Dog to Come

The kids have been asking for a dog for three years. Sweetie (12 y), Honey (11.5 y), Spicy (10 y), and Buddy (9.5 Y) are my adorable, wonderful, perfect grandchildren What should grandma do when her poor little ones come crying to her and begging to ‘have a word with their mean parents”?


The girl who wants to be a vet.

“Every time we ask Mommy and Daddy for a dog, they seem to have a hearing problem.”

“Did you ask nicely?”

“Very, very nicely?”

“Maybe ask a second time.”

“We asked ten times, for birthdays, for Christmas, for Easter, to reward good grades, to celebrate winning athletic competitions.”

“What am I supposed to do?”

“Can you punish them for being mean to us? Or have a word with them? They are your kids. They have to obey you. We want a dog or a cat or a pet.”

My daughter is allergic to animal hair. She bought a couple of fish and a beautiful tank for Sweetie and Spicy. Unfortunately, the fish died after a year and the whining started all over.

My son brought his kids a cat. He said he’s not ready to walk a dog when it’s snowing and freezing, and he’s too tired after work. But the new kitten, Rey, made his household ecstatic. A first visit to the vet revealed that Rey was a he, not a she, and was renamed ElRey.

IMG_0077The news that their cousins have a cat caused a renew of anger and protests from Sweetie and Spicy. “Spicy and Mommy are taking allergy shots regularly, and we are going to get a hypo-allergenic dog.”

Sweetie opened the Internet and showed her sister the type of dogs they could get. Grandma protested she was ready to babysit and drive kids–not pets.

Sweetie had an answer. “Spicy and I will walk the dog. All you have to do is supervise us when we walk him, because we are forbidden to walk alone.”

With their birthdays coming in April and May, the demands for a dog are getting louder. And Mommy and Daddy’s hearing is worsening.

What do you do when your kid wants a pet and you are allergic?

Publication for Twitter 2

From NEW YORK TIMES and USA TODAY bestselling author, Mona Risk,










It’s Name That Deputy Time!

Do you love contests? Yes? So do I. Last month I held a contest to name the deputy in my upcoming book, A Smoky Mountain Christmas Wedding.

The response was tremendous! Selecting the right name for the deputy proved fun but challenging, since there were so many excellent names to choose from.

The winner of deputy sheriff’s name is Dorothy Therese Jorden for her name – Carter.

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The name Carter is from Old English origin, and its meaning is – one who transports goods. People aren’t goods, but since Carter transports offenders, I considered how well the name fit the story. He’s an unmarried, quiet young man, and as honest as the day is long. When things get busy around the jail, he gets a bit rattled. Think Barney Fyfe personality.

Dorothy Therese Jorden, I will contact you for your gift.

Thanks to everyone for playing along. I appreciate your time and effort!

Here’s a short excerpt from on A Smoky Mountain Christmas Wedding.

Chapter 10

“You don’t trust me.” Hank grimaced. “Okay. It means…look, Tina. I love you. Only you.”

“I realize that, Hank. But we need to clear up issues floating inside my head. Help me out here, okay?”

“I’d rather not discuss Lisa, but since you’ve brought up the subject I see no way around it. It’s necessary.” Hank pulled into the well-lit parking lot at a favorite restaurant on Piedmont Avenue in Atlanta. He switched off the motor, then twisted around to face her. “Okay. Shoot. Let me have it with both barrels. I want this thing out in the open and over with.”

“Two questions.” Tina’s stomach flipped as she turned and faced Hank. An answer is what you wanted, right? “The look that passed between you two, when Lisa entered the room today was obvious. I’m curious how you feel about her, and what part she may play, if any, in our future.”

Hank drew in a deep breath. “Lisa and I were kind of thrown together while we worked on our college newspaper…long before I married. She became confused and too serious. Later, I learned she had labeled it a relationship, I called it socializing with the rest of the group. I had no idea she daydreamed we were a couple.”

“How could she not know?”

Hank turned the key and rolled down the window. “Our group was a close one. We were like family. Since Lisa was dating Greg, and I rarely saw her outside the group, I never gave her a second thought. Everyone else was aware I hadn’t the same idea about our being together, in, or outside the group. Recognizing her intentions were more than friendship, it took me a while to come to grips with the realization.”

“What did you do?” Tina asked.

“Once I realized her intent, I stopped any get-togethers with her, which were nothing more than coffee or a late dinner after class, when Greg couldn’t attend. But, there wasn’t anything to break off, except in her mind. Lisa never meant more to me than a class friend. Especially since I was aware that Greg was crazy about her. Greg and I attended grade school to college together. He knows me better than anyone else and was aware of how I felt about Lisa…as a friend. Only a friend. I never encouraged her…I wouldn’t do that to Greg even if I’d had feelings for her.”

“That must have been awkward for you. I’m sorry I brought it up.”

“How would you know? The look exchanged between us was nothing more than a memory. A bad one for me. Greg and I had a few words because he thought I’d treated her badly. I didn’t tell him anything, especially that Lisa continued to leave messages on my answering machine wanting to get together.”

“Did you happen to save the messages?” Tina asked.

“I’m afraid not. You know how it is. When you delete messages it’s usually with the push of the button, without thoughts of what’s recorded. Besides, there was no need to stir the pot.”

Beneath the parking lot’s bright lights and the chatter coming from several customers from the restaurant, Hank rolled up the window. “It was tough, but I finally got my point across.”

“She never bothered you again?”

“No. Thank God. She made me nervous. I’m happy she tired of chasing me, and became more interested in building a relationship with Greg.”

“Didn’t you feel an obligation to Greg? To let him know what was going on…how Lisa pursued you?”

“Yes, I did. More than once. I despised the deceit between us.”

“Then, why didn’t you?”

“Greg was so in love with Lisa, I hadn’t the heart to be the one to break them up. Anyway Lisa seemed to change, to make Greg her one priority. So, if Greg’s happy, I’m happy.”

“Sometimes that depends on how she really feels. I hope for you, and for Greg’s sake, Lisa has truly changed.” Tina had a gut feeling Lisa would cause problems in the future, but it wasn’t up to her to pursue the issue. She wasn’t one to borrow trouble.

Hank sat staring out the window. “I hope so. I really hope so. I hope I haven’t made a terrible mistake withholding Lisa’s conduct from Greg.”

“We’ll see,” Tina said. Evidently the dust had settled, and the likelihood Lisa would kick up trouble again was hopefully slim. Still, it could happen.

Hank leaned in and pressed a kiss on her forehead. “In the meantime, let’s anticipate the best.”

Have  a Safe and Happy Easter!

Links to my books, available at Barnes & Noble, Amazon, Kobo, Apple and Smashwords, can be found here:

Autism Awareness by Susan R. Hughes

Autism awareness day designWith Word Autism Awareness Day coming up on April 2, I thought I’d share my personal story.

Most of us are aware of autism, but like many people, I didn’t know a lot about the disorder before my daughter was diagnosed at the age of 4. At first I didn’t believe the diagnosis. My child was nothing like the autistic characters I’d seen on TV and in films like Rain Man. I thought kids with autism fit a particular profile: fixated with routine, bothered by loud noises, resistant to physical contact, and unable to connect emotionally with people.

But I’ve since learned that autism affects people in many different ways and to different degrees, which is why it’s referred to as Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). My daughter adapts well to changes in her routine and loud noises don’t faze her. She’s highly social, loves parties and enjoys hugs. She’s happy being with people and talking to them, but since she has trouble grasping the rules of social interaction and controlling her emotions, it’s difficult for her to form friendships.

Now 11 years old, she still has tantrums when things don’t go her way. She can be rude and demanding, and sometimes aggressive. Her behaviour can lead to puzzled looks, awkwardness and judgment from those who don’t know or understand her diagnosis. As she gets older, people will be less forgiving.

It’s important to realize that people with ASD do have feelings, and they form strong emotional attachments. They may not be able to express their emotions, but those feelings are just as strong as anyone else’s. Though they struggle with social interaction, they have the same desire for relationships. Imagine the frustration and loneliness when you want to connect with people but can’t figure out all the subtleties the rest of us find intuitive.

Since children with ASD learn differently, keeping up in a regular school can be difficult. My daughter attends a private school for kids with learning disabilities. It took her longer to learn to read and write, but she’s a gifted writer and artist with a vivid imagination. I hope that when she’s old enough to enter the workforce, she’ll be given a chance. Employers are beginning to realize that people with ASD can be highly focused and diligent workers. Even with the challenges they face, they can contribute to society and have full lives. What more could a parent want for their child?

Renovating a house is like editing a book.


Dining room before

I’m in the middle of renovations in my house. The air smells like paint night after night but it is coming along. Tonight the dolls are out of the cabinet and sitting on the catchall. The china is out of the china cupboard and stacked on the kitchen island, but the last room downstairs is now painted.



Living room after (now Peach Glow)

Renovating is like editing. You hope you start with something good (good foundation and bones on a house–good bones and the start of a story in a book), and make it great. Layers of dust I didn’t know I had are now gone. The carpets and furniture are steam-cleaned and the house smells great (other than paint fumes). Layers of characterization and GMC and not a sagging middle are found in my current story. Bit by bit the house is coming along and bit by bit my third zombie book is taking shape.

Fingers crossed that the house is done and the book is up for preorders about the same time! (Beginning of April)

I’ll have more pictures once the kitchen is all done in Flaming Torch!! And after 15 years in this house, I will have knobs on the kitchen cabinets!! WooHoo!!

Jill James, romance author and Do-it-yourselfer


2015-08-19 06.40.19I love just about everything about Scotland, which will come as no surprise to those of you who know me. My son and I spent a month in Scotland this past summer, traveling around the mainland and many of the isles, in preparation for a new series I’m creating about a secret society of scholars, warriors, and everyday people who love Celtic and Viking lore and wish to preserve it. The name of the society is: The Damselfly Society. Their castle stronghold is on the Isle of Skye in Scotland, although the membership of the society is worldwide.

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I am currently involved in a very real and not-so-secret society called, The Saint Andrew’s Society of the City of Milwaukee. The Saint Andrew’s Society was founded to, among other things, “relieve the distressed”. It is the oldest charitable organization in the state of Wisconsin. It’s Scottish, and was founded in 1859 to preserve Scottish heritage, culture and art as well as to help Scotland’s daughters and sons who need assistance. It’s a wonderful society and I’m proud to be a member. It also has a political underbelly that I find fascinating.

Some of the political machinations found their way into the first book in which the Damselfly Society is mentioned: Defending Destiny. The politics in that book and in the book: The Magician’s Chalice, which will be published this summer, are pure fiction ramped up to the highest level I thought believable. The formality and rules, though, are based in real life experience.

Magician's Chalice

Every society—secret or not—has a girth of rules. Sometimes those rules strengthen it, and sometimes threaten to strangle it.

I take complete advantage of the latter in The Damselfly books.

So….on to Scotland! I’ve included some photos of this most recent trip. The summer of 2015—when my son and I went—was the coldest, wettest summer on record in the last forty years. We still had a wonderful time. I will post more about this trip, since there was so much to see. My daughter also spent the summer on a Neolithic dig in Orkney on the Ness of Brodgar. That is a whole separate post! I learned a lot about hands-on archeology in general and Neolithic Scotland in particular, and loved every rain-drenched second of it.

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I’m roughing up the plot for a Viking era historical set in Scotland that will be in the works later this year. I don’t think anyone needs to travel to write about a particular setting, but it sure helps me. The sounds, scents, and feel of a place makes it more real. It also helps get the details right. Although the landscape in Scotland has changed over the last thousand years, many aspects, including the birds, trees, water flow…..remain the same. For me, immersion into all of that fills my heart and my psyche. The words don’t necessarily flow effortlessly from that, but the nuances do.

Wherever you travel, whatever organizations you belong to, whatever life throws your way, may you immerse yourself in it and find your story.

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If you have an aspect of your life that has found its way into your writing or in what you enjoy reading, I’d love to hear about it!

Happy and safe travels whether you journey near or far.


Mustering the Muse–Finding Inspiration

A few days ago, a writer friend was experiencing some self-doubt (as we all do, whether we’re writers, painters, carpenters, accountants, etc.). To cheer her, I sent her a couple of quotes I find motivating.She replied, “I could use one of those quotes daily.”

And it got me thinking. We all need daily affirmations, so why not create a space for that to happen? I probably won’t be able to do it everyday, because LIFE (and I have a big one.) But I write most days, I read everyday, and I could certainly use a positive thought or two or a zillion everyday. So, for the last few days, I’ve been publishing what I call Mustering the Muse on my personal blog:

Here’s one of my favorite John Green quotes:

Don’t make stuff because you want to make money — it will never make you enough money. And don’t make stuff because you want to get famous — because you will never feel famous enough. Make gifts for people — and work hard on making those gifts in the hope that those people will notice and like the gifts.
Maybe they will notice how hard you worked, and maybe they won’t — and if they don’t notice, I know it’s frustrating. But, ultimately, that doesn’t change anything — because your responsibility is not to the people you’re making the gift for, but to the gift itself.


And a similar thought from Andy Warhol

making art
In addition to the positive thought, I though I would offer a space where friends can share either a link to their work or a favorite sentence. I’ll admit my goal with this is selfish. I try to write fast. They call this “being in the flow.” (You can read about that here) But sometimes, as I’m writing fast, I forget those sentences–the ones that sound and feel just right (writely.) And so, I think if, at the end of my writing day, I’m looking for that writerly sentence, maybe I’ll create a few more. Here’s my sentence (s) for today:

Grace leaned closer and lowered her voice, even though she knew her grandparents were miles away. “Do you think Mom entered into some sort of bargain with them?” she asked, thinking of her advanced English class in general and Faust and his pact with the devil in particular. Who would Grace rather strike a bargain with—Satan or her grandfather? Given the choice, it would be a hard decision.



The Semi-Empty Nesters

In the last six months, my son started college about a five hours’ drive away and my daughter moved in with her boyfriend. My husband and I are now semi-empty nesters. Not permanent empty nesters–just…semi.

Every time we get into a groove that works for the two of us being alone, my son will come home for a week or two or my daughter and her guy will stop by to do laundry and have dinner with us. Then the hubby and I scramble to make sure there’s enough food in the pantry, that we’ll be home on time to see them, and we always wind up going to bed while they’re still up, watching television or hanging out with friends in the kitchen.

There are perks, though, to this new phase in our lives. I no longer have to sit through television shows or movies I have no interest in watching to appease my children (I don’t think I’ll ever get the SpongeBob SquarePants theme out of my head). Creating meals for two adults, who usually aren’t picky about a quick soup and sandwich at eight pm, is a lot easier. No racing through a meal to make a practice or racing to get home so one of the kids can take my car to work. I sleep better since I don’t have to listen for them to come home by curfew. I only have to fight my guy for bathroom rights in the morning. My preset radio stations and the volume, as well as the position of my driver’s seat, hasn’t changed overnight.

Yet, much as I love that my kids have grown up and begun to live semi-independently (there’s that semi word again), there’s an odd sadness to it as well. I’m still not used to coming home from work to be greeted by only the dog. I feel guilty when I make plans to meet my husband somewhere after work without going home first–until I remind myself the kids aren’t there. This was the first year my son had a birthday where I didn’t bake him the special cake he requested. The house is too quiet. And too clean.

It’s our new normal, and what scares me is knowing that once I get used to this normal, the next stage will occur and I’ll be adjusting all over again. I guess that’s life. Right?