Okay, Listen Here

Okay, Listen Here

Thursday, May 31, 2012

The Perfect Summertime Saturday Morning

Saturdays in June are a special time for my family because it’s blueberry season.  And there’s nothing more satisfying than fresh blueberries, right?  Think of all you can do with them!  You can make Blueberry Muffins, Blueberry pancakes, Blueberry Jelly, Blueberry Syrup, etc., etc., etc.  And of course, there’s nothing else like a big bowl of fresh blueberries hanging out in the kitchen where little hands and big hands alike can grab ’n go!

So Saturday mornings we head to the blueberry farm.  They give us each a bucket and point us in the direction of the rows where berries can be found.  And off we go!  Much to my delight, the sounds of giggles take flight and happiness engulfs us, every one.  The hunt for berries usually turns into a hunt for each other because we lose ourselves in the process.   And before you know it we’ve collected as many berries as we can carry!  

We pay the farmers and often get entangled in gardening conversations with them before we’re on our way back home.  And don’t you know, the minute we reach home, somebody’s pulling out a mixing bowl for whatever our fancy is for the morning…… because we’re hungry!   And that, my friends, is the perfect Saturday morning at the Flynn Household!

What do you like to do with your family on Saturday mornings when school is out and summer has begun?  Do you have favorite summertime family traditions? 

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Ghostly Gettysburg

            Last week my husband and I spent a few days tromping around the battlefield at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.  My great, great, great grandfather had fought there and I wanted to know more about this three-day battle.  I learned that his division, the Wilcox division (mustered in as the Alabama 14th from Auburn) was the far right flank of Pickett’s Charge.  Now if you don’t know about Gettysburg, Pickett’s charge was a bloody engagement on the third day of the battle that involved 12,000 Confederate troops marching about a mile across an open field, enduring cannon fire and gunfire.  The line of men stretched over a mile from end to end.  Wilcox’s brigade was one of the only brigades to make it to the Union line but was repulsed when they found they were alone facing a heavy bombardment at point-blank range.  In essence, it was a full-scale slaughter. 

           The one thing that struck me about the battlefield was the serenity that existed there.  It was a beautiful place, quiet and restful.  But, underlying that feeling in the cool evening air as a fog crept across the Valley of Death, you could sense the souls of those soldiers marching over and over to their deaths.  It was definitely eerie and disturbing.

            One evening, my husband and I were standing on the rocks at the Devil’s Den where Confederate Sharpshooters from Texas and Georgia were positioned to take shots at Little Round Top when his camera started going off, clicking away.  He wasn’t touching it and it wasn’t even on.  We both looked at each other in surprise.  I told the ghost that I was a Southerner, that my three-greats back grandfather had fought just over the rise with the Alabama 14th and that we meant no disrespect.  The camera immediately stopped.

 It is well documented that people trying to take pictures at the Devil’s Den will have their cameras malfunction or the batteries will be immediately drained.  Everyone believes that the ghost there is an infantryman (not a sharpshooter) who a photographer moved about forty yards to stage the photo.  It seems the ghost doesn’t approve of cameras because of the way his dead body was treated by the photographer. 

           Later in the week we decided to join a ghost hunt with a local paranormal society.  We went to a mansion south of the battlefield, the Hoffman Mansion.  This home served as a field hospital and holding area for Confederate prisoners.  We met the members of our team in downtown Gettysburg and then drove to the mansion down the Emmitsburg road.  It was nine in the evening and already dark.  We took our EMF readers, ghost meters, cameras and digital recorders inside to start the hunt.  Immediately upon entering, I did not like the place.  I seem to have a second sense about buildings and this one was very unsettling.  I told one of our team members and he asked me to tell him any feelings I was having.  He already knew a lot about the house and it’s resident ghosts but I told him not to tell me.  I wanted to know if my feelings were imagination or were actually psychic resonances I had the ability to pick up.

            I was holding an EMF reader while a young Marine held a ghost meter to my left.  The red light on the ghost meter came on which meant something was around us.  The team leader asked the ghost to signal one beep for yes and two beeps for no then he asked if the ghost would talk to the Marine.  Two beeps – no.  The leader handed the meter to all five members of the group and asked the same question getting the same response.  He finally handed it to me and when the leader asked if the ghost would talk to me – one beep.  I got to communicate with the ghost.  We found out that he didn’t like all these people in his house; that he was the original owner; and he wanted everyone to leave except me.  Let me tell you, I didn’t feel honored.  The owner kept popping in, lighting up the meter at odd times as we toured the house.  We had a ghost box that manufactures words and he kept telling everyone to leave. 

On the side of the house was a sunroom that I did not want to go in.  Everyone else went in but I refused, telling the leader that it felt bad and I didn’t want to be in there.  He told me that two Confederate prisoners were buried there right after the battle (later moved).  At that moment my ghost meter went off – one of the soldiers.  He wanted me to come in to the room.  I walked in and he immediately started answering questions.  He was from Georgia; he hated the place he was stuck; he hated the Yankees standing in the room; and he liked my accent and me.  Great, now I had two ghosts hanging around me.  The leader was amazed since the soldiers would never talk to anyone.  At this point I tried to hand off the ghost meter and one guy took it, only to have the thing go off, making beeping noises and not stopping.  It only stopped when I held it.  So the ghosts only wanted to communicate with me.

We went to the second floor and I began having a burning sensation in my throat.  I told the leader that my throat and neck were hurting and I didn’t want to be near the attic door.  He grinned and asked if I now wanted to know what happened up in the attic.  Since my throat was on fire, I said yes, please explain.  It seemed that a woman, Sarah, hung herself in the attic when she found out that her husband was cheating on her.  Sarah still haunted the attic.  Again everyone went to the attic to conduct a ghost box interview with Sarah.  She didn’t want to talk to anyone but one person – the sound from the ghost box said “Che…”  Since I had not introduced myself, no one in the room knew my name.  I was standing at the bottom of the stairs when I heard that and I called up “Cheryl?”  The ghost box said “yes.”  Great, I had to go up to the attic.  We were all sitting in the dark with everyone quiet, expecting me to question her.  I asked if she wanted to leave – yes.  I asked her if she wanted us to pray for her – yes.  I asked her if, when she hung herself, her throat burned – yes.  I asked her about music of the forties – she responded Pearls (I guessed String of Pearls which I began humming).  Sarah like that and kept saying yes, yes, yes to the humming.  We all said the Lord’s Prayer for her and she no longer responded.  I felt sorry for her and I hope we did some good, sending her on her way.

As we were leaving, the only other female in the group suddenly complained of a headache while standing under the chandelier.  One of the team aimed an EMF detector on her which hit 4 – meaning there was activity around her.  I whispered to my husband that her face had changed, scowling and looking angry.  He agreed.  When I suggested that the girl step outside for a bit, a black shadow, that we all saw. shot out of her, up into the chandelier and then through the ceiling.  The EMF reading on her went to zero.  That scared me so I led the way, almost running over people, to get the Heck out of that house.

It was an eye-opening experience and definitely impacted me.  Places which endured such turmoil and pain seem to resonate with it, even years later.  My husband and I went back to the house the next day to shoot a picture of it in the daylight.  It still seems foreboding even in the sunlight.  I didn’t walk up to the place; I had had enough.

Do you believe in ghosts?  What do you think about places, such as Gettysburg, which resound even today with the ghosts of people who suffered and died?  Have you ever visited a haunted house?  Don’t you think the girls here on the blog should do a ghost hunt?  I do – think of the blogs we could write.  

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Tales from Cancun

LTC and I celebrated our 30th Wedding Anniversary last week by going to the LeBlanc Resort in Cancun, Mexico. We had a fantastic time, even though hubby got pretty sick at the beginning of the week.  (It also rained those two days too.) 

To start off our fantastic experience, we were met at the airport by a chauffeur, who produced a Lily for me and offered us drinks for our drive to the resort.  He pre-checked us in to our hotel during the drive and had a Strawberry Daiquiri waiting for me and a Coconut Milk (LeBlanc's speciality) for hubby when we arrived at the hotel.

After checking into our room and getting settled, we went down to the International Restaurant to eat lunch, since we hadn't had anything to eat since 4 a.m.  The International Restaurant cooks up anything on the grill and offers a wide variety of food, from deli to fruit to buffet and dessert.  (Oh, the desserts were to die for, folks!)

Here's the view looking straight out from our room.  You can see the lower half of Cancun farther down the shoreline.  Very picturesque!  Out the window, to the left, is all ocean view.

 And to the right, the Lagoon, where we saw an Alligator about 9 feet long!  (I have pictures and will post them next week!)

LeBlanc is a fabulous resort for couples only, usually couples celebrating a wedding, anniversary, birthday or some such event.  There were couples of all types there and I even got to chat with a really nice woman from Pennsylvania.  (We discussed the resort and the man being rescued from a potentially dangerous undertow past the sand bar!)

Alligators?  Undertow?  Water rescue?  Yes and more!  At one time, we were in the elevator with the General Manager who offered to get us anything we needed.  (We decided not to mention Montezuma.  Pirate!)

Oh, and have I mentioned the cabana boys and the happy smiles as wonderful servers delivered your heart's desire... Ahem... Strawberry Daiquiris filled with rum, please.  ;)  (Got to shout out to my newest buds, Ana, Sara, and Laura.  Also, our butler/concierge Alex and Luis.  And I couldn't forget Alan "Alan Jackson".  Yes, he did say it just like that too.  And then there were Jesus and Jesus, Armando, Angil, and Jose, so gracious to fulfill our every need.)

Did I mention there were chocolate covered strawberries involved?  And yes, the Happy 30th Anniversary sign is made of chocolate and tasted oh, so good!

I'll leave your mouth watering.  (Pirate!)

More tales to come next week.  Same time.  Same blog.

Do you have any Anniversary or celebration memories to share?

Monday, May 28, 2012

Happy Memorial Day

Enjoy your family, your friends, and your freedom today. That's why they died. Don't waste a single second. 

Friday, May 25, 2012

Recipe Friday--Cornflake Cookies

I used to pride myself on never buying cookies. Oh, we had cookies. But I baked them. From scratch, what with the creaming of the butter and sugar, etc., etc., etc.  Well. That ship has sailed. Now, I have a secondary character who doesn't buy cookies. That's good enough for me.

However, Blaze author Rhonda Nelson gave me a recipe that takes less time to make than it takes to go to the store. Plus, you don't have to turn on the oven--always good in hot weather. Plus, there's no chocolate. That might not be a plus for you, but it is for me. I'll take peanut butter over chocolate any day.

Cornflake Cookies

1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup corn syrup
3/4 cup peanut butter
3 cups cornflakes

Mix sugar and corn syrup in large pot and bring to a once over boil, then take off the heat and quickly stir in the peanut butter and cornflakes. Drop by large spoonfuls onto waxed paper. Yummy.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

A Song from the Heart

I was at a Caribbean Party at a fellow writer's house this past weekend and had one of those extraordinary things happen.  So I thought I’d share.

My Honey and I arrived and were greeted by our lovely hostess and another writer.  Then we were off on our own to grab a drink and mingle.  My Honey kept wanting to sit at the patio table and I wanted to move around.  I moved, he sat.  And then sometime later he motioned for me to come over, so I did.  And what had he found?  A couple from our hometown, our high school, our university!  Small world.  So we talked of crawfish boils and the Saints and music…love that Looziana sound!  My Honey beamed at finding “the band” for me.  He knows how I love my music peeps!  

And then the couple wandered off and we were left with another quieter couple at our table.  It was an older gentleman and his wife of many years.  They seemed content and happy to be there.  The man asked how we knew our hostess.  So I elaborated on writing and genres and such.  And come to find out, the man’s a writer too.  A songwriter.  And off we went on a how-to journey of writing and style.  We both agreed in the end that we might not know why something works, the mechanics and names of form and style.  But we know when it works and when it works, it just does.  

We had a great time at the party.  Our hostess never fails!  And I loved hanging with the music people and laughing with my writer friends too.  But from this party, I brought something home I didn’t expect to receive….a new music friendship and a song that touched my heart.

Several years ago, a friend shared a song with me that I loved so much I share it every year at Memorial Day or Veterans Day.  It’s a song of those who served to give us freedom and it reminds me of the men and women who have come and gone, who served our country so that we could live free of fear.  That song is Pittance of Time by Terry Kelly.  It melts my heart.

But this year I have a new song, To My Brother Private William Jones.  The heart that rings out through its story is beautiful and touching.  It’s a song by Mr. Earl Watts, my newfound music friend from the Caribbean Party.  He claims he’s just an ordinary man, yet he plays a not-so-ordinary song. He recently played it for the opening of the Huntsville Madison County Veterans Memorial in Huntsville, AL, and was received with thankfulness by Veterans and Active Duty as well as family members of those who fought for our country.

 And so for this upcoming Memorial Day weekend, I share it with you.

Jump on over to YouTube and listen to the song and ponder the words Mr Earl has to share.  Perhaps you will be reminded of someone who served so that you could be free.  And you too can be thankful.  
Happy Memorial Day, y’all!  Come Monday, enjoy some BBQ, corn on the cob and maybe a beer.  But remember the men and women who fought so that we could be free. 

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

You Gotta Get Out!

         I think I have started to become agoraphobic.  I can’t seem to leave the house without worrying.  Did I leave the iron on?  Did I turn off the dryer?  Did I lock the door and turn the alarm on?  Were the dogs all inside?  Did I…?  Inevitably I have to turn around and check to see if my curling iron has burned down the bathroom.  I just can’t seem to leave the house without thinking of something I left undone.  Most of the time I just don’t want to leave.  I want to stay home in the comfort of my cave where I can control everything.
         My hubby, in an effort to keep me sane and not have to turn around, has taken to going behind me and checking all the things I have made him turn around for before.  I always have a new one though, one step ahead of him.  It might say something about me:  I am a worrier.  I am not happy unless I am worrying about something.  I also think that I had begun to use that worry as a reason for not going out of the house.
         Writing and staying at home has made the effort of getting dressed and doing something away from home hard for me.  I don’t want to leave the house.  It’s just easier to stay here, not worry and not think of a million things I should be doing AT THE HOUSE.  This may sound strange to you people who get up every day and go to work.  I think being comfortable at home and not having to leave becomes a habit, not a good one.  So, in an effort to reinvent myself, I have begun a forced trip once a week to do something.
         I recently read that travel is good for you and your soul.  Meeting new people, learning new things, experiencing new cultures, trying new foods – all broaden our horizons.  I pick something each week that I wish to learn about or see and I go.  It’s not easy because sometimes I have to go by myself.  But I go.  The moral of all this is that as writers we must learn new things, see new people and not become hermits chained to our computers.  I found myself sitting here alone, writing and never venturing out into the world.  It’s an easy trap to fall into and not one I recommend.
         Do you ever find it hard to get out of the house?  Do you find excuses to stay home?  Or, bless my Hubby’s heart, do you have to turn around and see if the iron is on?

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

A Little Somethin’ Somethin’

Katherine Bone is off enjoying sun and sand so I’m stepping in for her today.  No worries though.  I’m still blogging on Thursday and Katherine will be back with her pirate-y fun, very soon!

I spent Saturday morning cleaning up the front porch and finally getting around to planting some flowers to sweeten up the entrance; Begonias, Sweet Potato Vines, Lavender, and a pot of Lantana.  It smells lovely!  But I don’t think I would’ve spent the time this year had it not been for the Mother’s Day gift of the begonias from one of my favorite library patrons.  A-man is 10, and he and his momma took to me like bees to honey the first time we laid eyes on each other several years back.  I don’t know why or how, but that boy and I are in tune, made from the same somethin’ somethin’ like there’s a direct line from heart to heart.  We get each other.  So this pot of begonias, I asked, “why these flowers?”  And without a beat (because I knew there was a reason) he came back with “because they match your new office!”  And he grinned that beautiful smile only he has. 
There’s nothing more wonderful than having a friend that comprehends your heart.  I’ve been nailed to my computer all spring working, working, working and A-man saw that I needed an office getaway.  He could’ve given me flowers that wilted away and died.  But no.  He knew I’d want to plant them and nurture them all summer long.  He probably even knew I’d rush out to buy some other plants to sidle up to the pretty flowers and make a grand display of the heart he gave me.  And I did, of course!  And he knew I’d enjoy it, too. 
I know lots of people, have many friends, good friends.  But there’s something different about that friend that gets you and encourages you on, even when you don’t know you need it.  And often they come from the most unlikely people.  For me it’s a young child and his mother.  How amazing that our paths should cross in life for that connection to take place!  What are the odds?

So I wonder, does everyone have someone like this in their world?  Are there people in your life that get you like no other?  Does it amaze you and fascinate you the things they do with/for you that no one else perceives?

Monday, May 21, 2012

The Pain in a Name

People often ask if writing collaboratively ever causes dissension . Miraculously, the answer is no, not for us. Generally, we are of the same mind. When we are not, we recognize when the other knows best. Usually.

But there was this one time, and it was all over a name.

Many times, the characters just name themselves—at least the first name. We just know the name, like we know that he detests wine or that she is afraid of storms. But sometimes, they are a little stubborn and we have to name them.

So this one time. . . .  We were about to introduce a secondary character who was going to go on to be a hero in the next book. We spent a long time designing the scene—you know,  telling what happened as concisely as possible, writing the dialogue, describing the sun steaks in his hair and making sure it was understood he got those streaks from actually being in the sun. No chemical streaks for him, not our guy.  Now it was time for me to go to the keyboard and put it on paper.

"One more thing," I said to her. "What's his name? Do you care?"
"I don't care," she said.

So then I did what I always do. I opened my file of the alphabetical list of people already in the world we had created. This is necessary, because I learned the hard way that I love me an "L" name above all others. I am also mighty fond of a "K". If I don't look at a list, we will be living in  the land of "L" and "K".

Well, this time I had been careful about the "K's" so that was a possibility. Then, for the first name, I got out The Character Naming Sourcebook by Sherriyn Kenyon and my four baby naming books. For the last name, I reached for the Junior League, church, and Decatur Assembly directories and my file of programs from graduations, sporting events, and various awards presentations.

I was set. Pretty soon, secondary character, soon to be hero, high school football coach, who would have gone to the NFL had he not torn up his knee, was named Keith Hamilton. Did I say pretty soon? That's a lie. It took a while. And I don't even do any of that nonsense like looking up the meaning of names to match attributes of the character. I just don't think parents sit around and think, "My boy's going to be untamed so I'm going to name him Damien."

Anyway.  I wrote the scene. Sent it to her. She called.

"His name is not Keith Hamilton!" I hadn't seen her so vehement since the time I had the captain of the guard in one of our elf fantasies build a fire in the heroine's parlor. "Keith Hamilton is not a hero's name. It's the name of an ice skater."

Okay, so I recognize that some names are not hero names. Jerry. Billy. Earl. Donny Lynn. Robby, unless it’s a period piece set in Scotland. But Keith Hamilton? What about that makes you think ice skater?

Besides, I knew she didn't know the single name of a real ice skater. She doesn't even watch ice skating. I am the one who likes ice skating, and as far as I knew, there were no ice skaters named Keith Hamilton.

"You said you didn't care," I reminded her, all the time thinking of how I'd poured over my books and cross checked names, even looked at the most popular name list for the year he was born.

"I don't care," she said. "Except not Keith Hamilton."

"All right, then," I challenged her. "What is his name?" I knew she didn't have any of the books; they were all at my house.

She thought for a minute, probably less. Okay, certainly less. "Nathan Scott," she said.  

And there it was. Nathan Scott lives. Keith Hamilton skated off.

Do you labor over choosing names for your characters? Or when you named your children, did it come easily?

Friday, May 18, 2012

Twist Me an R, Mister...?

After spending last November in Vienna I was reminded of my lifelong desire to learn and speak another language other than English and, of course....Lesia-speak.  And German won’t do it either.  That language is already taken by my honey and Clair.  I don’t need to speak that one.  I want one all my very own.  Well, at least in the Flynn household.  I know, I know. I’m feeling a little Fancy Nancy on this one.  And I know she shares her vocabulary, but I don’t want to share mine.  I want to be five years old for a little while.  Just let it go, okay.

A few years back I gave the effort my all……towards an accent at least.  That was when I was directing a Renaissance Faire at my library.  Sadly, the best of my efforts toward a Scottish brogue came out as the most deplorable cockney accent you’ve ever heard.  No, really.  The patrons begged me to stop.  The volunteers and staff threatened me.  The Storytimers were completely confused and baffled. My own children almost disowned me.   So I had no choice but to stop.  Until now, that is.  Tehehe.  

Today as I was skipping down Pinterest Lane in my little pink-and-oh-so-shiny maryjanes (hypothetically speaking, of course!) and I happened across the pin for scheduling out the perfect child-ordered summer.  Yessss!  THAT got my attention!  Because I don’t care how old or young my kids are, summertime scares the hell out of me unless I have a plan.  A real, tangible, working plan, that is.  None of this we’ll-make-it-up-as-we-go.  No, no, no!  Not for me, anyway.  Plan.  Assemble.  Attack.  That’s my method.

So anyway, back to fairyland where Pinterest Lane delivers me this plan.  So I peruse the ideas of this magical plan with readiness and excitement.  And there, in the midst of all that motherhood investigation, is the beautiful gem of languages trimmed with the words “Free” and “Online”!  Okay.  I was skeptical and said inside my head….”Yea?  Let’s just see how friendly you are to my summertime plans, for realzy!”  And off I went to participate in the first lesson of Coffee Break French at Radio Lingua Network at http://radiolingua.com/cbf-step-1/#  And what should greet me there but a wonderful masculine Scottish brogue to teach me the nuances of that other language, francais!  Ahh.  My little heart pitter-patters out its flutterby wings and stretches out into the sky.  I drift away on the musical rhythms and sounds of that voice for ……..oh.  Sorry.  

But then, wait!  It didn’t stop there!  Because I’m the curious librarian-type, off I went to another language lesson…….go with it here…….dahdadadahdadaDAH!  You guessed it!  One minute Gaelic!  Oh.  My.  Gawd.  I was in Nirvana!  Scottish Brogue Heaven where I understood absolutely nothing… nada… and I did not mind one tinsy little bit!  Lordy!  But that man can twist his tongue around an “R”!

So there you go!  I get the Scottish man with the Twisted Rs to teach me French, free and online for the cost of a 15 minute coffee break….all summer long!  And the kids?  Well, I can’t really remember what else was on that plan…..I’ll have to go check it again after lesson two.  Tehe…..

Have you ever wanted to mangle, I mean speak another language?  Was it for real or did you just like the idea of speaking another language?  Or do you really just want to listen to Mr. Scottish roll his “R”s?  : D

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Changing Times

Jean here.

Every once in a while we like to shake things up here under the Tulip Tree—but we never do it without warning. We don't like surprises and we don't expect you do either.

As you may know Stephanie and I write together as Alicia Hunter Pace. We have some exciting things happening in the near future so we have decided to blog under our pen name. Starting next week, we will blog on Monday, Kathy and Cheryl will continue to blog on Tuesday and Wednesday, respectively. Lesia will move to Thursday.

And—get ready—Recipe Friday returns!

So look for these changes next week. Don't forget to check in with Lesia tomorrow. She always has something fantastic to say!

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

I Am Not a Wilting Violet

          I have lost every bit of patience I used to possess.  People seem to understand this and are doing their level best to see just how far they can go before I blow.  I used to just ignore them, writing it off to stupidity.  But now, well now I can’t.  Yes, you are stupid and no I won’t give you the benefit of the doubt that you actually know what you are doing.  Prove it to me without the lecture you reserve for an elderly woman suffering from Alzheimers.
         It’s summer, almost, and time for the pool to be prepared for those long, lazy days when I can sit and just enjoy the water.  Hubby and the boys uncovered the pool a couple of weeks ago and started to get everything ready, only to discover that some of the pipes had burst over the winter.  We called our local pool company to come fix it and get the pool in shape for the summer.  The pool guys fixed everything and then told me the news that the heater had also expired during the long winter months.  I know it’s hedonistic but I love the water to be warm; a shock of cold water is not something I relish.  So I ordered a new heater.  The heater was there the next day and installed, except for the gas.  We had to get the gas company to come and run a six inch pipe.  No problem, or so I thought.
         The gas company set a time for an employee to come out and run the six inch copper pipe – a half hour job.  Now, as I have gotten older I know that here in the South, men don’t think women understand a thing about machines, plumbing, electricals or anything they consider a manly job.  First incorrect assumption.  I have had plenty of men in my life who took the time to explain these things to me and I have a pretty good working knowledge of all things involved in any manly area of expertise.
         The guy came at 9:00 AM for the scheduled appointment.  I have just started a new WIP and didn’t want to waste a lot of time with him.  I showed him the heater, where it needed to be connected and left him to it, or so I thought.  I returned to the computer and sat down, only to be interrupted by a pecking at my back door about twenty minutes later.  There stood the little guy, a clipboard in hand.  Good, he was done.  I could pay him and return to my writing.  I opened the door and he took a step as if to enter.  Mason, the Doberman, had been standing there silently watching and he didn’t take too kindly to this.  I grabbed the dog just before he made a mid-morning snack out of the guy.  The guy retreated a couple of steps as I pushed Mason back inside and stepped onto the porch, check book in hand.  I was a little perturbed about his action but I held my tongue.  Who tries to step into a house uninvited?
         The guy proceeds to tell me that the gas company has been sold to a larger conglomerate.  Okay…  He continued explaining that the new company wanted everything that is connected to gas in the house inspected, which included writing down serial numbers, BTUs, etc.  I calmly told him that I didn’t care.  The look of shock on his face was priceless.  But he had to do this, he stammered.  It was his job.  So?  I replied.  This was getting annoying.  So, he informed me, it was a federal regulation and he had to make sure there were no problems inside.  Ah, federal regulations, something I knew about from my years with the FEDS.  Okay so tell me the CFR number for the reg and I would look it up, I told him, barely suppressing my glee (I had him now).  He trudged off to his truck to call the office.  He returned to say it wasn’t federal, it was state.  Okay, I said, give me the state reg number.  He shuffled around for a minute and then admitted there really wasn’t a state reg either:  it was company policy.  Again I said: So?  By now he looked like he was about to cry.  He’d just started this job and he needed the work and he’d lose it if he didn’t do this.  So?  I again replied, feeling myself starting to waiver.  I wanted to be stern and hold my ground but visions of his four kids (yes he told me about them – probably not true but…) starving because I was being a hard case didn’t sit too well.
         So, he said, if he couldn’t do the inspection, he was disconnecting the tank from the house and I would be without gas.  Now that ticked me off.  I told him to pack up and get off my property – I’d find a new company.  Just then Providence intervened, my hubby called to see if the work had been completed.  And, I suspect, to see if the worker was still alive – I have a track record with these guys, any workers who presume I am a wilting violet.  Hubby calmly told me to let the guy in and just get it over with; it shouldn’t take too long.  Trying to change over a thousand gallon tank, a five-hundred gallon tank and a two-hundred-fifty gallon tank right now was not something we wanted to deal with given we were about to go out of town.  He was right, sadly.  But I railed a few more minutes about lying and dishonest business practices, all in front of the little guy.
         Fast forward to FIVE HOURS  later.  The guy had dismantled three fireplaces, two of the gas air units, and my brand-new commercial stove.  I had followed him every step, ranting and raving about wasting time.  He couldn’t get one of the air units working after he’d dismantled it which meant the air conditioner on one side of my house was not working.  I was getting hot and VERY ANGRY.  I finally told him to wrap it up and get out or I was turning the Doberman loose.  I was sitting on the front steps when my hubby pulled in, surprised the guy was still there.  I gritted my teeth and told hubby to never tell me to be reasonable.  I just didn’t ever want to be reasonable again.  He laughed and waited for the gas guy to come out with his little clipboard.
         Ah, the glee of the gas guy as he was writing up the bill.  He had a fellow male there and all was well.  He kept telling my husband that maybe he should have rescheduled when my hubby was there, wink, wink, nudge, nudge.  The gas guy gave me a smile and said there were no hard feelings for how I had acted.  I told him I didn’t give a hot damn and a few other choice things which would have shocked my mother.  My hubby knew that was coming so he took the bill to prevent further expletives.  It was for the entire inspection plus the installation of the pipe.  A whopper.  Now it was hubby’s turn to rant and I could see it building but I interrupted, snatching the bill.  I told the guy I wasn’t paying it; they could eat their time for the inspection and sue me for it.  I wasn’t afraid of going to court  The guy blanched, went to his truck, called corporate and then came back.  The bill had been substantially reduced to the INSTALLATION of the pipe.  Gee, what a surprise.  I wrote the check, shoved it at him and went inside. 
         Later that evening, we went out to the pool to turn on the heater.  It didn’t work, wouldn’t even come on.  Too late to call the pool company.  I gave my hubby a nasty look and told him I wasn’t dealing with any more “guys.”   We’re still waiting for the pool company to show up…

         Are you a victim, if you’re female, of being treated like a stupid wilting violet by workmen?  Have you ever had a similar experience?  How do you handle it?  Do you think this is just a sign of the times to be treated shabbily by the service industry?  I do, and I still have the Doberman.  At least I have one male who understands my distaste of workmen and he has teeth.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Mother's Day is a day when we celebrate the women responsible for sculpting our lives and creating in us a newer, improved model.  Whether you're a mother with children of your own, or you share your love with furry friends, to include fish (if you wish), women hold the world in their hands.  And what a formitive world it is.

Societies all across the board have cherished women.  A woman is the key to mankind.  Her womb harbors the survival of humanity.  There is no finer role in life than to take on the yoke of motherhood, in whichever form that may be.

To respond to this call of duty, many of us have put careers on hold in order to experience the joys of motherhood.  And even more of us have gone to various lengths to have a child, oftentimes without happy result. 

On the childhood front, in war-torn countries countless children are orphaned on a day to day basis.  Death is common.  Fear is prevelant.  Like childless women desperate for a baby of their own, little ones yearn for someone willing to offer them the love they've been mortally denied.

I count myself lucky that my children were born Americans and have grown into healthy adults.  Yet, I yearn for the days when they gathered at my feet or we sat together reading stories before bed.  Though those were oftentimes loud and stressful moments, I cherish each one even more as the years pass by.

In light of those emotions, I've asked myself over and over again, what makes a woman successful?  Is it the smile she puts on everyday for those she loves, even if she's got a fever or has been up all night long with a sick child?  What about the hours she's put in to tidy her home and cook a great meal for her husband, often without a thank you

Does a woman base her success on her career or the love of those around her when she's still trying to figure out who she is?

Life is a wonderful thing.  Seasons come and go.  People are born and die.  In the interim, each and every one of us has had a mother.  Many of us have been mothers.  Nurturers have been given the chance to teach, sculpting the next generation.  And yet, others will find motherhood or grandparenthood in the not so distant future. 

Our experiences, the love we've shared with our families, have made us unique.  What is the one thing you've learned from your mother that you want to pass along to the younger generation as you pass the baton?

Monday, May 14, 2012

Intentional Malice

Have you ever set out to hurt someone on purpose and had fun doing it.?

I think I could have honestly answered no to that question until last week.

Stephanie and I spent three days in a cabin on the river with Presents authors Lynn Raye Harris and Janette Kenny. The purpose? To bounce ideas around and plot some books. What it boiled down to? Hurting our characters

Yeah. You have to cause them pain. You have to make them bleed. This is something Stephanie and I know intellectually, but have had a hard time doing. We are very fortunate that we have never had a form letter rejection from an editor or agent. We always get a personal well thought out rejection with glowing compliments—good writing, snappy dialogue, funny, great characters, good setting. That's the good news.

The bad news is always about our conflict. It's not enough. It's not sustainable. It's not strong enough. The resolution is too fast in coming. So you not only have to make them bleed, they have to bleed for a while.

Well. Conflict equals pain. And thanks to these two USA Today bestselling authors, I think we have learned a thing or two. First off, it was much easier to be mean to their characters, which helped empower us to abuse our own. And Lynn and Jan. had some great ideas for ours.

Before we knew it, we had dead parents, self-blame, public humiliations, miscarriages, and rejected teenagers who never got over it,

There was blood on the floor of that river cabin.

We can't wait to go back.

Can you think of a book, movie, or television character who hurt so bad that it broke your heart?

Friday, May 11, 2012

Hold On.....Just Give It A Minute.

I’ve told y’all I don’t watch TV, right?  Well, somehow Kathy has me watching Downton Abby and I really like it.  Cheryl wants me watching the boys from Monroe in Duck Dynasty, too.  Maybe I’ll watch to see if I know any of ‘em!  We’ll see.  And then my family has pulled me kicking and screaming into watching their TV show with them.  Given they’re all geeky-nerd/nerdettes (which I am the polar opposite of), that generally means the SyFy channel.  And you know by now that as soon as the “Let’s watch TV” request has been made, my internal self groans in pain and wishes for some way to get out of it.  But then it’s my family, and I love them beyond measure, and so I cave.  I’m seriously thinking of taking up knitting or crochet because I can’t stand to sit there and do nothing.  I’m b-o-r-e-d!  I sit there with Restless-Mind-Syndrome just itching to get up and do something!  The dishes!  Floors!  Anything!  But no, I sit it out and watch TV with the fam.  I’m not real happy about it, but there you go.  (This is where Pinterest comes in handy.  I’ve found some great simple crochet patterns there.  Love, Love, LOVE the baby flip flops!  Now if I could just remember to get the yarn when I’m in town…then somebody can have a baby so I can gift them! :D )

So about watching SyFy, the show we watch is Eureka.  Sheriff Jack Carter, the law in town, often has these after-the-fact situations when he comes rushing back into the room to find out where somebody lives or what the directions are to a location he was already on his way to.  Well I feel his pain.  I do this all the time.  It makes me roll my eyes at myself.  And usually it’s in the form of sending an email….and then another to add on something I forgot….and then another, and another, and…you get the idea. 

Anyway, sitting at my desk last Friday morning, seconds after posting to Facebook that the blog is up about my addiction to Relationships, I see the musical-tie-in…..

♫♪ might as well face it you’re Addicted to Love ♪♫  

Geeze!  Why didn’t I see that before?  What a great title for that blog had I only recognized it before hitting 'publish'.  Hindsight is a buggar!  And it’s not just this moment.  Just like the Sheriff, I have a lifetime of these moments!  Thankfully, I just let it go and laugh it off.  It’s not worth losing any sleep over.

So I wonder.  Does everyone other than me really enjoy watching TV?  And is anyone out there like me and the Sheriff ......in your rush to living life.....
do you forget to  …. 
Hold on....just give it a minute!  

 Happy Mother’s Day to all you Moms and Someone Specials!   
None of us would be where we are today without you.
Yay Moms!

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Sara and Staci Are Visiting

When Jean and I went to the RWA National Conference in Orlando a few years ago we met another writing duo. It was so exciting to talk with someone else who understood the creative process of working together.
The Fantastic Writing Duo
Sara and Staci

They have a new book out and you can read the first two chapters at their publisher's website. We are delighted to welcome them here to the blog.  Please, join us as we visit with Sara Daily and Staci Weber!

About Pack of Lies by
Sara Dailey and Staci Weber:

Seventeen-year-old Allison Wright is becoming a werewolf; she just doesn’t know it. When her mood-swings, erratic behavior, and uncontrollable temper gets out of hand, her mother finally comes clean and admits her deep-dark secret. Allison’s mom is a werewolf, and it won’t be long before Allison and her brother Aiden will suffer the same fate. When Allison reaches her breaking point, the family packs up their life in Texas and moves to Red Ridge, New Mexico, back to the werewolf pack that Allison’s mother left behind almost 20 years ago. The last thing Allison ever expected when she arrived at the Estate was to come muzzle to muzzle with the wolf of her dreams.

Cade Walker is next in line to be the alpha of the Red Ridge pack. He’s been groomed to be a leader, and it won’t be long before he takes his father’s place. With his life carefully laid out, his mate already chosen, and his bright future awaiting him, what could possibly go wrong? But when a beautiful blonde he can’t resist joins the pack, his perfectly planned future gets turned up-side down.

Nothing will stand in the way of Kendall Stuart getting what she wants. She is already well on her way to becoming the next alpha’s mate, and finally, she will rule the pack by Cade’s side. But when her position in the pack is threatened, Kendall is willing to do anything to get her way, even if that means teaming up with a rogue werewolf with an agenda of his own. When these two join forces, all hell breaks loose, and no one in the pack is safe, especially not Cade and his true mate.

Here's a short excerpt:

“I picked up on a scent that stopped all thought, all movement, leaving me standing completely still, breathing in a smell that I would never forget. A mix of earth, and musk, and honeysuckle, and sandalwood filled my senses leaving me with a need, a need to find this thing that was suddenly making me salivate, suddenly making me ache with desperation.

Without hesitation, my nose hit the ground as I began to track the enticing smell. I didn’t look up. I didn’t stop moving. I didn’t stop to think about what I might find. None of it mattered. I needed to find the source of that wonderful scent.

In the near distance, I heard a rustling in the brush, which ceased the mission that had held me spellbound. I stopped dead in my tracks and looked around, spooked by what I might find, but what I saw was the last thing I expected.

Peering out from behind a tall oak, a wolf was watching me. We just stood still, staring at each other, neither of us moving a muscle. His amazing green eyes were in sharp contrast to his deep, dark fur. He was a much bigger wolf than me, strong and lean, and the glint in his eyes told me that he was no ordinary wolf.”

Our info:



“Like” us on Facebook - https://www.facebook.com/pages/Sara-Dailey-and-Staci-Weber/102330932229

Follow us on Twitter - https://twitter.com/#!/srdailey80 and https://twitter.com/#!/WeberStaci

Publisher’s website - http://boroughspublishinggroup.com/

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Ducks and Camo

         I have fallen in love with a bunch of guys who are already married…well, except for one and he’s free.  (Cue ZZ Top)  These guys have long hair, long beards and mostly wear camouflage, things I normally don’t like, but they appeal to me in a way that no one has since Adrian Paul (and it ain’t their looks).

         Meet the Robertsons from Monroe, Louisiana.  I know.  They’re a scary looking bunch in their camo and black face paint.  However, these guys are rich (millionaires) and they have their own television show – “Duck Dynasty.”  To their credit, they are devoted family men, God-fearing and about as funny as anything on television.  I watch them every Wednesday night at 9:00 pm and I haven’t been disappointed yet.  Their show centers on their duck call business, Duck Commander, which is a multi-million dollar enterprise. 

The real fun comes when you realize that most of the employees at the business are family (and as Willie tells them “I can’t fire family” even though he wants to), a rough and tumble family that does some of the stupidest redneck things I have seen (yes, Jean, these guys rival my barn boys).  I have laughed until I couldn’t breathe over the uncle's, Si, antics (he’s the free one), and then felt a kinship with him when he explained his blue Tupperware cup was the same one his mother sent him while he was in Viet Nam.  He still carries it and drinks sweet tea all the time.  The father, Phil, is a college graduate (Louisiana Tech) and was the first string quarterback, ahead of a guy named Terry Bradshaw.  Phil was drafted to the pros but it interfered with duck hunting so he didn’t go.  Phil started the family business, making duck calls, in 1973 but Willie, one of his sons, took it into the mainstream.  Jase, another of Phil’s sons, invents new duck calls and, to be honest, sometime I worry about him – he’s a bit slow (I think it’s an act because he can hold his own with Willie). All of the boys graduated from college and they ain’t your average run-of-the-mill rednecks – they just choose to be as they are.  Willie, Duck Commander’s CEO, tries to keep control but it’s awful hard when these guys always have something planned, either hunting, fishing or playing practical jokes.

Seriously, though, I enjoy the show because this family loves each other.  They may get mad or do things but the show always ends with all of them sitting down to a meal at Miss Kay’s (the mother) table, saying grace and enjoying each other.  All of them married their high-school sweethearts and remain married today.  I know, I can hear all of you saying, “Who wants to watch a bunch of bearded red-necks running around doing brain-damaged things?”  Give it a shot.  You’ll be hooked on how they react to things, how they love each other and just how funny some of it is.  Oh, by the way, some of them will be in Florence on August 11th.  I hope I can go…my sister wants to meet Si (he's the one in shorts).

Do you have a favorite television show?  Do you like reality shows?  How do you feel about the latest upsurge of television shows featuring people from the South?  I think we’re an interesting bunch – the rest of the country just doesn’t know that to be Southern you have to have some crazy relatives who do things which involve guns and blowing things up.  Duck Dynasty fits the bill (no pun intended).

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Post Luncheon Post

We at Okay, Listen Here, love to frolic like carefree kittens.  The venue here at our blog allows us that freedom.  But as writers, we're oftentimes called to report for duty at our home writing chapter for the Heart of Dixie's Annual Romance Readers' Luncheon.

This year was no different.  With Lora Leigh as guest speaker, we lined up to get our marching orders.  Answering the call from this year's luncheon coordinator, Kimberly Ward, we helped stuff goody bags and decorated tables, schelped and mingled, met awesome new and old authors who hosted tables, and chatted up eager attendees.  There were raffle baskets galore, assembled under the direction of Dani Wade, chocolates on the tables, goody bags stuffed with free gifts from authors and 3 books each, and Door prizes.  What kitty could ask for more?

Food?  Never fear!  The menu consisted of Spring Salad, Honey Dijon Chicken, Rice Pilaf, Steamed vegetables, and rolls, a purrfect combination.

Thanks to the wonderful caterers at the Von Braun Center in downtown Huntsville, AL, we were well-fed AND treated to a choice of Strawberry Cloud or Double Chocolate Cake for dessert.  (Cleaning our whiskers!)

Stomachs full, pooped but purrfectly refreshed, the Heart of Dixie Romance Writers can safely paw another one up for the books.  172 attendees, 25 authors, including our guest speaker, with as many Door Prizes and over 35 raffle baskets later... the fun just kept on coming!  (Who could resist getting wrapped up in this kind of goodness?)

Bear witness to the result...

Purrfectly content!  This position is probably typical for all of us after this past weekend.  (Yawn!  I know I've assumed this position more often than not in the past few days.  And I wasn't even in charge this year.  Hats off to Kimberly Ward who has also been planning a July wedding!)

15th Anniversary Luncheon down.  But for Heart of Dixie members another year of planning begins... with J.T. Ellison to appear as our guest speaker next year, May 4, 2013. 

Arrrrr!  I ask ye all... Is there anything better than a pirrrate kitty?

I you went to the luncheon, what was your favorite memory?