Monday, June 29, 2020

I Hate Bugs

We’re still in quarantine, and apparently, we’re doing it so well, the bugs have decided to join us.


I am not amused.


I hate bugs. Loathe them. But I’ve learned, with age and a lot of complaints from my parents and husband that I have to deal with them. So I’ve come to an agreement. They get the outside. I get the inside. If they must come inside, they get the unfinished side of the basement and I get the finished side. And when I’m outside, they stay away from me.


They listen to the agreement about as well as my children listen to the loading-the-dishwasher rules—even though my children are adults.


First we had the carpenter bees. I actually don’t mind them, since they eat wood, not people. However, I have a deck and they have started to burrow holes in it. At some point, the deck is going to collapse if they are left to their own housing initiatives, so I called the exterminator. 


Then we had carpenter ants. At first, they were outside, so, according to my rules, it was fine. But then they started coming inside. And the Princess found them. And my husband found them—despite his not caring about bugs, he’s not a fan of ants in his office. And I’m not a fan of the Princess’ screams. So I called the exterminator once again.


Before the exterminator could arrive, the cave cricket population exploded. They are my nemesis. Don’t know what they are? Picture large spiders who hop. Now, I’m sorry, there is no reason a spider needs to be able to hop, and there is no reason a cricket needs that many legs. We typically get them in the basement. They are the only bug my husband not only agrees to kill but has named. We call them “Herbies.” I think there was a reason why at one point, but I can’t remember. They’re so big, the bug vacuum my husband got me one year for Chanukah—early in our marriage before he improved his gift-giving capabilities (actually, he’s always been good at gift giving, and even he is allowed an occasional exception)—can’t suck them up. Well, these lovely creatures started coming upstairs. No. Freaking. Way.


So when the exterminator came, he saw them and told me he could get rid of them. I offered to marry him. He said he’d just include their deaths in our plan. Probably a better idea—monogamy and all that.


Well, he treated them, and apparently the cave crickets are rebelling. Because as they are getting ready to die, they stagger upstairs and hop in crazy directions, scaring the daylights out of some of us and even prompting the Princess to call me on the house phone, using her cell phone, from the kitchen, hiding up on the counter. Me, who is useless with these things. Although I’m better than Banana Girl who sympathizes with the bugs and wants to save them. Shudder. 


I’m counting the days until either the bug poison goes into full effect or I can call the exterminator back and yell at him.


He probably should have just accepted my marriage proposal.



Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Welcome Shirley Hailstock

I've known Shirley for years, ever since I first joined the New Jersey chapter of the Romance Writers of America. She and I are contributing to the same Ticket to True Love anthology, and she's visiting today to celebrate the release of her contribution, Running Wild in Reno.

I used to watch the Ray Bradbury show on television. I love his writing (The Martian Chronicles) and science fiction, but I don't write that. I write romance, books of the heart and books of my heart. Ray Bradbury's intro (voice over) said he'd go to this office and look around until he came upon some object that inspired he and he'd write about it.

That doesn't work for me.

My office is full of books, a desk, laptop and writing paraphernalia. I don't have replicas of hunky heros on the walls or statues of settings that I'd like to visit. It's as much as I can do to keep the clutter down.

My writing space is the smallest bedroom in the house set up as an office. It had large windows that provide light and inspiration. It's a sanctuary where ideas are crystalized and where the magic happens. At least I hope it's magic. I love that space because it's bright when I need it and softly lighted when I want that. I don't need it to be totally quiet to concentrate. In fact, I do better with noise. Not music. I know too many songs and I will sing if music playing.

My ideas come from all sorts of places, so I can't pinpoint anything in particular. Sometimes, I pull a story from my past, something my grandmother said or did, something I remember from my childhood or from any portion of my life (old boyfriends, learning to play baseball, a warm spring day that goes perfectly right or horribly wrong, etc).

For the book that releases on June 23rd, it's part of a series called ticket to True Love. Certain parameters had to be included: a ticket of some kind, reference to the city to True Springs, PA, and a contemporary romance. Specifically, the title Running Wild in Reno gave me the plot. I wanted to write about a woman who was wild and who was on the run. As I plotted the story, secrets emerged that only made the writing more fun and the story more interesting.

I hope you like it.

Sable Ballantine has been on the run for a year and she doesn't know why. Apparently in the wrong place at the wrong time, she's had to escape strangers bent on harming her. Taking the common name of Helen Ryan and finally feeling safe, she meets Officer Brett Emerson who may be her salvation or the ticket to her downfall.


The woman calling herself Helen Ryan bent over, her hands on her knees, her breath coming in short gasps as she sucked air in and out through her mouth. The hot desert sun beat down on her as if she was a speck of sand. Here she was herself, her real self, Sable Ballantine. She'd finished her run and needed to keep moving, keep walking to cool down. Not that the salt on her skin hadn't already dried. But for a moment, she stopped to rest. Taking in several more long breaths and forcing herself to let them out slowly, she stood up straight and started walking.
The heat was stifling, but she ran every day to keep her strength and stamina in top form. She never knew when those skills would be needed to save her life. It had happened twice before.
And she didn't know why.
All she knew was she had a bag of money that wasn't hers and she didn't know who it belonged to. Her suitcase had no clothes in it. No wallet, purse, credit cards or cell phone. The bag was full of cash. Ten and twenty dollar bills, all loose. No bands around them to indicate a bank name or a clue as to where the money came from. She only knew that when she drove away from her home in Chicago on her way to a job interview in Kansas, her suitcase had her own personal items inside it. But when she checked into the motel she spied along the route and opened the case, only the money stared back at her.
She never made that appointment. She didn't even go through the state of Kansas. Helen Ryan, although she wasn't Helen Ryan then, closed the case, checked out of the motel, and drove away. She kept driving until the fear she felt was outweighed by the need to sleep.
Checking her surrounding along the track of land where she ran each day, she slowly walked to her car. She had the feeling someone was watching her, but the space was open and she saw no one. She wanted to run, but in the past year, she'd learned to act as if nothing was wrong, as if everything was normal. At that she wanted to laugh. This was now her normal.
Nevertheless, she was going to have to find another place to jog. She'd developed a sixth sense for danger and this was only a small kernel, but she'd learned that it was the small changes that tripped people up.

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Author Bio: 

Shirley Hailstock began her writing life as a lover of reading. She likes nothing better than to find a quiet corner where she can get lost in a book, explore new worlds and visit places she never expected to see.  As an author, she can not only visit those places, but she can be the heroine of her own stories. The author of more than forty novels and novellas, Shirley has received numerous awards, including the Borders Bestselling Romance Award and Romantic Times Magazine's Career Achievement Award. Shirley's books have appeared on Blackboard, Essence Magazine,  and Library Journal Best Seller Lists. She is a past president of Romance Writers of America and will be delivering the Keynote Address at this year's annual conference in August.

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Wednesday, June 17, 2020

Welcome Jana Richards

Character Interview – Blair Greyson, TO HEAL A HEART
Jana Richards: Hi, Blair. Thank you for agreeing to this interview. I want readers to get to know the real you.
Blair Greyson: (frowns) The real me?
JR: Yeah. The young woman who gave up an independent life so she could care for her grandfather, all while working a full-time job at the veterinary clinic in Masonville.
BG: (shifts uncomfortably) Don’t make me out like some sort of hero. Sure, I wanted to help my Granddad, and when the job came up at the clinic, I saw it as a sign. But I got a lot out of the move, too. I was able to bring my two rescue horses here to the farm with me. Boarding them at a stable was very expensive. Now I’m living rent-free in the farmhouse and all I have to do is cook a few meals and keep the house clean.
JR: And fix the barn floor and mend fences.
BG: Well yeah, but that’s because of my horses. Granddad hasn’t kept cattle on the farm for years, so everything we’ve done has been for my benefit.
JR: Let’s talk about the improvements you’ve made on the farm. Garrett did a lot of the work, didn’t he?
BG: Absolutely. Without him, I’m not sure I could have kept the horses here. I certainly couldn’t have continued to board his rescue horse Harry. I wouldn’t have had any idea how to fix the barn floor on my own. Garrett’s done a tremendous amount of hard, physical work and it’s all the more remarkable because of his disability. 
JR: How do you feel about his disability?
BG: (narrows eyes) What do you mean?
JR: You know exactly what I mean. Do you think his amputation is ugly?
BG: No! Garrett is anything but ugly! He’s the most beautiful man—(she abruptly stops speaking)
JR: Go on. You were saying Garrett is beautiful.
BG: (clears her throat) Garrett is handsome, certainly. What I meant to say is that he’s a beautiful person, inside and out. 
JR: I see. And how do you feel about Garrett as a man?
BG: (gets to her feet) We’re friends. That’s all. I should get ready for work. 
JR: You’re running away, Blair. What are you afraid of?
BG: (sits down and averts her gaze) I’m afraid that if he knows who I really am, and what I’ve done, we won’t be friends any longer. I’m afraid he’ll hate me.
JR: What have you done that’s so awful?
BG: I have to go. (stands up and walks away)
JR: Blair?
(no answer)
JR: Oh, Blair. What have you done that you think is so terrible?

Tagline: Two souls in pain, two hearts in need of rescue.
Garrett Saunders' world changed two years ago on a road in Afghanistan. Back home, he feels like a stranger. As he struggles to find his place in the world, he meets a horse destined for the slaughterhouse and a woman bent on rescuing the strays of the world, including him.
Blair Greyson moves to Masonville to look after her ailing grandfather and give her rescue horses a home. Right away she butts heads with a surly former Marine. Despite a rocky start, they come to an agreement: Blair will board Garrett's rescue horse and he'll help with repairs around her farm.
Garrett finds purpose working with Blair—and falls in love with her. But she's hiding a secret. Can she forgive herself and accept Garrett's love, or will she let guilt and regret continue to rule her life?

Excerpt #1 - 243 words:
He pushed himself to his feet, disconcerted by his unsteadiness. He made a few halting steps toward the gate as Blair ran into the yard. 
“I forgot my sweater,” she said, grabbing the garment from the back of a chair and slipping it on. “It’s cooler than I thought. Are you sure you don’t want to watch the fireworks with us?”
“No, I—”
His words were cut off by a loud explosion, and his only thought was that he had to protect Blair. He grabbed her and threw her to the ground, covering her body with his. He was under attack. Why was Blair in Afghanistan? How could he keep her safe?
Through the chaos and noise he heard her muffled voice beneath him. “Garrett, you’re crushing me.”
He shifted his weight slightly. “Shh. I’m sorry. You have to stay down and quiet. I can’t let them hurt you.”
She stopped struggling. “Who’s going to hurt me?”
“Can’t you hear the mortar fire? I have to protect you.”
Her hand rubbed his back in gentle circles. “It’s all right, Garrett. It’s only fireworks. It can’t hurt us. We’re safe here.”
He lifted his head and looked around. He was in Cole and Lauren’s back yard in Masonville. There were no bombs, no shelling, no Taliban. He looked down into Blair’s face, into the pity in her eyes. He rolled off her, disgusted with himself. 
Disgusted and scared. He was losing his mind.
Author Bio:
When Jana Richards read her first romance novel, she immediately knew two things: she had to commit the stories running through her head to paper, and they had to end with a happily ever after. She also knew she’d found what she was meant to do. Since then she’s never met a romance genre she didn’t like. She writes contemporary romance, romantic suspense, and historical romance set in World War Two, in lengths ranging from short story to full length novel. Just for fun, she throws in generous helpings of humor, and the occasional dash of the paranormal. Her paranormal romantic suspense “Seeing Things” was a 2008 EPPIE finalist. 
In her life away from writing, Jana is an accountant/admin assistant, a mother to two grown daughters, and a wife to her husband Warren. She enjoys golf, yoga, movies, concerts, travel and reading, not necessarily in that order. She and her husband live in Winnipeg, Canada. She loves to hear from readers and can be reached through her website at

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Monday, June 8, 2020

Zombies Are Not For Breakfast

I usually walk in the mornings around our lake. During the pandemic, however, both my dog and I have been less inclined to do so. Still, exercise is essential to my mental health, so when I don’t walk outside in the mornings, I use our elliptical in the basement (for posts about that, click here). 

I hate elliptical machines. Mostly because they’re boring, and I have nothing to do but think about how much I’m sweating, something I also hate doing. So, in the winter, actually before the pandemic, when it was cold and I knew I’d need to exercise inside at least sometimes, I asked friends on Facebook for show suggestions to watch. 

They gave me a great list.

Or so I thought.

It started out well and I’ve discovered some fantastic ones—Gran Hotel, Modern Love, Kominsky Method, and Why Women Kill (I know, that seems like a no-brainer). 

There have been a couple that I’m not sure about—Killing Eve, which I’m actually watching with my husband, and Dead to Me (can’t explain why, but meh).

And then there was the one I started today, Santa Clarita Diet.

Someone obviously doesn’t know me well, and I obviously did no research into this show. It’s about a woman who becomes a zombie.

I hate zombies. Give me vampires, werewolves, ghosts, whatever. They’re great. I loved True Blood, so it’s not like my paranormal friends need to sparkle. But zombies? Hard no.

And do you know how she becomes a zombie? She vomits. So much, that she vomits out her heart, dies and comes back to life. 

Did I mention I watched this at 7:30 am, before breakfast? 

It’s supposed to be a comedy. I think. I’m picky about my comedies and this one, well, I didn’t find funny. The stereotypes about violent cops and “maybe you got a virus from a monkey or a bat” didn’t exactly play well right now either.

I’m sure others find it funny. Clearly, whomever recommended it to me did. And really, if you’re the one who did, I don’t mean to make you feel bad. I’m glad you like this show. I’m pretty sure it’s fairly well received. So I’m the outlier and it’s totally fine. In fact, the person probably recommended other shows to me that I’ll enjoy—seriously, that list is long! So if it was you, don’t worry, I still like you.

Just no more zombies.

Wednesday, June 3, 2020

Welcome, Julie Howard

Thank you, Jennifer, for hosting me on your blog today! I’m excited because I get to write about four things I love – writing, the beach, dogs, and ice cream. These all come together with my latest book, Sea Salt Lavender for Aphrodite, which releases today.
Inspiration comes easy for me. The slightest hint of a story is all I need. Last year, my publisher announced they were seeking stories for a series called One Scoop or Two. All stories needed to be set near a beach and all needed to have ice cream involved, particularly in the title. That was all it took for my imagination to take over.
The plot came to me within ten minutes. I knew I wanted to write a light murder mystery set on a beach boardwalk. The ice cream flavor would be sea salt lavender, inspired by a friend’s lavender farm. And what’s a cozy mystery without a dog? My canine of choice is a white standard poodle named Aphrodite, who has equal doses of hauteur and cool self-assurance. 
The main character is Rosella Rivers, who has left her job as a pastry chef to launch her ice cream food truck business at the beach boardwalk. Then an acquaintance is murdered… I raced through my initial outline, scribbling notes to myself about various characters. 
This is my sixth novel with The Wild Rose Press, but the first time I’ve attempted writing from two points of view. The chapters alternate between Rosella and Detective Mark Pruitt, who has been assigned to solve the murder, and becomes more than a bit infatuated with the cute ice cream vendor. I enjoyed writing from a male point of view and bringing in a fresh perspective to the story.
I hope you enjoy!

Sea-Salt Lavender for Aphrodite

Tagline: A case of murder with sweet complications

Rosella Rivers enjoys the perfect life, loving her new ice cream food truck business featuring exotic flavors. But her beach view parking space is not so lovable when she finds an acquaintance stabbed to death in the boardwalk bathroom.
Detective Mark Pruitt knows murder is bad for small-town Olympus Bay. He must find the suspect before he strikes again. When he first sets eyes on Rosella, the only witness, he is smitten. However, there's no time for romance when danger lurks. 
Together he and the lovely ice cream maker must discover the killer before he turns his sight on Rosella.

The echo of a drip-drip-drip resonated from within. Rosella glanced around, wishing a man would pass by, someone she could send inside on her behalf. On this side of the structure, though, the beachfront was hidden from view and the building backed by sand dunes. Unless someone needed to use the facilities, they wouldn’t approach. 


A distant chime from the town clock made her heart sink. Ten a.m. Opening time. She had to get back to her truck. A fresh round of anxious yips sounded. She 
scooted to the corner of the building and peeked toward 
her truck. Aphrodite stood at attention, straining at the 
leash. The dog barked twice at spotting her and renewed efforts to break free of the tether.
She returned to the doorway. “Mick, I’m just going 
to step inside since I’m a little bit worried, just to make sure you’re okay. Let me know if I shouldn’t come in.” No response sounded. “All right, coming in.”
The odor hit her first. Heavy, sweet, sickening. Then her eyes registered the scene. Mick lay face down in the middle of the tile floor, a steady stream of deep red blood winding its way toward a drain. 

Julie Howard is the author of the best-selling Wild Crime and Spirited Quest series. She is a former journalist and editor who has covered topics ranging from crime to cowboy poetry. Now she edits an online anthology, Potato Soup Journal, and spends many delightful hours writing her books.

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