Okay, so we had a 10+ pound ham and there’s just 2 of us and even after delivering meals to 4 friends on Easter, I still have a lot of ham.  So I was asking folks what they were having for Easter and Traci Hall said she was making Monte Cristo sandwiches.  So, that was the meal for this evening.  Never made one . . .


Ingredients: (for 1 sandwich – do what you will for the correct number)

  • 2 slices of bread – try to get a whole wheat white, it just plays better with the sweet/savory of the sandwich
  • 1 t Mayo
  • 1 t mustard (I use Dijon)
  • 2 slices ham
  • 2 slices turkey (optional – just add another slice of ham)
  • 1 slice Swiss cheese
  • 1 egg
  • ½ cup milk
  • Oil for cooking




  • Smear mustard and mayo on bread
  • Alternate ham, Swiss and turkey
  • Whisk milk and eggs together
  • Dip sandwich in egg mixture
  • Heat a pan over medium heat
  • Brown on both sides & serve hot




The OCD Writer

I like to think I’m a pretty organized person.  My husband will tell you I’m OCD.  In fact, he told me the other day that he was afraid to get up to use the bathroom in the middle of the night for fear I’d make the bed.


I don’t think I’m that bad.  But I am famous for color-coding and making notebooks.  This is especially true when it comes to writing.  I use 3-inch binders for series (The Rose Tattoo, The Landry Brothers, Finley Tanner Mysteries), then 2-inch binders for each individual book.  I use two writing programs, Power Structure for keeping my plot organized and WriteWayPro for characterization.


When it comes to characters, I usually start with a visual.  I’ll hunt around the internet until I find an image that fits the person in my mind, then I’ll create (in WriteWay) a full character sheet – everything from eye color to nail polish preferences.  I make up a backstory and try to build a dimensional person out of that initial picture (it can be a famous person or just someone on a Facebook page – no one sees this but me).  Once I finish, those character sheets get filed into the color-coded binder in the character section.  I also print out pictures of their cars, house layouts (I go to builder’s sites and download floorplans), I try really hard to make sure I have all my ducks in a row.


But, like everyone else, from time to time I make mistakes.  I’ve been writing Finley Tanner mysteries for more than a decade.  I’ve also done other projects in between those books.  So even though I try to get everything right, it doesn’t always happen.  As was pointed out by a recent review left on Amazon.  Please don’t think I’m whining about a bad review, trust me, if I could write a book that made the whole world happy, I’d be a very wealthy woman.  What struck me was the assertion that I somehow was lazy.  Nothing could be farther from the truth.  I simply made a mistake.  I went back into my ‘bible’ binder (the thick one that holds all the info on the major characters) and corrected the mistake so it wouldn’t happen again.  So that makes the criticism good because it was constructive in that I did have to address that for the next Finley book.  But I still have trouble with the assertion that I’m lazy.  I am a lot of things but lazy is definitely not one of them.  And while I appreciate the heads up on the error, I could have been delivered minus the personal attack.


It’s 4:45 AM, time to get to work on the first book of a new trilogy.

Losing my mother badge on Throwback Thursday



My mom role is changing.  This Easter my daughter is going to Disney with her boyfriend and his family.  Lovely people and I really am happy for her but . . . it’s the first holiday she hasn’t had her feet under my table.  I’m trying to take it like a big girl since I’m sure this is just the start of things to come.  But it got me to thinking. . .


There are certain things you do as a parent that I won’t miss.  One has to do with Easter – I loathe dying Easter eggs.  Messy and at some point everyone gets bored and starts dipping the eggs in all the colors, making a bunch of brownish-purple eggs.  I hate carving pumpkins.  I hate the smell and the slime.  Yes, I did it, but not one of my favorite activities.


Then there is the worst, IMHO.  The trip to the petting zoo where some goat eats your clothes while you try to convince it to chow down on the $5.00 worth of pellets you just bought.  They smell, they have e-coli and in general, I’m not a farm girl.  Hell, I won’t even plant a flower – that’s how much I hate being dirty.  And man do you feel dirty when a goat has slobbered all over your clothes.


But, those days are over for me and for that I’m thankful.  Knowing my daughter has taken another step toward independence is a tad harder to get used to.


Happy Easter!

Death in the computer family

Why is it that just when you need it most, your printer commits suicide?  Mine bit the big one last night.  Just as I was copying stuff for the tax accountant.  But on the plus side, my printer, which I love and have a drawer full of ink cartridges for, is still available, but it’s discounted from $250.00 to $99.00 because they have a newer model available.  So I opt to go pick it up in the store.  But no, not that easy!


There isn’t one available within a 50-mile radius of my home.  I’m crushed.  But then a window pops up and says they can ship one to me by today.  Do I actually think it will arrive today?  No. But this week – yes.  In my experience, Staples ‘overnight’ shipping is more like three-day shipping.  I’ll take that.


And what will happen to my old printer?  My husband will stack it in the garage like he has the last 3 printers.  I keep telling him to drop them off to the guy who works on my computer.  He might want them for parts, and if he doesn’t, find the closest dumpster.  But that isn’t in packrat Bob’s nature.  Everything has value to him.  I am not making this up – for all 34 years of my marriage, we’ve lugged a huge box around from basement to basement to garage.  What’s inside?  Some magical treasure?  No, Cheerios box tops.  Some of them have price stickers on them – ten cents.  Seriously? I ask him – what, are you saving up for a decoder ring?  He had a zillion slides and a slide projector, so last Christmas I had the slides turned into a 2 books that sit nicely on our coffee table.  But do you think he’s gotten rid of the slides or the slide projector?  Nope.  And the slides have started to deteriorate so he’s lucky I did what I did.


So, are you a saver or a neat freak?

Go ask Grandma

My husband and I went to vote last week (this is not a political post) we were walking into our polling place and we call my husband the stump whistler because he’ll stop and chat with a stump.  He chats with everyone.  So he held the door for this frail woman and her companion and of course asked her (jokingly) if this was the first time she’d voted.  Turns out she’s voted in every election since 1936 and spent her teen years picketing for woman’s suffrage.  Her mother was a suffragette in New York in the teens and so this nice lady said she remembered how hard it had been for women to get the vote, that she wouldn’t dream of not exercising that right.


Made me stop and think.  Her companion told us that sadly, at 98, the woman had outlived her spouse and all of her children.  Occasionally a grandchild will come and visit her, but that didn’t happen very often.  All I could think of was what an interesting life this woman led.  I asked her about flight and she told me she and her husband would take a plane from New York to Boston to see baseball games just because it was magical to fly.  As a writer, I’m thinking someone please sit down with this woman and turn on a tape recorder and let it rip!  My own guilt speaking – my grandmother lived until she was 2-weeks shy of her 100th birthday and I never thought to ask her about her early life.  Apparently neither did anyone else in my family.  What a loss.


My hubby is battered and beaten

I’m beating my husband.  Been beating him since Thursday.  But there isn’t a scratch on him.  Why?  Because we’re talking March Madness here. My DH spends hours reading and researching each pairing and then we meet in his office to fill out our brackets.  Easy for me, I make my selections based on whether or not I like their outfits, or their mascot, or I have relatives that live in that area, or I’ve visited that area and, well, you get the picture.  This, of course, makes my hubby nuts.

Is there something you do that makes your spouse/significant other crazy?

Happy 104th birthday Grandmother

Thursday2 001

Okay, so technically it isn’t her birthday, she passed away 2 weeks’ shy of her 100th.  But this photo was her 90th birthday party.  But this throwback Thursday is because of what happened when dear hubby and I went to vote.  As we were arriving, a spry woman with a cane was leaving.  Now you have to understand that we call my husband stump because no matter where he is or goes, he strikes up a conversation and if there aren’t people around, he’d chat with the closest stump.


So anyway, my husband asked her how long she’d been voting and her reply was Woodrow Wilson.  Wow – and she hasn’t missed a primary or a general election in her life.  Except for the first time when she was of age, but women didn’t yet have the vote.  The woman was inspiring and reminded me of my grandmother (hence the photo).  Except that this woman will be celebrating her 105th birthday in April.


So what did I learn?  Don’t put off those conversations with the older members of your family.  Hand them a microcassette and some tapes and make a list of questions and go for it.  These oral histories are easily forgotten (or twisted as they go generation to generation).  My mother-in-law performed in Vaudeville and I have 4 huge boxes of photos of her with other performers.  I recognize some of them – Jack Benny, etc. but the others are lost for time.  Such a shame.  So make this a priority!


Happy St. V’s Day!

A little bit about Cassidy and a Novice’s Guide to Indie Publishing

Okay, granted, I’m not the most computer savvy person in the world but I can read for comprehension.  So I thought (silly me) the most difficult part of getting NO RETURNS up or sale was going to be writing the darned thing.  No spoiler alert, but NO RETURNS is all about Finley and her evil mother Cassidy.  Why?  Well with Mother’s Day approaching I thought it would be interesting to feature their mother-daughter dysfunction.  And I get more snail mail, email, posts and reviews about Cassidy than any other sub-character in the books – save for Liam, of course.


Most people take me to task for making Cassidy so over-the-top.  Impossible, they tell me.  No mother would behave that way.  I beg to differ.  One of the perks of being a writer is the cathartic release you get when you get to have a character say what’s on your mind.  We once had a construction team adding a screened porch to our house in Maryland.  He and his crew worked slowly (because I stupidly was paying by the hour instead of the project); but not being a shrinking violet, I haunted them mercilessly.  I also killed off 3 or 4 of them in the book I was writing at the time.  Very satisfying if I do say so myself.


So back to Cassidy . . . For those who think she was a pure figment of my imagination, rest assured, she wasn’t.  Cassidy is only about 50% of my own mother.  The insulting digs, the unsolicited opinions; the general need to point out every flaw – all those character traits I learned at home.  So Cassidy isn’t an exaggeration of my own mother, she’s more like a toned down version.  It actually became a joke amongst my friends – they all recognized that hint of my mother in several books.  But the only person who didn’t seem to see the similarities was my mother.


Then there’s that other benefit of slipping a character based on a real person into a story – dialogue.  When my mother would fire a zinger over my head, I didn’t always have a quick oral volley back.  But when the words are Finley’s, I have all the time in the world to answer with a pithy quip of my own.


Enough about the Cassidy/Mother thing . . . the really difficult part of this whole indie endeavor has had me running the full gamut from sheer elation at finding the correct way to do something to tears of utter frustration.  But I thought I’d share a little bit of the journey:


Step 1: designing a cover.  If you can do this yourself, more power to you.  However, if you’re like me, you need a professional.  I searched and searched and asked for recommendations from friends and finally settled on 99Designs.  So long as you have some idea off what you want – and they don’t need much to start the process.  Then they do a ‘contest’ and you get messages to your inbox letting you know something is there for you to consider.  At this point, you can email one or more of the contestants with feedback – change the color, the font, no pearls in a wine glass – whatever you don’t like.  Then they make the changes and you review it and the process continues like that for 10 days.  And don’t forget, you’re working with more than one contestant, so stay on it until you get what you really want.  I ended up with 3 I really liked and to be honest, I polled some friends and I paid for the cover.  That was $299.00.


Step 2:  This should actually be going on simultaneously with step 1.  Beg, borrow, steal or pay someone to do a full edit.  No matter how cleanly you happen to write, it’s a proven fact that our eyes often see what we thought it mean and not what is actually on the page.  This is one of your ‘know your weaknesses’ issues.  And I understand Amazon is starting to crack down on unedited materials.  Maybe you can trade for the edit.  I.e. if you’re a strong plotter, offer to help a computer savvy friend with their pacing in exchange for a content edit.  But you need more than that – a line edit is just as important.


Step 3: buy an ISBN or 2.  You can buy an ebook ISBN and be done with it for $125.00.  Or, as I learned after I’d already purchased my ISBN – you can use a company called Books2Digital for this.  Just remember each format requires a separate ISBN.  So if you’re doing an ebook and a POD version, you need 2 ISBNs.


Step 4:  The formatting.  You have many options here. You will need to get several different formatted files because each vendor has a different preferred formatting.  You will need to send the squeaky clean manuscript and cover to the formatter.  The average price for a 40,000+ manuscript is roughly $100.00 to $125.00.  OR you can go to Draft2Digital and they will take care of formatting and assigning an ISBN.  (Side note) even if you use Draft2Digital you retain copyright even though they are assigning the ISBN.  OR you can buy your ISBN separately and then still use Draft2Digital to fill in the pieces.


Step 5:  As soon as you have your formatted stuff ready – time for the upload.  You have 2 options.  1 – do it yourself, though each vendor is different and this can take some time and some calls to the vendors to get it done right.  If you have a MAC, you can use Vellum and that program can get you past the gatekeepers at iBooks (I’m told the hardest upload to do).  Or, you can use Draft2Digital and they do all the uploading to all of the big vendors (check out their website).  You will need your bank routing number to set up these accounts because they pay via direct deposit.  There is also an option to use Amazon only and you get a few perks with that as well (see the webpage).


Side Note:  As soon as you have your back cover copy written and the formatted cover you can set-up a pre-order option on Amazon.  I did not see that option on any of the other vendors.


Step 6:  RELEASE DAY!  Scream from your blog, twitter, Instagram, Facebook, your website – whatever.  Time to go from production mode into publicity mode.  And that is entirely dependent upon your personal budget.  I’m told by many that the best promo is a FaceBook ad.  But I’m not endorsing that or any other form of promotion.


So that, in a nutshell, is one way to navigate your way through the indie publishing world.


Good Luck!

DST, Finley and Me

Ever felt like you had too many balls in the air?  I’m starting to get that feeling.   And losing an hour of sleep isn’t helping.  Okay, so I understand back in the distant future when we were mostly an agrarian society, we had to make daylight adjustments so all the planting and sowing could get done.  But guess what?  We’ve evolved – not that I don’t have complete and utter respect for farmers – they work long, hard hours and deserve many thanks.  But, wouldn’t it be a better idea if farmers just got up earlier and the rest of us slept in and didn’t fudge with the clocks?  And don’t get me started on clocks – that’s a 20-minute job in this house and no matter how hard I try, they are never in sync.  But I digress . . . hats off to Hawaii and Arizona – both states have stopped the silly policy of daylight savings time.  And it isn’t just the inconvenience, studies show that heart attacks and strokes happen as much as 24% more often at DST.  And yes, when we fall back in November, those number go back down.  Even our bodies are telling us this is a really bad idea.


Oh, and another thing . . . tomorrow I get No Returns (the Finley super novella – shorter than 100,000 words but longer than a novella) back from the formatter.  So with an hours’ less sleep, I’m going to have to figure out how to upload the book.  I must admit, I’m a tad terrified. I’ve never done this before, but everyone seems to think this will be a walk in the park.  Yeah, well, anytime someone tells me something is a walk in the park I pretty much panic.  And even though I’ve written since the days of the IBM Selectric, I actually have very few technical skills when it comes to computers.  I’ve decided that as I do this, I’m going to write down the steps and put them in a blog.  Maybe someone(s) has done this, but I haven’t been able to find it.  And in this digital world – some of us need guidelines to help us through the process.  In the old days we called this mentoring.  I don’t hear that word very often.  Which makes me sad.  I’m lucky enough to have some great friends who have been with me since before that first sale and within a few years, we all sold our first books.  We’ve been buds ever since.  We still help each other – stuck on something?  Plot hole opened up?  Editor making you insane?  We all have each other to talk to so maybe you can use part of your new daylight to reach out to a friend.  (That was a tiny aside) . . . back to the task at hand.


I’m so excited that Finley is back.  I LOVE writing the character but I completely understand Grand Central wanting to step away from a series that’s already been done by 2 previous publishers.  And I’m looking very forward to introducing you to Peyton Tanner – she’s Finley’s ½ sister.  And I look especially love the idea of having Fin pop up in the Peyton books so we can keep tabs on her.  I also love that I have the ability to write a Finley story and offer it digitally because, well, I’m not ready to give her up yet.  I was in downtown Palm Beach with a friend a few weeks ago and we had a little moment of confusion in the parking garage that would have made a perfect Finley and Jane scene, so she is definitely in my brain at all times.  The idea for Finley started way back in 2004, so I feel like she’s my errant child and I’m unwilling to cut the apron strings.  So, Finley isn’t over until we get the wedding invitation in the mail.


Watch this space, FaceBook and Twitter and you’ll know exactly when No Returns is available this week!

A bloody mess

So I get up at the crack of dawn, brush my teeth, get dressed and race out the door to go have fasting blood work done. Normal stuff – nothing fancy. I arrive, along with 50 new friends, and sit in the waiting area fantasizing about cups of coffee and wondering why I made an appointment if they were just taking people by arrival time.

So after 25 minutes my name is called and I go back to the window with my 6 sheets of paper and the young woman says, sorry, but you have an outstanding balance of $500+ dollars, we can’t do the tests. But no I tell her firmly. Quest (the lab) sent the last bill to Blue Cross/Blue Shield of Florida instead of Blue Cross/Blue Shield of Maryland. Please, I practically begged. I’ve been using this facility for 14 years, obviously this is just a glitch of some sort. I have another test that needs the results of this test scheduled for next week.

Well then, she’d be happy to take my credit card for the bogus balance due. Well, I decided, not happening. Screw it, I’d rather be drinking coffee anyway. My dh has the patience of a saint, he’ll get them on the phone and straighten it out.

But that doesn’t change the fact that Quest made the mistake, not me. Nor does it change the fact that Quest probably won’t change their attitude about sending the bill to the wrong insurer. Nor does it change the terse and superior tone of the receptionist who treated me as if I was scamming them into testing tubes of my blood. Guess what? I’d rather skip the blood thing all together. Hell, I’d love to skip the whole medical profession. I believe they are running neck and neck with lawyers when it comes to the respect of the public. A whole lot of CYA behavior. Give me a nurse practitioner any day of the week. I have one doctor I have to see monthly. I timed my last 2 visits. 3 minutes and 5 minutes respectively. The rest of the time was spent with the nurse practitioner and I doubt she got a proportional share of my $50.00 co-pay.

So while we may be making strides in healthcare, we’ve got a lot to do and I say we start with the automated phone system. As I said, my dear hubby has the patience, but I cringe when I get the “Hello, for English, press one . . .” I know I’m in for a long, long ordeal. And have you never noticed that what you need is never on the menu, so you have to press 9 or 0 and that puts you in a whole new queue. I call it the punishment lane. I think they play the odds . . . odds are you’ll hang-up long before they actually put a customer service rep on the line. And while I’m at it . . . is part of customer rep training the fine art of disconnecting your call during a transfer? I think it’s deliberate. It has to be.

Well . . . off to tell my dh that he has the rest of the day to try to get this straightened out.