It’s Alligator Season – Again!

Alligator 091913

Here in Louisiana alligator season is open.

This eleven foot, nine inch monster was taken from a pond behind my son’s camp.  Look at the size of that head.


This is a protected species and you need a special license to hunt them.  What do you hunt them with?  A chicken on a hook.  They swallow the chicken, whole of course, and then the ‘hunter’ pulls them out of the water and shoots them in the top of the head.  Several times if they are smart.

Alligators can run and you don’t want one to jump out of the water aiming for you at twenty miles per hour.  I’m sure that I would have a heart attack if that ever happened to me.  LOL

What do hunters do with the alligator?  We sell them to a processor.  Remember ‘Romancing the Stone’?  Alligator boots are quite expensive, for a reason.

And in Louisiana, alligator tail meat is delicious.  Generally served fried, it does taste a little like chicken.  It is served in restaurants, so if you ever see it on the menu, give it a try.

That’s what’s happening in our small town, at least for a few more days and then the season closes for this year.


How often have qualified editors written on manuscript submissions a firm, “No, too coincidental,” at an unexpected encounter between the hero and heroine, or between any two characters?

How often have our critique partners answered, “No way, unrealistic coincidence. It doesn’t occur in real life,” and shaken their heads at a particular scene.

Yet, I’m sure you have been faced with unbelievable events and said to yourself, “And here I thought it happens only in novels.”

Let me give you a few examples of the too coincidental meetings that an editor would have definitely rejected, except that they happened in real life.

My husband and I were on a cruise last month. As part of its itinerary, the ship docked in Akureyri, Iceland. To be honest, I’ve never heard about this place before. We were strolling down the streets to discover the city, when someone called my name. I turned around and couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw my neighbor who lives in my own building. Apparently she too has traveled to England and boarded the same ship. We hardly see each other in Florida but we met in Iceland!

I remember my father telling us how he was in Paris, France, for a month and he walked into a drugstore to buy toothpaste. Two of his female students from Boston were standing in front of an upright scale weighing themselves. They haven’t seen him coming and took off their boots for a lighter weight. Then they saw him, recognized him and blushed to their ears.

In my family the best coincidence is how I started dating my husband. I’ve seen him once at my cousins. He lived at the other end of the country in a remote town where I went once with a friend. That day, we walked and walked for hours. I was so tired, I sat on the sidewalk. Hardly two minutes later, he passed by, paused and opened big eyes. “You’re Joe’s cousin? What are you doing sitting on the sidewalk?” I jumped up, and the rest is history.

So what do you think of using coincidences in your books?

Did unrealistic coincidences happen in your life?

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Unforgettable Moments

Unforgettable Moments

I’ve known for a number of years my mom had memory problems, but chalked it up to her ripe old age of 91 this year. She’s lived with us now for thirteen months and I’ve seen a gradual decent in her mind functions.
Years ago when I worked with Alzheimer patients, it took a long time to really Get It. When I did Get It, I had this sick punch in the middle of my stomach, wondering if my mom would ever come down with Alzheimer’s disease. With time and age, my fears were fulfilled.

Before I began to consider writing for publication, I jotted down whatever crossed my mind and filed them away. While online one day, I stumbled across Amazing Instant Novelist. I was on AOL at the time. They had a 250 word contest on Forgetting. I checked the clock and saw that I had a little more than an hour left before the midnight deadline. So, I jumped in and pulled some words together. Barely edited, I popped it over to the contest.
I don’t remember how long it was before I heard back – but imagine my utter surprise when an email from Amazing Instant Novelist showed up in my mailbox one afternoon. I opened the email and found the words to Nat King Cole’s song, “Unforgettable” This is the info that followed:

“It is my pleasure to announce that you have won First Place in the Instant Stories Contest theme of Forgetting for your story Graying Embers.”

Short Story Contest- GRAYING EMBERS
First Place Winner in Amazing Instant
Novelist – Forgetting Category – 1998

Quote: “Originality is the fine art of
remembering what you hear but forgetting where
you heard it.”
Laurence J. Peter, Canadian-U.S.
educator, author

by NOVL Est

Quote: “Carol DeVaney completely
stuns us with a compelling story of a
loss. The pain radiates from each
word. We find ourselves absorbed with
the realization of losing a loved one.”

As I said early on, the piece could stand some drastic editing, but I’m sharing it today as it was submitted.

Graying Embers
Dim eyes stare through fields of sun drawn wheat, as I stand before my mother, a stranger on common ground.
In the darkest corners of her mind, demons danced one final dance, forcing kisses of death and turning her dusk to midnight.
Folding the new red robe, I reach to smooth the sheets, sit in her rocker, and press the afghan close to my chest, engulfed in her scent.
“Sadie died today,” Mom said. “She’s lucky, you know.”
I felt her fear and wished I could bridge the gap. She didn’t try to mask the loneliness, it simply is. I caressed her thin skinned hands then leaned forward and planted a kiss in her snowy hair. Trembling fingers close over mine as she slips me the letter.
“I wonder if I have children? Maybe so, I don’t know. A pretty woman visits, saying she’s my daughter.”
Hurt candles, spilling hot tears down my cheeks moistening the letter. I have no answers, only visions of days behind me as I read on, and wonder if I could’ve done more.
“She appears sad. It seems important, so I hug her and tell her I remember. The forgetfulness, the fear, the uncertainty of reality, scares me. Distorted images of children skipping through a thick fog haunt me, adding to my struggle.”
Though long past the age of consent, I don’t understand my mother’s sickness, nor how to deal with it. However, God has been merciful and she is safe in a bed of burning charcoal.
If you’ve never been introduced to the dreaded Alzheimer’s disease, I pray you never will. There are many in this world that care for a parent with Alzheimer’s disease. It’s never easy for the caretaker, but it’s even more unfair to the person making their journey into darkness. That darkness touches my soul.

A Smoky Mountain Wedding – Book Two, coming soon, 2013
My books are available at Barnes & Noble, Amazon, Kobo, Sony, Diesel, Apple and Smashwords.
You can find links on my website, here.

Picking up the pace – and the leaves on the ground by Stephanie Queen

raking leavesHas anyone else noticed how much busier and more serious we are when Autumn strikes? Maybe we’re like the squirrels stocking up for winter in our own human way.

For SQ it means writing my fingernails off (eeuw!–not really) and running around from event to event–well not really running. Myren, my chauffeur,Chauffeur Hat drives me. Lately, I’m also cooking up a storm–I’m even considering a Pumpkin stew. I asked Myren to test taste it for me, but he said he had to wash his hair. (To tell the truth, I wasn’t sure he even had any hair under that uppity spiffy chauffeur’s cap. It’s pictured at the right. )

I think all the cooking is another squirrel-like instinct set off when the leaves start falling. Speaking of falling, the temperature is falling too. “Hey Myren – we need to get the furs out of storage!” You can’t hear him, but his response was a grunt. I think Myren is practicing for his bear-like hibernation. I wonder if he has a fur-lined version of that hat…

Anyway, my whole point here is the busyness of the fall. I’m very busy. Myren is even busy.  How busy you ask?  So busy that we almost ran out of gas from running so many errands the other day. Of course, that could be because the Queen-mobile only gets 3.8 mpg and Myren refuses to go to any gas station that doesn’t sell Debbie Cakes. But really, we’ve been doing lots of lifting and hauling in preparation for the WINTER. (As if the winter was a special cataclysmic event or something.) typing fast

All I know is, I’m typing faster on my laptop as I sit with my feet up on my specially cushy chair in front of the fireplace with the flatscreen above it. Doesn’t that sound busy to you?  I feel the pressure of impending deadlines–and they all happen to be this fall. squirrelCoincidence? I think not. I planned it that way. Why?

Who the heck knows. Like I said, I think it might be a squirrel thing.

Color Outside the Lines by Joan Reeves

CrayonBoxBack to school time is always a delight for me because of the stacks of Crayon® boxes in so many stores. I love the distinctive smell of those pieces of colored wax. I don’t know how Craola® infuses that distinctive aroma in its products, but one sniff and I’m carried back to school and to my kids’ school days.

There are moments when I am overcome with emotion and wish my kids were little again so we could all sit at the kitchen table and draw pictures or open a coloring book and create a masterpiece.

Sure, there are all kinds of “bells and whistle” Crayons now. Markers of every description. Magic Crayons that only work on special surfaces. (If they’d had those when my youngest was a toddler, it would have saved several sets of sheets. More about that later.) Multicultural Crayons, triangular Crayons, Studio Design Crayons, and so many more. I’m a purist. I like the original ones best because they’re the ones with that smell.

That Special Smell

When I said that the Crayon smell carries me back to my school days, I wasn’t joking. Smell, the most primitive of our senses, isn’t like our other senses. When you smell something, the brain is not needed to “run interference” the way it does with our other senses. What you smell creates an immediate effect that needs no translation, thought, interpretation, or anything.

Smell Is Primitive

You inhale and odor molecules float into the nose, travel back to the nasal cavity behind the bridge of the the nose, and get absorbed by the mucosa containing receptor cells. On the receptor cells, there are microscopic hairs called cilia. They wave like sea anemones, wafting the odors onto the receptor cells. About 5 million of these receptor cells fire impulses faster than you can read this to the olfactory bulb — the smell center — located in the brain.

When the olfactory bulb — the smell center — detects something, it signals your cerebral cortex and sends a message straight into your limbic system — that’s the primitive, emotional part of the brain that houses your feelings and your desires. Boom! A memory is instantly called up by the brain.

So Crayon smell gets picked up, sent to the limbic system, and triggers the memories of those good feelings of being a kid and coloring pictures.

Smell is linked to feelings, to emotions, and the link is so strong that the memory is clearer than other memories. I’ve always thought smell was like a time machine. You smell, and bam! You’re transported back to a specific moment in time, experiencing the emotions of that event. Smell calls forth a sharp, in-focus memory.

Crayons Inspired An Artist

You may know that my daughter Adina Mayo is an artist. Her first artistic efforts were drawing designs on the sheets in her bed with a purple crayon. As she explained to me, the purple flowers she drew looked better than the pink flowers on the sheets. She was about 2 1/2 years old at the time and was supposed to be taking a nap.

When she was in 5th grade, she brought me the shavings from her Crayon sharpener and spread them out on a piece of paper and asked me to tell her what I saw. I looked at the colorful fragments and said I didn’t see anything, but that all the shavings together were pretty. She nodded, looked at me, and said, “That’s because it’s art.” That very moment, I knew she had some special aesthetic sense. So the Crayon smell has special significance for me and calls up those memories so clearly.

Cover Art

Those school days have passed. Adina and all our other kids are grown. Adina has created a volume of work using many different media. Her art created for the Master’s Degree program she completed this summer was on display the last few weeks at Texas Tech in Lubbock. Part of her art from that project is going to be in a traveling exhibition that makes a stop in Houston next spring. She teaches art in a local high school and freelances as a graphic artist with video trailers, book covers, and also as a photographer whose work is amazing.

Scents and Sensuality by Joan Reeves

Scents and Sensuality by Joan Reeves

Adina still picks up a Crayon every now and then and colors, but most of her “coloring” is now done with a computer. Even with her graphic art, she always “colors outside the lines,” creating something unique every time. Here is the new book cover she just created for my last book Scents and Sensuality.

Even though this romantic comedy was published in March, I was never happy with the cover — not because it was a bad cover, but because it wasn’t the picture I wanted: a beautiful blond woman holding a perfume bottle and spraying it on the pulse point on her neck. You see the heroine in Scents and Sensuality is a perfumer, and she knows all about the Science of Smell and Sexual Attraction. (Yes, those two go hand in hand. Read the book and learn what makes a person appeal to the opposite sex!)

Finally, last week, I found the photograph and Adina did a new cover that is now “live” at most ebook sellers. What do you think about the new cover? I think it’s perfect. It depicts the passion of the book and the scent that goes along with sensuality.

Post Script

Enjoy your children while they’re young. It’s a total cliché, but they really do grow up too fast.

Joan Reeves is a world-class sentimentalist who gets all misty-eyed in the Crayon aisle at Office Depot each fall. Visit Joan at her website and SlingWords, her blog.


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Whatcha watchin?

Early fall brings many good things, nestled in among the bad. For me, the negatives are shorter days, increasingly cooler temperatures and more time spent indoors than out. The positives are many: more time for reading (another blog topic to come), more time for writing, more quiet time for introspection and hopefully growth after the wonderfully manic pace of summer.

One of my favorite things about early fall is the start of the new T.V. season. I know it sounds shallow, and it probably is, but I LOVE good visual storytelling and recently T.V. has gone from good to really great, better even than most of the movies I’ve seen in the last year. I thought I’d share some of my favorite shows with you and hear what you love to curl up with in your down time.

I just started a new series from PBS called: “Last Tango in Halifax“. It is about two people who reconnect on FaceBook after a failed date sixty years before. It stars Derek Jacobi, who is wonderful and has a cast of really messed up family members who threaten this new love that’s actually been decades in the making. I’ve only seen two episodes, but they’ve been great. I love quirky families and these characters don’t disappoint.Image

Foyle’s War is back and it has some of the best writing and acting on T.V. Michael Kitchen is a master and Honeysuckle Weeks is captivating. For those of you who like WWII period pieces and mysteries, this is great.


I’ve also enjoyed Ripper Street and am looking forward to the new season. It’s set in Jack the Ripper’s London, but it’s not really about him. There are three main male characters and the interplay among them is what makes the show for me. Watching Mathew McFadden is no hardship, either.


Since I started with the Brits, here’s some more worth seeing if you get a chance: “Inspector Lewis” is set in Oxford, is well written and the relationship between Lewis and his younger partner, Hathaway, is often wickedly funny; for those of you who enjoy cozy mysteries, “Rosemary & Thyme” is easy to get hooked on; “Sherlock” is FANTASTIC! I can’t wait for that to begin again, although I’ll be waiting until the new year. The writing and acting in SHERLOCK has no peer. It’s that good.



Now onto American and Canadian T.V. I really enjoyed the first season of “Newsroom” a lot. I loved the fast pace, the odd, yet uniformly genuine, characters. I’m still loving “Supernatural” after so many seasons, probably because it’s one of those shows my son and I share an affinity for.  We watched the pilot for “Sleepy Hollow” and although I’m not sold yet, I’m hopeful for the promise of where it could go. “Person of Interest” is intriguing. I didn’t think anyone, no matter how good the writer, could get me to empathize with artificial intelligence, but these writers have. I also like looking at Jim Caviezel. Who knew he had a sense of comedic timing? “Strike Back” is great if you’re into international espionage thrillers, which I am. Both of the male leads are continual eye candy, but it’s the surprises that make this show special. And for those of you who like westerns, and who if they’re honest doesn’t, “Longmire” just gets better with every episode.


The new show I’m most looking forward to is: S.H.I.E.L.D written by Joss Whedon! I love his writing and am so happy Agent Coulson is back among the living. He made the Avengers movie for me. Hope this new show is as good. FIREFLY was one of the all time greats in my opinion and still has a loyal fan base. If you haven’t seen it, it’s on NetFlix, check it out!


Shameless Plug……..I’m excited to watch the second season of VIKINGS from the History channel. I enjoyed the look and the feel of the show as much as the acting, the writing and the story lines. It isn’t due out until winter 2014, which is excellent for me because I’m currently working on a Scottish historical set during the Viking period in Scotland, circa 900AD. I’m loving the story and hoping that the second season of VIKINGS helps draw interest!


So, what do you love to watch? What are you most interesting in seeing this fall? What about T.V. grabs your imagination and holds on? I’d love to hear about some shows I haven’t discovered yet!


Not So Little Anymore


“Sometimes, the smallest things take up the most room in our hearts.”

– Winnie the Pooh (A.A. Milne)

My babies started kindergarten last Monday. Wait a minute, they aren’t babies anymore. How did that happen?

It feels like the time has flown since they were born, yet I can’t seem to remember what they looked like as newborns without looking at photos. I remember how gruelling the first few months were – 11pm/2am/5am feedings, colic, diaper blow-outs, all doubled with twins. I thought they’d never outgrow that stage.

Now they are little people with their own personalities and opinions. It’s still a daily challenge dealing with fights, tantrums and simultaneous demands. It’s a constant frustration that I can’t get anything done with these little people hanging off my legs or shouting at me from various rooms, and I find myself longing for the day they’re grown up enough to look after their own needs.

I have to remind myself to slow down for a minute and talk to them, put on some music and dance with them, read them a story, or take out a puzzle to assemble together. I can’t wait to see how they’ll turn out as big people, but I don’t want to miss their childhoods either. When they do grow up, I’ll look at the pictures I took today and ask myself – what happened to my little girls?