Mardi Gras is Coming! by Pepper Phillips

100_0657In southern Louisiana, Mardi Gras is King!

Of course we decorate. This massive glass bowl held Christmas Balls during the Christmas Season.

Now it’s holding glass balls with Mardi Gras colors. Purple, green and gold are the designated colors. There aren’t many green balls in this, but I have more in the living room with equal amounts of the colors.

Come Easter, I’ll put in plastic easter eggs. The more the merrier.

It depends on the crazy woman who lives in the house how far she will take the decorations.

This crazy woman did have some nice wreaths, but that was a few years ago. A neighbor on another road does a gorgeous decoration on her mailbox.

I’ll wear my Mardi Gras t-shirt, plastic beads, a mask, anything that makes me happy.

We’ll purchase a King cake. These are big braided loaves of sweet bread, stuffed – my favorite is cream cheese – and decorated with icing colored yellow, green and purple, sometimes sprinkled with candy sparkle crystals. They used to put a little plastic baby or coin somewhere inside the cake and whoever got it, bought the next King cake.  In the olden days, they’d put in a bean. But most don’t have anything anymore because I’m sure someone somewhere sued when they chomped on one.

One year I made a King cake. The recipe was in a New Orleans cookbook and I was throwing the ingredients into the mixing bowl and then noticed…they were general instructions!  So, I braved through it and threw ingredients into that bowl and came up with something that wasn’t too bad after all.  I’m one of those cooks who will follow a recipe. Though I have ventured off the beaten path a few times, coming up with my own classic dishes.

There is a Krewe or two around this area. A King and a Queen are selected. There are parades, where Mardi Gras floats are rented or created by a business or individuals.

Parades are fun…except in the rain. I was in one parade with six inches of water in the bottom of the rented float. Everyone was miserable by the end of the parade…with wet feet!

Beads are thrown from floats, “Throw me something mister!” is the call of the day. Along with plastic cups, individually wrapped candies, maybe a t-shirt, and once our float threw out five thousand mini Moon Pies. My arm was sore for two days after that.

People dress up in costumes, sporting as many different kinds of beads that they can buy or catch.

It’s a different experience. Everyone knows that New Orleans has parades for weeks during the Mardi Gras season, but the small towns celebrate as well.

In Rayne, Louisiana, they do something that’s been done for years. Men on horseback roam the countryside with strange wire masks, getting the ingredients for a huge gumbo.

Fat Tuesday is the day for most of the small town celebrations.

If you can ever attend a Mardi Gras parade, do so. They are a lot of fun. My favorites are the ones held in Lafayette, Louisiana. They have three parades, a kid’s parade, the Queen’s parade, and the King’s parade.

The crowds are huge, and the kids are happy when they ‘catch’ something.

“Throw me something mister!”

“Laissez les bons tempt rouler.” Let the good times roll!



Sneaux Days Again – In Louisiana!!!

Hey, Sneaux is how we spell Snow in French speaking Louisiana. Sneaux

And sneaux it did. Twice within five days!  Unheard of. Seriously, it might sneaux every few years or so. But twice. No. That doesn’t happen.

But happen it did. Last Friday closed all the schools. A light blanket covered yards, rooftops and cars.

Tuesday it snowed again, but this time was different. There was ice on the roads. We are not used to driving on ice. The schools were closed again.

You might wonder about that, but the reason is that so many kids ride the school bus and most of them must cross over small road bridges over bayous and they will ice up, so in order to be safe, they close the schools. The kids are overjoyed, the moms are crying.

Of course, I needed to go to town to pick up my medications. It was like a ghost town. Very few cars, going extra slow. I braved it at 15-18 MPH. There was ice, serious ice off the main roads.

I’m sure all the people in the north are laughing about now. But it’s dangerous for people who don’t know how to drive in sneaux, have no sneaux tires and are terrified when their car starts to slide sideways across the road.

Most of the stores were closed today. Customers weren’t driving around. And this is a first: a 6PM curfew.

Small town America…some of it might melt away by noon tomorrow. We’ll see.

My son did build a snowman last week. He got a garbage can and a shovel, filled it up with snow and then turned it over. Clever, but that’s now the way I learned to make a snowman.

The kids bought me the metal rooster. I call him Elvis because he has sideburns.



My Neighbors and More

The dictionary defines neighbor as someone living near or standing next to another. In my book, the neighbor is any one of the people living in the four-hundred condos of the Blue Waves High Rise on the beach.

Ten years ago I moved from a house to an apartment in a multi-unit building. Downsizing and getting rid of numerous souvenirs was painful enough. Little did I know that living next to so many neighbors would involve losing part of the freedom I took for granted when I dwelt in a house.

My neighbors consist mainly of retirees who live all year round in their condos—and keep a pair of binoculars within reach to peek into their neighbors’ places, the pool area, or the beach terrace. In addition, you can count several snowbird couples who fly to Florida in winter, a few young working white collars who rent for a year or two to enjoy the proximity of the beach, and two or three families with a child. Our high rise is quite cosmopolitan, with South American, Russian, Canadian, French, Swedish, Greek condo owners,… A real Tower of Babel.

Soon enough I realized that the gorgeous and serene scenery surrounding us could hide many potential tempests. And I am not talking about hurricanes or tropical storms only. Passions can simmer and sizzle when you live too close for comfort.

Foreign Lovers Box

The following real examples astounded me:

The woman on the fifth floor broke a stormy affair with her lover from the tenth. 

The old widower on the twentieth floor married the young divorcee from the third floor, and died three months later. 

The neighbor on the seventh floor got drunk and drowned in the hot spa. 

A lady from the tenth floor disappeared for several days and was found floating on the shore five miles away.

As you can see, life is never boring in a high rise. Actually it is sometimes too eventful for my taste. I changed building, and discovered a new set of stories. That was when I decided I absolutely had to write a romantic suspense set in a building similar to the one where I live.  

Product Description:

Neighbors and More is a contemporary romance novel with elements of suspense and humor.

In the Blue Waves High Rise where so many neighbors live too close for comfort, Dante, the handsome Sicilian lawyer, and Alexa, the wealthy young divorcée, try to hide their idyllic romance. When a neighbor drowns in the Jacuzzi, life will forever change in the Blue Waves. Neighbors and More Amazon

 If you like to travel and love to read, come and enjoy my international romances. Meet the spirited heroines and the alpha heroes who share irresistible chemistry in stories that simmer with emotion and sizzle with heat.

Time’s Slipping Away

What? January’s coming to an abrupt end in nine days? Where in the world did it disappear to this year?
If I thought Thanksgiving, 2013, whizzed by, then Christmas, 2013, was a complete blur.


Could it be I’m simply getting older and what my mom always said is true? “The older you get, the quicker the years fly by.”
I can tell you, because you’re my friend, I don’t like it one bit. Not one little bit.
For Christmas the kids gave me a Kindle Fire HD. I love it! But…sad as it is, I’ve barely seen the reader, still I managed to finish two short stories so far.

Not that I don’t want to read more—so a search for reading time is underway. Care to bet I’ll find time? You bet I will because I can’t live without books. Neither can I live without writing.
So for now, I’ll plunge into setting up files for 2014 and concentrate on taxes while I plot the next novel.
I hope your year is going smoothly and without repercussions.
Oh, my next big thing? To dig my toes into warm sand and relax. IMG_0130

I hope you get all you ever dreamed of. I wish you love, butterflies and music.

Please check out our Christmas on Main Street boxed set if you haven’t already. You’re going to love the stories!

Stay tuned for Our Big Secret coming soon!

A Smoky Mountain Wedding – Book Two, coming soon.

My books are available at Barnes & Noble, Amazon, Kobo, Sony, Diesel, Apple and Smashwords.

You can find links on my website here.

Guilty Pleasures

This New Year’s Eve I didn’t make any resolutions. I haven’t kept a single resolution in my life, so why set myself up for failure?


I know there are many bad habits I should break and some good ones I should pick up. I should eat better, exercise more, watch less TV. Maybe in the spring I’ll try harder. Canadian winters are too hard to get through without indulging in my guilty pleasures.

With the Olympics coming up, there’s no hope of cutting down on TV watching. I intend to take in as much of the Games as I can until I’m dreaming about Biellmann spins and double daffy twister jumps. It only comes around every four years.


Of course I’ll have to fit that between episodes of my current addiction, Murdoch Mysteries (called The Artful Detective on Ovation). I missed the first five seasons so I have a lot of catching up to do!

All is not lost. I could walk on my treadmill while watching TV. That leaves my hands free for eating pie. Gotta have pie.


Somehow I have to fit in writing as well. I’ve got several novels to finish this year. First there’s an exciting secret project with the Authors of Main Street, then a couple of sequels for my Music Box Series.

Treadmill-as-clothes-rackWish me luck.

12 Blog Tips for the New Year by Joan Reeves

A Book of Sunshine for Writers, Volume 1 by Joan Reeves

A Book of Sunshine for Writers, Volume 1 by Joan Reeves

In April, I’ll be celebrating the 9 year anniversary of my blog, SlingWords. Once I had 2 other blogs that I published nearly every day. I also guest blogged for clients for a number of years.

I really have no idea how many posts, all total, that I’ve written. I do know on SlingWords, that I’ve published over 2,000. I guess one could say I know a little about blogging. I also know that a successful blog is one of the best marketing tools a writer can have in her toolkit.

To help you achieve success in 2014, I’ve come up with 12 Blog Tips for the New Year. Take 1 tip each month and work with that tip. You’ll be surprised how much your blog will improve and how your audience will grow with just a few changes in your blog habits.

1. Start a blog if you don’t have one or if you have learned that the one you have doesn’t serve you well. If you already have a blog, then give it a makeover. A blog, when carefully structured, will draw in visitors who are not just other authors.

2. Make a commitment to blog a certain number of times each work. More is better.

3. Write about things that stir your passions, not things that you think you should cover.

4. Set up an editorial calendar that lists the topics you’ll cover. You can keep this private or post it on your blog. This will keep you from wondering what you’ll write.

5. If you want to keep expenses low, then use a free blogging platform. Blogger is easy to customize and maintain. Others say the same thing about WordPress. I use them both.

6. Use your name as your blog URL. Example: I learned this lesson the hard way. By the time I realized I should have used my name for my blog title, SlingWords was already too well-established to make the change over. I tried to switch it over to my name, but I abandoned the effort when I realized how many portals run my blog feed.

7. If you want to shell out a few bucks, buy your own domain name and set it up to point to your blog. Make sure it’s your name, not something descriptive.

8. Be consistent. If you say you’re going to blog 3 days a week, then follow through. Consistency builds a blog audience.

9. Although the bar is set lower for blog posts, do proofread your posts carefully.

10. Interact with your audience. Always respond to a comment left on your blog.

11. If you have Comment Verification turned off, then check every day to make sure you’re not getting spammed.

12. Avoid using elements on your blog that are listed as “most annoying” by web visitors: music, wacky fonts, black or very dark backgrounds with white or light-colored fonts, broken hot links, and content that isn’t formatted correctly for web reading.

Blogging should be fun. Adopt that attitude. Never look at blogging as a chore. It should be like sitting down with a friend for a nice chat. Build your blog that way, and you’ll build an audience fast.

Post Script

I’m offering a free copy of A Book of Sunshine for Writers to all who leave a comment today. Just leave your email address (written out not as a hot link), and I’ll send you a PDF of this little book of inspiration for writers.

(Joan Reeves writes Romantic Comedy. Her books are available at all major ebook sellers–audio books at Audible and iTunes. Joan publishes Writing Hacks, a free newsletter for writers  and her blog SlingWords . For more information, visit Joan’s Website.)

Relieving the Distressed – Power of Community

The end of the calendar year, when holiday celebrations come to a close and the days begin their slow ascent to light again, is a time most of us use to calm ourselves and re-evaluate our lives over the course of the last year. A time to reflect on how our decisions and our patterns have served us well, or in some cases, not at all. It’s a time for list making. Things to be saved. Things to be discarded. Relationships with ourselves and those closest to us are weighed and evaluated; we make plans to leave what no longer serves us behind, and plans to be more dedicated to those things we believe will make us and our circumstances better.

All that planning and all those resolutions are then put into action New Years Day, or for those of us who enjoy wine, whisky and Scottish revelry at Hogmanay, on January 2nd.

I wrote down my resolutions, focused on my life and what I needed to keep, throw away and start excelling at. I implemented a plan to accomplish concrete things I have control over, like my behavior, my patterns, my approach to life, work and love.

It took me until a few days ago ~ not quite two weeks into the New Year, but close ~ to realize focusing solely on me, on my perceptions, on the things I want to help with, make happen, and see come to fruition was part of life, an essential part, but hardly the whole picture. What I was focusing on was more like a two dimensional circle drawn on paper than a sphere or a globe.

Thank the powers that be that life isn’t flat. We don’t live in a two dimensional world; relationships are neither flat nor two dimensional. They are full and multi-faceted and often messy. Comparisons are pointless because someone else will always have a life more full and there will be others with lives much more messy.

So, where is this rambling mess of pontification leading you rightly ask? It’s my way of forgiving myself for being more self-absorbed than I should be, and my plan for how to change that.

Relieving the Distressed…


That is the mission of the Saint Andrews Society of the City of Milwaukee, of which I am a member. It is a Scottish charitable organization with branches throughout the world. The seeds were planted here in 1847 when Alexander Mitchell rallied the local Scottish COMMUNITY in Milwaukee to raise funds for famine victims in Scotland. The COMMUNITY effort raised $512.00, which was a significant figure in 1847. It took a dedicated group of people to make that happen.

At Monday’s meeting I was asked to be part of a small sub-committee to look into ways of relieving the distressed in our community. I’ve been thinking about that ever since. Wounded Warriors was mentioned as a place to start. I said nothing then, but my first inclination, was, great, that’s a cause no amount of money or time could satiate…it’s also a cause everyone knows about and most would contribute to. Excellent. Now how do we focus that momentum on our individual vets on the street?

Maybe they will rethink having my voice heard at the table, but I want to focus on the vets coming out of the rescue mission not on the cause itself. I think if we can put a face on it, whatever the “it” is, we can help.

One life, then two, and so on, right here. Locally, or to serve a local need. This is where we live after all, shouldn’t our service go into our communities to make them stronger? Yes.DSCN5032

But again that’s only part of the picture. I realized that over e-mails with other authors here at Main Street who are also committed to relieving the distressed. I find my mind and my heart growing, hopefully in a more open way, while still wishing to serve my community.

I’ll figure out how to help, that’s not what this ramble is about. It’s about communities and relationships, how we define them and how we engage within them. Charity. Giving. Causes. We all give time and resources, even if it’s nothing more than change in a Salvation Army pot at Christmastime. We all burn out on requests for giving which seem to be endless…Girl Scout Cookies, Boy Scout Wreaths, Little-League candy-bars, School Band wrapping paper or pizzas…and these are just the ones our children, grandchildren, neighbors hit us with. The checkout lane requests for books for foster children…a dollar for MS, or Children with Cancer, the list goes on. It can be exhausting…and often is, because as much as we wish it were otherwise, most of us can’t give financially to everything we think we should. No one can. Even Bill and Melinda Gates have to decide where the billions of dollars their society has at its disposal should go.

So where do we go from here…what CAN be done?DSCN8784

Whatever you can, when you can, without guilt that you couldn’t do more. Giving, thoughts, prayers, time, resources (soup-books-clothing-change) energy…it’s all good.

An easy way to do this, which costs nothing, is to simply ease someone else’s day. Answer that e-mail where someone says offhandedly that they or a member of their family is ill with a simple statement like, “I hope you feel better soon. Sending good thoughts.” Or how about when that clerk at the checkout is being harassed by the person in front of you and it’s your turn to check out, when they ask, “How are you?” answer with “Very well, how are you?” Jezze this sounds trite…

Worse than that, it sounds like I’m channeling Pollyanna. It’s a good thing that I write romance because some times I don’t belong in the “real world”. I get it. I do. It’s the BIG things that change the world, not empathetic e-mails or smiles at check-out clerks.

Individual action does matter. Those thoughts, those prayers, those smiles, they matter to the person receiving them and they make those who give them feel better too. That’s a Win~Win, no matter how small. The big things matter as well. They are best accomplished by a group coming together as one to pool their resources to target a group in need of assistance. E pluribus unum – from many, one. It’s a powerful statement. World changing even.

At Authors of Main Street, we are looking to pool our resources and help where we can. We are a COMMUNITY, diverse in membership, but united in our desire to put more love and romance and community out into the world.

Here are some of the BIG things I put time into. I’d love to hear what is important to you. (Via the St. Andrews Society: Ronald McDonald House, Bells for Salvation Army, Soles for Jesus…shoes for third world, financial assistance to local members of our Scottish Community who are suffering hardship. Personal & Family: Arthritis Research for a Cure, Volunteering at the VA, Alzheimer Research for a Cure and Knit for the Needy. Via Macski’s: coming in 2014~Scottish Community Dinner, we serve dinner for anyone who needs a meal and The Average Joe Scholarship funded in part by our upcoming Macski’s cookbook).

There is no limit to what a group of committed individuals can accomplish when we work together. May you year be filled with more resources than you need, more friends than you currently have and more opportunities to make your communities stronger. Slainte~2014!




A few weeks ago I spent a horrifying hour trapped in an elevator. The funny thing is my mom was horribly claustrophobic and because of that, couple with the fact that I grew up in a tiny town, I had never ridden on an elevator until I was about 18 years old.
I really never had an issue with elevators and tiny spaces, until I was trapped in one. My first thought: Oh my gosh, Mom was right!
But out of that dark and very noisy hour (did I mention the alarm ringing in my ears?) came my new novel, Stuck. Here’s a sneak peek. It won’t be available until sometime in the spring, but no worries, I have other books. You can find them here:

By Kristy Tate

Click. Click. Click.
No photos. Not even an engagement announcement. Of his own wedding. His place was stainless steel and glistening marble. Even the walls and furniture were gray. No family pictures or personal momentos? Dead give-away. This guy was emotionally dead. A walking zombie.
Andie pushed open the walk-in closet and tweaked her assessment. A zombie dressed in Armani. She snapped a few photos of the shoes lined up like soldiers on the shelves and the shirts hung with every collar facing north. Not one collar faced south. She was tempted to grab a fistful of the pinpoint Oxford shirts and wrinkle the heavy starched fabric, but instead she searched the ground and dark corners, hoping to find a stray jock-strap or a Twinkie wrapper—anything discriminating, but Grayson Dodd was too good. Or, more likely, he hired someone to make him look good. He probably paid someone to come in and keep his medicine cabinet in alphabetical order.
She snapped a few more shots of the bedroom before heading out to the balcony. The marine layer was finally beginning to burn away. In a few more minutes, she would be rewarded with a view of Catalina lying in a blue, sparkling sea. The Corona Del Mar shots required patience and perfect timing. The marine layer often wouldn’t burn off until noon and by four p.m. it generally returned—like a love sick puppy that couldn’t stay away.
And no one loves love sick puppies or fog. Especially not on real estate fliers. Andie sat at the bistro table, the chairs strategically high so that when sitting the balcony rail wouldn’t interfere with the view, and waited for the sun to work its magic. Far below her the cars moved along the busy parkway. Clients and sellers wanted to see Catalina Island—not Southern Orange County’s busy streets.
Addison scrolled through the photos on her camera, assuring herself that as soon as she had the ocean shots she would have the bones of a decent flier. She let the sun warm her shoulders and closed her eyes, imagining Grayson Dodd’s reaction to her work…
She knew it wasn’t fair to dislike him just because he was marrying her cousin, Kayla. Sure, he had an apartment with all the warmth and appeal of an IKEA showroom, but maybe he was a decent guy. She had only met him a few times. It was nice of him to give her mom the listing.
Andie stood and rolled her shoulders. She knew that Kayla and Grayson were a set match. Everyone said so. And even if they had their flaws—the view from Grayson’s balcony was perfect. She snapped the photos, tucked her camera into her case, locked all the doors and headed for the elevator. Verbiage ran through her head while she waited for the doors to slide open. Location, location, location! Ocean views from this cozy (aka small) Corona Del Mar charmer (aka last century condo.) Typically, she loved her job…well, she didn’t hate least she was a photographer…but now, as the elevator slid between floors, a funk she didn’t know how, or didn’t want to acknowledge settled over her as heavy and dense as the Newport fog. She couldn’t look at it too closely, because she knew if she did she’d find the cause of her bad mood…Jeremy Zimmerman. And she didn’t want to find Jeremy Zimmerman anywhere, especially not inside her head.
The elevator hiccoughed and bounced. Andie stopped thinking of Jeremy when the elevator shuddered an electronic sigh and stopped. The lights flickered and died.
“What the—?” Andie reached for the control panel and ran her fingers over the buttons. She blinked at them. Maybe her eyes would adjust to the perfect dark. But maybe not. She fumbled in her purse and pulled out her phone.
No service.
But it provided a faint, milky light and she used it to inspect the control panel. A red plaque had the words In case of an emergency, please call: 1-800-help, which would be useful and good to know, if she had some way to make a call. She spotted a large red button and pushed it.
An alarm wailed. It echoed through the tiny space and filled Andie’s head.
Someone would come now, right? The alarm would tell someone that she was stuck and needed help.
But no one came.
Panic fluttered in Addison’s belly. She pounded on the walls until her hands throbbed. She sat on the floor and used both of her feet to kick the door. Her screaming barely rose above the wailing alarm.
Tired from all the banging, kicking and screaming, Addison scooted back against the far wall, and her back landed on something warm.
Her hand skittered across the floor and found a shoe. A shoe complete with an ankle—keeping company with a pant leg.
“Hello?” a deep, male voice said.
Andie screamed again. This time she was sure she was louder than the alarm.
Andie wasn’t sure, but she thought the guy belonging to the shoe and pants laughed.
“Sorry, didn’t mean to scare you,” he said.
Andie scrambled to her feet and pressed herself the wall furthest from the pant leg and shoe. She pointed her phone at the voice and into the face of Grayson Dodd.
“You.” The word came out as a hiss, which was impressive since technically it hadn’t hiss worthy consonants.
He looked surprised. “Have we met?”
How like him to not remember her. He was Kayla’s perfect snobby match. Andie exhaled loudly and rolled her eyes, even though she knew he couldn’t see her. “You’re marrying my cousin.” And you hired my mom to list your condo.
“Then you should introduce me to her.”
Was he flirting with her? That sounded like a flirt attempt—although a really poor one. She expected more, and maybe less, from Grayson Dodd.
Andie turned her back on him, determined to ignore him.
“Why don’t I lift you up? Maybe you can crawl through the roof.”
“And then what? I’m not Laura Croft. This isn’t an action movie.”
He laughed again. “I’m not looking for action.”
“Oh!” she harrumphed. She actually harrumphed. Little old ladies like Grammy Dean harrumphed and now she was harrumphing too. Next thing—knitting, canasta, and Bonanza reruns.
“You are not picking me up.” She winced at the double entendra.
“Okay, well why don’t you try kicking and screaming again. It didn’t work, but it was entertaining.”
“Hello?” A voice from the outside. “Is someone in there?”
“Yes!” Addison yelled.
“Are you hurt?” the voice asked.
“Only my feelings,” Grayson said.
“I’ll go and get security,” the voice said before disappearing.
“It won’t be long,” Grayson told her.
Andie harrumphed again. She was getting good at it. Leaning against the far wall, as far as possible from Grayson Dodd, she was hypersensitive to him. He didn’t say anything, but she still felt him. She really couldn’t hear anything above the noise of the alarm, but she could swear she felt him breath. His nearness crackled like electricity. Her skin prickled. He smelled like soap.
Time stretched and slowed until it stood still.
“Security here,” said a new, deeper voice. “Are you still there?”
“Where did you think we would go?” Addison rolled her eyes for the benefit of no one. Eye rolling and harrumphing had become her fallback positions.
“Pull the emergency button!” the voice instructed.
“I did that!” Addison yelled.
A light flickered as Grayson used his phone to located the red knob. He tried pulling it. “It’s stuck,” he confirmed.
“Call the fire department!” Andie yelled.
“What are they going to do?” Grayson asked. “Use the jaws of life?”
“Why is that stupid?”
“Did I say it was stupid?”
“No, but you said it like you thought it was stupid.”
Addison wasn’t sure because she couldn’t hear or see him, but she thought Grayson rolled his eyes.
“Hello?” Addison tried calling through the heavy metal doors.
“Hello,” Grayson said.
“I’m not talking to you!”
“That’s a pity. We’ve been in here for almost a half hour and I’m getting bored.”
She wouldn’t answer him with another harrumph. She would not harrumph ever again until she was over eighty. People over eighty, like Grammy Dean, should be able to do whatever they want.
“Okay!” The security voice returned. “Just called the elevator guy. He can be here in 40 minutes.”
“Forty minutes!” Andie and Grayson both said at the same time.
“I can’t stay here for another 40 minutes,” Andie wailed.
“What’s the worst thing that can happen? You miss your party. Your cat goes hungry.”
How did he know she had a cat? Besides, she knew exactly what the worst thing that could happen was. She would have to designate a pee corner and she would have to squat and pee in front of Grayson Dodd.
The last time she had squatted and peed was at girls’ camp. She had been 13. Her mom had sent her on a camping retreat because some Einstein thought that digging a latrine and roasting hotdogs over a fire would somehow bring her closer to God. At thirteen she had promised herself that she would never, ever squat and pee again and she most certainly wasn’t going to break her vow ten years later in an elevator with Grayson Dodd.
She fumbled in her purse for…anything. She pulled out her keys and tried wedging the skinniest one under the red knob. It didn’t budge. Using her phone for a light, she studied the control panel. It had four tiny holes for a screw driver. Knowing she didn’t have anything the right size, she swung the light at Grayson.
He blinked at her behind wire rimmed glasses.
Without thinking twice, she ripped the glasses off his face and broke off an arm.
“Do you want to stay in here?” Andie pointed the broken glasses at him with a shaky hand. “Do you want to pee in a corner?”
“Huh, no.”
“Me neither.” She tried poking the broken arm of the glasses into one of the tiny holes. Nothing.
“Here, give it to me.” Grayson held out his hand.
Sighing, she handed it over.
Grayson bent it to form a loop. “Put your arms around my waist.”
Andie opened her mouth to complain, but soon realized his plan and complied. He had on a white button down shirt. It looked a lot like the heavily starched ones in his closet, but different. Softer. And it didn’t smell like the dry cleaner, like the rest of his closet. And he wore jeans and leather shoes. She put her arms around his waist and tried to not stand too close.
“Better idea. Switch places.” He placed his hand on her shoulder and guided her so that she stood in front of him. Taking the newly created wire loop, he wrapped it beneath the red knob. “Lean against me,” he said.
Biting her lip, Andie leaned. She left the tension in Grayson’s arms and something else. Something she didn’t want to think about.
The knob popped. Grayson fell to the floor, and Andie landed on top of him. The light flickered on and the alarm went silent. The elevator lurched once before grinding to a stop. The doors slid open.
Andie blinked against the sudden light and tried to sit up without touching Grayson. She scrambled away from him, crablike, stood and brushed off her skirt. She knew that she should say something, anything, but she hurried away, relieved that she wouldn’t need the pee corner after all.

Writer Wishes by Jill James

Something I learned way back when I decided to be a serious, career-minded writer was that there are dreams and there are goals.

You can dream as high as you want. Imagine yourself on the New York Times Bestseller list. Picture yourself on stage at RWA National (or conference of your choice) accepting the golden statue of Rita (or accolade of your choice). Dream of getting an agent or editor of your choice who gushes over your book proclaiming it the greatest novel ever written and they must have it NOW!!

Dreams are good. They get us through the bad writing days. They give us an apex to achieve toward. But you can’t control them. Bestseller lists are out of your hands. As is getting an award or the person who can make your published-author status a reality.

Goals are what you do to try to reach your dreams. Want to be on that best-selling list? Write the best damn book you can. That is all you have control over. Write the damn book. Want that award? Write a great book and put it up for awards. That is all you can do. The judges do the rest. You can’t control whether they like your book or not. Want that dream agent? Send out a brilliant submission. Send out dozens. Follow the steps to the letter. That is what YOU control. Putting your best foot forward. That is it. You can’t make them like it. You can only give them reasons to like it.

If self-publishing is your goal you can’t make it move up the lists, or make a list, or catch fire. But the more you publish this year (a goal) the more chances you have to catch fire! (a dream)

Make your goals realistic, but dream big.

wish potA couple of years ago a great friend gave me a Wish Pot. Inside is a scroll of paper. Make your wishes concrete. Write them down, put them in the pot and forget them. Let the magic work. I was feeling down on myself this New Year’s. I’d fallen down on the job and only published one short story. I took the pot down from the mantel and opened it up. I had totally forgotten what I had written, but lo, and behold, all my wishes had come to pass!!

Wish big. Dream Big. Make your goals happen.

Jill James, writer of contemporary and paranormal romance


I’d planned a blog post about new beginnings, complete with pictures. Then I learned all our broadband allowance for the month was gone, and we were relegated to below dial-up speeds once again. It’s hard to get pictures to load when your internet is at a crawl.

So what does that have to do with addictions?

When was the last time you had to go without internet for more than a few hours? How did you feel? Like your skin was crawling? Like you had to find a way, some way, to get back online to see if someone had said something about you, or posted something of dire importance, or if you’d missed an opportunity of some kind while you were away? Did you grab your laptop or tablet and head to the nearest Starbucks for a wifi fix?

Yeah, me too. I am addicted to the Internet. There was a time when I was addicted to books in the same way. I would read the day away, only jumping up to clean the house or start dinner when I thought the hubby would be home soon. I got lost in a world of lovers or cowboys or women in danger, or doctors falling in love over someone’s open-heart surgery.

These days, I find myself having to make time to read. My world is so full of Facebook, Twitter, Candy Crush, and—oh yeah, writing. Often my writing gets pushed to the bottom of the list, when it should be right there behind time with the husband. The house and cooking have to fit in there somewhere, usually the very minimum I can get by with. But I miss reading. I mean, really miss it.

I had a two book a day habit at one time. Now I’m lucky if I manage a book a month. And I blame it all on the Internet. I’m an addict, and this year I’m looking for a cure.

I made my New Year’s Resolution a simple one: To follow after peace. Already I’ve dropped one online group that was causing me stress–a group I’d been a part of for more than twelve years. There were people in that group who absolutely drove me up a wall, and the only way to find peace was to drop out completely. Cold Turkey. Then I started to think about the things in my life that used to bring me peace, but got dropped somewhere along the way.

One of those things was reading. I have a wonderful claw foot tub that just begs me to linger with a good book. I used to spend two hours in there, reading, thinking, dreaming. I’m going to go back to that. It de-stresses me in a way nothing else can. Reading takes me out of my own problems for a while, often gives me ideas of ways I can improve my own life, and it often makes me realize my own problems really aren’t that bad. Not bad for a $4 investment and a couple of hours of my time.

Sure beats the cost of a therapist. I think it might help get that other addiction under control, as well.

So I’m adding resolution #2 this year. Read. More. Books.

Happy Wednesday!


Check out Tori’s full list of novels and novellas, including the popular Lone Star Cowboys series, on her Amazon author page. Recent releases include Book 5 in the LSC series, Between Lonesome and Texas, as well as stories in two collections–Christmas on Main Street by the Authors of Main Street, and A Promise for Christmas in the Sweetwater Springs Christmas collection by Debra Holland.

You can find Tori’s books at or at any major online retailer.

When you're stuck somewhere between Lonesome and Texas, which way do you turn? In one direction lies freedom. In the other, love. Or is there a way to have both?

When you’re stuck somewhere between Lonesome and Texas, which way do you turn? In one direction lies freedom. In the other, love. Or is there a way to have both?