage in the conversation!  You'll start with simple expressions that eventually morph into short conversations. A charming monsieur invites you out for dinner, and then he asks if he can come back to your place for a drink. Ooh-la-la! The choice is yours. Tell him oui or non, depending on your mood.
 Before you know it, you'll be navigating the Metro, asking directions, ordering a meal in a restaurant, and charming the natives with your fractured French. Just kidding! I'm sure you'll do fine.

Soon, you'll be saying confidently, "Un café crème, s'il vous plait."

Berlitz has a whole line of foreign language instruction and you might want to choose one focused on travel and conversation. Save the heavy-duty French tenses for when you come home. Remember the subjunctive tense from your high school French? ("If I had known you were coming, I would have baked a cake.") Seriously, you don't need to know all the verb conjugations to have fun.
Finally, here's a terrific photo of the Eiffel Tower that my son took. Love it. What could be more glamorous than Paris "par nuit."
So, bonne chance (good luck) with your language studies. A bientot! (ttyl)
Mary Kennedy

Friday, July 24, 2015

In search of the perfect martini ...

by Lorraine Bartlett / Lorna Barrett / L.L. Bartlett

Writers often have a reputation for drinking, so why should I rock the boat?  I have two different drinks of choice.  Black velvet and soda and gin martinis.

Why is it so difficult to find a really good gin martini?  You'd think they'd be easy to make. There are basically two ingredients; gin and vermouth.  Some people like them with olives (that would be me), and some people like them with a twist of lemon. (Yuck!)

When I'm in a nice restaurant and order my drink, I always ask for a dry gin martini up with olives. Dry means light on the vermouth, which I find to be rather bitter. 

Lately, it seems it's getting harder and harder to find a decent martini--even when you order from a place that has a nice bar. Often they're left in the shaker too long and you get a very watery tasting drink.  Mind you, if you're paying $7 a pop--you want drink that tastes the way it should.  Other times there's too much vermouth (and it's supposed to be 1 shot of vermouth to 2 of gin--I'm asking for less), or there's virtually no hint of gin.  (What's with that?)

My friend Pat drinks Gray Goose martinis, or at least she used to.  She got tired of getting lousy drinks and now just asks for straight vodka in a chilled glass.  (Gray Goose is NOT a cheap vodka--so if she's pay $10 or more for her martini--she wants it the way she wants it.)

Mr. L and I were recently on a mini vacation, so I got to sample martinis at three different (nice) restaurants within three days. None of them were worth the price. When I want a really good martini, there are only four places in New York that I know make them well.  The Sherwood Inn (Skaneateles, NY), Benard's Grove (Greece, NY),  The Cottage Inn (Red Creek, NY), and Keenans (Rochester, NY). 

I'm sure there are more, but I haven't found them yet.

What's your poison?

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Now that clears things up!

This week my husband had his second cataract operation.  We have had some troubles as a result of other operations in recent years, so walking into a hospital is not our favorite thing. But this operation seemed nearly miraculous.

I remember some years ago, my friend’s mother spent more than a week immobilized in a hospital bed because she’d had cataract surgery.  One false sneeze and it would have been game over.
That was troubling as cataracts were the leading cause of visual impairment.

But advances in technology have turned this into outpatient surgery.  Now with something called the interocular lens, not only can the cataracts be removed, but vision can be corrected too. 
These days the longest part of the operation is in the waiting room and that’s pretty short.  You can even order a special improved lens if you want, as easy as extra cheese for your pizza.

Now you are awake during the surgery, but in a very mellow mood because of the sedatives.  You must have a ‘guardian angel’ with you to drive you home or they won’t let you leave.

Half an hour after the surgery, you’re offered a sandwich and juice you are sent home with your ‘guardian angel’ who has made sure you have sunglasses to wear. You’re told not to mow the lawn or jump up and down for a while.  You’re all right with that.

My hubby—for the first time in his adult life—does not require glasses to see distance or even to drive. He’s still quite amazed by the crystal clear view and is planning to donate his large collection of prescription glasses to a charity that helps people who can’t afford glasses.

The only downside is that he now will need a prescription for reading glasses as each eye has a different correction for reading. The specialist said it's best to wait for a month before getting that prescription, Our cheap drugstore interim experiment has been a failure as has the patch on one lens!  Epic fail, we must say.

As he likes to read in bed, this will make for a long month for him.   We are just back from  the drugstore with a pirate patch for him!


Here he is, being a good sport.

I offered to lend him Daisy's pirate hat, but he drew the line before that.  

All kidding (and hats) aside, we still are counting ourselves lucky. It’s not that long ago that people lost their sight and much of their independence as a result of cataracts. Around here we’re feeling lucky to be living at a time when this surgery is possible.

We do have friends with macular degeneration and glaucoma and we were hoping that there will be corresponding advances in the treatment of these two huge and heartbreaking problems too. 

How about you? Any experiences to report, good or bad?  Opinions or suggestions on where to send good quality eyeglasses that aren’t needed anymore? I bet we aren't the only ones looking.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Let the Games Begin…

Hi, Duffy Brown here. It’s summer and families and friends get together in the back yard, the park, at a friend’s house. There’s always lots of great food and chit-chat and then there’s the games.

One of my favorite games when growing up was croquet. Yep, we laid out the course, had our favorite lucky colors and loved blasting each other all over the yard when we hit their ball. 

We played a lot of hide and seek and that’s still a fav with the younger kids. We had this huge yard with garages and gardens and trees. At night with flashlights was the best and the scariest.

My grandfather taught me how to play bocce ball. He was from Italy and bocce ball is big in Italy. I still have his bocce ball set. What a treasure.

A fav at our house is corn hole. This is where you toss beanbags in holes cut into plywood tilted at an angle. You do it in teams which is always fun and that you can toss with one hand and hold a beer with the other makes this game an instant crowd pleaser.

Remember the game Jinga where you pull out slats of wood and try not to topple the whole stack? Well, my daughter just made a yard version of this where the stack of wood is about four feet high and you have to pull out the two-by-fours and try not to collapse the stack.

Squirt gun battles are always great backyard fun as are marshmallow wars where players are armed with marshmallow guns and shoot at each other. That you can eat the ammo is a definite plus.

So what about you? Got a fav backyard game for family and friends? I love hearing about all your summer fun!

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Under The Sea

by Maggie Sefton

These photos are of my Astronaut daughter Serena all suited up for her excursion under the sea.  Two whole weeks under the sea.  She’ll be participating for 14 days in the  NASA Extreme Environment Mission Operations (NEEMO) 20 expedition slated to begin July 20.

The NEEMO crew and two 

professional habitat technicians will live 62 feet (19 meters) below the surface of the Atlantic Ocean in Florida International University’s Aquarius Reef Base undersea research habitat 6.2 miles (5.4 nautical miles) off the coast of Key Largo, Florida.

All of Serena’s nine-member NASA Astronaut team will take turns participating as part of their training and preparation for future Deep Space missions.  They’ll be using tools and techniques being tested for future spacewalks.  

Click on this link to learn more----plus see more photos.  

And, if you really want to see what the crew is up to, check this out-----Link to cameras:    

Monday, July 20, 2015


By Kate Collins

This past weekend I attended a family reunion at an Indiana State Park deep in the woods of Brown County. We booked rooms at a lodge that had very nice, woodsy-themed accommodations and access to all the activities in the park. And except for the torrential rain Friday and the intense heat Saturday and Sunday, (real feel =
107 °) we had a lovely time. It’s always a joy to see family scattered across the country and catch up with what’s happening in their lives.

One big problem with the weekend: the internet connection was terrible. It ranged from poor to none, and for people who are hooked to their cell phones by an electronic umbilical cord, that caused major distress.

We couldn’t phone each other to coordinate activities.
We couldn’t text.
We couldn’t check email.
We couldn’t post on Facebook or Twitter.
We couldn’t do internet searches to find information on various sites of interest.

Those with Verizon fared a tiny bit better as there was a cell towel somewhere in the area, but we AT&T-ers were out of luck.  Wouldn’t you think someone at AT&T would say, “Hey, that’s a popular vacation area. So maybe we should, like, make our phones work there?”

Sadly no.

If you were a fly on the wall, you would’ve seen a bunch of nervous people anxiously checking their phones for service (one bar was considered a gold mine) every few minutes until the batteries ran out.  Random beeps could be heard every so often and twenty-five people would grab their phones and eagerly search for a message. And then one lucky person would shout, “Eureka! It’s me!” and do a little happy dance, hands waving in the air so everyone could see their lighted screen. Unfortunately, the message was usually three hours old.

I got my brother’s text at 7:20 a.m. He sent it at 11:30 p.m. the night before to let me know he made it safely. My daughter’s text came in while we were having dinner. She was sitting across from me at the time. The message read: “I’ll meet you in the lobby in half an hour.”

Service in the charming town of Nashville was no better. One nice clerk said, “You have AT&T? Oh, I'm sorry.”  Those with Verizon phones suddenly became the “popular kids.”

We actually had to resort to making multiple trips up and down various hallways trying to remember who was in what room and communicating face to face (except for those of us who got the wrong room numbers and frightened random strangers by calling through the door, "Hey, come on down to the lounge. We've got photos of you!"

I apologize if I missed a Facebook post I was tagged in, but would I trade a good connection for this reunion weekend? No way.  In fact, it might have been a blessing. We couldn’t sit around checking our phones during times when we gathered to eat and share family stories. We actually had to interact in person! Oh, the joy of seeing a twinkle in someone’s eye when a funny story was told.

However, now that I’m back home and connected once more, I feel a sense of relief – followed by that familiar feeling of panic at finding a hundred emails to sort through. I don't even want to think about Facebook.

Did I actually miss all that?
Would you feel panic at not having a connection?

Sunday, July 19, 2015

I Love British Mysteries--Then and Forever

By Leann

Like many of you, Agatha Christie was my first introduction to British mysteries and I was about ten
when  I started reading her books (with a dictionary right beside me). Little did I know it would become a love affair that would last my entire life. Not only do I adore the puzzle and the character development, but it's the respect for language and setting that means so much to me.

When I took a 5 day workshop taught by Elizabeth George in  the late '90s, she gave a quote I have never forgotten--and I am not sure who to attribute it to, but it went something like this: A good book puts you in the arms of a loving narrative. She went on to
say that if you feel that love from the beginning of the book, you can suspend your disbelief immediately. It doesn't matter what genre, it's just the truth about a good book. British writers do this so well.

The other thing I love is how well British authors weave scenery into the story. The landscape sets the tone for each scene and I try very hard to remember that when I am writing. Perhaps that's why I write about the South even though I am from the North. I truly felt as if I had moved to a foreign country when we left New York for Texas and this helped me realize just how important atmosphere as defined by locale is to the narrative.

There are many more beloved foreign writers in my slew of books now.
I have come to enjoy Scandinavian mysteries almost as much as the UK writers. (And yes, Stieg Larrson's title for The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo was actually The Man Who Hated Women.) Not that I don't love American writers, too. I have many many favorites and have enjoyed so many books in my life. (I am currently reading Linda Castillo's most recent Amish mystery). I just love to read and no day is complete with reading. And if you don't adore books, then it's my belief you can never become a writer. I think writers absorb stories as if they were athletes working out. I need the workout to strengthen my writing muscle--my brain.

Tell me what authors put you in the arms of a loving narrator. I'd love to know.

Saturday, July 18, 2015


by Mary Kennedy                             
My Favorite Berry Cobbler
 1 cup milk
 1 cup of self-rising flour
 1 cup of white sugar
 1 stick of melted butter
 2 cups of berries (blackberries, raspberries, whatever you like)
 a little extra sugar for sprinkling on top.
 Mix flour and sugar, add milk and melted butter. Add berries to greased baking dish and pour the batter on top.  Sprinkle a little extra sugar on top. Bake for one hour at 350 degrees. Easy peasy! You will love it. 
Shoney's Strawberry Pie 
Have you tried this? You must! It looks impressive and it's easy.
1 c. water
1 c. sugar
6 tbsp. cornstarch
1 1/2 pts fresh strawberries
4 tbsp. strawberry Jello
Dash of salt
1 baked pie shell
Whipped cream
     Mix cornstarch, sugar, water and salt and cook over medium heat. When mixture turns clear, remove from heat. Add the dry Jello mix and stir until dissolved. Place strawberries in pie shell. Pour cooked mixture over strawberries. Chill. It is delicious!
Coffee ice cream with Kahlua and walnuts
This is one of my favorite desserts and it's good all year round.
Coffee ice cream
Roughly chopped walnuts
Kahlua (if you want to substitute caramel sauce, you can)
Whipped cream
Just spoon coffee ice cream into parfait glasses or dessert dishes and top with walnuts. Pour some Kahlua on top and then add whipped cream. Perfect for one of those days when it's really too hot to cook anything! Enjoy...
Mary Kennedy

Friday, July 17, 2015

It's National Yellow Pig Day!

by Lorraine Bartlett / Lorna Barrett / L.L. Bartlett

Well, who knew it was National Yellow Pig Day? 

Not me.  Well, not until I went to the National Day Calendar.  (I don't even know what it means or is about. Do you?)

There's a National Day of something EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. OF. THE. YEAR.  Most of the time, it's really kind of fun. These days are the perfect excuses for being bad.  For instance, Sunday is National Ice Cream Day.  To celebrate, I made a graphic for my Lotus Bay characters. cream.  Now I have an excuse to EAT ice cream on Sunday.  And if I'm going to be bad, should I have a mere ice cream sandwich (I've got a box in the freezer), or should I buy a pint or half gallon (although I think they've shrunk that size)? Maybe I should go to an ice cream parlor, and instead of a cone go for a sundae -- or worse, a banana split!

See, these National Days give you a real excuse to be bad. Very bad.

On Tuesday, it'll be National Junk Food Day.  Mmmm...junk food.  I know what I'm going to have.  How about you?