Sunday, April 30, 2017

March and April Reading List Review

Like so many writers, I started as a reader first. I wish I had time to read more, but typically can only find time to read about four novels a month. Some months I have great luck finding books I enjoy, other months are so-so. March and April I hit the jackpot.

Here's what I read in the past eight weeks starting with March:

The Trouble with Nathan by Anna J. Stewart (5 stars): Anna is quickly becoming one of my favorite authors. She populates her book with take-no-prisoner characters, who draw you in and put you - the reader - firmly on their side. They persevere and eventually triumph despite their flaws.

The Unlikely Lady by Valerie Bowman (4 stars): Valerie's books are always entertaining. Miss Jane Lowndes is determined to stay a spinster in this historical romp. Luckily for her Lord Garrett Upton has other ideas.

The Memory Watcher by Minka Kent (4 stars): Billed as a psychological thriller, I was intrigued. Not sure about the thriller part but Minka nailed the psychological side. Autumn is one messed up lady - in fact most of the characters need therapy. The ending was a bit disappointing but all-in-all a great read.

A Bodyguard of Lies by Donna Del Oro (5 stars): I'm a sucker for WWII intrigue and Donna brings the past into the present in this wonderful read. The plot is tight and Donna puts enough obstacles in the main characters' path to keep you wondering.

Playing for Love by Mel Curtis (5 stars): Mel draws deliciously flawed characters who you love to love - despite themselves. If you've never read one of Mel's books - here's a good place to start - and it's free! I guarantee you'll be hooked on this author.

Finding Our Forever by Brenda Novak (5 stars): A master story-teller, Brenda, keeps me turning pages to find out how these characters will get past their hangups - and in the case of the heroine, lies - to reach their happily ever after. Brenda loves to weave social issues through her stories and in this one she tackles adoption.

Thoroughbreds and Trailer Trash by Bev Patterson (5 stars): These two had sparks flying from the get-go and I was rooting for them all the way. I love Bev's flawed characters, in fact, I bought her next book because I had to know what happened to her sister, Emily.

Studs and Stilettos by Bev Patterson (5 stars): Sometimes I wanted to kick Emily (the heroine) and tell her to believe in herself. It took yummy horse-trainer, Dan, to make her face her insecurities and let the strong woman inside take control and be who she was meant to be.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Meet the Characters – An Interview with Layla from “Forbidden Kisses” by Sha Renée

What do you do when the person you love is off limits? Military regulations prohibit personal relationships between senior officers and their juniors. Violation of this rule is a serious offense. Unfortunately, for Layla Matthews and Ethan Parker, they don’t discover each other’s military status until after they’ve already fallen for each other. With the threat of disciplinary action and their careers at risk, the lovers find themselves with an impossible decision.

Today we’re talking to Petty Officer Layla Matthews, US Navy, from the book “Forbidden Kisses” by Sha Renée. This is the first book in the series, “Anchored Hearts.”

Name three of your favorite things.
Spending time with Ethan
Being in the Navy

What do you like most about being in the Navy?
It truly is an adventure, just like the slogan says. I travel, meet new people, learn new skills. And working in the aviation field is like icing on the cake. When I watch a plane takeoff, I feel a sense of pride knowing that my work helped put that plane in the air. I love that sense of belonging to something huge, important and incredibly awesome.

What is your relationship status?
I’m involved with a wonderful man named Ethan Parker. *whispers* I trust I can talk freely here. You see, Ethan’s a Navy Lieutenant, which means the military prohibits us from having a personal relationship. Neither of us wants to be dishonest, but the decision whether or not to stop seeing each other... well it’s one of the most difficult choices I’ve ever been faced with.

What are you most afraid of?
Losing Ethan. I mean, I’m not afraid he’ll leave me for someone else, because seriously, I rock his world... What? I do. *smiles* He says my honey is the sweetest he’s ever had. *Smile is replaced with a look of concern* But aside from the obvious threat of being forced to give him up, there’s the fact that... he’s a pilot. At the end of each day, I wait for a text from him so I know his training operations went okay. But I know there will come a time when his flights are not just for training. He’ll go up against an enemy to protect all of us. I’m aware of the risk. It’s what we do. Hell, it’s what we signed up for. But I honestly don’t know what I’d do if he didn’t come back to me.

What is your favorite food?
Lasagna... and Ethan’s is the best. He’s an amazing cook, which I appreciate, because I can’t cook to save my life. Just give me a microwave and some frozen dinners, though and I’m good.

What is your favorite song?
I Can’t Help Falling in Love – The version by UB40. When Ethan sings it to me, it melts my heart, gives me goosebumps and brings tears to my eyes. 

Describe your idea of an ideal weekend.
If Ethan and I didn’t have to keep our relationship a secret, I spend weekends at his house. On Friday evenings, we’d order dinner and snuggle on the couch watching a movie. We’d talk about our work week and make plans for the rest of the weekend. On Saturdays, we’d probably work out together, pick up groceries and run other errands. Saturday nights would be for going out – maybe to a Jazz club, the bowling alley or a comedy club followed by dinner out. On Sundays, we’d sleep late until we felt inclined to do some outdoor activity - auto racing, a farmers’ market or museum, followed by a home-cooked dinner. Ethan would cook, of course. Now that would be a perfect weekend.

You talk a lot about Ethan. How did you two meet?
It started with a cup of coffee. I had a lot on my mind - my mom was in the hospital and I was studying for exams. I made the innocent mistake of picking up the wrong cup at the coffee hut. Ethan found me, we switched cups, flirted and got stuck in the bathroom together. He swears I picked up his cup intentionally, just to meet him, though.

What was your first impression of him?
There was an instant attraction. It was difficult to focus on studying my notes because he sat at the table right next to mine. I couldn’t shake the feeling that he was watching me and whenever I glanced at his table our eyes met and he flashed that beautiful smile of his.

If someone from your past showed up, who would you most want it to be, and why?
Kennedy. No, I take that back. *Eyebrows furrow* Yeah. Kennedy. Not the former president. Someone very dear to me. I often wonder how my life would have turned out if I hadn’t made the choice that I did. The thing is, Kennedy does show up in an upcoming story – without warning. Just knocks on the door. I nearly fall over. Good thing Ethan is there with me.

Do you have any bad habits?
According to Ethan, I make a mess in his kitchen when I attempt to cook. I can’t clean as I go, like he’s always telling me to. If I stopped to clean everything and return every item right after using it, that would double the prep time of whatever I’m trying to create. He hates when I leave the fridge open. But if I take the cheese out, I might as well leave the door open, sprinkle the cheese into the pot and then return it to the fridge. Then I close the door. You’d think if someone wants you to clean as you go, they wouldn’t get annoyed when you leave the door to the fridge open. Sheesh.

What is the most evil thing anyone could do?
There is nothing like family, especially the bond between a parent and child. More specifically, a mother and child, because they have a physical connection long before the father does. Harming any child is heinous. But harming your own child... in my opinion, that’s the worst. The opposite of that, of course would be someone abusing an elderly parent, or turning your back on them. I just don’t see how a person could live with his or herself after treating a parent badly.

For whom or what would you die?
That’s easy. My country, of course. My mother. Ethan. I’ll stop there, since I don’t want to give away too much of my story.

Name something you’re good at and something you’re bad at.
I’ll let Ethan answer that. *Turns to Ethan, who’s taken a seat next to Layla*
Wow. Way to put me on the spot, Layla. Okay, I’ll use the sandwich technique. They say when you have something negative to say about someone, you should sandwich it between two positives. First and foremost, Layla is extremely good at anything sexual. *Grins* She’s confident in her sexuality. She’s not bashful about telling me what she wants and exactly how she wants it. And when she gives... she gives completely, holding nothing back. Every experience with her is mind-blowing. *Looks at Layla, who’s blushing*

Layla is... not so good at... well, I’m just going to say it. She knows it. I know it. She can’t cook. I do all the cooking when we’re together and that’s okay because I enjoy it and she hates it. We only see each other on weekends, so when I ask about her week and she tells me what she’s eaten, I cringe.

Lastly, she’s an amazing dancer. Sensual. Seductive. When we go out dancing, I get to feel her - which is great. But at my place, I sit back and watch while she dances. Men are visual... and watching her is definitely a treat.

Okay, Layla, if you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
I wish I were better able to communicate and express my feelings. I frequently find it difficult to get the right words out at the right time. It sometimes leads to misunderstanding and hurt. But, I’m working on it.

This book is available at this fine retailers:

Sunday, April 23, 2017

In My Opinion – 10 Most Romantic Movie Heroes

What makes a man romantic to one person, can send someone else heading for the hills – but I’m going to charge ahead anyway. Following is my list of the movie guys who stole my heart.

Mr. Darcy from “Pride and Prejudice”: Colin Firth was my favorite – although Matthew MacFadyen wasn’t bad. There’s something about the quiet, yet sensitive and observant, type that gets to me every time. Mr. Darcy knew what Elizabeth needed and was there to get it for her at whatever cost to himself.

Westley from “The Princess Bride”: Now here’s a man who would do anything, suffer anything, to protect his lady. As he repeats often in his quest to win her heart, “As you wish.” The image of that hunky, amazing man falling at my feet… *fans face* Oh, my.

Richard Collier from “Somewhere in Time”: What an opening – an elderly woman begs our hero to "come back to me". That he would go back in time to find and woe his one true love – makes my heart go pitter pat.

Jack Gallagher from “While You Were Sleeping”: Haven’t we all fallen in love with the image of a man – the perfect man – only to find out that he’s not what we wanted? Enter Jack with his kindness and humor and dreams put on hold who deftly steals the heroines heart before she realizes it’s gone.

Joe Fox from “You’ve Got Mail”: Witty dialog, engaging characters who ooze charm and humor – they just have to get together. Joe knows he’s going to hurt her and does his best to soften the blow in his insightful email exchanges with her. In the end, he’s the first to encourage her to follow her dreams once she’s free.

William Thacker from “Notting Hill”: Hugh Grant is adorable in this movie. Bashful, a bit bumbling, and definitely quirky – he clearly loves his family and friends – and can’t imagine how Anna Scott could fall in love with him. He is the everyman who walks into our lives and wins us over with his humility and devotion.

Joe Boyd/Joe Hardy from “Damn Yankees”: I love this movie for many reasons – not the least of which is a dreamy, Tab Hunter – but to point the spotlight on a man who loves his wife so much… He sells his soul to live his dream only to discover he already had his dream… his wife.

Leopold from “Kate & Leopold”: Another tale of a hero willing to sacrifice everything to ensure his lady is safe. Doesn’t hurt a bit that the hero is Hugh Jackman who never fails to put stars in my eyes. He’s dashing and treats a lady the way we should all be treated.

Rick from “Casablanca”: Any man who can say, “Kiss me. ‘Kiss me as if it were the last time.” Well, he had me at kiss me. Rick wanted Ilsa to be his once they met again, but sacrificed his own welfare and freedom to ensure her safety. An unlikely knight in shining armor, he stepped into the role when it counted.

Nickie Ferrante from “An Affair to Remember”: Cary Grant – need I say more. He’s so tender and attentive and everything a woman would want in a debonair and considerate lover… and yet life intervenes. She doesn’t show for their rendezvous but he waits and pines for the one he thought jilted him. Tears stream down my face every time I watch this movie.

There are so many more to choose from. What are your favorites?

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Meet the Characters – An Interview with Steve from “A Major Seduction” by CJ Matthew

Today we’re talking to Major Steve Shorner, F-15E Strike Eagle pilot, from the book “A Major Seduction” by CJ Matthew. This is the first book in the series, “The Colonel’s Daughters.”

What is your relationship status?
Technically, I reckon I’m still single. But I’m telling you right now, my heart’s a goner. It all started when I promised to stand up at my buddy’s wedding in Japan. A week before the wedding, my Colonel sent me TDY to Tokyo. And damned if I didn’t meet Kari, the maid of honor, on the same flight...well, it’s a long story. Can I buy you a beer?

What was your first impression of Kari?
At first, I couldn’t see much. Except all that red hair and I remember she smelled amazing. The woman was loaded down like a pack horse. Standing in line at TSA security, she juggled one of those long garment bags, a carry-on, and an over-stuffed tote. Her phone rang and that’s when I got a good look at her face. She took my breath away.

If we could only hear your voice (but not see you) what characteristic would identify you?
People tell me I’ve got a Texas accent but I can’t hear it. One characteristic I’ve developed as a pilot is to keep a calm voice during an emergency. No use yelling, stay calm and get through it.

What is your favorite food?
Texas barbeque. Ribs, chicken, anything cooked on a grill with sauce that you eat with your hands. I like all the fixins, too but the meat is the best.

Are you close to family?
I’m real close to Mom. My older brother, not so much. Big brother, his wife and two little girls all live in Texas on the family ranch. I reckon Dad would’ve been happier if I’d stayed on the ranch, too. But I had to fly. So I graduated from UT, got my commission, and qualified in the Strike Eagle. Then, umm… six months ago, Dad had a heart attack and passed.

If someone from your past showed up, who would you most want it to be, and why?
Mostly, I’d want to see Dad. To introduce him to Kari. And so I can tell him I love him. I’ve recently learned some important stuff. One thing, you can’t assume folks in your life know you love them. You gotta say it out-loud.

Name three of your favorite things.
In order, at the top is Kari. Then number 2 is a combo: going vertical in the F-15E with Quinn whooping in the back seat. Finally, cold beers in the squadron lounge.

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Sunday, April 16, 2017

Kids in the Car Like Snakes on a Plane – a Terrifying Combination

The following is from a newspaper column I used to write. This was originally published in 1989.

Kids in the car like snakes on a plane – a terrifying combination. With care, the second can be avoided – but the first – if you’re a parent, not so much. They come with the territory. As the parent chiefly responsible for their day-to-day transportation, I primarily use one vehicle and my husband uses another.

My dear spouse avoids the vehicle relegated to me and the kids like the plague. On those rare occasions when he is forced to use my car out of dire necessity, it is obvious he does so under duress. He never openly voices his aversion, but the fact that he wears a ski mask  and will drive 30 miles out of his way to detour around places where he might be known leads me to believe he does not want to be seen in my car.

I can’t imagine why. I mean what kind of person would care that the dry dog food bag sprung a leak and doggy kibbles are scattered hither and yon. And who would be bothered by the soil from the potted plants I hauled to landscape our backyard this past summer?  And what’s wrong with a few needles from last year’s Christmas tree nestled into the carpet? Anyone should be able to handle this much clutter.

I have the sneaking suspicion it’s the kids. Now that they are back in school after two weeks off, it’s time to reflect on the condition of ‘The Car.’ When I look at its state of being, I’m willing to admit, its mind boggling what three-plus children can do to my only mode of transportation in such a short space of time.

Forget for a moment that the children seem to feel the floor of my car is the only repository for the assorted containers from the fast food chains of America. I have nightmares involving the EPA declaring my car a mobile hazardous waste dump for which I’ll have to run the bureaucratic maze to obtain a license before I’ll be allowed to continue on my way.

The first thing the kids do when they get in the car is to remove their shoes and socks, jackets, sweaters, hats, and gloves. They wear only those items required to keep them from being arrested for indecent exposure. If they’ve been swimming, towels are kicked out of their way. Toys and games are assigned to any available nook or cranny. None of this would be too bad except that children only remove those things from a car which they can carry with their hands tied behind their backs. 

The trash and paraphernalia are bothersome and definite eyesores but I have the feeling it’s the chocolate milk shake drying in a line down the back of the seat and oozing into the crevices that really gets to him. Or it could be the french fries smashed against the window or the three week old hamburger elbowed into oblivion and growing some interesting green stuff keeping him at arm’s length. I do my best to remove as much clutter as possible at the end of each day – but the deep cleaning – that happens about as often as moving the refrigerator so I can clean underneath it.

I don't know. Do you think the state of my backseat is why he refuses to let us into his car  ever?

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Meet the Characters - An Interview with Ruby from "Return to Ruby's Ranch" by Rhonda Frankhouser

Ruby Marie Lattrell was named after her grandmother, the original matriarch of Ruby’s Ranch. The ranch represented home and safety and a future that the young Ruby was looking forward to living. After Ruby’s mother mysteriously disappeared, her father, angry and broken, moved her and her younger brother away from the ranch to escape the heartache that haunted him there.  

In Return to Ruby’s Ranch, Ruby inherits the ranch after her crazy Granny Ruby passes away some twenty years later. The ranch was preserved in time. Even the boy next door, Billy MacCallister, now a fully grown, gorgeous cowboy, still has a crush on her. He has great hopes to make Ruby his own the moment he sees her standing, like a dream, on the porch at Ruby’s Ranch. But will she accept his love with so many mysteries to solve? Let’s ask Ruby.

What is your relationship status?
She paused considering the question. “I’ve had no real time these past twenty years to think about myself. I’ve been taking care of my ailing father, and getting my brother, Jake, raised and through college.  But now things will be different. Maybe being back at the ranch will spark something, but for now, I’m concentrating on solving some mysteries haunting this place. That’s my goal. I need answers before I can move on.  Unless that tenacious Billy MacCallister gets his way.”

When you look in the mirror, what do you see?
“I see a strong, independent woman who looks particularly like her mother when she puts her hair back into a clip. Now that I’m back at the ranch, I see a little more calmness showing in my reflection, though. I’m so happy to be home.”

What is people’s first impression of you?
She pinched her face into a frown and glanced away, “You know, I’ve never really thought of it, but I guess they might call me stubborn and willful, when really I’m curious and confident. I’ve never really bothered worrying about what others thought of me.”

Name three of your favorite things.
“I have way more than three favorite things, but I have to say, being on the back of a horse, smelling the sagebrush in the wind after it rains, and when Billy just pops over to offer help. All of those things make me smile. At first I wondered how can anyone really be that nice, but Billy’s proving to be a genuine sweetheart. And a damn hot one at that. Sometimes I ask him to lift things for me just so I can see him flex his biceps,” she winked.

Name three things that tick you off.
“People who think I can’t take care of myself, people who are disrespectful, and liars. I really hate liars. Billy’s dad, Ray MacCallister, really ticks me off every single time I see him. He’s all three of those things wrapped up into one. I still can’t figure out how such a jerk could father two beautiful people. Claudie, my best friend in the world, and Billy, who’s beyond adorable. I don’t get it.”

What is your best memory to date?
A wide smile spread across her lips and her eyes lit from within. “Watching my Momma and Granny Ruby cooking in this kitchen always makes me feel so happy, so at home.  That memory represents the best of times at Ruby’s Ranch, when we were all together. I miss those times. More recently, I’d have to say my ride up to Haley’s Peak with Billy. That’s a pretty beautiful memory as well.”

What are you most afraid of?
“I’m afraid of falling in love with Billy, then losing him like I lost my mother. It would break me.”

What would you like it to say on your tombstone?
“Interesting question. I’m not sure,” she pushed the glass in front of her away and leaned on the table. “Maybe - Here lies the passionate woman who loved hard, never gave up on her dreams, and always made her family proud.”

Now on to something lighter, what is your favorite drink?
“Not a question, country sweet tea served in one of Granny’s mason jars. Well, or a Diet Coke. I do have to feed my caffeine addiction if I’m going to keep up with all the chores of running a ranch.”

What is your favorite food?
“Biscuits and gravy – and of course, Gingerbread cookies made from our family recipe.”

What was your first impression of Billy?
“He’s excitable, and physical, and full of truth and honor. When I first saw him after all those years of being away from the ranch, I couldn’t believe how handsome and strong he’d become. He’s the most confidant person I know, and he knows exactly what he wants. I admire that about him.” A blush came to her face. “He makes me feel alive, is that what you mean?”

If we could only hear your voice (but not see you) what characteristic would identify you?
“Probably determination. Some would call me stubborn, but when there is an answer that I need, I will pursue it until I get my answer.”

What would you most like to forget?
“I would like to forget the time just after Momma went missing. It was the most awful time in my life, especially when everyone started turning on one another. If I could erase that, I think my life would’ve turned out totally different. I would’ve been here for my grandmother when she started losing her mind. I could’ve had more precious time with my mother, and mostly I think my poor daddy wouldn’t have turned so bitter. He loved her so much. It’s heartbreaking.”

What is your most prized possession?
“Ruby’s Ranch is definitely my most prized possession, though sometimes it feels more alive than like a possession. Not only is it my livelihood and provides me with the life I want to live, it holds the memories of those who have meant the most to me and the future that I anticipate will be even better than the past. Ruby’s Ranch is more than a possession to me, it’s given me back my life.”

Return to Ruby’s Ranch is available on Amazon and Soul Mate Publishing.

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Day Trip In To California History

I’m a sucker for taking the road less traveled. That might have something to do with my penchant for getting lost. If there’s a wrong turn to be made – I’ll find it. By taking the back highways and byways, you never know what you’re going to find. Combine that quest with a glimpse into our past – and I’m hooked.

Two of my writer friends and I wandered off the beaten path last spring as we visited Columbia State Historic Park in California. According to their website it’s a:

living gold rush town featuring the largest single collection of existing gold rush-era structures in the state. Visiting Columbia is like traveling back in time to the sights, smells, and sounds of a nineteenth century mining town—merchants dressed in 1850’s attire, a whiff of coal smoke from the blacksmith shop, and the rumble of a stagecoach pulling into town! Spend the day enjoying fun activities for the whole family. Pan for gold, explore exhibits, ride the stagecoach, discover unique shops, and learn about the rich history of the California gold rush on a guided town tour.”

Jack Douglass Saloon
It’s a bit touristy, but an historic touristy. That means there’s an old-fashioned candy shop with authentic candies from the last half of the 1800’s; a blacksmith’s shop where you can purchase items hammered and shaped straight out of the cold forge; soap and candle shops; and my favorite – bookstores stocked with small runs of books about local history. No self-respecting mining town would come without a saloon - or two. 

The park also has a number of exhibits set up in buildings around town – think progressive dinner but museums instead – filled with local lore and what it was like to live in a mining town.

A natural born browser, I had lots of fun wandering in and out of shops and enjoying a meal with my friends. Who knows where the road will take us next!

Columbia Kate's Tea House and Bakery

Parrott's Blacksmith Shop

The Meadow where you can pan for gold.

Some of the old mining equipment.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Meet the Characters - An Interview with Tobias from "Come to the Oaks" by Bryan T. Clark

Come to the Oaks Book Cover
Today, we’re getting a rare opportunity to chat with one of the main characters from Bryan T. Clark latest novel, Come to the Oaks. …A true fighter, sometimes a little cocky, we have Tobias Lee here with us. 

Before we start, how should I refer to you as, Tobias, or do you prefer your birth name, Mamadou?

Tobias, please call me Tobias. The name has kind of grown on me, especially when Ben says it, even when he’s mad at me.

In the book, you were captured and taken from your family in West Africa. Without giving too much away, you have gone through a lot. Are you happy these days?

Happy? Happy is a moment in time, I have many days when I think of my family, my life prior to all of this. This brings me much sadness. I don’t believe there will ever be a day that goes by that I don’t think of them at least once. I love Ben with all my heart; I can’t imagine living without him. The way he looks at me from across the room, I see the sweetness and the love in his eyes. He is a constant reminder that I am loved and not alone in the world. I think instead of happy, I would say I am lucky to have found love, and grateful to be alive. I think from day to day, I live somewhere between lucky and grateful.

Let’s talk about love since you brought it up. You and Ben have a love that most of us only dream about. Do you remember when you and Ben first met? In the book, it was clear he was smitten with you. What did you think of him?

Actually no, I don’t remember that moment we met, I was sick, so sick and ready to die when he found me in the auction house. Ben has told me many times about that moment and how it was for him, a significant moment when the world changed for him. For me, it wasn’t until that evening when I arrived on the plantation. I caught Ben staring at me, there was a look in his eyes that told me that he saw me, me for who I was, and not a slave he had just purchased. The way he raised that left eyebrow of his, his eyes lingered, I could feel his stare.

Okay, but what did you think of him? How did the romance progress?

At first, I didn’t know what to think of him. He was the enemy, the reason I was captured and separated from my family. Of course I was wrong. It took me several weeks to see this, but you know Ben, he wears his emotions on his sleeve. I saw right through him, not the person he tried to portray to his family or even to me. There was a moment when we were working in the Summer Kitchen one day, I heard the pain in his voice, and I saw him in his rawest form. I fell in love with him long before I ever knew it. Spend a minute with him, and he’ll steal your heart.

What happened then?

Oh you want the details. Okay let’s just say, that day when he first kissed me, I wasn’t expecting it; I never saw it coming, but everything about it felt right. He hung the moon that day.

You’re going to make me cry so let me switch to something else. Tell us something we may not know about you?

Hmm, let me think… I can’t swim.

No, that was pretty clear, the world knows you can’t swim. Come on, something that we don’t know.

Okay… Me and my little sister Chima were close. She was five years younger than me. She followed me everywhere, and I would pretend I hated it. I had eyes in the back of my head and I watched over her closely. What I never told anyone, was that she wanted to go with father and I into the woods that day, but father commanded she stay behind. With her little eyes, she looked at me for permission to come with us, but father had spoken. Had I said something, she would have been with us; I might have been able to save her. I think of her every day.

So I’m crying now, are you satisfied? You talk about your sister, and we know that you come from a prominent family, yet stripped from it all when you were enslaved here. How do you deal with that now?

I think I know what you speak of, but another person cannot strip my self-worth from me unless I give them the power to do so. My worthiness is who I am, it is my birth name, Mamadou Masamba, you remember means Praiseworthy. Although you call me Tobias now, I am Mamadou Masamba forever.

I love your birth name by the way.

Thank you.

Can I ask about Penny, a house slave that cooked for the Lee family in the Big House. In the book, we often read about the great meals she brought to the table. Did you ever get to experience any of her cooking?

Funny you should ask about Penny, she could cook a pot of bushes and it would be the best thing you’ve ever eaten. Ben often swiped food from the house and brought it out to wherever we were. The sweet potato pie she made had to have been my favorite. Gosh, I wish I knew how she made it... Why are you smiling?
Because I brought a recipe with me for sweet potato pie. I’ll give it to you after the interview.


If you could say one thing to someone who is thinking about reading yours and Ben’s story, what would that be?

If you believe that all humans should be treated equal, kind, and fair, that love is love, and we all deserve to be loved, then our truths are the same, and I think you’ll enjoy my story.

Okay, I suppose if readers want to know anything further about you, they should read the book, Come to the Oaks? Thank you so much for stopping by today. What’s next for you? 

Thank you. I’m heading back in time, where I belong, your world scares me.

If you have more questions for Tobias or comments for Bryan T. Clark, please send them to To purchase the book or to sign up for his newsletter go to:

Good Ole Fashion Sweet Potato Pie
1/3 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup sugar
2 eggs, lightly beaten
3/4 cup evaporated milk
2 cups mashed sweet potatoes
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 unbaked pastry shell (9 inches)
In a bowl, cream butter and sugar. Add eggs; mix well. Add milk, sweet potatoes, vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt; mix well. Pour into pie shell. Bake at 425° for 15 minutes. Reduce heat to 350°; bake 35-40 minutes longer or until a knife inserted near the center comes out clean. Cool. Store in refrigerator. Yield: 6-8 servings.

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Speaking the Language of Whatchamacallits

It's so frustrating when you use a gadget all the time but don't know what it’s called and you have to describe this thing because somethings gone wrong with it. I was reminded of this the other day. I needed to charge my FitBit so plugged it in when I went to bed. The next morning, it hadn’t charged.

I tried to describe the problem to my husband – who had the good grace (and sense) not to laugh in front of me, but I did hear him chuckling later. The conversation when something like this:

Me: I plugged my FitBit into the whatchamacallit it came with so you can charge it and then plugged that into the thingy that plugs into the wall. I didn’t know that my iPad gadget wouldn’t work with my FitBit thingy. They look the same.

Husband: Huh? You plugged your FitBit into a what?

Me: I don’t know. The thingy that lets me plug things into the power strip. It’s got a cord and one end attaches to the FitBit and the other end attaches to the whatchamacallit.  

He looked confused.

Me: You know. One little thingy goes into another little thingy and that makes it all work.

Husband: Can you show me what you’re talking about?

I drag him into the bedroom and point.

Husband: Oh, you mean the charger.

Me: If that’s what it’s call, (beaming) then yes.

Husband: (I’m not even going to try and transcribe his explanation for why the two devices didn’t communicate – something about different volts. Let me just say… he’s a physicist).

The conversation would have gone more smoothly – except for the explanation part – if I’d known the whatchamacallit was a charger. Oh, well.

As I writer I run into this all the time. In the book I'm currently writing, I had a couple walk over an arched, stone footbridge. The stopped and leaned on the... You know, the flat part on top of the barrier on the edge of each side of the bridge. I'm sure there's a name for it and I Googled the parts of a bridge, but couldn't find anything. I finally settled on, "they leaned on the railing" hoping that would create the correct picture in reader's mind.  

See if you know what to call some of these everyday items.

  1. The small metal cover between the pencil and the eraser?
  2. The paper around the stem of the glass of your fancy imported beer?
  3. The little bumps on the ‘F’ and ‘J’ keys on your keyboard?
  4. The wire cage around a champagne cork?
  5. The small turning knob on your watch?
  6. The plastic closure thingie on a bag of bread?
  7. The piece that holds your earring in place?
  8. The stringy bits when you peel a banana?
  9. The plastic bits at the ends of your shoelaces?

You’ll find the answers on BuzzFeed.

You can also pick up some interesting trivia on MentalFloss.

Here are some other words I use when I have no idea what to call something (these are in no particular order, simply as they popped into my head): thingie, doodads, widgets, thingamajigs, thingamabob, doohickie, whatsit, doojigger, dealy, and gizmo.

Love to hear what other terms people use. Feel free to add them in the comments.