Thursday, December 20, 2012

The Allure of the Zip Line

We met with another Bucket List experience on our latest cruise aboard the Allure of the Seas.  The Allure and the Oasis of the Seas make up the Oasis class of ships for the Royal Caribbean fleet.  The ships are of identical design, but the Allure measures a whopping two inches longer than the Oasis. 

We have sailed both ships on itineraries we have traveled so many times, Labadee, Jamaica, and Cozomel that the ship is more the destination than the ports.  Each ship has seven neighborhoods, including Central Park with real trees, the Boardwalk, and an interior food court.  You may choose an outside cabin that overlooks the ocean or the Park, or the Boardwalk and Aqua theater.

There are many complimentary dining options as well as several restaurants that require a fee.  Each ship has a Broadway show, "Chicago" on Allure, and "Hair Spray" on Oasis.

We spent most our days aboard ship.  We had the beach party at Labadee, but we stayed only a couple of hours.  We walked around the ports at Falmouth, Jamaica and Cozumel, and returned to the ship within an hour.  Then it was back to the Sports Zone where we conquered the Zip Line.  The Zip Line runs high above Central Park for a ride that lasts less than a minute.  Even a scaredy-cat like me can handle it, although I was shaking when I landed.  I'm glad I did it, and I don't have to do that again.

Tinker was not to be outdone.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Coming Attractions

It's almost Christmas, and all my plans are in place for the rest of this year.  Then comes January, when I have less control over what happens next.  But I do have some goodies planned.

1) GOODREADS GIVEAWAY - January 2013
I am giving away four (4) autographed copies of TELL THEM I DIED through a giveaway administered by  If you're not already a member of Goodreads, it's easy to join. Go here for the giveaway:
(The giveaway will be active beginning January 1, 2013.)

2) Number one son is getting married.  I have no control over that.  Just getting the immediate family in place is a challenge.

3) The Inauguration - January 21, 2013.

We went to the Inauguration in 2009.  That was a bucket list event.  There's nothing like standing for six hours in seventeen degree weather wearing five layers of clothes in the company of two million of your dearest friends.  It was awesome but we don't need to be there this time.  We'll watch it on TV.

4) I'm going on tour with my new book, TELL THEM I DIED, and I don't have to leave the comfort of home.  I'll be visiting blogs from January 22 - 31.  I'll post the schedule when the date is closer.  I hope my friends will visit the blog tour blogs, leave comments and enter the book giveaway. 

Friday, November 23, 2012

Annie are you OK?

I haven't blogged about a TV program in a long time, probably because there isn't much worth blogging about lately.  But I stayed up late enough to watch Spike Lee's "Michael Jackson: Bad 25" Special last night...fighting sleep by washing my face several times in the hour.

It's hard to believe it's been over three years since he died.  Michael Jackson was always one of my favorite performers.  From the little boy singing "ABC Easy as 1-2-3," to the dancer, producer, performer he became.  The Spike Lee Joint went into the background story of several of the songs on the "Bad" album, and interviewed the producer, director, choreographers, singers, musicians, and supporting cast of the "Bad" video, or "short film" as Michael preferred to call it.  The short film was produced in 1987, so this year marks the 25th anniversary.  Out of the nine singles on the album, five of them made number one on the charts, more than made number one on his "Thriller" album.

As the production history of each of the nine singles unfolded, Spike Lee showed us more of the genius of Michael Jackson, how the music and lyrics came together in his head, the melody, harmony, the instrumentation.  When musicians were brought in to be part of one production, Michael could tell the guitarist what exact sound he wanted to hear in specific points in the track to produce the music that was in his head as he conceived it.  When it all came together in the right way, Michael would dance.

Some things I already knew about Michael.  That he could sing all the harmony, first the melody, then lay over a track where he sang the tenor, then add the high soprano and the bass. And he did sing the lowest bass.  I knew his dance moves were inspired by some greats, Fred Astaire, James Brown, and Jackie Wilson.  I didn't know that much of his street moves came from Soul Train dancers, one of whom became the choreographer for the dancers in the "Bad" video.  The real surprise for me was the origin of the lyrics for "Smooth Criminal."  All these years I thought he was singing, "Annie are you walking," but instead he was saying "Annie are you OK?"  Annie is the dummy used for CPR training, and before you start the compressions on somebody's chest or breathing into their mouth, you ask, "Are you OK?"

"BAD" became such a big part of my life, my first vanity license plate that I had from 1989 to 1997 read "HOOSBAD."  My late husband said the plate incensed drivers behind us if he happened to be driving my car.  I relented and changed to a kinder-gentler vanity plate.

When a great musician dies, we feel the loss so much we buy up every bit of his music we can.   But the music lives on.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

No Nano this year for me

NaNoWriMo (the National Novel Writing Month) is a good way to jump-start a novel.  Write 50,000 words in the month of November and you win a certificate or something.  I completed my new novel last year, NaNo 2011, after weak starts in 2009 and 2010.  I considered doing NaNo 2012 with a new idea that is just starting to crystallize.  Then I decided with everything else going on this November in addition to my usual complaint about NaNo-Thanksgiving, I would bow out.

I've been doing my part to get out the vote this year, phone banking, registering voters, social media, and this week I went into hiding until Tuesday. I was just about burnt out. 

And then there is my annual college friends' trip.  We usually do it in the summertime, and we take turns hosting.  This year is being hosted by our friend who lives in New York City.  Fortunately, the last I heard, she didn't lose power during the storm.  But the five of us won't be piling into her place anyway.  She planned for us to go to her family homeplace in rural Pennsylvania.  The nearest airport is Pittsburgh.  These are my friends who survived hitch-hiking around Europe in the 60's.  We know about roughing it, just haven't done much of it in the last 40 years.  And we're watching the weather for the possibility of a Nor'easter.  With any luck we'll get out of there and back home well before Thanksgiving.

So NoNo NaNo this year.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Cloud Atlas

Sweetie took me to see Cloud Atlas on Friday.  He picked the movie this time.  He thought it was a sci-fi movie starring Halle Berry...score two points.  I had not seen a trailer, or heard anything about the movie, but I'll go see anything with Sweetie.

We were both unprepared for this movie.  I'll say I'm a bit more open-minded than he is, but even at that, I wasn't quite paying attention to the dates displayed at the beginning of each scene, until I realized we were going forward and backward in time.  And we were seeing Tom Hanks playing different characters in different stories going in and out of time.

Then it became a game to spot Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, Hugh Grant, Susan Sarandon, and a huge cast of people as native cliff-dwellers, Brits in the 19th - 20th centuries, 22nd century clones, 19th century slaves.  Mostly no transitions once the stories got cranking.  They could close a door on an ancient ship, and open it onto a city street in 1970's.

It was fascinating!  And long.  Almost three hours, but the time flew by for me.  But what is time anyway?  Are our souls in different forms, living on different planes, at different points in history...all at once? 

The message to take away is that love transcends death.  When we find that true love he/she will be with us again.  When we touch someone else's life through kindness, the kindness reflects back on us in the next life.

I give it 4 stars out of five.  Sweetie gave it one star.

PS.  Don't ask me what the title means.  The only reference to it I heard in the movie was the name of a symphony composed by a young man who expected to see his love again in the next life. 

Tuesday, October 23, 2012


It has taken me four years, including three NanoWriMo's to complete this book.  My baby is out the door.

Tell them I Died

Tell Them I Died is a romantic adventure that centers on the loves and lives of Angela and Bodine Beaudoin and their friends on the social networking site, Angela and her husband Bodine are retired and live in Raleigh, North Carolina. Every day they talk to friends in Las Vegas, Memphis, Chicago, Darwin Australia, Atlanta, San Antonio, Los Angeles and other places where their internet friends live. They all interact on until Angela receives a phone call from Carlton telling her that his mother, A1QTEE, the owner/operator of Blaq-Kawfee died a month ago. Instantly, Angela smells foul play and finds herself working overtime, much to the chagrin of Bodine, to figure out what happened to her dear friend.

Read an excerpt here.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

My Very Own Quarterback

My grandson Markus is the quarterback, defensive end, and kickoff return receiver.  Hey, nobody is on the bench.


Sunday, September 9, 2012


FreemanFreeman by Leonard Pitts Jr.

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I loved this book. 

What do you do when you learn you are free for the first time in your life?  The Civil War has ended and Leonard Pitts' cast of characters find themselves in different circumstances.  For Sam it means leaving the safety of Philadelphia where he as lived several years as a Freeman, educated, and with a job, to set out for Mississippi to find his wife whom he hasn't seen in fifteen years.

For Ben it means finding his wife and daughter.  Other nameless people wander through the story looking for a lost husband or child.  Prudence, a wealthy white widow, sets off from Boston to build a school in Mississippi (of all places) for newly freed blacks.

I prepared myself for the blood and violence once Sam left Philadelphia.  After having waded through Isabel Wilkerson's Warmth of Other Suns last year, when I had to close the book several times because the lynchings were non-fiction, and especially because it happened during my lifetime, maybe I was able to steel myself for Sam's journey through Mississippi.

Pitts' writing has an ease about it, beautifully simple.  I counted dozens of different ways his characters smiled, until we reached the middle of the story where there was little to smile about.

I loved the characters so much, when I finished the book they were still on my mind and in my heart.

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Monday, August 6, 2012

Into the Web

Into the Web by Shonell Bacon

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Parham twins from Shonell Bacon's Death at the Double Inkwell,return for another mystery.  This time the co-writers, Jovan and Cheyenne Parham, are on the tail of a possible serial killer who meets teenaged girls on the internet. When the daughter of a mayoral candidate disappears, the sleuths jump to action, while at the same time trying to deal with their personal drama and conflict with the men in their lives.

It's a real page-turner, with enough red herrings to mislead me, and a few erotic moments to make me go hmmmm. Good one, Shonell.

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Sunday, July 29, 2012

The Water Thief

The Water ThiefThe Water Thief by Nicholas Lamar Soutter

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I really wanted to love this book.  I first got into dystopian novels in high school in the '60s with George Orwell's 1984, and Animal Farm.  I even wrote a term paper on the works of Orwell, after I also read some of his earlier work including Keep the Aspidistra Flying and Coming Up for Air.  I was the first person to check both of those out from the public library.

I love the concept of fighting against a society where capitalism rules.  Everything is for sale.  Parents sell futures on their children as soon as they are born, and even rainwater isn't free.  I had hopes that the protagonist, Charles Thatcher, would win out against a world maybe Ayn Rand would love.  But like Orwell's Winston Smith, he is brought down by a relationship with a woman.

I did enjoy reading how today's technology is used by the corporation to track Charlie's every move by GPS, and his electronic purchasing, via Ackerman, the corporate version of Big Brother.  That part held my attention.  I started to zone out on the philosophical meanderings.  Heck, I even started counting how many times Charlie said, "Heck."  I probably wouldn't have noticed if he had said, "Damn" fourteen times, or if Andy Griffith hadn't died while I was reading it.  (Gawleee, Sheriff Taylor)

I didn't like the ending.  I was spoiled by Katniss Everdeen.

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Saturday, July 7, 2012

Two broken toes, two busted suitcases, and the recurring dog dream

It's been two weeks since we returned from our Alaska adventure, a land tour followed by a cruise of the inside passage.  It was more fun ten years ago when we did the same trip for our honeymoon.

I broke my toes a month before the trip, and we had booked the trip last year, so we couldn't cancel.  The doctor OK'ed me to go and advised me to keep my foot elevated as much as possible.  I expected the biggest challenge would be making our flight changes on the three legs of the trip to get from Raleigh to Anchorage.  So Tinker arranged for wheelchair assists for me for the three airports.  The concourse change in Seattle was convoluted enough that we might have missed our flight if I had had two good feet walking without the assist.

By the time we reached our hotel in Anchorage, my foot had started to swell but I was prepared with an ice pack which we filled from the ice machine in every hotel stop for the whole land tour.  We traveled as a group on three motorcoaches and by glass-domed traincar on the Wilderness Express® to Talkeetna, Denali, and back to Alyeska and Seward. In Denali National Park we had an all-day Tundra Wilderness Tour deep into the park where we expected to see wildlife.  We had seen bears and moose from the train, but all the sightings in the park required binoculars.  We had enough space on the train for me to prop my foot up, but the days on the bus ended with a swollen foot.  I was happy to finally reach Seward where we boarded the cruise ship.

Since we had done a similar cruise before, we did not plan any excursions this time.  We had seen salmon hatcheries, and plenty bald eagle sightings, and there were enough whale sightings from the ship that a side trip wasn't necessary.  By the third day, my foot was down enough that I could wear sneakers on both feet, and walk a few blocks in our port stops.  Tinker did more exploring without me along with our friends who came on the trip with us.  I was content to be back in the cabin, catching up on my reading.  Our cabin steward kept the ice bucket filled so I could ice my foot.  We had several at-sea days which included getting closeup to the Hubbard Glacier and a separate day in the Inside Passage.

The trip home was two long flights, Vancouver to Toronto, Toronto to Raleigh.  I assessed my foot and Tinker assessed the luggage when we got home.  I didn't want to think about deep vein thrombosis, but my foot and leg were swollen up to my knee.  I massaged both feet and legs and packed the right one with ice when I finally went to bed.

The luggage fared worse than I did.  We do travel a lot, maybe three cruises and two other trips per year.  Our luggage was handled a lot more this trip than any I remember.  One large wheelie had a gash in the bottom, a second large wheelie had a busted wheel and the handle refused to slide out.  We had to decommission them both.

Now for the recurring dog dream.  It all started about six years ago, when number one son and his first wife came to visit from New York with a dog.  Tinker and I love dogs, but we don't currently own one.  We always say we'll get one when we finish traveling so much.  Son asked if they could bring the dog.  I said no, but his wife brought him anyway...a rather large puppy "Denzel" who was used to living in a small NY apartment, and going outside on a leash.  When they let him outside in the backyard, he went wild, found a space to escape under the fence and took off down the street.  They were able to chase him down in a few minutes and brought him back inside, where he continued to be rambunctious.  By the time they all went back to New York, Denzel had made a big impression.

For two nights after they left, I dreamed about the dog, and woke up thinking I had to drive him back home.  The dream was so vivid as to fill my half-waking moments with an urgency to get up and get the dog ready to go, I was in the bathroom starting my shower before I realized it was a dream.

Since that first episode, every time we return from a trip and I am overtired, as I was when we returned from Alaska I have that dog dream.  I still wake up thinking I have to take the dog back, but now I come to my senses before I get out of bed.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

My Name is Butterfly

My Name is Butterfly My Name is Butterfly by Bernice L. McFadden

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I knew but I didn't want to know.
Bernice McFadden's book "My Name is Butterfly" is a wake-up call for me.  Ritual servitude by young girls in Ghana, I had read about.  I was even there, and didn't or wouldn't connect the dots.

McFadden's story is beautifully told, the image of nine-year-old Abebe taken away to a shrine will stay with me forever.  It hurts my heart to think about it.

I visited Ghana in 2000 with Elderhostel, a continuing education program for older adults, that schooled us in the Akan language, Twi, and gave us lectures in the political, social, educational, and cultural systems.  We started at the capital, Accra, and moved out into the villages of the central region of Ghana. We visited the town of Larteh, known for its shrine. At the shrine, people had brought goats and chickens to be sacrificed, while they petitioned the high priest to cure some ill, fix some problem.  We brought an offering of 2 bottles of Schnaps, which he poured as a libation, for our good health and safe journey.


Much of the emphasis of the tour was on the story contrasts in Ghana, the poor and the prosperous, the modern and traditional.  The day after we visited the shrine, we attended the Fetteh Methodist Church.  The choir, dressed in black robes, wearing mortar boards on their heads, sang A Capella (4 part harmony) in Twi, a traditional Methodist service -- a John Wesley hymn, and the Te Deum Laudamus chanted in Twi. There could very well have been some of the same people at the shrine, sacrificing goats and chickens, and perhaps little girls.

My Name is Butterfly is a must read.

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Friday, June 1, 2012

Creatures Here Below

Creatures Here BelowCreatures Here Below by O.H. Bennett

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

"Praise God from Whom all blessings flow, praise Him all creatures here below."  That reference may be lost on people who don't spend much time in church, particularly of the Methodist variety.

I really wanted to love this book.  When the publisher offered a free Kindle special for a few days in February, I jumped on it, but didn't get around to reading it until last week.  I liked the writing, but I can't love a book if I can't connect with any of the characters. 

The story is about the residents of a boarding house, all but one of whom live a depressing existence, living in the past, angry almost psychotic, hopeless, demented and delusional.  Not even the baby shows signs of happiness.  I was ready to give up at about half-way through the story, and then changes started to occur in their lives.  I began to see a reason to turn the page, and there was hope for something better in their lives.  First one person brought a new sense of hope, then another, and so on, until I stopped expecting a disastrous outcome.

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Monday, May 21, 2012

The Secrets to Ebook Publishing Success

The Secrets to Ebook Publishing SuccessThe Secrets to Ebook Publishing Success by Mark Coker

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a free ebook written by Mark Coker, the founder of Smashwords, an ebook publishing company.  It's a good read directed at authors, covering topics on what makes a good book, how to publish it, marketing, pricing, distribution.  Even if you never plan to use Smashwords, it has a lot of good information.  All readers are encouraged to share this free ebook, available for free on, or for 99 cents on Amazon.

The rest of this review is not a review, but my personal journey with ebook publishing directed at authors of ebooks.

I found it interesting that this book was published in March this year, shortly after Amazon announced its KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing) Select program for authors.  It's a "new option to make money and promote your book."  The catch is you have to make your book exclusive to Kindle for at least 90 days, to get all the benefits of the program.  You can even promote your book as free for up to 5 days in that period.  When Amazon says exclusive, they mean exclusive.  An author has to remove said book from all other distribution channels...Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Sony, and of course Smashwords and any place else it might be lurking.  Any violation during the 90 days means said ebook will never appear on Kindle again. 

I have been following a number of authors who are in the KDP select program, and it appears to work well for authors with a backlist of books.  A five-year-old book that has declined in sales gets new life, and the author also sees a surge in sales of more recent books.

I must admit I am a long-time Amazon fan.  Amazon was the first online store I ever shopped, beginning in 1999.  I have long considered Amazon the gold-standard when it comes to online purchasing and customer service.  But somehow the KDP select program smacks of monopoly.

I am also a fan of Smashwords.  They haven't been around very long (founded in 2008), but they filled a niche that satisfied my personal requirement in 2009.  I self-published my first book in 2008 (in paperback), using  At that time Lulu was free.  You paid only for the books you bought.  If you wanted distribution, it cost $99 for an ISBN and distribution to all the online bookstores, Amazon, B&N, Kobo, Sony, and dozens of others all over the globe.  Lulu didn't venture into ebook publishing until this year.

When I did the research on how to publish an ebook, I learned I could do it directly through Kindle Direct Publishing, but that only covered Kindle format.  I had my book up and running on Kindle in 2009.  Then I learned about Smashwords, which covers all the other formats as well as mobi for Kindle.  The only cost for distribution in the "Premium Catalog" is $9.95 for an ISBN.  I don't understand why I needed another ISBN, but for $9.95 I didn't care.  And they don't even ask for the money up front, they take it out of future sales.  Now I'm really a fan.  That $9.95 gets me international sales.  OK, Amazon get me international sales too.  But Smashwords gets my same ebook on B&N, Kobo, Sony, and get this...the Apple store, as well as some ebook readers I had never heard of.  I'm always surprised at my numbers for iPad. Yeah I know the KDP Select devotees will point out that there is a free Kindle app for iPad, iPhone, Droid, whatever else you have.  But when somebody with an iPad goes browsing in the Apple store, I want my book to be there.

So when I read the chapters in this book entitled, "Maximize Distribution," and "Think Globally,"  I'm a believer.  I'll be sticking with Smashwords for a while.

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Friday, May 4, 2012

The Avengers

I didn't have to ask Sweetie twice if he wanted to go to the movies today.  Total testosterone movie.  Captain America, Iron Man, Thor, The Hulk, The Black Widow, and Hawkeye team up to stop Loki.  You guys know who all these people are.  And Samuel L. Jackson as their fearless leader, Fury.

We went to the first non-3D showing at 1:15, and the theater was packed.  Hardly an empty seat in the place when we arrived at 1:15.  We managed to squeezed into the two seats at the top in the corner, which were better than the few seats down front, too close to the screen to watch without getting a pain in the neck.

The plot?  Does there have to be a plot when you have special effects and flying, crashing things?  It was a bit dark at the beginning, and too much talking, shouting orders, so I got a snooze.  They did break up the action with some frequent comic relief.  These are Marvel comic book characters, ya-know?  At the end of the movie, the audience applauded.

But I gotta love Samuel L. Jackson.  He has so many movies in the works, I can't see them all.  There was a time when I tried to keep up with his different hairdos.  He's had afros, and dreadlocs and jerri-curls, and most anything that a black man can have.  My favorite on him  is bald.  He has had so many hair variations that he started adding skin variations...scars, burns, wrinkles.  In this movie he has an eye-patch with a dreadful looking starburst of scars radiating from under it.  It's almost as mean as his face in The Dark Knight in 2008.

Anyway, I had to dig up my old chart.  It became impossible to keep it up, even with help from friends.

I give the Avengers three stars.

Samuel L Jackson Hairdo Rating Chart

Movie Title
Year Released
Hair style
Sarah’s hairdo rating
Resurrecting the Champ
Snakes on a Plane
Neville Flynn
Lorenzo Council
The Man
Derrick Vann
short locs
Star Wars:Episode III
Mace Windu
Agent Augustus Gibbons
short afro
Kill Bill
The Organ Player


Lt. Dan “Hondo” Harrelson

Drill Instructor West

Agent Augustus Gibbons
short afro
House on Turk Street
Jack Friar

Star Wars:  Episode II – Attack of the Clones
Mace Windu
Changing Lanes
Doyle Gipson
short afro
Formula 51
Elmo McElroy
long braids
The Caveman’s Valentine
Romulus Ledbetter
Elijah Price
“bed head” afro
John Shaft
Rules of Engagement
Colonel Terry L. Childers

Any Given Wednesday
Willie Nutter

Deep Blue Sea
Russell Franklin
black toupee
Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace
Mace Windu
The Red Violin
Charles Morritz
bald & thinning
The Negotiator
Lt. Danny Roman

Jackie Brown
Ordell Robbie
fried & died
Eve’s Bayou
Louis Batiste
short afro
A Time to Kill
Carl Lee Hailey
receding afro
Pulp Fiction
Jules Winnfield
Jungle Fever
Gator Purify