Thursday, September 27, 2012

The Stories Of My People (You Don't Have To Believe Them To Love Them)

My deadline for the second book in my erotic fiction Just One Night trilogy is days away and I'm not done. Therefore when my son came to me the day before Yom Kippur to tell me that he wanted to go to High Holiday Services I had mixed feelings. A big part of me that wanted to skip them this year. But my son's 13, this is the first year he can fast and when he looked at me, when he implored me to take him, I recognized myself in him...myself at 13.

My feelings about God have always been sort of in line with Spinoza's God. To quote Einstein:  

We followers of Spinoza see our God in the wonderful order and lawfulness of all that exists and in its soul as it reveals itself to man and animal. It is a different question whether belief in a personal God should be contested. 

This God that Einstein is talking about isn't a God that has been defined by Judaism or any other organized religion and yet they've characterize my feelings about God for pretty much my whole life.

But when I reached my teen years I became absolutely drawn to Judaism. For me it was a link to my heritage, a virtually unknown part of my identity. I was born a black, Jewish girl. Every time I look in the mirror I feel the connection to my African American heritage. I feel it when certain members of the black community assume an almost instant air of camaraderie upon meeting me, I'm reminded of it when people ask about my nationality and I feel it when I'm exposed to subtle (or overt) racism.

But how does one feel that connection with their Jewish heritage? For some people that's easy. My boyfriend's an Israeli born atheist.  His father fought in the Six Day War. His great-great-great (add a few more greats in there) grandfather is considered to be the father of the Kabbalah. With that kind of family you can probably feel All-Jewish-All-The-Time without ever lighting a single Hanukkah candle. But it's not that easy for me. No one in my family was religious and no one is going to look at me or my son and immediately think, "I bet that person's Jewish." They might not be shocked when they find out we are but they won't assume it upon meeting us. In a society that is defined by assimilation most Jews of my generation don't live in Jewish neighborhoods. Our childhoods are not filled with lox and bagels or latkes or if they are, well those things have been claimed by the general public anyway. Latkes are now potato pancakes that people of all faiths buy at Trader Joe's all the time...along with the bagels and lox schmear they'll be eating after their daughter's Christening. What is there in our society that is uniquely and exclusively Jewish? What makes us unique?

Once you get to college or enter your adult years you can finds groups like Hillel or Hadassah to be the answer to those questions, but as a kid there's really only the synagogue and the activities they sponsor. If you're religious the value of the Torah and the Jewish Bible are obvious but if you're not they're still very valuable. After all, we all know the myths of the Greeks, we've heard of the myths of the Ancient Egyptians, we know the stories of Christianity and Islam...but what about the Jews? What are the myths of our people? We've heard something about some dude parting the red sea but really, what was that all about? Because even if you don't believe they happened the reality is that the lessons from these stories formed the basis for our entire culture and code of conduct for centuries. If we're going to understand our history we need to understand those stories. Plus, I'm a writer, stories are very important to me.  We should know the prayers of our ancestors because those are their hopes and dreams, their beliefs and aspirations. Their aspirations for us, their descendants. 

While I was in college I met a woman at a Hillel event. She sang a Hebrew song, a kind of prayer I suppose. I recognized it and started singing along. She stopped and smiled before saying, "We grew up half a world apart and yet we know the same songs. We're family."And yes, we probably knew the same Nirvana songs too but that's one culture sharing their music with another. This was us sharing the same culture, and therefore the same music. 

When I started going to temple as a teen I heard the rabbi rephrase, in almost poetic terms, the values and lessons my mother had tried to teach to me. I had never thought of these values or lessons being particularly Jewish when they came from the mouth of my secular mother. But when the Rabbi started talking about social justice, forgiveness of yourself and of others, making amends when we do wrong, helping the community, helping others to help themselves, when he started talking about the Jewish definition of sin which basically amounts to letting your talents go to waste, not doing your best, not giving your endeavors your all...when the Rabbi spoke of these things I understood the roots of my mother's morality. I realized that we had been living a Jewish life even when I was sure we weren't. 

So yeah, I understood why I had to stop writing sex scenes for a day and take my son to High Holiday services. And when I took him and again listened to the Rabbi speak, I found myself falling into a somewhat meditative state.  Through his sermon I was reminded of the value of determination and of sharing our success with others. I was reminded that it's been months since I've volunteered for Meals On Wheels or with reading programs for inner city children. I was reminded of why that's important and why I should try not to be so self-righteous about my political philosophies that I refuse to listen to opposing opinions because debates are about listening and responding to those who disagree with us, not preaching to the choir and drowning everybody else out. I was reminded of the value of the religion of my people and, for me, it's relatively insignificant that I don't believe in all of its dictates or choose to practice all the rituals all the time.

I don't know if I'll ever believe in the God as he is defined within the Torah, I don't think I'll ever believe in the stories from the bible, but I appreciate the lessons they teach and I deeply appreciate what they tell me about the history of my people.  I'm so glad I know the same songs as other Jews half a world away.

I'm glad my son made me go to temple.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Does This Horse Make My Butt Look Big?

So I took my troop horseback riding Sunday - I know - you just CAN'T get enough of my girl scout stories.  Anyway, It was a gorgeous, autumn afternoon - peaceful and quiet as we rode through the woods for ninety minutes.  Oh sure, there was the occasional horse in front of you stopping to crap - a VERY disturbing sight up close - but the weather was perfect and the leaves were turning.  Aside from the girls snickering every time a horse stopped to 'go,' it was idyllic.

The girls got to choose their horses.  Of course my daughter (see above) - the super tall kid, picks the Welsh pony.  She looked like and adult riding a dog.  I asked her why she chose him, and she said, "Cuz I thought we'd look weird together."  In a strange way, that made total sense to me.

Once the girls were done, Jo, the horse facilitator said to her staff, "Bring out the 'Adult' horses."  For a moment I thought maybe these were horses rescued from the porn industry.  But then my friend Lisa leaned over and translated, "She means the horses who can handle us big girls."  I prefer to think that these are the maverick mustangs that only she and I can handle.

Of course, Lisa gets Rusty - the Hannibal Lechter of horses - as is evidenced by the above photo.  Jo insists that Rusty does not have an obsessive need to consume human flesh with a nice chianti and fava beans - he just won't stop eating grass...EVER.  That's why he has the cage on his face.  Maybe - but I stood two steps back, just in case.

This is me on my trusty steed, Apache - breathing fire through his nostrils as he chomps at the bit to charge off into the sunset.  Except that the stallion was really a mare.  And she was very sweet.  And her name was Shelley.  I tried not to be disappointed, but she wouldn't rear up on her hind legs - not even a little.

Here you can see how tiny Meg's horse was.  Lauren - in the top photo - is as tall as Meg.  She picked a normal sized horse.  Not my kid.

Jo asked if they wanted to groom the horses when they were done.  These are girls who I KNOW have to be held at gunpoint to brush their cats or dogs at home - I was certain they'd say no.

I was wrong.  They brushed these horses like they were giving them professional massages at a horse day spa.

In the end - it was a great day, even if I didn't get to gallop into the sunset.  Once my butt stops hurting, maybe I'll think about doing it again.  Someday.

The Assassin

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Let's Talk Crap

Do you hear it?  The whispers?  It’s coming.  Whispers at Moonrise, my forth book in the Shadow Falls series releases next week.  That’s right next week!!!  And just as a teaser for the book, before I get to the real blog, here’s a video done by the amazing Rosa Brand.

And…I have some other wonderful news.  Today, my boxed set of three books goes on sale for $1.99.  Three books: Murder, Mayhem and Mama, Gotcha! and Weddings Can Be Murder.  All three for less than two bucks!  As an added bonus, you can read the first eight chapters of Born at Midnight, the first book in the Shadow Falls series.   And, if you’d like to read more, St. Martin’s has reduced the price of Born at Midnight in e-book to $2.99.

Now for the blog:

 Let’s Talk Crap

Just in case you didn’t get it from the title… Warning:  The following blog contains some G-rated potty humor. 

SAYING OF THE WEEK: (Chosen for its appropriateness) Shit Happens.

Okay…now that you’re onboard with our subject, let’s talk.  ‘Let’s get real.’  Does that line sound familiar?  If so, you’ve probably seen that commercial about toilet paper where a woman says, “It’s time to get real--to say what you really expect from your toilet paper.”  I always laugh at that commercial.  And like most things that get a giggle out of me, the reason I find it funny is because there is an element of truth in it. Truth that we normally don’t discuss.  Potty truth.  Taboo truth.  Anything that happens in the bathroom is basically taboo, unless you are a two or three year old, or as it commonly happens, a male who never outgrew that stage.  (Yes, unfortunately there are a lot of those.) Or, you’re a comedy writer who happens to write romance, who knows good material.  Plain and simple, potty humor is funny.  You don’t agree?  Well, tell me you didn’t laugh at the movie Bridesmaids!

 But let’s get back to toilet paper.  How many of you have gone into a restaurant bathroom and frowned when you went to grab a few squares and the paper is that thin, nonabsorbent stuff that just doesn’t get the job done?  My hubby (yes, one of those males who didn’t completely grow out of that stage) calls it John Wayne toilet paper.  Rough and tough and won’t take shit off anybody. 

Now, I’ll bet you guys are probably wondering what bought on this odd blog.  Well, two things.  The other day my granddaughter was over playing with Play Dough.    She was pressing the play dough through one of those shape making toys, and giggled.  “It looks like poo.”

She was right.  And it got a big laugh in the room.  And then my daughter, who had her smart phone in her hands, leaned in and said…, “You know, I’m a big Pinterest fan, right?  Well, you can find anything on Pinterest.  And the other day, I accidentally ran across some images of . . . poo.  Not just to show poo, but talking about what a healthy poo should look like.  And sort of giving you health tips according to your poo’s appearance.  As in, what a poo looks like if you don’t drink enough water sort of advice.  It was kind of gross, but kind of interesting.”

I was totally intrigued.  “So what does a healthy poo look like?” I asked.

She started to explain and I said, “Show me?” 

She rolled her eyes.  “I don’t know if could find it again.  I mean, I wasn’t going to pin it.  Because people
following me would know I pinned poo.”

We all laughed again.  And you know what I did, don’t you?  If you think I went and pinned poo, you are wrong.  What I did was ask my daughter, “Can I blog about this?” She gave me her blessing.

So, now on to other potty matters, the second thing that inspired this blog.   Months ago, my son came home from work looking like a kid at Christmas.  “I got you a present.”

He didn’t have his hands behind his back like he did when he was three, bringing me a dandelion flower he’d pulled from the weeds.  But he had the same look. 

“A gift?” I asked.

“Yes, but you’ll have to go to the bathroom to find it.” 

I was leery.  When he was younger I’d been lured in the bathroom to see what thought was longest turd ever.  But, trusting he’d outgrown that stage, I went into the bathroom and on the back of the toilet I found it.  POO-POURRI.  Yup, you heard that right.  Here’s what’s printed on the back:

There was a Young lad from Rhone
Who’s odor he’d rather disown
now he’s taming his poo
by anointing the loo
and now happily sits on his throne!

And, hey…I must confess it really works.  All you do is spray the toilet water before doing your business.  It works so well that they have since come out with little portable packages of this stuff in little dissolvable tabs that you carry in your purse and use in public bathrooms.  Hey…how many of you have been in the position that you either gave someone a courtesy flush or wished the person in the stall beside you would return the favor?  So I must say…this is really a brilliant idea.

I hope whoever invented it gets rich. 

 I like it so much that I have given it away as gifts.  Frankly, this is the perfect gift for someone who has everything, who has a sense of humor, and who would like the world to think their shit doesn’t stink.
And today, I’m going to be giving away a bottle of POO- POURRI to one lucky commenter along with a copy of Whispers at Moonrise.  So make sure you leave a comment.  And for those of you would like to double your chances, this blog is posted both here and at Laugh, Love, Read : 

So here are the questions of the day:

What kind of toilet paper do you use? And what qualities do you require in your toilet paper?

Would you pin poo?   

Here’s to a good laugh and hopefully to an entertaining blog that really isn’t crap. (Sorry, I had to go for one more pun!) Thanks and don’t forget to pick up a copy of Whispers at Moonrise.


Monday, September 24, 2012

Big Fun at the West Texas Book Festival! by Diane Kelly

One of my favorite things to do is to meet other writers and readers.  This past weekend, I was a featured author at the West Texas Book Festival in Abilene.  I had a heck of a time!

Glenn Dromgoole, the New York Times bestselling author of What Dogs Teach Us and many other great books, was the originator and co-chair of the event. That's Glenn at the head of the table, with his lovely wife on the right.  Check out Glenn's books at: Glenn's Books.  

Next is the also-lovely wife of Dr. Steven Berk, who is seated next to yours truly.  Dr. Berk was kidnapped at gunpoint and lived to write about it.  Check out Dr. Berk's book, Anatomy of a Kidnapping, at: Dr. Berk's Book.

Also at the festival was John Erickson, the author of the popular humorous Hank the Cowdog series. You can find his books at John R. Erickson's books.
The other co-chair of the festival was Rhonda Bolt.  She's pictured here with her husband, who just happens to be a CPA. He and I had a lot of fun talking shop over dinner.

The Hardin Simmons University Cowboy Band kicked off the Saturday lunch with a rousing round of western-themed music and vocals.  What an entertaining group!

After lunch, we had a book signing and I had the chance to connect with readers, which is always so much fun!  And before I left town, I made a stop by the Texas Star Trading Co., a fun Texas-themed gift shop.  I definitely recommend checking it out if you happen to find yourself in Abilene.  Info here: Texas Star Trading Co.
Tell us about your favorite book-related events.  Have you attended a local, regional, or state-wide book festival?  Is there a fun annual event at your library?  Maybe a bookstore that hosts interesting book events?  What type of author or reader events do you enjoy the most?  Any special memories relating to books or authors? 

One lucky person who posts a comment today will win a copy of my upcoming electronic novella, Death, Taxes, and a Sequined Clutch, which releases on October 30th!  Check back around 9:00 PM central time to see if you've won.

Thanks for visiting us here at Killer Fiction!

Diane Kelly is the author of the humorous IRS Special Agent Tara Holloway romantic mystery series.  Visit Diane at

Friday, September 21, 2012

Didja miss me?

I'm back from maternity leave!  Wow, that went fast.  It’s hard to believe my newbie is 2 months old already.  What’s that you say?  You want pictures?  Well, okay…

Zachary William (or "Baby Zac" as he's known around here)

With his best friend, Duck

With his big brother in the one matching outfit I could get them both to wear without crying - Beatles shirts!

I may be a bit biased, but I think he’s pretty darn cute. :)

While I was away playing Mommy, another fabulous thing happened – my High Heels Mysteries Boxed Set hit the New York Times Bestseller list… again! It hit the first time back in February, so I was shocked and beyond thrilled that it hit again six months later.  Not only that, but the books in this set are all from 2006-2009 – at least three years old!  If this isn’t proof that ebooks have no shelf life, I don’t know what is.

As if that wasn't enough excitement, I also bought a house.  I know, what was I thinking trying to move with a newborn?  I dunno.  For some crazy reason my new-mommy nesting instinct made me visit open houses like it was my crack, and I accidentally found one I loved at a price I could actually afford.  Well, almost afford - I did have to promise the bank my eternal soul, but it's a small price to pay for the awesome digs we got.  WE move in next week, and I cannot wait!  My first house that's all mine (and the bank's) and I don't have to pay rent on....yaaaay!  I'll post pics as soon as we move in.

So, what have all of you been up to while I was away?  Any fun news to share?

~Trigger Happy Halliday

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Cooking with Kathy or...Baking With Bullet Hole

Amish Recipe Tomato Pie

Despite the weather being beastly hot and horrifically dry this summer, I've been pretty fortunate with my little vegetable garden. As a result, I've tried new and different recipes for zucchini and tomatoes this year. Knowing I had more than a few tomatoes, a co-worker passed along a recipe for Amish Tomato Pie several weeks ago. When the temperature dropped last week, I decided to try his recipe. And boy was it yummy! Of course, anything baked with tomatoes, cheese, and mayo is bound to be tasty, but this one is a keeper.

Now, I'm not known for my skills in the kitchen. In fact, I don't like to cook very much at all. But even this mediocre cook was able to successfully prepare the pie. So today, I thought I'd pass the recipe on to you all, (along with photographic evidence for all those skeptics who are familiar with past culinary disasters in my household that may or may not include an exploding turkey) so you can see there's more to ol' Bullet Hole than meets the eye.

Bon appetit!


Amish Recipe Tomato Pie

Mix to right consistency and press in bottom of pie dish: 2 Cups Bisquick and ½ Cup Milk ( I substituted pie crust)

Slice two medium tomatoes and line the crust with them.

In a small plastic bag place:

1 teaspoon basil
1 teaspoon parsley flakes
½ teaspoon thyme leaves
½ teaspoon oregano
½ teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon pepper

Sprinkle above over tomatoes.

Mix together: 1 cup mayonnaise (you can use light mayo) and ¾ cup shredded American cheese (I used Colby Jack cheese. You can use whatever cheese you prefer.)

Spread mayo and cheese over tomatoes and spices.

Bake at 350 degrees for 35 to 45 minutes until golden brown.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

The more things change...

My husband and I are getting ready to celebrate ten years, which is amazing in itself considering that it's not unusual for me to say things like, "We've been to that restaurant/park/event before. Remember? When we were dating." So it doesn't seem that long ago. But time marches on.

To celebrate, Jim and I are planning a trip back to Chicago, where we spent a lot of time...err...when we were dating. And first married. Before kids, really. We live in St. Louis, and sometimes on Fridays I'd come home from work at the ad agency and want to go somewhere, do something. Head out of town. So we'd pack a quick bag and go.

We really should have checked the weather as well because one time, we were half-way to Chicago and it started snowing. Hard. We turned on the radio and learned they'd been predicting a foot of snow. Turns out they were right. Oops. We almost spent that weekend in an old Red Roof Inn in the middle of rural Illinois.

But it was fun and we always had such a great time on our impromptu road trips. Alas, they ended when we had kids. Now with writing and other things, I haven't really felt the need to dash out of town at the end of the day. Or maybe my husband and I just know we can't!

Still, for the 10th, we're doing it again. Only this time, we're planning. And frankly, it has us confused.

Like last night, we sat on our laptops and showed each other fun things to do in Chicago. New things. Things we'd never done before. But we couldn't decide on anything. We looked up hotels. But we ended up making a reservation at the same place we'd always just showed up at before. Then we realized our problem - these trips are not meant to be planned. They're meant to be savored. We'd gotten to be too parental. We were messing with the system.

So we ditched the planning and have decided we'll just show up. We'll revel in the "let's see" attitude that made the trips so much fun in the first place. We'll explore with abandon. Well, mostly. I did notice Jim has kept the reservation.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

A Weekend Away...

By Robin "Red Hot" Kaye

My youngest daughter, Mini-me and I took a mini vacation to Colonial Williamsburg this weekend—just the two of us. It isn’t often we get away together. It seems as if for the last five years I’ve been on deadline as I am now. So why, you may ask, am I romping around Colonial Williamsburg when my book is due in 16 days? My only answer is: Because, maternal guilt is a very powerful motivator.

As usual, this is all my husband’s fault. He took our other two kids out backpacking for five days over Fourth of July weekend leaving Mini-me and me at home with the dogs. Not that there is anything wrong with the dogs. They’re cute, cuddly, and you know, loyal. But it’s not as if Mini-me and I got to do anything fun.

Now, between you, me, and the doorknob, Mini-me and I don’t think backpacking is much fun—after all it involves bugs, a hell of a lot of walking, poison ivy, going to the bathroom in the woods, and eating freeze-dried food, but that’s not the point. The point is that they got to do something they thought was fun and we didn’t.

When my husband and the kids came home, I told them that Mini-me and I were going away just the two of us to do something fun which would not involve woods (we’re allergic), too much walking, bad food (we’re food snobs), bugs (that darn allergy thing again) and questionable toilet facilities (just because we know how to shit in the woods, doesn’t mean we want to). I had no idea what we were going to do, but I had a strong feeling it would involve someplace with 24-hour room service.

Luckily I found a great deal through Travel Zoo, signed up, and even paid for it. Two nights in Colonial Williamsburg was ours any Sunday through Thursday, the only catch was that it had to be used by September 27th. No problem. After all we had the whole summer. September was months away.

Isn’t it amazing how time flies while you’re not having fun? Well, we had some fun. After all, if you’ve followed the blog you’ve read allabout my trip to Idaho.

Right after I killed myself to make my deadline for Back To You: Bad Boys of Red Hook, my editor asked if I could write a novella, Hometown Girl, to introduce the new series. I said, sure, no problem. I whipped that puppy out, had a fabulous time writing it, sent it in (a few days early in fact—a first for me) and went back to my contracts to see when my next book was due...Imagine my surprise when I realized it You're The One: Bad Boys of Red Hook was due October 1!

Now mind you, this was mid-August and I hadn’t even written the synopsis for You're The One. Any sane person would have gone into apoplectic shock. It’s a good thing I’m not sane. I just thought I’d hunker down and write like the wind. No problem.

Then my husband went missing. (See above—it’s all my husband’s fault) Okay, so he wasn’t missing in a literal sense. If you read my last blog here at Killer Fiction you’d know that for the last few months he’s been working 16 – 20 hour days, seven days a week. Now that I think about it, the last weekend he had off was when he and the kids went hiking.

So instead of hunkering down and writing like the wind, I spent the majority of time not only in deadline hell, but in deadline hell without my domestic god to do laundry, cleaning, and at least the partial feeding of kids and dogs. Yeah, I was on my own, rediscovering how much I dislike housework, laundry, and taking care of teenagers on my own. Every time something came up, my work got put down and when school started and things got really crazy. It was then it occurred to me that I still had a promise to keep. I had to take Mini-me to Williamsburg and I had to do it on a holiday—Mini-me couldn’t afford to miss more than one day of school.

Thank God for Rosh Hashannah! So here I am, running all over Williamsburg with Mini-me and having a great time.

See... I got to put Mini-me in the stocks to show her what happened in the olden days when teenagers didn’t listen to their mothers.

We enjoyed looking at the dresses women wore, but Mini-me decided that if she had lived back in the colonial days, it would have been “way better to be a dude.”

We ate at the King’s Arms Tavern—twice. Yeah, it was really that good...

We shopped...

And did our share of flirting with the men in uniform.

There is really something to be said for men in tight breeches. 

I can't wait until we see what trouble we can get into tomorrow morning before we leave. I have a feeling it's going to involve a candy store and the world's longest Gummy Worm...

So? What have you done in the name of maternal guilt, or if that’s not a problem for you, what was the last time you went out and did something fun, even if it wasn’t at all convenient?