Saturday, May 31, 2014

What's it like to live with you?

Un-journal Prompt 3

Describe what you think it is like to live with you

What is it like to live with me? Probably horrible. Why? Let me list the reasons:

I’m more than a tad obsessive-compulsive (OCD), a borderline hoarder, a lousy housekeeper, a handbag/totebag-a-holic and way too set in my ways.

I have, as my mother says, “too many hobbies” – a statement I disagree with, by the way. I’m just interested in life! – which translates into a lot of stuff that supports each of the interest areas.

I’m a wild sleeper, always have been, so only a king-size bed is big enough.

I don’t like curtains, blinds or shades on the windows on the back of the house. I like the sun to shine in, including in the bedroom, and I love seeing the egrets fly in. (My property backs a wetlands so there’s nothing out there but water, birds and nature.)

I hate to wash dishes and clothes, and put off both tasks until there is absolutely nothing left clean to eat on or to wear.

Friday, May 30, 2014

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Maya Angelou Tribute

My first encounter with phenomenal woman Sister Maya Angelou was in her books. Later, I met her as a freshman in college. She was a frequent speaker on campus, and I was blessed to have heard her speak and teach on many occasions through the years.

'Still I Rise' is my all-time favorite poem of hers, followed by 'Phenomenal Woman.'
Today, I remember her life and legacy, a lasting gift to writers, poets and creative souls.

R.I.P. Dr. Maya Angelou.

What's your favorite book?

Un-journal Prompt 2

Favorite book

Short answer: There are way too many to name in choosing a single favorite book. Besides, I have favorites in various genres and themes.

Longer answer: How about if I tell you about a favorite series by a favorite author. The series and author I’ve selected to rhapsodize about is Robert B. Parker. In hindsight, I really should have selected another favorite author, one a little less prolific. There’s so much out there by and about Dr. Parker that this could very well turn into a dissertation. However, it’s Parker I chose because it’s Spenser I love!

Spenser, a Boston private investigator, has been the PI in more than 30 novels written by Parker who died in January 2010. It’s no exaggeration that Parker has been called the dean of American crime fiction. He won tons of awards; and more than 50 books, graduate theses, and scholarly papers have been written about Parker and his work. His widow Joan contracted with mystery writer Ace Atkins to continue the Spenser series. And I must say, Atkins has been true to Spenser. In addition to the Spenser series, Robert B. Parker wrote three other series: one featuring Jesse Stone, a small town police chief with an alcohol problem; one featuring Sunny Randall, a female PI; a western series; and several stand-along novels. His estate now has four writers continuing the work one man did!

Anyway, back to Spenser. I was introduced to Spenser via the television show, “Spenser: for Hire.” Robert Urich was Spenser and Avery Brooks was Hawk. Both of them were gorgeous! J The show (1985-1988) was well done with lots of action and snappy dialogue. The spin-off show (one season 1989) featuring Hawk was called “A Man Called Hawk.” When the two dramas went off the air, I was bereft. Really! It wasn’t until the early 1990s when the first of several TV movies aired that I found out, realized and/or discovered that the weekly programs and the TV movies were based on books!! Out I dashed to the nearest bookstore to get my Spenser fix. That’s when I found out that this author by the name of Robert B. Parker had been writing these Spenser novels since 1974!! The rest is … well, you know.

For the last several years, I’ve read each new Spenser novel via audiobook. Joe Mantegna, who portrayed Spenser in several A&E movies, reads all of the Spenser novels. In my mind’s eye, Spenser, his long-time love Susan Silverman, and Hawk remain the characters I used to see on TV. In the books, Spenser is always in his 40s, even though time does pass - a neat trick!

As for which of the books in the series is my favorite, I’d have to pick “Now and Then” from 2008. Here’s an excerpt from my 2008 Reading Log (and, yes, I've been keeping an annual reading log that long!):
“Now and Then” is truly classic Spenser with Spenser, Hawk, Susan; and the backup players Chollo, Quirk, Belson, etc. In this case, the rift between Spenser and Susan that happened 20 years ago is back in the forefront as Spenser investigates an adultery case. The couple ends up dead – he an FBI agent, she a college professor having an affair with a probable terrorist. Susan winds up in danger and it takes all of Spenser’s crew to protect her. This was one of the best Spenser cases in a while.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Memorial Day: Thank you for your sacrifice

City workers were putting up the flags along Jefferson Avenue in Newport News in honor of those who have died in service of our country. I captured this image and pause today to pay tribute to the thousands who sacrificed their lives for our freedoms.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

What's something you do well?

Un-Journal Prompt 1

What is something you do well?

One thing that I do very, very well is start.  I can start a project, a book, a new hobby, a story or a quilt. Finishing is the thing that jams me up. So my personal theme for 2014 is actually one word that addresses this habit of starting and abandoning projects. My theme for the year is FINISH.

To that end, I joined a challenge in my quilt guild. The 2014 UFO challenge is designed so that you complete those unfinished objects (not UFO as in the flying saucer variety!). These are the quilt projects that are in varying stages of not being finished. The fact that the quilt guild has a challenge for members to address this means I’m not the only one suffering the malady of having projects undone.

After signing up, we chose six UFOs. We had to identify the project and list what needed to be done to complete it. The projects were labeled #1 through #6. Every other month the coordinators draw a random number and that’s the project that had to be completed.  Mine include a Christmas gift for my mom that I thought would be a 2011 gift; some blocks I’d received in a friendship block exchange and never did anything with; a not finished scrappy quilt; and the like.

So far (it’s May 4 as I write this prompt), I’m on track. Well, sort of. The next project is due May 13 and I’m already thinking about ways to scale it back so it’s done. It may not be as large as I’d intentionally intended, but it will be done … if I stop writing this and go pick up the fabric, needles and thimble!

As for the books, I firmly believe in the notion that “Life is too short to read bad books.” So there are many that I’ve started and abandoned for lack of interest. I like to be completely and totally absorbed in a story – and I’m talking fiction here, there’s a different bar for non-fiction works. A reporter in my house once interviewing me for a story wrote that my house looked like a “pulp-fiction warehouse.” Weekend guests have described it as “a library.” My to-be-read pile – and I use the term pile loosely! – could actually stock a decent-sized bookstore. I wish I were exaggerating. <sigh>

If you look in a dictionary for the definition of bibliophile, my picture is likely to be there! So an author new to me gets the first chapter. If I’m not gripped or intrigued or interested by the end of the first chapter, I’m gone and probably won’t finish the novel. On my annual reading log – I’ve been keeping one since 2008 – those get marked/rated as DNF for did not finish.

Authors I’ve read before and enjoyed get three chapters. Books by friends – and there are legion – get forever, meaning if I don’t start the novel, it goes in a “I’ll get to this soon” pile.

I keep asking myself, when is “soon” going to come. Right now, it looks like never … but I’ll still have those books!

The Un-journaling journal project

A writer pal asked a group of us to write journals -- but in an unconventional way. Each month, she posts 30 prompts that she calls un-journaling. The prompts consist of questions, situations and the like. Each participant picks any 10 of the listed topics for that month and writes about those 10 topics.

I joined the effort as a way to make sure I write posts for this From the Heart blog! So, I'll aim to post them as I go, putting up one or two each week. We'll see how long I can keep it up!

The 30 topics for April are listed below. I thought you'd like to see the options that were available to us. I give you a little hint of what's to come right now: I started with #3 and my answer is something you'll probably not expect! Look for that post later today!

Here's the list of prompts:

Journal prompts for April, 2014 (choose and write on 10 of these):

  1. How easy is it for you to forgive those who have caused you pain?
  2. Describe a dream you had recently
  3. What is something you do well?
  4. Favorite book
  5. What’s something that makes you really angry?
  6. What is your favorite memory from childhood?
  7. How many times have you moved in your life?
  8. Write about a difficult decision you had to make
  9. Pick up a random object that has special meaning to you and tell me about it
  10. Describe your feelings in regards to an issue in today’s society and what should be done to fix it
  11. Name a time when you broke a rule or law
  12. Describe a time when you made someone’s day
  13. Describe yourself physically and emotionally
  14. I sometimes allow other people to talk me into…
  15. I deserve to be treated….
  16. Describe what you think it is like to live with you
  17. What do you think has been the most significant event that has taken place during your life?
  18. What can frighten you the most?
  19. What do you think brings good or bad luck?
  20. What memory do you want to keep from today?
  21. What is the last thing you apologized for?
  22. On a scale from 1-10 how is your health?
  23. What book are your reading right now? Tell me about it.
  24. What stresses you?
  25. Are you holding a grudge?
  26. Who is the strongest person you know?
  27. Last thing you wanted but didn’t get
  28. What was the last new thing you tried?
  29. What has challenged your morals?
  30. What is your super power?

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Chipotle and The Art of the Two-Minute Read

People who say they don’t have time to read have one less excuse today. Chipotle, the fresh food fast-casual restaurant chain, is launching an easy and intriguing way to get people reading. They are putting short stories and essays on their cups and bags. The two-minute reads have some stellar contributors, too, an eclectic mix of heavy hitters and pop culture favorites, from Nobel Prize winner Toni Morrison to “Saturday Night Live” funnyman Bill Hader.

“These stories are meant to entertain customers while exposing them to some of the most creative and influential people of our time,” Chipotle said in a press release announcing the venture.

I’m more of a Moe’s Southwest Grill type of gal, but this is a great way to get people reading and I’m all for that. Kudos to Chipotle!

Here from the company’s press release is the list of writers participating in the “Cultivating Thought” series:

Jonathan Safran Foer – series curator and author of “Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close,” “Eating Animals” and “Everything is Illuminated”
Judd Apatow – Golden Globe nominated writer/director/producer, “This is 40,” “Bridesmaids” and “Girls”
Sheri Fink – Pulitzer-prize winning reporter/author, “Five Days at Memorial: Life and Death in a Storm-Ravaged Hospital
Malcolm Gladwell – New York Times best-selling author, journalist and speaker, author of “The Tipping Point,” “Outliers” and “Blink”
Bill Hader – Emmy-winning comedian/actor/producer, “Saturday Night Live” and “South Park”
Michael Lewis – New York Times best-selling author and journalist, “Flash Boys,” “The Blind Side” and “Moneyball”
Toni Morrison – Pulitzer and Nobel Prize winning author of “Beloved”
Steve Pinker – award-winning experimental psychologist, renowned writer on language, mind and human nature
George Saunders – New York Times best-selling short-story and essay author, “Tenth of December,” “The Braindead Megaphone”
Sarah Silverman – Emmy-winning actress/comedian, “The Sarah Silverman Program,” “Saturday Night Live” and “School of Rock”

Read the complete Chipotle corporate press release here

And check out an interview with Foer about the venture in Vanity Fair.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Awesome story in the Daily Press

Leah Price, the book blogger and columnist at the Daily Press, did a terrific story about HIDDEN RICHES and my books in the Tuesday, May 13 edition.

Click here to read the piece and see the photos.

Monday, May 12, 2014

New Love Inspired at Walmart

My new inspirational romance, THE FIREMAN FINDS A WIFE, is on store shelves now! I spied it at the Hampton and Tabb Walmart stores, as well as at Barnes & Noble.
Here's a shot from the Hampton Walmart.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Express Yo'Self Book Club event photos

A hearty shout out and thank you to LaTika Lee, photojournalist and aspiring author, who took photos at the Express Yo'Self Book Club's author signing on Saturday, April 26 at the Queensway Soul Cafe in Hampton, Va.

For more of her photos from the event, check out the Facebook page.

Talking about writing, reading and "Hidden Riches."
Author Tonya Sharp Hyche, is on the left, and author
Nakia Robinson on the right.
Photos by and courtesy of LaTika Lee.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

On the James River

Yancey Powell of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation explains the trawling (fishing) process in this video taken Saturday, April 12, 2014, on the James River.