Archive for December, 2014

2014 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 800 times in 2014. If it were a cable car, it would take about 13 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

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promo - Christmas - 122514 - winners

Thanks to everyone who entered!

Congratulations to Pat, Esther, and Beverly!

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

#giveawaywinners, #readingTessa, #merryChristmas, #happyreading

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promo - Christmas - 122414


#tessa, #GIVEAWAY. #goodreads, #mygifttoyou, #merryChristmas

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“Flight 117 touched down at London Heathrow Airport just two weeks after Connie’s graduation. Marni had insisted on proper celebration with friends and family, and her most important clientele at the gallery. She wasn’t pleased with Connie’s decision to gallivant across the globe with Cassie, but she was sure that after a few weeks of living fancy free, Connie would return to a life of order and protocol. A proper life. The life Marni had mapped out for her. She didn’t know the true Connie, the party girl, the life of the party, the grab-life-by-the-horns persona. She was the wild child that Marni insisted on accusing Cassie of being.

It was Connie’s suggestion to not visit museums and art venues, but to see the rest of what Europe and the world had to offer. They stayed at local bed and breakfasts, and hit the pubs, first in London, then Dublin Town. They toured Buckingham Palace and Dublin Castle. Cassie wanted to see the Giant’s Causeway, and the fjords of Norway and Sweden, and the onion domes of St. Basil’s Cathedral in Moscow. They stayed a week in Moscow and a week in St. Petersburg before turning west. They rode the train into Minsk and Warsaw, Berlin, Hamburg and Copenhagen. They stayed overnight, or a few nights, or traveled through the night. They traveled through The Netherlands and Belgium, through their familiar Paris, with no visit to the Louvre. They climbed the Eifel Tower, and visited Jardin des Tuileries. Through Orleans and Limoge and Toulouse, and into Barcelona. Madrid and Rock of Gibralter, where they crossed over to Tangier. Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda, Botswana, South Africa where they went on safaris and climbed Mount Kilimanjaro. They flew to Melbourne, then from Australia to the Philippines and Taiwan, Japan and China. Bangledesh and India and Sri Lanka. They flew to Cairo, and the first week of April, sailed to Cypress and Rhodes. Cassie and Connie enjoyed sailing the Mediterranean Sea, island hopping, looking for the perfect spot for Cassie’s wedding. They sailed to Cos and Karpathos and Heraklion.” [Excerpted from Tessa.]


Cassie stretched and opened her eyes to bright sunlight streaming in the room. This was not Christmas as usual, at least not for her. She shrugged into her terry wrap, the one she wore over her bathing suit, and headed down the stairs.

“Good morning, Mate,” Their host, Alyssa, appropriated the classic Aussie term. “How do you take your coffee?”

“Just creamer, thanks.”

Alyssa poured, and Cassie added her creamer, and the two of them stepped out on the veranda of the Queenslander style home. On the beach, outside the city and down the coast near Thornlands.

“This is amazing!” Cassie gazed out over the ocean panorama.

Alyssa was nonplussed; to her it was an ordinary Christmas morning. Her brother and his wife were driving up from Sydney, and their parents were flying in from Melbourne later in the afternoon.

“Shall we go for a swim before it gets hot?”

Cassie nodded and finished her coffee. She turned to go back in the house.

Alyssa was already stripping down. “There’s no one about here, you don’t need your suit.”

Cassie hesitated.

“We’re pretty isolated out here.” And Alyssa was in the waves.

Cassie was still hesitating when Connie stepped out on the deck and stretched.

“Ohhh, skinny dipping,” she squealed and stripped off her teddy sleeper.

Cassie sighed a deep breath, expelled it. Gingerly she draped her cover-up on the arm of the chair, slipped out of her sleep shorts and cami-tank. Isolated or not, she felt fully exposed.

But the water was warm, and the waves active, and it was just the three of them for the better part of an hour.

“Anybody hungry?” Alyssa was running toward the house, Connie right behind her.

“I could go for some breakfast,” Connie called after her.

Alyssa stopped.

“Breakfast? It’s nearly noon. We’ll be having lunch!”

“Cass!” Connie called to her sister. “You coming in?”

Cassie muffled something affirmative, and stalled until the other two were stepping through the door of the house before she emerged from the water. She made a quick dash for the steps that led up to the tall veranda, and shrugged her cover up around her before scooting inside to change into some proper clothes.

In the kitchen she found Alyssa in a strappy sun dress, and her sister with a button up shirt, unbuttoned, and nothing else.   Near to the same age, Alyssa and Connie were steeped in conversation comparing life in Brisbane and life in New York City.

Cassie slipped upstairs to take a cool shower; the humidity was already climbing.

They lunched on watermelon and cold turkey sandwiches, from the comfort of the air conditioned kitchen.

Not thinking it Christmas, in spite of knowing fully well the date, Cassie was ready to go into Brisbane to see some more sights.

“Everything will be all closed up today, love.” Alyssa washed down her sandwich with a swig of Foster’s. “It’s Holiday, remember.”

Cassie shook her head and laughed at herself.

“It feels more like the Fourth of July!”

“I’m going back out to work on my tan!” Connie had one foot out the door.

“Remember, my brother should be here any minute. You might was to cover up something.”

“And sunscreen, Connie, don’t forget your sunscreen.”

To her sister, Connie scrunched her face; to Alyssa, she winked.

“He is married you know.”

Connie returned from upstairs within minutes in her version of an itsy-bitsy teeny-weeny yellow polka dot bikini. The neon yellow set off her ice blue eyes, and contrasted vividly with her ebony black hair. She held in her hand her Hawaiian Tropic, SPF 15.

Cassie just shook her head, and opened another Foster’s.


Cassie joined her sister, and Alyssa, but came inside after an hour. Even with SPF 40, she was afraid of getting burned. And that was something she never wanted to experience again. She had suffered second degree sunburn and mild sun poisoning when she was twenty years old. Her fever had spiked to 102° and she had violent shakes and chills. Carlotta had nursed her through the night, keeping her hydrated, and plastering her blisters with aloe vera.

Cassie shook at the memory.

Alyssa joined her for some liquid refreshment, and was in the house when the phone rang. It was Marni and Heath, and Marni took the occasion to chastise Cassie – yet again – for schlepping Connie on this preposterous trip.

“Merry Christmas to you too, Mom.” Connie bounced in at just that moment and Cassie handed her the phone. Cassie popped open a Foster’s and chugged it down. She would call Stewart when Connie went back out to the water.

Stew’s mother answered.

“Oh, he’s stepped out at the moment, Dear.” Cassie could hear the guile in her voice, the smile in her eyes. “Can I have him call you when he gets in?”

“Thanks, Eleanor, that would be lovely.” Cassie read the number from Alyssa’s note. “Remind him of the time difference if you would.”

Cassie was disappointed not to speak to her fiancé on Christmas, but her promised trip to Connie had preceded her engagement.


Christmas dinner was a picnic inside a screened tent to ward off mosquitoes. There was a tree in the house, and gifts were exchanged after dinner, per Brown family tradition. Kay and Ed had thought to bring gifts for their house guests.

Cassie’s brightly wrapped package was heavy, and to her delight she discovered a volume on the history of Australia, and a smaller one on the Brown family crest.

Alyssa and Connie had become pen pals during an international history event when they both were in their teens, and had maintained correspondence. Connie’s gift was small: a promissory note of a shopping spree with Alyssa.

Cassie had found a pair of designer sunglasses she knew Connie would love, and tucked them in a Gucci bag, which she also knew Connie would love.

But Connie presented her sister no gift. Cassie was chagrinned, but it was Connie. She wasn’t surprised. Disappointed, but not surprised.

Alyssa and Cassie were clearing up the last of dinner, the family watching Christmas movies on the telly. As maternal as Cassie felt toward Connie, she tried to dismiss this as vacation time. But they were guests with this family, and Cassie promised herself she would say something to her younger sister later about not helping out. She wasn’t even in the den with the others.

Connie stepped into the kitchen and grabbed her sister’s hand.

“I’ve a surprise for you,” she squealed.

“What did you do? Run to the gift shack for a seashell necklace?”

“Drat! You guessed!” But Connie put her hand over Cassie’s eyes and led her to the den. Puzzled, Cassie heard no sound the telly was muted. Connie positioned Cassie just so, and moved her hand.

“Stewart!” Cassie squealed and they were lip-locked in a heartbeat.

Connie giggled, quite pleased with herself for pulling it off and not spilling the beans before he arrived.

Cassie pulled herself from Stew’s embrace and hugged her sister tight.

“You done good, kid.” She kissed her on the cheek. “Thank you.”

Cassie’s ice blue eyes sparkled; Connie’s eyes matched.


The others turned in for the night, Cassie fanned herself from the evening humidity, warding off attack mosquitoes. But with Stew by her side, Cassie hardly noticed either the humidity or the airborne pests. They watched a thunder storm somewhere far out at sea, waiting for it to turn their direction, felt the first pre-eminent raindrops.

Cassie was content, relaxed. It was the perfect vacation. Kay and Ed had commissioned her to paint a family portrait, a bonus to continue her career. She had visited museums with Alyssa, and had plans to visit an Aboriginal Tribe gallery with Kay and Jules, Alyssa and Connie. And now, Stew was by her side til the New Year.


Connie padded down now, sheepish.

“Pssst, Cass,” she motioned through the gauzy curtains.

Cassie stepped inside.

“I’m a little burned.” She rolled pleading puppy dog blues at her sister. “Would you be a good big sis and rub some aloe on my shoulders for me?”



#MERRYCHRISTMAS, #travelingsisters, #australia, #skinnydipping, #yellowpolkadotbikini, #sunburn, #fiancé

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promo - Christmas - 121014

For Christmas, I am giving a copy of TESSA to three lucky winners!

promo - Christmas - TESSA - 121014

Hop over to GOODREADS and enter the giveaway.

The GIVEAWAY starts today and runs through Christmas Eve.

Winners will be selected on Christmas Day!


#Christmasgiveaway, #goodreadsgiveaway, #Tessagiveaway, #Christmaspresents, #MERRYCHRISTMAS

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“Vandy and Marni’s little flat was floating in pink and yellow balloons. Lucius’ cake was a wonder in pink and yellow. The gift table was piled high. Cassie had quite the merry band of “aunts” and “uncles” present for her big day. Vandy, of course, and Scoop, Worley and Hobbit. Tru had moved in with the girls and was a like a third mom to Cassie. Reid, and Apollo and Ermelle and their kids – all made for a lively houseful. Kase even brought a present, a porcelain carousel pony that played Brahm’s lullaby.


Marni retreated to her room to paint.” [excerpted from Tessa.]


“Happy Birthday Dear Cassie, Happy Birthday to You!” The familiar chorus rang in the small apartment. Vandy held Cassie and helped her blow out the single yellow candle.

At the chorus of cheers and clapping of hands, Cassie waved her arms and squealed and shrieked. Vandy wedged her in the high chair, and Cassie banged her hands on the tray, squealing still. Ermelle deftly sliced the cake- it was a work of art – and placed a generous portion in front of the birthday girl.

In the room, behind the closed door, Marni tried to tune out the festivities and celebration of her child’s first birthday party.

Cassie poked a tentative finger into the yellow sugar daisies, then two fingers. She drew her hand to her mouth and tasted. “Nummm,” she cooed.” She grabbed at the hunk of cake, shoved a fistful face-ward, smearing pink frosting into her raven hair. Then, both hands got in on the business of consuming the cake.

Cassie had an audience, admiring fans, cheering her on, laughing as she demolished the sugar concoction. She giggled and squealed. And plopped her face straight in the remaining cake. Pink and yellow globbed her dimpled nose, her eyelashes, her cheeks.

Vandy stepped to the bedroom door, knocked, and peeped in.

“Marni, you gotta come see your kid!”

But Marni just shook her head, and drew her brush in a sweeping stroke across her canvas.

“Nah, I’m just going to stay here and finish this painting.”

It was the most disjointed painting Vandy had ever seen Marni produce.


Tru sat cross-legged on the floor, Indian style, holding Cassie in her lap. Vandy handed her a brightly wrapped package.

Cassie banged it like a drum.

Vandy slipped a finger beneath a flap of paper, popped the tape loose. Cassie grasped the loosened paper and pulled. The paper ripped. Cassie squealed with delight. She pulled some more, more paper ripped, she squealed louder.

The wounded paper revealed a Patch Pony®, and Tru let go of Cassie to show her how to pull the toy. His little head wobbled and bobbled and Cassie giggled with glee, bobbin her head to match the pony.

Vandy snagged the toddler and handed her another package, her own gift to the birthday girl. Cassie looked to Vandy, waiting for her lead to peel back the paper. As soon as Vandy slipped a slender paint-stained finger beneath the flap of paper, Cassie’s chubby ones grabbed at the paper and pulled it away. Under the pretty paper, behind a sheath of cellophane, a Thumbelina Doll smiled out. Cassie grasped at the doll, and cried, “Baby! Baby!”

Wrestling free of Vandy’s grasp, Cassie paraded her baby in front of each guest, announcing anew to each of them, “Baby!”

Cassie grew weary of the dolly, and spying more gift packages, lunged for the pile. One by one, Tru and Vandy assisted in opening the gifts, and one by one Cassie paraded them before her guests, who cooed and admired accordingly.

Kase presented his gift to her last, personally. He had not placed it in the pile with the others; he had not been decided he would join the party. But Cassie had him wrapped around her little finger, and he knew he couldn’t miss her big day.


Kase plopped on the floor, playing the carousel for Cassie over and over again. It was her favorite gift. Cassie climbed on his back and begged for pony rides, which he happily obliged.

The others were speechless. To see Kase so interactive, so downright playful was a side of him they had never seen, a side he had never let them see.

Kase plowed through the discarded birthday gift wrap, sending it sailing in the air. Cassie tumbled from his back and squealed with delight, her chubby legs toddling to catch every piece and ribbon and bow.

“Cassie!” Trudy called. “Come see Auntie Tru!” The teen-age girl was enamored of the toddler, and couldn’t wait to have babies of her own. But Cassie would have none of it. She grew sleepy; it had been a busy afternoon, and she fought sleep with greater bursts of fading energy.

Cassie escaped Tru’s attempt to hold her, racing, toddler-wise across the room, headlong for the Christmas tree. She barreled right into the lower branches, the silver wire limb poking her in the belly.

Cassie was not wounded, however, but tickled. Her shriek of delight turned to terror, though, as the little tree toppled over onto her head.

Kase rescued her, rocked her and cooed her. Cassie’s fat little thumb went straight to her mouth, and her plea for her new “Baby” was garbled. Kase sat in a kitchen chair, set the carousel lullaby to play, and rocked Cassie to sleep, a strand of tinsel twisted in her glossy black hair.


#merryChristmas, #happybirthdaycassie, #birthdaycake, #thumbelinadoll, #wheresmommie, #silverChristmastree, #tinselandlights

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It was the best Christmas present Cassie could ever get, a baby sister. But it was the worst Christmas morning ever. Santa didn’t come, and she didn’t get to open her presents; the tree lights weren’t even lit. Instead she had cold eggs and burnt toast while Mrs. Dudek read the paper. Cassie took a bath and put on her plaid taffeta Christmas dress. She hated that dress; it was frilly, and Cassie was not a frilly girly-girl. Plus, it was itchy.

It was exciting, Cassie had to admit, to have a real live baby for Christmas, even though they wouldn’t let her hold it or change its clothes. She got to look at it through a window to the hospital nursery where there were half a dozen other babies. Heath – Daddy – held her so she could see better.

Their baby was swaddled in a pink blanket which meant it was a girl. Cassie was happy she had a sister. She didn’t think she would like having a brother; they peed on everything. Donna had told Cassie this, and Donna had two little brothers so she knew.

Heath lowered Cassie back to her feet and she tipped her head. “What’s her name gonna be?”

“Contessa Rose. We’ll call her Connie.”

“Connie.” Cassie practiced the name. “Contessa. Cons, Contie, Connie. Tessa.”

She played the variations as they walked back to Marni’s private room.

“Give your mother a kiss and I’ll take you home.”

“But I wanna hold the baby,” Cassie whimpered.

“You can hold her when we come home.”

Cassie was sure that meant she wouldn’t be coming back to the hospital, and that the next time she saw the baby would be at home.

Cassie folded her arms across her chest and pouted.

“Cass, put your coat on so we can go.” Heath was fatigued from pacing the waiting room for five hours. Marni slept off the effect of her epidural; he had yet to be afforded the luxury.

But Cassie flopped in the chair by the window.

“Santa didn’t even come. I don’t want to go home.”

“But Santa did come. He brought your sister.”

Cassie huffed. “I wanted a Barbie Dream House.”

Marni mumbled, her eyes fluttered.

“Cassie, don’t argue.” She fumbled for her plastic cup of water, and Heath held the straw  to her lips. “Be a good girl.”

Cassie slid her arms into her red pleated coat with the faux fur collar and pulled on her black Cossack hat and mittens. She started for the door, and turned to kiss her mother on the cheek.

“Did you see your sister?” Marni tried, she really did, to engage with her elder daughter.

“Yeah, I saw her. She’s cute.” She waved at Mommie as she turned toward the door, her gaze on the floor.

Marni sighed. “Cassie,” she called weakly. Cassie paused, looked back at her mother. “Happy Birthday.”


#Tessa, #Christmas, #whereisSanta, #babysister, #Barbiedreamhouse

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 indie publishing - 120614

“I’ve been thrown in the deep end. Of a deep ocean. In a tidal wave. And all I want to do is write my stories. …  Write a bio, they say. What do you want to know? I write, that’s what I do.” That was the opening to my first blog post as an author. [Drowning, 041114] Write a bio, Tweet on Twitter, blog a blog, track sales, run specials, host events, attend events by other writers – the list never ends! And let’s not forget marketing! I jumped in headlong without knowing what I was doing.

Indie Publishing Handbook will help keep a new author from that deep end of the ocean. It provides clear and succinct phases of the process to successfully get your “baby” to market and in the hands of readers. And turn those readers into fans who will stay with you throughout your writing career. What is overwhelming and insurmountable becomes doable and ‘mountable.’ Broken down into distinct and clear-cut chunks, the beast of publishing becomes tamed.

Heather Day Gilbert has provided a concise summation of four key elements for launching a successful Indie writing career. She mentions at the start, there are “ever-changing details” and encourages the would-be or newbie Indie to stay up-to-date of the never-ending tide that is this business. Ms. Gilbert emphasizes the investment of time – “don’t rush the process.” She walks her reader through each key element with simple-to-follow steps.

You won’t be disappointed with Indie Publishing Handbook, and will refer to it time and again as you begin your writing and publishing venture.

#bookreview, #heatherdaygilbert, #indiepublishinghandbook, #keyelements, #editing, #coverartbooklburb, #formatting&uploading, #marketing

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occasional diamond thief

Kia is sixteen when her father dies, and already her life is fractured. Moments before he dies, in his delirium, he gives her something, something he has hidden away for most of the years of his life. Something he stole. A rare – and illegal – Malemese diamond.

With the jewel secreted in her personal effects, and thinking only to get away from her mother, Kia embarks on what she intends to be a new life. A series of misfortunes take her to the far away planet of Malem; her affinity for and aptitude with languages has earned her the position of translator for Select Agatha, of the Order of Universal Benevolence.

But in running away from her problems at home, Kia finds she cannot run away from herself. Agatha seems to know Kia in ways she doesn’t even know herself. On Malem, Kia encounters harsh living conditions, and lives only for the day she can return to her home planet. Events conspire to involve her in not only returning the diamond to its owner, but in a daring rescue.

Jane Ann McLachlan easily drew me into her story. Not a genre I have read before, it hooked me from the start. Written in first person, the story pulled me in and made me feel I was there. I sweated when Kia was eavesdropping, when she met Sodum in the alley behind his shop. My heart raced with her when she and Agatha are brought before the Queen of Malem. I grew fond of Kia, and of Agatha. I rooted for them. And cheered them on as they came into the final stretch of the story.

I thoroughly enjoyed this story and look forward to more by this author. I highly recommend The Occasional Diamond Thief.

#bookreview, #janeannmclachlan, #theoccasionaldiamonthief, #youngadultfiction. #sciencefiction, #futuristic, #spacetravel

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