Extinction stinks

My bookclub is reading THE SIXTH EXTINCTION- An Unnatural History by Elizabeth Kolbert. I just picked up the audio book and as I was listening today I realized how little I know about the natural world around me. I had no idea the world’s frogs–maybe even the frogs in the creek behind my house–have been wiped out by a fungus. I vaguely recall some talk a few years ago about “Save the Frogs.”

Apparently, I’m not the only one with a short attention span because when I Googled “Why are the frogs dying?” I could only find news reports from 2012. So, I added “2015″ to my search. I got this: England’s frogs are going belly up at an alarming rate. Read it and weep: British Frogs. As a cause, I’ll admit, frogs aren’t glamorous. They’re small and shy, and, apparently, not newsworthy.

Although there’s a good chance, according to the author, that the source of the fungus that’s killing frog populations globally was spread thanks to humans, at least, this time we’re not going out of our way to kill every last frog as we did with the Great Auks.

What’s an Auk, you say? Oh, wait, that was me. It’s possible I’ve heard the name, but no image came to mind. Certainly not this image.

250px-Great_Auk_(Pinguinis_impennis)_specimen,_Kelvingrove,_Glasgow_-_geograph.org.uk_-_1108249According to Wikipedia, “The great auk (Pinguinus impennis) was a flightless bird of the alcid family that became extinct in the mid-19th century.” It was called a penguin, even though it’s not one. Go figure. But like the penguin, it was clumsy on land but graceful, fast and lethal to its prey in the water. Auks mated for life. A mated pair produced one egg and cared for it until the little auk hatched, then they raised it together.

No one knows how many of these birds existed, but if you listen to the Sixth Extinction you will visualize an island in the north Atlantic PACKED with tens of thousands, if not more. And what happened to these birds is a horror on par with how hunters slaughtered the buffalo, if not worse. These flightless birds were hunted for their meat, their oil, and their feathers. When it became apparent that the species was on the brink of extinction, laws were passed to protect them. Ironically, this made the remaining birds more collectable to the rich freaks who apparently needed one of everything–especially the last one. “A record of a bird in 1852 is considered by some to be the last sighting of the species.”

To make a long and very depressing story short, the author contends that we are on the brink of another extinction–our own. Many scientists agree, many others believe it’s not too late to save ourselves.

I attended a lecture a few weeks ago on this topic. The speaker, Dr. Anthony D. Barnosky, a professor at Berkeley, spoke succinctly and movingly about the signs pointing to our screwing ourselves out of a planet. He has a book out, too, if you’re interested: Dodging Extinction: Power, Food, Money, and the Future of Life on Earth.

The best part of Dr. Barnosky’s talk for me was his belief that we can turn this around–if we start right now. Here’s how:

Save the planet

Who’s with me?

Deb

Here’s a link to the book: THE SIXTH EXTINCTION.

 

Addiction: The Good Kind

I’m not ashamed to admit that I’m an addict. I love every one of my addictions, and am eager to share them with you. In no particular order, here they are:

1. Writing

writing2

If I don’t write something every day, I feel… odd. I enjoy writing. Focusing on writing anchors me. Steadies me. Makes me sing inside. Even when the writing is going badly. Well, that isn’t quite true. When I get stuck and can’t write another word until I get unstuck, I angst for hours, sometimes days, hashing over what to do to fix whatever the problem may be.

During this time, don’t expect me to be in a good mood. Trick I have learned over the years to get unstuck: jot down ideas, no matter how ridiculous they seem, get away from the work by doing something totally unrelated,  phone a close writing friend for input. From experience, I have learned that the solution will always come… in its own time.

2. Reading

books 1 blooksbookshelf

Three of the six bookshelves in my home.  The top two are in my office, and include my own books, some of my keeper books (books I reread occasionally and can’t part with) and reference books. The bottom photo is in the family room.

My husband is an avid reader, too, and we have three more bookshelves and a window ledge or two filled with books. Don’t even ask about the books on my e-reader…

3. Coffee

steamcoffee

As a naturally caffeinated woman :), I don’t NEED coffee, but I like everything about this drink, from the smell, to the ritual of grinding and brewing, to the taste. I also love treating myself at Starbucks, which I do once or twice a week.

4. Exercise

3ts

These are three of my newest exercise T-shirts. Exercise keeps me in shape and makes me feel terrific, and I work out six mornings a week. As you may know from my post last week, I also try to squeeze in a midday walk whenever possible.

Some of my most creative thoughts occur when I’m moving. Don’t ask me why, but I suspect all that physical activity occupies my brain, which allows my subconscious mind to jump to the forefront with really cool ideas.

5. Chocolate

dark chocolate

I can’t do without chocolate. I try to keep it to a minimum, with a square after dinner. But sometimes (who am I kidding: a LOT of the time), one little square is not enough. I like all kinds of chocolate – dark, milk, with or without nuts, with or without fruit, with or without coconut…

I especially enjoy baked goods of all kinds, hot fudge sauce, chocolate malts, candy… Really, all things chocolate.

So there you have it, my top 5 addictions. I’m sure there are more, but I’ve taken enough of your time.

What are your good addictions?  I would love to know, and I’m guessing others would, too!

Until next time,
Ann
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The Debut of a Badge (Tara Taylor Quinn)

RITA-Nominee-Badge-504-x-504-AdMy publisher is good to me. In addition to the Godiva chocolates they sent in congratulations for the RITA final, they also sent this.  I love it, of course!

Once A Family is the second book in the Where Secrets Are Safe series.  It’s my fifth RITA nomination.  Still, I cried when I got the call.  Because this series is deeply personal to me.  The final validates my hope that I am doing the series justice.

If you haven’t read this book, you can get it for only $3.99 by clicking on the badge above.  It’s the story of a fifteen year old girl who shows up at The Lemonade Stand, a unique women’s shelter off the coast of California.  She claims that her older brother, the guardian who raised her, is abusive and she is seeking shelter.  The hero is her older brother.  The heroine is the lawyer who is representing the girl.  I tend to write myself into impossible situations.

I once wrote a book, Sara’s Son, where the heroine had been raped at a party and the hero was one of the rapists.  I have no clue what I thought I could do with that one.  Or how it could possibly be a story worthy of reading.  But the story was there.  The people had appeared.  So I sat down.  I trusted that for whatever reason, it was meant to be.  Maybe not to be published, or globally read, but for some other reason unbeknownst to me.  I let them tell me their story.  It sold.  Globally.

Once A Family is finding similar success.  And I realize, even here, in my writing, I’m not in control.  They just let me feel like I am so I keep coming back.

Book Fair – Carolyn

Six months ago Pat Potter and I spent a long,  boring day participating in the local library’s book fair. Few people there, fewer sales. So when they asked our Malice in Memphis authors to come to this Saturday’s book fair to showcase our Malice Anthology, Blues City Murder, sign and sell copies, and do another workshop, I went, but reluctantly.

What a change! Whatever mistakes they made at the last book fair they corrected and then some. This was a day-long party. Seven of the eleven Malice authors with stories in the anthology came to man our booth. More than forty other tables were manned by authors selling their books as well. Didn’t matter that many of the books were self-published self-help books or inspirational essays, with only a smattering of fiction writers like us. Everyone had a blast. The library’s new organizer did what we southerners call ‘putting the big pot in the little one.’ That means going all out.

Jazz and blues and blue grass combos took turns playing in the foyer. What looked like every food truck in Memphis sold food and drink in the parking lot. A group that has written about the Cherokee nation before the Trail of Tears brought crafts including hand-made powder horns and beadwork. Everyone had promotional material and was delighted to talk, as writers almost always are, and to answer everyone’s questions. I am a high-functioning introvert, but I love talking to strangers. Everybody has a story to tell.

There were lots of children running around toting stacks of books. Hooray. There may be hope for the next generation’s literacy after all.

My Malice buddy Phyllis, who has written 50 mystery dinner theater plays, and I did a seminar on how the Malice anthology came to be that ended up in a free-for-all question and answer session. Several people told us afterward that they thoroughly enjoyed themselves and us. We certainly enjoyed doing it.

And we sold books. Boy, did we ever. Getting all of us to autograph copies is kind of like herding cats, but we managed. I think everyone at our little seminar bought at least one copy. One lady from England bought six for Christmas presents.

There was a good deal of discussion about the future of publishing—paper vs. ebooks. I have come to the conclusion that the paper publishers are a lot like the medieval monks who hand-wrote and hand-illustrated books. When they saw their first copy of a Gutenberg bible, I can just hear the abbot in charge of reproducing The Book of Kells saying to his clerks, “Gentlemen, I think we have a problem.”

Or, more recently, silent movie executives when they first saw The Jazz Singer. Who knows how it will shake out? I do know that I can now read mysteries on line that have not been in print since the 1920s. At the moment I’m reading a series of novellas by a woman who wrote about a detective in the Australian bush in 1880. Wow. And they’re good.

I’ve already agreed to do another seminar for the next book fair. Hey, it’s fun.

 

More Books Released as E-Books (Pat)

A third group of backlist will be available at Amazon and other on-line stores on the 21st of April.  This group includes most of my romantic suspense novels.

All of them had their genesis in headlines.    All were published  by Berkley in paperback and also in hardback through Doubleday Book Club   One of the actual events that spurred “Tempted By the Devil” was a triple murder of police officers outside Atlanta, Georgia, a murder that I covered as a reporter for The Atlanta Journal.  It is a book special to me since my heroine lives in my actual apartment then and is recuperating from an auto accident as I had been at the time.

I also loved writing it because it explored a subject dear to me: a reporter’s responsiblity to an informant when what she knows could solve a murder case.   My hero is an FBI agent who fervently believe that justice is more important.

Another book evolves around the descendents of  three World War II generals  when new evidence is discovered that one or more of the three were guilty  of looting art stolen by the Nazis.    Their four descendents all have different reasons to wanting to discover — or cover-up –what really happened.

Still another is taken from a  news story about the accidental switch of babies at a hospital.   It went undiscovered untill the girls were in their twenties.    In my version, it was discovered because the mother of one needed a kidney transplant and the daughter wanted to provide one.   When she discovered she was not the biological child, she went hunting for the blood daughter in hopes of persuading her to donate a kidney.

Take a look.   They are up on Amazon now and will be available Tuesday.    .

 

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I’ll take fiction, thank you.

I once had a T-shirt that read: “WARNING: Anything you say or do may appear in my next novel.”

People invariably smiled and/or snickered. They probably thought I was kidding.

They were wrong.

Yesterday, I got up early to drive 1:45 min to my brother and sister-in-law’s house in Tracy, California, to join them for the second leg of a trip to the Bay Area (1:40 w/o traffic) to visit my eldest brother who is in a nursing home/rehab center, recovering from surgery that amputated the better part of his left foot. This is his second amputation in two years. The first resulted in him losing part of his right leg (at the shin).

visiting Bob

Shirley, Bob, Deb and Don

Anyone who has read MONTANA COWGIRL (was COWGIRL COME HOME) has met my heroine’s father, OC Jenkins, a larger-than-life Montana mountain man who is also a recent amputee. Gee, I wonder where that idea came from, right?

Like my brother Bob, OC always did things HIS way. This stubborn streak served both men well in their business lives but proved a huge hurdle later in life when germs warred with orneriness..and the germs won. (Neither is a diabetic, in case you were wondering.)

My brother’s successes in life are many times more impressive than my character’s. Bob worked in the nascent micro-circuit industry in the late 1950s through the early 1970s. His company, Microma, produced the first commercially successful digital watch. He sold his company to Intel in 1972 and retired at the ripe old age of 37 to become–in his tongue-in-cheek words–a gentleman farmer on his thousand-acre ranch in the Central Valley. Cattle got switched out to pistachios pretty quickly–a smart and lucrative decision.

Bob will turn 80 next month. Fingers crossed.

The beauty of fiction is an author gets to decide the ending to any characters’ life. In my spin-off novella, HER FOREVER GIFT, OC comes to see what his self-destructive ways have done to his family and he is determined to get well and not waste his remaining years. Go, OC.

I wish I could say the same for my brother, but real life is…well, real. And no matter how badly you can want the best for your loved ones, your contribution to their success is limited.

“There are few things in life harder

I’m home again, and diving into the second draft of my new book…joyfully. I’m glad to be back in a place where I have some small amount of control over the people I love. ;-) I don’t know yet what part of yesterday’s adventure will show up in my next stories, but I promise it will. Maybe something that involves a stranger with a ukulele appearing to serenade us with “Tiptoe Through the Tulips.” Yeah. It happened.

Wishing you all a lovely–healthful–weekend!

Deb

PS: The drive home took TWICE as long because of the traffic. I could never make that up.

My Latest Obsession…

I’ve always considered myself something of a fitness buff, exercising almost every morning at my favorite gym, and occasionally walking around the neighborhood. But lately, those occasional walks have daily musts. Now that the weather is mild and nice, that’s great, but even when it rains, I walk. Around the house. Back and forth, up and down the stairs, and around the house some more. After a big meal, walking makes me feel better.

Now I’m searching for just the right arm band to slip my phone into while I’m walking or at the gym. And all because of an app that came installed on my iPhone 6. It’s called, Health, and it looks like this:

health app

The Health app is similar to the Fitbit, except on the phone instead of a wrist band. I’ve never been interested in the fitbit. Because, heck, I work out six days a week. What do I care about getting in my 10,000 steps every day?

However, with the Health app it quickly became apparent that I do care about those steps. I don’t need 10,000 of them, but I do try to take 5,000-7,000. But carrying my phone with me when I walk–I usually stick it in the back pocket of my jeans–is annoying. I don’t take it to the gym at all. That’s where the arm band will come in handy.

I have to admit, since I increased my steps, I feel amazingly good, even better than I usually do. And I get in some good thinking about whatever story I happen to be working on.

So no matter the weather, I’m going to stick with this extra walking business. While I do, I’ll be counting my steps along the way.

Do you have a fitbit or a health app on your phone?

Until next time and walkingly yours,
Ann
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Visit Vegas for $1.99 (Tara Taylor Quinn)

StreetSmartFor a very limited time Harlequin and Amazon have teamed up to offer a classic ttq novel at a steal!!  Just $1.99 for the eBook version of one of my most successful suspense novels.  Just click on the cover to purchase and begin reading in minutes.

I love all of my books – just like parents love all of their kids.  This is one of those kids who might not be the prettiest, who might be overlooked due to a visual, surface blemish, but who is filled with such goodness, she succeeds anyway.  In case you can’t tell, I’m not overly fond of the cover.  I don’t think it did the book justice.

But the story I remember in detail.  After seventy plus books, some of the names and faces start to fade a little.  But not this one.  I remember my heroine searching for her runaway sister.  I remember standing on a Vegas street corner with her, fearing that the teenager would be one of the prostitutes hanging around.

I remember, in detail, the room where her sister was sleeping.  And how afraid and alone and trapped she felt.  She was in trouble.  In deep.  And couldn’t see any way out.

I invite you to join me here.  At $1.99 it’s the least expensive trip you’ll ever be offered to visit Las Vegas!  And, I hope, one of the most enjoyable.

 

Bookless in Hawaii!  (Suzanne Forster)

I feel so naked.  I’m going on vacation without any books to read!  Oh, the angst.  Seriously, I do feel what would probably qualify as low-grade anxiety when I don’t have a book or two waiting to be read.  It’s been busy lately and I haven’t had any spare reading time, much less time to shop for books.  But now I have nothing but spare time ahead of me, practically a whole week of it—and not a book around to tuck in my travel bag.

Reading is how I relax, how I explore other worlds, lose myself in someone else’s story—and eventually come to realize the ways in which it might also be my story—or the story of someone I love.  Reading is how I get in touch with my emotions, how I gain insight into people and relationships—and but mostly it’s how I never stop discovering how similar we all are, no matter how different our situations.

In one way or another, most fiction grapples with life’s great mysteries, which often turn out to be fairly basic and universally experienced, once we get past the layers of fear and denial.  Ah, life and the people who live it, often with surprising courage.  What better material?  But sometimes, when I’m tired, I just read to be transported.  That’s sounds about right for this vacation.

Obviously, I’m going to be haunting the bookshelves in the airport—and I’ll probably grab whatever jumps off the shelf at me, which could be dangerous.  Wish me luck.  Or better yet, how about some reading suggestions?  And please, my fellow Broads, don’t hesitate to recommend your own books.  I’d love to know what you have on the shelves, waiting to be devoured.

Thanks!
Suzanne

Oh, Frabjous Day ! Carolyn

In West Tennessee even in springtime there are few perfect days. Yesterday was one of them. It coincided with the Nashoba Carriage Driving Association’s annual pleasure drive at Saulsbury, Tennessee. O frabjous day, calloo, callay, to quote the Jabberwock.

One of our members, a remarkable and lovely lady of eighty-nine, offers her family’s big preserve and its dog trot cabin (built with hand-hewed logs that bear the kerf marks of the axes) to the association for an annual pleasure carriage drive followed by a picnic. She drives with a companion these days, but only because her eyes aren’t good. Her driving skills (and her riding skills, for she still rides) remain formidable. I think her Morgan mare has figured out that when she is about to be steered into a tree, she should correct herself.

Last year one of my driving friends offered me the left hand seat in his marathon cart pulled by his two Friesians—big black horses with feathers on their feet and wonderful dispositions. This year, he asked me again. I was thrilled, especially since last year’s drive turned hair-raising when we wound up having to drive down a chasm and up the other side. Bob is a superb reinsman and the horses behaved perfectly. I still covered my eyes and whimpered.

Not this year. We had as passengers half a dozen tweener girls who rode on the back seats of the marathon cart. They were excited, we were excited, and the horses were thrilled to get to trot and occasionally canter through the fields and woods. We were second in line after our hostess because our Friesians were larger than the teams of Halflingers and Welsh ponies that followed. I must admit that Bob tended to hold back a bit so we could put on a turn of speed to catch up. The horses were really gung ho without once being fractious.

The wild dogwood was at the height of its bloom. The trees were at that stage where they are green from a distance, but still a bit stalky from close up. The temperature was a perfect seventy, the sky a cloudless azure. Considering the maneuvering we had to do up and down hills, between trees, and around tight curves, we were blessed that there was absolutely no mud.

The pastures made a liar out of Kermit the Frog. It seemed very easy being green, a perfect length of new emerald grass that looked as though it had been cut with a golf course mower.

We drove until the horses were tired, then scrubbed them off, fed them treats, settled them down with hay and oats, and had our picnic on the front porch and in the yard of the dog trot house. The kids–and there were many–fished in the little pond while we drank lemonade and iced tea and ate tons of fried chicken and fixin’s and talked to people we hadn’t seen since late winter. Some people came from as far away as Pulaski, Tennessee, to watch the action, though not to drive.

For those of you who do not know what a dog trot house is: The cabin is built with one large room on either side of an open corridor that runs from the front porch to the back—so that dogs can trot through at will.

I have learned to cherish days like this and add them to my life list of perfect things. I am so grateful to Bob for asking me to the prom again this year. Maybe since I never screamed hysterically even once, he might ask me back next year. Keep your fingers crossed.