Monday, July 15, 2013

A Grief Observed

All right, I'm borrowing C.S Lewis's title to his novella about the loss of his wife. But it seemed appropriate. In his book, Lewis notes how very personal grief is. And I have to add my own observation that it's an awful peculiar sort of thing.

Grief never goes away. If you are lucky, it dulls. But sometimes the claws of it cut furrows in our soul.

For the majority of my life, the Fourth of July meant lobsters, grilling and fireworks in Maine with our family's oldest friends - the Husseys. I remember waiting (not so patiently) for the fireworks that Dr. Hussey had brought to Maine from North Carolina, and the crushing disappointment when he dropped a lit match into the box holding them and threw the box in the lake. I must have been about 10. He had a special way of cooking salmon on the grill that I've tried for years to reproduce, but can't quite get right. My oldest son, who never had the opportunity to meet him, is named for him.

About 18 months ago, his wife and my second mom, Phyllis Hussey was diagnosed with cancer. For lots of reasons, she opted not to undergo therapy. Her argument is she wanted the days she had left to be the best they could be, and spending the days (even more days) dealing with the side effects of chemo wasn't the way to go about it. She left us on June 10, 2013. She died as she had lived. Completely on her terms.

My mom and I had spent a long weekend with her about a month before she died. In typical style, Phyllis had told Mom that she had an event to go to while we were there, but it wasn't anything big and we should definitely come. Turned out it was a cocktail party for donors to the Medical College of Virginia. Mom and I were both aghast since neither of us had packed clothes for this kind of event. With pure aplomb, Phyllis said that we could go in our jeans and that would be fine. Not. So while she napped that day, Mom and I took a trip to the mall. We spent the night sipping champagne at the very wonderful Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden. The next night, she and her youngest son, Miciah, were making plans for her summer in Maine.

Mary and Phyllis at the Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden

Her kids came to visit for Mother's Day. Most importantly, her newest grandchild had been safely born, and Phyllis had met her granddaughter through the wonders of Skype. She was a women who met the end of her life with grace and courage and very few regrets.

So, when my husband asked me what I wanted for dinner on the 4th of July, I said, "Lobsters and grilled salmon" and burst into tears.

Grief's like that. It reaches up and chokes you when you least expect it. So Dr. Robert Hussey and Mrs. Phyllis Hussey will never be far from my heart or thoughts.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Leigh Daley's Storm Duty: Guest Post

I'd like to welcome fellow Word Wench Leigh Daley to the blog today to talk about her novel Storm Duty with the hotter than hot Kyle Mathis. Hold, on, Leigh's calling.

Ahm, yea, I guess that will work.

Sorry about that. Well, we're going to be doing something a bit different today.

NOTE: Due to unforeseen circumstances, Leigh is unable to attend, so questions for Kyle Mathis will be asked by one of his linemen, Matt Pendleton. I hope it goes okay.)

Take it away, Matt.

MATT: Today I get to ask my boss, Kyle Mathis, anything I want.

KYLE: That’s not how this works. Can I get somebody else in here please?

MATT: Nope, you got me. So, Kyle, you are the “hero” of Leigh Daley’s book Storm Duty but I’m in it too. How does it feel to be called a hero?

KYLE: We were all just doing our jobs. Nothing about that day felt heroic, you know that. The tornado that destroyed Milton was a monster. We were just trying to keep people safe and get the lights back on as fast as we could.

MATT: Did you enjoy making us all work sixteen hours a day that week during restoration?

KYLE: Nope because I worked eighteen hours myself. But at least we had enough help to get everybody’s power back on in about five days. We’d still be working if those crews from the rest of the country hadn’t shown up to do storm duty with us.

MATT: Speaking of storm duty, I saw that Jenna Harlow had left her big corner office down south to come help out. I heard you two were spending some “quality time” together at your house that week. So what’s up with that?

KYLE: None of your business.

MATT: Come on. You know you want to talk about her. Stacy said she saw her in the grocery store the other day with a cart full of food. So, is she going to be Mrs. Mathis again?

KYLE: As far as I’m concerned, she never quit being Mrs. Mathis. She just needed to come back home and remember that.

MATT: Finally going to paint that house something other than white now that she’s there?

KYLE: (sighs) Every wall in the house has at least three splotches of paint color on it while she decides which one looks best all day. What is it with women? They want a color on the walls. Well, white is a color. I don’t understand.

MATT: Me either. (pauses to reflect) She looks good.

KYLE: Keep your eyes to yourself. I don’t look at Stacy.

MATT: I’m just saying. Jenna is looking really good these days. And for once you look happy. So, how’s the love life? Pretty good huh?

KYLE: Shut up, Matt. This interview is over. Go back to work.

MATT: There you have it, ladies and gentleman. The love life must be rocking hard to make him blush like that.

KYLE: Shut up. Go back to work.

Their careers drove them apart--could disaster bring them back together?

BLURB: In the aftermath of a series of tornadoes, Kyle Mathis just wants to guide his linemen to restore power to the devastated town of Milton. When reinforcements in the form of corporate deskjockeys come to work storm duty, he's glad for the extra bodies to help serve food and support the crews working eighteen hour days. But Kyle is not prepared to face one of the latest arrivals, his ex-wife Jenna.

Jenna left him years ago, choosing her career over their marriage. However, being back together in their home town brings back memories and desire--for both Kyle and Jenna.

Can Kyle and Jenna find each other again in the midst of the devastation? Or will their jobs pull them apart and leave not only their homes but their hearts shattered?

To read an excerpt from Storm Duty, please click HERE.

Leigh Daley lives with her husband and kids in the wilds of West Alabama along with her dogs Bruno and Jack. Now on her fourth career, she has spent most of her life writing for other people, but these days she is writing for herself. She eats like a cavewoman. She’s a really big fan of happily ever after.

Learn more about Leigh Daley on her blog. Stay connected on Facebook..

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Making the holiday last with Sloane Taylor

One of the fun things about having a Federal holiday, like the Fourth of July, on a Thursday is that people tend to take Friday off and extend the weekend. So, to help you extend your Fourth of July celebration, I asked fellow Word Wench Sloane to share her favorite recipes.

So, take it away Sloane...

Friends are coming over on this weekend and Studs wanted a cookout with all his favorites. Since I never could refuse a good-looking man, I agreed. Here’s our menu with the recipes I created. I hope you like them.

Barbecued Pork Ribs Hamburgers Sloane Style My Mom’s Potato Salad Baked Beans Sweet Corn on the Grill Snazzy Sliced Tomatoes Ice cold lemonade Cold beer

Barbecued Pork Ribs

Pork ribs plan 1 slab for 2 people if you make all this food
Chicken stock
Barbeque sauce – Sweet Baby Ray’s is my favorite

Preheat oven to 325°F Place ribs in a pan and in a single layer. Pour in about a half inch of stock and the same amount of beer. Cover tight and bake 1 – 1½ hours. You want the meat tender but not falling off the bone. Carefully remove ribs from pan to a cookie sheet. Discard cooking liquid. Spread barbeque sauce over ribs. Heat grill to medium. Carefully rub vegetable or olive oil onto the grates. Lay ribs on grate and grill 10-15 minutes turning at least once and basting with sauce.

Hamburgers Sloane Style

Ground chuck about ¼ pound per adult Ground sirloin about ¼ per two adults
Worcestershire Sauce 1 dash per adult
1 egg per 1 ½ pounds meat
chives snipped, fresh or jarred

Beat egg lightly in a small bowl. Combine the meat, Worcestershire Sauce, and handful of chives into a mixing bowl. When the mixture is well combined, break off clumps of the meat and form balls. Set them onto waxed paper, then cover with another sheet of waxed paper. Use a cake plate or large soup bowl to press the meat into a patty the thickness you like. Refrigerate until ready to grill.

On medium heat, cook patties until they are done to your preference. Be sure to turn only once. Use any type roll that suits your fancy. Dress the burgers with ketchup, mustard, lettuce, onion, and tomato. You can also add cheese for the topping. If you do, then lay it over the burger a minute or two before the end of the cooking time.

My Mom’s Potato Salad

1 red potato per person
1 hard boiled egg for every 2-3 potatoes
one stalk celery for every 5 potatoes chopped small
½ med onion for every 5 potatoes chopped small
Mayonnaise – NO substitutes

Boil the potatoes in their jackets until just fork tender. Remove from pot as they are done and allow to cool. Scrape the skins off. Slice in half widthwise then lengthwise. Slice into the bite size pieces.

While the potatoes are cooking, lay the eggs in a saucepan, cover with water, and place a lid on the pan. Bring to a boil, then shut off the heat and allow to sit on the burner for 7 minutes. Cut into quarters, then slice. Set aside covered with plastic wrap or a paper towel to eliminate drying out.

Combine celery and onion in a large bowl. Grind in a healthy amount of fresh pepper. Stir in several large spoonfuls of mayonnaise. You have to gauge by the number of potatoes you use. Mix well. Add the potatoes, two at a time and mix well. Continue until all the potatoes are added. Check the salad for dryness. It should be moist but not swimming in mayo. Add mayo as needed. Add the sliced eggs and stir again. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.

Baked Beans

1 small can Bush’s Honey Baked Beans
1 small can Bush’s Homestyle Baked Beans
2 tbsp. dried mustard
2 tbsp. maple syrup - optional 2 strips bacon

Preheat oven to 325°.

Pour beans into a metal loaf pan or oven safe dish. Stir in mustard and syrup. Lay bacon strips on top. Bake in the center of the oven uncovered for 45 minutes or until desired consistency. To cook on the grill: Heat grill to medium. Prepare as above, then place pan on top rack. Cook about 45 minutes or until desired consistency. To serve – discard bacon.

Sweet Corn on the Grill

1 ear fresh corn per person – do not remove husk
Butter or margarine

Pour cool water into a container large enough to hold the sweet corn. Soak corn still in its husk at least 1 hour, but no more than 2 hours.

Set grill on medium high. Remove corn from the water and lay the ears on the grill. Roast until the husk is brown on that side, then turn and repeat the process. Total cooking time is about 20 – 25 minutes.

To serve - peel back the husks. Roll the ears in butter or margarine, then sprinkle on a touch of salt, and enjoy!

Snazzy Sliced Tomatoes

1 tomato per two people
Red wine vinegar
Garlic powder or fresh garlic minced
Fresh or dried chives

Prepare this dish about an hour or so before serving. Slice tomatoes ½” thick and arrange on a serving plate. Drizzle vinegar over the tomatoes, then dust with garlic powder or fresh garlic. Sprinkle plenty of chives across the top. Set on the counter away from sun or heat to flavor through.

Now after teasing your taste buds how about a quick trip to the balmy French Riviera to tempt some of your other senses with my new five book series?

Naughty Ladies of Nice is a deliciously steamy erotic series with a touch of humor and intrigue. Pour yourself a cool glass of your favorite beverage, perhaps a tall Perrier or a crisp Chardonnay, and let your summer sizzle with French Tart, French Delight, French Twist, French Kiss, and French Tickler. Here’s a little about FRENCH Tart, Book One. For a spicy excerpt, please click HERE.

Bon Appétit... Satisfy all your cravings at cooking school. Determined to prove herself and shed her party girl image, Donatienne Dubois pins her hopes on the exclusive cooking school in Nice, France. One by one her expectations are shattered by a foul-mouthed parrot, a bogus Michelin chef, and a headmistress with a heart of tungsten steel. Doni's lifesaver is a bad boy hunk too hot not to handle.

Mark Anderson is incognito and hating every minute. To pose as a student while keeping tabs on a rich wild child is his version of hell, until he partners with the dish of Crème Brule good enough to eat.

Class takes on a whole new meaning as Doni and Mark heat up the kitchen when they discover honey has better uses than sweetening tea.

Sloane Taylor believes humor and sex are healthy aspects of our everyday lives and carries that philosophy into her books. All her stories are set in Europe where the men are all male and the North American women they encounter are both feminine and strong. They also bring more than lust to their men’s lives.

Learn more about Sloane Taylor on her website, and of course her blog for easy recipes. Stay connected on Facebook and Twitter.

Wow! Now I know what I do wrong when I cook corn on the grill. Thanks, I'll never make that mistake again!
Sloane's books are wonderful and engaging. They combine great characters, stories and locations. Sloane's books are always on my reading list.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Fourth of July Tribute to Old Glory from Dusty Crabtree

Once a year, Americans celebrate their country. We've had some glorious times and some rough ones, and we're likely to see more of both before we get off the merry-go-round. But even while we might not consciously be aware of it, Americans are patriotic and pull together based on the country they love every time there's a need.

Recently, the storms and winds here in Virginia pulled our flag pole to a 60% angle or so. My husband and son spent last weekend digging out the pole and resetting it so we could fly our flag today.

So, what happens when you get a patriotic Word Wench in a contemplative mood? A poem about a tattered flag, of course. 

"The Tattered Flag"
                         By Dusty Crabtree

It flaps in the wind limply at one corner. The other corner is ripped to shreds, caught, hanging on a wire, dejectedly. Unable to break free.

It's been windy. It's raining. It's nobody's fault.
And yet…it just feels wrong.  The moment I see it from my car, a whimper escapes my lips.  A pain shoots through my chest.  It aches. I want to cry.  I might as well have witnessed a young kid being pushed down by a bully.  How could someone treat the flag this way?  A sense of injustice burns inside so strong that my world turns upside down.

Such  a strong emotion for such a simple inanimate object. But it's not simple, is it? It represents our country's life. Our freedom. Us. So, I a isn't just an object treated with disrespect. It's a living and breathing representation of hope. And if that's torn and tattered, then what do we have left?

I agree with her. Hope is a resilient thing. And sometimes we find it in the tatters.

Dusty is celebrating another big anniversary - the release of her novel Shadow Eyes.  

The idea for Shadow Eyes actually first came to me as a screenplay for a Christian horror movie, if there ever was such a genre. The movie would have been about a cast of intertwined characters going about their lives and making mistakes with dark, creepy shadows (demons) hovering around them, whispering to them, and influencing them to do evil things. Only the audience would see the shadows. The characters would be completely oblivious. A few years after I’d had that idea, my friend suggested I write a novel like the paranormal angel books we’d been reading and loving. I’d always loved the concept of angels and demons in stories and immediately thought back to that screenplay idea. I just continued tweaking it until I had the basic concept of Shadow Eyes – a 17-year-old girl who had this special ability to see the shadows and light figures when nobody else could.

Iris thought she could ignore the shadows...until they went after everyone she loved.

BLURB: Iris Kohl lives in a world populated by murky shadows that surround, harass, and entice unsuspecting individuals toward evil. But she is the only one who can see them. She’s had this ability to see the shadows, as well as brilliantly glowing light figures, ever since an obscure, tragic incident on her fourteenth birthday three years earlier. Although she’s learned to cope, the view of her world begins to shift upon the arrival of three mysterious characters. First, a handsome new teacher whose presence scares away shadows; second, a new friend with an awe-inspiring aura; and third, a mysterious and alluring new student whom Iris has a hard time resisting despite already having a boyfriend. As the shadows invade and terrorize her own life and family, she must ultimately revisit the most horrific event of her life in order to learn her true identity and become the hero she was meant to be.

To read an excerpt from Shadow Eye's, please click HERE.
Watch Shadow Eyes book trailer on YouTube.
Shadow Eyes is available at all major online bookstores.

Learn more about Dusty Crabtree on her blog. Stay connected on Facebook and Twitter.


Monday, July 1, 2013

Bullies, big and small

I hate bullies. I suspect that not many people like bullies, but I really despise them. In my day job as a lawyer, I run across bullies, big and small. The worst bully is one who believes he has the right to dominate another. Whether this right is conferred by law or his perception of superiority doesn't matter.

In June, 2013, a good friend Jake Freivald received a cease and desist letter from the West Orange Township, NJ. I won't dwell too long on the details since the story went viral, but I'll give you the Cliff Notes version. Jake had run for mayor. He lost. Shortly after he received a letter from the city attorney, Richard D. Trenk, who demanded Jake cease and desist his use of the website, In addition to demanding that Jake cease using the site, Trenk also demanded that Jake turn it over to the Township. Jake hired an attorney, Stephen B. Klappit, with an acerbic wit. The resulting response letter went viral.

The legal community is a small one. Trial lawyers in Virginia had copies of Klappit's letters within hours. In my opinion, one of the reasons the letter went viral (aside from its fabulous writing) was the air of David not only taking on Goliath but making him look like a fool.

According to Above the Law, a blog that comments on the law and law firms, Mr. Trenk's name is becoming synonymous with messing up big time or having a "lackadaisical attitude toward the law, with catastrophic results for the client." Quoting Jake Freivald on Above the Law's site. This is every lawyer's fear. Tremk, who was no doubt following the orders of the town's mayor, is likely to lose his job over the incident. Certainly his reputation won't recover any time soon.

The funny thing about bullies is that when someone finally stands up to a bully, the results can be disastrous. .. for the bully.