The Art of Living Series Book Duet (The Art of Going Home - available now and The Art of Retribution - coming this fall) will have a companion short story!
This year I’d planned to go to Guatemala, but unfortunately the trip was cancelled. So this week I’m traveling around south Texas with a short stop into Mexico and the coast.
Two hours into the trip, a detour to the Urgent Care was required. I had a 103 degree fever, bilateral ear infections, a ruptured eardrum, and bronchitis. Three prescriptions later, we were able to continue south.
Texas is one of my favorite regions of the country because of the influence of Latin America. I love the Tex-Mex food and the BBQ, the warm weather and thunder-storms, live-oaks, the flat open spaces, and Spanish language. It’s big, bold, and spicy.
A shopping trip into a Mexican border town started with a visit to the bakery for pastries and coffee with a live mariachi duet providing the background music. We bought vanilla, pottery, blankets, jewelry, and leather goods. A late lunch of authentic chicken tacos, queso flameado (oven melted fresh cheese served in warm tortillas with salsa), and margaritas was a great way to end the excursion.
A few days later and a few hours up to the coast, we’re on the gulf enjoying the sun and salt water. A walk in the warm afternoon along the sand in the waves among the weekend beach-goers, then out to dinner. We’ll spend two days enjoying the high seventies, blue sky and cerulean waters before heading home. Hopefully mild spring weather will be waiting.
Every girl fantasizes about it. But if we can’t be Empress of the world, or even princess of a small country, at the least we want to rule our own world.
I want to be in control of Nicole-land. However, my self-serfs never seem to keep the business of my realm running smoothly. (Schizophrenic much?)
Here’s a typical example. On March 2nd, I was driving to the dentist to get fillings. (Yeah, it was going to be that kind of day.) I was already stomping my tiny Monarch Feet because I’d lost one of my kindles. I’d wanted to bring it with me because, being the busy Royal that I am, I can’t waste a single minute of my day. Running late, I’m driving a little bit over the speed limit when the miniature gas pump light on the dash beeps. The Imperial Limo (clunker) is about to run out of fuel. Could anything else go wrong?
Funny you should ask. I’m just about to believe I can make it to the gas station when lights (not miniature) appear in my rear view mirror. After dutifully pulling over, the patrolman politely asks for my license, registration and insurance. After examining my documentation, he casually asks if I’m aware my registration is expired?
Why yes, officer. Yes, We are.
As a matter of fact, after my dentist appointment, my Royal Self is on my way to the DMV to renew the tags on my vehicle. I got my vehicle inspected three days ago and received the official form proclaiming my car had passed. I then logged onto the DMV site to pay the fees. It declined to accept my renewal. Apparently, I had not yet paid my property taxes, for which I never received a bill. Yesterday I paid the taxes over the phone, and received a faxed copy of my receipt. However, the DMV site still would not allow me to renew my tags online. (Seemingly, it did not recognize Ourselves as Royalty).
I handed all my paperwork to the nice gentleman in uniform. He acquiesced to My Highness that this one time he would allow me to proceed without a ticket and a fine.
With that little Sovereign Hiccup out of the way I was now running very late, and I continued down the freeway toward the gas station. But (you guessed it) the Imperial Clunker didn’t make it, sputtering to a halt.
Two hours, three conversations with the tow company, and one more meeting with the gentleman-in-uniform later, I was again on my Majestic Way to the gas station. Then straight to the DMV to renew my tags (with a late fee).
Welcome to my Royal World.
This week on Open Book Blog Hop we’re talking about our personal experiences.
Something I love to do is travel, and a few years ago I had the opportunity to go on a ten day tour of Israel. I also love ancient history, and the Fertile Crescent in the Middle East has some of the world’s oldest civilizations.
For me, nothing compares to the awe inspired by seeing other cultures. Experiencing the food, hearing the language, walking in places described in documents thousands of years old, seeing people in their day-to-day routiness that are so different from my own--it’s very humbling, and gives a sense of what it means to be a citizen of the world.
For a week and a half we traveled the country by buses, stopping for two or three days at a time in different locations. One thing that I realized (even though I knew it, being there made me understand it) is how small the country is compared to the U.S. The State of Israel is about 263 miles long and 44 miles wide. While there I saw the Dead Sea, the Sea of Galilee, and the Mediterranean Sea. We traveled to Jerusalem, Masada, Capernaum, Ceasarea, Ein Gedi, Tiberias and Meggido. I saw the Dead Sea scrolls, The Israel Museum, the western wall, The Temple Mount, and rode a camel.
One of my favorite quotes is from Mahatma Gandhi: “Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever.” I like it because it’s about getting an education, and I believe an education is not confined to the classroom. Be a student of the world. To best see the points of view of others, you must step into their world.
Want to know more about my travels? Want to tell about your own travels? Please leave a comment!
Check out fellow-blog-hopper Stepany Tullis's fabulous books:
We can all use a reminder that having the courage to be helpful and kind can have great effects, especially when bullying is so prevalent.
Today, March 3, in 1887, Helen Keller began learning from her tutor, Ann Sullivan. Helen Keller lost her sight and hearing after a severe illness at the age of 19 months. With Ann, the previously uncontrollable Keller flourished, eventually graduating from college and becoming an international lecturer and activist. Sullivan, later dubbed “the miracle worker,” remained Keller’s interpreter and constant companion until the older woman’s death in 1936.
She was considered a bright but spoiled and strong-willed child. Her parents eventually sought the advice of Alexander Graham Bell, the inventor of the telephone and an authority on the deaf. He suggested the Keller’s contact the Perkins Institution, which in turn recommended Anne Sullivan as a teacher.
Sullivan, age 20, arrived at Ivy Green, the Keller family estate, in 1887 and began working to socialize her wild, stubborn student and teach her by spelling out words in Keller’s hand. Initially, the finger spelling meant nothing to Keller. However, a breakthrough occurred one day when Sullivan held one of Keller’s hands under water from a pump and spelled out “w-a-t-e-r” in Keller’s palm. Keller went on to learn how to read, write and speak. With Sullivan’s assistance, Keller attended Radcliffe College and graduated with honors in 1904.
Helen Keller became a public speaker and author; her first book, “The Story of My Life” was published in 1902. She was also a fundraiser for the American Foundation for the Blind and an advocate for racial and sexual equality, as well as socialism. From 1920 to 1924, Sullivan and Keller even formed a vaudeville act to educate the public and earn money. Helen Keller died on June 1, 1968, at her home in Westport, Connecticut, at age 87, leaving her mark on the world by helping to alter perceptions about the disabled.
Do you know any who is disabled? Do you think they possess courage? Do their caregivers?
Visit the gynecologist.
It’s time for your annual exam. Da da da DUM.
Nothing’s more traumatic for a woman. It can knock even the strongest of us off our stiletto Jimmy Choo's and send us into fits of hyperventilation. There is no equivalent, and can only be understood if you’ve experienced it. It never reaches the point of being comfortable, no matter how many times you’ve done it.
Maybe it’s because you’re only covered by pieces of paper.
Or the torture device you must lay on that hoists your legs in the air. Yeah.
Or the tacky pictures they tape to the ceiling to help you relax. As if.
Or the things they say.
"Do you mind if these (eight) trainees come in and observe?" What the...
"Nice socks!" Thanks...?
“Open your knees.” Ugh...
"You're not really a blond, are you." Can I just run half naked from the room with embarrassment, now?
And then there’s the speculum: "You’re going to feel a little pressure." It feels more like you’re trying to push a train in there.
"Relax, you're going to break the speculum." I’d like to break your head.
“Hmmm. I’ve never seen that before.” Did you really just say that, doc?
"Would you like to see your cervix?" Uh...NO thank you.
When it’s finally over, I can barely find the internal fortitude to pull up my big girl panties and pretend to be an adult.
Well, at least I won’t have to come back for another year. Thank God.
Have any experiences to share? Anything your doctor said that you didn't really need to hear? I'd love to see your comments!
Wait. Hold that thought. Before we can have fun, the first thing we have to do is wake up. Yeah, I was NEVER a morning person.
People who are cheery before ten a.m. get on my nerves faster than a speeding bullet. Out of desperation, coffee and I became BFFs. Employers tended to frown upon wasting the hours from eight to ten in the morning in a lethargic haze while staring vacantly into space. They expected me to work from the moment I sat at my desk.
One thing my book character and I have in common is coffee. It is a food group, a nutritional requirement, life sustaining and a miracle, all poured steamily into my very own mug the size of a bucket.
The coffee plant originated from a plateau in Ethiopia. The region is known as Kaffa. It's not clear if coffee took its name from the region, or vice versa.
The first person known to write about coffee was a Persian physician and philosopher named Rhazes or Razi (850 to 922 AD), who characterized it as a medicine. Other early writings establish Yemen, just across the Red Sea from Ethiopia, as home to the first coffee plantations starting in the early 15th century.
Coffee's true worldwide journey came with the Turkish conquests of the Arabian Peninsula during the early 16th century. It was the Ottoman Empire that brought coffee to entirely new places. The first documented coffee house opened in Constantinople (Istanbul) in 1554, but there may well have been others earlier in Cairo, Damascus, Mecca, and Medina.
The early 17th century saw Muslim coffee's introduction to Christian Europe, and coffee's diffusion throughout Europe went at breakneck pace. Venice's first coffee house ("bottega del caffe`") opened in 1645, England's in 1650, France's in 1672, and on to the New World, a Boston outpost in 1676. Today's rapid proliferation of coffee houses: nothing new, save perhaps for the free Wi-Fi.
The Dutch created the first successful coffee plantation away from the Middle East on their colony of Java in early 18th century Indonesia. Coffee production was fast established on Sumatra and Ceylon. France received some plants as gifts in 1720, promptly transporting them to its colonies in Central America. Coffee plantations spread throughout Central and South America. Central America's first coffee harvest occurred in 1726. Today, Brazil reigns as the world's biggest producer, claiming no fewer than 10 billion (billion, with a "b") coffee plants. (Read more here.)
Almost all coffee drinks served by your friendly neighborhood barista start with Espresso, which is a concentrated, often thick coffee beverage with a layer of crema--the trademark thick, tan foam that floats on the top of a shot of espresso. The ingredients are exclusively coffee and water, created with a machine that forces hot water through a basket of tightly packed, finely-ground coffee for a limited amount of time at very high pressure. "Espresso" is also the blanket term for the process that creates this beverage. Espresso is not a type of coffee bean.
Amazingly, there are unlimited options when it comes to consuming caffeine. Aside from drinking Espresso “as is,” it can be made into:
Cappuccino – made with one part espresso, one part steamed milk, one part frothed milk. Sweet, milky, and luxurious.
Latte – made with one part espresso and 3 parts steamed milk. Can include a dollop of foam on top and a sprinkling of spice.
Macchiato – a shot of espresso with a dollop of foamed milk on top.
Café au Lait – coffee mixed with a hefty amount of steamed milk.
Americano – espresso with hot water added.
Mocha – a latte with chocolate powder or chocolate syrup added. May include whipped cream on top.
I have put a lot of thought into inventing a method of delivering coffee straight to the bloodstream via IV. But I gave up. It tastes too good to bypass the taste buds.
And here’s a clever idea: Coffee Cocktails. Some of these chilled martinis look too good to be true:
Espresso Martini - a mix of vodka, coffee liquor and espresso
Raspberry Mochatini - vodka, espresso, dark cacao liqueur, raspberry liqueur
Lazarus - vodka, cognac, kahlua, espresso
Irish espresso-tini - vanilla vodka, cream liqueur, espresso
Negrita - pisco brandy, coconut liqueur, espresso
To Think! Barista Bartenders! Now THERE’S a Book Boyfriend I need to Find Fast, Jump in a Jiffy, Marry this Minute.
Okay, maybe I’ve had too much coffee today.
Choosing the image for your book cover is very difficult. The cover art has so many roles to fill. It’s got to stand out from millions of other covers; it needs to entice the reader; and it needs to relate to the genre. It’s the image that will represent the blood, sweat, and tears you put into your writing.
Since my story is both a romance and a mystery, it was difficult to choose which genre to portray. The ever popular naked male torso? (There’s no mistaking that for anything other than a romance novel!) A sinister scene of police tape surrounding a child’s body? (Clearly a murder mystery.) After considering dozens of concept covers, in the end, I chose neither.
Woven throughout The Art of Going Home’s plot is the struggle of the heroine Madisen to come to terms with the events that occur during her visit to her hometown. It’s the story of her personal journey as she struggles to cope with the death of her surrogate mother, the antagonism of her father and the emotions re-experienced surrounding the murder of her twin sister that took place a few days after their tenth birthday. The things she discovers about her sister’s drowning shock her, and she fears for her sanity. She feels adrift and vulnerable, floating in a sea of uncertainty, unsure she will survive the turmoil thrust upon her.
The image of a young woman adrift seemed the most appropriate.
Tell me what you think. Does the cover make you wonder what’s going on? What cover would you choose? I’d love to hear your thoughts!
On a completely unrelated note, I’m featuring a short escapade written by a friend of mine about his quest for a quick meal. Enjoy!
Jeffrey Adams Post on Facebook
1:33 am · February 13
I went into Wendy’s today. I ordered the 4 for 4, obviously, like anyone would do. “Are you dining in?” Do I want a bag? Don’t sugar coat it with your marketing speak. I’m at Wendy’s ordering a 4 for 4, either or will do for both parties. “4 for 4 with the crispy chicken please.” This fellow seems competent but I don't trust him enough to ask for no mayonnaise. My card, yes here you go, swipes and back to me & “here’s your drink cup.” Well done, well done Wendy’s. Many a times Micky D’s will leave you standing with your phone in your hand while waiting on your order. Not at Wendy’s, you best hurry over & touch the same button every being off the ark has touched to get your soda because guess what? ORDER UP!
#fastfood #orderup #everybeingofftheark
This week in our blog hop we’re doing a tutorial, or a “how to.”
Because my biography states that I like baking pies, I sometimes get asked for recipes, or what kind of pies I bake.
I live on a farm, and we have four apple trees. Two of them produce good apples for eating and for pies. I think one of the trees is a Braeburn, but I’m not sure (the trees are about 60 years old). One tree ripens early, in August, and the other in September. So for four or five weeks, we are busy picking up apples the tree has dropped (so we can mow under it), picking them from the tree, and giving them away. And freezing them for pie and making apple sauce.
Aside from apples, we have peach trees and blackberry bushes. The peach trees are only four years old, so production is hit or miss. The blackberries usually produce very well. We use them for jam and for pies. The variety we have is pretty tart and contains lots of seeds. When I use them for pies I mix them half and half with apples. Less seeds, good balance of tart and sweet. But by far, the pie I bake the most is apple.
To me, the best part of the pie is the crust. I usually roll them thick, and build up the edges a lot. It’s a personal preference, though, and how much crust used is up to the baker. I also like to add things sometimes, like raisins (I thought it would be terrible, but it’s actually very good) pecans, or caramel. All make a great pie.
Today I’ll give the recipe for a basic apple pie. Dessert should be sweet and rich, so there’s lots of sugar and butter. Enjoy!
The photos are: one of last falls apples; mixing butter and lard with dry ingredients; wrapped dough ready for refrigerator; butter on top of apples and flour/sugar-spice mixture; and finished pie.
This week in our blog hop we're interviewing other authors!
Lela Markham is the pen name of an Alaskan novelists who was raised in a home built of books. Alaska is a grand adventure like none other with a culture that embraces summer adventure and winter artistic pursuits.
A multi-genre writer, currently Lela is concentrating on dystopian and fantasy, but you never know what her imagination might get up to.
Lela shares her life with her adventuresome husband, two fearless offspring and a sentient husky who keeps a yellow Lab for a pet.
Lela, the first question is: What sort of conditions are most conducive to your productivity?
My mother operated a daycare center out of our home when I was in high school, so I actually don’t have an “ideal” productivity zone. I don’t mind chaos, noise, etc. I write where I am and when I can, so I get a lot done.
Lela, If you had to co-author a book, who would be your ideal partner and why?
If I had to co-author a book – I wouldn’t choose to do that because I have been part of collaborative writing teams before and they usually don’t work out. But, if I HAD to – I think it would be my daughter. She’s an artist-musician who writes song lyrics – so a poet – and I would love to have a fantasy book with lots of musical poetry in it. I don’t care for my own poetry, but I enjoy hers. I think we could work together on a book where I provide the narrative and she provides the poetry, that way we would not step on each other’s toes and a collaborative writing team might work that way.
What's your least favorite aspect of being a writer?
Formatting for paperback. Ugh!
If you could have one superpower, what would it be, Lela?
I’ve always loved the idea of telekinesis, although I would settle for a magic wand that magically formats for paperback without costing any money.
What's your favorite food?
My dad was a professional chef and my mother was a diner waitress-cook, so I was not permitted as a child to develop a favorite food. You ate what they were serving and sometimes that was what the customers wouldn’t eat. So it would be easier to say what my least favorite food is than what my favorite is because I learned to like a lot of food. That said, my favorite cuisine is Chinese food. I cook a lot of Asian inspired dishes. And, I brake for chocolate cheesecake with a big mug of coffee.
Tell us about the one place you've been that you never want to go back to and why?
The Newark Airport. We got stuck there one time and it was horrible – confusing alleyways (I mean corridors) and rude people, maggots on the salad, filthy . The airlines wanted us to fly standby and send our 7 year old and 2 year old individually on different airplanes. They didn’t seem to think we should have a problem with that. So, I have tried hard to never fly through Newark since.
Lela, out of all the characters you've written, which is your favorite and why?
Wow, an absolutely favorite character? That’s sort of liking asking a mother which of her children she loves more. But… Jacob Delaney from Transportation Project series. He’s 95 years old, so has such a rich backstory to draw from … he’s outspoken, hardy, a devout Christian who loves his family fiercely … and he’s an anarchist.
February 1, 2016
January was an eventful month!
The Art of Going Home was published on the 6th! It’s now available as a paperback and ebook on Amazon!
I've been extremely busy since the first of the year promoting The Art of Going Home.
I’m also writing a companion short story for The Art of Living Series, titled The Art of Getting Away. It will be published in an anthology this summer with twelve other short stories.
I’m also continuing to write Book 2 of The Art of Living series. It's calledThe Art of Retribution. In it the story of Maddie and Zac will continue!
This week in our blog hop, we're presenting some background material for our novels.
Cecilia, also known as Aunt Ceci, is an important character in The Art of Going Home. Because she dies at the beginning of the book, I thought it might be interesting to see, from her point of view, one of the events that take place when the heroine Maddie is a child:
June 30, Eighteen Years Ago
It was the saddest funeral Cecilia had ever seen. More miserable than the day her husband had been buried. At least her William died after having some chance at life, though it was too short.
But this? It was incomprehensible. How could anyone justify a life ending after barely ten years? It was difficult for Cecilia to stop herself from blaming God.
She glanced at her brother among the mourners. His face revealed exhaustion, and rage mixed with grief. She knew Rey’s anger at God would last a long time. Maybe forever. And she couldn’t blame him. As a deputy in the county sheriff’s department, he’d seen some bad things. But nothing compared to this. Though he refused to discuss it, she knew he was determined to find the murderer.
Cecilia had come to the house at eleven o’clock, the same as she did every day. As she folded the laundry, Jacqueline’s screams had reached her. Cecilia had never heard such an awful sound. She’d called Rey as she ran from the house, knowing she’d find something horrible.
Jacqueline had been sitting by the wading pond, drenched after pulling Angeline’s body from the water. Cecilia had tried to make her let go, but Jacqueline refused to release the body. Rey arrived a short time later and confirmed the worst. Angeline had been drowned in two and a half feet of water. And poor Madisen had gotten there before Cecilia, seeing her dead twin clutched in her mother’s arms. She’d fainted from the sight of it. When Rey picked Maddie up, Jacqueline had screamed at her, “What did you do?” As if the death had somehow been Maddie’s fault.
As Angeline’s coffin was lowered, Cecilia hugged Maddie to her. Maddie still wasn’t crying. It worried Cecilia that she didn’t express her grief. She knew the longer people buried their emotions, the more damage they would cause. She was truly worried for the little girl. Living in that house, with parents that not only didn’t show the child love, but were cruel to her.
Well, Cecilia was more determined than ever to change that. She’d love and protect this girl enough for two parents. William and Angeline had been taken from Cecilia, but no one would hurt Madisen again. Not if she could help it.
I hope you enjoyed the short backstory! Thanks for checking in.
When I think of courage, the first thing that pops into my head is a big bold, Hollywood-sized feat in which a hero or heroine saves lives by averting a huge disaster.
Then I get a little depressed because I will probably never be that kind of hero. Few people are. I guess that’s why they are heroes--because it’s not something everyone can do every day.
So where does that leave us average people? Well, in a place where we will probably not make the headlines. That’s a fact most of us have to face: we probably won’t be famous. (Well, maybe we are in our own minds, but that’s another topic.)
Can un-famous people be courageous?
Living as a courage person isn't about doing what feels good; it is the ability to do what is necessary, even when it feels awkward, unnatural, or downright awful. It is acting in spite of the fear because it is the right thing to do.
Everyday acts of courage we can all practice and celebrate:
Apologize. Admitting it when you are wrong takes a lot of courage. It’s a bold act to admit when you make a mistake. Apologizing takes you out of your comfort zone and enhances your relationships. That’s a big deal.
Take responsibility. You are where you are in life because of the choices you make. If you don’t like what you see, change it. It’s not an easy thing to do. But you’ll feel better for having accomplished something that wasn’t easy. Responsibility brings freedom.
Keep your commitments. Write down everything you say you are going to do. Write down the promises you make to others. When you keep your promises, you build self-respect. Others respect you as well.
Respect yourself. Share your feelings when you witness an injustice. Practice sharing your opinion in an inoffensive way. Don’t allow someone to take advantage of you. Learn to say, “no” politely but firmly.
Forgive yourself. Let go of the past. Stop wallowing over what could have been. What happened is over unless you keep it alive by reliving it in your mind. When we know better, we do better. Reflect on what you could have done. Look for your lesson and use it to grow. Be gentle with yourself and make a new plan. It takes courage to move on.
Grow. Learn something new. Step into the unknown. Change the way you do things. It doesn’t matter if you get it the first time. Try again. Give yourself permission to be a beginner. Seize the opportunity. Growth brings new opportunities.
Help others. Help someone who has nothing to give you in return. Help someone when you are the one needing help. Learn to be of service. That’s why we’re here.
Follow your dreams. Take action daily toward your goals. Ask for help. Network. Research. Plan. Be open to something even better. Never give up. Adjust. Push on.
Ask for help. When you are stuck, addicted or unhappy, seek professional help. Hire a coach, a therapist or join a support group. When you are overwhelmed at work, ask for assistance. When you don’t understand something, ask for an explanation. It takes more courage to face your problems than to avoid them.
Love Yourself. Accept your imperfections. Be your own best friend. Show yourself compassion, understanding and respect. This is the most courageous act of all.
As I thought of these types of acts, I realized anyone can be courageous. There is no small act of courage. You can’t compare the courage it takes to become an Olympian with the courage it takes to raise a physically or mentally challenged child. You can’t compare a firefighter who saves a life to an eight year old child who stands up to a bully. They are all incredible feats. All are heroic. And anyone can be a hero. So, go put on your cape.
In our blog hop, one of the themes of 2016 I and my fellow bloggers will discuss, is courage.
I found this post on Facebook, so some of you may have seen it. It might be difficult some viewers to watch due to the subject matter.
Her name is TiTi. I think her story defines courage because picking yourself up from a downward spiral take a strength few people possess.
Tell me what you think. Do you feel she is weak for succumbing more than once to her addictions? Or is she courageous for pulling herself up?
Her book, The Pink Elephant In the Middle of the Ghetto is available on Amazon.