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Saturday, April 20, 2024

Diamonds and Stones by Liz Flaherty

My mind's not working well right now. At least, it's not thinking up anything new to write about. It's April, a month heavy with birthdays in my family, including my firstborn. But all I've thought about this week is my sister, who died two years ago last Sunday. I remember when I was looking for a crock with blue on it and saw one on her counter...

...she flapped her hand at me, shooing me out, much as Mom used to do with her apron. “You should have it.”

I took it, grateful. Every time I pass it, sitting on my own counter full of things I use on a daily basis, I’m grateful again. It was the last gift she gave me. Every time I see it, I see her face, her smile, and hear “Love you.”

Being with her and her family a few months later … in the spring when she left us, didn’t feel like a gift, and yet it was. Just as her life, her always-laughter, and her homemade bread and flawless pie crust were all gifts. She was the eldest in the family, the one who thought it was her mission in life to take care of everyone. She never had so little that she wasn’t happy to give it away to someone whose need was greater than hers.

I have a lifetime of memories with Nancy, ones that make me laugh, make me cry, and that I will keep safe by passing on. I miss her every day, but when I walk past the crock on the counter and run light fingers over its surface, I know she’s never really left us. I smile at her in case she’s watching, and, once again, I’m grateful.

These aren't good author days for me, which I've already whined about enough you don't need to hear anymore. I write every day, and enjoy it, but it reminds me unhappily of dusting. I find myself thinking What is the point? Because dust just comes back and because writing hasn't been bringing happy things, either. But then a few days ago, I wrote a kiss. And I liked it. 

He kissed her then. Not on the cheek this time. But still gently, still warmly. With a hint of…she wasn’t sure, something like a promise. She returned the pressure of his lips, enjoying the warmth and the gentleness.

Maybe wishing for more.

She was attracted to him—there was no denying that. Which she’d been doing for several days. Chances were good that she’d been premature in deciding there was no chemistry between them. However, even if there was…a little…maybe a lot…she wasn’t interested. If for no other reason than because she knew right down to the toes of her favorite black flats that he wasn’t.

Because he’d made it clear in the evening’s conversation that he didn’t date other educators, especially ones who were in the classroom trenches, because he’d seen enough conflict-of-interest situations that he owed it to everyone who might possibly be involved to stay uninvolved. Friendship, however, would be fine.

Yes. Of course it would.

I was listening to John Denver's "Some Days are Diamonds" this morning. I still miss him. His music has enriched my life in so many ways. The wind's blowing outside, the yard's been taken over by dandelions, and our 20-year-old cat Gabe is failing. We can see it happening. Stones. So many stones. 

But then I think of the crock that's on my counter now, and the kissing scene that wasn't exciting, but nice anyway. I think of my kids having life changes, of my hilarious grandkids, of the man I'm married to still making music. Of how much we laugh. 

How lucky I was to have had my sister as long as I did, and how grateful I am that, when I stop myself from whining, most days are diamonds. 

Liz Flaherty

Tuesday, April 16, 2024

Spring Lured Me Away by Joan Reeves

Looking down as the iris began to open.
I took an unintended vacation for the last couple of weeks. It's Spring's fault. I was lured away by the fabulous weather and could not resist the siren call of the garden.

It all started with the Dutch iris in one of the pots I'd filled with iris transplants from the backyard of my country house. It bloomed, and it was spectacular.

I'd brought many pots filled with iris, plumbago, and lantana home last year. It was simply too hot to work outside, and I was too sick with the "unknown pathogen" to attempt gardening.

Everything over-wintered successfully. With the weather delightful, I knew this was my chance to get my landscaping plans underway.

I planted the iris on each end of the rose garden I'd started last May—just in time for the torrid summer heat. The roses survived that, and actually began to thrive with the colder winter weather. The rose bushes still aren't as big as they should be, but they're all blooming now.


The last rose we put in last year is called White Lies, and it's simply gorgeous in appearance and fragrance. When the bud opens, the rose is pure white. As the day progresses, the petals begin to change color. By the end of the day, the rose is red. Amazing, isn't it?

We have a new rose to add to the garden this year. It's Tropicana, an older variety that has a fragrance twice as strong as White Lies. It's a lush orangey-red color, and the blooms are suitable for cutting.

I tend to like floribunda roses, but cut flower specimens are stunning.


I have a habit of calling my flowers by the name of the person who gave them to me. When I talk to my kids about the beautiful iris, I always call them Grandmother Frances's Iris because my mother-in-law gave me a starter for them.

The yellow iris are Carol's iris because my friend Carol gave me the starter for them. The latest edition to my friends' garden is Jamie's amarylis which was a Christmas bulb from her.

Jamie's Amarylis
I wish I'd taken a photo of it when the other 2 huge blooms opened because high wind and rain battered the poor plant.

In the backyard, I laid out a new bed that follows the fence line, curving from end to end. I also laid out a new vegetable garden space, planted the fig tree I'd brought from the family farm, planted lantana and iris from the transplant pots, and added to the rose garden.

In a shady back corner, we used paving stones to create a peaceful nook, complete with a wrought iron bench and pots of shade-loving plants. 

That's kind of it for the back yard because we still haven't decided whether we're going to stay in this house. We're still looking for one that's slightly larger with a 3-car garage which Darling Hubby really, really wants.

The day lilies I planted last spring (also from the yard of our country house) have flourished as you can see by this photo. I've got another huge clump, not shown, to thin and transplant elsewhere.

We are still trying to conquer what I call the Nandina Jungle on the west side of the front yard which is overgrown with nandina domestica, bottlebrush, and Chinese privet.

I was out there Saturday trying to remove some of the overgrown shrubbery when I was bitten/stung by a tiny round black bug. It fell into my tee shirt.

I went inside to remove the shirt. It was like a scene out of a screwball comedy. I was dancing around, trying to find out what was crawing on my shoulder.

I raked it out with my left hand and saw the little critter. It promptly bit/stung my index finger. The pain was intense—like a needle shoved through my finger. I was shaking my hand over the kitchen sink and  screaming, "Get it off. Get it off." 

He did, and the bug fell into the drain of the kitchen sink which means I couldn't identify what kind of insect it was. I ended up with 2 bites on my collar bone and the one on my finger. 

The bite sites swelled and itched worse than poison ivy or poison oak. I've spent each day coated with Caladryl and using an ice pack on the bites.

Today, the itch is still there but not as bad as the last 3 days. I know it wasn't a spider, an asp, or a tick of any kind. I wish I knew what it was so I could make sure I never tangled with one again.

Oh, we also moved the Japanese lantern and "lit" it finally. Cleared the bed out and planted agapnatha and purslane. It should be really pretty when those plants get going.


I guess this is a long story explaining why I haven't done email, social media, blogging, or any kind of writing since mid-March. *LOL*

I hope your spring has been just as delightful—minus being stung by a killer bug.

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Friday, April 5, 2024

Remembering Virginia ~ Sherri Easley

Sometimes people come into your life unexpectedly and make your world a better place.

Just a short time ago, I was writing my first novel and stumbling my way through the process. When it came time for the cover, my friend Caroline introduced me to Virginia.

I did not know how the process worked or how to go about turning the vision in my head onto a shiny piece of artwork, but Virginia knew exactly what to do.

We went through a few renditions, and with Virginia’s excellent hand, a cover was born.

Since publishing my book, I have helped at least 4 other folks self-publish books, and one thing I tell them is there is no better feeling than to hold a book in your hands with your name on it and Virginia helped me with that.    

I followed Virginia on social media and enjoyed her sense of humor, but I will remember Virginia through her kindness and her incredible artwork. I was truly blessed to have known her.


Virginia Mary McKevitt

AUGUST 30, 1954 – MARCH 11, 2024

Virginia Mary McKevitt, age 69, of Tarpon Springs, Florida passed away on Monday, March 11, 2024.

Tuesday, April 2, 2024


By Caroline Clemmons

April is National Poetry Month. If someone asked me if I enjoyed poetry, I’d probably say no.  Thinking about that, though, I realize poetry is important to me. One of my first books was A Childs’s Garden of Verses by Robert Louis Stevenson. I loved that book and still have it packed away somewhere. At the time I was read the book and then learned to read it myself, I had no idea it was a classic or who the author was. Imagine my surprise when reading to my own children.

When I was about twelve, a neighbor gave me a book which included poems by Emily Dickinson. In my pre-teen angst, I read those frequently. I‘ve found many other poets since then. The tragic life of Elizabeth Barret Browning spoke to me, too. Yet, there are so many more cheerful poems.

Spring Daffodils

Who can think of spring without “a cloud of daffodils” coming to mind? William Wordsworth gave us a lovely, thought-provoking poem. Thinking about our good and bad choices, I am reminded of Robert Frost’s snowy woods and the road not taken. A favorite of my children was Silverstein’s Where The Sidewalk Ends. I love it, as well. It has humor to make us think.

I enjoy reading Louise Penny’s Inspector Gamache series. Inspector Gamache frequently quotes lines from the character Ruth Zardo’s poetry. Not too much, just a line or two to make a point. (I love this series!)

Ada Limón

Ada Limon is the 24th Poet Laureate of the United States. The Library of Congress makes the choice. She is the first Latina to hold this post. Ms Limon is from Sonoma, California, and now divides her time between Sonoma and Lexington, Kentucky. Her publications include Lucky Wreck and This Big Fake World. In addition to being Poet Laureate, she has received numerous awards and grants. She teaches as well as writing.

Do you have a favorite poem? Does one hold special meaning for you? Leave a comment and tell readers your answer.

If you're looking for a good historical western romance to read, try KEITH AND THE MAIL ORDER BRIDE. 

Tuesday, March 26, 2024

Dive Into Romance Recs by Laura Hunsaker

 As I was trying to think of what to write this month, my daughter came in to bug me and as I tried to shoo her away because I'm trying to be creative, but she cured my writer's block! 

Some background information: my kids are swimmers, and this particular child of mine actually coaches swim and teaches swim lessons. One thing she brought up for a post idea was that she would love to read a swim romance.

And it got me to thinking. I know hockey romance is huge right now, and I know football and baseball have been huge in the past. Even rugby has had some time in the sun. But swim? I can't think of a single swimmer romance. I can think of one where the hero was a swimmer in high school (a Julie Garwood novel), but it's not much more than that. 

Obviously, my brain couldn't leave it alone, and I started going through sports romances (that is one very large subgenre!) on Goodreads. Well, I found a list, but not very many of them involved swimmers. Mermaids, surfers, and beaches, yes. Olympic swimmers, not so much.

So, for my daughter's sake, can anyone think of any swim romances out there? Give me all of your recommendations!

And if you'd love some great hockey romance, don't forget that I also write hockey romance as Kenzie MacLir. The New York Empires is a unique series where each book is an anthology with 3 stories that overlap. It's also slightly paranormal. Except for my latest one. Werewolves playing hockey are the best, and Roughing It definitely has werewolves playing hockey.

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Saturday, March 23, 2024


by Judy Ann Davis

In the  IWSG (Insecure Writers Support Group) this month, the March 6th questions asked members what I am repeating here and which I consider pertinent questions for all writers:  Have you "played" with AI to write synopses, or do you refuse to go that route? How do you feel about AI's impact on creative writing?

Out of curiosity, I'd like to hear from everyone what are your thoughts. Here is a portion of my response:

Universities are already working closely to develop anti-AI software and advocating student dismissals from a class if it is being used when human creative input is required. AI will result in a great deal of lay-offs in numerous industries once it advances. 

Many people believe we will lose the "genius" of the human mind since AI books and works will flood an already flooded market. How many aspiring young writers or even present-day writers will give up or throw in the towel not wanting to compete with it?

Someone recently posted on Facebook a saying that sums Artificial Intelligence up for many people: Why should I bother reading something that nobody could be bothered to write?"                                 ~*~

What are your thoughts and insights as writers, artists, or someone who has explored AI's advancements?

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Wednesday, March 20, 2024

When Things Break by Liz Flaherty

Sometimes things break. Even things we love and count on can be broken by neglect, by wear, by the elements. And every time it happens, a little part of us breaks with them. 

I have a favorite tree, the cottonwood that sits in the side yard outside my office window--the one beside my desk. The tree is beyond the clothesline, nearer the field than the garage that houses the office. The tree has gone from healthy-sapling-size to huge, as cottonwoods do, in the years we've lived in this house. It has been struck by lightning more than once, so that its center trunk looks...well, as if it's been struck by lightning, but the tree is both home and playground to a plethora of squirrels and birds. Rabbits are all over the place, looking up. Deer wander around under the tree--unless they know they have an audience. Watching the animals cavorting around and hearing the birds shouting in the process lends brightness to the dimmest of days.

I am an optimist, a positive-thinker, a cup-more-than-half-full girl, but even at that, I have to acknowledge that there are a lot of dim days. Or, at least, dim hours. Being a writer, while it has been one of the greatest joys and satisfactions in my life, has also contributed greatly to that dimness. Speaking of things broken. 

The wind blew hard here last week, as it often does in March and April. More of the center trunk of the tree came down either from that or another lightning strike. A big part of it. I worry that the tree won't be able to survive nature's latest onslaught, that squirrels were hurt. Although they're still out there, fluffy tails flying. 

My husband wants to cut the tree down. Its core is dead. Cottonwoods are junk trees. But it sits far from the house so that it won't damage property even if it does come down. It hurts no one. It provides succor--how's that for a writer's word?--to both the animals and to the writer watching from the window. "Not yet," I say. 

This then is what we do when, as aging writers, our work isn't always welcomed in the publishing arena, the venue we've loved for so long and worked so hard to remain a part of. Sometimes parts of us get broken by changes we can't control. We flinch and swear and think about quitting because another piece of the center trunk has hit the ground hard. But we still have words, ideas, scenes we need to write, don't we?

On my tree--she's a girl; did I mention that?--the leaves still come back in the spring and the squirrels and the birds are still in the branches, the rabbits and the deer still gambol around. 

They bring brightness, just as we do. And joy, just as we do. And knowledge about other things, just as we do. It's the just as we do that I'm thinking about. Once again, quitting's not an option. 

Not yet. 


Early McGrath doesn't want freedom from her thirty-year marriage to Nash, but when it's forced upon her, she does the only thing she knows to do - she goes home to the Ridge to reinvent herself.

Only what is someone who's spent her life taking care of other people supposed to do when no one needs her anymore? Even as the threads of her life unravel, she finds new ones - reconnecting with the church of her childhood, building the quilt shop that has been a long-time dream, and forging a new friendship with her former husband.

The definition of freedom changes when it's combined with faith, and through it all perhaps Early and Nash can find a Soft Place to Fall.