The One-Way Mirror, by Carole Howard

Violinists sometimes claim they play the most difficult instrument. After all, there are no keys to press that automatically produce “C#.” Nor are there frets, as on a guitar neck, for guidance. You need to just know where to put your finger. For every single note – and there are so many of them. (Have you guessed I’m a violinist?)

I have to admit, though, that pianists have it rough, too, with two different lines of music, one for the left hand and one for the right. As if that weren’t enough, the two lines are written in different clefs. (Non-musicians: let’s just say that black dot on one of the five lines of a musical staff can mean different things depending on which clef it’s in.)

Each group has a point. Or, as my friend’s mother used to say, “There are pros and cons on both sides, and they’re all bad.”

Having been a fiction writer who dove, somewhat naively, into memoir-writing, I see that there are pros and cons in both genres. In this case, of course, they’re not all bad. But they sure are different.

My first novel was character-driven. I could use incidents from my own life, but got to pick and choose, and had the freedom to make up whatever I wanted. Having come from the corporate-writing world, it seemed heavenly to give free rein to my imagination, my creativity. Readers didn’t know which parts were fact-based and which were fictional. When people asked if the protagonist was really me, the short answer was no.

And yet, there was that intimidating blank-canvas thing.

The second novel was a murder mystery. Only a little was drawn from my life, and the canvas wasn’t so blank because mysteries have to be constructed in a certain way so they wind up being….. mysterious. Red herrings, false clues, buried truth. So the “rules” were comforting. But they were difficult, very difficult, to follow.

Like I said, pros and cons.

My most recent book is a travel memoir about five volunteer trips, each two months long, to the developing world. It’s not a travelogue: no recommendations for hotels or restaurants. Yes, it recounts experiences I had while traveling – some funny, some inspiring, some surprising, some sad. There was the time I was twenty feet from a silverback mountain gorilla with nothing between us except trees. Or the time I coached sex workers on their presentations to colleagues about the correct use of condoms. We used wooden props – use your imagination!

But the point of telling about these moments in the memoir is not necessarily, “This is great – you should do it too.” There’s a lot more. Character. Reflections. Truth. Certainly, the tools for writing fiction were also crucial for memoir: setting the scene with physical description, creating tension, using punchy dialogue. But making it all into a story was quite a hill to climb.

The strangest thing about having written a memoir, though, is realizing there are a whole lot of people out there who know some pretty intimate stuff about me. Not only do I not know intimate details about them, I don’t even know who they are!

When I’m speaking at a book store or library, this asymmetry is particularly disorienting. And there’s irony, too: People in the audience, if they’ve read the book, know how uncomfortable I feel about public speaking, and yet here I am, speaking publicly. Through the looking glass, or should I say the one-way mirror?

I guess it’s like being naked when everyone else is clothed, aka EVERYONE’S WORST NIGHTMARE!!

  •     *     *     *

Carole Howard wrote Deadly Adagio, a mystery with a musical undertone set in West Africa, published by Indigo Sea Press.


Filed under Carole Howard, fiction, music, musings, Travel, writing

Happy PI Day by John E. Stack

Happy ∏ Day. March 14th.  3.14. That is ‘p-i,’ not ‘p-I-e’.  Pi is an irrational number; it is a non-repeating, non terminating decimal that is used when solving geometry problems dealing with circles.  It is pattern-less.  Pi is the ratio of the diameter of a circle to the circumference of the same circle. 

This is not my normal blog.  I usually write about my kids, life in general and various other topics.  Today, my inner nerd comes out.  I am a middle school math teacher and everyone knows that in some form or fashion, almost all teachers are nerds of some sort.  Math nerds are a special group, misunderstood by most of mankind. 

PI.  Even though pie is how we mathematicians normally celebrate our special day, we allow others to indulge along with us.  Normally, it is with chocolate pies, but any type of pie will do.  Pizza pies will work, but only if they are round (not square) and the slices are cut through the center-point going the entire diameter of the pie.  Each slice should have edges that are the length of the radius.

In ancient days, a few years before I was born, it was believed that the circumference of a circle was about three times of the diameter, or a 3:1 ratio.  In the Bible, pi is referenced in 1 Kings, “And he made a molten sea, ten cubits from one brim to the other: it was round all about, and his height was five cubits: and a line of thirty cubits did encompass it about.”

Other cultures have used different values to represent pi.  Archimedes of Syracuse, one of the most brilliant mathematicians of the ancient world discovered that pi was approximated by using a 96- sided hexagon.  Many formulas have been used to represent pi, but it wasn’t until the 1700’s that a British mathematician named William Jones defined pi as

                                                                                Π = 3.14159.

This was adopted by Euler and became the standard.  Recently, pi was calculated to over one trillion digits.

Enough of that.  I may be a math nerd, but it usually doesn’t last very long.  Normally, we celebrate each year by having the students compete by reciting the most decimal places for pi.  I believe that in the past nineteen years most students were able to memorize twenty to thirty digits.  Only a few have exceeded 100 digits.  I have had only one to go way beyond that – 240 digits.  After that, no one wanted to compete.  In order to compete students had to memorize at least 10 digits.  If no one in the class could recite 10 digits, I got to eat pie.  I only got to eat chocolate pie once in nineteen years.  Tasted pretty good and of course it was homemade.  This year there will be no competition in my classes.  Currently, I teach sixth grade.  We don’t hit circles until next year.

So, in the grand scheme of things, what does this all mean?  You can use any reason to eat pie, even math.

***John E. Stack is the author of Cody’s Almost Trip to the Zoo, Cody’s Rescue Adventure at the Zoo, and Olivia’s Sweet Adventure.


Filed under fun, Humor, John Stack, writing

Writing In The Gray

So, the flood’s all dry, the floor is uncarpeted and gray, the walls are holey and gray, the ceiling’s gray (don’t ask–the previous owners painted it that way!), the sky’s most definitely gray (and most probably raining), and my mood… well, my mood is distinctly gray too. Meanwhile we look at paint colors, floor coverings (not not not not carpet, never again!), light fittings and more. Meanwhile time goes on.

I can scarcely believe it’s almost two months since our basement flooded. Two months since the panic of stepping into water while something (yet unknown) banged and roared and electrical outlets sparked (I know, what kind of idiot steps into water without checking, but I was running downstairs to investigate the noise and I didn’t see the reflections). Two months since incredible sons carried tons of wet carpet outdoors. Two months since incredible friends took charge and pushed us into action. Two months since incredible neighbors waded in to help. Two months since…

20170118_121746 (2)

And since then I’ve studied many many shades of gray. A good friend who knows about color suggested we try not repainting in the dreaded worn-out white. “How about white with a touch of blue?” we asked. But it’s a big room. Anything too bright and white is going to glare at us. She suggests we try gray colors–gray with a touch of blue perhaps. To explain, she took me shopping where we found a sample card covered in multiple shades of gray. It’s slightly disturbing how many of the shades sport names like “summer rain” or “winter showers.” Torrents and flooded basements come to mind…

So, the flood’s all dry, the floor is uncarpeted and gray, the walls are holey and gray, the ceiling’s gray, and we’re looking for better, brighter, more colorful grays to cheer up our lives.

But what about writing? I feel like all the words in my head are doomed to be colored gray till the tidying’s done. I’m working in the wrong room, with the wrong keyboard, with the screen in the wrong place. The desk’s too small. The bed’s too tall (piled high with rescued sheets and blankets). The phone’s too far away and I fall over boxes on my way to answer it, so my feet are sore without even getting the benefit of exercise. But my next novel, Subtraction, is already with the publisher. Who knows, it might get a non-gray cover. Divide by Zero is green. And Infinite Sum is red. (And Infinite Sum was in our local free paper, so it might be read as well! Meanwhile my critiquing friends remind me to send them Imaginary Numbers. So I’ll have to write, even if the ink and the mood remain at least slightly gray.

Imaginary Numbers–it all starts with a guy reading his mother’s obituary while he’s talking to her on the phone… Perhaps his mood would be slightly gray as well.

Sheila Deeth is the author of Divide by Zero, Infinite Sum, and the soon-to-be-released Subtraction, all published by Indigo Sea Press. She failed to blog here last month because she was grayly recovering in a world of damp boxes and wet stuff.


Filed under Sheila Deeth, writing

Ellie and the Hoyas by Chuck Thurston

The oldest cliché in human relationships is that of the contentious mother-in-law. I luckily escaped that dynamic. I truly loved my wife’s mother, and we had wonderful times together. She lived in Denmark, so getting together wasn’t a matter of a neighborhood visit or a short road trip. Consequently, when she came to see us, it was usually a stay of a couple of months. She was an easy houseguest, and one we thoroughly enjoyed.

She didn’t like the hot southern summers, so her visits were invariably in the spring or fall. During one such stay, I introduced her to “March Madness.” In the mid 1980’s, the Georgetown Hoyas had a run of good seasons, and were routinely in the NCAA’s championship tournament. Elinor – Ellie – knew nothing of basketball, adopted them as her team. She was in fact, a soccer fan in Europe, so perhaps the spectacle of men in shorts chasing around a round ball resonated in some way. Maybe it was the blue and grey uniforms, which dated back to the civil war and signified the union of north and south – although she didn’t know much about that conflict, either. Ellie’s adoption of the Hoyas ran counter to popular sentiment. The team was often – perhaps because of its success and the swagger that goes with it – the one that everyone liked to dislike.

Georgetown’s coach, John Thompson –a giant of a man – captured her admiration. Perhaps his display of passion for the game and for his team appealed to her. He prowled the sideline during games with an ever-present towel over his shoulder.

john thompson

In the spring of 1984, the Hoyas took it all. They polished off the Houston Cougars, and Ellie and I watched every game, usually with a beer or two. I didn’t make many attempts to explain the intricacies of the game. I’m not an expert in any case, and the athleticism and competitiveness of the contests spoke for themselves. When the final whistle sounded on the final game of the tournament, we both felt satisfied, but somehow incomplete – there would not be another round of basketball to look forward to. It would have to wait until the next year and the next March Madness. In those days, it was almost a given that Ellie’s Hoyas would be back – and Ellie would be back to cheer them on.

PS – in 1985, the Hoyas were back, and lost in the final game, a 62-64 nail-biter to Villanova.

Chuck Thurston is currently absorbed in the March Madness of 2017. We lost Ellie a few years ago, and the Hoyas are not the powerhouse they once were, but I believe we would have found a suitable replacement.  


Filed under writing

Read or Not Read

Did my title confuse you, dear reader? Don’t worry, I’ll explain. After my publisher launched my debut book, SHE HAD TO KNOW, in 2011, I gave a number of talks and signings for various organizations to familiarize people with me and my work. In addition, I was on several panels at writers’ conventions in which the subject of the panel had something to do with the panelists’ books, and a signing followed so attendees could purchase said books. For me, there were talks with signings at libraries, art galleries, and civic groups, but there was one thing in common with all these talks. No one had read my book yet. Of course, I’m referring to the public, not people who were associated with the publication of the book itself.

I had been attending writers’ conventions and conferences for a number of years before my first publication, so there were lots of writers whom I had met and also lots of aspiring authors like me with whom to share experiences. In fact, an author friend introduced me to her agent. Although my author friend’s agent wasn’t looking for my particular book, it was a good experience for me to have contact with her. I also did several pitches to agents and editors at these conventions and finally I acquired my agent at a convention. It was all so frightening, exhilarating, exhausting, energizing, deterring and inspiring, and produced both insecurity and later a bit of confidence and I loved most every moment!

In all of these instances people had not yet read my book, so in delivering my talk, I was always aware not to give away any important clue, or say too much about any character. My subject matter covered my motives for writing this particular book and what went into doing so. I talked about how I accomplished the research needed. Everything was general and somewhat vague, so as to not spoil the book for a new reader. I only realized this recently when I was scheduled to give a talk for a book club in which everyone had read my book.

The first part of my talk with this group was like previous ones since most of my audience didn’t know me, but I started seeing smiles of recognition as I went on. I was able to talk more freely, specifically about placement of red herrings, or why a certain character acted a certain way. During my question and answer period, I received some interesting questions that I was able to answer fully without having to be concerned that someone’s reading experience would be ruined by a spoiler. This was the first time since my book came out that I had specific feedback on it.

As an author, this experience was more helpful to me from a writer’s perspective. I guess one could call it a critique session from readers. I really enjoyed this. In this case, my audience was too kind to give me any negative feedback, but I would have welcomed that as well, because one learns from all criticism.

Reviews and comments on Amazon and Goodreads are good too, but in the case of the book club, I was able to interact with my questioners. That isn’t possible, of course, in a review.

The only drawback to doing a talk for a book club is that the author probably won’t sell many books, if any, because book clubs usually read lots of books over time and book stores and libraries usually don’t have enough copies for all the members to share. Since costs of books would get prohibitive, often the prospective readers will buy used books or ones from another vender than one that would provide a royalty to the author. I certainly understand that, but I have to say that’s not a reason for an author to not do book club talks, because I certainly learned a great deal from my experience and I would do it again in a heartbeat. Yes, we do want to get paid for our work, but sometimes the lessons we learn along the way can be much more valuable than the cost of a few books.

I’d love to hear what you writers feel about this subject.


Coco Ihle is the author of SHE HAD TO KNOW, an atmospheric traditional mystery set mainly in Scotland.

Join her here each 11th of the month.


Filed under Coco Ihle, marketing, musings, writing

That Time I gave Blood by Steve Hagood

bloodPeople are going to die if you don’t give blood, or so the Red Cross would have you believe. I might buy it if they didn’t make it so damn hard to donate. What an ordeal it is.

The last time I gave blood went something like this:

I started off with the book. Have you seen the book? It contains all of the eligibility requirements for donating. This book, if you aren’t aware, is your chance to fess up and say, “I don’t qualify to donate,” and slink away with your tail between your legs. Trust me, you will be tested on the material in the book and you’d better have the right answers. If you don’t, you’ll be rejected. There is nothing more embarrassing than being rejected from giving blood. They’d rather have people die than take your blood. We don’t understand this though, because nobody actually reads the book. Everybody sits there and pretends to read the book while trying to determine how long they have to pretend to read it to get away with not reading it.

After I finished not reading the book, I put it down. This silently notified the one person who was actually working that I was ready. She knew that I hadn’t read the book, but she didn’t care because she knew that it would catch up with me. She waved me over with a look that said I was bothering her and took me behind the cardboard “privacy” wall.

When she got me behind the cardboard she took my driver’s license and asked me to verify my name and address, which I got correct. One for one. Then she asked me to confirm my gender, so I stood up and dropped my pants. She said, “I’m going to need more than that.

Then she took my finger, wiped it down with alcohol, and took out this nasty little spring loaded needle. I swear she smiled as she put it on my finger and POW!

Oh. My. God! It was, without a doubt, the worst pain I have ever felt in my life. And then this sadistic woman, who I’m pretty sure moonlights as a dominatrix, squeezed my finger to get blood out of it. By the time she put a band-aid on my finger it had its own heartbeat.

I wanted to punch her in the face, but didn’t. So, I hadn’t been rejected yet. Next came the questions.

She started me off easy. “How are you feeling today?”

“Well, my finger hurts like hell, but other than that, I’m doing ok.”

“In the last 48 hours have you taken aspirin or anything that has aspirin in it?”

“No, but I could use one. Have I mentioned how much my finger hurts?”

“In the past 12 months, have you had a transplant such as organ, tissue, or bone marrow?”

Really? “Yep. Had a heart transplant last week. Sorry, I forgot to mention it when you asked how I was feeling today.”

“Have you ever had a bleeding condition?”

“Not until you shot me with that damn needle.”

Then she got a little personal.

“Have you ever paid for sex?”

Come on, this is a trick question. Every married man has paid for sex, and I’m not talking about prostitutes. Apparently, it’s worth more than we think because even after the sex stops, we keep paying.

“Did you spend three months or more in the United Kingdom between 1980 and 1996?”

You know what they’re looking for: Mad Cow Disease. Now I’m not a doctor, I don’t even play one on TV, but I’m pretty sure that if I had contracted Mad Cow Disease in 1980 I’d be showing some symptoms by now. And, when she asked how I was feeling I would have mentioned it.

“I have Mad Cow disease, and my finger HURTS!” Or maybe I would have mooed. I’m not real sure how it manifests itself.

“Have you ever been treated for Syphilis or gonorrhea?”

“Treated? Nope. I’m just letting it run its course.”

But get this, chlamydia, venereal warts and genital herpes are ok. I can’t have spent three months in England in the 80s, but genital herpes is ok. Can you imagine the poor guy who wakes up in a hospital bed after surgery and a blood transfusion to find out he contracted genital herpes while he was asleep? I’d like to see him explain that one to his wife, “At least I don’t have Mad Cow disease!”

“Have you ever had sex with another man?” And then they throw in the qualifier, “even once.”

I love that part. “Well yes, but it was only once, and I was really drunk, and I didn’t even enjoy it, very much.”

Now, since I haven’t had unprotected sex with another man who shared a needle with a prostitute in Africa while I visited England for three months in the 80s, and the sadomasochistic dominatrix behind the cardboard liked me, I was allowed to donate blood.

She passed me off to the bloodsucker who had me lie on a cot that was old when it had been used during the Korean War. She tied off my arm with a rubber hose and started to look for a vein to use. “It’s not very big,” she said. Apparently, she had talked to the lady behind the cardboard.

You would think that someone who does this for a living would be really good at getting the needle into the vein. You’d be wrong. If you’re lucky she’ll get it on the first try. If not, and you won’t be, she’ll blame you for not drinking enough water while she stabs you repeatedly. At that point, I just wanted to take the band-aid off my finger and tell her to take the blood from there.

Eventually, she got the needle into the vein and I deposited a pint of blood into a bag, saving up to three lives – if you believe the propaganda spread by the Red Cross.

After all this, you’re probably asking yourself why I do it if it’s such a hassle? Because I’m such a good guy? Nope, it’s because they give you cookies when you’re done. I’ll do anything for cookies.


Steve Hagood is the author of Chasing the Woodstock Baby from Indigo Sea Press. To learn more about Steve visit his website




Filed under Humor, memory, Steve Hagood, writing

The Pain of Losing a Family Member – A Tribute to Pooker

Someone once said to me, “Losing your fur children becomes easier.”  Another person once asked, “It was just a dog.  Why are you so upset?” 

My answer to the first comment.  It does not at all become easier.  In fact, it becomes harder with every death of a fur child.

My answer to the second person, I can only repeat the quote on the front of the card sent home with us and Pooker’s cremated remains. 

“Until one has loved an animal, a part of one’s soul remains unawakened.”  Anatole France

I was mourning my last fur child, Skipper, when Bob and I brought Pooker and Slugger home.  I wasn’t sure I was yet ready for another child, but Bob thought it was the best thing for me.  Skipper died of diabetes and complications as a result of the diabetes and a second disease he suffered from for many years.  The existence of puppy mills was just being learned by the public and, given the circumstances of how we were given Skipper, we suspected he was a victim of a mill.  We thus, thought his diabetes was also a result of poor housing conditions, so Bob decided to look for a credible Schnauzer breeder.  We lived in Nashville, TN at the time.  Bob found a show dog breeder four hours from Nashville on the outskirts of Knoxville, TN.  

We drove to the breeder’s home on a Saturday.  When we sat down in their living room, they brought in two puppies.  The two boys were brothers.  Slugger was the boy Bob was originally told about.  I sat watching Slugger gleefully run around the room playing with his toys when Pooker strolled over to me, raised himself up as he rested his tiny paws on my knee.  I picked him up. 

Prior to picking him up, I noted that the two dogs were very close with one another.  We were told they had the same father but different mothers.  They were born nine days apart.  Pooker was not only the smaller of the two, but he was the youngest.

About a half hour later and after tossing Slugger’s toys for him to fetch and hugging a cuddly Pooker, it was time to make my decision.  Bob asked me which dog I wanted to take home.  My answer, “Well, if I have to choose one, I choose this one (Pooker).  But, I’d really like to bring both home.”  At this point, the breeders excused themselves so Bob and I could discuss.

We had just sold our house in Illinois and moved to Nashville.  Being the money manager (Bob lovingly calls me the CFO) I told Bob we could afford both.  Satisfied, we left with both dogs.  They sat on my lap on the passenger side as Bob drove.  We planned a quick stop at the PetSmart store just prior to hopping onto I-40.  Pooker immediately fell asleep.  Slugger, however, was wide awake.  I sensed he wasn’t certain about what was taking place.  I know he recognized my preference, so I became focused on changing his perception.

We parked in the lot in front of PetSmart and carried both dogs into the store, and put them in the baby seat of the bascart.  Of course, as we rolled them to the collar and leash isle, people cooed over the cute puppies.  Both dogs were eating it up.

We bought a blue collar and leash for Pooker and a red collar and leash for Slugger.  The minute we put Slugger’s collar on and attached his leash, I could sense a total change in his disposition.  He knew he was where he belonged, with his forever parents and his pal and brother. 


Over the next eleven years, the boys grew and enjoyed their lives with us.  Pooker gravitated more toward me as Slugger gravitated toward Bob.  We became a happy family.  Our Nashville veterinarian called the boys bookends.  I referred to them as “the boys.”  They experienced true love.  From day one, it was obvious we made the right decision bringing them both home.  They loved each other immensely

It was interesting to watch them grow up to develop different personalities.  Pooker was a cuddler.  He’d allow me to carry him in my arms like a baby.  He often encouraged our friends to do the same.  Slugger was more independent.  He definitely didn’t want to be carried like an infant.  He is a loyal, sweet dog whose face would melt your heart.

Both boys enjoyed impeccable health care.  Longtime customers of Banfield the Pet Hospital, we purchased the Optimal Health plan for both boys.  Banfield pet hospitals are located at the back end of PetSmart stores.  Although we were told it wasn’t anything to be concerned with, Pooker always sounded like he had a little congestion.  It led me to make the statement early on that if either dog became ill, I knew it would be Pooker.  Of course, I hoped I was wrong, but I’ve found over the years that I have an intuitive sense which isn’t always a happy sense to possess.

Last year one of the boys’ two yearly comprehensive exams left our Vet concerned about the results of one of Pooker’s tests.  His blood sugars were slightly elevated.  She wasn’t alarmed but told us she’d check him again in a few months. 

In May of last year, Pooker became ill.  He stopped eating and was lethargic.  We took him in for an exam.  The news was devastating.  Pooker had diabetes and his pancreas was inflamed.  Our vet could do nothing more for him and suggested we take him down to the Charleston, SC area, two hours away, to be checked by an internal medicine specialist.  That was the beginning of our painful journey.

Pooker was diagnosed with pancreatitis and he was severely dehydrated.  The clinic needed to keep him there for several days.  They got him rehydrated and calmed down his pancreas.  At the end of the week, he was ready to come home as he was put on a special diet as well as insulin.

After that episode, Pooker would become sick every month until it became more frequent.  He and I made many trips back down to the Internest and he spent several more days at the hospital.  At one point, they had to operate on him, removing his spleen and gall bladder.  After each stay, we were told that, with the proper dosage of insulin, his diabetes could be regulated.  However, I looked up diabetes in dogs on the Internet and learned that veterinary medicine had made many strides over the years.

Diabetes in dogs is complicated.  Instead of the disease affecting them as Type 2 diabetes affects humans, canine diabetes is more like the deadly Type 1 diabetes often called Child Diabetes.  This information stunned me and helped me to realize just how sick Pooker was.  Being a Schnauzer also complicates the situation.  In fact, one vet told me that schnauzers are prone to just about every disease a dog can get and it affects them more dramatically. 

Soon after his first hospital stay, I came home from a weekend in the D.C. area.  I sat down on the sofa with Pooker and looked at his eyes.  I could see he had developed cataracts, just as our last dog, Skipper had.   We were about to get one of the cataracts removed when we learned that, unlike with most breeds, it is an emergency situation with Schnauzers.  Thus, by the time we got him to the eye vet, it was too late for him.  He would be blind for the remainder of his life. 

We had lived with our other diabetic, blind dog, Skipper.  We were prepared to live with Pooker’s blindness.  This time was different, however.  We were about to move into our new house when he lost his sight.  So, instead of encouraging him to get used to being blind in his current environment and then having to get used to being blind in a new environment, we made the decision to baby him.  After all, in the new house, he could now fall down two separate flights of all wooden stairs. 

Baby him we did.  For instance, during the middle of the night, we took turns taking him out to relieve himself.  There were many times too when I would spoon feed him because he wasn’t interested in eating his entire meal.  Pooker would always let us know when he needed to go out.  He would voice a little bark.  His bark let us know that he was either thirsty or he needed to relieve himself.  He was good about alerting us immediately every time, even during the night.

When his appetite would disappear completely, we knew he was extremely ill.  The last time, we took him to Banfield and was told we needed to take him back down to Charleston, we did.  Again they got him rehydrated and calmed down his pancreas.  I was out of town when Bob picked him up that weekend.  He was told that Pooker was doing well and, so, when Bob got him home and I arrived home, we felt optimistic.  However, the optimism didn’t last long at all.

He came home on Saturday.  By Wednesday evening, he wouldn’t eat.  The clinic was supposed to send Bob home with an appetite stimulant in the event he lost his appetite again.  That Wednesday evening we called down to the clinic’s emergency hospital.  The ER vet tried to call in a prescription to our local CVS.  However, by the time she did, the CVS was already closed.  The next morning, Pooker’s vet called it in and we picked the prescription up.  By Thursday evening, he still wouldn’t eat.  During the day, I talked to the nurse at the clinic and she told me it usually took about 24 hours for the stimulant to work.  We decided not to panic and would try again in the morning.  However, we didn’t make it till the next morning.

At about 10 p.m. we all turned in.  Pooker was restless.  He threw up a little, so I kept a towel close by in case he were to throw up again.  He did, and what he threw up was heartbreaking.  He threw up blood, lots of blood.  We both knew he was dying.  We talked about taking him to the all night clinic about fifteen minutes away in order to have him put to sleep.  We were about to do that when something stopped me.  Intuitively, I felt it wasn’t what we needed to do.  Thus, I told Bob I was going to sit with him in the living room.  Bob stayed in the bedroom comforting Slugger who was asleep on our bed. 

I wrapped Pooker in two blankets as we sat down.  I held him in my arms for a half hour as he calmed down and fell into a deep, peaceful sleep.  I don’t know what I expected.  Part of me hoped he would make it for awhile longer, but something also told me he wouldn’t.  I kissed him and stroked him as I talked to him before he fell to sleep.  We sat there for about four hours, when at 3:52 a.m. he took his last long breath.  I knew it was his last.  My hand was under the blanket and lying on his heart.  I felt his little heart stop.  He was gone.  I called to Bob and he came out and sat with us.

I remained in the living room holding him until about 8 a.m. when I called Heavenly Paws Animal Crematory.  The owners were the same people who cremated our little 21-year-old cat, Sissy two years earlier.  During the last few hours, Pooker’s brother, Slugger was able to say good-bye.  Poor Slugger had a hard time with Pooker’s illness.  He watched us carry Pooker up and down the stairs.  Toward the end, Slugger needed to be carried up the stairs.  Nearly four weeks later, he’s just now beginning to walk up both flights by himself.

Our cat, Skeeter, has been devastated as well.  Soon after Pooker was diagnosed and after moving into our new house, we brought two kittens, a brother and sister home.  It took Bob two years to get over losing Sissy.  Toward the end, Bob attended to her every need.  The man who for 46 years claimed he was NOT a cat person, found out that he was indeed a cat person simply because he’s an animal person.  Skeeter, the boy cat, began cuddling with Pooker in his bed.  Skeeter could tell Pooker was ill and so, he became Pooker’s constant companion.  Before we left to rendezvous with Heavenly Paws, I lay Pooker on the spare bedroom bed so Skeeter could say good-bye.   Three weeks later, Skeeter was still looking for Pooker, especially if I brought out something with Pooker’s scent on it.


This past week, I began sleeping with Pooker’s prize possession, Froggy.  Where toys were toys for Slugger who would throw them up in the air and catch them or run with glee when we would toss them for him to chase, for Pooker, toys were possessions.  Froggy was his favorite possession as he would constantly try to sneak out the door with Froggy in his mouth.  A few times he got away with it.  Once, I found Froggy outside.  He was soaking wet.  I’ve repaired Froggy numerous times when I would spy white fill seeping out a hole.


This week has been especially difficult for me.  I’m not sure why, but it has been.  I even had to skip an important meeting with the group, Horry County Democratic Women’s Council of which I am a member because I have been feeling sad.

Time will heal our wounds.  However, I already know that I will continue to occasionally cry over the years when something brings him back to me.  After all, after eleven years, I still cry for Skipper.  Our animals are our children, and when they go, it hurts like hell.


The above photo is one I sent to the Charleston area Veterinary Specialty Care clinic.  I call the photo, Elvis has Left the Building.  I sent it to them after we received a beautiful sympathy card signed by many of the caregivers who paid great attention to Pooker especially during his hospital stays.  Everyone one of them loved our little boy.  He was a sweet boy who could win your heart just by looking at you with his sweet eyes.

We love you, Pooker.  You will forever live in our hearts.





Filed under Maribeth Shanley, writing

Is It Spring Yet? by L.V. Gaudet

Spring isn’t officially here until March 20th, but it feels like spring already.  Even the Canada Geese have started coming back.  For their sake, let’s hope we don’t return to our normal January through March temperatures of -25 to -35 Celsius, which really converts to -30 to -43 with the winds.


Snow is melting, and I haven’t been freezing huddled under blankets for the drive to and from work, while my feet are frozen blocks inside my boots, and my fingers burn with the cold inside gloves that are so thick I have to take them off to pick up my coffee cup or work a key.  (Montana vans apparently don’t do “H”’s well:  heat and headlights).


This has been a winter of some firsts, most of them packed into February.  I went to Vegas for the first time in January.  It was also the first vacation since the start of “family” vacations that was not a “kid” vacation.  The only kids belonged to other people.



This month, we signed up this kid for high school (it starts early with grade 9).  Another first, we made her first resume to apply for a volunteer position.


She is also already a pretty good writer.



I got my Indigo Sea Press books listed in a very local newspaper, the first time I managed to get some public publicity for them.




I had my first public reading event too.  I submitted my short story Blood for the My Bloody Valentine short story contest at the second annual St. Valentines Horror Con on Valentine’s weekend, fully expecting to not make the cut.  To my shock it was accepted and I had to read it on stage at the Horror Con.  I spent the entire time with my head almost buried under the table, eyes glued to the pages, reading in a terrified monotone.  Unfortunately, I did not win.  Maybe next time.


I had my first school guest reading event for I Love to Read Month (Feb).  I read for the grade 7 and 8 classes at a local school, the grades that no one comes to read for.  I found an age-appropriate book and drew names to give one away in each class.  Maybe I’ll make that an annual thing.


This is a trend I’m hoping to continue.  With the newfound freedom of kids hitting their teens, maybe I can get more involved in the local writing community and local events.


sears-deskAnd with the help of my new toy that’s on its way, (the desk) and finally having an actual tiny spot that is mine, with luck I’ll also find more time for writing and blogging in between being these people:

  •  Cubicle dweller
  • Parent
  • Chauffer
  • Dog parent
  • Laundry service
  • Taekwondo student
  • Cleaning service
  • Cook
  • Life coach
  • Counselor
  • Life partner
  • Friend

Although, I have no idea where I’m actually going to put the desk, and it will still be central to all the commotion of a full house.

where the bodies areL.V.Gaudet is the author of Where the Bodies Are and The McAllister Farm

What kind of dark secret pushes a man to commit the unimaginable, even as he is sickened by his own actions?


Where the Bodies Are:  book 1 in the McAllister series.  What secret pushes a man to commit the unimaginable, even as he is sickened by his own actions?

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000035_00023]


The McAllister Farm:  book 2 in the McAllister series.  The secret behind the bodies is revealed.



Links to purchase these L.V. Gaudet’s books


Link to reviews of Where the Bodies Are on Angie’s Diary


Follow L. V. Gaudet:

Facebook author page





WordPress:  LV Gaudet, author




Filed under blogging, L.V. Gaudet, writing

What a Wonderful, Wonderful, Wonderful World by Sherrie Hansen

There’s no better way to spend a wintery day than to plan a summer vacation. My home in northern Iowa got over ten inches of snow on Thursday night and Friday. The murder mystery we had scheduled for that night was cancelled due to 40 mph wind gusts and blizzard conditions. Thankfully, we didn’t lose power, because I was busy online, reserving rooms and planning our late May, early June trek through Wales, Ireland and southern England.


Now that Mark and I are both in our 60’s, our goal is to take an adventurous vacation every year for as long as we’re able. Everyone we know says, do it now, while you can. We’re following their advice. We don’t want to be one of those couples who works too hard and waits too long to see the world, only to lose their health, their mobility, or one or the other of them to death.


Last year, when we were in Scotland, we walked 7 to 10 miles nearly every day of our 2 1/2 week trip in order to see things like the Fairy Glen, the cows grazing on Claigan Coral Beach on Skye, the Fairy Pools, the ancient Standing Stones on Arran, the ruins of Findlater Castle on Cullen Bay, and Dunnottar Castle near Stonehaven in Aberdeenshire.

SW 76

In Romania, we went up and down hundreds of flights of stairs  to see Dracula’s Bran Castle. We strained our muscles to the max  to walk down steep inclines to the sea in Cornwall to see Tintagel Castle and again, in Clovelly, Devon. It wasn’t easy because we’re not in the greatest shape, but we did it, and we’re going to keep doing it as long as we can.

Romania - Castle

This year, we’re off to Wales, Ireland and the south of England. We got a great price on our airline tickets, and have pinned down where we’re staying. Our first three nights will be spent exploring the coastal paths, beaches and sunsets of southwest Wales at Cardigan, where we’ll be staying in an restored, 18th century, attic apartment.


We’ll move on to Northern Wales, where our home for three nights will be Glyn House, in Capel Curig, in Snowdonia in the Welsh mountains.


From there, we’ll catch the ferry to Ireland, a new country for both of us. We’ll see the historic area north of Dublin from Hollow Stream B&B in the village of Kingscourt, which boasts a pub with live Celtic music the first Friday of the month. Perfect timing!


Our remaining time in Ireland will find us in a luxurious 1930’s home near Croom village in Limerick, a stone house in Killarney, Kerry, from which we can visit Dingle, on the far southwest coast of Ireland, and a 250 year old Georgian house in Cashel, Tipperary.

After ferrying from Dublin back to Wales, we’ll spend one indulgent night at a Georgian restaurant with rooms on the Llyn Peninsula on the far west side of Wales.


On our first night back in England, we’ll be cozied up in a 17th century Cotswold stone farmhouse home in Evesham, close to Chipping Campden and Stratford upon Avon, and more important, my cousin Sarah and her family in Bicester. The B&B is beautiful, but it was the rare Soay sheep they keep that called out to me and said, “Boooook.”


Our second to the last stop of the trip is just north of Devon, near the southern shore of England. If I don’t come home, this is where I’ll probably be…


Our last two nights will be in a sweet Victorian cottage in Kent, somewhat near Gatwick Airport for ease of travel. We tried to think of ease and comfort when making a lot of our reservations… queen or king beds, no steep staircases or ladders leading to loft bedrooms, quiet countryside locations with plenty of parking, pretty gardens for relaxing,  two or three nights per location, and views to the west so I can watch the sun set.


Even more important, I tried to find places that captured my imagination. As I learned when we stumbled upon St. Conan’s Kirk in Loch Awe, Scotland, an idea for a book (Wild Rose) can spring up from the most unanticipated locales. The same thing happened when I heard “Nathan” playing the pipes in front of Eilean Donan Castle and caught a glimpse of the pirate boat in the cove (Shy Violet and Sweet William).


It was an old legend on a castle tour that primed the pump for Golden Rod, coming this summer.



I’m not sure what about, or even if this trip will result in a new book, but it wouldn’t surprise me. My mind is already tantalized after choosing the places we’ll be staying. I can’t wait! If it’s still cold and snowy where you are, I hope you’ve enjoyed thinking about summer for a few minutes. If my quick travel preview didn’t do the trick, pick up a book and escape to a faraway place where the wildflowers are blooming and a summer breeze is blowing across the Atlantic. (Yes, that’s a hint.)

Until then, mar sin leat.


Filed under photographs, Sherrie Hansen, Travel, writing

Be the Example by John E. Stack


I had a date this past week and my date was one of the prettiest girls there.  I’m sure that every other guy believed the same about their date, but theirs didn’t even come close. She wore an emerald green dress and her hair was fixed just so. She looked good and she knew it – you could tell by the way she carried herself.  She was ready for an evening of partying and dancing.  This date had cost me at least $50 and we hadn’t even dined or arrived at the dance.  Who knew what to expect.


When she saw me, her eyes just sparkled.  She told me that I looked very handsome – not something most men hear when they arrive to pick up their dates.  We were running a little behind schedule, but we knew that we would arrive at the Father/Daughter dance right on time. 


I decided many years ago, and I was strongly encouraged by my wife, that I would be the first guy that my daughters dated. I hoped that the example I presented would help influence the decisions that they would make in the future.  I wanted them to always believe that they were special and they deserved to be treated that way.


My dad taught me the proper way to behave toward ladies, and it is a shame that the dads of today don’t believe that it is important.  I was born in the 50s, 1953 to be exact, and I still believe what my dad said. Too many men, today, believe that men and women should be treated equal. 


Dad said to always treat a girl with respect. What does that mean?  First off, when you pick her up for a date, ask for her at the door, don’t blow the horn from the curb. Then open doors – car doors, restaurant doors, any doors. And by all means, don’t use foul language around her. And last of all, be even nicer to her mom (this one will go a long way.) Oh, and one more thing.  Just because you asked a girl out on a date and paid for it doesn’t mean she owes you anything. Yes, the guy should pay for the dates until you both have discussed taking turns paying.


Any time I take my wife out, this is how I behave. So, when I take my daughters out I act the same way.  I want to be the example that my daughters compare their dates to.  My opinion is that if the guy doesn’t treat you better than I do, then he doesn’t appreciate you for who you really are.  Therefore, that guy doesn’t deserve to go out with you.


Though I would never admit it when I was young, my dad was a lot smarter that I wanted to give him credit for. He gave me advice on a lot of things, but I won’t go into them right now. I need to get back to the story of my date. 


She was kind of shy at first, but when she saw everyone dancing we had to hit the floor. We danced several songs and she got thirsty, so we took a break to get food and something to drink.  We were back on the dance floor after a few bites and really had a blast.  It is difficult to slow dance when you are six foot and she is only three and a half feet.


I only really embarrassed her once.  I tried to get her to do the chicken dance, but she was having none of that.  So, she laughed at me while I danced.


I got her back home before curfew, around 8:30, and right before bedtime.  He mom was happy that we made it home with time to spare.


Dads, I challenge you to be the example for both your sons and your daughters.  Teach your sons the correct way to behave when dating, and tech your daughters to except nothing less.  You will seldom be disappointed.




***John E. Stack is the author of Cody’s Almost Trip to the Zoo, Cody’s Rescue Adventure at the Zoo, and Olivia’s Sweet Adventure.



Filed under John Stack, life, musings, writing