Broad Smiles

Food is a common connection we all have. Different races, religions, ethnicities, ages, genders, eras, countries… across the board—everyone eats. Most of us remember some kind of food with fond memories.

If you begin a discussion about food, people will almost always weigh in with some comment or story. The story may be about something their mother made them eat, even though they hated it. I’ve heard stories about things people ate as children that made them sick. They’ll often say, “To this day, I can’t eat that!” (Mine is spice cake with cream cheese frosting.) More often, people have fond memories of food they ate as children. They may very well still consider it their special comfort food.

Last week I visited with an older woman from my church. We were talking about pie—a food topic that often makes people’s eyes glaze over Pre-cookedMulberryPie 250x205because, seriously—who doesn’t like pie. Mulberry pie came up and it led us both back down our individual memory lanes.

Her memory was about climbing up a fruit tree and eating right from the branches. She talked about her daughter riding her horse under a mulberry tree, then sitting there eating the berries. My memory was of lying on top the roof of our chicken house, a large mulberry tree’s boughs hanging low. I’d pluck the fruit, eating until I had my fill and my fingers were purple. We both had such broad smiles. Smiles I’ve seen on many faces when food memories become the topic of discussion.

So, I thought I’d share some of my food memories. Little things I find myself thinking about and smiling. I’m sure it will trigger food memories of your own. We all have them, because no matter how different we are, we all have to eat.

  • My mother made me many different things because she knew I loved them. I love them to this day. Boston Crème Pie. Cream Puffs filled with fluffy whipped cream. Fresh strawberries with real thick cream Mom bought from a woman who milked cows. Mulberry pie (we’d lay a sheet under a mulberry tree and shake the branches). Pea pods boiled in butter, then I’d pull the peas out between my teeth. Sandwiches for school lunch—she would use a cookie cutter to cut out the center because I didn’t like the crust—the lion shape was my favorite. And the most fun memory is of her pouring a little rubbing alcohol in a spoon rest, lighting it, then roasting a marshmallow over the flame. It tasted wonderful in the middle of winter.
  • Beyond those fun memories, I remember weird food, like those after-school hunger pangs, when I  put two slices of cheese in a bowl and microwaved it until it melted, then spooning it up while I watched TV and enjoyed being home for the day.
  • Fried chicken on Sunday when the whole family came home.
  • Calico beans and homemade rolls—Mom’s standard church potluck dish.
  • Kolaches fresh from the oven on Saturday morning.
  • Poppy seed cake at Czech funeral dinners.

Now. What are your memories? Maybe there was a place your family went to eat on a special night, or something a relative made that you looked forward to. I’d love to know what your food memories are. They always make great topics for conversation.


Cheap Date

Cheap-Date-logocolor1I like to tell my husband I’m a cheap date. He might disagree, but more often than not, I’m happy with take-out pizza and Netflix than an expensive dinner and a show, (provided I can, on occasion, have a nice dinner out and go to a show.)

In the spirit of being a self-proclaimed cheap date, I’m going to prove it. Tomorrow I’m reducing the price of my book, Flames of Rosewood, on Amazon, from $1.99, to .99 cents. I’m running an ad on EReader News Today and hoping I see some increased sales and readers for the second book in the Rosewood Series. Come on. Give it a try. Take me out. .99 cents. Seriously. You can’t lose.

So, if you just picked up Thorns of Rosewood last week during the free days and want to read what happens next, pick up Flames of Rosewood tomorrow for a most excellent price. You too can be a cheap date, stay home, eat a frozen pizza and read my book. If you’re a really cheap date, you can let your significant other have your pizza crust and let them look over your shoulder while you read my book on your Kindle. 😉



Thorns of Rosewood Amazon Review

If you click the link above, it takes you to the Amazon page where a reader gives me a 5-star review and says this about my book, Thorns of Rosewood:

“This woman can write!! And tell a great story too. I wish I could give it more stars. The characters all come across as very real people with their own joys and sorrows, triumphs and tragedies. Great reading.”

The person who left the review, I only know as, Kindle Customer. It could be a guy or a gal, an older person or a younger person, someone from the little Nebraska town next to mine, or someone from across the world. I don’t know, and I probably never will. It’s exciting to get reviews from complete strangers. Especially positive ones. So far, since the ad for my book, Thorns of Rosewood, ran last week on BookBub, I’ve received eighteen new reviews, and all but one were four and five stars.

To everyone who picked up Thorns of Rosewood free (59,978 of you!), I say THANK YOU SO MUCH!! To those who after the free day was over, bought the book (216 of you!) I say THANK YOU EVEN MORE!! To the 594 people who bought Book 2 in the Rosewood series, Flames of Rosewood, I am ever so grateful!! And my reader stats show that 97,224 pages of Thorns have been read since the promotion. Wow.

To all the writers out there who are thinking about buying a BookBub ad, I’d encourage you to keep trying until they accept you. I’ve earned three times what I paid for it. But, oh, for the new readers—that is the true benefit! What a joy. My thoughts are running through their minds as they read. That’s quite a connection, now, isn’t it?!

Oh, and just for the fun of it, here is a screen shot of my ranking on Amazon during the promotion. For a little moment in time, I was number 1!







If you’re a writer, what’s the one thing you want more than anything? A big fat royalty check? Fame? Jet-set lifestyle? A cameo in the movie made from your book? Well. Not me. And I don’t think most writers actually want that. They may think they do, but so often we dangle a carrot of material things in front of us when what we’re really looking for is something closer to the soul.

Writers want readers. (And the nitty-gritty, honest truth is, writers want acceptance.) All artists want someone to look at their work and nod with a smile. Say, “Yeah… I get that.”

So, if writers want readers, one of the tried and true ways to achieve that is by giving your work away. It’s nothing new. Some writers give away print books at book signings, or on websites like Goodreads. Writers often charge nothing to speak at events for the opportunity to sell some books. Just about every business offers freebies to get you in the door, and writers are business people, too.

In that vein, I’m offering a book free today because I want more readers. I want people who will read my work and say, “Yeah… I get that!” People who will then go ahead and buy a few more of my books because they enjoyed the free book I gave them. People who will leave a good review on Amazon!

Today I offer my book, Dark Works. FOR FREE!! I’ve renamed one of my books (previously titled, The Scary Things) and put a shiny new cover on it. I love this collection of short horror stories. (Halloween is just around the corner, you know!) Every one of these terrifying tales give me a twisted grin. Maybe you’ll feel the same. And maybe you’ll read them and decide you’d like to give all of my books a shot. Even decide to pay for a few! I hope so, because what I want most is readers!



TODAY’S THE DAY!! I’m trying a new form of promotion. So far, so good. I’ve sold around 100 books so far and given away 37,000. That number keeps climbing. More readers are a wonderful thing!

Thorns-smallerThere is a book promotion site called BookBub. Check out the link. Join. It’s free. I love it because depending on how you set it up, you’ll be notified about discounted books, and not books just anyone can put up there, either. I’ve tried three times to get a BookBub ad and was just now accepted for it. If you’re a reader, sign up so you can learn about good discounted ebooks. If you’re an author, read the rules and apply knowing it may take a year before they accept you.Oh, and it’s not just unknown authors using BookBub for promos. I just picked up Stephan Cobert’s book, Beyond Truthiness, from a BookBub ad.

BookBub is promoting my book, Thorns of Rosewood, today, Thursday, September 17th. I am offering Thorns of Rosewood FREE. It’s normally priced at $2.99. If you happen to pick up Thorns on Thursday for free, I hope you’ll go on to buy Flames of Rosewood at it’s already low price of $1.99. (Hey, you just saved $2.99… you can afford it now!)

So go. Join BookBub. Get Thorns free on Thursday. Buy Flames with the money you saved on Thorns. You’ll thank me later. And authors, check into BookBub. It might be a new way for you to promote your book. I’ll let you know if I find it to be a good business decision.

Oh, and if you want to help me out, you can forward the link for this blog to any readers you know. I’d appreciate the support.

An Author’s Voice


I’ve been kind of idling in neutral when it comes to writing. I think it’s because I’m second guessing my abilities. Wondering, even, if I have a style or a voice worth reading. I am what I am, and I want to write and tell stories, but… is the way I word things, the phrasing I use, the images I paint, unique enough? Or mainstream enough? Or just … enough?

As I drove into town to work today I tried to look at my small community like an outsider might. We’re a little weird like everyone is a little weird everywhere. Meaning, what seems very normal to us might be quirky or odd to someone else. We park in the middle of the street. Two full rows of parking around the square of our downtown. There’s room. It’s always been that way. Makes perfect sense to us. We have a noon whistle that blows at… you guessed it… noon. Very loud. Reminds us it’s time to take a break. Just always the way it’s been. Takes at least ten minutes on a quick day to get fast food in the line at our two fast food restaurants in town. Nope. Nothing really fast about it, but hey, we don’t have to get out of the car, so that’s progress!

Living in a small town seems like an easy life. It is in some ways. It’s harder in others. It’s easy in that when I want to go to the grocery story, I drive up, park by the front door, and go right in. I don’t have to time my shopping around rush hour or fight construction or wait at lights. I don’t have to park at the end of the lot, or circle the parking lot to find a closer spot. If there are more than two people in a check-out line, the cashier gets right on the intercom and calls for more checkers. Standing in long lines is a very rare thing.

What can make small-town life challenging is the same thing that makes being famous challenging. If a celebrity goes out on the town and has a couple too many drinks, it’s in the tabloids by morning. Same thing in a small town, but instead of the tabloids, it’s the big story at the coffee shop or hair salon. Now, if you get a fine driving, then that’s in the paper, but it’s okay because the paper only comes out once a week. Maybe by then you can put some spin on the gossip so it goes over better with your grandma when she reads it.

Yes. It’s hard to live under the spotlight, so to speak, and yet, the only folks around here who are real celebrities are the kids in high school who win the game, and that’s just fine. Most of us cringe when attention points our direction.

Back to this writing thing. My voice, my style, is certainly formed by my surroundings. I write in my way, the same way we do things in our own way here in our small Nebraska town. It’s normal to me.

When I write a book, I let you see me through my story-telling voice. I draw from cousins and aunts and uncles, neighbors, and silly little sayings and legends of the area, and mispronounced words and turns of phrases. I write like I think… like I talk. I don’t try to polish it. I want to make sure it’s real and… small town… but honest.

I want to show that it’s easy, but hard at the same time to live small. Small town life has as much duality and intrigue as any other life in any other place. It mustn’t be discounted because it’s ordinary. If anything, it’s special because it’s ordinary. That’s what I try to show when I write. Maybe that’s why I think I need to write—because I know I’m willing to be honest with my “voice.”

The voice I use when I write is the only voice I can imagine using when creating stories about people who might be like those I’ve lived around, in towns similar to the one in which I live, carrying out simple lives, just like me and mine. Simple lives, full of relationships and love and frustration and sorrow… the most honest basic feelings at the core of every story ever told.


A Veritable Smorgasbord

Here are the goofy things I’ve brain juggled today. Consider it a veritable 513152_origsmorgasbord. Here’s Templeton’s song from Wilbur to whet your appetite.

My dad used to call young guys, Butch. Not all of them. It was sort of balinghis compliment to a teenager who seemed like a tough looking fella. I suppose it was his verbal pat on the back to another alpha-type. I don’t know if he called my brother that when he was young, but I do know when Dad hired teenage guys to help lay pipe or bale hay, he usually nicknames at least one of them Butch. I only know this because I also went along on those work days. I drove the tractor when laying pipe, and I really don’t remember what in the heck I was doing when we were baling. I couldn’t have thrown the bales, and I doubt I drove the tractor. Maybe I just tagged along to watch the high school boy’s muscles flex… although I really don’t remember having crushes on any of the boys he hired. They all just looked greasy and dirty to me.

Speaking of greasy and dirty, I just finished reading Tobacco Road by Erskine Caldwell. Geeze. I had no idea THAT was coming. Such pathetic… everything… I couldn’t even pull myself away—it reginald_marsh_tobacco_road_d5534149hwas like watching the proverbial train wreck. I’m not judging it because there are plenty of people out there doing so and have been for many a year. I am saying, he painted a fine picture of depravity using some unique tools from his writing tool box. It’s written like the author was simple-minded (one of the tools he used.) As a writer, I kept wanting to rewrite redundant sentences. Then at the end of the book, Caldwell’s true writing voice shows up to give the reader the denouement. In the end, I have to say, I kind of weirdly liked the book, but I also really hated it. Yet it had some kind of peculiar effect on me. It’s like eating raw oysters (which I adore.) While you’re eating them, they are so darned good in such a funky stinky kind of way, and as long as you don’t stop to think about how slimy they are, or that they were alive a moment earlier, you can enjoy them. But reading that book was almost like a shameful thing. Like admitting you read the most craptastic, bodice-ripping romance novels, or vampire porn, or, GASP… that you don’t read books at all!!! Here’s another earwig for you. Tobacco Road.

IMG_1874Where else did my mind roam today? To my baby kittens who are growing so fast. Their names are Smudge (The tan one) and O’Mally (The yellow one). Both boys. Very rough and tumble and just darn fun to watch play. Smudge may turn into Pudge soon, as he’s so fat he makes a thump when he does a somersault over his brother and lands hard on the ground. O’Mally tends to cry right before he goes to sleep, just like a toddler fighting a nap. I love them to death, but what in the hell was I thinking! Two brawling male cats in the house! This can NOT turn out well. I’ll keep you posted.

Flames of Rosewood – Book Review



Yesterday I talked about water. Today, I’m washed in friendship!

Charissa Stastny reviewed my book, Flames of Rosewood on her blog. Go check it out and make sure to follow her blog. She always has great insight on new books. Comment on her post and you may win a free print copy of my book, Flames of Rosewood!

Whisper Into the Stream


There are things from books, movies, or conversations where something really strikes me and sticks with me. For instance, when I read The Grapes of Wrath, there was a conversation between Ma and Uncle John where John is talking about how bothered he is by his many sins. Ma tells him not to tell his sins to others. Don’t burden them, she urges. Instead, her suggestion was to go down to the river, stick his head under the water, and whisper his sins into the stream. I loved this notion of sending his sins away on the ripples of water in silence.

Like chaff in the breeze, pollen in the air, or leaves falling from the trees… so random where the sins would land. 

Water. It washes us, we drink it, we cook with it, we play in it, and when we put something in it, like a small amount of flavoring or other liquid, it becomes diluted. By definition, diluting is making something weaker. Washing our hands or bodies dilutes dirt—weakens its hold on our skin. So maybe whispering your sins in the stream would dilute the sins.

This led me to think about baptism. I suppose the concept of washing away original sin matches up with diluting, weakening, and washing. I went to a baptism a few years back where the priest actually used the term “exorcism” during the baptism. This shocked me as I’d never heard that said in a baptism before, but I suppose I can see how the rite of Baptism is washing away the stain of original sin.

All this thought about water, also reminded me of reading about a man who wrote messages of redemption, stuffed them in empty 5th of whiskey bottles and pitched them out into the sea. He’d been a drinker, then God saved him from the demon whiskey. His pledge was to use the once sin-filled vessels to preach the message of Christ. He sent salvation to bob away on the waves…

Like chaff in the breeze, pollen in the air, or leaves falling from the trees… so random where the redemption would land. 

Like a sin whispered in the stream, diluted, washed, cleansed. Water carries everything I guess. If you’re a believer, you can’t have eternal life without it. Temporal life would end quickly without water, too. Random? Maybe. Or maybe not. Again, this depends on if you are a believer. One way or the other, this idea of water taking us from sin to salvation is one to think on. Hopefully, my random ramblings will get you thinking about something or another. Just tossing it out there to see where it floats.


Kittens, Kansas City, and Insights


Today my brain is frayed thinking about three different things.

  1. The two kittens I’ve adopted. So, they’re still having a little trouble drinking milk from a bowl, but I think by the end of the week they’ll be little pros. As you can see by the picture, one is cream-colored with taupe gray on his tail and tipping his ears. The other is a little yellow fellow. My husband called him Yeller because he meows a lot and loudly. What we actually name them is still in the air for now. Their mother seems to kind of want them, but kind of not. (I remember days like that.) She was raising them in the rafters of our gazebo and one had fallen out. I tried to put them back with her today and they were crawling over the edge before I even got off the ladder. I have tried to bring the mother in the house, and she has, in turn, left many claw marks on my arms during the process. She’s a little wild. I feel bad about bringing the kittens in, but we tend to see cats come and go all the time on the farm. (And when I say, come and go, by “go” I mean, take a dirt nap.) We live right by a gravel road and people are generally going around 40 when they pass our house. Maybe faster. In the night, animals often meet their demise to either a passing pickup or a hungry predator. But these two little boys are just too cute to leave to fate in the dangerous outside world. Mama Cat can come in, but those little boys aren’t going back out. I lost my favorite cat last week and I don’t intend to lose these two. Case closed.
  2. We’re planning a little family weekend for August. Kansas City, Missouri is four hours from where we live and around four hours from St. Louis where my daughter lives. I thought we’d compromise and get together midway and it’s looking like it might work for us to do that soon. We’re in the planning stages, but as always, I know we’ll want to listen to some Blues, eat some barbeque, and enjoy the pool at whatever hotel we pick. I’ve heard people say they like to stay in Overland Park, but I don’t know why. Any suggestions are welcome. I’ve been to the Power & Light District and there is a free concert there one of the nights. We’ll probably take that in. And I know we’ll drop by Arthur Bryant’s. Any suggestions on a great place to stay or a really cool place to eat, or a gotta-do activity or attraction, would be appreciated.
  3. The inspiring church service I went to on Sunday. We have a new Pastor at our church. A young guy. Being the church secretary, I work with him and find him to be accommodating, intelligent, and a good leader. But it’s during service on Sunday when I see who he is as a minister, and not just as my boss. He comes alive talking about God. You can see it. You can feel it. And most importantly, you leave mulling over ideas and filled with a bit of surety of what this whole Christianity thing is all about. I’ve found over the years that understanding scripture, or Bible stories, or what God is doing in my life, kind of comes in bursts. Epiphanies. Moments of Clarity… which, by the way, has ended up being a dandy name for this blog and subsequent book! Bits of understanding cross over us like a ray of sunshine poking through a cloudy sky… then it disappears. Deep insights and feelings are hard to grasp and harder to hold tight. It’s why, he reminded us, we need to go to church every Sunday. Just like school. You can’t just learn math one day and be good for life. You have to practice. Make it part of your process and routine. I’m just guessing here, of course. I run so darn fast from any math problem it’s like my hair is on fire. But I assume if one does a job with math, it becomes far easier the more often you do it. Everything’s that way, isn’t it? Parenting, writing, running, singing, life… the more often you do it, the easier it gets, the better you understand it, the better doing it you become. Yes. I think I’ll keep going to church on Sunday. I could use all the epiphanies I can get.