Thursday, April 24, 2014

Special guest: Lily the R.E.A.D. dog!

Please welcome Lily the princess dachshund and R.E.A.D. dog!  

Lily is assisted by Mary Jane Maffini aka Victoria Maffini

Hello Everyone! 

My name is Lily. I am a seven year old (almost eight!) black and tan miniature dachshund and I can’t wait to go to school every Wednesday. No, no, not puppy school. Real school. People school. You see, I am a volunteer: a R.E.A.D. dog. R.E.A.D. stands for Reading Education Assistance Dog. Really. It does.

That means I go once a week to a lovely school and meet with some very nice children. I have ‘my own’ kids come to see me. I love to snuggle with them and to hear them read to me, one by one. It is my favorite time of the week, although I do like chasing squirrels when I am not in school. I am getting better and better at listening and paying attention to books. 

The children are also get better at reading. One of them read twenty-six books to me! Mom kept a record. We gave him a copy of his favorite book: Ten Little Hot Dogs. It’s my favorite too, of course.

Two boys went up a grade level already this year.  I miss them, but I really like my new boys too.

            Being a R.E.A.D. dog is an important job. I couldn’t walk into a school on my four paws, just like that, you know. First, I had to have a year’s experience with Ottawa Therapy Dogs. We found out about them at
Next I had to pass a test, even though I had already passed a test to become a therapy dog. The new test took more than two hours!  I had to be calm in a school yard situation, not react to bells and loud noises or bouncing balls and be friendly to kids, without jumping up. I had to show how much I liked being with kids and that I was relaxed and not afraid. And I was not allowed to bark. That was pretty hard, but I passed. 

Everyone in the school likes me and the people in the office like to pet me. That seems very appropriate to me.

We have Lily stickers to give to the kids after they’ve read with me.

The only bad news:  My sister Daisy is so jealous and is always trying to get in on the act. She tries to have a bath too and she hates baths even more than I do.  She tries to block the door and trick Mom into taking her too.

Mom’s there with me when I go to school, but really, it’s all about me and my boys and girls.  Some little girls in our neighborhood practiced reading with me when I was studying for my Big Test. That was fun and it really helped.

So, soon I’ll be having a bath (don’t like that much), a manicure (ditto) and an anti-dander treatment (Mom says it’s necessary and stop squirming). Then I’ll put on my lovely red Ottawa Therapy Dog scarf and my beautiful red R.E.A.D, medallion and I’ll get in the car with my special blanket and our bag of books. I can’t wait. 

No, Daisy. You CAN’T come.  You’ll have to pass the test yourself. Go find some kids and practice reading and NOT barking.  

Love to everyone,


P.S .You can find out lots more about the R.E.A.D. program by checking out  and  Maybe you and your dog would like to be part of this program! You won’t regret it.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Book Clubs Rock!

by Deb Baker/Hannah Reed

A while back, I was lucky enough to find a really cool book club. We meet every 6 weeks and, working our way through the alphabet, we take turns picking a book that has been made into a movie. Then we read the book, watch the movie, and meet to discuss both.

We’ve done one round from A to Z and now we are back to A. It’s my turn to pick, so for next month I’ve chosen The Accidental Tourist, written by Anne Tyler, the movie starring William Hurt and Geena Davis. I can’t wait to start the book, which I always read first. Book then movie.

I have grown so much as a reader thanks to this group. Last time, we read a James Bond, You Only Live Twice, and I was happily surprised, as were the other women. We all enjoyed the book, and I will definitely read more by Ian Fleming. Who knew?

Would I have picked it up on my own? Never! That goes for many of the other selections we’d had. A few have been painful struggles to finish, but most have been true treasures.

Are you in a book club? What are you reading? Any past reads that have surprised you?

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

SCANDAL'S Amanda and Devlin Are Out There!

by Maggie Sefton

Since I only have two blog posts scheduled for April because April 1st and 15th
were already taken, please forgive me if I use them both to remind readers and bloggers of my good news. :).   My NEW Historical Mystery set in 1890 Washington, DC is now out on Amazon's Kindle and Barnes & Noble's Nook.  SCANDALS, SECRETS, AND MURDER:  The Widow and the Rogue Mysteries.  Trade paper copies should be available by early June from Amazon's CreateSpace.  This is the first book in a series.

I think you folks will enjoy meeting these two lead characters:  Amanda Duncan and Devlin Burke.  SCANDALS has already received two reader reviews---both of them 5 STARS!!   I'm delighted. :).
In case some of you missed the brief descriptions a couple of weeks ago, here they are again.  I hope some of you give Amanda and Devlin a try.  :)

Powerful and corrupt U.S. Senator Horace Chester is stabbed to death in a Murder Bay brothel, wrapped in the arms of his evening’s entertainment.  His assailant escapes into the crush of unwashed bodies filling the streets of 1890 Washington’s notorious red light district---just a few blocks from the President’s  House. 

Amanda Duncan, young Washington widow, tries to ignore the clairvoyant visions that flash  before her eyes.  She couldn’t save her own family, so maybe her visions can help others.  Now, Amanda deliberately treads where no respectable lady would dare.  This latest vision was most troubling.  She saw a man stabbed to death by a shadowy assailant and a young girl screaming.

Devlin Burke, English investor and sometime sleuth, is in Washington on family business and to rescue his nephew Freddie who’s gone bankrupt in one of Sen. Chester’s investment schemes.  In a fit of rage, Freddie attacked Chester in a crowded Capitol Hill hallway only days before the senator’s murder.  Freddie has no alibi and is now the police inspector’s prime suspect.

Devlin and Amanda join forces in a search to find the real killer, which takes them from the Capital’s poshest salons into the crime-infested streets of Murder Bay.  Devlin’s sleuthing instincts and Amanda’s psychic detection lead them ever closer to the truth.  But the closer they approach, the more desperate the killer becomes---and the more dangerous. 

Monday, April 21, 2014

Easter Monday Greetings

by Kate Collins

I'm taking a break from the blog to spend time with my family this holiday. This photo is of some of my extended family who are in town for Easter.

I hope all of you had a wonderful weekend.

Blessings on you.


Sunday, April 20, 2014

The War on ... Wait For It ... HYPHENS!

by Leann

English is one of the most difficult languages to learn for a myriad of
reasons. As a writer, I understand that far better than I once did. Perfecting a manuscript requires a lot of patience and a knowledge of grammar, but also requires knowing when to break the rules. After all, people in conversation, for the most part, do not always create perfect sentences.

But dialogue is a whole other animal. Dialogue is NOT actually how people talk. Dialogue needs to just sound like how people talk while removing all the extraneous ums and ahs and extra words we tend to use when talking to another person. If a dialogue-heavy book used all the words we actually speak, it would be an awfully long book.

Right now I am slogging through the final editing stage of the book that will come out in August. This is NOT a creative process. I do not like it one bit. It requires lots of concentration to make sure every word is there and spelled correctly. There are "rules" about words many of you many not know about. The copy editors and proof readers who "fix" our books must all use the same dictionary and a certain "style manual" that the publisher has chosen. (For me, my first edition of Strunk and White's Elements of Style is enough. I won't say which manual they use, but it's not that one!)

The trouble began with my book last year. You may not be aware there is a campaign to rid the world of that horrible, detestable hyphen. Here's the problem. I happen to LIKE hyphens. Why? Because I am old school. Rule of thumb was always this: compound words not in the dictionary but "created" by the author to liven things up followed two paths. If the new word created by merging two words not ordinarily found together was an
adjective, it was hyphenated. If it was noun, it was not hyphenated unless it was too long to be easily dissected by the reader.

Here's the example that absolutely threw me for a loop with the last book. In the very first paragraph on the very first page there is a word that I had to find by searching for it because I didn't know what this particular do-hickey was: anti-climbing spikes (and everywhere I found it, the hyphen was included). Those are the thingees on top of security fences. But the proofer took out the hyphen so it became anticlimbing. The last thing in the world a writer wants is for the reader to have to stop and figure out a word. I believe many people would have thought this was a typo even though this is what the newest style manual says is correct. I threw a mini-fit (see, I LOVE hyphens) and got my hyphen back. I do not want to stop the flow of a story over one silly word!

I went on to find quite a few other words in the book where hyphens had been removed. I didn't like it. Now, I am dealing with the same thing for the August release. Could we make English any more difficult to learn? Oh yes we can! And we did. Why, you may be asking? Personally I believe someone desperately wants more Scrabble words.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

It's watermelon time!

by Mary Kennedy

I felt so encouraged to find watermelon in the store last week that I just had to write a post about it. They're the round "mini" watermelons and they look delicious. I have one ripening in a brown paper bag on my sun porch right now. It's probably already ripe, but I want to make absolutely sure before I cut into it. (better safe than sorry, to coin a cliché.)

One very popular dish we enjoyed down south was "Watermelon Salad." Once a month, on summer nights, it was "salad night" in Tennessee, and a handful of neighbors (there were six of us) would push some picnic tables together and have a whole meal out of salad and French bread (and yes, some wine and dessert.).  We took turns "hosting" the event and the host would provide wine, soft drinks, sweet tea, loads of baguettes and sour dough bread along with a decadent dessert.  (Coconut cake was a favorite, along with Lane Cake, lemon meringue pie and Key Lime pie.)

The rest of us each brought a salad.  All different salads; pasta salad, potato salad, macaroni salad, Greek salad and three bean salad were staples but we would experiment with more adventurous recipes, too.

 Oh, and a big crock of homemade pimento cheese spread was always on the table. One of the members always brought that as her "salad" and we loved it.  It was great fun, and I still feel nostalgic about it those long summer evenings surrounded by friends. I collected some wonderful salad recipes in those days. Since almost everyone (but me!) grew fresh vegetables and everything was straight from the garden. Delicious! Seeing the little watermelons in the store brought back happy memories for me. Do certain foods make you feel nostalgic?

by Mary Kennedy

Friday, April 18, 2014

Spring is here! Time to junk

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

One of the things I love most about spring is ... yard sale season starts!  I had a booth in an antiques arcade for 12 years and the best part was finding stuff to fill it.  I loved the thrill of the hunt. Just because I no longer have a booth doesn't mean I've lost that desire to keep looking for something fun, useful, or interesting.

Friday evenings Mr. L studies the yard sale list in the local fish wrapper and on Saturday mornings he and I hop in the car, turn on WRMM-101.3 on the radio and listen to Miss Beth and Gary the (supposedly) Happy Pirate.  (Honestly, the man is miserable and is constantly putting down sweet Miss Beth. And he's supposed to be a role model for children?  But I digress.)

You never know what you're going to find on one of these magical mystery tours.  Here are a few of the "treasures" I've picked up.

 This little beauty was a buck. The people having the sale had cleared out the pig sty (yes, they did!) and put their wares up for sale. Out back, was this GIGANTIC pig named Roscoe (and do you think I can find those pictures? Nope). He was quite friendly and seemed to enjoy all the attention from the yard sale customers, and posed for pictures.  They also had a miniature stallion. (He preferred to munch grass than be sociable.)

Ahhh...Aunt Sally's mashed potato bowl.  I have no idea if  this bowl ever actually had mashed potatoes in it, or if there ever was an Aunt Sally (I certainly don't have one), but that's what we call it.  I love the decoration on the rim.  We usually use it for popcorn. It cost a quarter.  (Did I mention that I rescue old dishes?)

Aren't these little butterflies sweet?  They came in a box lot for $2. The little glass was from the same lot.

One of my favorite finds was this old telephone.  I keep telling myself I'm going to go to Radio Shack (and since most of them are closing, it had better be soon) and get a new cord so I can actually use it.  (Tricia has one like this sitting on her sales counter in Haven't Got a Clue!)

I call this "Black Beauty"

And of course, I also rescue teacups in need of loving homes.  I've given away quite a few of them on my Dazed and Confused blog on Teacup Tuesdays.

I got this sweet little framed picture of a rose for a buck.  It hangs over my computer monitor.

What do you look for when you go junking?

Thursday, April 17, 2014

When everyday objects attack: beware the Easter bunny

Just so you know, I'm not kidding about the Easter bunny.

Seriously, I’ve had my problems with ordinary objects in the past couple of years.  From time to time, it’s like things around me become possessed.  

For example, there was the toe I injured by dropping my hairbrush on it.  Spectacular bruises too. Or that morning I wrecked my rotator cuff airing out the duvet.  I don’t want to forget when I sprained my ankle doing the dishes. That’s right. 

Last summer my chair – without warning – flipped backwards off the deck, depositing me (still in the chair) on my back in a freshly dug garden bed.  Usually I’m alone in the garden. This time there were five witnesses. 

Not too long ago, I banged up my knee crashing into a seemingly innocent pile of books at the foot of a staircase. Just so you know, a baby gate was also involved. 

And I haven’t even mentioned the drink coaster.

Try getting sympathy for a duvet injury. Or a hairbrush trauma. Or a coaster incision.   I can’t even use them in my fiction because fiction has to make sense. 

But then yesterday’s incident takes the cake. Well, takes the candy.  While trimming the ears of an Easter bunny – they were way too long, trust me – I broke a tooth. Yes, really.  The bunny was made of milk chocolate, soft enough to snap.  What’s the world coming to when you can’t trust the Easter bunny?

At any rate, while everyone else is getting ready for Easter egg hunts and a long weekend, I’ll be sitting in the dentist’s chair hoping my checkbook doesn’t catch fire when I get the bill.  Around here, stranger things have happened. 

Maybe I should have stopped sooner?

 Now I don't trust any of this Easter bunny stuff. I mean, don't these little guys look like they're hatching a plot?

I hope you all have a lovely few days ahead with chocolate and bonnets and all your teeth right where they should be. May the sun shine on all of you and not in a dangerous way.

But why don’t you make me feel better?  Tell me your stories: do you get attacked by ordinary objects too?  How much sympathy do you get? I promise to understand!