Great Places to See Fall Colors

Maybe you’ve noticed, but I love autumn. There is something about the colors of nature in the fall season that I think cannot be improved upon. After all, Mother Nature is an amazing artist. Every year I make an effort to see as much of the brilliant tapestry of Her artwork as I possibly can. In my case, you are likely to find me roaming Highway 61 between Duluth and Grand Marais. It is an amazingly beautiful drive along the North Shore of Lake Superior that cannot be beat.

Not everyone has the world’s biggest lake as a backdrop, but almost everyone can find fall colors. Perhaps this post can help you find a beautiful drive in your area. These sites have pictures, maps and sometimes advice on the best time to plan a trip. ENJOY the picture show this autumn. Have fun and be careful driving!!  You still have to keep your eye on the road part of the time.

  • The Mississippi River
    The Mississippi River
  • Michigan
  • The Midwest
    The Midwest
  • East Texas
    East Texas
  • The Ozarks
    The Ozarks
  • Oregon
  • New England
    New England

United States – Find a Scenic Drive Near You


Michigan Tours

Midwest Tours

East Texas

The Ozarks


New England


A Final Goodbye to Jacob

TwentJacob-Wetterlingy-seven years ago (minus fifty days) I started a search for someone I never met. I’ve been looking out of the corner of my eye ever since that day on October 22, 1989 for a patch of red in every bean or cornfield I pass. Every time I walked or hiked a trail along a river or a forest stream anywhere in the State of Minnesota I looked for an eleven-year-old boy named Jacob.

I was a college freshman, albeit a twenty-three-year-old college freshman, the day Jacob Wetterling was abducted and I heard about it that evening when I was at a Michael W. Smith concert in downtown St. Cloud. I walked home that night along the banks of the Mississippi River searching for that child. I searched that river for hours that night. My friends thought I was nuts, but my heart went out to another woman named Patty whose life was forever changed that day. I went out to St. Joseph, through St. Cloud, all over Central Minnesota, looking for that kid. I walked for miles, through hills and valleys, swamps and forests. Every spare moment I had I spent looking for him until the snow was so deep and the weather so cold that it just wasn’t possible for anyone to find him alive.

I remember the day I decided to stop actively looking for him myself. I sat in the bathroom of Mitchell Hall and cried my eyes out, knowing, deep in my heart, that it was highly unlikely anyone would ever find him alive. I wondered then and I still wonder today if I walked past his body somewhere, if I missed some mound of overturned earth where someone buried him in a frantic, hectic and evil moment.

Today is the end of my searching. I can stop looking for him now. I can stop leaving my light on for him. Those feelings I had so many years ago when my own personal search for him ended have all come flooding back to the surface. My heart aches for his mother, father and siblings. I cannot even imagine what is going through their hearts and minds on a day like today, to finally find him after such a long time.

I cannot understand what lurks in the heart or mind of a man who could sit by for this long and watch people going through the kind of longing and searching that people in Central Minnesota and the state as a whole have gone through. What kind of a monster lets people he talks to every day search in vain for someone, walk through forests and glens, swamps and gullies until their feet have blisters, when he knew it was for nothing? I don’t want to understand that kind of a person. All I can say to him is may God have mercy on your soul because no woman or man on Earth will.

Today is a day to finally say goodbye in my mind to that search and to a boy I never knew and never found. May his soul continue to rest in peace. God has had him in his loving embrace all this time and will hold him forever. May his family someday come to find some semblance of peace from this unspeakable loss.

The Value of Persistence

The Value Of PersistenceIn my work, I am often called upon to act as a mentor to younger people who are gaining experience my field. Today I gave someone some salient advice under this type of circumstance. “Just try it. What’s the worst that can happen? You may fail miserably, but you just might learn something from it.”

So many times our society does not consider persistence as a necessary element to survival. It seems easier to throw up your hands in dismay and declare, “Well, I tried. I guess it wasn’t meant to be.” But appearances can be deceiving. What seems like the best course of action, is the opposite of what a person should do. If that same person, under the same circumstances, were to refuse the instant and simple action and instead plod on, even when encountering failure, they may, and most probably would achieve success.

There are, of course, contrary notions, including the definition of insanity: trying the same thing over, time and again, without changing any input variations, the resulting outcome is unlikely to be different. If, however, something is learned from a failure, so that inspire changes to some key variable to the process, then it is valuable to fail and try again, resolving identified as the root causes of a problem.

These are tried and true methods of scientific experimentation. It holds true outside of scientific endeavors as well. Many famous and extraordinarily successful authors, such as Stephen King, Janet Evanovich, J.K. Rowling, have all been quoted as expounding on the value of persistence as the biggest key factor attributing to their eventual triumphs. Consider the world of sports and one of the greatest baseball players of all time, Ted Williams. In his very best year, his hitting percentage was only slightly higher than forty percent of the time. What that means is that, in his most productive period, he failed almost sixty percent of the time, and for that, he has been lauded as one of the most popular and effective players of all time. If he had given up when he was hitting 300, he never would’ve gotten to the point where he was hitting 400.

Whether you are a scientist, a musician, a writer, a reader, a parent or a student, the key to your success is persistence. Don’t give up. Think of an ant and a rubber tree plant (I’m thinking of the song “High Hopes” here) if you need to, but giving up can’t ever be an option if you truly want to get ahead in this world. And by failing, you probably will learn something.
Here are a couple of quotes by some pretty famous men who did fairly well in their chosen field:

Ambition is the path to success. Persistence is the vehicle you arrive in. — Bill Bradley, U.S. Senator, Olympic gold medal winner, Hall-of-Fame Basketball Player for the NY Knicks

Energy and persistence conquer all things. – Benjamin Franklin, Author, Scientist, Publisher, Statesman, Inventor, U.S Ambassador

How To Write An Amazon Review

Are you new to book reviewing? Did you read something that was so incredibly good that you want to share it with the world? This is a post to help you write an Amazon review even if you aren’t very tech-savvy. If you are, then you can skip down to The Non-Technical Stuff.


The Technical Stuff:

First of all, I have NO idea what a Paleo Diet is. This book is used only as an example of how to write a review, from a pure point-and-click viewpoint. (I don’t either recommend or NOT recommend this specific book.)

First, go to and find the book you want to review and go to that book’s page.

Scroll down on the page until you get to the “Customer Reviews” section. It should look similar to the screenshot below (but with fewer reviews). (Wow, 1,959 reviews! Really?)


See that button that says “Write a customer review”? Click on that.

Amazon will give you a screen with blank stars. As soon as you choose how many stars you’re going to give as a review, a box will open up with an option for you to “Write your review here”. Amazon will give you a screen with blank stars.


As soon as you choose how many stars you’re going to give as a review, a box will open up with an option for you to “Write your review here”.


Notice how right now it says the review will be “Posted publicly as Amazon Customer”? You can change that by going off to the right and changing how the world sees you on Amazon. This is only for reviews, so don’t worry about it.  Click on the underlined “Change” button under “Amazon Customer”.


You can change your identity that posts publicly to anything you want for a review. In this case, I’d be posting it as something ridiculous like “Lightbulb.” (You’d want to use a less weird name.) Choose a name and click “Done”.


Now type in your comment and a box will show up below for your headline. I’m being a smart-mouth and naming mine “A blah review for a blah diet” but you can say anything. You can even attach pictures or video. Note the “View tips and guidelines” link. They are pretty helpful, directly from Amazon to you.

The Non-Technical Stuff:

These ideas I’m stealing from my friend and mentor, Nonnie Jules, who is a pro at all things reviews as the HWIC (Head Woman In Charge) of the Rave Reviews Book Club (RRBC).

  1. Don’t write about SPOILERS. You don’t want to spoil a book for the next guy, do you? You can hint, but even that’s kind of mean.
  2. Don’t write about every little step in the plot. Again, let the next guy read it for themselves. You could give a very general idea of the gist of the book but not a “blow-by-blow.”
  3. Either rave on or critique a book. You shouldn’t say something like “All books with vampires are stupid” or “This book was bad because it has a rape scene.” You may personally dislike these things, but the next person may not. Instead, say WHY you did or didn’t like the book. “I found the vampire characterization to be childish and predictable.” OR “The rape scene was illogical and misplaced. It didn’t fit the overall tone of the book and was out of character for the hero.” OR “The characters were so believable I felt as though we were friends.”
  4. If you don’t have anything NICE to say, say nothing at all. If you feel a book only warrants a 1, 2 or 3 star ranking, do so in a manner that does NOT attack the author. Do NOT say, “This was written so badly, it seems like a child wrote it.” That’s a big NO-NO. I would go so far as to say you should NOT say something like, “There were so many typos, I couldn’t finish.” That’s not to say you shouldn’t be honest. Honest reviews are good for everyone, authors and potential readers. Try to find SOMETHING kind and constructive and you may need to be creative. “It is obvious the author put a lot of work into this book.” OR “The author should have put more of an effort into an edit.” OR “The plot wandered in some places so it was difficult to follow, but if this were resolved, it has the makings of a good book.” Keep in mind that reviews are OPINIONS. If you want to have someone value your opinion, make it something that goes down well.
  5. Check the spelling and grammar of your review. Read it back to yourself before you hit the done button.

Rave Reviews Book Club Back-to-school Blog Party #RRBC

Blog Party 1


Rave Reviews Book Club’s BACK-TO-SCHOOL


brought to you by Patricia M Jackson’s blog

in beautiful Minneapolis, Minnesota.


Here’s What I’m Giving Away Today:


  • *Two (2) $20 Amazon Gift Cards

  • *Five (5) Autographed Paperback copies of both Henrietta & Isabella                                   (Books 1 and 2 in the House of Donato Series)

# of Winners for this stop: 7

Watch the trailer for Henrietta as background music, if you like.


An interview with Etta Donato (the main character in Henrietta):

41980945 - pregnant woman practicing yoga, sitting in lotus position on a beach at sunsetInterviewer: First of all, thanks for joining us today, Etta. We know you have a busy life. Just to set the stage a little, you’re the main character in the book Henrietta, so I guess Etta is your nickname?

Etta: Yes. It’s an old-fashioned name, but I was named after my great-grandmother. Her story is also in the book, so it’s a two-for-one value.

Interviewer: Okay. And you’re also a writer. Is that right?

Etta: Yes. I have an MFA from Northern Michigan University and met my husband while attending graduate school in Marquette.

Interviewer: Great. So, what, to you, is the hardest thing about writing?

Etta: Finding the time. I’m a young mother, with another one on the way. Tom and I own a bed-and-breakfast on the shores of Lake Superior on Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, so I’m busy. There’s never enough hours in the day. Sometimes the only time I find to write is when everyone is snoring.

Interviewer: And the easiest?

Etta: Coming up with ideas. I’ve got so many ideas running through my mind. Sometimes it’s hard to know where to start.

Interviewer: How long have you been writing?

Etta: Since I was a little girl. I’d make up ridiculous stories with my cousin Peggy. Sometimes we’d act them out. She and I have been pen pals for forever, so a lot of the time I’d pour what was in my heart out in words to Peggy and eventually I started writing them in story format instead of letters. I’m sure I’d cringe at some of those early stories I used to send her.

Interviewer: What types of stories do you like to read?

Etta: I’m an equal opportunity reader. Of course, I love romances, but I like thrillers and mysteries and sci-fi too. I haven’t gotten into the paranormal stuff much, but I’ve been thinking about it. And, of course, who doesn’t love a good western. There are such predictable characters in westerns. I love ‘em. And like Stephen King says, “If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have a chance to write.”

Interviewer: Please tell us all about you.

Etta: I’m a pretty typical Midwestern woman, about to be a mother of two, originally from Minnesota, the Twin Cities. I’m married to my best friend, Tom, who is also a native Minnesotan. I’m a runner. I try to run at least two miles every day, sometimes more. I’m a writer, but I don’t specialize in any one genre at the moment. Let’s just say I’m finding my niche in the writing world. I’ve published some of my work, a short story in an anthology of Indigenous American folk tales, which was wonderful! I’ve also published two stand-alone mystery novels. I’ve been through a lot in my life. My mother died when I was young, brought up by my dad, who is the world’s greatest dad. I’m the survivor of date rape and violent crime and glad to say I lived to talk about it. I’m a huge victim’s rights advocate and speak at domestic violence conferences on occasion. Otherwise, I’m just me. <giggle>

Interviewer: Would you like to share an embarrassing or funny moment with us?

Etta: That’s an easy question. It’s always the same one. The first time I met Tom. I went to this club, and he sat down. We flirted, then this hypnotist started his act. Next thing I know, I’m on stage with this total stranger, I had been hypnotized, and I just know I’ve kissed this guy while I was out of it. It was incredibly embarrassing, and yet, it turned out okay in the end. I did marry him, after all …. much, much later!

Interviewer: Where do you see your writing career in ten years?

Etta: Wow, ten years. I can’t imagine it at the moment. I’ll have a thirteen and ten-year-old. My life may perhaps be even more chaotic than it is now, but I’m hoping to have found my niche and published a couple of fiction series, maybe more on the American Indians. Gee, I guess I better get started on that, huh?

Interviewer: What advice would you give your teenage self?

Etta: I’d probably tell myself to pay attention, learn a lot. Listen more and speak less. I missed a lot of cues from people that I should have picked up on that would’ve saved me a lot of pain and heartache, so I think, just be more aware. And I’d tell myself to stop taking life so seriously. Have fun! What good is life is you aren’t enjoying yourself? Tom’s taught me a lot about just letting loose and letting go.

Interviewer: Where can we find you on the Internet?

Etta: You can find my whole story in Patricia M Jackson’s book, Henrietta: Book #1 in the House of Donato Series. You’re going to put the links in the same post, I think. My sister-in-law’s story is Book #2, Isabella. She’s a hoot. You’ll get a laugh out of her and Murphy. Murphy’s a little insane, by the way, but only a little. He’s a pro hockey player for the North Stars at the moment. My cousin Peggy’s story, Margaret: Book #3, is due out in the fall of 2016, so make sure you pick that up. Peggy is an incredibly talented pianist and wonderful person. She’s a lot like a sister to me. Anyway, her story is the culmination of the overall story that began with me. You can find all of that on Patricia’s website: and a lot more.

Interviewer: Well, thanks again, for your time, Etta. We appreciate you taking the time to sit down and talk with us for a while. Please give our best to Tom and the Donato family. They have a pizzeria, is that right?

Etta: Yes. It’s a great place to stop for a bite if you’re ever in Duluth, and it’s fantastic food! Have fun on the blog tour everybody! I hope you all win huge prizes!


Henrietta (FREE)

Printed Paperback:  Henrietta

Amazon (FREE):   Henrietta – Kindle on Amazon

Smashwords (FREE):  Henrietta (EPUB, MOBI, PDF, TXT)

Henrietta: Book Club Discussion Questions (Spoiler Alert!):


Love. Fear. Mystery.

Tom and Etta have a problem. They’ve kissed passionately but don’t remember it. Both are starting life over, she as a writer in grad school and he, as a former hockey player, after a career-ending injury. But is anyone ever completely free of their past?

Tom and Etta create a bond from friendship then move beyond. It may not be possible to start anew with baggage from the past and no clear vision of the future. Or will people from the past always come looking for you when you least expect them? Words from another Henrietta, who rebuilt her life from tragedy, bring the answers that allow Etta to move forward. But is it already too late?

If you like an engaging, meticulously written romance steamy enough to raise any reader’s heart rate, then download this beautiful, inspiring gem.

Isabella ($2.99)



Humor. Desire. Conspiracy.

Chad “Manic” Murphy, is an amusing and charismatic hockey star on the rise. His tutor is the gorgeous Isabella Donato, his teammate’s twin sister. If only he hadn’t promised never to touch her. Though his life is in turmoil, he charms his way into her heart. When she comes to her senses, her follow-the-rules mentality often clashes with his oblivious, impulsive ways.

Murphy’s one-sided decision to turn pro throws them into a cycle of unanswered longing. He stumbles upon a lawless domain driven by a man who has the power to destroy his world. Can Murphy clean up his chaotic life and once again sweep Izzy off her feet? Tragedy leaves her wondering if they could ever make it work.

Isabella is the second in the new adult romance series “The House of Donato”. If you like an enjoyable light-hearted romance, with sensitive love scenes sure to delight and arouse, download this unpredictable and compelling read.

Watch the Trailer for Isabella here:

Margaret (Coming Autumn 2016)


What holds a relationship together during difficult times?

Peggy, a gifted pianist, building a future at Julliard, ends up roommates with Brian Donovan, her cousin’s husband’s best friend. He was only doing her a favor, too occupied with law school and working for the FBI to notice she was around. At least he was kind enough to explore Manhattan together.

Donovan has no interest in a relationship with the luscious and exotic Peggy, convinced that there is no place in a cop’s life for a family. When a hot case causes disharmony, they end up playing a different tune. Do they have what it takes to guard their new love against harm?

Margaret is the culmination of the new adult romance series “The House of Donato”. This pleasantly paced tale filled with real-world conflict and skillfully interweaved suspense will finish off a story three books in the making. Enjoy this sensitive love story today.


Thanks for coming today. Don’t forget to share your thoughts and comments below to be eligible for BIG PRIZES!

Good luck on winning the giveaways! I’ll see you at the next stop of this excellent #RRBC BACK-TO-SCHOOL BOOK & BLOG BLOCK PARTY!

 Be sure to visit my fellow participant on the tour today:  

Joe Stephens

Enjoy the party!
Very sincerely yours,

Boys and the beach

Katie laid on her bed, exhaled a deep sigh and stared at the popcorn ceiling and dark oaken support beams wondering what she could do with herself. There just wasn’t anything to do anymore. Boredom was making her lose her mind. She’d slept until almost noon after staying awake until two a.m. reading a mystery thriller book. The prose was so bad and predictable she didn’t even care who did it anymore. She rolled to her side and stared at the walls of her room, a typical teenager’s room. There were posters on the walls, clothes on the floor and trinkets on the dresser top: friendship bracelets and cheap jewelry that was way out of style or had one earring missing. Junk filled the rest of the open space on her dresser, junk she’d once thought cute but was only crap she was too lazy or sentimental to throw away. Maybe she could redecorate. Nah, that was a stupid waste of time. Without warning the door opened and banged against the wall behind it.

“That’s it. I’ve had it!” Katie’s mother said, with a loud voice. “It’s time you got your lazy bones out of bed already. You’re wasting your life away in this dreary room.” Her mother yanked on Katie’s wrist until she’d reluctantly sat up, if for no other reason than to keep from being dragged out of bed onto the floor.

“All right, all right. I’m up already.”

“No, you’re not. You’ll be up when you’re dressed and doing something.”

“What am I supposed to be doing that I’m not?”

“Living life. You’re just holed up in this room all the time.” Katie’s mom stood with her hands on her hips, her eyes glaring at her daughter. “It’s not natural. It’s summer. You should be enjoying yourself.”

“There’s nothing to do. I can’t drive yet, and you’re too busy to take me anywhere.”

“Those legs of yours still worked last time I checked,” her mother said. She pulled Katie to her feet and pointed her in the direction of the bathroom. “Get yourself cleaned up and I’ll drop you wherever you want to go on my way to the city planning meeting. You can figure out a ride home or walk. You’ve got ten minutes.”

“Ten minutes. Awww, mom!”

Standing in the shower letting the warm water flow over her face, Katie had decided that she would take advantage of the beautiful summer day and go to the beach. Her best friend, Melissa, lived on Lake Kallawood next door to the county park with a sandy beach right next to the boat access. It was sometimes crowded with RVs, campers, and people camping. Maybe they could get an afternoon to enjoy the peacefulness of warm sun on their bikini-clad bodies. There was a limit to how much trouble they could get in since neither of them could drive.

Her mother dropped her off at Melissa’s house, and she’d waited while Melissa got dressed in her bikini. The girls gathered their beach gear, complete with coconut-scented suntan oil, giant sunglasses, big floppy hats, giant towels, flip-flops and, of course, floaty reclining beds. They’d done this kind of thing before and had the shtick down pat. The girls walked, arms filled with goodies, including a couple of granola bars in case they got hungry and two large water bottles filled with ice water. They were in for the duration of the afternoon, which was ideal for Melissa, who had an even dark-toned complexion that easily tanned and complemented her dark, luxurious brown hair. Katie, on the other hand, was blue-eyed, blond and fair-skinned. By the end of the afternoon, especially after slathering on tanning lotion, her skin would be cooked to a brilliant lobster red, much like Peking duck in a Chinese restaurant. She knew she shouldn’t sun-bathe, but she enjoyed the time with her best friend doing what they did best: nothing.

The truth was that she and Melissa had been growing apart over the past couple of years, and she hoped to rekindle their friendship with something Melissa loved to do. Melissa had gone from a fun pal in elementary school to a boy-crazy teenager and Katie just didn’t feel the same way. Would she like to have a boyfriend? Well, sure, but she wasn’t sure just what she’d do with one. She had lots of friends at school who were boys, and it was a lot more fun to talk to them or do something, like fix a bike or go fishing with them than to think about sucking face. I mean, there was a limit to how long you could kiss without being disgusting, wasn’t there? And she knew all about the birds and bees and didn’t think she was old enough for any of that stuff yet. No, she just wasn’t as crazy about boys and all that hoop-la as Melissa was.

They blew up their floating loungers, dropped their stash on the beach and laid out in their bikinis in the water, deep enough so get away from bugs and sand but not so deep that they couldn’t sit up and get to shore quickly. It was relaxing, and so far there was only one mother with a small baby enjoying the beach. There’d be more people flocking to the swimming area in the next few hours.

After twenty minutes of floating and soaking up the sun, the tedium of doing nothing left her feeling bored, although she knew Melissa was having the time of her life. This wasn’t her style. She didn’t want just to lay around, and she feared Melissa would be content just to lay there all day, plus Katie could actually feel her skin burning to a crisp out there on the water. She could almost hear her skin cells popping. She sat up on her floaty, glanced towards the shore and noticed a young man, dressed in shorts and a T-shirt in front of the lodge area, changing the bags in the garbage bins.

“Melissa, who is that working at the lodge? Do you know him?”file0001556978583

“Sure. It’s Luke Backman. Why?”

“Well, because he’s watching us.”

“Oh, really?” Melissa sat up on her floaty and waved. “He’s hot for me.”

“How do you know that?”

“I just know.”

“What do you know about him?” Katie asked.

“Not much. He’s got a motorcycle he revs too loud around my place. He’s trying to get my attention because he’s hot for me.”

“How do you know he’s not hot for me? I mean, we’re both out here in bikinis.”

“Oh, please.”

“You make it sound like I’m uggo or something.”

“No, you’re not uggo. You’re just pure as the driven snow.” Melissa put her sunglasses back on and leaned back to relaxing on her floaty, “You’re a goody two-shoes, and everybody knows it.”

“I’ll bet you ten dollars I can get cute-pie Luke to give me a ride home on his motorcycle.” Katie got off her floaty and made her way to shore. “I think he’s watching me and not you.”

Melissa heaved out a deep sigh. “Fine. I hate to see you get spurned but you’re asking for it, and you’re on.” She got off her floaty, muttering to herself as she walked to shore as well.

Five minutes later Katie had grabbed her gear, walked up the staircase from the beach and was standing next to Luke as he sat on his motorcycle where he’d parked it. She asked him all kinds of pertinent questions: where did he get it, how much did it cost, how did he mother feel about him riding a motorcycle. He was eating up the attention he was getting from Katie in a big way when Melissa walked up to the two of them. Melissa dropped her gear at Katie’s feet and swung her leg over the back of the bike behind Luke and squeezed her front to his back.

“Give me a ride around the park, Luke,” she said, leaning into him, putting her mouth right next to his ear. “Pleeease?”

“Sure, he said,” as he stood up, jumping down on his kick-starter and revving the engine. He made a couple of rounds around the dirt roads that weaved around the park, with Melissa throwing her hands up in the air, squealing with delight at his antics, coming around to the lodge where Katie stood.

Melissa jumped off the back of the bike, leaned over to Luke and gave him a kiss on the cheek. “Thanks, Luke. That was fun.” She came back to Katie and whispered in a small voice. “Point goes to me.”

Luke revved his engine a couple more times and said, “What about you? Do you want a spin? You’re looking kind of hot in that bikini.”

“Me?” Katie said. “No, I need a ride home, but I suppose you’re still working, huh?”

“Nah, I’m off now,” he said. “Things are pretty quiet today, and I’ve got everything cleaned up. I can give you a ride home. Hop on?”

Katie turned to her friend. “I’m sorry, Melissa, I suppose you’ll have to carry all this stuff home by yourself, huh? It’ll save me a long walk if I get a ride with Luke.” She grinned at her friend.

“Nonsense, we can take some of it on the bike and drop it off at Melissa’s place, then I can take you home,” Luke said.

“That okay with you, Melissa?” Katie said, her eyes wide, amazed at the way this was going.

“That’s just fine,” Melissa said, almost hissing her words. “I’ll see you both around.”
Katie picked up part of the stash she’d hauled up the stairs from the swimming area and organized it into a makeshift backpack to carry on the bike and placed it behind her on the seat of Luke’s bike.

“You ready?” he called back to her.

“Ready as I can be.”

“Okay, we’ll go slow until we get to Melissa’s and then hit the road and have some fun,” he said.

“Bye, Melissa,” Katie said, waving to her friend who was now standing her hands on her hips, lips tight and eyes fixed on Katie like she’d never seen before. She was only waving goodbye for the moment, but somehow Katie felt that she was parting with her life-long friend and over a boy. It was ridiculous, but she knew Melissa saw this as the ultimate betrayal. In a way, she was saying goodbye to her childhood and the silly games little girls play. She was playing different games that bigger girls play, like stealing a boy’s interest. She leaned forward into Luke’s back and held onto his body tight as the motorcycle lurched up the gravel road.

Luke did what he promised, swung by Melissa’s house to drop the beach gear off then took her for a joy-ride across miles and miles of open road. It was exhilarating and fun. Something wild and crazy that only teenagers do. Katie knew she shouldn’t be on a motorcycle. Her mother would be furious. If she were going to ride a motorcycle, she wouldn’t be allowed to do it wearing a bikini and sneakers without a helmet and not with Luke Backman. Not that there was anything wrong with Luke. He was a good guy who was just having fun with a cute girl, but he was a teenage boy, and she’d been warned about teenage boys and motorcycles.

The next day, she found herself laying in bed again. Moving even one inch with her sunburned skin against the sheets was painful, so she tried to lay as still as possible, flat on her stomach staring at her headboard. Her mother came in and put some aloe vera on her knees, shoulders and back.

“Well, I told you to get out and live life, and you did that. I hope you learned your lesson because now that you’re grounded, you won’t be going anywhere for a while. Growing up is hard to do. You’ll have a lot of painful lessons like this.” Her mother slapped her daughter’s fanny as she rose to leave.

“Rule number one: don’t ever ride a motorcycle in a bikini. You’ll get sunburned.”

“Thanks, Mom. Good to know.”

Her mother stood one hand on the door jam and another holding the aloe vera at her hip. “You should’ve asked me. I could’ve told you. I did the same thing when I was your age.”

Now, that, made Katie laugh!

Six Ways to beat the Dog Days of Summer

Six Ways to beat the Dog Days of SummerThis time of year can be difficult for adults and children alike. The weather has gotten unbearably hot in some places. It’s the mid-point of the summer vacation for school-age children, who by now have done all the things they were longing to do and are left bored with few ideas of what to do with their time. The following are Six Ways to beat the Dog Days of Summer. They’re really just the jump-starter ideas to get you thinking of things to do either to beat the heat or enjoy it to the utmost.

  • Go to the lake or pool and jump in.

    Why fight it? The water is calling to you. Take along a floaty and just relax and try to beat the heat.

  • Go to the library.

    Suck in the air conditioning with a good book, which is never a waste of time.

  • Go bowling.

    Bowling alleys are generally quiet in the summer and they’re almost always air conditioned.

  • Go to a museum.

    Whether an art or history museum, try to fill your head with some knowledge that would serve you well on Jeopardy.

  • Go to a Farmer’s Market.

    Eat your fill and watch the people shopping with you. You might even find a cold drink.

  • Go to a baseball game.

    Embrace the heat! Buy yourself some peanuts and cracker jacks and don’t care if you ever come back.

These are just some ideas of things you can do during the dog days of summer. What do you do to beat the heat?

The Bastard’s Blade, by Luca Thrace

The_Bastards_BladeWhat makes a good romance? Dashing heroes, beautiful heroines, exciting plot twists? Yes, but it takes more. It takes characters who you get to know deeply, who change and grow over the course of the novel and become better people. This novel delivers all of that and more.

The author paints a tapestry with words, that bring to life a time gone by in vibrant colors, tastes, scents and flavors. The hero and heroine are typical, a widowed lady fair and a bastard commoner with a nefarious intent. Fate and lust may bring them together, but love develops and takes over the course of their life. Of course, their pathways in life may also be influenced by a cast of characters who help fate along a bit or perhaps its magic spells and incantations that sway their journeys.

No matter what the cause, they take a more than circuitous route to find true happiness, hindered by a black-hearted menace who means to steal her wealth and power and a half-hearted fool who tries to trick his way into a life of ease. There’s bloodshed, murder, intrigue and secret passages that wind their way into an obligatory HEA. That’s the way romances are supposed to end. I highly recommend this as a well-written, delightful romance with everything you’d ever ask for.

Holiday Birthdays – What to do About Them

I have a friend who has the misfortune or good luck (as you choose to look at it) of a birthday smack-dab on Christmas Day. I can’t think of a more inconvenient day in 365 days of the year for a birthday. The most ironic thing about it for my buddy is that he’s Jewish. So much for the onslaught of mega or multiple gifts on the day he celebrates another year of life. As someone with a birthday quite close to a holiday, I adore what he’s done about it. Instead of bemoaning his bad luck, he hosts a bonfire party for whoever has time to stop by on that day. I’ve attended twice, and it is a silly mix of Christians feeling a tad guilty about missing some Christmas party and Jews celebrating the one day of the year they get the world to themselves. I had a blast both times I attended!

Flag_of_USAI mention my friend with a Christmas birthday to highlight today’s topic: Holiday Birthdays. My birthday falls near July Fourth. It was extraordinarily frustrating as a child to have that birthday because school was out, I missed my friends and no matter how I tried to entice them into an exciting birthday pool party, they wouldn’t show up. People always have plans for July 4th, sometimes years in advance. It’s a day of traditions and hot dogs and people just don’t care about a silly kids’ birthday party.

A holiday birthday can take the wind, steal the thunder and just generally spoil a celebration of getting older and is one of the downfalls to having your birthday near or actually on a holiday. I can only imagine how weird a New Years or Valentine’s baby must feel in later life. If someone you know in life has such a birthday, make sure you wish them well and do it separately from the holiday. Make them feel as if it isn’t just an accident that they’re around. And if you’re blessed with such a birthday, do what my friend does. Embrace it! Make the most of it. For myself, I’ve had many, many fireworks evenings that I either said out loud or thought to myself that those colors in the sky were just for me. I’m happy to share my birthday with America. And on a positive note, my hubby never forgets my birthday!


Happy 4th of July! Happy Birthday to All Yankee Doodle Dandies!

Isabella – Live on Amazon


A PeeWee hockey game and a snowball fight was all it took to charm his way into Izzy’s heart. If you like a light-hearted romance, amusing, charismatic characters and sensitive love scenes, download Isabella, an unpredictable and compelling read.

Simple Ways to Have Fun Fishing With Dad

fishing_with_dadAs Father’s Day approaches, I wish I could buy the man a gift. It would probably be a tie or a bottle opener or some similarly thoughtless token of esteem, but I can’t do that. He’s been gone a long time, and I would love nothing more than five more minutes with him. Instead, I have a few hints, Simple Ways to Have Fun Fishing With Dad. I spent countless hours in the boat alone with my dad and those were times I wouldn’t take back for all the money in the world. At the time, I’m sure I thought it was a true drag, but they turned out to be memories that have lasted forever.

1. Pee before you leave

Trust me. Dad probably will be annoyed with you for having to pee when you’re out in the middle of a lake somewhere, so right before the boat takes off, go do your thing and be prepared to hold it for a while. My dad always took along a tin can for me. Isn’t that sweet? I don’t know if he remembered I was a girl sometimes. I don’t think it mattered much to him.

2. Learn to appreciate nature.

You’re out there in that boat and there’s nothing else to do. Put away your phone and/or video games. Embrace the natural world around you and try to become one with it. There’s a lot to see and do when you just sit there. There’s more around you, small things and big, that will show themselves to you if you just sit quietly and keep your eyes and ears peeled and open to learn something from the natural world.

3. Talk to your dad

Dads are generally not known for being overly-communicative, but try to find out things about him you haven’t ever heard before. In my case, my dad was a WWII veteran and he was very reluctant to talk about his experiences, but sometimes, when he was relaxed and enjoying himself in the boat, he would tell stories about some of the lighter-sides of things he went through in the Pacific. I’m sure those talks brought back bad memories for him as well, but he was willing to share. Your dad didn’t come from a package. He lived a whole life before having kids, so find out what that life was like, when he made decisions, how he made them and why and what he’d do differently if he could. You might be surprised what you find out.

4. Be helpful.

I’ve lost my dad and he was a very old father. He was in his 40s before I was born, so I needed to help the old geezer quite a bit growing up. Your dad may not be as old, but there is never a bad time to give a dad a hand. Help him carry things to the boat or tighten a winch or clean some things up. You may not have a dad forever, so take it easy on the guy and help him out as much as you can. He’ll probably appreciate it.

5. Ask dad to teach you something

Maybe it’s how to tie a spinner on your line or use a depth-finder or, if he’s feeling generous, how to bring the boat in to dock, but dads love it when they can pass on their knowledge to their children. It’s a dad thing. There’s something about leaving something for posterity in teaching a child (no matter the age) how to do something they’ve never done before. Find out what he has to teach you and learn from him.

These are fairly simple things to keep in mind, but you’d be amazed how keeping it simple with dad will pay off in big ways. Enjoy your dad while you have him. He’s not going to live forever. When you go on that fishing outing with him, take the time to truly enjoy the time and squeeze every ounce of enjoyment you can out of an ordinary thing with him. He’ll appreciate it more than you realize.

Happy Father’s Day!

Letter To My Washing Machine

Letter To My Washing Machine

Dear Kenmore Washer 26-49032,

sock-eater-1427661-640x480First of all, I’d like to say thank you. For years now, almost three, you’ve run through cycle after cycle, at the minimum three to four per week, asking for very little in return and for those small payments, you have returned to me a plentiful bounty of clean clothes. Some of those batches were admittedly far too large and for that I’d like to apologize. Those were almost always the husband’s batches. Believe me, I’ve tried explaining so many things about laundry to him. The simple fact that there’s a limit to how much should be put in you seems to be one step too far for him.

I still greatly appreciate everything you’ve done for me. No matter what kind of canine bodily fluid or semi-solid the items have on them when I give them to you, you always return them back to me as though they were almost fresh from the store. Charlie is definitely out to make your life more difficult. Don’t feel too bad. He’s tried to trip and kill us, then turns around to be demanding as hell twice a day. At least he doesn’t expect food from you.

I know you don’t expect much from me and that I’ve been neglectful. I swear every time I run out of cleaner for you that I’m going to remember to buy more at the store and clean you more frequently, but it almost always gets forgotten behind the necessity of buying food and paper products. I know it’s important, so I’ll try harder. I truly promise I will try harder. And if I forget, I’ll search the Internet far and wide to come up with a home remedy that will clean you up. I promise that at least once or twice a quarter I’ll pull back your gaskets and give them a good scrub. I know the husband never does that and that’s because he’s a wussy-face. He’s scared of what he might find there and you know that it’s never nice, so don’t hold it against him. Either that or he doesn’t even realize they need to be cleaned.

I have only one favor to ask of you. I don’t know where you put them because I can’t ever find a cause much less a solution, but I’d like you to please, please, please stop stealing my socks. You never seem to steal the husbands’ socks. You only steal mine and then you only steal them one at a time, leaving a sad and lonely sock that needs therapy for its separation anxiety. I know that everybody has this problem, but that’s because your kind suffer from being demented or possessed. If I need to, just let me know, and I’ll bring in a priest to perform an exorcism; whatever it takes I’ll do it because I only have two pair left and it gets cold here in the winter. I need a few more decent pair of socks, so if you wouldn’t mind spitting back those that you’ve taken, that would be greatly appreciated.

Don’t pretend you don’t know what I’m talking about. There’s no mistaking where they’re going. There’s really nowhere else they could be, so let’s not demean each other by acting like you don’t know what I’m insinuating here. Just give up the goods or else. I’ll keep up the occasional ammonia treatments and regular cleanings, if you’ll just give back the damned socks!

Thanks much for your time and attention. Now get back to work!

Sneak Peek at Isabella


The following is a sneak peek at a scene from Isabella: Book #2 in the House of Donato Series.  The new book is available for pre-order on Amazon, to be released in mid-June. I hope you enjoy!

They walked along in silence. While they’d been meeting with the professor, it had started to snow. As they walked, the world around them took on an almost mystical feel like walking through a snow globe. Giant, wet flakes of snow lazily drifted in the air and would occasionally catch on his cheek or eyebrow. Even though the air was getting colder, there was heat between them. A warmth in his heart when his thoughts came to Izzy. She was smart and beautiful and unbelievably kind. She didn’t seem to realize how beautiful she was with her deep, dark eyes. He longed to touch her skin as he held her gloved hand. He shook his head to clear his thoughts. How could he take the next step and tell her what and how much he thought of her? After all, she’d gone to all this bother for him. He knew she truly cared about him, not just as a tutor, but as a person. Perhaps it was time to take that next step and fight it out with Tom if it came to it. It would all depend on Izzy and if she was willing to go there with him.

“Hey, what time is it?” he asked her.

“Almost three. Why?”

“Would you like to go to a hockey game? A quick one?”

“A hockey game? Chad, you have to study and …”

“All work and no play make Izzy a dull girl. Come on,” he said, grabbing her hand and running in the opposite direction from hesmall_hockey_playerr house. “If we hurry, we’ll make it. These games don’t last long.”

Izzy had no choice but to run to keep up with him. He was tugging hard on her hand, and she was losing her breath. They ran up a hill towards the park that was in her neighborhood. She knew there was an outdoor rink there, but she didn’t have any idea what kind of game there would be in the middle of the afternoon on a Thursday. They kept running until they came up to the boards of the old-fashioned rink, where there were several young adults gathered around the outside of the rink looking in on a hockey game.

Inside the rink, there were ten small children dressed in miniature hockey uniforms, one team wearing red jerseys and the other blue. There were much smaller goals than a typical hockey game would have, both set up on the blue lines of the normal hockey rink. Four adults were out on the ice to ensure that the players understood what was required of them. The players were trying with all their might to play a hockey game. The biggest difference was that there were no goalies, but only players skating very, very slowly. Occasionally a player would skate off-course way past the blue line, and one of the adults would push them back in the direction of the play, all at a very reduced speed.

“Oh, Chad. It’s a PeeWee game. I should’ve known.” She looked over at him and smiled.

“You like kids, don’t you? I thought you might enjoy this. I’m their skating coach. Aren’t they great?” He chuckled as he turned his attention to the kids. A quick cheer went up amongst the spectators, who were mainly parents or grandparents, for one of the players who had very, very slowly pushed the puck into a net. An announcement came over a makeshift karaoke PA. “Katie McKinnon scores for the red team.”

Izzy turned to Chad. “Katie?”

“Yeah, boys and girls play together at this age. They’re so cute. Look how slow they skate. It’s like it’s in slow motion.” He laughed as they looked on as the players very carefully made their way across the ice towards the puck. Occasionally one of the youngsters, who were hardly older than toddlers, at age five, would fall and their stick would fall in front of them. Then they’d struggle, much like a turtle on its back, to right themselves on the ice. When this happened, an adult was nearby to assist them in getting back up.

“They really are adorable. They’re like itsy-bitsy versions of the grown-up players,” Izzy said.
A young woman who was leaning over the mid-section boards with her camera and long-range lens called over to them. “Hey, Murph. See how Justin’s doing better?”

“He is,” Murphy answered, talking over Izzy’s head to chat with the hockey mom. “Has Greg been working with him?”

“He has. They’re out on the pond every night until he carries Justin off the ice practically asleep.” She turned back towards the action as her son called out, “Look, mom. I did it!” She called back to him, “Way to go, baby!” Another announcement came over the speaker system. “A score for the blue team by Justin Kurlander.” His mother called out, “One more and you’ll get a hat trick, Justy.”

A tear started to fall from Izzy’s eye, and she wiped it away with her glove. Her mind traveled back in time to when she was young and used to stand with her parents and her sisters as they watched Tom’s games. It was a long road from where these kids were to where they’d ended up, but it had all been worth it, to watch Tom gain skills and become an exceptional player. She turned to Murphy, “Oh, God, they’re just so cute, Murph. I almost can’t stand it.”

The young mother turned back towards her and said, “Don’t tell anyone, but I love hockey season. Justin falls asleep early, so I finally get some time alone with Greg.” She turned back towards the rink. “Hmm, I’d better be careful, or I’ll end up with another one.”

Izzy laughed at the young mother, who was genuinely enthralled for her son. Izzy replied, “That can’t be all bad.”

“Not at all,” she said, as a wry grin crossed her face.

Chad took Izzy’s hand. “So, seen enough?” He started to tug at her hand. “I know you want to get back to study.”

She pulled her hand out from his grasp. “We’re not going. It isn’t over. I wanna watch Justin get a hat trick.” As soon as she had finished her sentence, all of the spectators around the rink erupted with cheering as Justin did just that. The tiny-sized hockey player very slowly and very carefully pushed the puck across the line into the net as he fell face forward onto the ice. Izzy jumped up and down. “Way to go, Justin,” she cried out. She turned towards Chad, smiling from ear to ear, and in her exuberance, gave him a big hug. He, of course, hugged her in return, however, after a second or two passed, she realized that she was within his embrace and quickly pulled herself back.

“Sorry. I got excited.” His big blue eyes were staring back down at her, a slight grin on his face. He was waiting, wondering what would happen next.

“It’s okay. So did I.” He kept his hand on her shoulder as she turned her attention back to the hockey game. After another two or three minutes of extremely slow PeeWee hockey, the official on the ice blew his whistle, and another announcement came over the speaker. “Thanks for coming folks. That’s our game for today. Red team, five. Blue team, three. We’ll meet again at this time next week, pending severe weather. Good game, kids.”

“That’s it? It’s over already?” she asked, turning towards him.

“I said these games don’t last long.” They turned their back to the rink. He took her hand as they started walking away. “They only play one ten-minute period.” He swung his hand with hers in a playful way. “Like Cindy said, they tire out pretty easily. They’re just little tikes.”
“Aww, but I was just having fun,” she said, and she pulled her hand away.
When she dropped his hand, Chad bent over and picked up some of the fresh, wet snow that had fallen that morning. “Well, you make your own fun in this world.” He was lightly packing the snow in the warmth of his hand, then he moved a few feet away from her and flung the newly-shaped snowball in the spot between her head and her collar. The snowball hit her directly in the neck and started to melt down into her shirt.

“Hey, that’s a cheap shot, mister.” She immediately bent over and started gathering snow into her hands to make a ball to retaliate. All of the other spectators had walked off in the other direction towards the parking lot, and she and Chad were now alone with their snowball fight. He had an advantage over her with bare hands and had quickly formed two more snowballs and thrown them with intricate precision, one landing on the side of her head and one a glancing body shot.

She’d attempted to make two snowballs in her gloved hands and hurled them haphazardly back in his direction, but this was not her game. She’d always failed miserably at snowball fights, and Tom had always won. She usually ended up crying uncle as he either tickled her mercilessly or held a snowball over her head until she gave up. This time, she was determined to win in whatever fashion she could. But snowballs weren’t going to work, so perhaps an unexpected body check would do.

As Chad prepared his next two snowballs, after landing another two good shots, she ran with all her might, lowered herself and tackled him at the knees. He fell to the ground with Izzy on top of him, faces inches apart and nose to nose. They were both breathing hard after their exuberant play as he held her close to his body.

“No fair,” she whispered through her breathless voice, her arms locked against her body within his embrace.

“Oh, yes, fair,” he said. He brought his palms up to hold her face between his hands and kissed her hard and deep. She returned the kiss as one of his hands started to drift towards the back of her neck to deepen the kiss even further. She pulled away quickly and pushed up against his chest, to steady herself and stand upright.

She stood over him as he lay in the snow. “I’m going home. Good luck tomorrow, Murph,” she said, then turned and started walking away. Every bone in her body wanted him. Her heart was pounding, and she found herself breathless as she walked even though she hadn’t exerted herself that much. She had to try hard not to seem angry because she wasn’t angry. She was turned on and majorly turned on at that. God, that man was sexy. She called out as she walked away. “See you tomorrow, after the test.” She kept walking and with every step that pounded on the snow-covered sidewalk, her heart beat in unison. How did he know that a PeeWee game and the joy of watching children play would be so heart-warming to her? It was as if he was able to read her like a book. She had to figure out a way of keeping her hands off of Chad Murphy and soon.

Chad had sat up to watch her walk away. Leaning up on one elbow, he watched her retreat from their little snowball scene. He didn’t think she was angry, thank God. She was aroused and that was good. He lay back down and looked up at the sky, as the snowflakes drifted lazily around him from the gray and cloud-filled sky. The bare lindens and poplars in the park stood as silent sentinels standing guard around him as his mind lingered on the taste of her lips and eagerness of her embrace. Yes, he’d fight Tom for the right to date her. He touched his fingers to his lips. The sweetness of her kiss was more than worth it. For now, though, he needed to go home and take a cold shower.

Armed Forces Day

2016AFDPoster_HomeImagine yourself in a war against an aggressive enemy that will stop at nothing to kill you and won’t bat an eye when they do. You’re pinned down in a small space unable to move forward or backward, stuck in the mud. If you crawl out of your tiny space, barely larger than yourself, your head will be blown off. What do you do?

This is how my father explained war to me. This was the situation he faced, time and again, in his few years in the military. He faced absolutely determined Japanese enemy forces that would stop at nothing, including ending their own lives, to take out even one Allied or American soldier.

It was in these times of trouble that he prayed to his God and hoped for a friend. That friend often came in the form of a plane dropping a bomb or shooting at an enemy. Those planes had come off of a carrier that was floating in the Pacific, operated by seamen. That ship came from a port somewhere in the Pacific where Coast Guard personnel guarded the safety of the vessels. My father, himself, was part of an Army tank battalion that would often come in as backup support for a bunch of exhausted and tired Marines. When those guys saw those tanks roll in, they knew they could finally relax. Just the sight of those tanks would sometimes bring tears to the eyes of desperate Marines. In that war, World War II, the Armed Forces learned to work together to save the world, and they did. They were the greatest generation because they figured out one simple face: Together we are more than the sum of our parts.

I know there are families out there that descend from the personnel that saved my dad in his little hole on a squat island in the Pacific. Those personnel weren’t always Army but often were Navy, Air Force, Coast Guard or Marines. I want to thank those people for giving me life. If they hadn’t saved my dad, I wouldn’t be here today.

Today is a day when we celebrate the coming together of all the Armed Forces into one united front, to serve together in war, both hot and cold, and in peace. May we have more of the latter and less of the former. Either way, the Armed Forces stand as the United part in the United States of America. Happy Armed Forces Day, troops, and thanks to you and your families for everything you do for us!

Scapple Storyboarding

Why I plot
I’m a planner. I feel better when things are planned out and all sources for potential are flushed out fully, thought of in advance and written down so I don’t forget them. Only in a structured environment where everything that’s necessary and required is recorded for posterity does my mind feel free to roam to create something of great artistic consequence. It doesn’t matter if it’s a computer program, a musical piece or a story or novel. I still require order and organization to achieve my greatest level of freedom of thought for true artistry to take over.

I know there’s a whole different universe of artists, writers, musicians who could never work within these strict confines. If they aren’t completely left alone in a chaotic world, then their freedom cannot fly. I respect that way of working on art, but I can’t live with it personally. More power to them. I don’t know how they do it and vice versa.

Storyboarding and it’s drawbacks
In the writing world, this inherent difference is often referred to as either being a “planner” or a “pantser” (going by the seat of your pants). Well, I am a planner, but I still have a visual and artistic mind, albeit somewhat geometrically organized. I’ve seen many fellow planners who get out Post-It notes and poster board with string to create a storyboard for their novels. It has always looked like the perfect thing for me, but there’s one problem. I’m a technology person. I don’t like posters and sticky notes and markers and mess. I like neatness and laptops and organization and the sure knowledge that my dog can’t screw up my storyboard if he decides to pee on it. So I’ve always searched for the right software to allow me to storyboard on my computer and I finally found it. Enter the wonderful world of Scapple with me (brought to you by Literature & Latte, the same folks who brought Scrivener to the world).

I’ve just started working on my third novel and have a deep-seated desire to storyboard all aspects of the book, the general plot, each character’s arc in relationship to the general plot. I started messing around with Scapple to see if I could re-create using the software the same organization that those pen and paper plotters have been doing with Post-Its, yarn, and markers and I think I got it.

Using Scapple to Storyboard
I Scapple1started by creating a separate “background” for each of the parts of the novel (Act 1, Act 2a & 2b, Act 3a & 3b). Once the parts of the story have been identified, I’ve done things the same way I would with sticky notes. For each scene/plot point, I create a yellow note. Each scene leads to another within the act with an overall story arScapple2c that goes from exposition to rising action to climax to falling action to dénouement. The best part of Scapple is that you can brainstorm your plot line before you work the individual scenes into a storyboard, then cut and paste into your storyboard all in one place.

Scapple3Once those scenes are in place, then I add in a white note for each scene for location, a pink note for my female protagonist’s character arc, blue notes for my male protagonists’ character arc, red notes for the relationship arc between my “couple”, green notes for specific lines I want to include for each scene, etc. I can include information I’ve saved elsewhere (for me, I save a lot of inspiration on Pinterest Boards). There is no limit to the number of notes that can be added, if you want to add in pictures, videos, etc. or what color coding you want to use for each purpose.


Full Storyboard with Pics from Inspiration Boards alongside

There is so much you can do with Scapple, the opportunities are limitless. This is only one way to use it. Many people use the connections between notes to brainstorm relationships and interconnectivity, etc. The only limits are what you can imagine with your mind. The ultimate plus of Scapple is the freedom it gives to be super-creative by getting what’s in my head down on paper so I can forget it and keep building a complex and comprehensive novel. Hopefully, my book will be better and more entertaining because it’s been well-thought out before I start to write.

Happy Plotting are you “planners” out there!


caring_mother_560673I’d like to honor my mother today. She was a wonderful person and I miss her terribly. I’ve written about her before, so in her honor, I’d like to share some inspirational quotes about mothers and motherhood. I’ve always known it wasn’t something for me, so I genuinely admire those among us who can pull it off and make it seem like it’s an easy thing to do. Happy Mother’s Day!

“My mother was the most beautiful woman I ever saw. All I am I owe to my mother. I attribute my success in life to the moral, intellectual, and physical education I received from her.” —George Washington

“All that I am or ever hope to be, I owe to my angel mother.” —Abraham Lincoln

“Most mothers are instinctive philosophers.” —Harriet Beecher Stowe

“The phrase ‘working mother’ is redundant.” —Jane Sellman


“A mother is the truest friend we have. When trials heavy and sudden fall upon us; when adversity takes the place of prosperity; when friends desert us; when trouble thickens around us, still will she cling to us, and endeavor by her kind precepts and counsels to dissipate the clouds of darkness, and cause peace to return to our hearts.” —Washington Irving

“There is no role in life more essential and more eternal than that of motherhood.” —M. Russell Ballard

“Youth fades; love droops; the leaves of friendship fall; a mother’s secret hope outlives them all.” —Oliver Wendell Holmes

“A mother’s arms are more comforting than anyone elses.” —Princess Diana

“Motherhood is a choice you make every day to put someone else’s happiness and well-being ahead of your own, to teach the hard lessons, to do the right thing even when you’re not sure what the right thing is, … and to forgive yourself over and over again for doing everything wrong.”

“Becoming a mother makes you realize you can do almost anything one-handed.”

Happy Mother’s Day to all those moms out there!


The Election and A Spoonful of Sugar

spoonful-of-sugar-1329415-1600x1200The following quotes are taken from a once-famous and powerful politician.  As you read them, consider this:  If this person were running for the office of President of the United States and uttered these words either in written or spoken form, would you vote for them?  Would you find these words compelling? Would these words convince you of this person’s viewpoint? Would you be willing to have this person represent your interests in the highest office of the world?

  • Humanitarianism is the expression of stupidity and cowardice.
  • As a Christian, I have no duty to allow myself to be cheated, but I have the duty to be a fighter for truth and justice.
  • I believe today that my conduct is in accordance with the will of the Almighty.
  • Life doesn’t forgive weakness.
  • All great movements are popular movements. They are the volcanic eruptions of human passions and emotions, stirred into activity by the ruthless Goddess of Distress or by the torch of the spoken word cast into the midst of the people.
  • This year will go down in history. For the first time, a civilized nation has full gun registration. Our streets will be safer, our police more efficient, and the world will follow our lead into the future!
  • I do not see why man should not be as cruel as nature.
  • To conquer a nation, first disarm its citizens.
  • If freedom is short of weapons, we must compensate with willpower.
  • The doom of a nation can be averted only by a storm of flowing passion, but only those who are passionate themselves can arouse passion in others.
  • Our enemies are little worms.
  • One needs great tenacity and a tremendous will to begin such an enterprise at all. And I should like to say this to you: If I had this faith, I had it only because I knew the people and because I had no doubts as to the quality of the … people.
  • What does a title mean to me? I do not need a title. My name, which I achieved with my own strength, is my title. I only wish that posterity would sometimes confirm the fact that I have striven to achieve my program decently and honestly.

I find nothing inherently wrong with any of these statements. In fact, I actually agree with many of them. There’s only one problem. They were spoken or written by what the world now considers a madman; a man so bent on obtaining power by any means necessary that he had no problem coldly murdering millions of people for nothing more than their ethnicity. He did it passionately, with fervor in a calculated, methodical way. Millions of people died trying to wrestle that man’s control away; yet, his words here are reasonable.

As we approach the final six months leading up to the presidential election, I beg of my fellow citizens to think carefully about the words you hear. Heed the line from Mary Poppins’ song: A spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down. You may agree with some of what someone says and still find their overall electability abhorrent. It’s allowed. Just because somebody says something you agree with, doesn’t mean you should elect them. They may just be pandering to get your vote, saying things they know you want to hear. Consider the whole person before you cast your vote. I know I will.

Henrietta: Signed Copy Giveaway

Giving Away Signed Copies (3) of Henrietta

In anticipation of the mid-June launch of Isabella: Book #2 in the House of Donato Series, I am giving away signed copies of Henrietta.  Click the link below to enter the drawing to receive one of the three signed paperbacks.

Giveaway Timeframe:  May 4 through May 13

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Henrietta by Patricia M. Jackson


by Patricia M. Jackson

Giveaway ends May 13, 2016.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter Giveaway

Isabella: A Sneak Peek – PeeWee Hockey

small_hockey_playersWhen I was started writing Isabella: Book #2 in the House of Donato Series, I knew it was going to feature a lot of hockey. Fortunately, good friends of ours have kids who were and are very active in hockey, both boys and girls. We’ve attended a few of their daughter’s games over the past couple of years, so we headed out to a local game to watch her play.

There is a fascination to me to watch high school girls play what I’ve always thought of as a men’s game. Some of those girls, including our friends’ daughter, put as much, if not more, strategy, effort and finesse of the game as many high school boys. They’re magnificent, and their games can be quite exciting.

At one of those games, during a break between periods, they featured a PeeWee game. If you haven’t seen one of these games, with kids, both boys and girls, about five or six years old, you really ought to see one. They are so adorable! Little kids, little skates, little uniforms, little goals … it’s like playing house with hockey players. And they skate extremely slowly! I mean, snail pace skating, but an extraordinary effort to stay upright and get that puck in the non-defended net.

It’s a sight to behold. I knew after watching a hockey mom who is fierce tear up that I had to include a PeeWee game in my book. This mom would defend her kid to the Nth degree if some ref thought her daughter committed a penalty, but watching little kids play hockey brought back memories of the years and years of blood, sweat and patience required to raise a hockey player to adulthood.

I did my best in Isabella to bring the fascination I found in watching one of these games to the book. Only a few more weeks until Isabella is available for pre-order on Amazon. Keep an eye out and then find that PeeWee scene. It’s a good one!

Letting Go

A short story about letting go.

content-pig-1541872-1280x960“Give her back to me,” I said, breathless after running all the way from the house when I saw daddy out in the barn, loading hogs into the trailer. My eyes filled with tears that I refused to shed. “I’m not going to let you take her away just to butcher her. She deserves better than that. She’s smart.”

“Honey, you know we can’t do that,” my father said. I knew that my crying was getting to him. It had been an ongoing argument for a week and one I knew I’d eventually lose. “They all have to go. We’re done with farming, and we have to be done all the way.”

He released his grip of MaeBelle’s collar, the one I had lovingly bought from my allowance so daddy would know that she wasn’t just any pig. She was my pig. He walked up to me and held me in his warm embrace, my tears flowing now as I sniffled against his bib overalls. He gently rocked me in his arms and stroked my back.

“It’ll be okay, baby. You know we have to let MaeBelle go with the others, don’t you?”

I barely nodded my head at all, but I did know. We were going to have to leave the farm behind and move to Chicago where daddy had a new job, but a big part of me … no, a huge part … didn’t want to leave the freedom of the farm behind. It was a life I loved. When I came home from school, I knew exactly what to do. I would rush to the fridge, get a glass of milk and scrounge for a snack in the kitchen, throw my book bag onto my bed and change clothes into my chore clothes. I’d put on my boots and do my chores: shoveling manure from the chicken coop, collecting eggs, washing them in the downstairs sink and carefully placing them on top of the pile in the big fridge downstairs. My next job was to muck out the farrowing house where MaeBelle lived. When I was done, before going in the house to do my homework and practice my piano lesson, I would often take some time to teach MaeBelle to count. Well, not so much count anymore. We’d worked our way up to adding now.

You may not believe it, but MaeBelle can do math. She can add and subtract, and I bet you anything, if I had more time and the patience to sit there with her, we’d probably shock you to death someday to teach her to multiply. She has it in her. She’s a very smart pig. Bet you didn’t know pigs were that smart, did you? You probably think they’re nothing but delicious.

But I knew that carefree life of throwing tennis balls against the garage wall was over. The days of coming home and building a snow fort in the backyard or digging up arrowheads where the old duck shed used to sit were coming to an end. I’d have to figure out how to live in a city and get along with all those people everywhere and keep myself from being bored to death with whatever it was that city kids did all day.

Daddy stroked at my hair and patted my head. “SuzieQ, you’re going to have to say good-bye now. Lester is going to be here any minute to take the last haul of hogs off. Do you want me to stay with you? Or would you rather be alone?” He placed his hand under my chin and lifted my face up to his. My cheeks were wet from the tears I’d shed, and my eyelashes were in the way of being able to see daddy clearly.

“Alone. I can do it alone, I think.”

Daddy leaned down and kissed my forehead. “Okay, baby. You say goodbye then come in the house and get washed up for supper,” he said, walking away from me, his hands in the pockets of his striped overalls. He loved those striped overalls. I wondered, just for a second, if daddy would miss farm life too. Would he ever wear striped overalls again in the city? Folks would probably think he was a hick if he did that, but he looked just fine in them on the farm. After all, you don’t want to wear anything you care about out on the farm.

I walked over to MaeBelle’s stall and sat in my usual spot, in front of her pen, and she came up to the fence and snorted. I reached my hand in and gently rubbed her snout. She’s such a good pig and so smart and gentle. I think she knows how sad I am. I’m sure she can tell.

“Oh, MaeBelle. What am I going to do without you? You’re my best friend in the world, well, outside of Lily. She’s nice, but she gets jealous of stuff sometimes, and you never do.” Maybe this was just part of growing up, part of life, I suppose … learning to let things go, whether you want to or not.

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