Category Archives: Books

The Gypsy’s Promise

I finished writing a book.

The funny part is, it was never supposed to be completed.

The thing is, I fleshed out a couple of characters who became the basis of my first five chapters. Then the urge to actually complete the book passed and I moved on to writing other things.

But after the fifth chapter was done, the book sorta called me back and then the characters took on lives of their own. Before I realized it, there was a sixth, a seventh and an eighth chapter. I laid the book aside again for a while–months if I remember  correctly. But I kept being lured back to the unfinished manuscript.

Before I knew it, there were over 70,000 words written and I found myself composing an Epilogue.

It probably sounds like the hard work has been done, but actually the hard work has just begun–revisions and more revisions. That’s where the book stands until I deem it worthy to be sent to an agent. If I’m lucky, some day you’ll see The Gypsy’s Promise on a shelf in your favorite bookstore, or on Amazon as an eBook.

Wish me luck.

10 Recent Books I Have Read and Loved

  1. Stealing the Dragon by Tim Maleeny (suspense intrigue thriller)
  2. Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen (sort of a historical memoir)
  3. Outlander by Diana Gabaldon (historical romantic time travel) My favorites in this series were the first and the second, Dragonfly in Amber
  4. A Game of Thrones (A Song of Ice and Fire) by George R.R. Martin (fantasy) This entire series is not to be missed.
  5. The Other Bolelyn Girl by Philippa Gregory Don’t think history, think a really fine read.
  6. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer Now if you DO like a little (history) mixed in with your (humor), try this book on for size. The entire book is written in letters. Sounds boring doesn’t it? Trust me, it’s not.
  7. If you love Renoir, then you will love Luncheon of the Boating Party by Susan Vreeland. (fictionalized biography) It’s not a book about his entire life, but instead covers the period during which he was painting the luncheon masterpiece, one of his most recognizable  works.
  8. The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson (thriller) You’ve never known a character like Lisbeth Salander.
  9. Bloodsworn: Bound by Magic by Kathy Lane (fantasy romance suspense) What more can I say?
  10. If you’ve never read a Janet Evanovich book, run to the nearest bookstore or tiptoe to and start off with One for the Money If you like human, colorful, (laugh out loud) characters, you’ll love her books. Easy reading, don’t be expecting Pride and Prejudice. These are just fun books in a series.


Harry Potter

80% of the time, Hollywood does a lousy job of translating a wonderful book to the screen, but Harry never disappointed. I read all the books. I’ve seen all the movies.

And The Deathly Hallows doesnt  miss a beat. Action galore. Magic sublime.

Over 1,000 people showed up at our theater for Friday’s midnight show – over half dressed as one of the characters. For a small town, that must be some kind of record. Balloons and crepe paper festooned the lobby. Everyone partied like there was no tomorrow. And maybe there isn’t.

It’s quite a letdown to know that there will be no future books or movies to look forward to. The fantasy world of Harry, Hermione and Ron has reached its expiration date. What a bummer, but what a fantastic ride!

Water For Elephants

If you’ve read Water for Elephants, you’ll probably be disappointed with the movie. Reese Witherspoon, a good actress,  just went through the motions. Robert Pattinson did a good job of smiling–a lot. The movie would have been unbearable except Christoph Waltz was cast as the cruel Ringmaster and husband to Witherspoon. He was the whole show.

If you’re hoping to experience the joy, the pathos, and the horrors of the book, save your money. Again, I’ll have to qualify that. When Waltz beats the elephant, it’s horrifying. That’s probably the only time moviegoers wake up out of their stupor.

The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo

Did you ever hear of Stieg Larsson? He wrote The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. The title intrigued me, so there you are. I picked the book up. That’s how happy mistakes are made.

The intrigue doesn’t stop with the title. Main characters don’t come more fascinating than Lisbeth Salander. Her personality: mysterious, hidden, socially inept, computer savvy (genius hacker), sometimes deadly, cautious, captivating, hold-your-breath nerve wracking.

I wanted to know a little bit more about the author. Larsson lived in Sweden. He died in 2004. But before he died, he delivered three manuscripts, which were published and later translated into English. Lucky for us.

I just finished reading his second book, The Girl Who Played with Fire. Again the troubled, complicated heroine is Salander.

I found this second book to be slightly slower than the first, but only slightly. Both are good reads.

Salem, Massachusetts

halloweenPhoto from

Okay, it’s August, I know that! But, I’m thinking Halloween. Because if you’re planning a getaway in October, you must start planning and reserving rooms now. And it doesn’t get better than Salem, Massachusetts for Halloween.

The truth is, you can go to Salem anytime. There’s lots to see and do. Learn about the famous witch hunts at the Salem Witch Museum, the House of Seven Gables tour is a must-do whether you’ve read the book or not, visit any number of houses that purportedly housed witches back in the 17th century, and if you do go, be sure to visit the trash menagerie at the Peabody Essex Museum.

But getting back to Halloween in Salem, the City is in Halloween-mode for the entire month of October. New this year–

Runnin’ From the Devil Road Race

A new road race is in the works for Halloween morning, and, naturally, it will have an unusual, only-in-the-Witch-City twist. “We’re going to have devils hidden behind the course that will jump out and scare people,”

Other things to look forward to: Costume Balls, Parades, Haunted Houses, Psychic Fairs, Unique Shops, Intriguing Bookshops, Wax Museum, and plenty of good eats and treats.

Oh, I just love Halloween. Don’t you?

10 Ideas (and more) When There’s No Money For Vacation

Over the past few months, I’ve pointed out a number of places to vacation. All in the U.S. All good for the pocketbook. All good to help boost the economy. But suppose you don’t even have enough money to hop on a plane, or a train, or to gas up the car? What then?

It could be time to get creative:

  1. Library – Visit your local library. There’s more than books there. Rent some DVDs and video games. Don’t particularly like to read, but you enjoy a good story? Try taking out an audio book. Many libraries offer free movie nights and concerts. There’s almost always activities for the kids. My library always has a 1,000 piece puzzle going so anyone can sit down for a while, unwind, and try your hand at putting in a few pieces. And nowadays, libraries have computers.
  2. Birdwatching – Don’t skip over this one (even if it sounds hokey). If you have kids to keep entertained, this is a great one. Buy a bird book. (An excellent one for beginners is the Peterson Field Guide.) Install a bird feeder in the backyard. No backyard? Take a hike at your local park. Begin a “Life List.” When you observe and recognize a bird, check it off your list. Before you know it, you’ll have a pretty lengthy list.
  3. Camera Safari – Both adults and kids love taking pictures. Get out there and photograph flowers, bugs, (birds, if they’ll sit long enough for you), other people enjoying nature. Compare all the photos and judge who got the best shot–adult or one of the kids? Post the good ones online.
  4. Adult Education Classes – Learn to Paint. Actually, learn to do just about anything. Ballroom dancing, Line dancing, Belly dancing – your city probably offers classes at your local high school or tech school. Do a little research.
  5. Fishing – Everybody knows somebody who likes to fish. Find your fishing mentor and spend a day on the water.
  6. Picnic – This one is obvious, but the fact is, I hate to picnic on a hot, summer day. My idea is a picnic indoors. It can even be an overnight picnic that includes: inviting one guest each, everyone choosing their own food & helping to prepare it, each guest brings their favorite DVD, and when everyone is dead tired, break out the sleeping bags.
  7. Hose ‘Em – Don’t have enough moolah to take the family to a water park. Put on your bathing suit and hook up the hose. Keeping in mind that most communities are trying to conserve water, this is an hour-long fun time that ends with some cool punch and a family board game in wet bathing suits out on the back porch. (Family time – none of us get enough of it these days.)
  8. Freebies – Keep your eyes and ears open for free events: Museum Free Days, Art Galleries, Community Fairs and Events, etc.
  9. A Bushel-full of Ideas from Pink Like The Color
  10. And Last but not Least from Home Baked Education

Wii Fun and an Update

We are having a good week.
We blew our summer budget on a Nintendo Wii and Wii Fit which has been a really big hit with us both. Cameron is particularly into boxing, jogging and bowling as well as a Ben 10 game we bought with it. This is the first games console we’ve had in years and the first that we’ve really got the hang of. There is quite a bit of healthy competition in the house for getting first place in the games and activities! Much to my surprise Cameron switches off after about an hour of his own accord too – I thought I’d have to be dragging him away to get anything else done.

The Guernsey Literary & Potato Peel Pie Society

I must take a break from my “Places to Visit on a Budget” posts to tell you about a wonderful book I’ve just finished reading–The Guernsey Literary & Potato Peel Pie Society. It is written completely in letter form, making it different from any book I’ve ever read, or if I have read one, I’ve long forgotten it. And the author’s humorous style that easily transforms into serious matters, namely the aftermath of World War II, is done seamlessly.

Here are some other kudos. This one from Mama Monkey

The title alone (The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society) was enough to have me hooked because I needed to know just want this “society” was.

…tells the story of Juliet Ashton, a British author, and her getting to know the people of Guernsey Island through their letters and eventual meeting.  The story takes place following the second World War.  The people of the island share their stories with Ashton, which eventually gives her the idea of writing a book about the German occupation of the island– and of their Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. It has been a long time since I have been so captivated by a story.

From Teddyree in Australia

When Juliet unexpectedly receives a letter from Dawsey Adams, resident of Guernsey and member of the literature society new friendships are formed along with an idea for a new book. As correspondence between Juliet & Dawsey expands to include other members of the literature society, Juliet is captivated by the stories of life on Guernsey during the Occupation and of friends connected through a mutual love of literature and the trauma of war.

The character’s have an authenticity that makes them feel like old friends, I shared their sorrows and joys, laughing out loud, sniggered in places, & at times I sat with tears rolling down my cheeks. Juliet, Dawsey, Sidney (Juliet’s editor), Amelia Maugery, Elizabeth & Kit McKenna, Isola Pribby, Eben Ramsey are portrayed with such humour and colour, they capture your heart, staying with you, like part of your family, long after the story is finished.

Try this one out.

Savannah, Georgia


Oglethorpe Square

If you’re looking for southern hospitality, try Savannah, Georgia. On the menu–candy for the eyes. It is chock full of quaint B&Bs, but the main attraction is its charming 22 park squares that are situated throughout the historic district of the city.  Surrounding many of the squares are historic homes and museums.

I found the best way to get acquainted with Savannah was to take the Hop On & Off Trolley Tour. You can spend your entire first day in the city using this trolley. It stops at most of the historic homes that are open to visitors, and if you’re a Girl Scout, you won’t want to miss the Julliette Gordon Lowe House (founder of the Girl Scouts of America). The trolley picks you up at your hotel or B&B, and then it stops every 20 minutes and runs all day until 4:30 p.m. That means if you get off to stroll a museum, or eat lunch, or just sit on a bench at one of the squares, you never wait for the trolley for more than 20 minutes. Excellent!

Be sure to walk along the river where you will find lovely boutiques, antique shops and restaurants. And you’ll also see Florence, the Waving Girl.

Speaking of girls, if you’ve read Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, or if you just like visiting cemeteries (and believe it or not, many people love traipsing through an old cemetery), then you won’t want to miss Bird Girl.

Now that I have finished this post, it appears I’ve written a lot about girls: Girl Scouts, Waving Girl and Bird Girl. But Savannah is so much more. Go see for yourself. And if you’ve already been there, feel free to add a comment and let me know what you found exciting or beautiful about the city, because I plan to go back some day.

Good For The Waistline, Good For The Pocketbook, Too


It’s time to cut out some of the fast food drop-ins on your way home from work. Notice I say some, because there are days when you’re just too tired to cook, or you don’t have time to cook, or you’ve got to have a greasy cheeseburger, no matter what!

On those days when there’s no getting around it, be prepared. It doesn’t have to be a fast food burger. I buy a pound of ground beef, but instead of freezing it, I shape it into four burgers (very simple–nothing whatsoever added to it). Those individually wrapped burgers are always in my freezer. I freeze burger buns, too. Instant meal!

And if you want to make it healthier, smother every burger with tomato, lettuce, pickle, onion and a little cheese. The more lettuce, the better. It adds crunch.

Another thing you might want to consider is, once the kitchen is cleaned after dinner, put up the “Closed” sign. I don’t mean literally, but I remember my mother wiped and dried her kitchen sink. She shined the faucet and folded the towel and, believe me, you didn’t mess up her sink after that. It was her way of closing the kitchen for the night. It was a good policy. No one in our family had a weight problem back then.

And, incidentally, if you want to read a book about losing weight the fun way, try reading a book written by Janice Taylor titled All Is Forgiven, Move On. I mention her book because one of her suggestions is to close your kitchen at 9:20 p.m. every night.  My mom was doing that back in the 50’s.

Janice also has some nifty charts, some great recipes and motivation ideas for getting healthy and staying that way.

You might also want to visit Janice’s site It’s an interesting read.