Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Do You Do It In the Morning, Afternoon, Night, Or All of These?

I can do it on the train in the morning, in the afternoon on my days off of work, or late at night when the DH and the dog are sleeping. Sometimes I do it on a TV tray, while I'm watching television, but not often, because it's harder to concentrate that way.

I'm talking about writing, in case you're wondering.

What about you? When does inspiration strike you?

Are you a morning person, or does it take you a while to wake up and get started?

Or maybe you're a Night Owl?

Please tell us. When do you do it?

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Do Bloggers Visit Websites?

At the end of August, I jumped headfirst into the blogosphere and began blogging here daily. Before then, I'd just dabbled with blogging, posting Wednesday blogs at my group blogspot,

A chance mention of the listserv, blogbooktours, in a blog by Echelon publisher, Karen Syed, led me into the blogging labyrinth where I've since become willingly entangled.

As I honed my blog, I began visiting other blogs and leaving comments. In the process I've made countless cyber friends. Each friend leads me to another. When I read a blog, I usually leave a comment. This courtesy is reciprocated at my blogspot, even by bloggers I've never visited before.

Now that I'm a full-fledged blogger, I spend about 95 per cent of my time at blogspots and not websites. Blogspots seem more current, more personal, are faster to get in and out of, plus they afford the option of leaving my opinion on the topic of the day.

Because of my tendency, which I presume is shared by others, it's all the more important that my blogspot be as much as it can be, with catchy post titles, hot topics, excerpts from my books, buy links, a website link just in case a blogger should wish to wander over, plus a blogroll, a followers section, bookmark option, and other features.

I've done what I can to lure bloggers here, but a question still lurks in my mind. Since I've become guilty about ignoring websites, do other bloggers do the same thing?

Do you visit websites? If so, how often?

Please share.

Monday, December 29, 2008

What is the Best Time to Post?

I've been wondering. Is it better to post a blog way at the beginning of the day or wait until afternoon? How many people have time to read a blog bright and early?

On weekdays, many are rushing to get ready for work in the morning. On weekends, they're probably catching up on sleep.

On the other hand, some people do have time and make it a habit to access the Internet before work, or while commuting by using a laptop computer or other device. Some are lucky enough to receive full Internet access at work with no restrictions.

Other workers wait until evening when they can sit in front of their computers and read email and blogs at their leisure.

Retirees, stay-at-home-moms or Mr. Moms, the work-from-homers, when do they like to read blogs and email? Does it change from day-to-day or do they have certain down times from their duties when they go online?

What is your preferred time for reading blogs, or does it vary? Please share.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Trials by Wind, Cold, Snow, Water

A new river - the backyard!
First we had the trial by wind, coupled with that of cold, when the wind chills dipped to 25-30 degrees below zero. Then came the trial by snow, when we were blessed with 12 inches of the white stuff. The latest is the trial by water, which began Friday night. All day Saturday it rained, alternating between light and heavy. Do you believe it? A tornado watch in parts of Illinois and Indiana in December. Fortunately, that's been lifted and we're spared that trial.

The good news is so far the ceiling in the kitchen is not dripping. We did have ice shoring up beneath the shingles from our prior trials. I was kind of worried about water dripping down the kitchen ceiling, since that had happened a few days before Christmas. We managed to control it with a few towels and a bowl then, but I didn't know what heavy rains would do so soon afterwards.

The bad news is seepage in the basement started very early Saturday morning and is still going on. This only happens in extreme circumstances, which is certainly the case this time. I know from experience to keep valuables on higher ground, such as on tables, or chairs or counters down there, just in case, so I didn't have to worry about rescuing items. So far, not sewer backup so at least it's not the germy stuff, relatively speaking anyway.

Normally, we can handle a day or so of rains, but not after the recent snowstorm which dumped 12 inches of snow on us. When the snow melted, it had to go somewhere. Some of it poured into the window wells, some under the window wells. Some gathered alongside the patio, making the river effect in my photo. Lots went into the storm sewers on the street outside.

When I watch TV and see the damage wreaked on other homes in the area and see the travelers stranded at the airport, I consider myself lucky. I was able to get to the show and use up my free pass before its expiration at year's end.
At home, the DH, I and Rascal still have electricity, heat and food. My computer and TV are in working order. What more do I need?
What about you? Have you had any weather related problems lately? Did it play havoc with your Christmas or the days after? Please share.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

I haven't the foggiest - yet

Here's a fog photo from our Fall Wisconsin vacation, which seems to fit well with the weather theme here in Illinois today - Heavy fog, temperatures up in the 50s, and rain pouring. I couldn't take a new photo today since I didn't want my Iphone to get wet.

The DH and I have movie passes to use up by the end of the year, so I'm hoping we can get out to the show this afternoon. We'll have to see what we can see then by then.

That's because fog gets in the way, making it hard to make out shapes. Everyday things takes on different dimensions, whether you're driving, walking or whatever you're doing.

I'd never thought of it before, but including fog in one of my mysteries might be a good idea. All kinds of scary things could happen. A killer or monster could hide in the backyard. A murderer could hit someone with a car and make a clean break since the fog hid the license plate. Those are just a few instances.

Maybe you could name a few more. Or, maybe one of you has already written a story with fog playing some type of role. Or, do you know of a novel with fog in it? Please share.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Boxing Day - What Do You Do With Leftovers?

The day after Christmas is celebrated as Boxing Day in Canada and England. It's said the name came from a long ago practice when the rich people boxed up food after Christmas and donated it to the poor. With the food laws these days, I'm not sure if that would be an accepted practice. Now we have food depositories and charities where we can send cash or donate food before it becomes leftovers.

On the subject of leftovers, I have to admit I love them. When I go out to a restaurant and can't eat all the food, I'm not bashful about asking for a carton or a doggy bag. I also enjoy getting leftovers when family or friends have me over.

It's true the leftovers hardly ever taste as good as the first time around, but often they're a close second. Also, they're a reminder of the enjoyable experience I had the first time around.

Okay, I have to admit another reason is I don't go all out with my cooking endeavors except on special occasions or when I have a lot of extra time, which doesn't happen often, so it's nice to just heat something up in the microwave and have it ready to eat.

Anyway, I cooked for the family for Christmas and did have leftovers. Not a whole lot, I'm proud to say, which means they enjoyed the meal. Afterwards I made sure to pack up small cartons for everyone to take home, since I know that's what I would have wanted.

What about you? Do you eat leftovers? Do you ask for doggy bags? Please share - your thoughts, that is. Not your food.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Was Santa Good to You?

When I was a child, we didn't have much money. My parents couldn't afford to spend a lot on Christmas presents, so often they were practical items. The big excitement of the Season was watching for the UPS truck. That truck meant gifts from our grandmother, who liked to be called Nana, in California. She faithfully sent presents each year. We were allowed to open one present the night before Christmas. The others had to wait until after the Christmas service the next morning. One year I opened the present from grandmother on Christmas Eve, a lovely sweater and skirt. The only problem was she'd put it all in one box, so the next morning I had nothing to open from her.

Another year my Nana sent me two small dolls, complete with a tiny plastic closet teaming with clothes. I played with that gift almost every day.

Since then another generation has grown. We've gotten to the point that with the nephews and nieces being older, the family does the grab bag thing to avoid the hassle of running around buying gifts for everyone.

I still enjoy receiving presents, but they're not as important as they used to be. What's more important is being with the loved ones in my life. My husband is with me. My parents are gone, but they left their love behind, plus some wonderful memories as gifts. My friend, Jeanne, has come in from Wisconsin to spend time with us. The DH's aunt and cousins make our Christmas Eve special every year.

On Christmas Day, I've got my brothers, their wives, my nieces and nephews here enjoying my home cooked meal.

Having these people in my life are the best present ever, so I have to say Santa has been very good to me.

What about you?

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Oh Christmas Tree

Christmas trees are a fun part of Christmas. When I was young, our family fell on hard times. Still, we celebrated Christmas in our own way. Dad would go out on Christmas Eve and buy a scrawny tree for a dollar from a vendor in front of the local gas station. We had fun decorating it with tinsel and old fashioned ornaments that were very fragile.

This year, as well as last, I've put up a small fiber optic tree which changes colors and looks pretty in the dark, instead of a full sized one. One reason is because I still don't trust my dog, Rascal, not to do something naughty with the ornaments or lights. Another reason is I can't find a spot for one. I've used up almost every spot in the house and don't know where I'd put a big tree.

The tree pictured here in this blog is in the lobby at the Wellington, a great restaurant in Arlington Heights, Illinois, one of the places where you get the entire meal - soup, salad, main course, plus desert - all in pleasant surroundings, with excellent service. The lobby was so nicely decorated I took advantage of the opportunity to snap several shots there.

I digress. Getting back to trees - I miss having a normal-sized tree in the house for Christmas. Maybe next year I'll break down, put one up and see if it survives. If so, it will be an artificial one I've got stored in the basement, along with various ornaments I've gathered over the years. I've got red ribbon bows also to go on it, along with red wooden cranberry color garland, instead of tinsel.

What about you? Do you have a Christmas tree? If so, what kind, artificial or real? Do you have a certain way you decorate your tree? Please share.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

What's Cooking? Who's Cooking?

I'll be cooking Christmas dinner this year. Two of my brothers and their families will be over. The brothers are vegeterians, but not the wives and offspring, who are no longer kids.

I've had a request from one sister-in-law for ox tails. Since I've never fixed them in my life, my husband who is partial to them, has volunteered to cook some up.

I'll be baking a corn souffle, which is the standard dish I supply when asked to bring something. It's easy to make and hard to mess up. I'll also do two green bean dishes, one with tomatoes and fresh onions, the other standard green bean casserole everyone makes with the mushroom soup and the crunchy onions on top.

Other side dishes will include sweet potatoes , baked potatoes, a big salad with croutons, cottage cheese, also, green olives and black olives for those who prefer garnishments. I'm thinking a leg of lamb also for the non vegetarians, with currant jelly on top for flavor.

To drink, probably apple juice, pop and coffee.

After dinner, we'll drive a mile to my younger brother's family's house, where my sister-in-law will serve desert after feeding her side of the family. I'm not sure if we'll exchange presents there or at our house, but since it's grab bag, if we bring the presents with, it won't be too difficult.

What are your plans for Christmas? Are you cooking or are you let off the hook this time? If you are preparing the meal, what's on your menu? Would you like to share?
Your plans, not your food.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Christmas Movies

One thing I like about the Christmas Season is the great selection of Christmas Movies. There are so many I never tire of watching from year to year.

Saturday I saw the Bishop's Wife with Loretta Young, followed by White Christmas. On one station I've heard they'll be playing the Christmas Story all day for Christmas.

Who doesn't catch at least some part of It's a Wonderful Life, even if not the entire movie each year? When I was freelancing for the Daily Herald I had the honor to meet and interview the all grown-up Karolyn Grimes, who played the child, Zuzu Bailey, in the film. She's the one who says at the end, "Look, Daddy. Teacher says, every time a bell rings an angel gets his wings." Strange, but I never pictured her as anything but a child in the movie, but children do grow up.

Then there's Natalie Wood who played another child in the Miracle on 34th Street, who also has a great phrase, "I believe, I believe, it's silly but I believe."

What about the Bells of St. Mary's with Bing Crosby? That's another great one.

Do you have a favorite Christmas movie? What makes it special? Maybe it's one I've already mentioned, or another. Please share.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

New Fad - People Are Being Nice

A new fad seems to be growing lately. I don't know why, but for some reason people are being nice.

At the stores, the sales people are actually helping me find things. Not only that, they do so in a pleasant manner and even make conversation with me. This has happened not only at card shops, retail stores, but also at grocery stores.

At the cafeteria where I go to lunch almost every day, the chef talks sports with another diner, then asks me what sport I like the best. I confess to him I'm a fair weather fan, as people who've read my Honest Scrap blog here already learned.

Anyway, when I went to pay the bill at the same cafeteria, the cashier says, "Nice to see you again."

At the restaurant Saturday night, the same thing happens. Before, my waitresses would hide from me and pretend I wasn't there. Not this time. The waitress appeared instantly and was very friendly. Not only that, the busboy came over more than once and asked to take away the dirty dishes.

I'm across the street from church trying to navigate the sidewalk when a huge pile of ice-crusted snow blocks my path. My glasses are fogged. I can barely see. I'm not sure how I'll get safely across. A woman appears out of nowhere and holds out her hand to help me. Okay, maybe this one doesn't count since you might expect someone going to Church to be nice.

Still, I'm extremely puzzled about what's going on lately. What is this strange phenomenom? Am I lost in a pleasant dream or is this really happening? If it is, why are people being so nice? Is it the poor economy and they're worried if they don't behave as they should have all along, they might lose their jobs?

Or is the Holiday spirit catching on?

Whatever the reason for this current fad of nicety and helpfulness, I hope it lasts.

What about you? Are you experiencing good will or good service lately at stores, restaurants, or other places? If so, what do you think is the reason? Or, is there one? Please share.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

I Love Dogs, Do You?

If you read my Honest Scrap blog the other day, you'll know that when I was a kid I was afraid of dogs. I remember my parents had gotten a small one, I think an English boxer, but I was so afraid of it they had to give it away. In fact, in those days, if I saw a dog coming, even though it was on a leash with its owner, I'd cross the street to get away from it.

It was not until later on in high school that my fear subsided. That's when my family owned this great Collie named Thunder, which we all loved.

Anyway, my husband and I are now on our fourth dog, all from shelters. First there was Sadie, a Basset Hound, then Missy, an undetermined type mutt, then Morgan, a German Shepherd mix, whose name I stole for my pen name, and our latest, Rascal, who is part Amstaff (pit bull), part Dalmatian, and deaf.

Sadie was adept at howling and we laughed when she did that. She also barked and demanded food scraps because I spoiled her early on. Her great joy was sitting on the couch and staring out the window.

Missy also could do great howling renditions. She learned to do tricks, such as sit up and beg. She also had this gland problem and sometimes scooted her butt across the floor, which was comical. Missy was a charmer, and in the days when we were ambitious enough to throw Christmas parties, which we don't do any more, she was a great hit with the guests. Being a dominant dog, despite her not so large size, we never knew which other dogs she'd get along with. She was picky in that regard.

Morgan, although a fairly large dog, we assume had to have been mistreated as a pup because she was deathly afraid of people and only felt comfortable around my husband and I. She developed a seizure disorder six months after we adopted her, for which we had to medicate her each day. That somewhat controlled the problem, but not completely. If a person were to come into the house, we could almost guaranty the next day she'd get a seizure from her bout of nerves.

Now we have Rascal. She's the only dog we've had that almost every time we go for a walk into town, someone is bound to remark on how unique she is, with her white coat speckled with dots and her black patch around the eye. She loves people and other dogs. Though she can't hear, she's so smart people can't tell unless we clue them in.

The last few weeks the weather has been brutal in the Chicagoland area. Poor Rascal, who very much enjoys her walks and really needs them, has been subjected to quick dashes into our fenced yard and back in again. Today was another terribly cold day, with many of the sidewalks still icy and snowy after the 12 inches we got, but I hit on a good plan.

What we did was drive into town where the sidewalks and streets were already cleared. Then we walked the three blocks with Rascal to her very favorite place, Bentley's Corner Barkery, a small pet-everything store in town, a place she considers dog heaven. The owners, Lisa and Giovanni made a big fuss over Rascal, as usual, and she mooched treats off of them, as usual. Then more dog owners came inside to shop and Rascal conned them into petting her. It was obvious from the way her tail wagged and her eyes sparkled, that she had a great time.

I came home feeling really good we'd had the opportunity to make Rascal happy. That's the thing about dogs. I can't help but love them and want to do things for them. They expect and get so little in life compared to us.

Please share. Are you a dog lover? Or, maybe you like cats? They, too, are adorable, but we've never owned one because of allergies.

Friday, December 19, 2008

I Hate Snow, Do You?

Sorry for two hate-filled posts in a row. Can't help it. That's how life is going lately.

I know I've touched on this subject before, but it bears repeating. That's because it keeps repeating itself. It's not even officially winter, yet here we are in Illinois smacked with another snow storm.

Those people in Vegas who shared some of our snow yesterday were probably happy because it was a novelty for them. It's no novelty to me. I've had to deal with this stuff too many times before. It just gets in the way.

Okay, if I were a kid and could play in it, make snowmen and throw snowballs, I'd probably be happy about the copious amounts of that awful white stuff outside. Or if I were retired and had the luxury of curling up with a book at home or sitting in front of my computer writing, snowfall would be an incidentally pretty backdrop. Or if I'd already finished my Christmas shopping and hadn't wanted to walk the extra three blocks back and forth to the only Carson's left in the Downtown area this morning, the snow would not bother me quite as much.

Unfortunately, I'm none of those. I have a day job to get to. I know when I step out of Ogilivie Transportation Centre I won't be able to shop. I'll be headed straight to the office because those extra three blocks to Carson's will be slippery and too dangerous to maneuver. The bridge over the Chicago River will either be packed with snow or slush covered, two unpleasant scenarios.

On the bright side, the DH did buy a fantastic snowblower before all the snow came, so he's managed to clear the sidewalks around our house, which is no easy chore since we're on a corner. At this point, he's very happy with his purchase.

Since he's off today, he was able to drive me to the station and can pick me up tonight. Once I'm home after work, maybe the snow won't feel so much like a curse, but something pretty. Maybe. Until then, I'm not too happy.

Okay, pile it on. Who out there loves snow? Who hates it? Am I the only one?

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

I Hate Apps - Do You?

I love doing memes or handing out blog awards. They're a great way to network and support fellow bloggers.

I don't know why, but Apps on Social Networks like Facebook and MySpace, and other places, irritate me. I think it's silly to send other members such things as virtual plants and say that will help the environment.

Then you have to pick out what kind of drink to send over. Or answer a quiz, or all kinds of weird crazy games with pirates, vampires and such. As you may guess, I was just over on MySpace and went through a pile of requests to play games. I clicked Ignore on all of them.

Maybe it's because I'm getting old, but I have no patience for such meaningless stuff. Call me a bore, but I'd rather carry on conversations about real things.

What's your opinion? Maybe I'm the only fuddy duddy. Do you like Apps? Or do you also hate them?

Honest Scrap Award

Thanks to the three great bloggers who bestowed the Honest Scrap Award on me. I will cover the requrements all in this one post. Here are the bloggers who gave me the award, in the order I discovered the honors from them. Please feel free to check out their blogspots, as well as those of the new award recipients below.

Christine Verstraete
L. Diane Wolfe
Jean Henry Mead

Now, to fulfill the first requirement -

Ten Honest Scraps About Myself:

1. I'm addicted to tote bags. That'll be the subject of another blog & contest.
2. I'm a fair weather sports fan. I only watch games when they mean something.
3. I forget people's names almost as soon as I learn them.
4. I'm a sporadic housekeeper and often have to play catch-up.
5. I know how to write shorthand.
6. I love playing slots, so I only do it on vacation or I'd go broke.
7. I'm fascinated by computers and gadgets, such as my Iphone.
8. When I read a book, I'm totally in it, but later I forget a lot of the story.
9. I subscribe to many magazines I don't have time to read, but I keep them anyway.
10.I was afraid of dogs when I was a kid, but now I own a pit bull.

And now to pass along the Honest Scrap Award to 7 other lucky recipients. If you've already received one, this just means you're extra special. I don't expect you to send out a new list.

Dana Fredsti
Mark Troy
Marta Stephens
Helen Ginger
Gwyn Ramsey
Mayra Calvani
Dorothy Thompson

I could have named many more, but my limit was 7. I'm sure the circle will widen soon to include those I had to leave out.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Tomorrow, Some Honest Scrap

Three people have passed the Honest Scrap Award on to me in the last few days.

On Wednesday, I'll do a special post revealing 10 honest things about myself. Then I'll bestow this honor on 7 other lucky recipients. Stay tuned.

Please Pass The Global Warming Over to Illinois

We could really use some global warming over here. Yesterday was the worst ever, with freezing rain, sleet and snow the night before making walking and driving most hazardous.

The DH had to be at work at six o'clock but it took him forty-five minutes to clear the van windows of ice, so he was late thirty minutes.

We're only a little over five blocks from the train and I usually have no problem walking. Yesterday, I had big problems. Try crossing a street when you know you'll be stepping down onto ice from the curb. It's not easy. I had to walk around near the curbs to find the best spot to cross, the one with the least amount of ice so I could step over it.

The wind was biting, with a below zero index. The sidewalks were slippery, with only a small coating of snow, not enough for traction, over the ice. I ended up walking on the grass when I could and stepping very carefully over driveways and other areas where there was no grass to walk on.

I left the house 12 minutes early. It usually takes me 13 minutes to get to the train. Yesterday, the gates went down right after I had crossed over.

My problems weren't over yet. Downtown, there's this wonderful bridge over the Chicago River I had to navigate over. You guessed it. It was also icy and scary. Once I'd made it across, the rest of the sidewalks weren't too bad. At that point I only had to put up with the horribly cold wind that had kept blowing the entire morning.

Now we've got a prediction of 3-5 inches of snow at least.,
Please pass us some global warming. We could use it in Illinois.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Jean Henry Mead's Final Tour Stop

Jean Henry Mead

Thinking about a virtual book tour? Do you have what it takes? Here's some insights from Jean Henry Mead who's closing up her tour here today.


Here I am on the last day of my two-week blog tour, exhausted yet happy to have received so many wonderful comments about my book, A Village Shattered, as well as my Wyoming historical novel, Escape, which Angela Wilson also excerpted for her Pop Syndicate site.

What have I learned from this tour? That I was unprepared for the amount of work involved, that I should have started preparing for it months in advance instead of six weeks ahead of time, and that I probably should have taken the time to cultivate more blog sites with huge followings. But I felt more comfortable asking writers whose names I knew well, and who might also benefit from added exposure. The figures are not in yet, so I don’t know if that’s actually happened.

My blog hosts have been great and their creative skills have exceeded my expectations. They really made me feel at home, and Marvin Wilson even took time from his own blog tour to host mine for a day. Holly Jahangiri offered technical advice as did Lillie Ammann and Ron Berry. Angela featured both me and my books for three days at her site, and Holly, Lillie, Vivian Zabel, Beth Groundwater, Marvin, Emma Larkins and Ron willingly (well, maybe just a little arm twisting), read my book and interviewed my novel characters. What fun that was!

I also got some very nice book reviews from Ron and Dana Fredsti as well as advanced publicity from Charlotte Phillips, Emma, Helen, Ron and L.J. Sellers, Beth, Dana and Lillie. And insightful interviews from L.J, Angela and Ron, so if someone out there is looking for blog hosts, I highly recommend all of them. (I hope it’s not them I hear groaning in the background.)

The Rule of Three blew me away. Three writers on the same blog site from England, Australia and the USA, all making me feel welcome and receptive to my Senior Women Sleuths article, as did Helen Ginger, who rushed back from her interview trip in time to host my tour.

Thank you, everyone!

I also learned that as your blog tour gains momentum, the amount of comments begin to drop off and there’s a feeling of panic that no one will be commenting before the tour is over. Thankfully, that didn’t happen. About the middle of the tour my computer crashed, taking with it my address book, articles and three chapters of a new book that I hadn’t taken time to backup. Fortunately, my husband was able to retrieve most of it. And I’m hoping Santa will bring me a new computer.

What better place than Morgan’s Double M Corral to end my tour. Morgan works hard at her many blog sites and puts out 110% in everything she does. She advertised my blog tour on her tour bus, as did Holly on her new blog touring site.

I’m blessed to have had so many writers working with me to make this tour a success. And a success it has been because A Village Shattered reached the #1 spot on Fictionwise-ePress’s bestseller list in multi format and isn’t doing too badly at Amazon in print.

A week ago I received an announcement stating that I could be on the Amazon bestseller list for just $497. A self-published nonfiction writer is offering novices the chance to work with her and a group of other writers who will cross promote each other. Included in her program is blog touring. I was very tempted to say that I could pay full price for 33 copies of my print book for $497, which would make me a bestseller on And all of us on the tour, save one, have benefitted from the excellent advice of Dani Greer, who is generous with her knowledge and experience about blog touring and book promotions. Thank you, Dani, from all of us.

Happy holidays, everyone!
Jean Henry Mead

The links to the blogspots where Jean visited on her virtual book tour can be found at

Jean Henry Mead's fourth novel and eleventh book was released this month, a senior sleuth mystery/suspense novel called A Village Shattered, featuring two 60-year-old widows living in a California retirement village who discover their friends and club members are being murdered alphabetically.When the newly elected sheriff bungles the investigation, Logan & Cafferty decide to solve the murders themselves.

Jean is a former police reporter, photojournalist, magazine and small press editor, and currently writes the Logan & Cafferty series as well as western historical novels. The second novel in her series, Diary of Murder, will be released next spring.

I want to thank Jean for stopping in today and sharing her virtual book tour experiences. To finish off Jean's tour right, please leave a comment about what she said or about your own experiences hosting or guesting a tour.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Back from the Book Signing

Here I am at the DesPlaines Public Library, right before the
bargain hunters rushed in.

Selling books at a library isn't always easy. Trying to sell books while a used book sale is going on is even harder. Well, we gave it a try. We did sell books and also got to catch up on each other's lives in the process. It was a fun way to spend a Saturday morning and afternoon.

Our chief problem was the location. Next time we'll ask to be seated away from the drafty bank of windows. When I went outside afterwards, I realized why it was so drafty inside. Very raw, very wet, very slippery. Better than snow anyway, although some may disagree.

From Left to right: Morgan Mandel, Debra St. John, June Sproat, Margot Justes & Carrie Lofty

Book Signing Today at DesPlaines Library

I'm getting ready this morning for a book signing at the DesPlaines Library, along with fellow chapter members from Chicago North Romance Writers of America Deb Rittle, Margot Justes, June Sproat and Carrie Lofty.

The library also is sponsoring a used book sale, but hopefully some patrons will be looking for brand new books personalized by the authors themselves.

Anyone in the area, we'll be there from 9:30am - 3:30pm.

I'll let everyone know how it goes later on.

In the meantime, if anyone would like to comment about experiences at library doings, please feel free to comment.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

DePaul Basketball Memories

Allstate Arena, Rosemont, Illinois, home site for the DePaul Games

Wednesday night I ended up at a DePaul Basketball game with my husband. I usually stay home and watch TV or write, but his buddy couldn't make it and my nephew, the backup, was out also.

I couldn't help thinking of when the DH and I first starting going to the DePaul games way back when. In those days, Ray Meyer was the coach. Many of the games were held at Alumni Hall in Chicago. Then the home site changed to The Horizon, which later became Allstate Arena.

We watched some exciting games, with great players on the team, like Mark Aguirre, Terry Cummings, Rod Strickland, and Tyrone Corbin. On edge, we cheered through the playoffs. Our team advanced to the Final Four. In those days, DePaul was a major contender.

Some of the remnants were still present Wednesday night, bringing me back to the old days. The squeaking of gym shoes as the players pounded the court, a player hanging onto the net, the two claps for two shots, the loud, slow chant, THREE POINT PLAY, which I've only heard said that particular way at DePaul games, the cheerleaders jumping up and down, the band playing the school song, the whistles blowing, the obnoxious horn signalling new players coming in or players going out of the game were all familiar to me.

In my mystery, Two Wrongs, the main character, Danny Callaway, is a DePaul basketball player, before he turns pro. He meets his wife at DePaul. It's no coincidence that's also where I met my husband.

Basketball is only one aspect of the plot, but I did enjoy including it. Like Wednesday, it brought back those exciting days when nerves on edge, I anxiously watched every play and hoped for victory.

Have you read or written any books that bring back memories to you? Please let me know.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Marketing, Yes, You Have To Do It! By Angela Wilson

When you write a novel, chances are, you aren't done after the first draft. For some authors, it takes three drafts to get it right; for others, a dozen times a charm.

Before you send that MS minus Little Darlings, you go over it with a fine editor's pen, axing everything unnecessary, adding detail where needed. You seek the advice of critique group members and, sometimes, book doctors.

You spend an infinite amount of time tooling and retooling until you get it just perfect.

Writers have no problem spending immeasurable amounts of time on their manuscripts, yet they cringe at the thought of even using one minute for marketing. Their aversion is fierce and dedicated - and it leaves them out of the mass market loop.

Authors who dawdle with marketing - or outright refuse to do it - are doing themselves a great disservice. If you do not market, how is anyone going to know about that wonderful MS that you finally got published?

The fact is, many publishing houses - small and large - will not put money behind you. I know many authors who bemoan the fact that their publishers won't help them out. They don't have the money to hire a publicist, but refuse to spend time creating and nurturing their own publicity resources.

The biggest excuse I hear is: "I don't want to loose any writing time."

My response: "You won't need writing time if you don't sell anything."

Writing is a business. Scary, but true. If you want to succeed on your own terms, you need to take the marketing bull by the horns and own it, instead of letting run away from you.

Spend at least three hours a week marketing. It is not that hard. You spend more time than that on e-mails each week. Marketing can be anything from a bookstore signing, or a reading, to a virtual book tour pitstop, or creating items for future virtual tours. Marketing is making friends on MySpace, inviting fans to your Facebook Fan Page or Group, making connections with book reviewers, contacting local media just for a chat, so they remember you when your next book comes out.

Marketing isn't difficult. You need to embrace all of the wonderful - many times FREE - online opportunities to brand yourself and your work. It will go a long way to developing a fan base that buys as soon as your work hits bookstore shelves.

Don't know where to begin? Find easy tips about creating marketing plans at

Got a marketing question? Social media consultant Angela Wilson is here to help. Visit and click the Submit Question icon on the left. You can also find Angela at these social networks:

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If you haven't seen this already, check it out:

Book trailers are a fun visual component to any author's strategic marketing plan. Still gaining in popularity, book trailers give authors the opportunity to seduce today's techno-savvy audiences with photos, streaming video, music and more. It puts their sales message on YouTube (a great site to improve SEO) and gives them another opportunity to share their Web site and novel information. Book trailers are also attractive to gamers and others who may not read a lot, but are immediately attracted to visuals. Like all things on the Web, book trailers last forever, and that longevity can easily help build a brand - which ultimately leads to a driven fan base that buys your books.

But how do you do it? Is it hard? When should authors consider hiring a professional to pull together a quality book trailer for them?

Today, I am privileged to share my interview with Sheila Clover English, CEO of Circle of Seven Productions, a premiere force in the book trailer niche. Sheila shares valuable information about how book trailers can work for you, and what you need to know before you get started.

Here's the link to what Sheila as to say:
Be sure to Digg this post and share at other social networks!

Angela Wilson

Extra! Extra! Read All About It! Blago Gets Arrested

"Extra! Extra! Read All About It!"

I hadn't heard that phrase in a long time, not since newspapers cut down on print runs and deliveries. I did hear it last night, right outside Ogilvie Transportation Centre. The Chicago Tribune was selling a special edition of their paper for twenty-five cents. I would have stopped and bought one, but the windy rain/snow mix made me anxious to get inside where it was calm, warm and dry.

The reason for the extra edition, as everyone in the USA knows by now, is that our Illinois Governor, Rod Blagojevich, got busted.

Last night, I could hardly get home to watch prime time TV, which is unusual. Most of the time, I can't find anything gripping to watch, but this story was riveting and unbelievable.

On the day before the Governor's 52nd birthday, Blago and his family were awakened early in the morning by the Feds knocking on their door (or maybe they rang the doorbell, I don't know). Anyway, he had just enough time to change from his pajamas into a running suit before he was whisked off to jail in handcuffs.

The charges are over the top. It appears Blago blatantly carried on illegal activities, despite the fact that our prior Illinois Governor, George Ryan, had already been convicted and encarcerated for illegal activies, and he himself was already under investigation.

Wiretaps reveal Blago, acting like he was on eBay or Craigslist, sought to auction off the Senate seat Barack Obama had vacated when elected President. Not only that, tapes reveal he'd threatened the Tribune Company to hold up the sale of Wrigley Field , the official site of the Chicago Cubs, if they didn't fire a certain editor who had written uncomplimentary articles about him. Also, it appears he threatened to withhold millions of state dollars for the sick children at Children's Memorial Hospital unless a donation was made to his fund.

Much of the language Blago used in his telephone conversations had to be bleeped out in newspaper, radio and television reports about the tapes. It appears, Patti, his wife, also adept at stringing together obscenities on tape, had some involvement, but as yet has not been charged.

The Feds listed a widespread corruption crimespree, described as a litany of greed, ambition and audaciousness. On the radio today, people are calling Blago a sociopath and other uncomplimentary labels.

His attorney says "The Governor believes that he didn't do anything wrong."

What would Blago consider wrong?

Will he be impeached? Will a special election be held to fill the vacant Senate seat? What will happen at the trial? What about his poor children? Stay tuned for further developments.

Wow, what a story. Too bad I hadn't thought of the idea first. It would make such a great plot for a book. I'm sure my book would have also been optioned for a movie.

There's still a chance for a movie. I wonder, who would get the rights to it? Who would star as Blago, his foul-mouthed wife, Patti, and their children? Who would play his potential victims?

What are your thoughts about the Blago fiasco? Who would you cast for the movie?

Monday, December 08, 2008

Maria Murnane Guest Blogger Today- She's Perfect on Paper

Buy link:

Anything can look perfect…on paper

When her fiancé calls off their wedding at the last minute, Waverly Bryson wonders if her life will ever turn out the way she thought it would…or should. Her high-powered job in sports PR? Not so perfect. Her relationship with her dad? Far from it. Her perfect marriage? Enough said.

Perfect on Paper is a humorous tale of Waverly’s efforts to cobble the pieces of a broken yesterday into a brand new tomorrow. What does the future have in store for her? Will she finally find what she’s looking for?

Her dates? Cringe-inducing at times, definitely entertaining
Her friends? Often amused, definitely supportive
Her new crush? Possibly intrigued, definitely a catch
The results? Hardly perfect, definitely just right

Sounds like a great book. Now let's hear from Maria how it came about.

Writing process?

When I first decided that I was going to write a book, I sat down and sketched out an outline for what the main character would be like, who her friends would be, what her job would be , etc. Then I made some notes about other things I wanted to include in the book, including somehow weaving the greeting card idea into them, the infamous Brad Cantor character, funny bad dates, etc. Then I started making a brief outline for the plot, or at least the first part of the plot, because I honestly didn’t know where it was going to end up. But I knew enough about what I wanted to write to get me from about A to D (assuming an entire book was A to Z), so I just started writing and figured that I would figure it out as I went along.

Once I got going, the writing process was pretty regular. I was living in Argentina at the time and playing on a soccer team that took up most of my time during the day, so I would write for a couple hours every morning, and then a couple hours ever y evening. And in between I would jot down a lot of notes to myself on post-its, etc.

Many times I’d wake up in the middle of the night with an idea for something I wanted to include in the book, so I’d keep a notepad by my bed. I remember being on the bus when it hit me how I wanted to end the book, so I scribbled it down in a little notebook in my backpack, right there on the bus. I think I was even standing up at the time.

I think the hardest part of the whole writing process was after I’d written a few chapters and didn’t know if it was any good— so I emailed it to my good friend Lindsay and made her promise to tell me the truth. It took two weeks for her to get back to me, so of course during that time I thought she hated it and just didn’t know how to tell me. But when she did get back to me, the subject line of her email was “your book is awesome,” and she went on to say how impressed she was and that she truly wanted to read more to find out what was going to happen in the story. I still have that email—in fact I forwarded it to her the other day just to thank her again for that early encouragement.

After that first hump, writing the book actually wasn’t all the hard—figuring out what to write was harder. But once I knew what I wanted a particular chapter or scene to encompass, the writing part was pretty easy. Occasionally I would write something that just didn’t fit, and I’d force myself to delete it (never easy), but for the most part the story just sort of took on a life of its own. When I wasn’t exactly sure where to go next with the story, I would go back and edit/rewrite what I’d already written. It worked well that way because the regular reviewing/ editing forced me to stay on track and kept me from looking back and suddenly realizing “holy crap I really need to delete the last 100 pages.”Now that would have been a bummer.

One thing I’ve learned, at least about myself, is that the writing/edit process never ends. I reread Perfect on Paper recently for the first time in awhile, and I found myself thinking “Oh man I wish I could change this, I wish I could change that.” It’s hard to stop the mental editing, even with the book in my hand!

Maria Murnane
Author of Perfect on Paper

Buy link:

I know how Maria feels. I'm constantly editing my work. What about you? Please leave a comment for Maria.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Blog Award

I know Blog Awards are old hat to many. Some people say they come and go, like memes.
Since I only started blogging daily at the end of August, my first blog award is special to me.

Thank you, Christine Verstraete, for naming me as one of your six recipients of the Blog Award for Outstanding Work. The award began in Portugal, then went to Wales at Debbie's Tiny Treasures and is whizzing its way around the world, so now it's landed in Illinois.

You can see my award in the left hand column here at this blog.

Well, part of the deal is I need to name six worthy bloggers to bestow the award onto, so here goes:

Marvin Wilson - For blogs that remind me there's more to life than meets the eye.

Teagan Oliver - For keeping me informed of what's going on in the publishing world and her own world.

Dorothy Thompson - For being such a dynamic author promoter.

Angela Wilson - for being my Thursday columnist here and dispensing such great advice for our readers.

Chris Redding - for increasing my vocabulary each Wednesday.

Marilyn Meredith - for offering so many great posts at Mystery Turtles and coming with me on the transfer to Make Mine Mystery.

There are many more worthy bloggers I wish could include, but my limit of six is up. Please check out their great blogs and tell them Morgan sent you.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

500 Santas

I mailed out Christmas cards this morning. I put up a few decorations. Little by little, I'm getting ready for Christmas.

Something that really put me in the mood was 500 SANTAS, an event today sponsored by the Rotary Club of Arlington Heights, IL.

Although my fingers were freezing in the icy cold and the snow was falling, I did take a video, which I'd like to share. If you aren't already, this may put you in the Christmas mood. You don't have to watch all the Santas unless you feel like it, but you'll get the idea.

After checking out the video, please come back and comment. Are you thinking of Christmas yet? How far have you gotten? Do you have a tree up yet? I don't. Have you bought any presents? I've got a few so far, but still have pretty many left. Fortunately, my family is doing the grab bag thing, so that will make it easier. Do you do grab bags?

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Garage Sales

With all the news about recession, my blog lately has taken on a hard luck theme. Wednesday's topic was garbage picking.

Today's is garage sales.

When I first moved out to the suburbs from Chicago, I didn't even know what a garage sale was. They seemed to be a suburban institution. They probably exist in Chicago also, but since I've moved I don't know. Do they exist in other countries? I don't know the answer to that question either.

Anyway, around here, as soon as the weather clears in the spring, the garage sale signs seem to go up. You can find them tacked to light poles or trees, staked into the ground on street corners or lawns, and other spots where the salers hope to catch your eyes.

Although my husband says I'm just taking home someone else's junk when I go to garage sales, I love going to them anyway. One reason is because I enjoy the surprise element. I never know what I'm going to find, but I usually do find something to bring home.

The thing about garage sales is they often contain items that are no longer available in stores, although I wish they were.

I've bought barely used dressers, picture frames, cassettes, book cases, books, all kinds of great stuff at garage sales - all at reasonable prices.

That's another thing. It's traditional when you go to a garage sale to bargain about the price. Most of the time the price on the ticket is pretty low anyway, but I usually say something like, "Would you take this instead?" and name a figure. Sometimes I get a no, other times a counter-offer, many times a yes.

I do have this idea in my mind about a story based on a garage sale. Some day you may see it in print.

In the meantime, please comment and share your experiences with garage sales. Do you go to them? Do you bargain? What great finds did you get?

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Ask Angela About Blogger Awards & SEO

Blogger Awards: When Can You Turn Awards Down?

Q: Hi! I couldn't find the answer to my question on my Internet search, but found your site. I see award pictures in the column of people's blogs, and sometimes read a reference to them, that makes me think most of them were made up by other bloggers, and then passed around by each other.

Well, now, someone who is a new follower of mine, has told me in a comment on my blog that she has three awards for me to pick up at her blog. The name of her blog has a word that is offensive to me in it, and I'm wondering if I accept her awards, that will create links to her blog.

I think she may sell art she creates, too. I don't want to be a part of the word in her blog title, plus, she uses it in her posts.

I'm not sure what I think about awards from other bloggers in general. If it had been from a fellow gardener, or someone I knew better, I may feel differently. If it was from an organization of some kind, I would love it! Oh, and by the way, someone "tagged" me recently, and I politely turned it down, as it reminds me of a chain letter. I knew she would be OK with it, as I had known her through a garden forum before I started blogging. I have noticed some people have a little spot on their sidebar that lets others know they don't participate in these things. Maybe I should do that.

So, to get to my main question, is it rude to turn down awards, once they have been offered? Is there such a thing as award etiquette?

Angela Says: Sue -
I took a glance at the blog - which will remain unnamed here. It is busy, with spelling and grammatical errors, and no sense of real "flow." This appears to be more of a personal blog showcasing an artist's work, with some helpful hints for general viewers, but doesn't really relate to your nature-themed blog, A Corner Garden. You are also a Christian blogger, and that means you have to be doubly careful who you link to.

Sometimes, bloggers who want to improve their site hits (or sell products) will create spam comments - including fake contests - to drive traffic to their site. These comments always include a direct link to their site. There are two major reasons for this:

Each time that link is posted, Google picks it up and it improves their page rankings. They don't necessarily care if you like the content or not. They want their links out there.

If they are selling products, they are hoping that a few of the right people click and buy. It is the same concept as those male enlargement e-mails everyone receives. Spammers would not continue to send those e-mails if someone wasn't clicking a link.

Legit awards are awarded at Blogger Choice, Blog Catalog, Writer's Digest 101 Top Web sites and Predators and Editors, or individual organizations like Romance Writers of America, Sisters in Crime, Science Fiction Fantasy Writers, etc. Do not feel obligated to participate in every blogging contest - or accept awards if the groups offer service that are disagreeable to you. For example, a Christian author would not want to accept an award from an erotic fiction group.

In a shameless plug, you can vote for for a 2009 Bloggers Choice Best Business Blog award.
Good luck!
~ Angela


Search Engine Optimization. It is an ugly phrase to even the most Web savvy person. But you can tame the SEO beast. Today, Larry Stendebach, SEO consultant and partner at, talks SEO and how to increase your Google page rank.

What is Search Engine Optimization?
The best definition is from Wiki:Search engine optimization (SEO) is the process of improving the volume and quality of traffic to a web site from search engines via "natural" ("organic" or "algorithmic") search results.

How can authors improve their SEO? Find out at

Find Angela Wilson at:

Monday, December 01, 2008

SNOW Is A Four Letter Word

View from the train window at one of the stops on the way to work. Note the wet window pane and the reflection of the light from the opposite side of the train. That light is kind of annoying. So is that awful white stuff outside.

Maybe it's because I'm old. Maybe it's because I'm clumsy. All I know is, when I see snow, my first reaction is not "Goody."
It's "Oh, no."

I confess. I hate snow. Oh, yes, it's very pretty. If I didn't have to deal with it, maybe I could stand it. But I do have to deal with it and way too often. I have to walk down the sidewalks that are either piled with the white stuff or the used-to-be white stuff that's turned messy, sloppy and dirty.

This morning I left the house early and trudged the usual five plus blocks to the train station, battling the snow falling on my face, plus the piles on the sidewalks. The places where the snow wasn't, which were the spots where homeowners thought they were doing a favor by shoveling or snow blowing, were actually more treacherous, since they were icy. I was exhausted by the time I sat down on the train, and I'm used to walking.

When I got Downtown and exited Ogilvie Transportation Centre, I was treated to a sloppy walk over the icy bridge. Then, there were the puddles of water and slush at every street corner, where I had to decide which was the best spot to cross without getting splattered or immersing my boots in the wet stuff.

Needless to say, I didn't go far on my lunch hour. Fortunately, the DH picked me up after I got off the train in the evening, saving me the misery of walking home in the dark over the snow and ice again. Thank goodness on Tuesday the DH can start later for work and can drive me to the train.

And this is just the beginning! There must be a reason why we still live in Illinois. Sometimes I wonder.

What about you? Do you love snow? Do you have mixed feelings? Do you hate it?

Please share.