Honoring Toni Morrison

The first black woman to receive the Nobel literature prize in 1993, Toni Morrison lived a life filled with achievements and presidential honors. Her novels, among them The Bluest Eye, Sula, Song of Solomon, and Beloved, contain rich prose and unforgettable characters.

Ms. Morrison also taught at Princeton University and held workshops for aspiring writers. Her advice to her students is even more relevant in today’s world.

“When you get these jobs that you have been so brilliantly trained for, just remember that your real job is that if you are free, you need to free somebody else. If you have some power, then your job is to empower somebody else. This is not just a grab-bag candy game.”

Last night, Toni Morrison died at the age of 88.

Here are more of my favorite quotations from Toni Morrison:

You wanna fly, you got to give up the thing that weighs you down.

Make a difference about something other than yourselves.

There is really nothing more to say—except why. But since why is difficult to handle, one must take refuge in how.

The function of freedom is to free someone else.

Anger…it’s a paralyzing emotion…you can’t get anything done. People sort of think it’s an interesting, passionate, and igniting feeling. I don’t think it’s any of that—it’s helpless…it’s absence of control—I have no use for it whatsoever.

You are your best thing.

At some point in life the world’s beauty becomes enough. You don’t need to photograph, paint, or even remember it. It is enough.

If you surrendered to the air, you could ride it.

If there is a book that you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, you must be the one to write it.

Make up a story…For our sake and yours, forget your name in the street; tell us what the world has been to you in the dark places and in the light.


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Loving Those Oxymorons

Technically they’re oxymora, but according to the wordsmiths, oxymorons can be used as the plural form.

Whatever form you choose to use, one thing is certain: Oxymorons attract attention. And people who like to pepper their conversations with these literary devices are well aware that their listeners will stop and think, wondering whether they should laugh or not.

Continue reading on the Soul Mate Authors blog.


10 Important Life Lessons My Cats Have Taught Me (and how they live on in my writing)

I’m happy to welcome author Jodi Rath to the Power of 10 series. Today, Jodi shares ten important life lessons she learned from the felines in her life and her new release, Jalapeño Cheddar Cornbread Murder.

Here’s Jodi!

10. No matter how bad life can be, learn to be resilient and love IN SPITE of it all. Our cat Stewart has one-eye from being abused as a kitten. Yet, when we adopted him, we thought we couldn’t do it because it would be too sad. Stewart doesn’t care at all that he has one eye. He loves us unconditionally and is the happiest little guy in the world. He is on the cover of book two, Jalapeño Cheddar Cornbread Murder, that comes out 6/21/19 and plays a role in the book.

9. Sleep is a good thing. Cats sleep A LOT. I’ve always been one to sleep a routine 6 to 8 hours a night. After I began my business, my sleep schedule has changed a lot. My cats remind me to take naps if I can’t get a full night sleep. No, they aren’t running a business—but they also aren’t stressed, and they sleep a lot—AND their fur is shiny and beautiful! Great for us ladies and our skin too!

8. When it’s time to play—PLAY HARD LIKE NO ONE IS WATCHING! Recently, we adopted three five-week-old kittens. We mostly have adopted adult cats because most people want kittens. Our adult cats are playful at times, but they prefer food and sleep to play. NOT THE KITTENS! They are NUTBALLS! They do love to sleep and eat, but when they play—it’s like they are partying like it’s 1999! That’s important in life—adults need to play and let loose at times—AND don’t worry about who sees you or what they think. My three little girls, Lily, Lulu, and Luna, sure don’t care!

7. Race doesn’t matter. One of the themes of my culinary mystery series, The Cast Iron Skillet Mystery Series, focuses on a small village where the villagers are tolerant and caring for those around them. They aren’t so much with outsiders when people from the city (politicians) begin to buy up land for urban sprawl purposes, and the villagers have to (what they think) “allow” outsiders in. Being tolerant means being tolerant to ALL—not just to those that it is easy to be tolerant to—think about it. That makes no sense anyway. Some of my cats are black; some are orange and white, some are golden brown, some are black and white mixed—they don’t look at the color of each others’ fur and judge based on that or stereotype—they equally love each other as is.

6. Stop and smell the flowers every so often. We keep fresh flowers in our house weekly. Our cats get SO excited when we bring them in, and they always are on the counter wanting to smell them and maybe be sneaky and chew on the stems too. My husband and I have bought or picked fresh flowers weekly for each other for 17 years now. It makes a HUGE difference in our relationship.

5. Good litter box manners are important. Enough said! LOL

4. Don’t sweat the small stuff. We’ve had 16 cats in 17 years—never more than nine at one time. Many passes, especially when we adopt them as adults. Our first cats, unfortunately, are the ones we learned from. They would do things, and we would punish them getting SO upset. Once we lost them, we realized how stupid we were being. Some scratched furniture here and there? Who cares? It’s things—the things do not give unconditional love and trust.

3. Keep your mouth shut when you snore. My husband snores while sleeping on his back—LOUDLY. Stewart, the one-eyed cat, did not appreciate it—he sat on Mike’s mouth while he snored. Mike freaked out in the middle of the night. I’ve never laughed so hard in my entire life!

2. Understand your place in life. We do not own our cats—we are their servants. We want it that way! They bring us joy and happiness. I’ve had a very good reason not to trust many people in my life—I’ve dealt with abuse as a child and in a first marriage. I’ve worked with many teens who have experienced horrific trauma. Not all people are bad—but animals love unconditionally.

1. Advocate for those without a voice. I learned this lesson the hard way when my 13-year-old diabetic cat was taken to a vet we typically don’t see, and she recommended we take him to the vet ER. We did; they kept him, and everything in us said not to let them. They kept him four days, and he died of a blood clot. None of that had to happen. We trusted those with an education that we didn’t have—but our hearts told us differently. Maybe he would have died anyway—but he would have at home—we spent close to 13 years loving and spoiling him, and he had diabetes for six of those years. We never left overnight to be sure he got his insulin twice a day. Because we didn’t advocate for him, he suffered for it. Trust your instincts and be willing to live with consequences.

Blurb

Welcome to Leavensport, Ohio where DEATH takes a delicious turn!

Financial fraud of elderly villagers in Leavensport, an urban sprawl threat to the community, disastrous dates, cross-sell marketing gone wrong, and another murder? Jolie Tucker is ready to try dating again. Well, she has no choice—since her family auctioned her off to the highest bidder. Her best friend, Ava, has agreed to a double date, but both friends find out hidden secrets about their partners as well as deception by one of the village’s own, who will soon be found dead. This plot is sure to be spicy!

Buy Links

Amazon | All other e-platforms

Author Bio

Moving into her second decade working in education, Jodi Rath has decided to begin a life of crime in her The Cast Iron Skillet Mystery Series. Her passion for both mysteries and education led her to combine the two to create her business MYS ED, where she splits her time between working as an adjunct for Ohio teachers and creating mischief in her fictional writing. She currently resides in a small, cozy village in Ohio with her husband and her nine cats.

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In Praise of Fruits and Vegetables

June is National Fresh Fruit and Vegetables Month, a month set aside to remind us that fruits and vegetables are essential components of a healthy lifestyle.

As a cancer survivor with a family history of Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s diseases, I am always on the lookout for any dietary changes that can help support a healthy heart, mind, and immune system.

A few years ago, I took special note of the following research conducted by the American Institute for Cancer Research in 2004. If every American consumed 15 to 30 ounces of fruits and vegetables every day, the incidence of cancer could be reduced by at least 20 percent.

The Institute suggests we aim for nine servings or 4.5 cups of fruits and vegetables a day. This may sound daunting, but it is doable. With careful planning and a few doses of creativity, we can increase our daily intake of fruits and vegetables and stay within our budgets.

Here are 10 tips:

• Learn about serving size. In his book “Anticancer,” David Servan-Schreiber provides the following helpful guide: One serving equals ½ cup cooked or 1 cup raw vegetables, 1 medium fruit, ½ cup cooked fruit, ¼ cup dried fruit, or 6 ounces of fruit juice.

• Start small. At breakfast, top your oatmeal or cereal with sliced bananas, fresh berries, raisins, or apricots. Add one cup of fresh or frozen berries to pancake batter. Mix eggs and vegetables for a healthy and hearty breakfast or lunch. Adding minced broccoli or finely grated cauliflower will not change the texture of the eggs. At lunch or dinner, add strawberries, mandarin orange sections, and raisins to green salads.

• Use a spiralizer to create zucchini, squash, asparagus, or cucumber noodles. Top with your favorite sauce and enjoy! You won’t miss the carb-laden pasta dishes.

• Hide the vegetables if your children ignore or push away anything green. Instead, try incorporating vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, or spinach into your favorite pasta sauce, chili, lasagna, or stew recipes. As you stretch the recipe, you will obtain more servings and also cut back on the meat content.

• Pinch pennies on produce. Buy whatever fruits and vegetables are in season. Apples, oranges, grapefruit, and bananas are always available and usually last for a week. The cheapest vegetables are broccoli, cauliflower, sweet potatoes, celery and onions.

• Consider buying frozen fruits and vegetables. These foods are flash frozen at their peak and contain the same amount of nutrients as their fresh counterparts. Frozen vegetables can save dinner preparation time since washing and cutting are not required. Frozen fruit can be used in smoothies, low-fat muffins, yogurts and salads.

• Sneak in extra fruit servings with the right juice. Stick with the top four—orange, grapefruit, prune, pineapple—and check the sugar content on each label. Whenever possible, buy in bulk. This will cut down your costs and help avoid the excessive packaging associated with single-serving bottles and juice boxes.

• Create quick, no-cook meals using fruits and vegetables. Fill a cantaloupe or honeydew melon with low-fat cottage cheese. Combine fresh or frozen berries, a banana, whey or soy protein, water, and ice to make a delicious smoothie. Mix a bowl of low-fat yogurt with fruit.

• Create more fruit-based desserts and snacks. Cut up some plums into chunks and roast them in the oven. Serve warm over a small scoop of frozen yogurt. Mix blackberries or blueberries with a few chocolate chips to create a quick trail mix. Freeze individual grapes on a cookie sheet and serve later as cool, healthy treats.

• Plan ahead and add convenience to your day. Stock your glove compartment and desk drawer with apples, pears, and bananas. Cut up your favorite vegetables into snack-size pieces and store them in clear plastic containers at home and at work. This will cut down on visits to the vending machine and coffee shop.

Any other tips to share?


You Might Be a Garden Junkie…

I’m happy to welcome award-winning Soul Mate author Catherine Castle. Today, Catherine shares a gardening quiz and her novel, The Nun & the Narc.

Here’s Catherine!

At my house, the spring garden is in full bloom. The snowball bush, shown here, is so laden with blooms that you can hardly see the bush. All the beds have been cleaned and mulched. Now I can see every weed that has popped up in the last 2 months since spring cleaning. And it’s driving me nuts.

I’ve come to the conclusion, over the years, that I’m a garden junkie. If you are a gardener, are you a junkie too? Take this quick quiz to find out your junkie status.

You might be a garden junkie if…

1. A picture of a garden … any garden … makes you gasp in ecstasy.

2. You love the smell of newly laid mulch.

3. You subscribe to every garden magazine you find.

4. You carefully replant every earthworm you accidentally dig up.

5. Horse sh**t isn’t a curse word to you, but a source of free fertilizer.

6. You plan your vacations around spring cleaning, summer blooms, fall blooms, and winter cleanup.

7. You know the exact number and species of every tree, bush, and flower in your garden, and most of the weeds too.

8. You always buy more plants than you can plant in one day.

9. You know the garden center employees by name.

10. You have more pictures of your garden in your smart phone than family members.

If you answered yes to number 1 you are definitely a beginning gardener. Don’t despair, just keep on digging and you’ll eventually reach junkie status. If you answered yes to numbers 1-5, you are well on your way to joining the elite. If you said yes to 1-9 then you are an avid gardener.

And if you said yes to all 10 statements, you, my friend, are a garden junkie.

If you’re a Garden Junkie and If you’d like to get your garden fix, join me and some other lovely writer gardeners on my blog at A Writer’s Garden every Thursday. Each week you’ll see lovely pictures of gardens and meet some new garden junkies and authors. And welcome to the Garden junkie club!

Blurb

Where novice Sister Margaret Mary goes, trouble follows. When she barges into a drug deal the local Mexican drug lord captures her. To escape she must depend on undercover DEA agent Jed Bond. Jed’s attitude toward her is exasperating, but when she finds herself inexplicable attracted to him he becomes more dangerous than the men who have captured them, because he is making her doubt her decision to take her final vows. Escape back to the nunnery is imperative, but life at the convent, if she can still take her final vows, will never be the same.

Nuns shouldn’t look, talk, act, or kiss like Sister Margaret Mary O’Connor—at least that’s what Jed Bond thinks. She hampers his escape plans with her compulsiveness and compassion and in the process makes Jed question his own beliefs. After years of walling up his emotions in an attempt to become the best agent possible, Sister Margaret is crumbling Jed’s defenses and opening his heart. To lure her away from the church would be unforgivable—to lose her unbearable.

Amazon | Barnes & Noble

Margaret Mary O’Connor is not a typical nun. Dressed in jeans and a bandanna, she has no qualms about climbing up on roofs or meddling in other people’s affairs. It is not surprising that Mother Superior doubts her commitment to the convent and often admonishes the younger woman: “Stubbornness, curiosity and bluntness don’t become a nun.”

While Margaret is haunted by Mother Superior’s words, she does not hesitate to get involved when a motherless boy in Mexico is tempted by a life of crime. That meddling lands her smack in the middle of DEA office Jed Barringer’s undercover operation. When Margaret and Jed are captured by drug dealers, there is an instant attraction, but before they can even think of love, they must escape the clutches of the cartel and deal with Margaret’s impending vows.

From start to finish, I enjoyed this well-paced novel brimming with conflict and emotional intensity.

Bio

Multi-award winning author Catherine Castle loves writing, reading, traveling, singing, theatre, quilting and gardening. She’s a passionate gardener whose garden won a “Best Hillside Garden” award from the local gardening club. She writes sweet and inspirational romances. You can find her award-winning Soul Mate books, The Nun and the Narc and A Groom for Mama, on Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

Website/Blog | Amazon | Goodreads | Twitter | Facebook


10 Interesting Facts About My Protagonist Sarah Collins

I’m happy to welcome award-winning author Debbie De Louise. Today, Debbie shares ten interesting facts about the protagonist in her new release, Sea Scope.

Here’s Debbie!

Here are some interesting facts about the protagonist of my new psychological mystery, Sea Scope:

1. She’s 30 and is a children’s book illustrator.

2. She likes cats and has a female red tabby named Rosy.

3. When she was 10, she and her younger brother, Glen, found a body by a lighthouse in South Carolina where they lived.

4. She and her brother grew up in Sea Scope, the inn that her parents and aunt ran in Cape Bretton, South Carolina.

5. Sarah wants children, but she and her husband, Derek, haven’t had any luck conceiving, and it’s caused a rift between them.

6. Sarah’s aunt Julie is a portrait painter.

7. Sarah’s father, Martin Brewster, committed suicide the year after she and her family moved away from Sea Scope.

8. Sarah’s brother, Glen, was killed in a motorcycle accident in California where he lived and worked as a psychologist.

9. Sarah’s mother, Jennifer Brewster, is an alcoholic.

10. Sarah had a childhood crush on Russell Donovan whose father dated her aunt and who still lives in South Carolina. She got her first kiss from Russ.

Blurb

Sarah Collins needs an escape. Mourning her brother’s death and the impending breakup of her marriage, she accepts an invitation to return to her childhood home in South Carolina, where her family operated an inn.

She hasn’t been back to Sea Scope for twenty years; not since she and her brother Glen discovered a body by the nearby lighthouse. She never understood why her parents left Sea Scope so suddenly, or the reasons behind her father’s suicide.

After Sarah returns to the inn, she faces long-buried memories, text messages and strange clues. Something is not right in Sea Scope.

Reunited with people from her past, she tries to figure out what’s going on in her childhood home. As the past and present collide, she must face truths about her family, and what happened that summer day by the lighthouse. But will she survive to tell the tale?

buynow


Author Bio

Debbie De Louise is an award-winning author and a reference librarian at a public library. She is a member of Sisters-in-Crime, International Thriller Writers, Long Island Authors Group, and the Cat Writer’s Association. Her novels include the four books of the Cobble Cove mystery series: A Stone’s Throw, Between a Rock and a Hard Place, Written in Stone, and Love on the Rocks. Debbie has also written a standalone mystery, Reason to Die, a romantic comedy novella, When Jack Trumps Ace, and a paranormal romance, Cloudy Rainbow. Her psychological mystery, Sea Scope will be published May, 2019. She lives on Long Island with her husband, daughter, and three cats.

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Amazon Author Page | Goodreads | Bookbub





Inspired by Dr. Ross Pennie

This past Saturday, I attended the “Writing Your Life & Other Personal Stories” workshop facilitated by Brian Henry in Guelph. A book editor and professor, Brian teaches creative writing at Ryerson University in Toronto and has led workshops everywhere from Boston to Buffalo and from Sarnia to Saint John. You can find out more about Brian here.

In the morning session, Brian shared tips and techniques for writing creative non-fiction. In the afternoon, one of his star students—Dr. Ross Pennie—shared his fascinating writing journey.

A bit of history…

In 1977, at the age of twenty-five, Dr. Pennie set off for a two-year posting at a Catholic Mission on a remote island in the South Pacific. He spent his days dealing with tuberculosis, malaria and other infectious diseases. Evenings, he would read, write letters and update his diary.

At the end of his posting, he returned to Canada and spent the next twenty years working as an infectious-disease specialist and daydreaming about writing his memoirs.

Finally, he took action and signed up for creative writing courses and workshops. He also analyzed other memoirs, read books on writers’ craft, and joined a writing group. It took him two and a half years to complete The Unforgiving Tides, which was released in 2004.

The logline is a tantalizing one: A young doctor encounters mud, medicine, and magic on a remote South Pacific Island.

He then tried his hand at fiction and wrote the well-received Dr. Zol Szabo medical mysteries. The first of these, Tainted, came out in 2010 and won the Arts Hamilton Literary Award for Fiction. He followed up with three more medical mysteries: Tampered, Up in Smoke, and Beneath the Wake.

After 39 years of working as an intensive-care pediatrician and infectious-diseases specialist at McMaster and Brantford General Hospital, Ross retired.

But he is not retired from writing.

In a 2017 interview with Hamilton News, he shared his love of the creative process: “I love spending time with the characters. They seem very real … it’s almost as though they live with us. I also find writing meditative. I enjoy being on my own, so there is a meditative and reflective aspect to it.”

At Saturday’s workshop, Ross shared practical advice about the memoir process.

Here are ten nuggets that resonated with me:

• Dribble the dry facts gradually into your story so that any one page is not filled with a laundry list of details. Do not confuse the reader with too many characters and too much technical jargon.

• Keep the narrator humble, vulnerable, embarrassed, noble, quirky, smart, but never arrogant.

• Leave yourself open to memories that bubble up unexpectedly.

• Exaggerate your deficiencies. (You will probably be telling it like it is!)

• Imagine that your mother and Grade 8 teacher are never going to read your memoir. This leaves you free to add healthy naughtiness. Some examples of healthy naughtiness include embarrassing situations, swear words, family secrets, petty criminal acts, and sexual encounters.

• Break grammar rules with pizzaz. But first, learn the grammar rules.

• Show the action and dialogue up close. Don’t just talk about it from a distance.

• Punctuate your stories with newsworthy events. Make a dated list of earth-shattering events that occurred during the period of the memoir such as wars, elections, assassinations, and natural disasters. Include some of these events in the memoir.

• Write frankly without bitterness.

• And most important of all … Persistence Writes the Memoir.

Find more about Dr. Ross Pennie here.