Thursday, December 30, 2010

The Blizzard of December 2010

Yes, that is our backyard in the aftermath of the Blizzard of December 2010. Our picnic table is buried in a rather deep drift.

When we walked out of church last Sunday, it was snowing. Everybody in town went immediately to the grocery store, which they do every time the flakes fly. However, this time it turned out to be a good idea. The subsequent blizzard left us stuck at home until Tuesday morning when the plow finally came through. Of course, we spent most of Monday clearing the snow off our cars and digging out the driveway.

Later in the evening we played several rounds of Bananagrams--a great game for word lovers!

Many of the roads are still dangerous. It was a bad storm, but I do believe it should have been treated more aggressively. Nevertheless, it is supposed to be warmer today. Hopefully, a lot of this white stuff will melt.

Happy New Year!

Friday, December 17, 2010

My Latest Ebook Reader

I've been reading ebooks on my trusty old eBookwise ereader and on my Nook. However, I recently purchased a new cellphone because my old cellphone had developed a strange quirk. I could only hear calls on it if I used the speakerphone, which meant everyone else could hear my calls, too.

To replace my old cellphone, I bought Virgin Mobile's Loft. For $25 a month I have unlimited texting and unlimited internet access. I have only 300 hours of talk time, but who needs to talk?

The one thing about this phone that left me a bit unsatisfied was that I could not download an ebook app for it. But with the web at my fingertips, I searched around until I found what I wanted.

At Bookworm I can upload an epub formatted book to the site and then read it on my cellphone. This is awesome!

Being economically minded, for my first book on Bookworm I downloaded a classic because it was free. I read Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton. I had never read it and while it isn't a happy book, Edith Wharton's prose is stunning. I just downloaded The Sea Wolf by Jack London today. I intend to catch up on many of the classics I haven't read.

So if you have a cellphone without an ebook app, try Bookworm and then start reading a few classics. :^)

Friday, December 03, 2010


I will be giving a workshop on December 14, 2010, at 9:30 a.m. at The Fine Grind, 101 Newark Pompton Turnpike (Route 23), Little Falls, NJ 07424 (Phone: 973-837-0199)

The workshop will be a live, in-person version of Creating Atmosphere: The Tone of Your Novel. I presented the talk at the Muse Online Conference in October. So if you didn't make it to the Muse Online Conference, come to Little Falls, have a cup of coffee and listen to my writing wisdom.

I believe every novel should have an overall feel--a tone--that clues the reader into the type of story he or she has chosen. The tone can be funny, or gloomy, or suspenseful. I will use examples from my paranormal romances to show how setting, dialogue, and other story elements create the desired atmosphere for a novel.

You won't want to miss this! Besides, there will be a drawing and someone will win a book. Maybe that someone could be you!

Friday, November 26, 2010

Some Sort of Miracle

I woke up yesterday to find a single daisy flowering in our yard. I decided it had to be a sign of from my mother. Daisies were her favorite flower and are not usually seen blooming at the end of November in New Jersey.

I cooked Thanksgiving dinner--again. The first time I cooked Thanksgiving dinner, I was 19 and my mother was in the hospital with soaring high blood pressure. Up until that point, I had always been my mother’s apprentice. Mom was an exacting cook. Everything had to be done her way. The celery was chopped just so. Mom made stuffing from scratch. The pie crust had to be handled gently so it would be flaky and light. My siblings and I were relegated to certain specific tasks for the annual Thanksgiving feast, but that year, I did it all. Maybe it wasn’t the greatest meal but I enjoyed the sense of accomplishment I found in my own ability to rise to the occasion.

As Mom aged, I took over the role of hosting Thanksgiving every year for the burgeoning clan. Mom always brought yams and pumpkin pies to the feast. With her gone, I made the pumpkin pies and one of my sisters made the yams. My other sister made apples pies and cranberry relish. My daughters are my assistants—though I am by no means as exacting as my mother was. Some things are not worth all the fuss because the fact is that Thanksgiving isn’t about the food. It’s about reconnecting and catching up--long conversations with the people I love. It’s about laughter and the treasured memories that we share—and passing those memories along to the next generation.

Mom isn’t with us anymore—except in spirit, and hers was an indomitable one. As I was whipping the potatoes a wave of sadness washed over me because Mom wasn’t there, but then I thought of the daisy outside. It is difficult to be down when you’ve got your own little miracle occurring right outside the back door.

I gave the daisy to my father at the end of the evening. I’m sure the daisy was meant as much for him as it was for me.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Not Like the Real World

As a fiction writer, I deal in complete lies all wrapped up in one nice, neat package called a book. I make up stories about imaginary people trying to solve imaginary problems in imaginary settings. The trick is that in all my stories, the lies have to "ring true." I can do this because most people who pick up a book voluntarily suspend their disbelief while reading the story. Readers are quite willing to give an author the benefit of the doubt--most of the time, but writers are always warned against using contrived plots, boring dialogue, and flat characters.

Still, there are plenty of very odd coincidences that happen in real life. Remember that kid in school who seemed to be headed for a detention center, but who is now a lawyer with a Mercedes and a trophy wife? If it happens in a book, the author has a lot of explaining to do--and it all has to sound "real."

Though dialogue in a story must seem real, the everyday dialogue we use is hardly as succinct or witty as that in a novel.

The characters in a novel must appear to be flesh and blood. They cannot be flat or cardboard characters--one dimensional. But how many genuinely boring people do you know? The world is populated with millions of them!

In short, a novel is nothing like the ordinary world we live in. It is far, far better. It makes a lot more sense even though it is one big lie.

The real world is often much stranger than fiction.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

A Memorable Event in Brooklyn

Hubby and I went to Brooklyn yesterday for hubby's high school reunion. He graduated from St. Augustine's high school, but around 1970 St. Augustine's closed. Afterwards, students went to Bishop Loughlin high school. However, there is a wing of that school with memorabilia from St. Augustine's--statues, stained glass, athletic awards and even a glass case with clothing and the old-fashioned book covers.

Bishop Loughlin high school hosted the reunion and did a great job. Despite a flea market in progress on the school grounds, we were given a parking spot! (Big miracle in that section of Brooklyn.)

Hubby brought an old photo of the high school class trip to Washington, D.C. which he passed around.

There was a Mass--of course. Afterwards, awards were given out to several St. Augustine students who have made remarkable achievements. The reunion itself helps to fund a scholarship program and one young man from Bishop Loughlin high school is going to Annapolis next year.

I enjoyed meeting hubby's former classmates and their spouses. The Christian Brothers taught them well.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Writing Sisters

I have been a member of the New Jersey chapter of the Romance Writers of America since 1988 and I have been to every one of their conferences. There are plenty of workshops offered along with editor and agent appointments, but the best part of the conference is the camaraderie with other authors as well as future authors. They are my writing sisters--they understand what it takes to write a book.

What we all need are more people who will read our books. There's a lot of good stuff between the covers. :^)

Reading will improve your vocabulary, make you smarter AND more interesting.

When was the last time YOU picked up a book and read it? Turn off the television and the internet, sit down, open a book, and savor the words.

You don't have to read the whole thing tonight. Just a chapter. It won't take long. Tomorrow night you can read another chapter.

See what we writers do. We work with words. Using them we can make pictures in your head. It's magic. (Well--sort of.)

So please buy a book today, or borrow one from the library. Your brain will be glad you did.

Friday, October 15, 2010

My Heroines Are Not Me

I have an imagination and I am capable of making up stories. The books I write are fiction--that means they are not true. There are disclaimers at the beginning of each book that attest to the fact that any resemblance of the characters in my books to actual people is coincidence.

My heroines do not lead boring lives. They are caught up in life-threatening dramas. They are young, beautiful, and can eat lots of salty food because they do not have high-blood pressure--yet.

My heroines are not me.

Yes, I write the stories. My attitudes and opinions are there on the pages if anyone is seriously looking for them.

The truth is that I was a wallflower when I was young. Eventually, I left some of my shy nature behind when I grew up, but I was not and have never been a professional chef, scientist, policewoman, park ranger, journalist, farmer, or secretary.

I simply have a vivid imagination. Maybe it's because I've read too many books. Maybe it's because my parents were creative. Maybe it's because I grew up in an era where we didn't have any electronic games and we had to amuse ourselves. Maybe it's because I don't watch television.

Anyhow, it's great fun. It would be wonderful to be young and blond with curly hair, but I can do without the life-threatening drama. I give my heroines such a tough time!

Friday, October 08, 2010

An Old Idea of Recycling Recycled

Back in the old days, when I was young, nothing went to waste. Thread used to come wrapped on wooden spools, but when the thread was used up we would put nails in the wooden spool, wrap yarn around the nails and use an old crochet hook to lift the loops over the nails so we could make horse reins. Never mind that no kid in Cliffwood Beach owned a horse. The activity kept us amused for hours. From that exercise, I developed a fondness for crocheting, but never for knitting. You can find more information on knitting spools here.

Years later, when my own children were young, I found a wooden spool, tapped some nails into it and showed my daughters how to make long knitted reins. Daughter #1 actually saved the knitting spool I made for her which is the one you see above.

Recently, I was cruising around Jo-Ann Fabric with hubby who was looking for a particular glitter paint to match his latest green accordion. On a rack I saw what appeared to be a giant knitting spool made of plastic. According to the instructions on the package, this giant knitting spool could be used to make a hat.


Since it was almost Daughter #1's birthday, I bought the gadget. Daughter #1 opened it on her birthday and began making a hat immediately. Within days, it was finished. Perhaps Daughter #1 can make everyone a hat for Christmas. :^)

It never ceases to amaze me how some old ideas can be transformed into something new and improved. Of course, I want to make a hat, too.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Sea Chanties--Getting the Work Done Cheerily

I am reading Two Years Before the Mast, by Richard Henry Dana, Jr. (You can read the entire book online at I'm reading it as reference material for my pirate book. Today I read a section of the book concerning sea chanties. I've always loved sea chanties, but it was interesting to read Dana's comments about them.

The sailor’s songs for capstans and falls are of a peculiar kind, having a chorus at the end of each line. The burden is usually sung, by one alone, and, at the chorus, all hands join in,—and the louder the noise, the better. With us, the chorus seemed almost to raise the decks of the ship, and might be heard at a great distance, ashore. A song is as necessary to sailors as the drum and fife to a soldier. They can’t pull in time, or pull with a will, without it. Many a time, when a thing goes heavy, with one fellow yo-ho-ing, a lively song, like “Heave, to the girls!” “Nancy oh!” “Jack Crosstree,” etc., has put life and strength into every arm. We often found a great difference in the effect of the different songs in driving in the hides. Two or three songs would be tried, one after the other, with no effect;—not an inch could be got upon the tackles—when a new song, struck up, seemed to hit the humor of the moment, and drove the tackles “two blocks” at once. “Heave round hearty!” “Heave round hearty!” “Captain gone ashore!” and the like, might do for common pulls, but in an emergency, when we wanted a heavy, “raise-the-dead” pull, which should start the beams of the ship, there was nothing like “Time for us to go!” “Round the corner,” or “Hurrah! hurrah! my hearty bullies!"

We should all start singing when we really want to get some work done! Here's one song I've always enjoyed.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Music for Turbulent Times

During every turbulent time period in our nation's history there have been songs that brought our citizens together, uplifting them, giving them a rallying cry, and bolstering their faith.

The awesome part is that everyone knew the words and could sing along.

Folk songs motivated my generation during the turbulent sixties. We had great music and terrific musicians who not only sang the songs but went out and marched in the protests.

World War II, the Great Depression, and World War I there were rousing ditties to raise the spirits of our citizens.

There were songs for the unions seeking a better life for oppressed workers--songs that my grandfathers and my father knew.

Our country is going through some tough times right now. I believe we need some new songs, but I write books--not music. I write romances with guaranteed happy endings. That's what romances are all about--the good feeling at the end when it all works out for the characters--even if there's been some tough times--even if there have been tears and frustration--even if the characters lose their jobs and their healthcare. There is hope.

We need positive, uplifting songs right now. Songs with easy melodies, clear simple words, and stimulating choruses. Songs that will give us all a good feeling. Songs that will promote brotherhood. Songs that will put an end to divisiveness.

We need songs to help us work together like one big, happy--if somewhat dysfunctional--family. Joyful songs.

Can somebody please get to work on that?

Friday, September 03, 2010

Suspending My Disbelief

A writer cannot make every reader happy. Occasionally, an author will write something that rubs a reader the wrong way.
I was clipping the hedges the other day when I remembered a scene in a novel I read many years ago where the heroine was also clipping hedges. The book was written by a very well-known novelist who has sold a gazillion books. I had loved the first book of hers that I read--so I got another one. However, in the second one, the heroine's situation annoyed me a bit. To me, it seemed unrealistic. But I come from humble beginnings. What do I know about the lives of the rich and famous? Only what I read in the gossip papers or see on television. Nevertheless, the plot held together and I finished the book.

I bought a third book by the same author. I frowned when I reached the part of the story where the heroine goes outside to clip hedges. It wasn't a long drawn out episode. It was a simple reaction scene which allowed the character to reflect and share her thoughts with the reader.

Unfortunately, the reader happened to be me--a woman who regularly battles bushes and fears that someday the bushes might win. The scene completely shattered my concentration. I just could not believe for one moment that the author had ever held a pair of hedge shears in her hands. Of course, it was entirely possible for the character in the book to be involved with clipping those hedges. But I was not thinking of the character. I was thinking of the author.

It was an unfair reaction on my part, but that's what happened. For me, the experience of reading that particular book was ruined. My response does not mean the author was not a good writer--after all, she's sold a lot of books over the years! For me, she simply happened to hit on a raw nerve.

To read a book, every reader must suspend their disbelief and accept the world within the novel. What happens in the story does not have to be real--otherwise we would not have Harry Potter and Twilight. However, all events should seem plausible given the boundaries established by the author.

I've written stories that could never realistically occur--genuine fantasies with lots of paranormal magical stuff. Tadeusz in The Beast of Blackbirch Manor was cursed by a witch and is going to turn into a wolf on his thirty-third birthday unless he finds a woman who loves him. Evidently, readers are willing to suspend their disbelief in reading that book because it's been very popular.

But Tadeusz isn't clipping any hedges in that novel. He's got gardeners to do that job. :^)

Saturday, August 28, 2010

More Cookbooks

I went to another flea market today—a small one at a local park. I bought two cookbooks there despite the fact that I already have a large and varied assortment of cookbooks. However, I couldn’t resist. The first cookbook was the kind put together by a group of people to benefit their organization. Those types of cookbooks I’ve found to have some of the best recipes, ones that are simple but good. I’ve already decided to try one of the recipes this week—Smothered Chicken.

The other cookbook I can justify as a necessary reference book. Daughter #1 spotted it. It is The Victorian Seaside Cookbook, by Anne Bishop and Doris Simpson. It contains authentic recipes of the Victorian era served at hotels along the Jersey shore. It has lots of pictures and even a map of the railroad lines. History is a great deal of fun.

This amazing book contains menus, too. It is truly astounding to read of the quantity and variety of food served at each meal during the Victorian era.

Here I am, in 2010, counting every calorie I put into my mouth. By contrast, the Victorians seem like gluttons. Their breakfasts started with fruit, clam broth, and then a hot cereal. Next came three or four kinds of fish, grilled steaks, lamb chops, liver, and eggs. Following that, they heaped creamed codfish or beef, ham and bacon, several varieties of potatoes, hominy, and fried mush on their plates. In addition, there were griddle cakes with syrup plus hot chocolate, coffee, tea, milk or malted milk.

Reading all that made me groan. When I read about the Victorian dinner, which was far more sumptuous, my tummy started to ache.

Nevertheless, I found some of the recipes to be quite interesting. There’s stuffed tomatoes, a favorite of President Fillmore. There’s also rice pudding, said to be a favorite of President Grant.

Since we are what we eat, I do wonder about those Victorians. They spent a lot of time eating way back when along the Jersey shore.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Road Scholars

In a writer’s life, every experience can lead to an idea for a story. Every new vista can become the setting for another plot. Every person I meet has the possibility of becoming a character or at least having some facet of their personality spark the basis for a character. Going on a different adventure is the best way for me to “fill the well” in my mind in preparation for future books.

This year, hubby and I decided to try an elderhostel vacation. We signed up with Road Scholar. One couple we know had gone on a few trips with the elderhostel and recommended the company to us.

After considerable thought, we chose a tour based in White River Junction, Vermont. Our host was David Briggs of the Hotel Coolidge. We learned about Vermont railroads and small gauge railroads. The tour included a field trip to the top of Mount Washington where we rode the cog railway to the top of the mountain. We also went for a ride on an Amtrak train as well as a ride on the Green Mountain Railroad. In addition, we learned more about the region’s history, humor, and economics.

Other attendees came from as far away as California and Kentucky—though most were from other northeastern states. One woman had been on fifty elderhostel trips. Another on twenty. Hubby and I were the newbies—and I was undoubtedly the youngest in the group.

The price of the tour included all meals. The food was excellent but one of my favorite activities was being able to dine with our fellow travelers and compare life stories. I like to talk, but I am just as happy soaking up conversations and tucking them in the back of my mind. (Some small nugget of information might come in handy when I’m slogging through my plot one night.)

We found the lecturers in the program to be not only knowledgeable but passionate in their love of the subject they taught. Also funny. :^)

We had one afternoon free. Since Dartmouth wasn’t far way, hubby and I checked out the Hood Museum of Art (very nice and FREE!). We also visited Quechee Gorge.

On Thursday night, we were treated to a movie A Man With A Plan produced by a local Vermonter, John O’Brien. I would classify the film as political satire—but it was also funny, cute, and poignant. No violence, no sex, no outrageous special effects—but well worth watching. I bought the DVD.

I took a lot of notes during the lectures and I have a list of recommended books to read.

Will I write a book set in Vermont involving the railroads and White River Junction?

Maybe. I wrote down a few ideas on my Alphasmart as we journeyed home. However, I have to let everything percolate for a while in my mind.

There was one question I forgot to ask while I was in Vermont. There’s also a few details about the town of White River Junction that I need to clarify. My research is not finished yet!

Saturday, August 07, 2010

New Old Words

I've been reading The Red Rover by James Fenimore Cooper. I downloaded it from Project Gutenberg last year after I had visited J.F. Cooper's birthplace in Burlington, New Jersey. I had not known until that visit that Cooper had been in the Navy. Years ago, I read The Water Witch, because it was set in the Highlands of New Jersey. However, I did not know about The Pilot and The Red Rover, Cooper's other books with very nautical settings. I've already read The Pilot, but I am now reading The Red Rover. It's a good story (a pirate story!!!) but it goes slowly. Cooper was, like most authors of his time, verbose. He uses a lot more words to get from one point to the other.

The surprising thing is sometimes Cooper's vocabulary--ancient words that are completely out of common usage. I am an avid reader and coming across these little nuggets has had me reaching for the dictionary. The old words are still there, but it makes me sad that they are getting moldy. However, if I use any unfamiliar words in my manuscripts, I could lose readers. Odd words stand out like little red flags and take the reader out of the flow of the story.

Of course, there are always new words popping up in our language. The English language is alive and well and constantly changing. It is so rich and full of nuances that working with it is a joy.

Below are a few words from Cooper's The Red Rover that I looked up at

habiliment –noun
Usually, habiliments.
clothes or clothing.
clothes as worn in a particular profession, way of life, etc.
habiliments, accouterments or trappings.

Porteous-Porteous, John , d. 1736, British soldier. He was captain of the Edinburgh town guard at the execution (1736) of Andrew Wilson, a smuggler. When the crowd, which was sympathetic to Wilson, rioted, the guard fired into it, killing eight or nine persons. Porteous was tried and sentenced to death, but his execution was postponed. On Sept. 7, 1736, an indignant mob took him from prison and hanged him, a crime for which no one was brought to justice despite the efforts of the government. Incidents of the Porteous riot are used by Sir Walter Scott in The Heart of Midlothian.

a rogue, vagabond, thief, or brigand.
a pirate or corsair.
–verb (used without object)
to act or operate as a pirate or brigand.

mantling–noun Heraldry .
a decorative piece of cloth represented as hanging from a torse so as to cover the sides and rear of a helmet and often so as to frame the escutcheon below.

I think everyone should read lots of classic books, which anyone can get for free at Project Gutenberg. It's a great way to learn some new old words. :^)

Saturday, July 24, 2010

A Visual Trail of Delight

It has been a year since my mother died. This week I finally decided to go through the large bin of my mother's photographs. I picked out the pictures Ma had taken of my husband, our daughters and me. My sisters have to go through the bin and pick out what they wish to keep, too.

There are a lot of photos of scenery. My mother's passion was painting. She started out in oils and later switched to watercolors. A prolific artist, she was always searching for a new scene to capture so that she could paint it later. There are photographs of old barns, covered bridges, flowers, seascapes, pastoral farm scenes, and the overflowing abundance of a harvest of fruit.

Few of the photos are labeled though I do recognize some of the locations. There are hundreds of these photographs. Each one is a project my mother did not get a chance to complete, which is a rather depressing way to think of the situation. The fact is that each picture also represents the hope she had to do more.

My mother loved to paint. It gave her joy. Each photograph holds a spark of excitement that I can almost feel as I hold the picture in my hand. It's like I'm looking through the lens and getting that little tickle inside telling me this is going to be fun.

My mother left a wonderful legacy behind her, a visual trail of the delight she experienced in God's beautiful world.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Out of the Frying Pan, Into the Fire

New Jersey was enduring a record heat wave when we packed up for our annual road trip to Florida to see hubby’s parents. We did not know what to expect this year. Hubby had flown down a few times by himself this past year to help his parents. His father had broken his hip last September and needed constant nursing care. By February, hubby had arranged for his parents to move into an assisted living facility. His mother resisted the idea of leaving her house, but hubby insisted and she grudgingly went. Once his parents were both safely installed in their new apartment, we assumed life would be easier.

However, Mom was not happy. While she admitted that the food provided at the facility was good, that was the only thing she seemed to appreciate. With every phone call, she reminded us to get out our black suits. If hubby called the head nurse to ask about his parents, his mother became very angry with us for going behind her back.

Still, we knew the staff handled many tasks that had become difficult for Mom. They bathed Dad and gave him his medicine, they made doctor’s appointments and, of course, transportation to the doctor was provided.

The facility also provides many excursions along with entertainment programs, but Mom told us she did not participate in those. She and Dad ate in the dining room, but spent the rest of the day in their room watching television.

When we told Mom we would be staying for a week, she was angry. She thought we would be staying for three weeks. When we told her we would be staying at a nearby hotel, which had a pool and wi-fi, she was angry. “What do you think this is, a vacation?”

She expected us to stay in her old house. But there isn’t any wi-fi there—or television. Besides, the hotel was closer to the assisted care facility where Mom and Dad are now.

We were relieved when we arrived and saw Mom and Dad looking good, well-fed, clean and well-dressed. Though Dad can barely hear, his vision isn’t good, and he’s not really attentive most of the time—there are those moments when he is much like he’s always been—a big tease.:^)

Hubby talked with the head nurse. I drove Mom to the mall so she could buy new shoes.

Hubby discovered that his father is simply very aged. I found out that Mom still has plenty of energy but she frequently contradicts herself.

Our biggest mistake was to agree to take Mom to the house. She wanted us to look it over and see if it is in need of a new paint job before it is put on the market.

Also, we were supposed to be the cleaning crew.

Okay. No problem.


I expected emotion. Mom cried. I got choked up, too. After all, we brought our daughters down every summer and we had some good times in that house.

But then Mom opened the door to air out the house. In Florida--in July--airing out the house means letting in all the humidity and heat. I vacuumed all the rugs as sweat ran down my face. Hubby helped Mom clean all the mirrors.

Hubby and I do not think the house needs to be repainted. However, when hubby turned the water on, I heard the toilet running. The valve needed to be replaced.

Meanwhile, Mom’s emotions went from tears to anger. She wants to move back into her house.

No amount of logic could do anything to change her mind. When we returned to the apartment, I offered to hang up some of the paintings that had been taken from the house. Hubby said he had left a small hammer and picture hooks in a drawer in the apartment. Mom claimed one of the staff had stolen the hammer and hooks.

Hubby and I searched the apartment. I found the hammer and hooks in a cardboard box in the closet.

Mom exploded. She did not want the pictures hung on the walls. She was not staying in the apartment. She was moving back home!

Hubby and I left the apartment. We went to a Mexican restaurant and had very large Margaritas.

We decided not to take Mom to the house again. We stopped at Home Depot and bought the toilet valve replacement. Hubby put it in while I cleaned up some disgusting moldy gunk on the floor in the old family room. Yuck.

The next day, we ate in the dining room with Mom and Dad. I tried to suggest that Mom should go on some of the excursions offered by the facility. She said she won’t because then the staff will find out how bad Dad is and they’ll put it in his report and soon he’ll be locked away in Memory Lane and she’ll never see him again.

Again, logic did not help the matter. She only got more worked up.

We decided to take Mom and Dad on an excursion to the beach. That turned out to be a good idea. For a few hours, all was calm, but when we said we were taking them back to the apartment, Mom got angry again. She wanted us to spend every minute of the day with her.

The next day, we took them to another beach. Again, all was pleasant for a while. Dad and Mom sang songs together and I captured those precious moments with my camera.

Then we took them back to the apartment in time for their dinner. Again, Mom was angry, but we promised to be back immediately after dinner.

Hubby had retrieved his old accordion from the house. He brought music along and so as everyone in the dining hall was finishing their supper, we provided an impromptu concert.

The residents loved it. I sang, hubby played. We kept it up for over and hour. Mom was all smiles as all the residents learned that the musician was her son.

The concert ended. We went upstairs to Mom and Dad’s apartment. We thought we could leave the accordion there so that it would be available for the next time we visit.

Mom complained. “What am I going to do with it when I move back to the house?”


Again, hubby reiterated that it would be nice so that the next time he visits he could play for everyone.

“Do you think we’ll be here next time you visit?” Mom asked.

Hubby picked up the accordion. We gave Mom and Dad a hug, said goodbye and left quickly.

It was difficult to endure Mom’s anger directly solely at us.

Otherwise, from all we could see, she is very sweet to the staff and to the other residents. In fact, the women that sit at the table in the dining room with Mom and Dad for every meal told me how much they enjoy all the stories Mom tells.

And Mom does go on at least one excursion on a regular basis. Every two weeks, the facility provides a bus trip to the library less than half a block from Mom’s old home. She hops on the bus and visits her house every two weeks.

For years, we’ve asked Mom and Dad to move near us. They’ve always refused.

I don’t expect the gloom and doom phone calls to change, but we do know Mom and Dad are in good hands.

Hubby plans to fly down for Mom and Dad’s 70th Wedding Anniversary. They are so fortunate.

But don’t try telling that to Mom.

Saturday, July 03, 2010

I Bought a Nook

Most people know I'm a bookaholic--so this year I amassed $85 in Barnes and Nobles giftcards, which is really amazing and I thank all those who were so generous to me. The problem is I already have a zillion books in my To-Be-Read pile. I try to stay away from bookstores. However, the temptation is often too strong. Last week, the local AAUW had its yearly book sale when all the books were priced at $5 a bag. I filled the bag--to the brim--and felt guilty for adding more books to my collection.

Then the price of the Nook came down to $149. I already have an eBookwise reader, which I love. I love the backlight that allows me to read in the dark. I can read while hubby is driving, while hubby is sleeping, and while hubby is listening to jazz music in the park. (Hint: I am not a fan of jazz.)

But the Nook has Wi-Fi, I can check my email, my Facebook, and my Twitter--and download books from the air--or best of all--upload my current manuscript into the Nook as a PDF and then edit it. The font selection goes from very small to very big. :^) The display uses e-ink which is easy on the eyes. With $85 in giftcards, I only needed $64 of my own cash to complete the transaction.

So I bought the Nook. But then I needed a cover to protect it and Barnes and Noble had a neo-hippie purple and pink cover with an orange heart on one side and a peace symbol on the other for $29.95. How could I resist?

So for the past few days, I've been playing with my new Nook. I downloaded a free copy of Jane Eyre into it, but it came loaded with some all time hits like Pride and Prejudice and Dracula as well as some interesting samples.

Then I downloaded The Jesuit Guide to (Almost) Everything, a book I've been wanting to get. It took moments for it to load into my Nook. This could be a very dangerous toy for a bookaholic.

Surfing the web isn't all that easy. The touch screen is small, but very sensitive. It is not as fast as a computer. Still, after a bit of practice, I can manage it. I think having small fingers helps.

The Nook came with two games, chess and Sudoku. I don't play games, except for Scrabble--and that I like to do with real, live people.

The Nook can also hold music files. I moved some of my classical Chopin files into the Nook. Now I can read AND listen to Chopin. No matter where I go, I can feel like I'm inside Barnes and Noble's store.

I'm happy with my Nook. I am so delighted that ebooks have finally been recognized as being as good as paper books. It took so much longer than I anticipated when I first became an e-published author, but to see the general public embracing the new technology is wonderful. I see people reading on their ebook devices in doctor's waiting rooms and on the subway.

The Nook is a very nice gadget.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Review of The Hunted of 2060

In the summertime, I get a little extra time to read. Very often, I enjoy reading something quite different from my usual fare and since I seldom read sci-fi novels, I knew I had to broaden my horizons. I can count on one hand the sci-fi novels that I've read. My sister told me I had to read The Martian Chronicles and my children quoted The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy so much, I felt compelled to see what intrigued them. Of course, I loved the original Star Trek, but that was because I was young and infatuated with Captain Kirk at the time. Still, I have also read the delightful Star Sapphire by Han May (Joan Fong).

So for this summer's adventure into sci-fi, I read The Hunted of 2060, by Ami Rebecca Blackwelder. (ISBN: 1452805474 and ISBN: 9781452805474)
The novel concerns April who is nineteen and studying at the university when she begins to suffer from an odd illness. Her boyfriend, Robert, is always there to offer comfort, but April cannot understand the changes in her body--the incredible heightening of her senses, her strength and speed. Her lust for meat.

Then one day walking along the campus between classes, she is rendered unconscious. Waking in the forest, she sees a face exactly like her own. April’s twin sister tells her the truth. She is a hybrid. Her father was an alien shifter, her mother human. While April was given up at birth for adoption, Arquet, her sister, was raised with other hybrid clans in the forest. None of them trust humans.

The Rogue Militia is dedicated to wiping out the hybrids and April must fight for survival with the rest of her clan. Will she ever be able to go back to her life at the university and her sweet, loyal boyfriend, Robert?

Torn between her two natures, April longs for the serenity of her former life but she cannot stop the beast within her from emerging. She must learn to kill to save those she loves, but the enemy will not end the slaughtering of hybrids. The unarmed hybrids are pitted against warriors with modern weapons. It is April who must make the clans realize there are some humans who can be trusted—some who can help them in their battle for freedom.

Readers will love April. She is a worthy heroine caught in terrible circumstances who must stand up for the cause of justice. With one battle after another, the book is fast paced and full of action, but for me it was April’s tender love and devotion which made this book an enjoyable read.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Magic Wings

Months ago, I started giving away free short stories at my website, One of the stories,"A Shade of Difference," has a Blue Morpho butterfly in it. So when I announced that particular story was available for a download at my website, I found an image of that butterfly and uploaded it to this blog.

My sister noticed the image of the butterfly on my blog and told me of a place in Deerfield, Massachusetts, where there are plenty of live Blue Morpho butterflies flitting about in a greenhouse along with many other varieties of butterflies.

Magic Wings is indeed a magical place. There were plenty of Blue Morpho butterflies gliding around the greenhouse. The creatures are rather large, but some of them fly low so visitors do have to step carefully as they walk through the garden. One butterfly took a liking to my brother-in-law's green shirt and stayed there for a while.

Visitors have to check for butterflies hitchhiking a ride before they leave the greenhouse. This is a great place for young and old to see. You never know, it might give you an idea for a story. :^)

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Almost Lost

I almost lost this small cross at the gym. The chain broke while I was on the treadmill at the gym. I grabbed the chain but I could not find the cross--and it is a special one because my brother gave it to me for my eighteenth birthday.

Hubby searched with me but there was no sign of the little cross. I figured the only thing I could do was report the loss to the manager and hope someone would find it while cleaning. I was also hoping it wouldn't get stuck in some gear in the treadmill.

However, first I stopped in the ladies room and there I found the little cross nestled close to my heart inside my bra. :^)

Now I just need a new chain.

But the moral of the story is to remove any jewelry before going to the gym.

Saturday, June 05, 2010

First Impressions, The Book Cover

Congratulations to Kathy Otten. She won the set of notecards!

So far, my best selling book online has been the digital version of The Beast of Blackbirch Manor with the cover below.

The publisher changed the cover for the print version of the book.

Why? I don't know. Which cover do you find more attractive? Which one would you buy?

My latest release, The Fiend of White Buck Hall, has the cover you see below.

For some unknown reason, Amazon has not given the digital version of the book a cover. I did tell my publisher, and I did try to upload it myself to no avail. So on Amazon the book cover for digital version of The Fiend of White Buck Hall looks like this:

Despite the lack of a cover, there are readers who have purchased the digital version of that book. :^)

Book covers are an author's first impression for a reader. I have been disappointed in some of the covers I've received and ecstatic with others, but my opinion of the cover does not necessarily correlate with the sales of the books. Sales are influenced by other factors as well. However, a great book cover does help and I truly appreciate the skill of the artists who have worked on the covers for my books.

Look at the three books below. Which one would you choose to read--based on your first impression?

Anyone who comments from now until Friday, June 11, 2010, will be entered into a drawing. The winner will receive a set of notecards with the images of my bookcovers on the front of the notecards.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

At the Library

I love to talk about books! I had a wonderful, attentive audience today at the Monmouth County Eastern Branch Library. They asked some great questions.

It was fun. :^)

Sunday, May 09, 2010

Rolling With the Punches

Please see the follow-up for this post at:
It’s been a tough year for the Marzecs with too many hospitalizations of family members.

I’ve never watched television soap operas and for the most part, I’ve seldom been intrigued by any television series because I’ve got plenty of drama all around me.

Unfortunately, it’s not simply drama in the theatrical sense, it’s real—it’s painful—it doesn’t go away—and there isn’t always a happy ending. (Which is why I’m hooked on romances—I always get a happy ending no matter how bad things look in the beginning.)

Of all the difficult circumstances this year, the hardest one to take was discovering the tumor in Daughter #2’s head grew back after last year’s surgery to remove it. (You can read about that operation HERE.)

As soon as she found out the tumor had returned, she eliminated anything artificial from her diet and began to eat everything thought to reduce tumors. Yes, the tumor is technically benign, but it’s in a bad place. It presses on the facial nerve, the brain, and has been the cause of the loss of her hearing in her left ear.

This past week, Daughter #2 had her second surgery for the acoustic neuroma.

(Above: Waiting for surgery to begin.)

(Above: The surgeon's mark)

As we did last year, hubby and I stayed at Daughter #2’s Brooklyn apartment and took the subways to NYU Medical Center where the surgery was done. It was a long, delicate procedure and we did not see Daughter #2 in the recovery room until around 8:30 p.m.

Though she was groggy, she was able to speak to us. She was very concerned as to whether her facial muscles worked. The ones on her left side are weak, but minimally—so she may regain her wide smile. She told us to take out the garbage and to tell her landlord she was okay.

Exhausted, we headed back to Brooklyn late that night. However, we stopped to listen to an accordion player at the 14th Street station. Music is magical, no matter what else is going on—music touches the soul in a special way. The elderly accordionist played old folk tunes on his very ancient instrument. It was nice to take a break in all the hectic craziness of the 14th Street station.

By the next morning, Daughter #2 was doing very well. She was eating. Last year, for the first few days after surgery, she spent a lot of time being nauseous.

(Above:The morning after surgery--looking good.)

The doctors claim to have removed 95% of the tumor. They could not get it all because the facial nerve rested on it. So if the tumor grows—as it did last time, the next step is the gamma knife. Daughter #2 had an MRI on the third day, the results of that will give the doctors a baseline to assess any tumor growth.

(Above: The view from Daughter #2's room in intensive care.

Also on the third day, Daughter #2 had all the wires and tubes removed. Though she was still in ICU, her coworkers came to visit, which cheered her immensely.

(Above: Daughter #2 and some of her co-workers.)

(Above: The Impressive Scar)

The next day, the doctors took the bandage off. She has an impressive scar. Discharged from the hospital, she will now recuperate at home.

As for me, I’m just rolling with the punches.

Friday, April 30, 2010

Tracking Book Sales

I never know how my books are selling at my publishers' websites until I get a royalty statement from them. However, I can check my books' sales ranks at Barnes and Nobles as well as Fictionwise and I frequently do--though on Fictionwise it isn't easy because I must scroll through the lists. It is far easier to keep track of my sales on Amazon since there are several sites that will track my sales for me.

By far, my favorite tracking site is because that site will also track Kindle sales. It lists how many books were sold and when.

I also like Metric Junkie--mostly for their colorful graphs, though Kindle sales are not included. And for me, Kindle sales have been rather nice. :^)

For a simple listing of sales ranks, which is only for paper editions, I go to This site will also list Amazon sales in other countries, too.

These tracking sites are helpful tools! Using them helps me to know if my promotional efforts have been effective.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Rutgers Day

Two of my sisters graduated from Rutgers. Daughter #2 graduated from Rutgers and Daughter #1 works for Rutgers. Since today's weather was perfect, we decided to be a part of Rutgers Day and joined the sea of people inundating the campus.

We bought food in front of the Food Science building.

Here's the famous Passion Puddle--still an idyllic spot.

We went to the Busch campus next. Daughter #1 works at the Cell and DNA Repository so we took a tour of it.

Afterwards, we tried some vanilla liquid nitrogen ice cream. Then hubby and Daughter #1 decided to try a Segway. Daughter #1 got the hang of it quickly.

At one exhibit, I learned how to tell the difference between a female and male skull. Maybe I can use that knowledge in a book someday.

We all had a great time. Although I was a bit disappointed that we did not see the Scarlet Knight. He was supposed to be on campus somewhere. :^(

Thursday, April 15, 2010

One Long Dark Night

My father has rarely talked of his experiences as a sergeant in the Air Force during during World War II. He was stationed in New Guinea and the Philippines. When I was young he told us of a few humorous incidents, but nothing that ever even hinted at the horrors of war. For instance, once he was assigned to fly on a plane to Australia to pick up musicians and supplies. On the return trip, one of the plane's engines died and to make it back safely those inside had to lighten the load--part of which was gin. Did the men on board get toss the gin into the ocean? Of course not. They tossed out the musicians' instruments.

This story always made everyone laugh, and Dad has always been rather witty. However, since Mom died, he's become much more philosophical. And he still gets emotionally choked up--over just about everything.

Last Sunday, as we chatted after dinner, he related some war stories he had never told us. In one of them, he told how Japanese paratroopers floated down from the sky at dusk one evening on the island where he was stationed. My father set his men along a perimeter but as night wore on, he could not see the men and he did not know if the perimeter would hold.

He told us he was never so glad to see the dawn and to discover that indeed his men were still there. Dad got choked up as he told us the story.

Dad told us how he slept under a canvas roof for three years. How his job was to get men to work on an landing strip made of metal plates. How the enemy would come in with "daisy cutters" and shoot at the men. How the enemy planes would drop bombs on the landing strip.

Last year, I posted a photo I found online of my father. You can find the post here.

Dad wears a cap with the emblem of the Fifth Bomber Command sewed onto it. Most people have no idea what the emblem stands for. However, only a few weeks ago--at the dermatologist's office--we met another elderly man who had served in the Fifth, though in Korea. My father got choked up again, simply amazed after all these years he had found someone else who belonged to the Fifth--who knew what the emblem stood for.

I am glad my father made it back to New Jersey.

I pray for all those soldiers who are fighting now.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Distracting Myself

Last week Daughter #3 was in a hospital two hours away from home. We had a gloomy Easter because she was feeling really terrible! We brought her back home on Wednesday and she's now on the mend. Hopefully this was just what she needed so she can be better than ever. Today she was out in the sunshine soaking up some Vitamin D. So all is well.

However, the four hours of driving did get a bit wearing so I guzzled down a few cups of coffee to keep alert. I am so glad I can read and write in a moving vehicle. I have never gotten carsick, bus sick, train sick, or seasick. So while hubby was driving, I was typing on my Alphasmart, or reading, or editing. Hubby had an accordion CD playing, but it didn't bother me. I can tune out his music. I can get a lot done on a long car ride--especially when I'm tanked up on coffee.

Of course, whenever I drive he has to listen to my music. :^)

Today I gave a talk at RWA NYC about marketing e-books. I wrote and revised a lot of that talk while we were going back and forth to see Daughter #3 in the hospital. Writing that talk was a good diversion.

That's the way I usually operate. I firmly believe in distraction. Everyone has troubles, but rather than dwell on them I keep busy. It works for me. It's kept me sane--or at least as sane as a writer can be because I have all these imaginary people in my head who want me to tell their story.

And right now, Grace and Russell are getting impatient. I've got to finish their story. They're about to go to Minnesota for a wedding.

Sure beats going to a hospital.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

What I Did During the Nor'Easter

Yesterday, while New Jersey was being hammered by a nor'easter, I got up early and drove north on the Parkway to Woodbridge to attend the Liberty States Fiction Writers conference. Once there, I chatted with old friends and some new ones. I listened to Sarah Wendell insist that authors should be putting up free digital content on their website. I listened to F. Paul Wilson talk about the writing life.

I also had appointments with two editors and one agent. I was trying to sell a contemporary romance which doesn't fit in with my current publishers' lines. I was also trying to find a home for my two fantasy novellas which were previously published by New Concepts Publishing. The rights of those two novellas have been returned to me.

I am not a neophyte when it comes to pitching a book. I have done it many times--though I am always nervous about it. Invariably, no matter how much I practice, my brain will disconnect at some point and fail to mention a critical plot point. When I suddenly realize an important piece of plot is missing, I will stumble over my words.

Fortunately, the majority of editors and agents are not fire-breathing dragons. (There may be a few out there, but I haven't met them yet.) I was not singed despite my inept pitches. I will be sending off my manuscripts once I read through them again and make sure I have all my commas in place.

Convincing someone else that I've written a really good book takes more than a ten minute interview. They have to read the book, too. :^)

Thursday, March 04, 2010

It's All in the Details

Hubby and I went to the beach on Sunday. It was mild for February even though the sand had plenty of snow on it as did the boardwalk. We watched one woman hand breadcrumbs to her children so they could feed the seagulls. The birds squabbled with each other over every piece. Of course, people really should not feed them, but it was interesting to watch the birds--up close. They weren't afraid of us. I think they figured we might be giving them a handout, too. They watched us rather expectantly.

Even if I didn't have a camera in my hand, I'm sure I could recall many of the details if I needed to use a similar scene in one of my books. Since I grew up at the shore, it's easy for me to create an accurate picture. I know the vocabulary of the beach, the color of the sand, the things that drift in on the tide, the smell of the ocean, the sound of the waves, and the cry of the gulls. Then there's that peaceful feeling that settles on everyone when they stare out at the vast expanse of water.

The beach has a special ambiance all its own, but no two days are alike at the beach. There's the beach in the fog (which is really awesome), on a windy day, and on a sweltering day in July. Same scene--different atmosphere, which is great for mirroring the mood in the story. It's all in the details.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Blogging at Backseat Nightmares

Check out the blog at Backseat Nightmares today. See what I have to say about the Chinese zodiac and me at

Which animal in the Chinese zodiac are you?

You can find out at:

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Book Video for The Fiend of White Buck Hall

I spent the past few days putting together a book video for The Fiend of White Buck Hall. I bought several stock photos from iStockphoto, but as usual I had several photos of my own to use. The mansion in the video is Batso. The park scenes are from Thompson Park.

In fact, the initial idea for The Fiend of White Buck Hall came from a walk in the park one evening at dusk. We heard and saw an owl in a tree high above us. Then Daughter #2 swore she heard a deer stamping the ground behind us.

I did not see a deer, but it was getting a bit creepy. So we hurried out of there as quickly as we could. The park ranger was waiting by our car. :^)

You can find the book at Currently, it is only available in digital form.

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Just Released!

They say Thomas Hillyer, a wizard, is in league with the Devil and that the white buck roaming his estate hypnotizes people and steals their souls. Molly is a fugitive, wanted for a crime she did not commit. Seeing a want ad for a secretary in a sleepy town, she sets off for White Buck Hall but ignores the warning about the albino stag who lurks in the woods. When she meets him on the forest path, her life is forever changed.

You can read the first chapter at:

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Latest Interview

If you want to know more about me, it's easy. Just go to:

There's a brand new interview with all sorts of fascinating details about my life. :^)


Sunday, January 24, 2010

Another One

Yesterday's weather was lovely. Hubby and I decided to visit a bigger, more elaborate labyrinth. This one is on the grounds of the Upper Room Spiritual Center. Below you can see hubby walking around.

There's a small plaque that explains a bit about labyrinths.

I am totally hooked on labyrinths now and want to visit as many as I can.

Monday, January 18, 2010


The temperature was around fifty degrees outside today, which was quite nice for the middle of January and the perfect day for a walk.

I had happened to see a small article in Woman's World magazine about labyrinths. The article claimed that walking in a labyrinth endows you with peace and focus. It can also assist you in thinking more creatively and give you powerful insights--great stuff for a writer! And if you're stressed, it's supposed to alleviate that problem, too. I thought this would be a just the thing for hubby and I to experience. All I had to do was find one with the labyrinth locator at:

It turned out that there was a labyrinth nearby. Unfortunately, a tree had fallen on part of the maze. But hubby and I dutifully followed the pathways as much as we could. Hubby was concerned whether we were doing it right.

We finished it quickly and I really did not feel any more focused or more peaceful. But perhaps I need to walk in another labyrinth--a bigger one.

I looked up more information on labyrinths at so that next time I'll have the proper attitude when we walk along the winding paths. We'll do it right!

Saturday, January 02, 2010

Great Review for The Company You Keep!

The Company You Keep received Four Coffee Cups from Cherokee, a reviewer for Coffee Time Romance. She said, "The Company You Keep is a delightful story. I enjoyed the simmering chemistry that slowly continued to brew between Jennifer and Nathan. The suspense spills along the way, and keeps the reader engaged and on the edge-of-the-seat. With each page, I was taken deeper and deeper into this driven read. Penelope Marzec builds an in-depth story, and driven players that captivate. I found the foundation of the storyline wonderfully done. This story not only kept this reader guessing until the conclusion, but also left a wonderful sensation in the soul after this unique read."

You can read the entire review at

The book is available at Crescent Moon Press. Check it out!