Sunday, November 23, 2014

You're Accusing Me of What?

by Leann

I don't pay much attention to negative Amazon reviews anymore. People often have a bone to pick and I accept that as part of the business of writing books that might not appeal to everyone. And we all have different taste and may read a book and love it when someone else might hate it. But the most recent 2 star review really took me by surprise.

In a perfect world, we wouldn't have to identify the race of our characters. They would just be people and that's that. But when you write a series set in the deep South, where racism is still going strong in some places, I wanted to show that my little fictional world is all inclusive. And if I didn't mention that some characters were black or Asian or Muslim or Hispanic, most readers would assume they are Caucasian. That's just how it goes.

But I have been taken to task by a reader because I identified the ethnicity of certain characters--in a book that has a subplot about how racism was hardly spoken of less than half a century ago in many small towns and that this racism caused great damage to certain characters in the book I wrote. In short, this "reviewer" basically implied I was a racist. This hurts. I am nothing of the kind. I had a huge epiphany when I took a graduate sociologist class called Minorities in America way back when. It changed my world view. So, in my attempt to show that my fictional creation is all inclusive, I was pretty much accused of being racist. (And, guess what? Many books are racist by their lack of inclusion of minorities.) I guess I just can't win.

And by the way, in her "review," I was accused of "racial profiling." According to the ACLU, the definition of racial profiling is this: "Racial Profiling" refers to the discriminatory practice by law enforcement officials of targeting individuals for suspicion of crime based on the individual's race, ethnicity, religion or national origin. First of all, I am not law enforcement by any means and second of all, I would never, ever do such a thing. And yet, not only is my work being criticized, so is my character.

Let me say, however, that I support the right of any reader to criticize as they see fit. I just wonder if that person knows that after I read that particular review, I cried. But, I doubt they will understand because they have no idea who I am or what I stand for. It was a very sad day for me.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

CATS and COZY SPOTS

by Mary Kennedy                        
 
A cat will always find a cozy spot to relax, and I'd like to take you on a quick tour of where my cats like to hang out. My sun porch is a popular place; it's heated and air conditioned and has glass from the floor to the ceiling on three sides. Half of the sun porch is pictured above, and the other half is below. The sun porch is usually filled with cat toys, blankets and eight cat beds. Did I tidy it up for the photo? Heck, yeah!!  
                                                                                             
                                                            
  
 There's even a tin cat out there as a mascot.
 
 
The sun porch has cool Italian tiles to lie on, and here's Shadow, relaxing but looking slightly suspicious.(Not sure why.) He's either a little camera shy, or he's thinking, "You're going to get my fur trimmed like a lion? Seriously?  I thought we've already been through all this! Everyone preferred the natural look--they even voted on it." Okay, okay, Shadow, you're safe for the winter months. Go natural, see if I care.

                                                         

                                                        
Sometimes a cat might prefer to relax in a laundry basket with a purple blanket, looking regal. That's King Siggy, holding court. We humans are his loyal subjects.                                           
  
Or sometimes the warm sun is just so relaxing, a cat has to drift off to dreamland. I call this Siggy's "Wasting away in Margaritaville" photo.  Don't worry, no alcohol was consumed for this picture.
  

  Pricey cats beds are nice (trust me, I've bought several of them) but sometimes you just can't beat a cardboard box. It doesn't matter if it's three sizes too small.
 
                                                           
This is Fur-Face, just waking up from a nap. She looks like she's ready for some mischief, or maybe that's just her natural expression. She decides to check out the sun porch with her Daddy, Clyde.
                                                               
 

Clyde was enjoying a quick nap on the sun porch, but he's always ready to stare out at the back yard with his daughter, Fur-Face, Who knows, a squirrel or chipmunk might be wandering by. Exciting times!   
                                                         
 
Plus, it's always good to spend some quality time with Dad and learn a few important life lessons. ("Never eat the special diet dry food from the vet. If you hold out long enough, they will open a can of the delicious wet food that you love.")   This is a good time to just chill and watch the squirrels and birds in the backyard.                     
                                      
                                                       

We let the backyard go "natural" so the cats can pretend they're in a woodland. Plenty of wildlife to watch including deer, raccoon and the occasional fox (don't worry, all 8 cats are indoor cats.)
                                                     

I have a nice little herb garden growing outdoors and I bring in fresh mint and catnip for the cats to devour. They love to chew on fresh mint, and best of all, it gets rid of "tuna breath." Well, mostly. Try to breathe through your nose and you won't notice their cat breath as much.
                                                         

One of my friends built a "Catio" instead of a glassed in porch, and her cats love it! It's too bad I couldn't send my cats over for a "play date," but somehow cats just don't *do* play dates like dogs do.

Sometimes the cats disagree about what they want to do.  It can be a beautiful sunny day out and some cats prefer to stay inside and watch bird videos on TV. (Even though I've warned them too much TV will rot their brains!) They're seriously addicted to bird and fish videos.
                                                          
 
  Momma Eliza finally got into the act and brought Fur-face out to the porch with her for a mother-daughter chat.  I tried to eavesdrop but they immediately clammed up. What were they talking about? Life, love, relationships? No idea.
                     

                                                      

 
Where else do the cats like to hang out? Well, there's a nice front porch, but since my cats are all indoor cats, they just glimpse it from the bay window in the living room. Occasionally squirrels clamber up on the wooden bench and peer inside, to taunt them.

Some people take their cats for walks in a stroller. I've resisted the idea of buying a cat stroller, partly because my husband has convinced me that people will think I'm insane. But honestly, I think they're cute!  For now, the jury is out on cat strollers. I also wonder how safe they are. With the adrenaline pumping, would a cat be able to burst through the mesh and escape from the stroller? I'm just not sure. And I wouldn't want to put it to the test.
                                                        

     
Thanks for taking this little tour with me. I'm so sorry my 8 cats seemed to scatter to the wind when they saw the camera! Next time, I'll try to round them so you can really get a glimpse of them. By the way, what do you think of the cat in the stroller? Do you think he's happy, or just tolerating it?

Mary Kennedy
                                                   

Friday, November 21, 2014

Warm up with the Cozy Chicks!

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

I feel like I dodged a VERY big bullet this week.  Why?  Because when my parents came to this country, they chose Rochester, NY instead of Buffalo.  Have you seen some of the pictures of that horrific snowstorm?



But the people of Buffalo are made of strong stuff ... and also have a sense of humor.



and my favorite ...

 


The Cozy Chicks have a way for you to escape from winter's worst ... our books!  So settle down with a cozy mystery, a warm throw, a cup of cocoa (or a glass of wine) and a cat or dog by your side.

 
Click this link for the list of titles!  Happy reading!


Thursday, November 20, 2014

My new-found reasons not to whine about winter




 



Many years ago, I was a young teacher and very excited about the first snow fall of the year. I was thoroughly squashed by one of the older teachers.  Winter, apparently, was not something to be celebrated or enjoyed.  Silly me, I kept on having fun.  But over the years, winter has started to bother me.  Probably because of endless long commutes in minus thirty weather. Perhaps because of freezing rain and the resulting fender benders. Maybe it’s too many years of salt-stained boots, missing single gloves, fogged up car windows. Maybe it’s once too often at the self-serve gas station when it’s minus twenty-seven and there’s only two drops of gas left in the tank. Lots of reasons, but never mind. This year, I said to myself, either get a grip or move somewhere warm.  Of course, this is where the family is and I am pretty sure I wouldn’t like hurricane season any more than winter.  Don’t like being too hot either, but that’s another post.


So here are some of my reasons to not whine about winter (and as the season wears on for five months, let’s see if I can manage it!)
It can be beautiful!  




There’s something magical about a bright blue sky,  brilliant white snow swirling around.
You never know what you’ll find when you look out your window. Last year it was men in trees. Here are some shots of what the tree removal guys who were endlessly entertaining, although I wouldn't want that job. Still,it was part of winter fun for us. They claimed to love their jobs.



You don't see these guys griping about the weather, although I could sympathize if they did!





There’s something so wonderful about curling up with a book, and a cozy throw, perhaps by a fireplace, when it’s cold and dreary outside.  It’s great to read and snooze in the sun in a lounger on the deck in summer, but honestly, this is better. 


You get to wear sweaters!  I love sweaters – but for half the year, they’re too darn hot. On that list we can add knee-high lined boots and puffy coats.  All good.   And there's some great warm clothing for certain short-legged pets too! 



And then there’s knitting: it’s less of a warm-weather activity. Lots of fun with baby hats, sweaters and scarves around here.  

 

Then there’s all that great winter food: soups and stews and lovely aromatic meals cooking for hours. Noit to mention hot chocolate!  


In the night, of course, you can snuggle under the blankets.  Okay, skip over this if you have hot flashes. You can just stand outside for a bit in the winter. That sure has helped me!

The geese will be gone somewhere else.  Ho ho ho.   The snow tires are on the car, the winter clothing has been unpacked!  The boots have had their waterproof spray. Now we just need to find a better supply of the seeds that the cardinals love and the squirrels don't.

Of course, being a writer, I can just stay home and enjoy it.  Maybe that gives me an unfair advantage. I might never have written this in the years I ventured out to the day job in the dark winter mornings. 

Now, it’s your turn. Winter fun? Or winter none?  What do you love and what do you hate? All tips gratefully received. 

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Love Where You Land

When guests come to town there’s always the question of what do we do that’s truly and unique Cincy, something that we have here that they don’t have in their neck of the woods. 

First off there’s goetta for breakfast. Goetta is German ‘cause Cincy is oh so German. It’s a combo of pork and oatmeal and spices and sound gross and everyone loves it. My husband used to make it and with a name like Kruetzkamp it was part of his genetic makeup.

Cincy also has great barbecue. I know, I know, everyone has barbecue but there’s this place called Montgomery Inn that has fantabulous BBQ so we always take guests there for dinner.
Cincy also has Skyline Chili not to be confused with Texas chili. This is spaghetti topped with chili sauce (special secret chili sauce to be sure) and topped with shredded cheese. This is affectionately called a three-way and an acquired taste. It is a Cincy tradition to take your offspring to Skyline for his or her first three-way and get a pic of the occasion for the family album.

We also have the Cincy Reds for baseball so we catch a baseball game at the Great American Ballpark that is really just that...a bit of new and a taste of the old. And we have King’s Island an amusement park that is a ton of fun and there’s a Purple People Bridge that connects downtown Cincy to Northern Kentucky and only for pedestrians.

Cincy and Northern Kentucky are like a city in itself. Heck the Cincinnati Airport is in Northern Kentucky...try explaining that to people. They get off the plane and it says Kentucky and here they thought they were flying into Cincinnati!

We also have a place called OTR...Over the Rhine that is now the hip trendy place of micro breweries, eateries, art galleries, and a city market called Findlay Market that’s been around for about a hundred and fifty years or so.

And we have a terrific symphony and playhouse in the park and we have the Cincinnati Bengals that are always fun to watch…usually.

To give guests a taste of all this I take them on a Segway tour of the downtown area of city where you buzz around on your Segway and you can see all that I talked about here in about ninety minutes. I looooove riding a Segway! It is so much fun!

Next week I’ll take you on a tour of Mackinac Island complete with map. You can see where Evie Bloomfield has landed after she leaves Chicago and winds up on the island of no cars, no malls, not much wifi, cell service and lots of bikes, horses and fudge and dead bodies.

So here’s the thing, if I came to your neck of the woods where would you take me? Where would we go so that I got a true appreciation for where you live, the heritage of your city?

Love where you land!
Have a good day.
Hugs, Duffy

Geared for the Grave
December 2, 2014 release
Berkley Prime Crime
First book in Cycle Path Mystery series




Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Movie Time

by Maggie Sefton



I've seen lots of movies lately, and I figured I'd do an update now before we get lost in all the holiday themes and travel.  Yes, I will be traveling again this coming Friday, but I'll tell you folks about that next Tuesday.  Here are the best ones I've seen lately----


FURY-----This is an excellent World War II movie, very well done, and focuses on a U.S. Army tank crew as the Allied forces are moving into Germany.  Very authentic details and extremely well-acted.  Brad Pitt is wonderful as the sergeant heading the tank crew.  All the supporting actors are excellent as well.

THE JUDGE----This is a wonderful movie and if you only see one movie in the next few weeks, check this one out.  Robert Duvall is one of my favorite actors ever since I saw him as the "adopted son" in the first Godfather movie.  Over the years, Robert Duvall has acted some outstanding roles.  One of the lesser known but remarkable movie roles is a few years old called "The Apostle."  It's about a gifted but all-too-human evangelist preacher.  Wow, what a perfomance.  But. . .back to present business----Robert Duvall is beyond good in this role of a retired judge in the Midwest who's accused of murder.  Actor Robert Downey, Jr. plays his super-talented, mega successful, and totally hyper attorney son who defends his cantankerous father.  Frankly, I don't know of any other actors who could have played these roles as convincingly and as well.  Both actors create an energy together on the screen that is riveting when they're together in a scene.

NIGHTCRAWLER----Jake Gyllenhaal gives the best performance I've ever seen from him, and he's a talented actor.  This role is riveting.  The character is a VERY complex and complicated person.  And the story covers an aspect of television journalism and TV news that's never been discussed before:  accident and crime on-scene reporting and resulting film footage.  Fascinating.  Rene Russo and Bill Paxton do excellent jobs with their multi-layered roles.

JOHN WICK----This is a smart and sophisticated take on the "assassin" movie.  Kenau Reeves does an excellent and understated job portraying this super assassin who has gotten "out of the business."  But after the death of his wife, he's drawn back in.  Villains are the Russian Mafia bad guys, and there are lots of them.  If you like non-stop action with a wry sense of humor thrown in, you might enjoy this one.  Check it out.

GONE GIRL----Fascinating character studies with affable Ben Affleck as the hero-husband of wife Amy, who had her "childhood" recorded and sold to huge audiences as Amazing Amy adventures.  Amy turned into a very, very complex young woman.     I won't give away more.  Movie was based on the big bestseller of the same name.        

You'll notice there are no "Chick flic" movies listed.  I confess I'm not much of a fan.  Usually, they're either weepy (someone is dying onscreen), or dumb (kiss of death for a movie), or just plain boring.  To me, at least.  :)   Exception was BRIDESMAIDS, but then, that was not a Chick flic.  It was a "buddy movie."     

Monday, November 17, 2014

LESSONS FROM OUR PETS

by Kate Collins
 
I’ve always believed that having a pet teaches children so much about life, lessons they carry forth into their adult world that help make them better people. Here’s my list. Tell me if you agree.

1.     Compassion:  Is there any better way to teach compassion for all animals than to rescue a cat or dog or other pet from certain death or suffering? Seeing an animal who is ill or in pain stirs a deep sympathy inside us and a desire to make it all better.


What great training for parenthood, too.

2.     Grief:  I learned the pain of watching beloved cats die several times during my childhood. They taught me that grief does fade and life moves on but that loved ones are never forgotten. 

3.     Friendship: Pets are the best kind of friend. They don’t judge or criticize or belittle, qualities we always seek in others, and they’re always nearby to lend an ear when we need to blow off steam or just have a good cry.

4.     Responsibility: Being in charge of walking the dog or changing the litter box or putting food in the pet dish should be a part of every child’s day. It teache
s the child to think of others.

5.     Respect: How do  you learn that your actions hurt others? Pull a dog’s tail or rub a cat’s belly too hard.  You find out quickly that you have to respect their boundaries. Great training for marriage!

6.     Natural instincts: Is there a better way to learn what basic instincts are all about? Watch a mother dog or cat take care of their young or protect their food. Observing animals at play is also a great lesson.

That’s my list. I’m sure there are more benefits. Maybe you can think of some to add. Please feel free.
What kind of pet or breed of dog do you think is perfect for a child?


            

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Cat-astrophe!

by Leann

I am the catsitter for my two grandkitties while my daughter and son-in-law vacation in Ireland. Ireland sounds pretty good to me right now! Maybe I could join them and leave my husband here to manage. And there's a lot to manange.

Their cats are seniors and one of them, Simone, was rescued from a
neighborhood where my critique group met in Texas. He has some BIG health issues. He was rescued, by the way, because he had been declawed, neutered and was infested with fleas--and probably abandoned. My friend found him, I took him and my daughter and son-in-law fell in love with him. They adore him and he has quite the personality. Definitely a top cat.

Their other cat, Minou, is a pretty gray shorthair domestic and though Wexford is shy, she puts him to shame. She hid for almost an entire day the second day she was here. We were afraid she'd somehow gotten outside, though we didn't know how. But, we found her sleeping in a closet, well camouflaged by hanging clothes. She now appears to eat every now and then, but that's all we see of her.

My Marlowe and Simone are both
special needs cats. Simone, who has a heart condition, takes 3 meds, and Marlowe takes his seizure medicine twice a day. They both need to be watched for symptoms throughout the day. Minou has had allergy problems, so she is on medicine and ear ointment. Every one of them except my Wexford is on a special and
DIFFERENT diet. I love cats and it's a good thing I do!

And then there's my husband, who insists no cat will be on the kitchen counters. (Really? Does he KNOW what a challenge that is with 4 cats???) And of course Rosie, the dog, will eat anything that halfway smells like food, so it takes plenty of my time to make sure all the kitties get what they need to eat before she scarfs it up. So far, I have done okay except for Allergic Cat. It's hard to give her medicine when I CAN'T FIND HER!

But I must say, it is a joy to be surrounded by cats and to hear Marlowe growl and hiss--this, the cat who NEVER makes any noise. (Sorry, little guy. They all know you're a paper tiger.) I will be happy to be off medicine and special diet duty next week but when they go home, I'm sure gonna miss them. Okay, maybe not the one I can never find.

So that's what's going on in my neck of the woods. Ever done any cat-sitting before? If not, after hearing all this, would you risk it?