Thursday, February 25, 2010

Office painted and all put together

I started painting my house and replacing the carpet with hard wood floors the beginning of December and almost every room has been done...almost.

I have one room that is finally all back together and two others should be by this weekend. This is my secret little hideaway where I go when I want to write in an atmosphere that is all about cozy writing.

Take a peak at my freshly Macademia Nut painted office with its new wood floor.

Yes, I made that plaid scarf hanging over the window.
Did you notice the lamps? I found those one weekend when I was driving aimlessly and stopping at all kinds of little shops. I stopped at a boutique shop called Enchanted Lace in Bedford, NH, walked in the front door and the first thing that caught my eye was those lamps. I had to have them. While I was there I also found this fun lime green hat with pink and brown flowers on it. I couldn't resist.

The big wreath hanging over my desk is something my mom made out of little fabric squares stufed into a straw wreath. It's wicked cool and has all the colors of the room in it.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

What can you NOT live without?

Look around you and notice your surroundings, the objects you've surrounded yourself with.

Maybe you have a large flat-screen TV, an old green recliner, a scarred wooden desk, an iron skillet you bought when you were first married so you could make those Sunday morning eggs and bacon. Maybe you have a lamp you found at a flea market you went to when you were in college, and a stuffed dog your first boyfriend gave you in high school.

These are all things that you've worked hard to purchase, some more than others, but you worked to earn the money for each and every one of them. Perhaps someone gave you a special something.

Now look at those things and tell us what could you NOT live without. This is purely a "material thing" question. If you came home tomorrow and found some or all of these things missing what would you do? Is there any one thing you could positively NOT live without.

By not live without, I mean it would drastically affect you and your life. We could live without most "things", but how will it change you and your future or would it?

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Practice Makes Perfect

Practice Makes Perfect is a short story I wrote for a children's writing class. I thought it a story any writer could relate to. I hope you enjoy this and it inspires you.

Sam was never great at anything. In everything she tried, she never came in higher than second, runner-up, the next best thing.

The day of the big track meet, her friend Craig, with his tall body and long legs came in first. Sam squeaked to the finish line shortly after Craig, barely able to breathe. Sam was bent over with her hands on her knees and sucking in air trying to get her wind back when the announcer came over the loud speaker.

“The winners is Craig Zeller.” Shouts and claps went up all over the stadium, and Craig bounded around as if he had just walked from his house to his mailbox and back.

“Coming in a close second is Sam Spenser.” Still bent over her knees, Sam waved a hand to fewer shouts and claps from the audience.

“Second again,” Sam mumbled and kicked the ground.

In the math contest at school, her brainiac friend Tom answered all the problems correctly on the chalkboard in five minutes while Sam struggled with the last two questions. She would never be best at math.

“How do you do that so fast?” she asked Tom.

He shrugged. “When I look at math equations the answers just appear to me, kinda like art does to an artist.”

Sam wrinkled her nose. Math as art? “Ew.”

When it came to art, Sam’s friend Andrea, was the best. It seemed to Sam that Andrea’s hand had an artist’s brush or pencil attached to it, like an extension of her arm. She won every contest she ever entered.

At the spring art festival, Andrea’s watercolor of a colorful chocolate fairy won first prize and was placed for display on an easel all by itself. Sam’s painting of a bunny rabbit riding a snowboard was hidden among all the other runner’s up.

There was nothing Sam was best at.

Sitting on the steps of her front porch, hands on knees, Sam sighed.

“What’s wrong, Sweet Cheeks?”

Sam smiled at her father and the use of her nickname he’d given her.

Her dad sat down next to her. “What’s got you so blue?”

Sam looked at her father dead in the eye. “I’m not good at anything.”

“What? You’re good at everything.”

She blew out a breath. “I mean I’m not the best at anything. I never come in first in any contest. How do I move past good and become the best?”

“First of all, just trying anything is good. A lot of people are too afraid to try. You’re not. And placing in a contest is fantastic. You don’t have to be first.”

“Dad,” she sighed, “I know all that, but I want to be the best at something.”

Her father wrapped an arm around Sam’s shoulders and hugged. “Okay, no lecture. How about some advice?”

Sam nodded.

“If you want to be the best at anything you have to practice, not just the day of the contest, but regularly. The real key to being successful at something is doing something you love. If you love what you do then practicing is easier, and when you enter a contest your heart is in it.”

Sam thought about her dad’s words. Do what you love. Her friend Andrea loved to draw and paint, Craig wanted to run marathons and loved running, and Tom thought numbers were art, so he must love math.

Sam’s dad kissed her on the cheek and ruffled her hair. “Feel better?”

Jumping to her feet, Sam kissed her father back. “Much. Thanks, Dad.”

She started down the steps of the porch and her father yelled after her. “Good luck!”

In her treehouse, Sam pulled out a pen and paper and made a list. She wrote down the things she could do. On the paper, she wrote math, drawing, running, poetry, soccer, volleyball, and gardening. When she finished her list, Sam put the pen down, and reflected. Which of those things did she love?

Finger to her lips, brow furrowed, Sam thought. And thought. She liked all of them, but she didn’t love any of them. What did she love?

Excitement bubbled up inside her. Sam knew what she loved. She loved telling stories. She liked capturing an audience’s attention with her words. She loved seeing pieces when she described a different world to them and could see their minds picturing what her words described.

But how did she become a great storyteller? She’d never heard of any storytelling contests.

Elbows on knees, fists under chin, Sam considered. There had to be something she could do to become a great storyteller.

“Aha,” she said, holding a finger in the air. “Writing contests.”

Sam climbed down from her treehouse and went inside the house. There, she used the family computer to search the internet.

“Wow.” Sam couldn’t believe her eyes. There were tons of story writing contests.

She clicked on a few links to get ideas and found one that sounded interesting. She had to write two to five pages about a trip to see the circus.

“No problem. Piece of cake.” She could write that story. And she did. She wrote it right then and submitted it via email to the contest. When she was done and walked away to go play with her friends, Sam felt good about what she’d written.

A week later, Sam received an email from the contest telling her that as much as they liked her story it didn’t win, but she should try again next year. Depressed and dejected, Sam hung her head.

Sam’s father walked in. “What’s got you down?”

“They didn’t like my story.” Sam pointed to the computer monitor.

Her father came up behind her, bent over her shoulder, and read.

“They liked your story. It says so right there,” he pointed. “Did you read the attachment?”

Sam perked up, lifting her head and straightening her spine. “Attachment?” She clicked on the file and opened it. Inside there were red marks and comments showing her what she needed to fix. Lots of red marks, she saw, her eyes widening in disbelief.

“See, Sweet Cheeks, it wasn’t the story, it was your writing style. You can fix that and do better the next time.”

Next time? Was he crazy? She sucked. Sam stared at the computer screen and her heart beat fast, intimidated by all the red marks. She couldn’t do this, Sam thought, her shoulders slouching. She would never be good at anything.

“Keep trying. You’ll get it. One of these days I wouldn’t be surprised to see you published.” Her father kissed the top pf her head. “My very own author,” he said as he left Sam sitting in front of the computer feeling lower than pond scum.

“Author,” she murmured. “That would be so cool.” Yeah, she could do this. She would do this. She wouldn’t give up. She needed to do what her dad had said. Practice.
So she did.

Everyday Sam came home from school, and after her homework and chores were complete she would write a story. The next day Sam would take her story to her creative writing teacher, Ms. Kopera, and they’d go over it together.

“You see here, Sam.” Ms. Kopera pointed to a sentence on the paper with a red pen. “You missed a period between a list of items in the sentence. But you only missed one, that’s a great improvement.”

Sam smiled. “Thanks. What do you think about this sentence? Is it too long.”
Ms. Kopera looked at it, sat back in her chair, and rubbed her chin. “Hm. How many commas are there?”

Sam counted them. “Five.” She frowned and knew the answer herself as soon as she counted. “Yeah, it’s too long. General rule of thumb is no more than three commas for each sentence.”

Ms. Kopera gave Sam a pat on the back. “See, you answered your own question. You’re learning.”

Sam found out she was a good speller, but her grammar was a bit of a problem. Her story was good. It was just that she would forget commas, or she would mix past and present tense, or she would write a sentence in a different point of view. Sometimes she just wrote sentences that were too long.

All of those things could be fixed. It just took practice.

At every meeting with her teacher, Sam’s writing improved. There were less and less red marks as she learned and understood the different grammar concepts.

One day, after weeks of practice writing, her teacher encouraged her to try another contest.

“I think this one would be a perfect contest for you,” said Ms. Kopera. “You have to write a story on what you did to make yourself better.”

“Better at what?” Sam asked. Her face scrunched up.
Ms. Kopera smiled. “Better at anything. You choose.” Ms. Kopera handed Sam the entry form. “Go on, give it a try. The worst that can happen is that you don’t win, but you see how much you’ve improved, and you learn even more.”

Sam took the form from Ms. Kopera. “Thank you. I’ll think about it.”

On Sam’s walk home from school, she thought about it. What if she didn’t win? Could she take rejection again? She was just beginning to feel good about her writing and enjoying it.

Sam thought about the contest all day Saturday.

Then on Sunday morning, she woke up and was inspired to write. Before she even cleaned up and dressed, Sam was sitting in front of the computer typing her story. Overwhelmed by her need to write the story, she didn’t stop until her mom made her stop for lunch.

“You need food. It’ll give you fuel to finish your story,” her mother told her.
Just before bed on Sunday evening, Sam leaned back in her chair, and gazed at her final words. ‘If you want something bad enough you have to love it, practice it, and go for it.’

She thought she had written the best story she could. She had written the tale, then went back and edited the grammar remembering the techniques Ms. Kopera had taught her. On the last edit, Sam made certain the story was polished and ready to go.

Monday morning, Sam mailed her story and the entry form to the contest Ms. Kopera had recommended.

For weeks after Sam had sent in her story submission, she would check the mailbox. She kept on doing her practice writing with her teacher, and when she arrived home after school, the first thing Sam did was see if a letter came for her.

Finally, four weeks later, it arrived.

When Sam saw the envelope addressed to her, her hands shook, her heart skipped a beat, and her stomach dipped like on a roller coaster. She carried the letter into the house, sat it on the table, and stared at it, biting her lower lip.

“What if they hated it?” Sam murmured.

“You’ll never know unless you open it,” her father’s voice boomed from the kitchen doorway. “I’m sure it won’t bite. Go ahead,” he encouraged.
Sam nodded, took a deep breath, and ripped open the envelope. She slipped the letter out, unfolded it, and read it to herself.

When she was finished, she exhaled, and stared at the piece of paper in stunned silence. She couldn’t believe it.

Sam’s father took the letter from her hands and read it aloud.

“On behalf of Storytellers of America, we want to thank you for submitting ‘How I Became the Best Storyteller I Could Be’, and congratulate you on placing first in the contest. Your story was truly inspiring and your writing demonstrated your enthusiasm and hard work. The award for first place is to have your story published in our ‘Young Writers Anthology’ to be released next spring. Congratulations and keep up the great writing.”

Sam looked up at her father’s face, and saw unshed tears in his eyes. Then he smiled at her, and Sam’s eyes teared up.

“You did it, Sweet Cheeks,” he exclaimed as he grabbed her up in a bear hug. “I’m so proud of you.” He set her back on her feet. “I knew you could.”

Sam laughed. Yeah, her parents always supported her. “All because you told me to do what I love. And I practiced. Thank you, Dad.” Sam hugged her dad again.

Writing Prompt Tuesday

Today's prompt was inspired from something I read yesterday about beginnings and endings.

Prompt: The day had just begun...

Write as much or as little as you feel inspired by words then share them back here.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

My neighbor is my real-life hero...

As an author, I write about heroes all the time. Fictional heroes with qualities that may or may not exist in people we know. Today, I'm sharing with you one of my real heroes, not in the sense of saving me from some unknown danger...although, my neighbor has done that.

Actually, my neighbor has come to my rescue more than once. He watched out for me when I had an experience with a stalker when I first moved into my home. He constantly checked up on strange cars showing up in my drive. He was instrumental in preventing the person from buying the house across the street from me.

And you all remember earlier this winter when I accidentally locked myself in my office and had to scream out the window for someone to come get me? This is that neighbor. He truly is my hero.

His name is Kenny and he owns Pellerin Siding in Salem NH. I LOVE him! In a neighborly way. :-) His wife, Donna, might get upset if I don't add that in there.

A couple of week's ago I was chatting with Kenny's wife and I told her how what a shame it was that the builders who constructed my house didn't make the deck bigger so it extended to the dining room part of the house. Then they could have put in an 8FT slider instead of an 8FT window. Two things happened then. First, she laughed because she wonders what else I will come up with to do in or to my house. Then she reminded me that decks and stuff is what Kenny's company does.

Next thing I know, Kenny comes down, takes some measurements, gives me a quote and BAM! Yes, I am extending my deck. DOUBLE the width!! Not only did we make the arrangements but they started the snow.

Yesterday morning when I woke and was getting ready to leave I glanced out my window and saw floor boards on the deck. WOOT! I took pictures Oh - and if you look real close you will see the offending ladder that broke my finger last weekend in the window. GRRR!

After leaving the house at 6:30 AM, having my Saturday morning bagel with friends, attending the WZID Women's Expo (great event), finally locating two lampshades I needed for my spare bedroom, I returned home about 3:30 in the afternoon. When I arrived, I found two Pellerin trucks in my driveway and the guys packing up. My deck was done!!

Holy cow, can you believe it? I wake up and it's more than halfway there and before I go to bed, I have a new deck. Truly, it was only a matter of days.

It's beautiful. They are my heroes! Wouldn't they be your heroes too?

Thank you Kenny, Paul, Paul, David for the terrific job. Can't wait to do the door next and maybe a front porch. Thank you Donna for the great suggestion.

Now my summertime writing spot will be so much nicer! Bring on the sun, flowers, and BBQ. Time to write outdoors.

Friday, February 19, 2010

She almost breathed a sigh of relief. . .

Thursday's writing prompt response just in time for a little weekend inspiration. Here's a small piece of what I worked on the other day.

She almost breathed a sigh of relief when she pivoted back and halted in her tracks. The air she had been about to blow out now stuck in her throat.

A man stumbled in front of her, bumped her and then grabbed onto her arm. “Give me your purse,” the man demanded in slurred speech.

Great. Just what she needed. Jane shook her head in disbelief. This could not be happening to her. As if pink undie man wasn't enough now a drunken mugger.

Without thinking, Jane shifted, dropped her arm, and the man staggered back then straightened. He reached into his pocket, fought with the material of his jacket then thrust his arm out in her direction as he stumbled.

Her heart jumped in her chest when she saw a glint of black metal. Gun!

Thursday, February 18, 2010

How do they miss the hole?

This question is what women across the globe have asked themselves for years, maybe even centuries. Just so you know this last line made me research when the toilet was invented.

A man named JF Brondel in 1738 invented the first flush toilet. No, John Crapper did not invent the toilet.

Now that you know that, back to the original question. Why do they, being men, miss the big porcelain hole? How do they miss it?

This is a question that my hair stylist and I have discussed on numerous occasions, but have yet to come up with an answer.

On Super Bowl Sunday, I like millions of others, tuned in their televisions to watch the playoffs. As a bonus to the terrific sports event, we saw some terrific new commercials. When the ads played and one depicted men saying, I will do this, that, and the other thing, one of which was to put the seat down, it sparked my furtive brain cells. Why didn’t they agree to not missing the hole?

I am positive that every woman out there can appreciate this question. “How do they miss the hole?” Seriously.

The average circumference of a toilet bowl is 14 inches. F-o-u-r-t-e-e-n INCHES!
Now, forgive me for stating the obvious, but how does something so small (no offense intended) miss something so large? I mean it just seems like an impossibility. And yet, in the middle of the night while we are sleeping, men all over the world, get up from the bed, shuffle into the bathroom, and miss the toilet. It could be broad daylight, they could be completely sober, and somehow, some way, they miss the 14-inch hole.

How do we know this? Because we hear it hitting the floor. It wakes us up from a sound sleep. There is a huge sound difference between the splash of liquid against water and the splash of liquid against wall, porcelain, ceramic, or even wood.
Women are the lucky ones who step in the “missed spot” barefooted or in our stocking feet when we get up and have to use the toilet. We smell it when we walk into the bathroom. Amazingly enough, the men’s sense of smell disappears when it comes to missing the giant flushing hole, but burn something, change the laundry detergent or the shampoo and they notice that immediately.

So, men – women want to know – how do you miss the hole?

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Writing Prompt - Thursday?

Yeah, well, I'm a little late in posting a writing prompt, but better late than never. As my mother likes to say, "I'd rather owe you than cheat you out of it."

Yes, my mother says those kinds of things. Between her and my father is there any doubt that I come by this creative writing thing naturally?

On with our writing prompt: She almost breathed a sigh of relief...

*Remember, it's not how much you write, it's how much you hook.
Have fun and don't forget to share what you come up with.

Writer's block broken

Who would have thought one little accident could do so much for writer's block.

Yesterday I blogged about signs and Fate and how Fate listens to what we throw out there. In particular, I told you about my accident with a ladder late Sunday afternoon and how I took it as a sign to stop painting my house and get my derriere back to writing.

With a big smile on my face, I am happy to report that Fate was correct. I have been working on this one chapter every Sunday for over a month, except this past Sunday when I did not write anything. While recuperating yesterday from my run in with the ladder, I finished the chapter that has given me so much trouble. I not only finished it, but I started the next chapter.

To top it off, I sent that chapter to my father, who is also my first round editor, and he did not change a thing. You'd have to know my father to understand what that means. He ALWAYS finds something. And I'm grateful. On the occasions when he doesn't find anything for me to fix or tweak, I know I've hit the mark when he sends a note back that says, "Loved it!" or "Great job!" When he doesn't send those little blips, I know I have not quite hit the mark on the chapter. ( I bet he doesn't even realize he does that.)

Yesterday was a good day because he not only offered no changes, but he included on of his "Great!" sentiments.

Yes, I am back in the saddle again and I owe it all to Fate and the ladder that is still lying dead on the floor in the middle of my dining room. I growl at it every time I walk by.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Life's lessons, signs, and Fate

Fate listens so watch your words.

Have you ever noticed that things happen to you that you don't always expect, but for some odd reason you have a conversation about it and hours or days later, BAM! The thing you had joked about in a conversation with a friend occurs.

I am a firm believer that this is always the case and I should know better.

One example of this occurred when I was as a young teen. A bunch of us were riding out to a soccer game and for some strange reason we got on the subject "What if one of us had an accident?" First of all, why would we ask a question like that while we're driving to a big game? Because we did not know fate was looking down at us and listening.

Later that day, I was rushed off the soccer field in the middle of a game with a broken leg and dislocated knee. A freak accident occurred when the goalie grabbed my ankle instead of the soccer ball.

Well, this weekend fate stepped in again. On Friday at work, I was talking to one of the guys I work with about plans for the long weekend. We had Monday off. I told him that I planned on finishing up all my painting so I could enjoy my house and get back to writing. He made some joke about "unless you fall off a ladder or something."

I did finish painting all the trim work, got my upstairs hall painted, so the only thing left was the entry way. I was just finishing up one wall when I stepped down to get off the ladder when the ladder wobbled. I held my breath and held still and figured it would stop. The ladder had other ideas. It went sailing out from under me and unfortunately, I landed on the hardwood floor.

Now, I'm sitting here with a sore bum, a fractured finger, a sprained wrist, and bruised pride. Not to mention my poor wall that was just painted now has a hole in it, my floor is scratched and my lovely mirror took on a new opaque linen white color to it.

This is why you should never tempt Fate by speaking aloud about something you don't want to occur. However, I look upon this as a sign. The sign is that I need to put my house back together and get back to writing. That is what I love to do so that is what I should be doing. And I think that is what Fate was trying to tell me. That's probably why it was my left hand that was injured and not my right.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Getting ready for book event - Buy a book, get a kiss

Today I have a book event with three other authors at Toadstool Bookshop in Milford, NH at 3 PM to 5 PM. This fact gave me the idea to blog about what you do to get ready for a book signing or event.

First, you have to arrange the book event. Stiffen your spine, lift up your chin, and strap on that teflon vest underneath your favorite shirt. Then walk right into whatever local business you wish to have an event at, introduce yourself as a local author, hand them a book, and get right into the spiel of how you would like them to host your event. Once they agree, you walk out of there smiling with a bounce in your step and go to the next place. Why go to another place? Because you are on a roll so you might as well since you've gotten up the nerve.

About two to three weeks before the event, publish your press release giving all the details of the event. Use online press release services (free ones), submit the press release to your local papers and the calendar section of the local papers, and of course, blog and twitter about it. If you have Facebook, post an event on Facebook and invite all your friends.

For more fun, create a theme for the event. For example, today's event has a theme called "First Kiss". With it being the day before Valentine's Day I thought that most appropriate. What exactly does this mean? Well, we (being the authors) will be reading the first kiss scene from our latest novels. This gives guests at the event the opportunity to get to know you and your writing and make them feel a part of the fun and not just handing out money for a book.

Okay, so you've arranged the event, decided on a fun theme, told the world it is going to happen, and now it's the day of the event. One would think this would be the easy part. You get up, shower, do your hair, brush your teeth. By all means, brush those teeth. Remember you are going to be meeting and hopefully chatting with a bunch of people. The last thing you want is to offend them with your stale breath. Okay, now you're presentable. What's next?

Pack your car. Do you have extra books in the trunk of your car? Even if you hold an event at a bookstore, always carry extra books in your car. Be sure to take one to give to your host if you haven't already done so.

Books packed - check. Pen, oh-my-gosh! This is a book signing/event after all with the end goal of being able to sign a book to a reader. Don't forget the pen or pens. Make sure there is plenty of ink or take an extra ink cartridge. Pen - check. Bookmarks. Do you have bookmarks? These are the best freebies to give away. Everyone needs bookmarks. You can never have enough. Plus, if someone does not buy a book they would take a bookmark. The more someone sees your name the more they may buy your book later. Bookmarks - check.

Here is something most people don't think about. Bookstand. You need a way to display your books for the guests. Remember, many people are shy or shy away from meeting someone face-to-face unless they have a reason. If the book is lying flat on the table they won't know what you have or who you are so they may not approach you. Displaying the book with your name on it gives them an idea of who you are and why you might be standing there with a silly grin on your face. Bookstand - check.

Lastly, at least I think it's last, is the kisses. No, no, not your lips kissing. Although, hmm, that could be an interesting book event. Buy a book - get a kiss. Today, that is exactly what I am doing, only there will be no lips involved. Since the theme is "First Kiss", I thought it would add a little fun to give away chocolate kisses with the books. It's these little things that make the event more memorable. Kisses - check.

Now, you're ready to go and so am I.

Hope to see some of you at Toadstool Bookshop today!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

‘First kiss’ the theme at romance authors book signing

(MILFORD, NH.) There’s nothing more romantic than a first kiss – and four romance authors plan to prove that when they join forces Feb. 13 to read their “first kiss” scenes and talk about writing romance at Toadstool Bookstore in Milford, N.H.

By reading excerpts from their latest novels, the authors will give readers a sample of romantic scenes from four different genres, including historical, contemporary, romantic mystery and techno-romantic thrillers.

Salem resident Denise Robbins, the author of three techno-romantic thrillers, says the event provides a great opportunity to learn about what goes into writing romance novels and to purchase a personal and romantic gift for Valentine’s Day. “Valentine's Day is considered the most romantic day of the year," she said. "What could be more heartfelt than giving a signed copy of a book?”

A software engineering manager, Robbins successfully combines her knowledge of computers and technology with the world of crime and clandestine activities in all her novels. Her last release, Killer Bunny Hill, gave readers a glimpse into the breakthrough science of nanotechnology, while Connect the Dots, her newest novel, delves into the secret world of the CIA. By blending romantic elements into heart-pounding plots, she keeps readers turning the pages.

In fact, Robbins has inadvertently made headlines with her latest techno-thriller. A failed Christmas Day attack on a Detroit-bound Northwest flight led President Obama to proclaim his administration had failed to “connect the dots,” a phrase that has since taken on a life of its own and made the title of her book, Connect the Dots, the topic of the daily news.

The “First Kiss” event and book signing will take place at the Toadstool Bookshop, located at Lorden Plaza in Milford, NH from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. on Feb. 13.

Readers can learn more about Robbins and her other novels at

Add to your calendar: Join four romance authors from different genres as they read “first kiss” scenes from their novels and sign books at Toadstool Bookshop, located at Lorden Plaza in Milford, N.H., on Feb. 13, from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Candy heart conversations...

With Valentine's Day just around the corner everywhere you turn you see cards, red hearts hanging in windows, heart-shaped boxes of chocolate.

Then you see that box of conversation hearts, you know the ones. You used to give them out to all your friends in school with a little Valentine when you were a kid. They're pink, purple, green, white and have words written on them.

My favorite is the "Coax Me" heart.
I received that heart quite a few years ago, but the memory is etched in my mind. I walked into my office, found a lovely bouquet of tulips and lilies (two of my favorite flowers) on my desk and inside the attached small, white envelope was the single green heart with those words "Coax Me" written on it.
To this day whenever I see one of those conversation hearts with the words "Coax Me" printed on it, I always get a tug at the corner of my lips as a quick memory flashes in my mind.

What is your favorite conversation heart? Why? What memory does it hold?

Monday, February 8, 2010

Grocery store adventure

Yesterday morning after my writing jaunt at Panera Bread, I had to go to the grocery store to pick up supplies for Superbowl Sunday. One of the dishes I wanted to make was Sloppy Joe's. For those of you who don't know what a Sloppy Joe is, it is sometimes referred to as a loose meat sandwich. For those of you who have never had it, you don't know what you are missing.

No, this is not the kind you make from a can of Manwich. My Sloppy Joe's is a recipe that my family has used for years and years. It's also the simplest recipe in the world, or it would be if you can find one of the main ingredients. What are the ingredients?

Sloppy Joe's Recipe:

1 pound of ground beef cooked and drained
1 can Campbell's Chicken Gumbo soup (condensed)
Ketchup (or Catsup)

You mix that all up, heat it up, and add Ketchup to taste. The longer it simmers the better the taste. Then you put a scoop on a yellow potato bun by Marie's. You want these because they are soft and yummy. If you want to add a little more flavor to it, add a slice of cheese on top. That's it!

Oh, yeah, don't forget to serve a spoon with each one so the eater can scoop up what meat falls off the bun.

Now, my issue yesterday was the fact that I could not find Campbell's Chicken Gumbo soup. I went to two grocery stores and couldn't find it. I even called my parents while standing in the soup aisle and asked them what else I could use. My father informed me that they could no longer find the soup in their local market either.

I finally found some brand of chicken gumbo, but that was the only one and it was not the same. Why do grocery stores stop selling stuff that has been around for years? Please put this back on the shelves.

Now for the fun part. At the end of my two grocery store excursion, I was checking out when a flash of red to my left caught my eye. I had to do a double-take. Sure enough there was a man standing next to me in a bright red body suit. As if that image was not bad enough, he had on the smallest blue sweat jacket I had ever seen.

While the cashier bit her lip to prevent herself from breaking out in a fit of laughter all I could do was wonder two things. One, did he not know that it was flippin' freezing outside and two, did he have any odea how ridiculous he looked?

You know how your mother always told you to never go out wearing anything you wouldn't want to be caught in if you had an accident (basically, wear clean underwear just in case)? Well, holy cow! I don't think this man kept that very good rule in mind.

I wish I had had my camera with me.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

President fails to ‘connect the dots’ but this crime thriller doesn’t

Salem author Denise Robbins didn’t know the title of her latest release would become today’s headlines, but she’s pleased at the media attention being paid to her crime thriller “Connect the Dots.”

A failed Christmas Day attack on a Detroit-bound Northwest flight led President Obama to proclaim his administration had failed to “connect the dots,” a phrase that has since taken on a life of its own. In a Google search for the words “terror” and “connect the dots,” there are no less than 192,000 returns.

“I received an email from a reader who had just bought my book, and she said she wouldn’t want to have a book title with a phrase being quoted by the president every two minutes,” Robbins said. “I look at it differently. My books are crime thrillers with terror as a main part of the plot. The title and the book fit perfectly with the news event.”

Robbins knows a thing or two about fright and making readers’ hearts pound. A software engineering manager, she successfully combines her knowledge of computers and technology with the world of crime and clandestine activities in all of her novels. Her last release, Killer Bunny Hill, gave readers a glimpse into the breakthrough science of nanotechnology, while Connect the Dots delves into the secret world of the CIA.

Torture, secret prisons, and ghost flights are just a few of the other current-event themes touched upon in Connect the Dots, which was released on Dec. 15.

The hero in Connect the Dots is a special agent, and the heroine is a CIA Human Intelligence Officer who is kidnapped and ends up in a “black site.” Black sites, or secret prisons run by the CIA, made headlines a few years ago when stories about their existence were published by national media. Robbins also effectively intertwines real events like the 2008 Russia-Georgia War into the plot, giving readers a glimpse into behind-the-scenes international activities.

Readers can learn more about Denise Robbins and her crime thrillers at her website All her books can be purchased through the publisher at

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Writing Prompt Wednesday

Your writing inspiration for today is inspired by my waking up.

Prompt: She woke. . .

Write whatever pops into your head. Whether a sentence, a paragraph, or a page, it doens't matter. What matters is that you make us want to read more.

Don't forget to share what you come up with.

Monday, February 1, 2010

My version of decorating

As many of you know I recently had my bedroom and office carpets replaced by hardwood. I've repainted almost every room in the house and will at some point have them all painted. That is if my arms survive and my behind isn't screaming at me for walking up and down the ladder.

Anyway, a couple of weeks ago I accidentally locked myself in my office as I ripped up the carpeting. (The story behind this is in another blog post.) Because of that I started removing the doorknob in whatever room I was painting in. Since the doorknobs were off and I did not feel safe in my own house with the existing knobs, I decided to replace them. ALL of them. What can I say, I'm a girl. See my cool doorknob.

Now, if you're going to replace doorknobs why go with something that looks the same as the previous ones. Why not go with something different? Here you will see a picture of my new EGG knobs. Aren't they cool? Not only will I never lock myself in because the office no longer has a lock on it, but the handle is functional in that I can hang something on it without it sliding off. See...

In addition to my wonderful new door knobs, I had the time a couple of weeks ago before a book event to squeeze in going to the local floarl and basket place. This is a warehouse of silk flowers, ribbon, decorative pots, candle holders, on and on. This is a great place if you want like to do your own arrangements. I prefer to make most things myself so this place is heaven.

As a result of my little side shopping trip, I put together 3 fun floral arrangements. Of course, I don't have the furniture to put them all on, but they're ready and waiting. The first arrangement is in the sparebedroom that I just painted a softer blue called Chinchila. What do you think?

The other two are ones that will go in my bedroom whenever I get that furniture. These one actually stopped my neigbor in her tracks when she saw them. Don't you just love pretty things. AHH!

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