Tuesday, July 26, 2016

What My Dad Taught Me

In a few weeks, I will be celebrating my father’s 106th birthday. I bake a cake because he always wanted cake for desert and was heard often to ask, “What, no cake?” at the end of a family dinner.

One of my first memories is of waking from a nightmare and crawling into my parents’ bed, regaling my father with a detailed description of the house I wanted. Although he had to rise at dawn to drive to the next town to work as a carpenter until after sundown, he listened, questioned and made suggestions for my dream house until I fell back to sleep and woke in my own bed in the morning, 
certain and secure the nightmare would not scare me again.

My father’s love of cake was especially intense for Strawberry Shortcake. The year I turned five, I was allowed the honor of presenting my mother’s famous strawberry, whipped cream and Bisquick biscuit layered cake, carrying it from the kitchen to the dining room. My proud entry, the smile and pride on my father’s face was heart-swelling and … I tripped.

Falling face first into his birthday cake, already crying my heart out, are all I clearly remember of my shameful moment.  Though there was undoubtedly chaos for a moment after the disaster, laughter and a clean-up of me and the floor, I can only imagine mother served another, different cake and my dad ate it with pleasure.

In the following year, my father left our home to find better work to feed his family. When he had a good job with a small construction firm and a place for us to live, my mother drove across the country with me, my younger sister and older brother—newly licensed to drive. When we arrived in San Francisco, I was shocked to be told I’d been enrolled in school and that would start two weeks after my father’s birthday.

But I couldn’t read!

Explaining to my father I was determined not to go to school, not until I learned reading, he sat me down with a book—title forgotten—to teach me how to do this marvelous thing.

My dad never let a teaching opportunity go by without taking advantage. Road trips were chances to have spelling Bees and I could always, by the time we reached our destination, spell the longest word in the English language or the medical term for a recently discovered cure for a condition. We always stopped at roadside attractions such as dinosaur exhibits or local museums and trading posts.

When my younger sister had trouble learning the alphabet, my father spent his very few leisure hours teaching her the letters on a standing chalkboard and magnetic easel we had received as a Christmas present. She thought of it as a punishment but I always saw his efforts as a gift and made an effort to do the same for my children.

My father worked every weekend and evening to repair properties my parents had bought to build a rental property business. They eventually owned several properties and were able to buy their own house.

At this same time, my father discovered square dancing as a favorite leisure activity. My sister and I were too young to be left at home at night or over their weekend Hoedowns so we learned “do-si-do (dosado)” and “Allemande left” with the adult dancers. From square dancing, he moved on to round dancing. He and I practiced, when my mom as presiding over her PTA meetings, in our living room. 

Between them, my parents ran a successful home rental business, while my dad still worked as a carpenter and my mom ran the household and made cakes.

At the age of 53, cancer fatally struck my father. He survived for only six months. My mother had to practice giving him morphine by repeatedly stabbing a syringe into an orange. He was in so much pain, he begged to die but he still had enough energy and commitment to my well-being to tell me to stand up straight.

This year, my dad has been gone for as many years as he lived. I have honored his birthday with my husband and sons—who are all so much like him—with cake and ice cream. And this year, I will make a Strawberry Shortcake but I will give my daughter-in-law the honor of carrying it to the table.

ClipArtCredit: freeclipartstore.com

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Confessions of a Carboholic

I love sugar! I know that does not exactly distinguish me from other red-blooded American women, but one thing does set me somewhat apart. I can't do the usual "chocoholic" binging--at least, not since the allergy developed.

Yes, I know what you're thinking: "Allergic to chocolate? How do you live?!" I wondered the same thing in the beginning, especially since it's not strictly speaking an allergy. It's more of a sensitivity, a sort of "Eat Chocolate = Get a Migraine" thing. At first I thought I couldn't live without the chocolate and occasionally indulged anyway. Now a thick slice of chocolate fudge layer cake looks like three days of misery. Suffice to say I'm no longer as tempted as I once was. I can still get away with an occasional chocolate chip cookie--if I don't push it too far, but that's the only chocolate fix I'm allowed these days. Still, avoiding chocolate doesn't save me from the rest of Sugar World.

If it's sweet, it's good to eat. At least that seems to be the way my psyche sees the world. I've sometimes heard people describe a certain dessert as too sweet or too rich for them. I wonder what they're talking about. To me, there's never such a thing as too sweet and too rich only describes certain billionaires.

If it were just the sugar, that would be bad enough, but I also crave almost any kind of baked goods. That includes cookies, cakes, pies--yes, all the super-sweet items you typically find at bake sales--but the not-so-sweet breads, rolls, and pastries too. If it's heavy on the carbs, it's destined to make me heavier as well.

I've discovered I can control the binging, but it takes quitting cold turkey, sometimes literally. Low-carb, high-protein diets work for me, but only after I beat that first two miserable weeks of craving and avoidance. Let's face it: My name is Susan and I'm a carboholic.

I'm coming to terms with the reality and learning just how common this form of addiction can be. It seems there are many closet carboholics among my relatives, friends and neighbors. I suspect some of you who are reading this may be hiding the same guilty pleasures and living in a constant love-hate balance with those delightful heavy-carb temptations and their siren-song aromas.

I know a few folks who've taken the plunge, declared themselves addicts, and sworn off every taste of anything made with sugar or flour. If you're among those brave souls, please accept my humble adoration. For now I'm content to hold that tiger by its tail and tease it until it turns on me. Hmmm... maybe there's a reason so many scenes in my books focus around kitchens and food. I'll think about that this evening ... while I'm baking.

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 be with her seven children, seven great kids-in-law, 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 www.susanaylworth.com or find her @SusanAylworth, at .facebook.com/Susan.Aylworth.Author, or on Pinterest. 

Saturday, July 9, 2016

I Hate Promoting

I’m terrible at it. 

A big part of the reason is that I don’t like others doing in-your-face promoting to me, so of course I don’t want to do it to others.  Too many of the listserves I’m on have become nothing but promo machines, containing post after post asking me to read a blog post, share this Tweet or that Facebook post, or buy a book.  I haven’t actually tried to count, but I wouldn’t be surprised if I get thirty or more messages a day that are either promo for a post or a book.

I totally understand that in this brave new publishing world, everyone had to do everything they can to spread the word about their books. Promo is the only way to survive in this business.
I’m also an introvert and I hate being the focus of attention. It’s not that I’m shy. In fact, I’m not at all really, but I am reserved and there are psychological costs associated with anything that seems like pushing myself or my works on front of people.

I’m looking for ways to get out the word about a new self-published book that don’t involve a lot of in-your-face sort of trumpeting. I plan to do a few ads.  I’ve done and will do a number of guest blog posts (though I’m not so good about promoting those, either), and I’m sending out galleys as far and wide as I can. On the whole, though, I’d rather let my works stand on their own. I really hope that having read one of my books, a reader will want to read more. But I know that first, you have to convince them to read one.

So I’m going to do a promo spot here, though I promise it will be only this one time. The second book in my Market Center Mysteries series, Wired for Murder, has just released, and I have to at least mention it here.

But I would love to hear other ideas for how to get out the word that I have a book available.  Please comment and give me ideas!  Best comment idea will win a print copy of the first book in my Market Center Mysteries series, A Gift for Murder.

And now for the blatant promo:

Blurb: Heather McNeil, assistant to the director of the Washington DC Market Show Center, handles many of the day-to-day issues that arise during the shows, exhibits, and conferences being held there. The first day of the Business Technology Exposition provides her with plenty of opportunities to demonstrate her skill at settling disputes, refereeing arguments, and even breaking up fights.

When the president of industry-leader MegaComp has a very public argument with a man who accuses the company of stealing an important technical concept, she watches it but doesn’t have to intervene. Later, though, the accuser returns a phone call from Heather, and she becomes an unwilling audience to his murder.

Heather is more than happy to leave the investigation to the police, but she’s the person everyone talks to and she soon learns more than she wanted to know about the victim and all the people who didn’t like him very much, including several who might have motives for murder.

Amazon Kindle: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01F81SNDQ
Amazon print: https://www.amazon.com/Wired-Murder-Market-Center-Mysteries/dp/153502027X/

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Attack of the Typo Gremlins

by Janis Susan May/Janis Patterson

The Husband says I’m weird. I prefer fanciful. That does not, however, change the fact there are some things out there that we cannot explain and which we definitely cannot control. In other words, my friends, the Typo Gremlin is real. He’s out there and he’s both malign and sneaky. I give it the masculine pronoun, as it is changeable, sometimes irrational and very dictatorial. It doesn’t matter what you do – edit, re-edit, get multiple professional editors galore and still that sneaky little devil will get around everything and embarrass you.

When I was still a child I started working in my parents’ advertising agency. Even then I was the picky sort, and one of my jobs was to proof-read the ads we put out. Being commercially oriented instead of consumer, our ads were both word-dense and generally boring, so that was a time-consuming job. Of course I wasn’t the only proof-reader – before an ad went out just about everyone in the office had looked it over – but in spite of that the Typo Gremlin would still have his way. We’d see the mistake – usually in 30 point type – right after the bazillion copy print run was completed.

When I was most definitely not a child I was editor in chief of first one multi-magazine publishing group and then later another; wherever I was, though, didn’t make a difference. The Typo Gremlin always managed to find me. The first group I worked for had been plagued with a slipshod editor who apparently didn’t care what the magazines looked like. I had been brought on board to bring the group up to snuff. Needless to say, it was not always a pleasant process, but after an issue or two I had pretty much everything looking better and under control. Except the Typo Gremlin.

The first issue of my editorship was a disaster; the second one was much better and by the third we were putting out a product I could be proud of. From the first day I instituted a law that even after our proofreaders had looked over everything no board went to the printer unless it had my initials on it.

And in spite of that the sneaky little Typo Gremlin still made his presence known, dancing through every issue, sometimes leaving one, or maybe two mistakes – though by the second issue they were usually little ones. Being a firm believer in turning a weakness into a strength I finally gave in and made a partner of the wee beastie, running a permanent contest that whoever found a typo in any one of our magazines (that group published three) would win a prize. The prizes were little – a yearly subscription, one of the little booklets we produced on everything from gardening to fortunetelling – but our readership soared and our ad revenue went through the roof. It was so successful that I carried the idea to my next publishing group, where we had the same results.

So, as odd as it sounds, your enemy can become your friend if you play things right. Even a Typo Gremlin. 

Saturday, July 2, 2016

9 Things To Do on 4th of July

by Victoria M. Johnson

1. Remember why we celebrate the day.
The holiday commemorates the adoption of the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776.  With this document, the thirteen colonies declared their independence from England.

2. Read Patriotic Words.
Last year I wrote a post about the gripping words that gives us goose bumps or brings us to tears.  You can read the post, Talk Patriotism To Me, at this link:  Patriotism post.

3. Watch an Amazing Video.
This powerful 4-minute video about the Declaration of Independence inspires and informs.  From the History website: 4th of July Video  

4. Attend a parade.
One of the few opportunities to hear live patriotic music is at 4th of July parades.  Plus you get to enjoy the many patriotic festivities, historic reenactments, and whatever else your local parade offers.  

5. Gather with family and friends.
Enjoy a picnic or barbecue with friends and loved ones.  Not only should we appreciate this great nation, but our loved ones, too.  The holiday provides a reason to spend relaxing time together.

6. Eat Great Foods.
What's a holiday without special recipes?  Some families go all out with red, white, and blue everything.  Others stick to traditional 4th of July eats.

7. View fireworks.
Firework displays are a fun way to wind down the day.  Back in the day, children could light their own fireworks out on the sidewalks of their homes.  Now they are limited to stadiums and other public venues.

8. See a Good Patriotic Movie.
Whatever genre you prefer--romance, thriller, western, drama, horror, science fiction, classic, or comedy--there is a patriotic movie for you.  I have too many favorites to list here.  Do you have a favorite?  Let us know in the comments.

9. Cuddle Up With a Good Patriotic Book.
Whatever age group of the reader, there is a wide selection of patriotic books to choose from.  Referrals from friends work well.  So, if you have a favorite, share the title with us in the comments below.

Hoping you and yours have a fabulous 4th of July!

9 Things To Do on 4th of July by Victoria M. Johnson
Victoria M. Johnson knew by the time she was ten that she wanted to be a writer.  She loves telling stories and she's happiest when creating new characters and new plots.  Avalon Books and Montlake Romance published Victoria's fiction debut, The Doctor’s Dilemma.  Her other fiction book is a collection of romance short stories titled, The Substitute Bride and a novella, Hot Hawaiian Christmas. She is also the writer and director of four short films and two micro documentaries.   Visit Victoria's website at http://VictoriaMJohnson.com for inspiration and tips and find her Amazon author page or connect with her on Pinterest and Twitter.