It’s Not Too Late For A Christmas Memory Tree

  Over fifteen years ago during the Christmas season, I was visiting a dear friend and noticed a small, jewel-like tree glittering on her hallway table. When I asked her where she got it, she told me she had made it for her mother using ornaments, broken jewelry, and so forth from her family’s life. Now that her mother passed, she had the tree and would someday leave it to her own daughter. When I examined it more closely, I saw some of the ornaments were older, some cracked or faded, and sparkling earrings or bracelets were wedged in here and there among the firmly packed decorations. My friend pointed out several ornaments saying things like, “This is the first Christmas ornament my parents got me when I was born,” or “I made this for Mom in the 3rd grade.” When asked how she could make such a tree, she told me it was simple. All you need is a small fake tree, a container to hold it, plaster of Paris, lights, ornaments, costume jewelry, and a glue gun. I ran, not walked, to my local craft store containing the ubiquitous little green, plastic trees and bought a small one-and-a-half foot tall tree, a bag of plaster of Paris, and an attractive round plant holder. The plan is simple. Day One: fill that charming little container about ¾ of the way up with plaster of Paris (follow the directions on the box). Pull the little tree out of the base it came on, stick the tree into the wet plaster of Paris, hold the tree straight for a minute or two until the plaster begins to set, then go about your business for the rest of the day so it can dry thoroughly. Day Two: Starting at the top, take …

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Gobble, Gobble

Which do you like better, cats or dogs? Cats are phenomenal animals. They have surpassed dogs in popularity, but I suspect this is because we have a lot of city dwellers in apartments where space is at a premium. We could never short-shrift our canine buddies; dogs are pretty terrific, too. Most people I know have both when they can. I would if we had the room. In Japan, where many apartments are the size of closets, cats are almost revered, which from a feline’s point of view is only as it should be. This Thanksgiving, Yulie and Ellie want to reach out and wish all their four-footed friends a safe, happy, and tummy-filled holiday. Across the land shelters are filled with those less fortunate. Please remember them, too. To us, their two-footed friends, they advise to keep turkey-coated tinfoil out of harms way and not let pets get too freaked out from visitors or small hands that can paw harshly at them. Good memories and love to all, no matter how many feet we have. Or if we meow or bark. Happy Thanksgiving. To win a copy of my ebook, DEAD….If Only, leave a comment and your email address.

My Guest Blogger is J.Q. Rose, Author of Deadly Undertaking

J.Q. Rose and I are exchanging blogs today. She and I are fast virtual friends, as we’ve never met in person. However, through the years I have come to know and respect my pen-pal colleague, not just as a mystery writer, but as a fine human being. Please join me in welcoming J.Q. Rose, who has a wonderful tale of the heart to tell. She continues on a blog tour promoting her new book, Deadly Undertaking. Thank you, Heather, for hosting me today. Deadly Undertaking is dedicated to a special woman in my life, my friend and mentor, Bernie Frens. Sadly she passed away two years ago after struggling with Alzheimer’s disease for over ten years. Discovering she had this debilitating disease was heartbreaking news for her, her family, and for us. But, Bernie was a strong woman and   leaned on God for strength and courage to face the future. Bernie, about twenty years older than me, came to me at the right time when I needed her knowledge, patience, and skill set. She came to ask me for a job. My husband and I had just purchased a floral shop and greenhouses in a small town in Michigan. When we moved from Central Illinois, we didn’t know a person in that town, but we were fired up to become members of the community and make our fledgling business a success. We had absolutely no training as business owners and no experience in the flower business. The only knowledge I had about flowers I learned when I helped in my family’s funeral business. One of my jobs was to help my mom set up the display of funeral arrangements for a visitation and funeral service. The background for my character, Lauren Staab, in Deadly Undertaking comes from my growing up in the …

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Guardian Angels et al

“There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.” Hamlet Act 1, scene 5 When I was twenty, I had life all figured out. When I hit forty, not so much. Now at this number of spent decades I realize I don’t know squat. I used to be a doubting Thomas about anything I couldn’t see up close and personal. But let’s face it. I can’t see bacteria, not without a microscope, and there are one or two of those suckers which just might take humanity out one of these days. Ebola. A game changer. And Pluto. First it didn’t exist. Then it did. Then it was a planet. Then it wasn’t. Now it’s a dwarf planet. Whatever. All because we found it with a mammoth telescope. But it’s been doing its thing all this time, regardless of what we call it or when we saw it. But back to me and what I can’t see, like my guardian angel. I didn’t know I had one until after my mother passed about a year and a half ago. Mom and I were close. Her death, even though expected, took a lot from me. We were more than mother and daughter. We were good friends. Recently, I was speaking to her as I am wont to do upon occasion. It had been an odd, down day for me, so I asked my mother out loud if I had guardian angel. I knew Mom was a believer. She wore one of several small pins depicting guardian angels on her lapel or collar every day. I heard my mother’s voice as sure as if she was in the next room. “Of course, you do. It’s your Aunt Ann.” I was shocked for a lot of reasons (let’s put aside hearing your dead …

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1% Polynesian Princess

I just had my DNA tested. 99 bucks and you find out who you are, although I thought I already knew. For a girl who is the off-spring of a 100% Italian/American on my mom’s side (both her parents came from Bari, Italy) and the other (my father), with a mother named Margaret MacLaughlin (can you get any more Irish sounding). My grandfather was English/French Canadian (De Haven), so I didn’t think this news would be too shocking. And yet…. here are the results. Africa North 2% Europe West 49% Italy/Greece 24% Iberian Peninsula 8% Trace Regions 8% Pacific Islander < 1% Trace Regions < 1% And the Irish would be where? But on the upside, I find having even a scant 1% Polynesian is exhilarating. I mean, how exotic is that!! And while I haven’t learned yet that I am a dyed-in-the-wool Polynesian Princess, until hard evidence says otherwise, that’s what I’m going with. My call. This is sooooo me. Now I know why I love Hawaii!  Pass the tiara and the poi. Here’s some info on my new people: Most of Polynesia’s islands lie within a triangular area in the Pacific Ocean. The Polynesian Triangle’s “points” are Hawaii, Easter Island (Rapu Nui) and New Zealand. It’s a world defined by the ocean. With about 120,000 square miles of land spread across some 10 million square miles of water, Polynesia’s islands were among the last places on Earth to be settled by humans. Despite great distances separating the outer islands, the Polynesian people are linked by linguistic, cultural and genetic ties.  

Time To Chuck The Bengay

  Hubby and I just returned from a ten-day cruise. Cruising seems to be what more ‘mature’ people do these days. I suspect it has something to do with not having to pack and unpack every time you hit a new place. That can be such a drag. Add into the mix someone comes in to straighten out your room three times a day, and makes and serves your meals. Now you’ve really got something. Everything is done for you with a big smile, whether they mean it or not. Being home the first day was a shock. What is this, I have to open my own refrigerator door and find something to cook for dinner? What do you mean I have to make my own bed? While I loved being home and cuddling with my cats, this was a big let-down. I pondered all of this as I brushed my teeth, concentrating hard on my lust for the sybaritic lifestyle. After about twenty-seconds I noticed the toothpaste tasted funny. I picked up the tube and read the label: Bengay. I panicked then rinsed and spit, expecting my entire mouth to tingle and burn from the ointment. It didn’t. I read further on the label. Expiration date: 2011.  What had once been a soothing muscle ointment became a gelatinous nothing in only four years over it’s due date.I looked at my face. Only several decades over my due date. Time to take another cruise.

What’s With Men And The Godfather I, II, and III?

Yes, they were good movies, especially the first one. Yes, they had wonderful actors, story line, yada, yada. Well, maybe using Coppola’s daughter might not have been the best idea, but nepotism is alive and well in America. I remember seeing all three of them waaaaaaay back when. And I got over it. I have already told my husband, Norman, there is now a moratorium on having to hear about these movies. Is this a guy thing? Most of the men I know quote from them as if they were the Holy Grail. They say lines from the movies the moment they get together. I’m trying to think of one man I know who doesn’t rhapsodize poetic, reciting  many of the scenes and lines when the subject come up. And these movies were made decades ago. Before, during, and since fabulous, fabulous movies came out of Hollywood. What is with the male concentration on GI,II,III? Maybe I’m coming at it from a female point of view. These women didn’t get treated so well. When they were in the way, they either got bedded or slapped around. They had absolutely no power as women or people. Not something to emulate. Also, I am Italian American. My life took on a new slant when these movies came out. Most people think this is the life of Italian Americans. Not mine nor anyone I knew. Possibly, the menfolk in my family were too stupid to be a part of the Mafia. But regardless, these movies became the defining example of the culture. So on a lot of levels, I resent the impact they’ve had on our society. I mean, the Italian culture is so much more that guys running around with guns and slapping people around. But mainly, I don’t get it. Guys, they …

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Why I Write Short Stories

I try not to be fazed when people say I write light-weight books. Mainly, because I do. It’s hard to be taken aback when someone calls it as it is. I also write genre. Mysteries, to be exact. For the most part, they are well received, more so than I thought possible. I suspect that might be because while considered humorous and light-weight, my books are based on deeper stuff. In the Alvarez Family Mysteries for instance, the first book of the series takes place two years after the patriarch of the family dies. The protagonist (Lee) is fairly disassociated from her mother and brother, especially after the father’s unexpected death. What they still share is a business created by him, a detective agency in Silicon Valley. Through a set of circumstances – okay, a dead body, because it is a murder mystery, after all – they become close again. I threw in unconditional love in the form of an uncle, who loves all three of them, no matter what. In the best of all possible worlds, most of us could use someone like that. This odd, four-peopled family represent a lot of today’s family dynamics. Many readers see that. While the books might be labeled funny and light-weight, the reader often identifies with the underlying problems this small family manages to overcome. And most importantly, this is a family who reaches out, despite the fact they often don’t ‘get’ one another. But back to why I like short stories. After the initial draft, I look for feedback from friends and fellow writers. I have found that in short stories, short shorts, and flash fiction (so called for their extreme brevity), each and every word counts. Rambling is not permitted to the extent it is in a novel. Writing in …

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Liar, Liar, Pants on Fire

When I was a kid, I asked my mother why people lied. She said, “Usually it’s because if that person tells the truth they won’t get what they want.” That’s probably more true than not. However, I find it interesting that there are so many words that mean a lie or liar, and most of them are just wonderful sounding. I mean, aren’t we wasting terrific words on something that’s supposed to be shameful and rotten? For instance, in Tennessee Williams’ play, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, Big Daddy uses the word ‘mendacity’ frequently. What ham actor wouldn’t want to scream that out to a packed house night after night? Tennessee Williams probably saved the word mendacity from obscurity. In today’s clime, it’s probably the only way anyone under thirty who didn’t major in Drama knows the word at all. If they do. It does have more than two syllables, after all. Then there’s the wonderful words ‘equivocator’ and ‘fabulist’. Equivocator sounds like someone who settles things, makes this right, equalizes them. And who wouldn’t want to be a fabulist? Maybe not if they knew what it meant, but going by the sheer sound of it, it’s fabulous. Yes, pun intended. Then there’s prevarication and taradiddle. Just great sounding words. I could go on and on, but as I am simply musing, my job is done here. But to carry this a little further, maybe there’s reason we have such inventive, colorful, and neat-sounding words for a liar. Possibly somewhere deep inside of each one of us, we are in awe of someone who can look us straight in the face and tell one helluva whopper. https://www.facebook.com/HeatherHavenStories http://www.heatherhavenstories.com/ Twitter@HeatherHaven Heather’s author page at Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Heather-Haven/e/B004QL22UK/ref=sr_tc_2_0?qid=1372537066&sr=1-2-ent Email me at: Heather@HeatherHavenStories.com

This Writing Thing

I have discovered there might be a perk or two to being a writer. For sure, my crossword puzzle skills have improved dramatically. I will now grope for the rest. Perk #1 – I can enter a world I create when all around me is chaos. There’s a lot to be said for that. The older I get, the more chaotic I find the world. Sometimes a trip to the grocery store can be mind-boggling. I have been Greenpeaced there several times. The polar bears are better off because of the volunteers and my contributions to their cause. Oh yes, and I did buy some ice cream. Perk #2 – People actually think because I can write a novel, I am an intelligent person. This is not necessarily the case. I have found that I am on the fairly dumb side, especially when it comes to finding my reading glasses or the car in a parking lot. Of course, saving the bears distracted me. I wandered around the parking lot for 15-minutes pushing a shopping cart full of melting ice cream. I try to look on it as exercise. Perk #3 – When together with a bunch of strangers at a gathering and we need to make inane, mindless conversation before the hors d’oeuvres arrive, I can throw in the bit about being a writer. This usually stops people in their tracks. but ratchets up the conversation. They think of  J.D. Salinger, Jane Austin, or Steven King. I think of the arrival of shrimp cocktail. Sometimes one or two trapped people actually like murder mysteries. This means I can give them a bookmark and hope they go to Amazon to get one of my books. Add another 1/2 perk for this. Perk #4 – I get to do what I love. …

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