Friday, May 8, 2015

I remember Mom

She was always there. All my life, no matter whether things were bad or good. Mom was always there.  I'm one of the lucky ones, mom lived to be 94 and I guess I just got used to her listening to me.  Sometimes I'd tell her the same thing over and over again, working through my pain, my disappointment, or celebrating some triumph that only mom could understand just how much it mattered.

Mom at my home in Kansas City with my girls and my brother's two boys, taken shortly before my husband died.  I moved then, and moved again, and again, through it all mom was always there.  She was there for my girls and she was there for me. Mom kept me going; it didn't matter how crazy my life got, mom was there. 

A different life, another daughter, growing girls, and smiling faces, Mom was there, and when I left and went back to the youngest girl's father, mom was there. And when it fell apart again, mom was there. And when he died, she was there then too

Another life, girls all grown, and finally someone for me to trust mom loved that, loved my husband and the way the three of us shared our lives together.  For 23 years that never changed, the three of us together.  We shared so much, the three of us, the years came and went, in the fall she'd fly off to my brother's and while she was there we'd talk on the phone and she'd tell us about all the fun she was having in the sunshine, and in the spring she'd come back and life would pick right back up where it left off in the fall.  Mom was always there - there when I cried and there when I laughed, always there was mom.


A daughter, so beautful, so full of life and laughter, so much love - it hurts so much, so much pain and so many tears, so much loss.  Mom was there, always mom was there, she was there at birth when I said hello and she was there at death when I said goodbye. Always mom was there.

Then there was this, seemed like maybe my time was over - triple negative - the worst kind, lump the size of a golf ball, but mom was there. Always there was mom, she was there to listen to me and cry with me and laugh with me, always mom was there.  And when I beat it all, and we went back to being us and I survived, mom was there, always mom was there.

The years kept going by and finally she was 94.  Where did they go.  She was weakening, we knew she was, but none of us want that, we didn't want the change.  Mom knew time was growing short, and of course I knew, but she knew I didn't want to know and we pretended.  She didn't want to eat, but I'd cook soup and bake biscuits and tempt her and she'd eat. She didn't want to, we both knew she didn't but she would, just because I made them for her.  I'll never forget the last words she ever said to me.  I'd made her soup and she didn't want to eat, and I left the room.  I was hurt, and she knew it because I hated it when she didn't eat -- it made what was coming seem so close.  That night, I went back in the room to see if she was ready for bed and she held up her bowl.  "I ate it all,"  she said and showed me her empty bowl.

I hugged her, and helped her into bed.  She'd taken the mild sleeping pill the doctor had prescribed for her and she was already falling asleep.  I propped her up on the pillows and smoothed her hair.  She was already asleep.

I miss you mom, so much.  Love Judy


Thursday, May 7, 2015

We've got Cows! By Tia Dani

(With apology to the writers' of the movie, "TWISTER".)


Whenever we work at a restaurant, it means we're usually creating a new book.

Beginning a new story, always fires us up, however, sanity also rears its annoying pointy head and sniffs, "Where are you going to start?"

Since our stories are generally character driven, we first like to know our characters inside and out. We talk about who they are and what they specifically want. Once we've got their names and backgrounds, flaws, and why they are driven, then we work on where we're going with the story.

Actually sometimes a plot line will come to us first, but that's a topic for another blog later on. (Has anyone picked up we're always saving things for other blogs?)

Back to brainstorming. Our second step is who opens the story in their point of view? Normally we gear our books toward the romance genre (Dani's strong point), so we usually start with the heroine. Sometimes the hero will protest and win the argument. We're really not gender driven.

But here's where it gets tricky. Once we know the characters, know the underlying plot, we have to add flesh and blood to the story…the stuff that not only draws readers avidly into the book, but ourselves as well.

We rely on our handy dandy writing class rule. Every scene needs three parts:

1. Goal. What does the character want? CHECK. DONE THAT.

2. Conflict. A series of difficulties characters must face on the way to reaching their goal. CHECK…WAIT! HOLD ON…We're not exactly there yet.

Several minutes (actually hours) of discussion, heavy research, and some wine, maybe a lot of wine, one of us (usually Tia) yells, "We got cows!"

Imagine in the restaurant the looks we get are quite comical. "Cows? What cows?" Several people look around nervously. "Where?"

We grin at everyone and explain we're co-authors, Tia Dani, and Tia's yell, "We've got cows." is an expression for seeing difficulties (like in the movie where cows fly in the middle of a tornado.) Some nod and say, "I see." Others…look confused then go back to eating.

Now onto Rule Three: 
The Ultimate Disaster. What keeps characters from reaching their goals? By this time Tia is jumping up and down, waving her hands at a bunch of unseen cows in her mind. (Remember how she loves a great disaster.) Even Dani can't help but get drawn into the excitement. She has her own cows. With rapid-fire description, she embellishes great love scenes to go along with Tia's disaster(s).

By this time we have new people around us and we have to explain all over again.

But the really funny thing is, our waitress, who's gotten to know us quite well, strolls by and says with a grin, "Katie, bar the barn door. Tia Dani has their cows!"

                              This is how we look by the time we've finished brainstorming a book.

                                       © Graphixparanoid | - Mad Cow Photo

                                        cow photos by @ElisaLocci/DreamstimeStockPhoto

To find out more about the writing team Tia Dani and our books visit us at:

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Did My Kid Just SAY That? by Gail Roughton


You never know what’s coming out of a child’s mouth next. That’s one of the perks of having kids. They can embarrass you one minute, have you in stitches laughing the next, and occasionally, leave you open-mouthed and slack-jawed in sheer amazement.

All my kids have done it to me at one time or another and my grandchildren do it to me now. But the family did she just say what I think she said prize goes to my daughter, Rebecca. She was eight at the time, leaning back against the bathtub and savoring the feel of the hot water. Bath time was one-on-one time, hard to come by in a family of three children and two working parents, and I’d learned to grab it with each child whenever the opportunity arose. Sometimes we’d just talk, sometimes I’d read to them. I don’t know who looked forward to bath time more, me or them.

On this particular evening, I remember I had a book in my hand. It was a rather special one, at least to me. An edition of Tales of Uncle Remus I’d had since I was twelve or so myself, purchased at the Uncle Remus Museum in Eatonton, Georgia, home-stomping ground of the author, Joel Chandler Harris, and the oral folklore that gave birth to the Uncle Remus stories. Okay, I was a nerd even at twelve when computers weren’t even thought of, I’ve never denied it. We’d been reading a story or two every night for a week or so. But Brer Rabbit wasn’t on my child’s agenda that night.

She sat straight up, fixed me with the amber eyes so large and gorgeous they’ve made strangers stop and stare since birth and asked me, “Mama, are we ever born again?”

Not a question Mama was expecting, I’ll tell you that. I wracked my brain for its possible source. Maybe she’d caught a telecast of a Church service on television? A talk show, maybe? Or heard a radio show I wasn’t aware of?

“You mean like — are we born again when we die and go to Heaven?”

“No, no, no!!!” Her hand slapped the water. “I mean when we die, are we ever born again, here, on earth? In another body?”

 Eight, I thought to myself. She’s EIGHT! Where the heck is this coming from?! I wasn’t so startled I didn’t recognize this as the most basic description of reincarnation I’d ever heard, but for the life of me, I couldn’t figure out why she’d have thought of it. I fell back on the best child-rearing advice I’d ever gotten. No, not from my mother, or aunt, or mother-in-law, or best friend. From Atticus Finch of To Kill A Mockingbird. That fictional single parent and his major guideline of child-rearing got me through a lot while raising my kids, especially Rebecca, to-wit: When a child asks you a question, you tell them the truth. They don’t necessarily have to understand exactly what you’re saying, they just have to know you’re telling them the truth. Because they’ll know if you’re lying to them. 

So I gathered my wits about me and took a deep breath. “Well, that is, in fact, what many of the world’s religions believe, yes. That when you die you’re born again in another body.”

“But what do you believe?”

Great. Couldn’t avoid that, could I? “I believe it’s a probability it’s a possibility, yes.” I haven’t spent my entire adult professional life in a law office for nothing. “Becca, what on earth made you think of this in the first place?”

“I don’t know, I was on the playground the other day and it just seemed like I’d been there before, done the same things before, just in another body.”

Ah! De’ja vu, I thought. I was, in fact, rather relieved. A strange phenomenon, to be sure, but one pretty much everybody’d experienced at some time or another. I should have left well enough alone. But of course I didn’t. I just had to ask. “Well, then—who were you?” I mean, she was eight, of course she’d say, “A rock star.” “An Indian maiden.” “Cinderella”. Maybe even “An Alien Princess”. Something exotic, something dear to the imagination of childhood. Nope. Something utterly, completely, down-to-earth. Something realistic, and assuming that any universal recycling program called reincarnation does exist, completely possible.  “I don’t know," she said slowly.  "But I was black and had a lot of pigtails.”

From nowhere, I remembered my mother laughing about the stories one of my older brother told when he was small. Stories about “a long time ago when I was an old man.” So let the academics and professors and religious leaders debate all they want. I’ve never looked at reincarnation the same way since. I never will. Nor will I ever forget that night when out of the mouth of a babe came that beautifully basic and elemental description of such an extremely complicated and controversial belief, stripped right down to its barest element.  You know what they say about the sensitivity of children and animals. They know things.  Things we don't.  Or possibly...things we used to know but have forgotten?

Besides, I’m a writer. I’ve told you before—we never waste anything. We just recycle it into these things we call novels. Like my War-N-Wit, Inc. novellas. Wherein my heroine Ariel Anson Garrett wasn’t so sure about that thing known as reincarnation either. And boy, was she in for a surprise!


Find all Gail Roughton titles at
And at Amazon
You can also visit at her Blog
and on Facebook

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

What movie would you watch again and again? By Jamie Hill


Anyone on Facebook has seen the status game: "Name a movie you've watched over and over again". I can think of several, mostly they're ones that are being shown on TV. When I channel surf I'll stop to watch parts, if not all. Sister Act I and II were playing a couple weeks ago on Saturday and Sunday, and I watched parts of both of them again. We never miss a showing of Jaws, Pretty Woman, parts of Titanic and probably the favorite in our house, Jurassic Park. Our consensus is that the first movie was best, the second was so-so, and the third was pretty good, better than the second. I liked Sam Neill's character better than Jeff Goldblum's, and was tickled that they included him and Laura Dern in the third.

A while back word came out of a fourth Jurassic Park movie called Jurassic World. Chris Pratt is an up and coming Hollywood actor and seems to fit the leading character role just fine. From the little I've seen from the previews, it looks like there's a mother who allows her two sons to go alone to the Jurassic World theme park which is finally open. (Excuse me, didn't she watch any of the movies?)

Anyway, June 12 is just around the corner and although we don't go to the theater to see many movies, my family will be making a trip to watch this one on the big screen. Absolutely can't wait!

I got to wondering if this theory also applies to books. Is there a book you'd read again and again? I have a few that I've saved and reread over time. Go Ask Alice is one that I can start reading and will sit there until I've finished the whole darn thing. I'll reread parts of The Horse Whisperer. But generally, my reading time is short enough as it is, and my 'to be read' pile is too large to reread books when there are so many new and interesting ones out there. 

I must admit, when I open my own books to grab an excerpt or something like that, often I'll get caught up reading and will follow thorough to the end. When I finish I get that happy feeling that readers get when they close a book, only it's multiplied when you're also the author of said book. That's one of the most amazing feelings there is.
If you're in the mood to reread, or perhaps read for the first time, some hot cop romantic suspense, why not start with book one of my series, A Cop in the Family? Jack and Crystal remain close to my heart to this day. Enough so that I wrote two more books which included them, so readers could see where they ended up. 

I just love happy endings! (And watching dinosaur movies from the comfort of my chair.)

Find Family Secrets and my other titles at Amazon and other book sellers, also available in paperback by request at a bookstore near you.

Family Secrets:

Jamie Hill's website:

Jamie's Publisher, Books We Love:

Monday, May 4, 2015

17th Century Recipes by Katherine Pym

From the book: Samuel Pepys' Penny Merriments, Being a Collection of Chapbooks, full of Histories, Jests, Magic, Amorous Tales of Courtship, Marriage and Infidelity, Accounts of Rogues and Fools, together with Comments on the Times. Selected and Edited by Roger Thompson of the University of East Anglia at Norwich, 1977. 

Merchantman being attacked by Pirates

Whew, what a mouthful. Our titles these days are much shorter, with less syllables, easier to remember. To remember this, I simply refer to it as: Penny Merriments, a tome I found in a used bookstore and considered it a great find. It has all sorts of wonderful information, like recipes to make one beautiful, or a recipe for the newest way to roast a hare. It sends me right back into the era of my choice...

17th century England started out with traders going to far distant shores, but the cost was extensive. Spices were gathered through the Levant Company (owned by noblemen and gentlemen of quality) and the fledgling East India Company. As the century moved forward, their ships went to places already taken by the Spanish and Portuguese. 

First Anglo/Dutch War
The Dutch East India Company (VOC) began at about the same time as England's, but they weren't hampered by the religious upheaval and civil wars England endured during the first half of the century. The Dutch VOC had a leg up on English merchant shipping until Cromwell decided enough was enough and went to war with The Netherlands. This is known as the First Anglo/Dutch war (1652-54), and fought entirely at sea. This war were over trade, who could monopolize which ports in the East and West Indies.

With that said, the recipes below show an inordinate amount of spices, which were very costly. During the reign of King James I, a fight to near death took place between VOC and English Merchantman in the South Seas that decimated the nutmeg crops on Pulo Run Island, in the Banda archipelago. A once rich source of nutmeg, it never fully recovered. 

Citrus fruits, dates, pepper, cotton cloth, and other fruits and spices were trekked across the desert sands to ports the Levant held in the Mediterranean, then imported via ship to London. Once these commodities hit the London markets, they proved costly for the middling English household.

Fleet of East Indiamen at Sea
The below recipes can only come from later in the 17th century, and were directed to the more well-to-do. Middling folk who could read, enjoyed the thoughts of these, though...

"To Roast a shoulder of mutton with Oysters the best way. Take one not too fat nor too lean, open it in divers places, stuff your oysters in with a little chopt pennyroyal (mint or basil), baste it with butter and claret wine, then serve it up with grated nutmeg, yolks of eggs, ginger, cinnamon, butter and red wine vinegar."

"To Stew a Leg of Lamb the best way.
Slice it and lay it in order in your stewing-pan, seasoned with salt and nutmeg, adding a pound of butter, and half a pint of claret, with a handful of sliced dates, and the like quantity of currants, and make the sauce with the yolk of two eggs, a quarter pint of verjoice (acid juice from sour or unripe fruit), and two ounces of sugar. Boil them up, and put them over the meat, serving up hot together."

"The Art of Beautifying the Hands, Neck, Breast and Face: Harmless and Approved, with other Rare Curiosities.
To make the hands arms white, clear and smooth. Take a quarter of a pound of sweet almonds, blanch and bruise them, with a quarter of a pint of oil of roses, and the like quantity of betony-water (plant of the mint family): heat them over a gentle fire; and then press out the liquid part, and it will serve for either hands or face anointed therewith."

"To take away Freckles, Morphew (scurfy skin) or sunburn.
Steep a piece of copper in the juice of lemon till it be dissolved (the juice), and anoint the place with a feather morning and evening, washing it off with white wine." (Not sure how that one worked.)

"To take off any scurf from the hands and face.
Take water of tartar, that is, such wherein calcined (burnt to a powder) tartar has been infused, anoint the place, and wash it as the former (with white wine)."

"To sweeten the Breath, and preserve the Teeth and Gums.
Boil a handful of juniper berries, a handful of sage, and an ounce of carraway seeds in a quart of white wine, til a third part be consumed: strain it and wash your mouth with it morning and evening, suffering a small quantity to pass down: you may whiten the teeth by rubbing them with pumice stone."

So... who wants to try one of these recipes and let me know how it works? I'd especially like to know the results of whitening your teeth with pumice stone. Or should I do a disclaimer? Don’t do this at home!
Many thanks to wikicommons for the pictures:

This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license, &

Roger Thompson, Samuel Pepys' Penny Merriments, Being a Collection of Chapbooks, full of Histories, Jests, Magic, Amorous Tales of Courtship, Marriage and Infidelity, Accounts of Rogues and Fools, together with Comments on the Times. Selected and Edited by of the University of East Anglia at Norwich, 1977.

Sunday, May 3, 2015

A Great Sense of Humor...


I believe it was Tommy Cooper, British prop comedian and magician, who once said "Always leave them laughing." Personally, I love to laugh and enjoy novels that make me laugh, think, and truly enjoy the time I spend absorbed in their pages. If you were to catch a glimpse into my house, my kids and I are always bantering jokes back and forth. My middle son usually wins - until his younger brother pipes up with a one-liner that stops us all cold and everyone ends up too busy laughing to come up with more jokes.

In every novel I have written, I always use humor to keep the tone light and the story flowing along when things are getting tense. This is a scene from The Bakery Lady that puts a little levity in the first meeting between Leo Blue and Christina Davidson:

Leo moved toward the table for a better look, standing as close to Christina as he dared. She smelled as sweet and spicy as her desserts. He should move away before he said or did anything stupid. “Those look good.”
“I hope you’re talking about the cookies.” She scowled. “They’ll look even better after they’re baked.”
He grinned, sitting on a nearby stool. “I hope we’re still talking about the cookies.”

Humor keeps a good mystery from getting too dark,especially in the case of a cozy mystery. Even if it's just from that one character who is the foil for the serious detective. The sidekick who becomes a beloved character in his own right. Leo Blue started off has the entertaining sidekick in The Bookstore Lady, then took over until I had to feature him in The Bakery Lady. People seemed to love is quick wit.

Tonight I'm blessed with a houseful of laughter thanks to my youngest son's sleepover birthday party and a houseful of chatty teenagers. I'm bound to find fodder for another book in all the nonsense as they clown around. While not everyone may love a clown, who doesn't love a good chuckle now and then?
Keep Smiling!

Diane Bator
Wild Blue Mysteries:
The Bookstore Lady
The Mystery Lady
The Bakery Lady

Titillating preview by J.C. Kavanagh

WINNER Best Young Adult Book 2016, The Twisted Climb I've been prepping for Autumn book signings and excited to meet new and...