Baby, Don’t Fear The Romance


They walk hand in hand. Their eyes meet briefly. Wistful smiles touch their lips. They sigh as one. When the couple reaches the park bench they sit and talk a moment. He grins. She giggles. Then he goes down on one knee, an unmistakable little box in one hand. With hope in his eyes, he pops the question and opens the box, extending it forward, waiting, holding his breath with his heart racing for her single word reply.

Romantic, isn’t it? Most people would think so, but how does one get from that first meeting, to this moment and beyond it to a long and happy fifty plus year marriage? What keeps the romance beating in the hearts of these two love birds?

I read an article recently about why women cheat. Based on the article, which seemed quite well researched, the main reason seems to be a lack of interest from their spouse or significant other. He pays more attention to work or sports or on one hobby or another than to his wife. The woman feels neglected and taken advantage of. She feels she doesn’t matter anymore. He’s no longer romantic.

Romance, we ladies need it. No matter how much we may protest that we don’t, we do, in one form or another. Why would you deny the need to feel special to the person you have decided to spend the rest of your life with? Isn’t feeling special and loved a huge part of being in a relationship in the first place?

Gentlemen, with Valentine’s Day fast approaching, I am here to tell you what women want when it comes to romance. Don’t be afraid. It’s not going to hurt and it’s not going to cost you a dime, unless you want it to. Trust me.

I gathered separately ten lady friends and ten gentlemen friends and posed to each group the same questions. What is romance? What are romantic gestures? What are those things you find most romantic to do with your partner and why? What do we woman want when it comes to romance? In both groups the ages ranged from the mid-30 to the mid-60s. Some had been married only a few months, others for over 40 years, some not at all. None of them were married to each other. Most didn’t know each other.

That there would be a difference in the comments I got was not a question. What surprised me most was how the women gave very brief, specific replies while the men tended to get into long-winded descriptions. Clearly, this is a subject these men have spent time thinking about before my inquiring mind came along.

In general, the men felt they needed to impress us ladies somehow, mainly with gifts; flowers, chocolates, jewelry, trinkets, and the like. Several even mentioned their lack of making romantic gestures stemmed more from a lack of money than anything else. “I see something that I think she’d like, so I buy it and hope she doesn’t yell at me for wasting money.” Another added, “God, romance is such a pain in the ass. I wish she’d just say, ‘Hey, let’s get some pizza and beer and watch something on Netflix.’.

No matter what is was, from a fancy dinner out or buying their love a book they showed interest in, tickets to a concert, dressing up nice and being totally uncomfortable doing so not just because the tie is too tight, but they are worried constantly if she’s doing to like any of these efforts. They feel forced to be on their best behavior instead of just being themselves. As one man put it so clearly, “This is the opening volley of romance. The ‘musts’ are impress, impress, impress.” Another pointed out, “It takes a lot of work, and therefore is not always sustainable.”

But this wasn’t all the men had to say about being romantic. Others went a different route all together.

These men felt that romance differed from woman to woman and you have to be in tune with her specific language of love. Physical touch and affirmations are far more important than gifts. Romantic gestures in some of the relationships leaned towards doing odd tasks that he knows she hates or an unexpected kiss on the back of the head while she’s distracted doing something else.

In general, these men felt that the concept was simple; the man makes the woman the center of his attention. As one put it, “In spite of all the distractions of life, he is deciding that you are the priority and he is actively seeing ways to show that.” Another opined, “I think there needs to be a degree of something you wouldn’t do for anyone else or would feel weird doing it for them which implies a certain degree of intimacy.”

So, what is it that we woman want? Is it gifts and flowers? Is it fancy dinners and bling? Or, are our ideas of romance more along the lines of that little kiss in public and making us the center of your attention, even if just for a few moments? Let’s find out.

The ladies agreed right out of the gate. Romance is not about things.

“Cooking together, for me, is very romantic. Fun in the kitchen turns me on,” one woman said. Another added, “At an outdoor football game snuggling together in a blanket is romantic.” Passion was mentioned, but not in the way you might think. Great interest was expressed at the idea of a man sharing something he is passionate about with his lady or having her share something she is passionate about with him. “I think taking the time to learn about your partner’s interests is a big deal, even if it’s not what you are into.”

We need to be reassured we’re special, but those reminders don’t need to cost anything nor do they need to take a lot of planning. We’re happy with a wink from across a crowded room or a goofy face made at us that no one else sees, and knowing you are one hundred percent focuses on us in that moment. We love what one woman calls “The Hallmark Effect”, those subtle things like bringing us a cup of coffee, leaving us little Love Notes, a phone call in the middle of the day just to say I love you, or reaching out while standing in line and kissing our hand.

We want someone who genuinely enjoys being around us. We want someone who is content to hold our hand, touch our feet together under the covers, or hear us tell the same story for the tenth time without complaint. Show us that we are interesting and worthwhile, and, most of all, that we are valued. Some of the women were sweet on what was dubbed, “Man Chest Puffery”. They liked when their man got protective even when they didn’t need him to be.

Bottom line, romance shouldn’t be hard or a pain in the ass. It’s nothing to be afraid of and it shouldn’t break the bank. It doesn’t require a suit and tie, a rose petal strewn walkway or bed, or shiny bobbles and rich gooey chocolates. It’s about giving; giving of yourself, your real self not the one stuffed into an uncomfortable suite and tie, and your full attention to us in that moment. It’s a random act of selfless love with no reward expected.

The secret is out, gentlemen. Most of us ladies truly would be very, very happy to order that pizza, better yet, let’s make that pizza together while wearing comfortable clothes in our sock feet. Put a swipe of tomato sauce on our nose and kiss it off. Make us laugh. Grab that bottle of beer and start up the Netflix.


One Week Away!

There’s no mistake about it, someone murdered the village funeral director. One person even steps forward to take the blame, but what was done to the body would be impossible for them to have done unless they had help. Soon others become suspect as the true nature of the victim steps out of the darkness to reveal a not-so-amiable member of the small town in Upstate New York. But whose hatred ran so deep as to bludgeon the man and stuff him into a coffin to die?

Was it his son who wants nothing more than to bring the family business out of the 19th century? Was it his wife or maybe the owner of the funeral home across town who is struggling to make ends meet? Or was it the deed of a malevolent shadow figure seen lurking outside the funeral home the morning Dan’s body was found? Lies, confessions, and long-held secrets mix with the fine art of witchcraft, as the local police and a nearby coven of witches both struggle to bring a killer to justice. But how do you capture a murderer who seems to be made of shadows that fades into obscurity every time the light of truth draws near?

A drawing for a free copy of “That’s What Shadows Are Made Of” happens one week from today! There’s still time to enter for a chance to win ONE OF THREE copies that I will sign and ship to you FREE! Just provide your real name, an active email account, and then verify that account when you receive the verification notice and you’re good to go!


Movie Review – The Hateful Eight

The Hateful Eight (2016) directed by Quentin Tarintino . Rated R.

Shortly after the end of the U.S Civil War two bounty hunters, Major Marquis Warren (Samuel L. Jackson) and John Ruth (Kurt Russell) chance to meet along an isolated and snow-covered stage coach line on their way to Red Rock, Wyoming to turn in their bounties. Warren’s are dead. Ruth likes to take his alive. They pick up a third person who claims to be the newly appointed sheriff of Red Rock, Chris Mannix (Walton Coggins), though there is reason to doubt this man is telling the truth.

As a blizzard quickly approaches, the three men, their driver O.B. Jackson (James Parks) and Ruth’s captive, Daisy Domergue (Jennifer Jason Leigh) find refuge at Minnie’s Haberdashery, a stagecoach lodge. Inside, three others; Oswaldo Mobray, Joe Gage, and General Sanford “Sandy” Smithers have also found respite from the storm. However, the owners of the haberdashery, Minnie and her husband Sweet Dave, are nowhere to be seen and they’ve left a Mexican man, who goes by the name of Bob, in charge until they return from visiting Minnie’s mother.

The close quarters and hot tempers of those who fought on opposing sides during the War soon starts to wedge itself between parties along with things not quite seeming to fit into place when it comes to the whereabouts of Minnie and Dave and quickly escalates into an every man (and woman) for himself situation.

When I realized this film clocks in at 167 minutes long, I was a bit wary, but those minutes flew by. The slow, but not lethargic, build-up of the tensions between the characters was not in the least bit cumbersome. It gave one time to consider all that was going on, take it all in, remember what was said by whom and you’re going to need that if you have any hopes of figuring out what’s what and who’s who in this semi-murder mystery Western.

There are plenty of backstories and alibis to consider and plenty of gun shooting, blood squirting, brain matter spraying, and yes, in all that some great one-liners and humor, to keep a person amused for the duration. We walked away feeling quite satisfied in what we’d just seen and heard. The language was authentic without being overly profane. I really have no use for the F-bomb being dropped by every character in every other sentence and Tarintino kept that all down to a very reasonable and believable level even amongst a group of eight people who clearly hate each other.

I’d give it 5 stars except I think Tarintino could have cut back slightly on some of the scene lengths without undermining anything in the plot depth or action scenes.

4 out of 5 stars.

Theatre of the Mind

Just Plain Random Weirdness / Reading

Remember when the radio was actually a source of genuine entertainment instead of something we just turned on for background noise; occasionally singing along while driving, doing housework, or puttering around in the garage? No? Maybe you’re too young, but back when I was a kid, and even more so in the days of my parents, radio was king. The air was full of radio waves that made us laugh along with Amos & Andy or Benny Goodman; or thrilled us with dramas like Charlie Chan or The Avenger. The air waves mystified, thrilled, and chilled us with such programs as Cloak & Dagger, Ellery Queen, and Radio Mystery Theatre. Cowboys like Hopalong Cassidy and The Lone Ranger carried young boys and girls off into the Wild West while Buck Rogers sent them into the future.


If you have never listened to radio theatre, you are really missing out. There’s a reason it’s called the Theatre of the Mind. Like reading, radio theatre requires you to use your imagination. Two people sitting side by side listening to the same program are going to experience the story differently and that’s part of the fun. You’re going to see the characters in your own way, the setting will be slightly different to your mind’s eye than your listening partner’s, and you may even interpret the story at a different angle. Personal experiences will color everyone’s interpretation differently. This, I think, is why very often you hear people saying that the book was so much better than the movie. When reading, you let your mind wander and create, just like with radio and few things, imho, can beat that.

Radio theatre, also known as audio dramas or radio dramas, began in the 1920s and became wildly popular into the 1950s. In 1922 The WGY Players out of Schenectady, NY introduced a method of radio theatre that would forever change the art of the craft. They began using music, sound effects, and a regular troupe of actors instead of just simply reading the listeners a story. Other stations quickly caught wind of this and followed suit. This expanded beyond the normal practice of putting on existing well-known plays to employing full-time writers to create original story lines. One of the best known radio programs, broadcast in 1938 by The Mercury Theatre on the Air, was an interpretation of an H.G. Wells classic, War of The Worlds. It’s still wildly popular nearly 80 years later.

Unfortunately, just like “video killed the radio star”, television killed off many radio stars and programs in the early 1960s. Despite that, some programs still remained and new ones were born. The creator of The Twilight Zone, Rod Serling, created a radio program called Zero Hour for the Mutual Broadcasting System, National Public Radio aired Earplay, and Himan Brown brought us CBS Radio Mystery Theatre and General Mills Radio Adventure Theatre.

Though it has suffered a huge decline since its hay days in the 1920s-1950s, new radio theatre continues to be made. Doctor Who, Dad’s Army, and The Tomorrow People have all been revived into radio programs. In the early 2000’s new episodes of The Twilight Zone aired with moderate success. Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere was released in 2013 by BBC Radio 4 and featured a cast of well-known film and television actors.

Today, we have Podcasting whose programs are often serialized stories or discussions employing the use of music, sound effects, and a set cast of actors and/or hosts. The big advantage to Podcasts is that you can listen and download what you want to hear any time that’s convenient for you without missing anything. You don’t have to be sitting next to the radio at all! You can listen directly using any device that can store and play audio files. I will confess, I have nearly zero experience and know very little about Podcasting. I’m kind of old fashioned that way.


But on the bright side, I’m not so old and set in my ways that I don’t know how to manipulate my way around the Internet where I’ve found a plethora of sites offering me the old time radio programs my parents and I grew up listening to. For the past year I’ve been working my way through CBS Radio Mystery Theater which was a huge favorite during my early double-digit years. I’ve only gotten as far as 1975 so far. I’m thinking I’ll move on to Ellery Queen or The Whistler next. In either case, I don’t think I’ll suffer with a lack of things to listen to thanks to the amazing powers of the internet and the foresight people took to preserve these entertainment masterpieces.

So, pull up an easy chair, put on the headphones, check out the aforementioned links as well as those below, and take a trip into your personal Theatre of the Mind.

Radio Lovers

Old Time Radio Downloads


Embracing Your Inner Weirdo!

Adventures / Just Plain Random Weirdness / Writer's Life

If I’ve heard it once, I’ve heard it a million times, “You’re weird.” Some meant it as a compliment. Others were trying to insult me. In either case I would always reply with “Thank you!” It made the complimenting ones laugh and it confused the bullies, especially when I’d smile and be all sickly sweet about it. “Wow, thank you! What a wonderful thing to say!” and just walk away grinning.

I’ve always been proud of my weirdness, my uniqueness, my one-of-a-kind self; which in a way really surprises me because I also consider myself a shy, insecure introvert, too. A lot of it depends on my surroundings and who I’m with. Alone in a strange place where I don’t know anyway, it’s almost guaranteed I will not speak to a single soul unless they speak to me first. I’m pretty clueless when it comes to the opening lines of conversation. Idle chit-chat is not my friend.

Many years ago I used to go a drum circle event every few months. I went alone and for the first year I barely spoke. One day, while a group of us were working together to do some spring cleaning on the land we met on, I volunteered to be part of the Tent Sewing Circle. The group had acquired a large tent that was in desperate need of some TLC. About a dozen of us sat down with heavy duty needles and twine-like thread. Some sat in lawn chairs. Some sat on the floor. And we sewed. They talked. They laughed. They chit-chatted like the long, old friends they were. I listened. Hours passed … and then the madness set in. My sarcastic, quick-witted, smart-ass brain took control. Once it got going, it was impossible to shut it up again until it was good and ready.

We broke for lunch at around 2:00 and while was moved along, more or less single file along the woodland trail that would lead us to the food, one of the other Tent Circle members drew up a bit closer and said, “I’ve seen you here for almost a year and I think that’s the first time I’ve ever heard you talk.” I offered up my nervous, shy laugh and shrugged. We ended up talking and hanging out a lot the rest of the day.

And that’s when he started to find out how weird I really was … am. Whatever. At one point over the many years of friendship that followed, I’m sure I started to recite the Wizard of Oz by heart, including the songs, to him at least three times because that’s how I roll. My music collection is equally as obscure. The first two record albums I owned back in the 1970s were John Denver and KISS Destroyer. Then there’s the harpsichord music, movie soundtracks (including but not limited to, Jesus Christ Superstar, Star Wars & The Pirates of Penzance), Black Sabbath, The Monkees, and maybe a touch of disco – but let’s not go there today.

There was also the hippy phase, the punk phase, the witch phase, and the vampire phase. How many ‘normal’ people don their vampire fans in July and wear them to the grocery store of all places just to see who notices and what sort of looks they can get?

Not all weird people are quiet, shy, introverts such as myself. (That vampire thing is about as outlandish I get in public. No, really. It is … was … erm.) ANYWAY …There are a lot of pretty famous weirdos out there. Gonzo, from The Muppets, for example. And get this, according for FORBES, weird is not just a wonderful condition, but it’s also profitable and it’s something we all need to cultivate. They even prove it with nifty charts and graphs!

But, weird isn’t just for the rich and famous! In fact, as James Victore points out very accurately over at 99U, “Owning up to your weirdness isn’t about making it big and deciding who will play you in your life story. It’s about the courage to be who you were born to be. You don’t quit the band or stop writing poetry just because you have kids. Your weirdness is the source of your character and creative powers. Weird is who we are, the best parts, not perfect, not trying—just yourself.” That’s it, just BE YOURSELF!

If all that’s not enough for you to believe that weird is the way to be, check out these motivational quotes put out there by Aletheia Luna over at Loner Wolf.

Let your weird flag high, my friends! Weird, after all, is just another word for AWESOME!!

The Attractiveness of the Well-Read Man


There are a lot of lists out there suggesting what books a Well-Read Man should read. I didn’t agree with any of them. Mind, they are good books, fine books, classics even, but in many ways, limiting. Even when that list included 100 books, how could that possibly cover the entire gamut of what’s out there to read? I’d like for my man to enjoy reading the same things I do, but that hasn’t happened entirely. My man is into science fiction, David Weber to be more specific. I lean in the direction of Stephen King. I dare say neither of us has read even half of the books on those Must Read lists, and yet I consider us both well-read individuals.

But being well-read isn’t entirely based on the books a person has read. When I think of a well-read man I think more along the lines of his life experiences; his willingness to explore and try new things. The well-read man of my dreams can be found learning about HTML, CSS, and Javascript or driving the back roads with his camera looking for the perfect old barn to photograph and when we get home, he fires up the computer and plays Fallout for a couple hours or plops down in front of the television to watch some college football. He’s a man who wants to learn new things. He has a sense of adventure and wants to share those adventures and explorations with me. The sharing part is vital. I find that very attractive. Well-read, for me, is synonymous with well-rounded; complex, deep, and multi-dimensional. I consider my father a well-read man though he freely admits he’s probably not read more than a dozen novels in his entire life. He’s a newspaper and magazine type guy.

Variety, as they say, is the spice of life. Let my well-read man have a variety of interests. Let him read all the science fiction he can find, but let him also be willing to pick up a murder-mystery or a romance or a western and enjoy it just as much, too, or at least try to. My well-read man can wear jeans and a t-shirt, smell of motorcycle grease, and guzzle down a six pack one day and the next he’s just as attractive and comfortable donning a suit and tie, combing some Bay Rum oil through his beard, and taking us out to a romantic dinner.

Being well-read, like being well-educated, isn’t all about the books we’ve studied and enjoyed. I’ve worked a good many years with some highly educated people. They know their field of study inside and out. They’ve worked hard to get where they are in life and I’m not putting them or that hard work down, but all that book learning doesn’t always make them attractive to be around. All too many times what they’ve gained in education, they’ve lost in common sense, and a person without common sense is not at all attractive in my book.

As an author and an avid reader, I value the written word. Reading increases your vocabulary, improves your spelling, ignites the imagination, improves your memory, and allows one to explore the worlds we may not be able to visit in person.

Reading, like everything, is subjective and highly personal. A fussy eater limits themselves to a very narrow pallet of flavors. An artist who paints only in black and white, narrows their creative powers. A person who listens to only one type of music denies themselves a world of new sounds and rhythms. Locking yourself into a room with only one window that permits a singular view day in and day out, narrows what you know of everything beyond that window. Though we all have our preferred genre when it comes to books, mixing that up is just as important as trying new foods, listening to new music, or walking out that door to explore a brave new world beyond the mailbox.

This attractiveness isn’t limited to just men. Being well-read applies to all of us. Does a man want a partner who is only interested in one thing? Maybe some do. If all he wants is for you to be a good cook, keep a clean house, and be great in the sack, is that the type of guy you want to be around? To each their own, I suppose. That’s not what I’m into. I want a partner and friends I can discuss a myriad of topics with. That reminds me of an old boyfriend I had back in my early 20s. He was really good looking and he could tell you just about anything you ever wanted to know about the local fish population or the trees that grew in our area. And that’s where it ended. Yep, fish and trees. Not that I have anything against fish and trees, mind you, but I need more, want more, deserve more. The relationship lasted about six months.

I expect more from my partner and I want to be more for them as well as for myself. I don’t want to ‘complete’ anyone. No person, relationship, or religion should complete you. They can enhance what is already there, but the completion of the self comes from within, not from anything beyond that. Nor do I want to feel complete only because I am with someone. Come to me whole. Come to me well-read, well-rounded, and multifaceted. For me, that is where the attractiveness of a well-read man lies… that and he really must be a lover of books and reading.

Book Giveaway Contest!

Enter for a chance to win one of three autographed copies of That’s What Shadows Are Made Of by visiting, selecting the CONTEST button, and providing entry information! That’s it! Contest runs Jan. 1-31, 2016. Winner will be determined by random drawing! Don’t delay, enter today! Good luck!

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Catching Up With The King

Horror / Reading

One of the greatest requirements of being a writer is also to be a reader. I’ve always been a huge reader. My earliest hard-core reading memories involved Nancy Drew Mysteries. I was ravenous for books by Shirley Jackson, Richard Matheson, Edgar Allen Poe, Bram Stoker, Anne Rice, Wilkie Collins, Dickens, Peter Straub, Ellery Queen, Ray Bradbury, and then there was the King; The King of Horror, Stephen King.

In middle and high school I devoured one Stephen King book after another. Every year for Christmas or my birthday I’d be gifted the latest King novel. My god, how that man took me away into his worlds of bizarre and divine darkness. Very few understood my passion for King. “Don’t those things give you nightmares?” was a common opening line when someone found me curled up somewhere with my nose buried in the likes of “Pet Semetery” or “The Stand”. Never, ever, did reading King give me nightmares. His words were fuel to my writer’s soul. I wanted to be the next Stephen King. Hell, if I could write even half as good as him, I’d be one happy camper.

Then something odd happened. Once I was out of high school and trying to make my way in the world, I read less and less, King included. Maybe it was because I was now a working stiff. Maybe I was too busy being a wife and mother. Dr. Seuss and Winnie The Pooh took over and before I knew it a good twenty years had passed. The new and wonderful worlds of Stephen King became lost to me. Where had I left off?

Late in 2013 and into 2015 I started to play catch-up with King. I met Gerald and witnessed his horrific game. “Delores Claiborne” stepped in to say hello. I entered “Black House” and learned “Lisey’s Story”.

Reading became a passion again. I needed to read as much as I had always needed to write. Every book, King or not, became inspiration. Between bouts of visiting the King-dom there was Tanith Lee, Hunter Shea, and Scott Westerfeld to fill the gaps, but King was always the goal.

In August 2015 I started King’s Dark Tower Series. I remember knowing when the first book came out back in the 1970s. I’m not sure why I never picked a single one of them up! Now, I’ve worked my way through the first four books of the seven part series, having only just started the 5th last week, “Wolves of the Calla” and even picked up a copy of “The Wind Through The Keyhole” yesterday. It seems to be some sort of side book to the original seven books. It’s a good start, I’ll grant you, but even with having read four Dark Towers and “The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon” in 2015 alone, I’m still not even half way through King’s bibliography that I lost in the world of my own life.

Time to read, time to write, time to live my everyday life; Time to raise my children and enjoy the company of friends, time to be with family as often as I can.

I may never catch up with the King. It’s taken me fifty years to get as far as I have. I doubt I have another fifty in me to complete the task, but I’m going to try my damnedest.