Wednesday, July 30, 2014

It’s all about fun!

Okay, it’s summer and hot and that means it’s time for amusement parks and blue ice cream and flying saucers and roller coasters and merry-go-rounds and things you eat on a stick. 

I’ve never been to Disney but we've taken vacations to Cedar Point here in Ohio and to King’s Island. So my question today is... What is your fav amusement park and what is your fav ride now or when you were a kid?

Are you a roller coaster person? Hands up, front car, screaming your head off. Or are you a stand on the ground screaming at your kids to hold on!


What about those rides that are not only roller coasters but flip you up-side down? I am so not an upside-down person!

What about those drop rides that take you up and up and up then cut the cord and you drop like rock. Personally a falling elevator has always been one of my nightmares.

Then we have the rides that go around and around. Like the tea cups at Disney. At Cedar Point they have this octopus ride that goes up and down and around. Not great after just eating a chili dog.

Are you a flying swings person? This is great on hot days so you can get cooled off.


Water rides are another great get-cooled-off ride but then you look a soaked mess for the rest of the day and really a bad idea if you are in a thin T-shirt. Oh Lordy!

Merry-go-rounds are one of my fav as King’s Island has vintage horses that are hand-painted and so lovely. My daughter worked this ride for a summer. Loved it and still hums Bicycle Built For Two when she’s bored...the calipee music does tend to stick in your head after a while.  

What about the dodgems? Where you drive a little cart and try and ram people. We have our own version of this on the interstate here in Cincy.

Personally my fav is the food. Not exactly a ride but I got a thing for blue ice cream and chilidogs and kettle corn and of course we all know that anything eaten at an amusement part is calorie-free.

Soooo what is your fav amusement park or state fair and what is your fav ride?

I’ll give away two of my romance books from the answers. Please check back to see if you are a winner.

Have a great summer! And most of all keep riding and have fun!!!!



Hugs, Duffy

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Deep in the Heart of Texas

by Maggie Sefton


Last Wednesday I flew into San Antonio, Texas, for a BIG conference filled with over 600 fiction authors and over 3000 readers.  Ravenous readers who absolutely love fiction.  And where you have readers and writers, you'll definitely find Starbucks and coffee.  :)


RWA, RomanceWriters of America hold one of the very best yearly conferences with sessions on all aspects and fiction and writing fiction.   It went through late Saturday.










San Antonio has a lovely area called the Riverwalk which runs alongsidethe San Antonio
river and is filled with great cafes and hotels and lots of tourists:







Meanwhile, I thought I'd share some photos of the very lively, dynamic RWA conference.








                                                                                                                         It was a great conference.  :)


Monday, July 28, 2014

THE BIG FAT FAT LIE


 by Kate Collins



I’m so happy I can eat butter again. And bacon.  And nuts. And avocados.  I missed them. A lot.

Like millions of others back in the 80s, I fell into the hype that butter was evil and switched to margarine. So what if it was all chemical-based? It wasn’t butter! It wasn’t that awful death wish that our parents, grandparents, great-grandparents and so on ate for centuries! Same with nuts. And bacon. And fatty meat that came straight from the animals they raised on their farms (that weren’t given hormones, antibiotics, or genetically tinkered with corn.)

Now a slew of studies have debunked the butter and saturated fat myth, and I, for one, am REJOICING by making my eggs with butter again and eating bacon with it, (although I do buy a nitrite and hormone free variety.) These studies prove cardiovascular disease is NOT related to fat and cholesterol intake. Yay!!!

In her new book, The Big Fat Surprise journalist Nina Teicholz lists the flaws in the original Ancel Keys study that the myth was based upon; how saturated fat has been a healthy human staple for thousands of years, and how the low- or no-fat craze has resulted in excessive consumption of refined carbohydrates, which has resulted in increased inflammation and disease.

If fat WAS the culprit, and thousands upon thousands  of us practically eliminated it from our diets, we should see LESS diabetes, LESS heart disease, and LESS other health issues than before. Right? Instead, we have them in epidemic levels.

And all along the true culprits have been sugar, chronic stress, toxins in the environment, and sleep deprivation. 

Another myth that has now been debunked is that cholesterol is bad. I always questioned this. Why would our bodies manufacture something bad for us? Now they are finding out that people have a higher risk for heart attacks and cancer by having their cholesterol levels too low. But that’s not what Big Pharma would have you believe.

Cholesterol is vital in building cell membranes, interacting with proteins inside cells, and helping regulate protein pathways required for cell signaling. Why would you want to do away with it?

And just as a body needs cholesterol, it also needs saturated fats for proper function. We evolved as hunter-gatherers and have eaten animal products for most of our existence. Why would they suddenly become harmful? (Well, except when the animals are kept in tiny cells, filled with hormones and antibiotics to make them larger, and given feed loaded with pesticides. )

So go forth and enjoy your butter again. And bacon. Seriously, who doesn’t love bacon? Just make sure you buy the healthy kinds. (For me, the extra I pay for organic butter and hormone-free bacon keeps me from having to pay a doctor later.) And as with anything we eat, moderation is the key.


Buttered popcorn anyone? Yum.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Don't Text and Walk

by Leann

Since we are in the middle of moving, I am writing this blog early. Next weekend, if the internet is working (PUH-LEASE let it be working!), I will share pictures of our new home!

Today I am tackling a different subject. We all know how dangerous is can be to
text and drive--or even talk on the phone while navigating the highway. I'm certain you've been behind someone who is swerving, going too slow or paying no attention to traffic ahead. It's scary and I often like to guess if their erratic weaving is caused by cell phone behavior. When I get the courage to pass them, I am usually right.

But there's another danger out there--the danger of me saying something I shouldn't to a stranger. And who knows where that could lead? Hairpulling? Punching? Who knows? I am talking about people who almost walk. If you cannot pat your head and rub your belly, you should know that you cannot text and walk. Do one or the other. Please.

This happens most often in the mall or the grocery store. You're walking along and bam! You almost run into someone in front of you who has stopped dead because they are texting or reading a text. They are in a world of their own. You do not exist. In grocery aisles this can cause a back-up and even loud throat clearing has no impact. Most times, when they've sent or read their IMPORTANT text, they move on. Slowly, eyes focused on their phone and waiting for a reply.

This past week I was walking on a rather long narrow sidewalk that leads into my doctor's office. The woman in front of me was texting. A turtle would have won a race with her. But she was busy. And she took up the whole sidewalk. When we reached the front of the office, there were two doors. She slowly went to the right, so I took the left door, walked in and reached the sign in sheet before she did. All of sudden, she was refocused on her current reality--and not happy. I got the stink
eye as we both waited to see the doc, but guess what? Being considerate of others is something I value. Being inconsiderate of others has consequences. But somehow, I don't think she will ever understand.

Texting and walking might not kill you, but maybe parents need to add cell phone etiquette to the life skills they teach their kids. What about you? What are your pet peeves when it comes to people talking on their phones or glued to their phones EVERYWHERE?


Saturday, July 26, 2014

DREAM a LITTLE DREAM

by Mary Kennedy
 
 
When I told my friends and colleagues about my new Penguin series, the Dream Club Mysteries, I was surprised at the outpouring of interest and support. Everyone, it seems, is fascinated by dreams, curious about their meaning and eager to discuss their potential significance.
 
As a psychologist, I have to tell you that my clients love to talk about their dreams. Are dreams really the "royal road to the unconscious" as Freud suggested? Can they give us new insights into our deepest thoughts and most hidden emotions? Or are they simply random firings of neurons as the brain rests and recharges itself, taking a few hours to deal with the "residue of the day."
 
My new Penguin-Random House series is about dream clubs. Their popularity is definitely on the rise, especially in the northeast. If you're not familiar with dream clubs, think of an ongoing support group with members who are passionate about their dreams. Members are carefully selected, the group agrees to at a particular time and date for a certain number of weeks. Everyone agrees to agrees strict confidentiality. After all, whether they're filled with sunshine or terror, dreams are personal stuff.
                                                        
 
Would you ever be interested in forming a dream club with your friends? In Nightmares Can Be Murder, my dream club is composed of a group of Savannah women who meet once a week to analyze their dreams, eat some delicious pastries and solve a murder or two. They meet in an apartment above a vintage candy store called Oldies But Goodies and the living room is featured on the cover.                      
 

See the cat playing with the dreamcatcher in the bottom right of the cover? A sharp-eyed reader noticed the dreamcatcher was broken and asked if it was deliberate. Did the cat break it? Or did the cover designer portray it as "broken" to suggest that "nightmares" could slip through. As you know, the purpose of a dreamcatcher is let the "good dreams" through and trap the nightmares so they never disturb your sleep. The characters in the series have both "sweet dreams" and "bad dreams" and they often contain clues that help them with their murder investigation.
                                                       
      I hope a lot of you are interested in dreams, because I'm running a giveaway all next month that should be lots of fun. The prizes will be "Sweet Dream Kits" that contain a dreamcatcher, along with cookies, tea and a signed ARC of Nightmares Can Be  Murder. Everything you need for a good night's sleep!                                                      
                                                          
 
If you want to learn more about dreams right now (and can't wait for the Sept 2 release) you can buy the little 17 page guide shown above, "A Psychologist's Guide to Dream Interpretation." It's something I put up on Amazon for fun, it's 99 cents and ALL the proceeds go to the Wayne County Humane Society in Lyons, New York. http://tinyurl.com/k5dazog If you read the dream guide, you'll know the answers to participate in the contest for the Sweet Dreams kits (and you'll be helping a wonderful organization.)
 
So stay tuned for a fun Sweet Dream giveaway during the whole month of August, and feel free to tell me your dreams!  Sweet dreams, everyone.
 
by Mary Kennedy
 

Friday, July 25, 2014

Happy Birthday, Mary!

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

This week my husband's family is celebrating a remarkable event: his mother's 100th birthday.


Holy cow! How does one live that long? What is her secret? In her day, Mary drank gallons of beer. She ate tons of butter. Somehow she managed to outlive 4 of her 5 siblings. (Only the baby of the family is left alive.)

I think what saved her is just plain hard work. There wasn't a day that this woman didn't work hard to take care of her family and then herself.  In her late 80s she was still raking 80+ bags of leaves from her front and back yard.  She had a snow blower and she took care of her very long driveway so that she would get her car out of the garage. (Don't ask me how she ever got that Gran Torino down that narrow driveway, because I sure as hell would never have been able to do that.)

She lived on her own until the age of 96. That's when we brought her from Buffalo to Rochester. She lived in assisted living for another three years before a health crisis forced her to move to a nursing home earlier this year.  Still, she's very sharp for her age. She reads the daily newspaper and talks about current events. She loves to play Bingo and Uno (and win).

We've planned a party for next week for close relatives and her peers in the nursing home (ALL of them younger than her) this week.

So, Happy Birthday, Mary -- and I hope you celebrate many more.

Have you ever had a family member make it to 100 or beyond?

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Have you ever fallen in love with a fictional character?




We definitely have lost our hearts to characters in mysteries and Jordan Bingham, the young sleuth in the  book collector mysteries, is head over heels for Archie Goodwin in The Wolfe Widow,  the third book in the series.  




Sure, she had a bad case for Lord Peter Wimsey in The Sayers Swindle, but he’d be a hundred and fourteen years old now if he was real and there were other impediments to them living happily ever after too. He was married to Harriet Vane for one thing.  


 
But Archie – the right hand man to the great detective Nero Wolfe – remains happily single and very dishy. That’s always such a challenge for a girl carrying a torch. Jordan thinks Rex Stout should have called those books The Archie Goodwin mysteries. 

Never mind, he’s a good role model for Jordan who is the first person in her family to go straight.  Jordan could do worse than imagine what advice Archie would offer after she gets fired and her boss’s book collection is threatened.  Oh yes, and lives are at risk too.  

I found it wonderful to work on this book as one-half of Victoria Abbott (with my daughter) especially as I got to reread so many of the Nero Wolfe books and enjoy the good life in the brownstone and the wit and banter in these mysteries that hold their own with re-reading.  Yes, I still have that crush on Archie Goodwin, although I suppose young Jordan would have a better chance with Archie if he were real.  


Now I’m off reading the Roderick Alleyn stories by Ngaio Marsh for The Marsh Madness, the fourth book collector mystery. I must say, I love my job!  Roderick Alleyn is pretty appealing too, an aristocrat who is also a Scotland Yard detective.  Maybe in the course of research I’ll fall in love again.  But right now, Archie Goodwin’s still my main fictional heartthrob.  

How about you?  Do you ever get a crush on a character from a book?  Let’s hear it. There are no secrets here, my friends.  Mind you,  I am tempted to say that Archie’s taken, but I think he’s still playing the field.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Tattoo…sexy or stupid?





I can still remember that phone call from daughter. Guess where I am!

There should be a law against any child anywhere ever starting a conversation with those four words. My son used them when he was in Vegas. Do you know how much trouble there is for a young guy to get into in Vegas! He did it again in New Orleans. Even more trouble there! Any wonder I am totally gray!

But I digress, we’re talking about my daughter and where the heck she was that she shouldn’t have been. This time it was the tattoo parlor...or whatever it’s called!

Sweet Jesus! She was getting a rose tattoo on her back. The back I washed and dried and powdered and put sun block on was now decorated with a tattoo. Would you like to know how nice that didn’t look with a beautiful wedding dress...but I digress again. Kids!

A lot of celebs have tatts. Johnny Depp, Angelina Jolie, Keith Urban and a ton of others. Some are so hot and others what the hell were they thinking!

Tattoos sometimes mark you as part of a club...or a gang. In Iced Chiffon the scum-sucking, no-good, low-rent but to die for handsome Walker Boone has a tatt, a 17. In his pubescent years  Walker Boone was part of the Seventeenth Street gang. Now he’s older, wiser and... well you can take the boy out of the hood but the other way around not so much.

What about the hero in your books? Should he or she have a tattoo? Do you find it sexy? And what about the heroine? Personally I love the hidden tatt where when making love there it is. A little extra zip to an already zippy situation.

Do you have a tatt? Where? Why? Ever want to get it off?

Weigh in on this and I’ll give away two of my romances from my other life as Dianne Castell. Remember to check back to see if you won a book. :-) 


Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Storytellers

by Maggie Sefton


Kate's post last week really got me going.  At the end, Kate asked...."Amen?"
You betcha, Kate.  AMEN!!  A resounding Amen.  Since then, both Lorraine and Mary have also posted about writing and writers.

As someone who was "born" a storyteller, that drive to tell your stories is all-consuming at times.  We novelists will do without sleep to write, stay at home when others go out in order to get more words on paper, and will live in more reduced sitations in order to have time to capture those fascinating characters onto the page.

Driven?  You bet we are.   We have to be in order to keep writing our stories, even when our daily lives don't cooperate.   I remember telling people how I "created" writing time for myself years and years ago when our family was living in West Lafayette, Indiana, and we had all four kids at home and still in school.  I was trying to balance managing that busy family life with kids from high school to elementary.  There was simply no place during the day to squeeze out writing time, especially since I was also taking beginning classes in grad school.  But the characters in my story kept demanding to have their time on the page.   So-----I did the only thing I could.  I "created" extra time to write.

For a six month period, Three nights out of a week, I would make a small pot of espresso coffee at 10:00pm and drink all three demi-tasse cups of espresso.  That would ensure insomnia until about 2:00am or 3:00am.  Four hours of writing time.   Sound crazy?  Not if you're a novelist who's trying to find time to write.  I was young, healthy and strong and was able to easily live on those days of less sleep.  Plus, I was still doing my usual three-mile running routine every day.  I only did it for six months, long enough to get most of that big book onto the page.  And I was none the worse for wear, believe it or not.   :)

Would I do that now?   Heck, no.   But I still feel that same drive to write.  And lately, my historical characters have been antsy to get back on stage, so I'm finding time for them.  That's probably why Amanda Duncan and Devlin Burke walked onstage a few years ago  and demanded to be on the page. They're the two main characters who work together to solve the murders in the first of my Historical Mysteries-----SCANDALS, SECRETS, AND MURDER:  The Widow and the Rogue Mysteries.

Amanda and Devlin make a great team working together in 1890 Washington, DC.  You can read more about them on my website and see several Five Star reviews on Amazon.  The E-book is available on Amazon and BN.com.   Trade paperback copies are coming soon from Amazon.

Monday, July 21, 2014

DIARY OF A MAD WOMAN



By Kate Collins


If all the diaries I kept for many years of my life were made into a movie, the title would be “DIARY OF A MAD WOMAN.” (My definition of mad would mean angry, not crazy. However, don’t ask my siblings.)

I started writing them a few years after I landed my teaching job as a way to vent my frustrations with a succession of principals who were either clueless or bored and ready to retire. This was in lieu of venting to my first husband, who neither truly listened to my complaints nor offered any helpful suggestions on how to cope. “Just quit then,” was the extent of his counsel.

After a few years, the frustrations of teaching became the frustrations of being unable to conceive, and then the frustrations of trying to raise my children with no help from a husband who still didn’t listen or even participate in our lives.

The diaries ended when the marriage ended. Fortunately, I no longer needed that outlet because I became an author, found the greatest love of my life, and saw my children grow into outstanding young adults.

I still have a small suitcase filled with those tiny journals. One day my kids might like to go back and see a log of their daily accomplishments and funny, endearing moments, which were also recorded. But what is more important for them to see is that nearly all of the worries and frustrations that I poured onto those pages never actually materialized – and trust me, there were many, from health issues to family crises, to career woes.

The lesson to take away is that we worry needlessly 95% of the time. And of the 5% remaining, 3% are beyond our control anyway, so why worry about them?

That leaves 2%. So, in effect, only 2 out of every 100 things churning inside your beleaguered mind and tense tummy are actually worth your concern. But instead of fretting to anyone who will listen, do something. Taking action makes you feel powerful instead of powerless.

After two years of trying to conceive, and being told by a small-minded gynecologist that I just wasn’t meant to get pregnant, I was devastated. I felt totally powerless. So I read everything I could get my hands on, talked to women who’d had problems but had successfully gotten pregnant, got doctor recommendations, and studied how to make my body as healthy and fertile as possible. If that hadn’t worked, I would have adopted. In effect, I took back my power.

My new way of coping with an issue that in the past would have caused sleepless nights is to decide whether it falls into that 95%, 3%, or 2% category. If it’s in the 2%, I will figure out a course of action and do it. Otherwise, what, me worry? I turn my concern over to the Universe, put it out of my mind, and watch for opportunities to arise that will deal with it.

Perfect system? Of course not. My brain is a powerful instrument. It wants to worry. It likes to create drama. That’s what it does best, which is why I can make up stories. But my spirit is stronger. It wants to be happy. It wants to live in the moment and enjoy today, not worry about a future event that probably won’t happen.

Remember, 95% of what we worry about never happens. I have twenty volumes of diaries to prove it.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

The Animals are Restless!

by Leann

The stress of one move to South Carolina and now another out of the rent house has been difficult, but now that boxes are being removed from closets and bedrooms, it's taking a toll on my fur babies, too. For the kitties, I can see it in their eyes. Wexford is a scaredy cat anyway, so he tends to hide under the bed,
but even Marlowe is jumpy. And Marlowe is usually pretty darn laid back!

But poor Rosie, the hyper labradoodle. Oh my. She loves her daddy so much and when he drags out stuff and loads it in his truck, it usually means he's off on a trip to hunt or fish. Rosie doesn't like that one bit. This has been a tough place for her to live as it is. Dogs roam the streets during the day and bark every night all night. She's very hyper as it is and this latest household activity has amped her up big time. She watches every move my husband makes, follows him everywhere and races from door to window to door, hoping not to miss a move.

Sometimes we forget that our pets have emotions, too. When I was putting a few boxes in the car, Rosie sneaked out the door and planted herself in my backseat. so bad. I'm a big softie, but that couldn't happen. She is just too wound up to make the drive back and forth and then back and forth again. Her panting and barking in the house is bad enough, but in the car, it's a little distracting.
She wanted to go with me

The good news is, the kitties and Rosie will have a new home very soon, with lots of room to chase each other. The air is so fresh over at the new place--no must, no dust, no mold. And I know with all the windows where they can watch the squirrels and birds and bugs from lots of different places, they will be in pet heaven. It won't be long, I keep telling them. But they are just a tad on edge--and I don't blame them! My husband is, too! But me? I'm just happy.



Saturday, July 19, 2014

ARE WRITERS LIKE SHARKS?

by Mary Kennedy                         
 
One of my friends commented that writers are like sharks, always on the move, because if we ever stopped moving, we would surely die! (actually, that's a common misconception about sharks. There's only one species of shark, "obligate ram ventilators." who will die if they stop moving. The rest can take pit stops to grab a breath.)
 
But back to her theory. When I asked her to explain, she said, "You guys are always thinking, always watching everything, always coming up with characters and plots." She gave a little snort. "And when you're sleeping, you probably dream about books." (I may be mistaken, but I thought she sounded vaguely annoyed with me.)
 
But I have to confess, in many ways, she's right. It's true that our brains are always "engaged," much to the annoyance of our non-writer pals. We never "chill out," we're always thinking, thinking.
                                                      
 If I go to a party--a rare event, I always have deadlines--I try to absorb everything I see, hear and feel. It's all material, after all.  Last week, I saw a girl in tight white dress (if it were any tighter, it would be a tourniquet) and heard her whisper to a friend, "This dress--it was a gift." Really? I am fascinated and wonder who bought it--her hubby, standing at the bar downing a few shooters, her boyfriend, a flashy Lothario chatting up a redhead, or maybe she's lying and she bought it herself? (It's a designer dress, but then, she IS a hedge fund manager.). One look at a dress and my mind scoots down odd passageways. I immediately started thinking about how I could work the "girl in the white dress" into a murder mystery.
                                                         
 
Odd bits of dialogue are always intriguing. I overheard two women talking at Starbucks. One said, "How are Walter and Francesca doing? I heard they were having some problems." Her friend shook her head sadly and replied, "Yeah, it's a shame. Things have never been the same with them--ever since he threw her through that plate glass window." Yowsers. I sipped my Chai tea and moved to another table.
                                                        
 
And it doesn't have to be sights and sounds, even smells can trigger strong memories for us. I love honeysuckle, it always reminds me of "summer nights filled with magic and promise, when everything seems possible." One whiff of honeysuckle and I'm wrapped up in a romance novel in my head.
                                                        
 
Sometimes a sight and smell together can move a writer to tears. I was walking with a friend when we passed a Victorian house surrounded by magnolia bushes. A young girl came out and let the screen door bang behind her. I was shocked when my friend's eyes suddenly got misty.
 
 I stopped dead in my tracks. "What's wrong?" I asked. She brushed her tears away and said sheepishly, "I know this sounds crazy, but the smell of the magnolia bushes, the front porch, the screen door banging on a summer night, it just all seems so sad."
 
Sad? It turns out that she was flashing back to a memory of herself at age thirteen, spending the summer with her grandmother at the shore. It was happier times for her, and she captured that whole image--and those feelings--in a sort of freeze frame. The image was so vivid and so moving, it was hard to believe that twenty five years had passed. But I knew exactly what she meant, because the same sort of thing has happened to me.
 
Do certain sights/sounds/smells trigger a memory for you? Can a sunset or a summer night bring back a wave of nostalgia? If so, you're probably a writer. Or have the soul of a writer...
 
Mary Kennedy