Thursday, May 30, 2013

Carnival Time Again, EEK

Oh no, it's that time of year again. I have to lug my sweaty behind to the 

school carnival, 

along with two excited 8 year olds who view the entire event as a sort of prom for elementary kids. They are going to run into all their friends, while I juggle sunscreen, bug spray, and carny food. 

I just know it.

Not always such a grouch, but the school carnival really is Hell Night for parents. First, we have to load our kids onto rides that grooooooaaaaaan and squeak as the children are strapped in and whirled into Centrifugal torture. They seem to like it pretty well; I turn away and try not to eye the one bolt coming loose on the structure.

It's Catholic school, so we do get to watch the priests aim for each other at the dunk tank. It's the one highlight, when Father Fernando gets a soaking. Winning!
Who has two left hands and wants to dunk the guy in a full suit? This gal!

I've got my tactics down for hustling kids past the Overpriced / Cheapo toy game stalls. "You've already got five of those at home... win anymore and we'll all have to move out to the garage... look, funnel cake..."

Yes, I will feed the child batter deep-fried in mystery oil rather than carry home another rubber duck or three foot long fuzzy python stuffed with old cleaner bags.

We can relax in the food tent, except the band there always turns the volume up to "Eleven" and I like my eardrums. So, no.

Sit and get a face henna tattoo that you'll wash off in twenty minutes? And pay many dollars for that experience? I think not.

Am I the only one who eyes up the "fresh lemonade" stand and wonder, Do they wash those lemons?

At eight o'clock, the vampires come out. Goth dudes and girls appear, with black lipstick and micro shorts over tattered fishnets. I LOVE it when they show up, because at that point we really need to get home and wash off several centimeters of machine lube and sugar.

Yup, Carnival Night. 

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Donna Huber's Secrets - Cover Reveal

Donna Huber is an avid reader and natural encourager. She is the blogger behind Girl Who Reads where, in addition to book reviews and author appearances, she writes the popular blogging advice series, Tips on Thursday. 

Most notably, she was the publicist for The Writer’s Coffee Shop Publishing House edition of Fifty Shades of Grey and Fifty Shades Darker by E. L. James. 

When she is not doling out blogging advice or promoting the next bestseller, she can be found spending time with family (particularly the four legged, furry members), rewatching Downton Abbey and Harry Potter, or trying to make a dent in her never ending to-be-read pile.
Plan a successful blog tour while keeping your sanity... From the publicist who introduced the world to Fifty Shades of Grey, Donna Huber is now revealing her secrets to successful blog tours. She shares tips and tricks learned through organizing over 30 tours, blasts, and promotional events for nearly 50 independently and traditionally published titles. Secrets revealed in this quick read include: Planning stage decisions Different types of tours Recruiting bloggers and keeping requests organized Best practice communication tips Tricks to making a great guest appearance How to organize a fun (and legal) giveaway Actions to take during the tour Next steps once the tour is complete Virtual tour and other promotional opportunities When to hire a professional In this easy to follow manual, Donna does not stop there. She spills even more of her blog tour secrets to help authors get the most out of their events by providing, Tour checklist Tour invite tips Step-by-step guide to creating tour graphics 10 broad guest post topics 25 sample interview questions And here is the lovely cover for Donna's book, due out in July:

You can find Donna on Twitter, Facebook, and her Girl Who Reads blog.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Best Friends

Is there anything so fragile and so strong as friendship? I have seen people who are dear friends lose their bond, their connection, over a few ill-judged words. But I have also seen friendships survive great illness and tragedy.

Over the weekend, my daughter invited her best friend on a family trip to the beach. We drove the girls to the house, where we all shared a room and two tiny, hard beds. 

There was no access to TV all weekend. The girls had one single iPod they would have to share, as well as their dolls. Other than that, they had sand and stones as entertainment devices.

And - they were beautiful together. My husband gave them wheelbarrow rides (the hit of the weekeend) and dug them a hole at the beach. We watched as a wheelbarrow became a roller coaster and a hole in the sand turned into a castle with secret passages and huge throne rooms. 

The girls did kid stuff we adults simply couldn't understand - they insisted, for example, on draping all the available clothes over their blankets on the bed to sleep. I can't imagine having a ton of sweatshirts over me at night, but they seemed to enjoy it pretty well.

And why did they have to wear matching hats and glasses as they played that one iPod together? We may never know.

All of those experiences - swimming in ice-cold water in a rockpool, going to the local carnival and eating real cotton candy "on a stick!" and hot dogs, watching the tiny town's memorial Day parade - those shared experiences are the slim, glowing threads weaving together to form the basis of a lifelong friendship.

And whether it will be strong enough to last for years and years - no one can answer that question.

But the odds look good.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Tower of Bones and Forbidden Road

Connie Jasperson loves everything to do with fantasy - music, games, and especially books. Not only does she read and review them, she writes meticulously crafted novels of epic fantasy that include very real, very likable characters. 

I'm showcasing two of her books today on Fresh Pot of Tea, Tower of Bones and Forbidden Road.

…“But here, I have not told you the special thing - My childhood nurse, a woman with, shall we say an ‘earthy’ past, long ago told me a small secret gate lies hidden in the garden wall beneath the Rose Tower, which some now call the Tower of Bones.” Edwin started on hearing the tower which figured so prominently in his dreams named. “It is a very dark garden when there is no moon and once this gate was quite useful for ‘private trysts’.
“Consider this - If a maid’s clandestine lover could find the gate useful for secret trysting, why then a thief could easily enter or leave, should they wish - but only on a moon-dark night. You will see why when you get there.” He looked over at a table full of traveling merchants and their guards, and then leaned forward as if talking to his closest friends. “I tell you this knowing it is safe with you, and you will carry it either to the grave or to his Holiness, which ever you see first!”
Jaxon leaned back and tossed a money pouch to Friedr, who accepted it with some confusion. The huge warrior’s face cleared up as he felt the contents of the pouch, and he tucked it into his shirt with a knowing smile.
“I will take the horse, and thank you for offering it to me,” Jaxon said as he stood up, automatically casting a wary eye around the room. “It is good to do business with you. The Mercenaries of Arlen stand ready in case of need, at the usual price of course. The Temple has only to call.” With that said he flipped a coin to the bartender and walked out into the night, followed by his guards.
“What was that all about?” asked Edwin, speaking in a whisper. “I don’t remember us having a horse to sell. We need our pack-ponies.”
“Don’t be so wool-headed, farm-boy,” whispered Aeolyn, who only caught the last of the conversation. “There are others, not of Arlen in this room tonight. It was a cover for what is really in the little money pouch. Come on Friedr, what is in the little bag?”
“I would guess it is a key of some sort,” suggested Christoph quietly, smiling faintly. “Perhaps it is the key to a gate beneath a certain tower?”

“Why does the land change so radically here?” Zan finally asked Edwin. “This is the worst road I’ve ever seen!”
“Tauron’s poison is nearly at the door,” replied Edwin, wondering what was bothering Zan. “It’s a mere fifty leagues away from the gap now. I thought you understood. We’ll be in Tauron’s Mal Evol in three days.”
“I knew it on one level, but I guess I didn’t understand what it meant,” replied Zan, feeling temporarily dismayed by the grim reality of the landscape. “I guess I was thinking of the adventure, not the reality. I was thinking it’d be like Aelfrid Firesword, all fun and adventure, with no worry.”
 “Actually, Aelfrid Firesword’s life must’ve been terribly difficult,” said Edwin, walking next to Zan. “Think about it. He was forced to kill his closest friend who’d become a rogue mage and gone over to Tauron. Can you imagine how you’d feel if, say, I went over to Tauron? How would you protect the people of Neveyah from me? What would you do?”
“I never thought about that aspect of the story,” Zan admitted. “Making those sorts of decisions, having to kill someone you love in order to protect others you love, I can’t imagine what that was like for Aelfrid.” He sighed. “But I’d do it, if I was forced to. I think it’d kill me, though.”
“I know.” Edwin clasped Zan’s shoulder. “Daryk was the most famous of the Dark-Mages, but most people don’t know he fought desperately against Tauron’s minions at Aelfrid’s side when the two of them first came into their powers. He worshipped Aeos, and loved Neveyah with all his heart. It never occurred to either Aelfrid or Daryk he would ever fall to Tauron, but there was no Temple, and no vows to protect him from Tauron’s blandishments. There was no college to teach young mages how to use their magic, so they had to learn how to control the build-up of chi and avoid the madness by gaining apprenticeships to older mages. Daryk was lured away from their kind master by a mindbender who was under Tauron’s spell. It was because of Aelfrid’s grief over the loss of the man who’d been closer than a brother, and his struggle to save the other mages still loyal to Aeos that Aeoven and the Temple exist today. Without Aelfrid we wouldn’t have the augmentations allowing us access to greater chi reserves, nor would we bind ourselves to the Goddess with the vows. It must’ve been a terribly hard time to live through.”
“I see what you mean,” admitted Zan. “As a kid I read all the stories, and just thought it was all good against evil, romance and happy endings. But maybe it’s just the way the bards tell it.”
Edwin laughed. “It wouldn’t be a good story if it was all dirt, bug bites and poor sanitary conditions now, would it?”

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Atlas Truck Filled with Treasure

In 1968, we had just moved to Pennsylvania. My mother was interested in antiques, and a distant relative caught wind of this. The old lady had no children, so she willed us the contents of her apartment when she passed away.

Imagine this, if you will: a rental ranch-style home, late 60's. An huge Atlas truck pulls up. Two red-faced guys proceed to unload boxes and boxes of furniture, old toys, glass, and books. Everything is taken down to our very musty basement.

I will never forget the weeks that followed - unpacking those boxes was like a walk through time to a different era. Some objects showcased the wonders of the past, like the series of cigarette cards produced for the World's Fair. Others whispered of a bad side, such as an old Amos 'n'Andy map.

There were random treasures, too. I was enthralled by a Fortune Telling Device, a packet of cards "Guaranteed to Answer any Questions You May Have" with the picture of a very unlikely-looking gypsy lass on the cover. We all loved an old Imp's Coin collector book, complete with old nickels and dimes, enough to make up the princely sum of two dollars.

The furniture included an old bust of Schiller, a large pair of portraits of the old lady's parents (and didn't the father look a real fright, with his dark muttonchops and piercing eyes! He used to give me nightmares) and a marble Oriental table with devil's faces carved into the dark wooden legs.

Our favorite things, however, were the albums of old Post Cards. The old lady collected them and put them into huge, dark, Victorian books. They spanned the late 1800's, with faded-looking pictures of Niagara Falls and bright cartoons from the seaside, some of them VERY rude.

There were cards of cityscapes, with windows and moons cut out. When you held them up to the light, the cut-outs glowed yellow, and the card came alive.

Some had pictures of motion picture beauties of the era, with long ringlets past their waists and huge feathered hats.

I distinctly remember one card from the 1940's with the picture of a Horn and Hardart Automat. Obviously, someone had gone there and was so impressed they had to buy a souvenir. 

That delivery was a once-in-a-lifetime experience. It was like Aladdin's cave had been packed up, stored in an old moving van, and sent to our tiny rancher. The contents were the result of several lives, now long gone, and I will never forget it.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

The Pipe Woman Chronicles

Release Day Blitz for the 5th and Final Book in The Pipe Woman Chronicles by Lynne Cantwell

Naomi Witherspoon lives in interesting times. At the winter solstice, she was Seized by a  goddess to mediate a power-sharing agreement between all the pagan gods. Then, as her relationship with her new boyfriend Fissured, she Tapped a wellspring of strength from her Native American heritage.
Now, Gravid and due any day, she must conduct the mediation of her life. Will she succeed? Or will it all go up in smoke?
The answers to those questions, and more, can be found in Annealed, the final installment in the Pipe Woman Chronicles, an urban fantasy series by Lynne Cantwell.

It began at the winter solstice

And it ends


PWC5 - Annealed
It's zero hour...
Naomi has just two weeks to find a new home for Joseph's grandfather. The old Ute shaman is fighting for his life against a mysterious injection of toxin he received at the hands of the Norse Trickster god Loki. If Naomi is to defeat Loki once and for all, she must learn what it is he seeks under the old man's wickiup.†
She has just one week before she must mediate between the Earth's pagan gods and goddesses and the Christian God. If her efforts fail, all of humankind will suffer the consequences.
And her baby is due any day.
In this, the fifth and final book of the Pipe Woman Chronicles, Naomi is in a race against the clock to balance the demands of her body, her family, and her friends ñ and she must do it while the whole world is watching.
A taste of chapter 10: 

 Jehovah sighed. "White Buffalo Calf Pipe Woman, I concede that much of what You have said here is true. Humanity wrestles still with its baser impulses, even as it reaches for the pinnacle of its potential. Math, the sciences, engineering. I never thought they would figure out fractal theory."†He chuckled. "I love My children dearly. Soon they will reach the stars. They are ever a surprise and a delight to Me."

Lynne Cantwell's take on the excerpt: "Naomi has finally reached the Big Mediation -- the one between the Christian God and all the pagan gods and goddesses that the whole series has been driving toward.In this scene, White Buffalo Calf Pipe Woman has just outlined all the ways humanity has trashed God's Creation: ruining the environment,†using Scripture as an†excuse to treat†other human races like animals, and so on. God acknowledges all of that.†But it's also clear that He takes great delight in what He has created -- and He has a sense of humor, too."

About the Author: Lynne Cantwell

Lynne Cantwell

Lynne Cantwell has been writing fiction since the second grade, when the kid who sat in front of her showed her a book he had written, and she thought, "I could do that." The result was†Susie and the Talking Doll, a picture book, illustrated by the author, about a girl who owned a doll that not only could talk, but could carry on conversations. The book had dialogue but no paragraph breaks. Today, after a twenty-year career in broadcast journalism and a master's degree in fiction writing from Johns Hopkins University (or perhaps despite the master's degree), Lynne is still writing fantasy. In addition, she is a contributing author at Indies Unlimited and writes a monthly post for The Indie Exchange.

Find Annealed here: 

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

An Entirely Random Collection of Fascinating Things and People

There are some subjects guaranteed to stop me in my tracks and grab me, no matter what I'm doing. I could be in the middle of washing the dishes, and if a story comes on about Bettie Page, next thing I know I'm standing in the middle of the kitchen, dish soap dripping from my sponge.

So, let's start with her:

1. Bettie Page - Known as the dark version of Marilyn Monroe, Bettie was an extremely bright student in Tennessee. She moved to New York as a secretary, but she soon discovered she could earn a lot more money from modeling - particularly in the nude. 

Her pictures fascinate me because she just has that certain alluring something - her stills stand out, with that signature hairdo and the lovely smile. Bunny Yeager, one of Bettie's most famous photographers, described her as a beauty tanned from head to toe, who used to walk on her tippy toes to the beach for shots. 

She also fascinates me because of her disappearance from public. Years later she reemerged, to describe her shock at having become an iconic sex symbol.
She's known for the pin-ups, but just look at this breath-taking, innocent shot.

2. Space - Could never become an astronaut, thanks to my complete inability to understand calculus or chemistry, but fire up Apollo 13 and I'm hooked for the next 120 minutes. The space program of the 50's and 60's, as well as continued work on the space station and Hubbell are amazing - our reach towards a new stage, one I hope we'll continue to make.
courtesy of
 and I just love the fact that  Alan Bean paints space pictures.

3. Old pocket watches: A friend once described them as "mysterious," and she was right. Old watches hold mysteries, ones you unlock with a tiny, golden key. Often there is a forgotten inscription inside, often with three letters, sometimes a quote or motto.
from 1900, showing my favorite part: the innards.

4. King Henry the Eighth - He was a fat old dork with a stinky leg, but I find his reign mesmerizing. Philippa probably has a lot to answer for there. Her, and Jonathan Rhys-Meyers (and I'm still trying to reconcile him with the grossly huge, smelly monarch in her final book on his wives.)
Looks quite different in his portraits.

5. Bathyspheres. I researched them for The South Sea Bubble, and I discovered what a fascinating history they had. Not only that, but the inventors were incredibly brave: at the depths they achieved, if there had been a breach in the machine water would have shot straight through their bodies, vaporizing them.
courtesy of

6. Lord Byron - I'm not a fan of his poetry one little bit, no I'm not. Still, anyone who was seduced by his governess, was killed by too much leeching by his doctor, wrote about vampires, and had so much influence in Greece that he was publicly mourned there after his death is fascinating. 
And what is up with those little curls? Yuck!

7. Huge medieval letters, decorated with animals, flowers, and weird little men. I realize I'm probably alone in this.
from The Book of Kells

8. Chocolate - truly fascinating. Probably not alone in this one.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

My New Bike

I want a bike. In sixth grade I used to come home and dash straight to the carriage house where my bike lived, grab that thing and ride out into the neighborhood for hours.

It was a beauty, complete with banana seat, high handlebars, streamers, and a large basket with fake roses. The tires constantly needed air. The bike smelled like goats, who also lived in the carriage house. No matter, it was wheels in motion, and it was mine.

So, I want a bike again. I do actually have a bike, but it was a gift from a boyfriend, the one who is now my husband. He had the mistaken notion that he and I would mountain bike together up craggy hills and cliffs, bouncing down over boulders and fallen logs.

Meanwhile, his brother is more of the Italian road racing biker dude. Dapper in his clip-in shoes, he bikes off for 50 miles at a stretch.

See, I'm different. I want to return to those days when I biked UPRIGHT, not hunched over the handlebars. I want to ride and sniff the mown lawns. I'm a dawdler, not a speed demon.

I just remembered something: road and mountain bikes leave off the kickstand because it's "not cool" and adds weight. You know what? That kickstand is useful. I'm post menopausal and I don't care about being cool anymore.

Ditto with the long bar thingie that runs right down the middle of the bike. I have to stop, throw my leg over it, dismount, let my bike fall to the ground (remember, no kickstand) and throw my leg back over it when I want to get back on the trail. Since I never got the hang of the "stand on the pedal and mount / dismount" technique, I want that split rail design that allows me to quietly step on and off. In a skirt, if I so choose.

I just realized what I'm going to look like when I do get my old school, retro bike with kickstand, basket, upright handles, and skirt bar:



Monday, May 13, 2013

Mother's Day

Yesterday was Mother's Day in the US, and I was treated to a lovely spa day by my considerate family.  After a long morning of sleeping-in, I was whisked by limo to hours of massages, facials, pedicures...

Of course, that day actually occurred in some strange, alternate universe. 

Instead, my day began at 7, when I got up early to clean the house for the in-laws, who were coming over for brunch. I also had to cook that brunch; good thing I bought the ingredients the day before in between takes at the dance studio. 

(It was Dance Picture day on Saturday, complete with costume changes and make up on 8 year old's face; we're talking mascara here. All I can say is: SHUDDER)

I really don't mind about the cooking and the cleaning; would take that over standing in a two hour line to eat a meal at a crowded restaurant any day. Plus, when I serve the meal at home, we get to linger over our mimosas as long as we want without an annoyed waiter hovering and clearing his throat in a "We really need that table NOW" way.

No, the true fun began when I had to get 8 year old kid (who had to be changed into costumes and make up the day before, remember) into suitable church clothes. She was singing in the choir - in fact, she had a solo of six words long - so she had to look presentable.

Let me just share a quick secret with you all: she could go to church in cut-offs and a hole cut into a tablecloth as a poncho, and I wouldn't care. Heck, she could wear that dance costume from the pictures. My feeling is: I got my family to church relatively clean, what more do you want?

But no, "certain other people" (husband) don't agree. So I had to bully and chivvy kid into skirt - I know, the horror - and shirt that didn't have a T in front of it. 

After church, the day went well. The waffles turned out crispy and delicious. The mimosas flowed. the bacon disappeared in 30 seconds... all was right with the world. 

I even got to sneak upstairs for a ten minute nap at one point. Winning!

The true festivities, however, began at eight o'clock at night. That was when my daughter remembered she needed to bring in a book about the planets, with many planetty facts, to school on Monday. Yes, the classic "I just recalled my homework that I had all weekend to do" move which makes all parents want to curl up in a fetal position.

There are no libraries or bookstores open at 8 PM on Sunday in our town.

Therefore, Mother's Day ended for me by writing a book on planets, complete with pictures, and printing it out. Did you know that Pluto was no longer a planet? You want to know why? Because its kids drove it to a gaseous death, that's why.

Finally got kid into bed and settled down to Mad Men with my husband. I admit I was eyeing up the Mimosa leftovers. Was just about to pour, when my daughter's bedroom door opened - she had a nightmare and I had to go and lie down with her and put her to sleep, again. I blame the waffles.

So, Mother's Day for me (and, I suspect for many others) was truly a MOTHER'S day. I was a mom in every sense of the word. 

All day long.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013


My daughter had to have four teeth extracted yesterday. They were only baby teeth, but they had long roots and were crowding her adult incisors, so the orthodontist proclaimed they had to go.

This set into motion an entire month of misadventures. First I took her to the dentist, and they said the teeth were too difficult to remove - I would have to take her to an "orthodontic surgeon."

That's a nice, friendly phrase that won't strike terror into the heart of the 8-year-old who hears it - no, not at all.

I called the surgeon and found that we had to go in for a consultation first. This meant dragging my kid out of school early and taking her to the scary surgeon. I know it's a good thing that Kid likes school, but it's a pain when I show up to take her to Not Fun places and she doesn't want to leave.

Once we arrived, I was so frazzled I lost my keys in the office and had to have the entire staff help me look for them (they slipped between the cushions of the chairs in the waiting room, in case you were wondering.)
"It's your professionalism I admire"

Ever get a hot flash so violent that you sweat like an outfielder under the broiling sun in Arizona at noon? Yeah, that, except mine was from embarrassment, not hormones.

Once I found the damn keys, I scheduled the appointment for the actual extraction. They promised me that the teeth would come out easily and Kid would only need a local and laughing gas.

Kid tells me she doesn't want the laughing gas. I blurt out, "But, sweetie, that's the fun part." Mother of the year, y'all.

Repeat the 'picking up from school' debacle two weeks later. Arrive at "surgeon," and kid crawls to the back of the truck and refuses to come out. I bribe, cajole, promise, and finally threaten. Start to feel like Hannibal Lechter / that dude with the lotion in the basket.

Bring kid into office and watch as she is strapped into chair. She does smile when she gets the nitrous oxide gas. SEE???

Teeth pulled. I'll gloss over those details.

Mouth packed with gauze, and we go back to the car. (I strapped the keys to one leg a la Lara Croft this time.)
Yeah, Tooth Fairy! Go Tooth Fairy!

Get home, and kid decides that all the pain was My Fault. She begins to complain for the next few hours at the top of her lungs. Refuses pain meds, jello, ice cream, movie, iPod... 

I find myself ready to offer her a Paris vacation or the entire island of Cyprus. 

Hot flash intensifies (mine). Kid insists she looks like a "Nerdy hamster" now with her incisors gone.

Sneak tylenol into kid. Tirade stops. 

I look at those teeth in the little baggie again and realize she was really very brave throughout the entire ordeal. 

Tooth fairy stops by and leaves gift and lots of dollars.

Brave girl goes to school; I see I'll have to boil the blood-stained sheets. Thank the heavens it's all over.

You know, she doesn't look like a Nerdy Hamster now... she looks like a cute, brave hamster. 

Friday, May 3, 2013

Swimsuit Season

Hurray, here it is again - the time for me to dig out the ol' suit. And despite my diet and exercise regime, my bod just isn't, shall we say, prime rib at the moment. 

So here are some suits that I shan't be wearing:

Not today, nor any day
OK, this appeals to my macabre sense of fashion.

And NO ONE should be wearing this little marble bag.

Instead, here are the suits I would like to be able to buy and wear:
Yes! Maybe without the boots.
Yes yes!
Bathing caps - maybe not so much.

Don't you just hate it when the dog steals your pipe at the beach?

Perhaps the suspenders are a bit much. Still better than the marble bag, though.