Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Wrapped Up in a Good Book: Comfort Reading

When I am tired, or sick, or depressed, or just want to relax, I like to wrap myself up in a comforting book.  My husband shares that habit, and early in our life together we knew we were a good match because we both like to read at the dinner table. 

That may sound anti-social, but hey, it’s late in the day, a day in which we may have had too many stressful interactions with others, and we are winding down.  We have plenty of conversation at other times, and indeed we often share interesting or humorous passages from our dinnertime reading.

Unless one of us is immersed in something absolutely unputdownable, we don’t usually choose intense or challenging reading matter to accompany a meal, or to take when curling up in an armchair or “sprawling” on the bed (as my husband likes to do) before sleep. At such times we go for comfort reading.

So what is comfort reading?  For me it’s often an old favorite:  the novels of Jane Austen, or the lesser—but far more prolific—Georgette Heyer; romantic adventure tales popular in my youth, by Mary Stewart, Joan Aiken and her sister Jane Aiken Hodge—or Aiken’s works for younger readers, especially Midnight is a Place, Saddle the Sea, etc.  In fact, I’m still fond of a lot of so-called “juvenile fiction,” and well-written mysteries often bear rereading.  Jo Bannister's, for example - an extremely underrated author.

For my husband, it’s thrillers by Tom Clancy or Robert Ludlum; Colleen McCullough’s novels of ancient Rome; Bill Bryson’s rambles through landscapes and/or language; and the Dune books.  He loves Frank Herbert’s books, mourns Herbert’s untimely passing ,and makes scathing remarks on the inferiority of the many sequels and prequels co-authored by son Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson—but he reads them anyway.  Call them methadone for Dune addicts!  

When I am truly sick or sad or sorry, I turn to Ursula Le Guin’s Earthsea books, especially the first trilogy, for their spiritual beauty, their moral compass, their honesty about the cycles of life and death.

Four years ago my grandsons, then seven-and-a-half and nine-and-a-half, suffered a terrible bereavement, and when they next came to visit, they were still mourning.  Both were impatient with cuddling or any form of “babying” so there was no easy comfort for a grandmother to offer them, except to provide their favorite foods. 

The elder was a Harry Potter addict early in life, demanding endless repeats of the first movie before he could read, and then learning to read at an early age.  He’s long since exhausted the Harry Potter books and moved on to other (often better-written) sagas of wizardry, making his way through heavy volumes at a speed that astounds even me—and I read hundreds of novels every year.

The younger boy is not such a reader himself, but his father reads aloud to him most evenings.  He used to enjoy hearing me read as well, but on the first night and the second night of that visit he refused my offers to read to him; that seemed to fall into the category of “babying” he’d no longer tolerate. 

But on the third and final night of their stay, he rummaged through my shelves and brought me a book he used to love:  The Color Kittens.  We’ve read it so many times we know it by heart:  So we curled up on the couch with a blanket and half-read, half-recited:  “green as cats eyes, green as grass, by streams of water green as glass.” At the triumphant conclusion “all the colors in the world, and the Color Kittens had made them!” he hoisted his sleepy self off the couch, kissed us goodnight, and trundled upstairs to his father who was waiting to tuck him in. Comfort reading still rules!

What is your favorite comfort reading?

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Bullets... and Bullet Points

My friend Annette Matrisciano is finishing up a wildly suspenseful crime novel called Dead Rite -- not much like this one (no coffins to speak of, though plenty of dead bodies!). But what can I say? I love John Dickson Carr's work, and was happy to stumble across this funky old cover art. Annette's book could almost be called neo-noir, for the atmosphere, but fails to be noir in one essential way: we like her two heroines. They might each of them do a few less-than-admirable things, but they are not amoral.

Anyway, Annette took some time off from stressful revisions to pen this little gem of author's irony.  Here, for your pleasure, is:

Dissecting The Mystery Novel – Chalk Outline and Bullet Points.
By Annette Matrisciano

*  Expect scenes to be liberally salted and peppered with inner dialogues exposing soul searching and freight dumping.  We all know it's gotta go somewhere.  Like landfills.

Chapter 1 - Big, fat unhappy open!!
The other 60 chapters:
●  Meet our protagonist.  Oh my, she's feisty!  Cute dog, too.
●  Meet our other protagonist - Noble princess – high ideals with silver-spoon syndrome.
●  Villain number one.  Nut job.
Follow all the above for a few more chapters.  Unless your cell phone rings.  Do you resume?
●  Scrappy handmaiden – and sex – because someone's gotta do it.
●  WTF is she thinking?  Protagonists and reader know the answer, but both continue, nonetheless.
●  True love.  Maybe. Yes.  No. Uh... still maybe.
Don't go in the attic!  Reader now sits on the edge of his or her recliner.
●  Fuck-ups, wrong turns & hubris galore balanced with, I'd pick her first for my dodge-ball team!
●  Concealed weapons and lace panties.  Always a crowd pleaser.
●  Oh, God!  The 'why me' pity-party.
The ringers – meet villains two and three.
●  Hellloooo!  You didn't see that coming?!  Reader gets to make judgements about protagonist.
●  You shoulda listened to me vs. I shoulda listened to you.
●  Confirm and deny – AKA Doubt Samplings.
Dead bodies.  A sprinkling of at least three is usually advised.
●  Occult tastings served here.
●  Career boosting bit-parts for character actors.
●  Proof he's a douche.  Lots of proof.
Requisite weeping.  Repeat.  Requisite weeping.
          ●  The “Luke, I am your father” showdown, with serial possibilities
●  Villain's long overdue kick to the groin dished out by heroine.  I have two of these final blow scenes – One for each of my complex and well drawn protagonists.
●  The BFF closer.

And when the last page is turned:
All my friends tell me how great it was.  My mother is dead, or she might have liked it, too.

Friday, May 8, 2015

Spring is here and it's time for a big giveaway from Laughing Vixen Lounge. 11 shops have come together to create one amazing Prize Pack ($280+) full of Jewelry, Perfume, Clothing, Vintage and much more! Many of the shops offer items perfect for any book lover along with lots of other unique, handcrafted and custom designs.

The Fabulous Spring Giveaway is open worldwide. 1 winner will win the Prize Pack. You can enter via the Rafflecopter below. Please visit the Laughing Vixen Lounge Blog and the Main Giveaway Post HERE to see the full prize list, participating shops and daily features during the giveaway.

Since Summer is right around the corner the giveaway theme is Vacation Memories. Each of our participating shops, and many of our blog sponsors, will be sharing some of their favorite vacation photos with you. Here are a few photos from my last beach vacation, on the Oregon Coast.

Giveaway runs May 4th - 18th. Laughing Vixen Lounge is responsible for all giveaway details. See full details HERE.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Friday, May 1, 2015

When Janie joins a book club...

A thirty-something professional editor, Janie is naturally reserved, but as a new arrival in Oakville, she'd like to meet a few people, maybe make some new friends, so she joins a book club. She doesn't realize that love is in the air--and she's not sure she wants it to be!

Giulietta Spudich has written a light-hearted but touching sequel to my story A Mystery for Marissa.

The Right Kiss, Book 2 of The Monday Mystery Society, is free today through Sunday on Amazon

Check it out!  And if you like it, do consider posting a brief review.  Those reviews help keep us writing!

Monday, April 20, 2015


I hope you enjoyed my story A Mystery for Marissa, Book 1 of The Monday Mystery Society.  

Now here's Book 2, by my friend Giulietta Spudich.

The Right Kiss follows Janie, a dainty green-eyed young woman who may appear shy or even timid, but actually knows her own mind very well.  If she always goes silent and withdrawn with attractive young men - well, it's because she's not interested. That worries her sometimes, but not enough to change her mind.

She's holding out for the one worth waiting for:  the right man, the right time, the right kiss.  And in the meantime, no one is going to push her around.

In her reserve, her natural elegance, and her quiet certainty about who she is and what she wants, she reminds me of Fanny Price in Jane Austen's Mansfield Park.

Lovely Book 2, Giulietta.  Proud to share an anthology with you.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

How do YOU carve out the time to write?

Here's a great  post from fellow-writer Elizabeth Inglee-Richards on that topic.

I love Elizabeth's work, bold and quirky urban fantasy.  Her straightforward, deceptively simple style can convince you that nothing is more likely or natural than a pro hockey team composed of were-hyenas.

Yes, you read that right.  Pro hockey.  Were-hyenas.  They're called Bouda. You know you want to read more. Here's one. of her tales

Me, I'm lucky in that my job outside the home has a lot of down-time. I am not just permitted I'm encouraged to bring my laptop and write.  Apart from that, I find it helpful to get out to a cafe to work, because I am far too much of a hippie housewife, and if I stay home I'm too likely to get caught up in making soup or hanging laundry outside, or cutting up ordinary ladies' blouses from the thrift store and making them into peculiar but comfortable tunics along the lines of an Indian kameez.  Never mind.  You don't really want to know.

But even though I have a lot of time to write in theory I am naturally a disorganized person, and I do not make the most of what I have.  Elizabeth's hints are very simple, very practical, very do-able.

I love the last one; I think it's something we all need to remember:

6) don’t beat yourself up: we are all human and life likes to laugh at us. If you can’t get to your computer (or you sit there and you don’t get your five words down) let it go. You can’t control the past, you can only control the future.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

nice blog interview with my friend Carol Ann Kauffman

a delightful and insightful talk about writing, from a multi-talented author

Just Write.

Nerd Girl Sunshine talks to Carol Ann Kauffman

Kauffman's Time After Time series is based in a most unusual premise: in each story the two lovers are and are not the same.  

Different mythologies tell us that the souls of a pair of fated lovers are twin flames, or a single soul divided into two.  Kauffman turns this concept into a series of novels in which the souls of Richard and Nicole meet again and again, in different times and places, different bodies and personalities, at different ages.

Waiting for Richard appealed enormously to me because the lovers - like me - are well over sixty years old.  But I also enjoyed The Basilicato featuring much younger lovers and some wild adventures, murderous foes, etc.  I can't wait to read more of the series.

Friday, March 20, 2015

It's a.... Mystery!

My newest story is out.

A Mystery For Marissa 

Story #One in the new romance series about a book club in (where else?)  Oakville.

The Monday 

Mystery Society

When young bookstore owner Rob starts a new reading group, The Monday Mystery Society draws ten diverse individuals, all attractive in their unique ways—and all of them single. How many will still be single by the night of the group’s closing party? 

Rob was content to divide his time and passion between running the independent bookstore he loves, and playing amateur soccer--until he met Marissa.  She may be the woman of his dreams, but unfortunately, the gorgeous nurse stiffens up at the mere hint that he might ask her out. Thinking fast, Rob invents a mystery reading group, just for the chance to spend some time with the gorgeous nurse. 

The big mystery on his mind now is how far he’ll have to go to get her attention.  Does he need to show up wounded (as some of his teammates already have) in her ER? 

Welcome to Oakville, where people still know their neighbors, friendships last a lifetime—and gossip is a force of nature.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

My Oakville anthology is out.


Welcome to Oakville

a small town where people still know their neighbors, friendships last a lifetime, and gossip is a force of nature.

          "Tell me where Oakville is, so I can move there!"
                                      ~  Annette Matrisciano
                                           author of Dead Rite

Now you can get the first three Oakville stories as a single volume.  The ebook is available now, and the print version is coming soon.  Makes a great vacation read for the romance lovers in your life.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

help for a writer's most dangerous physical activity


We sit to write.  We sit to read.  For hours and hours and hours every day.  And it's not good for us.

Sometimes we try standing to work instead, but that doesn't really help, because it brings on another set of problems.

The only solution to this problem is periodic movement--but sometimes that just seems like too much trouble.

I mean, yeah, I know I should go take a walk, but that means first (oh, the horror!) getting dressed, and putting on shoes, and going outside, where it's probably rainy or blindingly sunny, or windy, or something weather-related. Besides, I'm on a roll here, and I'll lose it if I leave it now.

Okay, so I'm exaggerating a little.  For one thing, I actually  like to walk, and even better, I've found that I can do a lot of my best thinking about a work in progress while I'm walking.

But the fact is, if I'm in the middle of something that's going so well I don't want to leave it (or so badly that I'm ashamed to leave it until I get a grip on what's wrong), I'm not going to set out for an hour-long walk, or even a little half-hour stroll.  I'm unlikely to walk more than a few yards, to get a drink of water or another cup of coffee.  I'm  more likely to just sit there rubbing absent-mindedly at an aching shoulder and groaning softly to myself.

In an earlier post I mentioned Suzan Colón's blog, how I found my way there through a very appealing photo of a bookstore, and discovered some great articles.  The other day I clicked on a button labeled Take a Yoga Break.  Here's what I found.
"Take A Yoga Break™ is a series of yoga-based moves designed to help counteract the dangerous health problems associated with long-term sitting. TAYB poses are simple, quick, and can be done right at your desk—no special equipment, fitness level, or OM required. Seat-izens™, stand up for your health with Take A Yoga Break!"

Now, I love yoga.  My second Oakville story, Comfort and Joy, is about two people brought together by their shared love of yoga.

I'm certainly no expert,  though and I don't do it anywhere near as often as I wish I did.  So this app is a very appealing way to put yoga right next to me, without the need to sign up for classes or even change my clothes.  I love it!  

Here's a little more info:

"Sitting is the new smoking," Suzan says, in terms of dangers to your health.   Take A Yoga Break (TAYB for short) is a series of yoga-based moves that help counteract the dangers of long periods of sitting. TAYB moves reactivate electrical activity in the legs and gently stretch muscles, and they can be done right at your desk in just minutes.

Take A Yoga Break’s creator, Suzan Colón, is the author of ten books and a former Senior Editor of O, the Oprah Magazine. The aches and pains she felt from sitting at desks for years led her to do yoga, and to become a certified instructor at the world-renowned Integral Yoga Institute. She went on to earn certificates of completion in Therapeutic Yoga and Yoga for Arthritis. Suzan designed TAYB for people of any age, shape, and fitness level.

The Take A Yoga Break™ app has a timer that gives reminders to stand when you want them, and then shows step-by-step instructions and illustrations for over 30 simple, gentle moves. Go through the list in the Exercises section to pick your favorites. Swipe to see each step and the whole move animated.

For more on how to beat the dangers of sitting, as well as tips on office wellness and health, visit and follow TAYB on Twitter and Facebook. To contact them, email

“…an app that will remind users to push away from their desks and perform the poses right there, no stretchy pants or mat required.”Fast Company, Innovation Agents

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

a picture of a bookstore leads me to a fabulous site

A few weeks back I was looking online for attractive photos of independent bookstores.  I found this.

Being kind of clueless at times, I neglected to find out where the pretty picture came from.  My bad. I should not have shared it without knowing that and crediting the source.  Well, here's that source, and I am so glad I found it.

Here is a piece of wonderfulness (one of many) that speaks directly to me as a writer of romance stories:  Writing Romance, Now More Than Ever

Monday, February 2, 2015

My Valentine story is out!

Here it is:  Heart of Stone.

Now available from Books To Go Now.

Sharon Hall’s biological clock is ticking.  
Policeman Jack Kennett appeals to the cuddly librarian, very much—but his attitude toward the library’s less-fortunate patrons makes her wonder if he’s too cold-hearted for marriage and fatherhood.  
Mabel likes him - but is a homeless woman who fled two bad marriages really  the right person to advise Sharon on romance?


A very odd young man, who wants a new library card in his Night Elf name, Ydrelion Owlblade, seems to be getting dangerously obsessed with Sharon...

Welcome to Oakville,

a contemporary small town where people still know their neighbors, friendships last a lifetime, and gossip is a force of nature!

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

a great source of writing hints

A few years back, before I found my own just-the-right-size critique group, I used to take part in a sprawling and inconsistent Meet-up group called KITSAP WRITERS.  My first attempt to get any critique out of it was inauspicious:  I sat  in a rather claustrophobic meeting room in a Naval community facility for three hours ~ yes, you read that right: three hours ~  listening to to people maunder on about whatever personal concerns were suggested to them by elements of the story being critiqued: their vacations, their pets, things that happened to them the previous week, or year, or decade.  By the time we got to my story, there were six people left of the original three dozen, two of whom had read my story.

I did eventually get some helpful critique, most of it from the group's founder (now founder emeritus), Randy Henderson.

Randy, who refers to himself as a relapsed sarcasm addict, writes, as you might guess, darkly humorous fiction.  His novel Finn Fancy Necromancy, coming this year from the major fantasy publisher TOR, won the Writers of the Future 2014 Golden Pen Grand Prize.

He also writes incredibly useful articles about the profession of writing, such as this one on setting goals.  Here is an excerpt from an article on why we need scientist heroes again, as pointed as it is entertaining:


Just as an indication of how badly America is in need of a science image makeover, consider that the US was ranked 29th in Science and Math education behind countries like the Czech Republic, Croatia, and Liechtenstein. And before you ask, yes, Liechtenstein is a real nation, it is not a Marvel Universe invention.
And adult scientific literacy isn’t doing so well either. A recent study found, for example, that one in five American adults think that the Sun revolves around the Earth.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Exciting New Project

My fictional small town of Oakville ~ where people still know their neighbors, friendships last a lifetime, and gossip is a force of nature ~ continues to grow....

Not in population, I hope, because it's a nice size right now, but in the number of stories told about its friends and lovers, its shopkeepers and their customers.

Four wonderful authors, Carol Ann Kauffman & Giulietta Maria Spudich & JW Stacks  & Samna Ghanihave joined me in developing an anthology of five linked stories about the members of a  reading group, 

The Monday Mystery Society is born out of some fast and creative thinking on the part of Rob Gordon, co-owner of Oakville's independent bookstore Acorns.  He's attracted to customer Marissa Cullen, and he's about to ask her out when he sees her face closing up in refusal.  So instead of suggesting she have dinner with him, he invites her to sign up for the new book group just forming: a group that coincidentally meets on Mondays (her day off) and begins with a book she has just purchased.

We're looking at the first story, A Mystery For Marissa, coming out sometime in March from Books To Go Now, with the other four following at 2 to 3 week intervals.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

blog visiting :-)

Romance writer Samna Ghani has featured me on her blog today. Drop by and say hello!

Here's the link.

Samna and I have a lot in common, from being fans of Jane Austen and Georgette Heyer, to being published by Books To Go Now .

Her own stories have a lovely sparkle and lightness to them.  If you haven't tried one, I highly recommend you do  :-)

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

my new Christmas story -- and Book Two in the Oakville series

Comfort and Joy, my new Christmas story, begins with a wedding and ends with an engagement.

In the middle?  

Yoga, Christmas carols, panic attacks, a newly-divorced, middle-aged orange-haired yogini with a fondness for magenta, a 40-year-old yoga instructor with a lot of women in his past but no marriages--and a very large puppy.

You can buy it here.

The story also appears in the Books To Go Now anthology  Christmas Treasures

new story coming for Valentine's Day

Heart of Stone, my next Oakville story, will be coming out soon, in time for Valentine's Day, through my delightful independent publisher  Books To Go Now .  I don't know quite yet what the cover will look like, but I can tell you a little about the story.

Downtown Public Library, Muncie, Indiana

It begins, as so many happy moments of my life have begun, in a fine old Carnegie Library.  Sharon Hall, mentioned in Comfort and Joy as Sid Meade's former squeeze, is the evening librarian in Oakville's Downtown Public Library.  Policeman Jack Kennett has taken to dropping  by on his break to visit.

Sharon is definitely attracted to him--and her biological clock is ticking--but she wishes he were not so judgmental about the little group of well-behaved homeless people who hang out in the library on winter evenings.  She wants a warm-hearted man in her dream of home and family.

Meanwhile, Jack isn't Sharon's only suitor.  A pale, lank-haired young man who lives in a fantasy world inspired by anime comics, and rejects his birth name Kyle Higgins in favor of his Night Elf name Ydrelion Owlblade.  He brings Sharon gifts from the Pagan Festival and writes poetry in her honor. But as he slides farther and further into fantasy, his attentions start to creep Sharon out....

Officer Jack Kennett sees Sharon's homeless buddies as a potential source of trouble...  But he could be very wrong.