Friday, April 26, 2013


copyright Denis Michel

So softly treads the night.

And you.

You haven’t been around for a long time.
But I’ve never forgotten you.
Enter my writing room, sister.
Tread softly.
I’m easily frightened since I was nine and you left me.
You’re standing behind my right shoulder.
No breath reaches my skin.
“It isn’t normal.” Mother’s rules of normality were very straightforward. There were rich people and there were poor people. We were poor. Thus we had to work hard. Poor people couldn’t become rich people but with hard work they could become less poor.
 A nine-year-old who wanted to read was queer, to say the least.
A nine-year-old who saw things in the night was just plain lazy. As a result of that flaw of character his fantasy had run amuck. Idleness is the ear cushion of the devil. 
Father tried to understand. Secretly, because he was raised in a farmer’s family that was even poorer, he had been a dreamer in his youth too.
Yet he never saw an invisible sister.
“I would have been afraid, when I was your age, if I had seen a girl who no one else can see,” he said to me. “Aren’t you?”
Father was a kind man but explicitly absent in our family. He had to juggle two jobs in order to pay the mortgage of the decrepit tiny house we were living in.
My elder brother used to say: “The in-house here is the outhouse elsewhere.”
Nevertheless, Father was very proud of the house. He called his jobs “rooting for survival and holding a roof above our heads”.
I vowed that sometime he would be proud of me. When he was old  and could not work anymore, when the roof held itself.
Maybe then he wouldn’t be afraid anymore.

                             copyright Synthia Maes.

It was 1962.
May 7th when my elder brother pushed me from the stairs. Accidently? Yes. Never mind that we had an argument just before that. He had said that I shouldn’t be a boy, but a girl. Because I fantasized playing with a girl. So we fought. So I lost. So I fell from the stairs.
Mother and Father brought me to the hospital unconscious.
In that hospital I lost her, my invisible sister.
Until then she had been like a twin.
When I did something, she did.
When I said something, she did.
She was me, but then again quite a separate person.
I was attached to her.
Because she wasn’t there anymore, I began to love her.
She became a world on her own that I couldn’t enter.
So I faded from this world which I no longer could understand.
Not a jota, not a bit, not a morsel.
It was in my recovery bed that I deliberately started to forget about my Mother and Father and my Brother.
The nine-year-old was on his own now.
Because he had taken a loss, everything and everyone else had to do too.
51 years later I’m reading Philip Roth’s Patrimony about the last months of his Father.
 I am fascinated.
A sea of rich details. Of Roth’s youth. Of his Father’s youth.
I envy Roth. Instead of falling from stairs, he swims in the sea.
Since my ninth year, my memories of my childhood are like overexposed snapshots.
Continuously, I try to give them sharpness in my novels.
I fail.
Only one memory has always been sharp and clear.
And became solid again months ago when something terrible struck me.
What that was, is mine to know only.
Here, softly treads the night.
And you.
You’re standing behind my right shoulder.
No breath reaches my skin.
Forgive me, sister.

Bob Van Laerhoven

Bio: In the mean time: “La Vengeance de Baudelaire”, the French translation of “De Wraak van Baudelaire” has been published in Canada and will be published in France in June.
In the UK we probably will sell the e-book rights of the English translation (Baudelaire’s Revenge) to Endeavour press. There is another Publishing House and an agent in the running, so we have the luxury of being able to choose.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Secret Ninja Packing Skills

Through the years, I've seen them in the airports

usually whizzing past me with a pitying glance

as I burst a vein trying to juggle 
my over-sized suitcase, 
and a purse that could hide a small child.

They are the older ladies
who've learned to travel light.

How I've envied them.

I've even attended conferences with them and studied them throughout our time together to see if I could spot something lacking in their wardrobe or the items they need

but no, they always seem well-dressed, put together, and prepared for whatever the weather or the classes require.

They remain a mystery to me, this army of women who can survive with one modest rolling bag and a compact purse.

They are my clear superiors with secret ninja packing skills known only to those who've earned access to their ranks.

But I'm closing in on them.

Now, in my fifties, I'm beginning to experience a taste of the freedom that allows my older sisters to travel light.

As the days of my life fly past, my desire to spend time fussing with personal appearance diminishes in the light of my passion for not missing a moment of what matters.

I've no time to dither over a stray lock of hair or a fussy blouse.
I've no energy to waste on choosing the right height of heel or the perfect shade of lipstick to match my ensemble.

Life is less and less about how I appear 
and more and more about 
who I am. 

I am more inclined to believe that most of what I need in any situation is already contained 
in my heart and in my mind
so that what gets thrown into my overnight bag is almost inconsequential.


I'm not quite where they are, yet. 

I still have an unnatural attachment to my blow-dryer and I haven't quite whittled my travel needs down to a single bag

but I'm getting there.

Now, I'm grateful for these travel-pros whizzing past me all these years. 

I've even forgiven them for tossing me the occasional withering stare and shaking their heads when I've paused, out of breath from dragging my load

because they've modeled for me a goal to which I can aspire as I age,

an aspiration I wouldn't have known was worthy 
had it not been for the older ladies 
who've learned to travel light.

Lighten up.
Carry most of what you need within you.
Spend less time in the mirror and more in the adventure and the journey.

And remember that aching backs and heavy loads
diminish the joy of travelling
and after all,
who needs that?

One day, if I pass you in the airport
as you pause to catch your breath,
wheeling my single bag,
flipping my gray hair as I cast a withering look in your direction,
you'll know I've earned my place
among the gray-haired packing ninjas that came before.

Lori Stanley Roeleveld is a disturber of hobbits who enjoys making comfortable Christians continually late for dinner. Her articles appear in numerous magazines. She authors the blog, Deeper with Jesus in Rhode Island. She’s seeking a publisher for her speculative Celtic adventure, The Overcomers. Back in the dark ages, Lori earned degrees in Psychology and Biblical Studies and more recently, a black belt in karate. She’s a wife, mom, crisis counselor, and part-time dragon slayer.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Wow what a promise

By Becky Lyles

My 92-year-old father-in-law died Friday morning. He was a sweet, kind man who deeply loved the Lord, his wife and his family. Sunday morning, I cried through the music at church—not because I was overwhelmed by sadness, but because the songs provided words for my mix of sorrow and joy. Sorrow because Dad’s parting leaves a huge hole in our family. Joy because in an instant he escaped a bent, crippled body and stepped with brand-new feet into heaven’s sunshine and Jesus’ embrace. Certain phrases from the old hymn “Jesus I Come” were especially touching.

Out of my sickness, into thy health…Jesus I come;
Out of earth’s sorrows, into thy balm…Jesus I come;
Out of despair into raptures above,
Upward forever on wings like a dove, Jesus I come;
Out of the fear and dread of the tomb, Jesus I come, Jesus I come;
Into the joy and light of thy home, Jesus I come to Thee.

My Bible study group just finished studying the book of 1st Thessalonians. The timing was great for me. Chapter four talks about what happens to those who’ve gone to their graves. “Brothers and sisters, we want you to be fully informed about those who have fallen asleep in death so that you will not be overwhelmed with grief like those who live outside of the true hope” (4:13 The Voice). Verses 9 and 10 in chapter 5 tell us “God has not destined us, His chosen ones, to face His wrath but to be the heirs of salvation through our Lord Jesus the Anointed, the Liberating King, who died for us. So regardless of whether we are awake (alive) or asleep (dead), we will live together with Him” (The Voice).

Wow, what a promise! We who are “heirs of salvation” have God’s comfort today and hope for eternity. Another old song comes to mind: This world is not my home, I’m just a passin’ through…

Friday, April 19, 2013


By Annis Pratt

I felt walled in this winter by the constant overcast. I itched with cabin fever. When a friend asked two of us to fly down to Florida, spend four days at her condo, and then help her drive back to Michigan, I lept at the offer.

Along the way, I came up with some travel tips you might find helpful.
Flying South

v Does your airport have a terminal that is smaller than the main one? This shortens the security lines. In Detroit, the North Terminal has much shorter lines than the main one.

v If you are seventy-five and older, you don’t have to take your shoes off!

v Since airlines don’t serve meals anymore., take a sandwich.

v Do chat with strangers — other people are full of interesting quirks. Here’s a lady I talked to who was accompanied by a wide-eyed little dog named Jasmine.


The Road Trip

After four lovely days in Florida, we set off for home. I'm an old dog, but I can learn new tricks. Here are some that I picked up along our way
v Take turns driving, as long as you hold up; if you don’t hold up, ask others to drive.

v Don’t drive at night. It isn’t just our vision that is compromised as we grow older; it’s our judgment. We still make perfectly good decisions; we just make them (perilously) slower.

v On trips that last a week or so, pack your weary old underwear and discards it day by day, leaving room in her suitcase for souvenirs.

v If the repair engine light goes on, find a dealership. We developed a serious problem with the fuel line, so we stopped over to get it fixed. It took three hours, but imagine what it would have been like if we had ground to a halt as we drove through the Tennessee Mountains.

                                                       Snow In The Mountains

v Choose your motel during the day so you have your reservation assured for when you are all tired out from driving. One of us had this handy-dandy guide to the interstate highway we were on all the way – Dave Hunter’s Along Interstate 7 (I think there’s one for route 95 as well — go to After lunch we did looked up motels we thought we would get to by sunset, and make our reservation via cell phone.

v Take an audible book along — preferably, a good long one. We listened to a thoroughly engrossing novel which lasted all of the way home. Even then, three discs were left so after we were all rested up we foregathered to tote up our bills and to hear how the story ended.

Home at Last
What do you know — the Florida sunshine, heart-warming companionship and the excitements of the road trip got my mind off of myself so thoroughly that when, at last, I stumbled through the snow to my door, my cabin fever had been knocked right out of me.

Although she grew up in New York City, Annis Pratt makes her home in the Midwest, where she taught English at the University of Wisconsin-Madison for many years.  In 1990 she threw her full professorship out the window to move to Michigan, where she is engaged in community activism and novel writing
    Passionate about the environment and an enthusiastic sailor, canoeist and kayaker, she chose a genre where she could create compelling fiction about ecological degradation.
At 75 years old, she feels like she is in the second out of her ninth inning, having published the first volume of her historical fantasy trilogy when she was 73.

Blub: The Marshlanders and Fly Out of the Darkness are the first two volumes of The Marshlanders Trilogy, historical fantasies about the conflict between self-sustaining Marshland communities and Merchant Adventurers trying to drain their lands. These are page-turners about the conflict between people who respect their environment and developers who see it as a source of income.

links ,, and a humorous blog:
Novels may be purchased at or

Wednesday, April 17, 2013


By Linda Robinson
March 15. Every January for several years, I’ve highlighted the date on my calendar and decorated it with smiley faces. By the actual due date, I’m pumped with excitement. I usually wake before daylight in eager anticipation of the beauty I expect to appear outside my bathroom window.

Some years, I open the mini-blind and have to wait a few minutes before I hear the faint whirr and he appears out of the blue-gray sky as if by magic. Other times I open them, and he’s already on stage. He never seems to mind that I’ve opened the curtain and caught him in the act. I imagine him saying, “It’s me again. I’m baack!” Yes, just three or four grams of iridescent feathers, tiny feet, and long skinny beak can lift my spirits way high.

My little Rubythroat hummingbird’s faithful return is the highlight of the year. The first one of the season has a way of giving me new perspective, energy, and hope. I know that the long winter is over, and more hummers will be migrating through. They stick around a few days and “fatten up” before they continue north to their breeding grounds.

Toward the end of July, they return in aggressive, territorial multitudes and stay around until mid-October to put on an extra gram or two for the long flight home. Imagine a bird that tiny flying all the way to Mexico or Belize! That’s almost more than I can comprehend.

Through the years, I have been privileged to have one or more hummingbirds stay in my yard the entire winter here in south Alabama. When I call to alert Fred, a licensed bander from The Hummingbird Study Group, he comes early the following morning with all his birding paraphernalia. He instructs me to take down all my feeders and places one of them inside a special wire cage with a trap door.

We stand inside and watch through the window as the little bird comes to the cage. He bumps all around the outside until he finds the opening to enter and feast from the feeder. As soon as he sits down to breakfast, Fred closes the door with his remote gadget. He identifies the hummer species, weighs, measures, and places a minute identification band around an even tinier leg…all done for tracking purposes. Last, he places a splash of bright neon, bird-safe paint on top of its head. Each time, before he releases it, Fred encourages me to hold the winged jewel while he takes a picture.
(Photo of 2012-2013 Rufus species we hosted all winter)
It’s an awesome experience to see and hold these intriguing creatures close for a moment. I think of how God provides and cares for His tiniest creations, and the words of a song come to mind. His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me.

What small wonder of God’s creation gives you hope?

Monday, April 15, 2013


By Linda Wood Rondeau

 When I first moved to Jacksonville, I took on part-time employment as an “associate” (new world term for store clerk) in a local department store. My official department assignment was Point-of-sale (new world term for cash register) where I scanned products, totaled purchases and where once in a while people actually paid with cash.

I remember my first part-time job as a store clerk in W.T. Grants. I worked 20 hours a week after school and evenings and did some register work. In those days, prices were on the tags. The cashier put the amount in and totaled the amount of sale including figuring out the sales tax and manually adding it into the total charge. 

Customers handed the cashier cash and the cashier had to figure out the change, counting it to herself as she removed it from the drawer and counting it back to the customer. Cashiers had to go to the office and get their “drawer” for their shift and hand the drawer back in when the shift was done. Shortages were a “no-no” and a cashier could be penalized if her drawer came up short because she miscounted change. Cashiers had to be “bonded” in the event of theft or lost money. One thing for certain, cashiers became very proficient in basic math.

As I scanned and hit buttons that do all the brain work for me, I thought about how many aspects of our lives are managed by barcodes: store coupons, credit cards, preferred customer cards, bank accounts, identification cards, and even medical services. Try to get through a day without swiping something into a machine that calculates our vital statistics. Heck…we can even open up a charge account by simply putting in our social security into a service pad. 


According to “How Stuff Works:

"UPC" stands for Universal Product Code. They were originally created to help grocery stores speed up the checkout process and keep better track of inventory, but the system quickly spread to all other retail products because it was so successful.

“UPCs" originate with a company called the Uniform Code Council (UCC). A manufacturer applies to the UCC for permission to enter the UPC system. The manufacturer pays an annual fee for the privilege. In return, the UCC issues the manufacturer a six-digit manufacturer identification number and provides guidelines on how to use it.”

I must admit, I like the convenience of less brain activity, especially as I age. But I can’t help but wonder what I’ve lost in the process, besides my math abilities.

Winner of the 2012 Selah Award for best first novel The Other Side of Darkness/Harbourlight,  LINDA WOOD RONDEAU, writes stories of God’s mercies. Walk with her unforgettable characters as they journey paths not unlike our own. After a long career in human services, Linda now resides in Jacksonville, Florida.
Linda’s best-selling Adirondack Romance, It Really IS a Wonderful Life, is published by Lighthouse of the Carolinas and is available wherever books are sold.
These books are also available in ebook format along with her other ebooks by Helping Hands Press: I Prayed for Patience/God Gave Me Children and Days of Vines and Roses. Songs in the Valley is scheduled for release this fall by Helping Hands Press.
Readers may visit her web site at or email her at  or find her on Facebook, Twitter, PInterest, and Goodreads.  

Friday, April 12, 2013

Storing in a Cloud

By Kevin Parsons

What is the deal on this 'Cloud' thing, anyway? Let's say I have four bars of silver I want to store safely. I go to my bank and say to Kent, my banker whom I trust, and say, "Kent, store these safely." Kent says, "Sure," and we put them in a safe deposit box. What's the first word in safe deposit box? I know, you hate it when there's a test right away...  but the answer is safe. And where is the safe deposit box? ( I swear, this is the last test question.) In a safe. When I store stuff in there, I believe it is pretty

Now we store our computer data in a cloud. When was the last time you looked up into the sky, saw a cloud, and thought, "Now I feel safe." In fact, you might have said, "Oh, oh," and hurried to take the laundry inside.

And how do they store it in a cloud? When Kent stores my bars of silver, we put them in the box in any order. But my data, as we all know, is 5Gb of x's and o's. I studied and found that Gb means, 'Gazillion billion.' So somewhere, to keep my data right, someone has played a gazillion billion games of tic tac toe. And my information has to be stored, 5Gbs of it, in order. Get one tic tac toe game out of order and your picture of a dancing bunny in a garden of dandelions becomes a Picasso painting of Lecter Hannibal square dancing. 

Have you ever tried to set anything in a cloud? I've flown and an airliner flies right through it like it's condensation or something. I know data is weightless, but still, how could a cloud hold it?

When I bought my iPad (a tool of Satan), the friendly geek with piercings and tattoos in designs and places I never imagined informed me that they would store all my information for free. Cool. How much data? He broke it down into Geezer terms; "Lots and lots of it." No more flash drive. And when has a flash made you feel safe? Flash in the pan? I digress.

However after a month I exceeded my storage space. They would be happy to store my data for $10 a year. Two months later I needed to pay $25 a year. Six months, $100 a year.  At this rate it would be cheaper to hire someone to copy everything down with a pencil on a legal pad. And are there illegal pads? Just wondering.

Won't we run out of clouds soon? And why don't I see clouds with x's and o's on them? If we have a cloudburst will it rain down in bytes? And why isn't there a guy I trust to help store it?
Maybe I'll just get my own cloud and store my data in it. I've got a better idea.
I'll just store it under the mattress. 

Follow Kevin's 50 States in 50 Weeks Tour

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Writing Down the Memories

I’m a contemporary romance author, but at one point I considered trying a story set during WWII. My 85 year old mother-in-law is the only remaining family member from that generation so I called and asked her to write down things she could recall from living through the war.
            Somewhere in our conversation she either misunderstood or simply changed her mind because instead of telling me about the 40s she started writing her life story. It turned out to be one of the sweetest blessings of my life.
            My mother-in-law has always talked freely about her life growing up in small rural town in Ohio, one of eight children from parents of Hungarian descent. This memoir however was full of new insights into her life that surprised and delighted us all. When I got her forty pages, handwritten on spiral notebook paper, I called her and she explained that she was unable to sleep one night and just started writing about her life. The more she wrote the more she enjoyed remembering. I told her I would type it up, edit it, then send her several copies. But as I typed a wonderful thing happened. The words were so true to her, so typical of how she would speak that I couldn’t bring myself to make it all pretty and proper. Reading it in her words was like sitting beside her and listening to her tell the story. I did correct spelling, double check street names, and names of friends, but basically I printed it as she wrote it. We designed a cover – a picture of our gazebo which is her favorite place to sit – then placed the pages in a small three ring  notebook and sent them to her.
            What a treasure those few pages turned out to be. Our family will forever have her story at our finger tips. A glimpse into another era, to the person she was beyond Mom, Grandma and Great Grandma.
            Mom’s mother was colorful Hungarian woman who told wonderful stories about growing up as an immigrant. Over the years various family members promised to write down her stories, or get her to tell them into a recorder, but sadly no one ever did. Now she’s gone and so are the stories. My parents are both gone and I can no longer go to them and ask questions about relatives or about their childhood. Fortunately, we have diaries and journals that my mother kept but nothing from my dad.
            As writers we need to find time to capture these pieces of family history before it’s too late and  encourage our older relatives to write down their past. A few things I’ve learned about getting relatives to participate - don’t give them a fancy journal to write in. They’ll be reluctant to mess it up and the pretty pages can be intimidating, making them feel they need to write a proper book. Better to give them a small spiral notebook and a pen. Start on a holiday and ask them to write down special memories from that day. No need to worry about nice sentences, or starting at the beginning of their life. That too can be daunting.
            Once you start collecting those precious moments of their lives you’ll have a family treasure you will cherish for generations. Don’t put it off. Time is rushing away. I’m starting my own personal remembrance file today.


             Lorraine Beatty
             Visit me at:

Monday, April 8, 2013

Bringing Back Sunday Dinner

By Tracey Lyons

Perhaps the most wonderful times of my life were the Sunday dinners my grandmother, Lina Davis, used to cook. Now mind you, Grandma Davis was not a culinary wizard. She was a bare bones, meat and potato kind of cook. A left over from the depression era where food was scarce, but company came in abundance.  Sunday dinners meant the warm comforting smells of pot roast, mashed potatoes and gravy made from a dry mix. It was all so good to me. Those dinners meant a hearty meal with family that I loved dearly.

As I started a family of my own I decided I wanted to keep the Sunday Dinner tradition alive. So for years I hosted Sunday Dinners. Everyone in the family usually dropped in.  My sisters would bring their families, and on the special occasion when my brother visited with his family from California, the house filled to the brim. The cousins would play with the toys in the living room while the grownups hung around in the big open kitchen catching up. My dinners always had something baking in the oven filling the house with smells reminiscent of the days spent at my grandmother’s.  The dining room table would be extended with extra leaves, mismatched chairs would be gathered around so everyone had a place. I always brought out the good china and tablecloth.  The centerpiece always had candlelight.  My dining area was filled with family, laughter and love.

Now that my sons are grown I’m hopeful they will carry on the tradition of the occasional Sunday Dinner. My family is filling up with daughter-in-laws and grandchildren. We don’t live as close as I would like, but the best times are when everyone gathers at our home for one of those special Sunday Dinners.  I still bring out the same china we used when the kids were little. There is always something wonderful cooking on the stove top and in the oven. My sons come to the kitchen to help prepare the meal while their kids play in the living room.
Sunday dinners are just one of those age old traditions that never wear out. I hope everyone has experienced them in their lifetime.  Do you have any wonderful memories of Sunday dinners you’d like to share? If so I invite you to leave a comment below. 


An avid lover of books and historical romances, Tracey has been writing romances for almost thirty years.  She holds membership in Romance Writers of America, Novelists Inc. and Liberty States Fiction Writers.  Tracey and her husband live in downstate New York with two dogs and four chickens. When not busy writing, and doing research for her books, she is busy making her husband crazy with renovations on their 1800’s farm house.  To learn more about the Women of Surprise sweet historical romance series visit  Visit Tracey on Facebook at Tracey is also published in contemporary romance. You can learn more about these books by visiting

The Women of Surprise historical romance series. Amazon/Montlake