Monday, May 30, 2016

Take Time to Remember

by Fran McNabb
From family gatherings to solemn ceremonies—Memorial Day is a dichotomy of feelings.

Memorial Day, originally called Decoration Day, is a day set aside to remember those who died in the service of our country. The origins can be traced to the Civil War when General John Logan proclaimed a day be set aside for decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country.
Today ceremonies to remember those veterans who lost their lives still take place throughout the country. Many national cemeteries honor the dead by placing American flags by each tombstone. In some cities speeches are given, dinners for veterans are shared, and Americans in general pay homage to our fallen soldiers.

But over the years Memorial Day has taken on another meaning. Unofficially it marks the beginning of summer. Like all holidays, we can’t get away from the commercial side of the day.  Ads encourage us to buy beach chairs and swimsuits, hotdogs and chips, and anything else that will make our weekend enjoyable. There’s nothing wrong with that.

I live on the Gulf Coast, and like so many others I look forward to enjoying a day on the water if the weather cooperates. The local barrier islands lure us to spend the day boating and swimming, and the Sunday before Memorial Day has become the favorite boating day. As I’m writing this, I just changed from my wet bathing suit and my husband is still washing the salt water off the boat. Today the weather was beautiful and the island was packed. It was wonderful to see so many enjoying the island's beauty.

 I hope in the excitement of enjoying the outdoors all of us will take the time to remember the meaning of Memorial Day, a day to honor the veterans who gave their lives while serving our country.

It is the beginning of summer, but it’s also something much, much more meaningful. Take time to remember.

FRAN MCNABB lives along the Mississippi Gulf Coast and looks forward to the warm days of summer to boat, fish, and enjoy the waters of the Mississippi Sound. When not on the water, she’s at her computer penning light romances. Her publishing credits include eight published novels, many of which use the coastal area as their setting. Visit her at or at

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

The Merry Month of May

 There are so many memorable and commemorated days this month, how do we keep track of the whys and wherefores of them all. Here are a few of the ancient superstitions surrounding May dating back to earliest Celtic times.

May was considered the least advantageous for weddings as the offspring of a May bride (and groom) were doomed to have bad luck. Also, farm animals born during this month were believed to be obstinate and a pack of bother. Shetlanders never marry in May, preferring the winter months – after the fishing season had ended.

May begins the fishing season in the northern reaches of Scotland and the Isle of Man. People who engage in dangerous jobs often hold superstitions that seem to have protective qualities. Manx  and Scots fisherman never used English or Scottish words at sea, sticking to Norn, a descendant of Old Norse.

When I was a child, every school held a May Day festival for which we practiced all through the early spring to dance around the Maypole, a Druidic tradition.

In Wales, a cold May was believed to mean a full barn and an empty graveyard.

More recently, we have designated May for the celebration of motherhood which grew from the Christian church event of Mothering Sunday, when the small local chapel congregations gathered at the mother church – the parish center – usually celebrated in March in British countries.

This past weekend we commemorated Armed Forces Day:

“President Harry S. Truman led the effort to establish a single holiday for citizens to come together and thank our military members for their patriotic service in support of our country.

“On August 31, 1949, Secretary of Defense Louis Johnson announced the creation of an Armed Forces Day to replace separate Army, Navy, Marine Corps and Air Force Days.
The single day celebration stemmed from the unification of the Armed Forces under the Department of Defense.” 

Memorial Day is commemorated the last weekend of May, but the actually date is the 31st.

“Today is a special day. It is a day of honor and reverence; it is a solemn day. Today we must recognize an unfortunate fact of life: our beloved country was formed and is protected by the blood of warriors. …”

Allow me to take this opportunity to express my deepest respect and gratitude to every man and woman who has served in the Armed Forces in the United States and my heartfelt condolences to those who are grieving the loss of their loved ones.

Your sacrifice is never forgotten.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Mercury? In retrograde? Go for it!

They tell me Mercury is in retrograde. In fact, Gina Ardito just did a great post on that very subject. If this is what happens when Mercury goes rogue, then I say GO FOR IT, MERCURY! Retrograde any time you like.

Yes, this month has been great to our family. We started with a visit to see an eight-year-old grandson (Eric) who was having a special event in his life. We hit a second peak this week with the birth of a new grandson (welcome, Zane!), and we'll cap off the month by traveling to the Midwest to celebrate another great event with our grandson who just turned eighteen. (Go, Tanis!)

In the meantime, California had an unpredicted rainstorm last night (our forecast still says partly cloudy although more than an inch has fallen), and our area has needed rain desperately. The whole state, at least as much of it as I can see, is in bloom--or seems to be. Birds are nesting, bees are humming, and a book that hadn't done well suddenly sold more than 500 copies in two weeks. I can't say that any of these events have been affected in the least by the movement of the zodiac, but I like them. I like them all very much!

As it happens, Mercury is a friend of mine. In my novel, MAGGIE RISING: ADVENTURES OF A PART-TIME PSYCHIC, the heroine's legal name is Eastern Star Rising. Her older brother is named ... you guessed it! ... Mercury Rising, and Merc is a cutie too.  If you should happen to look at my birth chart (something I haven't paid too much attention to, although I've seen it once or twice), you'll find that Mercury and I go back a l-o-n-g way. No wonder that planet is so good to me.

Okay, time to be honest: If Gina hadn't told me Mercury was in retrograde, I wouldn't have known. The fact is I haven't given too much thought to the movement of stars and planets. Still, given the marvelous events of these few weeks, I will likely confuse people in the future when I hear them complaining about Mercury going retrograde. If future experiences are anything like this time, I'll be happy to see Mercury acting up whenever and however it happens.

Susan Aylworth is the author of 14 novels, all available as e-books. She loves her northern California home which she shares with her husband of 46 years and the two spoiled cats they serve. When she can't hang out with her seven children and 25 grandbabies, she loves hanging with her fictional offspring, the children of her mind. She also loves hearing from readers. Visit her website at or find her @SusanAylworth, at, or on Pinterest. 

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Curse You, Mercury in Retrograde!

by Gina Ardito

Photo by Efi21
Courtesy of MorgueFile

Whether or not you believe in horoscopes or the zodiac, you've probably heard the term, "Mercury is in retrograde." Usually when something goes wrong: your computer crashed, your car broke down, or you suddenly lost your job. While I can't say I believe that the alignment of stars and planets has any bearing in my life and how I live it, there's something to that whole retrograde thing I can't deny.

Every month I check my forecast, skimming through to see my best dates, my worst dates, and looking for those three fateful words. And guess what? Mercury's in retrograde from April 28 through May 22. I was coasting along okay, thinking maybe I'd skate away unscathed this time around.

But, no. Mercury was just toying with me. It began last week when I woke up one morning and discovered I had no heat or hot water. The oil burner would not turn on, no matter how hard or insistently I pressed the red button. My first thought? I'm out of heating oil. We get an automatic delivery every few weeks, but maybe they missed one? I checked my calendar. Nope. They'd come right on time in early April. I couldn't possibly be out of oil. I called my service company and they agreed it wasn't likely. Still, better safe than sorry. The rep told me to go out and check the level in my tank. I explained to the rep that I'd been told in the past that the way my tank is situated, you can't take an accurate level that way. He told me to do it anyway and talked me through the procedure, which is basically me putting a long stick down in the pipe, and then measuring the oil line. I got back on the phone. "It's about two inches."

"Wow," he replied. "That's low."

Now what? Well, he promised he'd send someone out to fill my tank ASAP. This is a term that means different things to different people. To me, ASAP means, an hour or two. To the oil company, ASAP means before five pm. I wound up losing a day at work, waiting for the guy to show up at three. And guess what? I didn't need oil. And I still had no heat or hot water. Back to the oil company for round two.

This time, when I called, I was told they could send a repairman immediately. Well, immediately is better than ASAP so sign me up. That would be immediately, first thing the next day. <sigh> Okay. If I have to wait another day, what can I do? Fine. Send the repair guy the next day. Luckily, my daughter volunteered to stay home so I didn't lose another day at work. And sure enough, the guy got there first thing: ten am. But hey, a few hundred bucks later, I had heat and hot water again! Yay!

For three whole days. Then the burner conked out again over this past weekend. Let me repeat that: on a weekend. The company's owner was more than happy to put aside his Sunday and come on by to see if he could fix it, provided I signed away the deed to my house and my firstborn male child. Or, I could wait until Monday. We opted to wait. (I think I made the right choice there.) We were scheduled guessed it. First thing in the morning. 

Our Monday first thing in the morning became three in the afternoon. (I made my son stay home this time. He didn't mind the staying home part since he just got home from college and was looking forward to foraging in the pantry while no one was around, but the getting up at seven am for an appointment eight hours later made him a bit surly.) 

The final diagnosis? I need a whole new heating system: tank, burner, lines, water heater. 

The cost? Oh, about $10000.00. (No, that's not a typo. It reads ten thousand dollars.) But look on the bright side! If I buy the burner from them, they'll write off a portion of the five hundred dollar bill they hit me with for the second service call. Be still, my heart.

Next time Mercury is in retrograde, I'm hiding in an underground cave 'til it's over. Maybe mercurial Mercury won't find me there.

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Deciding for Joy

I was cutting flowers to bring inside to decorate the house when the thought intruded. Why bother? Yes, they’ll look pretty for a few days; then they’ll shrivel up and die and I’ll have to go out and get some more. Why do all that work for something that won’t last?

Flowers fresh from the garden
But I do. And each time I bring in a fresh set of flowers I remember why I do it.  I love the way they look and smell, the way they bring a bit of color and beauty from outside into the house. It brings me joy to look at them. And those moments of joy are a rare and beautiful thing.
We need those moments, but they don’t always just happen. Sometimes you have to decide to make them happen. Decide it’s worth the effort to cut and arrange some fresh flowers even though they’ll be sagging and brown in a few days.

I’ve come to believe that it’s not just nice but necessary to allow ourselves some time to appreciate beauty even if it takes a bit of work to achieve it. Our souls need to be fed just as our bodies do, and beauty, things that delight our senses, are its nourishment.
Sometimes I have the same feeling about my books.  I put a huge amount of blood, sweat, and love into writing them, editing, rewriting, and formatting them.  Then I send them out into the world and…?  Well, it depends where I send them.  If to a publisher, under contract, they get edited again and finally released into the world, where they’ll sit on a shelf for a few weeks, then get remaindered.  These days they’ll continue to be available online where they’ll sell maybe a few copies a month for the next year or so. If they go to an agent or editor after a query, then most likely they'll be returned with a "Thanks, but no thanks," response.

Sigh. Is it worth it?  I hope so.

Now I’m venturing down a new highway. Since Five Star ended its mystery line before the second in my Market Center Mysteries series was published, I’m publishing it myself.  I’ve paid for editing, have a new cover for the first book (A Gift for Murder) and one for this one (Wired for Murder) that share a new look, and I’m working on the formatting.

I can’t help but wonder if I’ll sell enough copies to make it worth all the work and expense. But I love this series and writing it has brought me joy. A joy I want to share with everyone.  So even if it only sells ten copies, it will be worth the effort.

And now Wired for Murder is available for pre-sale at Amazon.  I'm fearful and excited to see how this venture will work out.

Friday, May 13, 2016

Shh! Authors at Work

Wondering what's ahead from the Classic and Cozy Authors? Wonder no longer. Here are some of the projects we're working on.


All That I Am
Main Characters: Peace Morrow, Flannery Donohue and Rachel Woodard
Genre & Publisher: Mystery/Crime, probably indie-published
One Paragraph from the Page I'm On:
Rachel almost stopped breathing when she read Amanda’s message: U missed it. We made the news. Check UTube. She clicked on the link that followed, then watched, fascinated and repelled. Not only did the clip show Amanda and the picketers, it included footage of the accused girl, Flannery, standing next to her grandfather, looking and sounding guilty as sin. Who said pictures don’t lie? Not true. She turned off the phone and stared into space. She turned it back on, watched the video again, this time more carefully, especially Flannery.
Publication Date: None yet
Did you know (something I learned for this story): I learned about the process of forensic hypnosis to help witnesses recall forgotten details

Reclaiming His Family (working)
Main Characters: Renee Delacroix and Rhys Maddox
Genre & Publisher: Inspirational Romance for Harlequin Love Inspired
One Paragraph from the Page I'm On:
Rhys ran his hand through his heat-dampened hair. This feeling that he was walking a tightrope without a net was why he stuck to his own business and didn’t socialize. The sooner he had Owen and Dylan and could concentrate on the three of them as a family, the better.
Due Date: July 25, 2016
Publication Date: None yet
Did You Know: The Welsh last name Maddox has numerous spellings, Maddox, Mattox, Madoc, Madog

Market Center Mysteries: Wired for Murder
Main Characters: Heather McNeill and Scott Brandon
Genre & Publisher: Mystery with Romantic Elements; The book was accepted at Five Star/Cengage but released when they folded it, so I'm self-publishing it.
One Paragraph from the Page I'm On:
Dieter Gebhardt was pushing my buttons and he knew it. “I do not understand vy you say ve cannot do this.” A hint of smirk leaked onto his face. The tiny curl of his lip belied his pretended ignorance of my meaning, much less the authority behind the words. The sales representative for Schwartz-Mann GmbH was playing me, and I couldn’t tell if he really thought he could get his way by feigning stupidity or if he was just trying to score some machismo points. I didn’t care about the points, but he damned well wasn’t going to win the argument
Publication Date: July 1, 2016
Did You Know: You don't need a wireless service plan to make phone calls with a smart phone as long as you have access to a WiFi hotspot.

Colleen's Story
Main Characters: Colleen Frescato, her sons, Michael, Patrick and Anthony, their fiancĂ©e and girlfriends, Lily Hanson, Juanita and Sana, and Colleen’s new love interest, Nick Rampallo
Genre & Publisher: Sweet Romance
One Paragraph from the Page I'm On:
Colleen stared at him and remembered him from forty years before. They’d been in grammar school together and had even kind of dated, if what 8th graders at St. Francis School did back then qualified as “dating.” After graduation, they’d gone their separate ways. Colleen had gone to Mount St. Dominic’s, and if she remembered correctly, Nick to the nearby public school. In any case they’d lost touch. But she hadn’t forgotten him. That would be impossible.
Due Date: I plan to finish in time to pitch at the RWA conference in July.
Publication Date: None yet
Did You Know: That Kearny, a blue collar town in Essex County, New Jersey once populated by Irish and Scottish immigrants, is now the first stopping point for Ukrainian and Polish immigrants.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Unsolved Mysteries and Other Problems of Daily Life

by Janis Susan May/Janis Patterson

Mysteries are not strange and wonderful that happen mainly in books. I run into them every day, and haven’t been able to solve most of them.

For example, there is the Case of the Vanishing Apricots. I love apricots, but only a small amount of fresh ones are available in the stores, and for only a short time. And, unfortunately, usually for a horrendously high price. Some canned ones – usually in heavy syrup, which I don’t like – are available, but the kind I really liked – packed in plastic jars in pure fruit juice – have disappeared from the shelves and I can’t order any. Apricot pie filling, my favorite for years, vanished at least two decades ago. Am I the only person left on the planet who prefers apricot pies to the ubiquitous and usually tasteless apple?

Or consider the Case of the Absolute Impossibility of Opening a Cardboard Package by pushing where it says ‘Press Here To Open’? I’ve found it’s easier to start out with a screwdriver and a claw hammer. It’s just quicker. And kinder to your fingernails.

Then there’s the Curse of the Magic Nail Polish. Every time I go for a pedicure I try to pick the same color. I’m a sucker for red toe nails. Can’t explain it, but just love them. My salon has probably half a wall of varying shades of nail polish – everything from a brilliant blue to beige to the darkish taupe one sees on the nails of decomposing corpses. There’s yellow and merlot and several glittery shades. There’s even a red or two – but never the same one twice. And the color I choose always changes from the bottle to my toes. My last visit I swear I chose a brilliant pure red, I thought, but by the time I got home it had morphed into an acid pink. Sigh. Pink’s nice too – and easier than going back to the salon earlier than I have to!

For that matter, how can we search for some lost item for hours, then finally decide to use/take/wear something else, then return to find the thing we wanted to find originally in the middle of a big empty space where we know we hunted several times before?

Lastly (for this list, at least) is the Mystery of the Single TV Show. We all get caught in viewing patterns; either it’s a show we really like, or the Spouse likes, and that pretty much kills watching anything else in that time slot. Sometimes, however, something happens and we are able to tune in to another program that looks interesting. Sometimes this even happens twice – but it seems that when we can watch the other show, it’s always the same episode. Every. Single. Time.

Sigh. Mysteries are so much easier to solve when I make them up!