Stop That Writer’s World, I Want to Get Off

Free week here at 4F, 1H and I have been trying to figure out where all my reading time had gone, and finding out that I may be wasting the time I now have.

Waiting for grandkids gave me a lot of reading time. Waiting outside of school, in carpool lines, at bus stops, at soccer fields gave me loads of time, but I am doing much less of that now.
Waiting in doctors’ offices gave me a long time to read. I carry big purses that books or a reader can slide into, but my medical people, especially those in my GP’s office, have been quite good lately about getting me in and out. Even the lab in the building never makes me wait long any more.

With the kids not around much and fewer people  in at all, my daily housework has been cut, I have had time to do long-term cleaning and am still in the decluttering battle, but with certain energy/joint limitations, the only upside is that I have more time to read.
I often read YA and have mentioned that my grandson and I recommend books to each other. I picked up an interesting one some time back at the perpetual sale at my local library. I started to read it, and it was quite good. The hero of the book was a boy just my grandson’s age, which always helps to keep a kid interested. However, I realized that the book was the second in a series, so I put it aside and reserved the first installment from the library.

And have I been disappointed!

It contains two stories: how the boy’s unusual situation came to be, and how his stories continue, and both are complete snoozes.I have no idea why, since the premise is really good.

In the first book, both situations are drawn out and repetitive. I can often see where plots is headed, but with this one, if a kid can’t see what is happening, I don’t think the kid is ready for a chapter book!

The book has a few anachronisms, as well. It drives me crazy when a writer doesn’t do simple research. and The main story is set in the English countryside. The boy is well-traveled, but from a country on the Continent. However, the village and its way of life suggest a small American mid-west town and most of the people ‘talk’ like late 18th-early 20th century Americans. A very few characters are confusingly written with bad Cockney or Scottish accents, yet they still refer to ‘miles-per-hour’ and use other non-European phrases, with the exception of a few choice items or colors with no reference point. I had to go running to a dictionary myself to find out to what the writer was referring and I doubt any kid is going to simply not skip over the word and have no idea as to what was being mentioned, even though most clues, personalities, facial features, animals, etc., are monotonously described over and over.

I will read the second one, but I don’t know how this one was published as is, and why indeed, the author was given the chance at the second one. I am glad he was, however.

When I was young, I felt that I needed to finish a book no matter what. I still usually plod through, but do you give up on books? I have put some down that I felt the need to finish because they were written by people I knew, and forced myself through them. But a few, I simply could not, even after several tries. When I do plod through them, I scan-read.
My husband took a speed-reading course before we met. He gets through things quickly, and I can see his head move slightly, back and forth, while he reads. Fortunately, he reads non-fiction. I detest scanning or speed-reading, since I do love to savor the way a great writer creates worlds and writes in prose or even just cleverly. When you scan through and just pick up the story, you lose the writer’s style. Unfortunately, that is exactly what I wanted to do with this one, and some others.

[Do you know the Woody Allen lines: “I took a speed-reading course. I finished ‘War and Peace’ in 3 hours. It was about Russia.”? My mother, not a Woody Allen fan but a big reader and sometime writer, loved this!]

With all there is to read, and with such a long TBR or wish-list, (books in bad taste, against your principles, etc., not included), do you still stick out an annoying book to the end?
Have you read a series that you are surprised  that further installments far out-shine the first book?

Posted in book review, characters, reading preferences, Tonette Joyce, Uncategorized, writing | Tagged , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Size Definitely Matters

Excerpt from my novel, Size Matters

By Jeff Salter

Chapter 1
Saturday, early morning

“What do you mean you were a foot tall?” asked my friend Vickilee, after I’d tearfully repeated what happened to me last night.

“As in literally,” I explained for the fourth time. “I was standing eyeball to eyeball with thirteen Cyndi dolls in my big display in the main room.” I live above my shop but had fallen asleep downstairs still wearing my traveling clothes.

Vickilee sat me down again — though I kept popping back up because I was too rattled to sit — and tried to pin me to her chair by pressing on both shoulders. “Now, start from the beginning, after you woke with the horrid migraine.”

This wasn’t helping. It was early Saturday morning, and I’d invaded Vickilee’s home, where her fiancé Brisco was loudly snoring in the back bedroom. “Maybe it was a mistake to come here. I’m sorry.” I tried to peel her hands from my shoulders so I could slink away into the Verdeville, Tennessee, morning.

After she released me, she slumped back into her own chair with tears in her eyes. “Emma, I want to help, and I’m trying to understand. Honestly, I am. But all this malarkey about being one foot tall is freaking me out. Is this about your dreamy lawyer boyfriend? What’s going on?”

“Logan Stride is not officially my boyfriend yet.” Though I already thought of him that way. “I told you he’s a stickler about not dating clients. So we’re just pre-dating until Grandma Nana’s estate is completely settled.” That required one final appearance before a judge, presumably within the coming week. “Logan says all the paperwork is fine. It’s just some certain period of time—”

“Maybe you’re too stressed about your shop,” she suggested, interrupting again. “Is business okay? You’re not about to lose everything, are you?”

“It’s not about the shop, either.” Vickilee was correct. My nascent business was iffy; however, the books were in the black and I could still pay the modest salaries of my two reliable assistants. “Something happened, Vickilee, and I’m trying to explain.” I was wearing hardly more than pajamas with a bathrobe when I’d raced over as the bright sun was rising. Fortunately, Vickilee lived directly across Marple Street. “I know it sounds extraordinary, but it happened. I shrank, gradually, over a period of about an hour or so. I’m guessing a bit. At first I thought I was having a stroke, then I figured I was dying. Somewhere along the line, I must’ve passed out. When I came to, I realized everything was fine… except I was only eleven inches tall.”

Vickilee grasped my hands tightly across her kitchen table and sniffled, one step short of bawling. She was taking it almost as badly as I had. “But you’re regular size now, Emma. Of course, you look like leftover pizza, but if we clean you up a bit and get you dressed, things will seem better.”

Yep, she thought I was nuts. “I know how it sounds. If you came rushing over to my shop with this story, I’d think you were off your rail. I understand how you feel. But I’m telling you it really happened. I was face to face with Cyndi dolls…”

“A dream, Emma. That’s all it was.” She rose and moved to her coffee pot, where she stood monitoring me. It seemed like she was about to call the local psych ward. “You had a bad dream. That, mixed with the migraine, and your brain tricked you into thinking it really happened.” When Vickilee tried to pour, her hands shook so badly more coffee spilled to the floor and counter than entered either cup. “People can’t shrink down to nothing and then grow back out. That’s only in schlocky science-fiction movies.”

I would agree with her if it hadn’t actually happened. No, there were no witnesses, but I was wide awake — for parts of it, anyway.


Accidentally swallowing a mysterious pill from her eccentric scientist cousin, Emma Hobby shrinks to the size of those fashion dolls she collects and sells in her shop. When she resumes normal size, Emma must track down her cousin, who’s obviously in trouble (based on those crazy messages he sent). Can those sci-fi miniaturization pills help find him? How about Logan Stride, the attorney who wants to handle more of Emma than her case? Size Matters. Novel, $1.99.

[JLS # 315]

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Creative Outlet

Yesterday I had planned to write about a reading challenge that I am doing for 2017. It gives specific types of books to read So you’re broadening your reading horizons but then my seven year old came home waving a piece of folded, taped shut paper and the content had me shift gears.


We all know writing is a creative. It is a huge outlet for me and always was. I remember writing constantly when I was first diagnosed with anxiety disorder, panic attacks, and depression as a teenager. My writing was a way for me to communicate with the world what I was unable to say. When my uncle was seventeen he passes away from leukemia and while I didn’t ever get to meet him in person I did get to know him through the art he left behind. I remember sneaking up to his old bedroom which he had painted While he was sick. I loved seeing the cartoons he had painted on the walls. I had some of his art framed and hung in my bedroom all through my childhood. Creativity is important to not only me but to the world so when I see adults encouraging young people to express themselves I get excited.


The paper my son brought home was from his art teacher. Wyatt was one of three kids in his classroom and one of thirty in his school of over five hundred students who had been given this letter. On Sunday there is going to be a recognition ceremony for young artists of Muscatine. The ceremony will be at The Figge Art Museum in the Quad Cities. After the certificates if recognition are awarded one student from each school will be selected for a scholarship to a summer art class at the museum. I had never heard of the Young Artists of Muscatine so I went to the school to talk with the teacher. She explained that Wyatt has a piece of art on display at the museum and this is to recognize all the students who have a passion and talent for art. She said she could see in him that not only does he enjoy creating but he has a talent for it. So on Sunday we will be going to the Cities to this ceremony then we’ll probably spend the afternoon exploring and talking about all the art that graces the walls there.


I encourage all if my kids to create. I don’t care what it is or how they make it. My daughter chooses to sing and enjoys acting. My Quin loved to draw but has stepped back from that (I think it has something to do with him just wanting to spend that time with his friends) and I’m alright with that. He joined chorus this year and loves it. Wyatt has a little corner of my dining room filled with oil pastels, acrylic paints, colored pencils, clay, an easel, and canvasses. It brings me joy to see them express themselves. It helps when if they don’t want to talk they can show me how they feel in some way.


The Arts are so important and I like seeing that teachers are encouraging students who have a passion for it. What is your go to creative outlet?

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Tess Grant and the Full Moon Trilogy!

My critique partner and current butt-kicker, Tess Grant, is re-releasing her Kitty Irish Trilogy as the Full Moon Trilogy and the first book Hunter Moon (formerly Trajectories) will be coming out any day with a new cover and everything.

I am so excited to have these books available to you again. (I probably wouldn’t be much more excited if they were my books.) Tess’s writing always inspires me to do better.

So check out Hunter Moon, the first book in the Full Moon Trilogy.

Grant-HuntersMoon-1.jpgDisaster is only a bite away.

(See what I mean?? Isn’t that an awesome tagline?)

Kitty Irish has heard all the rumors swirling around Daniel Phinney. Most of them involve a gun, a flask, and a temper. One chance encounter with the WWII veteran over a grisly find in the woods pulls the cover off the dark secrets of their small town, and Kitty is drawn into an unlikely partnership. Armed with an antique rifle and a handful of homemade silver bullets, the two form an efficient team. Unfortunately, their game is werewolf hunting, and disaster is only a bite away. (This work was previously published as Trajectories by Tess Grant.)

tess-grantAbout Tess:

After nearly ten years as a forensic anthropologist, Tess Grant semi-retired to a farmette in Michigan. She lives there with her husband, children, and a number of strange critters, none of whom are werewolves.

Her website is

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Fifty Favorites for 2017: Part One

This is a Free Week at Four Foxes, One Hound, and I had a few things in mind to write about, but since I’m composing this at the last minute I decided to continue sharing my Goodreads challenge books. Here are the books I’ve enjoyed since my last free week post:

that-christmasThat Christmas Feeling by Karyn Gerard
I purchased this book when it was promoted as a Seasoned Romance, but like another book from this promotion I felt neither of the characters is that mature in age. The hero is a television star and the heroine runs a wilderness lodge with her parents. Connall is trying to avoid his family holiday, so he goes on a retreat in Ontario with his old friend and a few others. He discovers he has nothing in common with the young party-going crowd, so he finds the manager to ask for other accomodations, and ends up enjoying old movies and other treats with her. Despite the younger-than-expected characters, it was a nice read.

mr-rightMr. Right, Mr. Wrong, Mr. Alien by Cheryl Sterling.
Cheryl is a long-distance member of one of my local writers groups. I bought this short story because it had an interesting, though popular premise: Earth girl meets alien man. The way they meet is unique: he finds her on an online dating site. She’s reluctant to meet him because she’s recently widowed and feeling guilty for having registered on that site while her husband was alive. Somehow he convinces her to take a chance on him. I’m hoping the story is continued, because I’d like to find out if the alien really is Mr. Right.

christmas-at-baChristmas at Brentwood Abbey by Kristin Vayden, Nadine Millard, and Kay Springsteen.
The same event is described from the point of view of three different people living at Brentwood Abbey. Having read books by both Kristin and Kay, I decided to purchase and read this anthology and am so glad I did. Two stories deal with nobility (the Earl of Brentwood and his sister) while the third is about to of the servants. The three stories intertwined nicely but contrasted enough to keep me reading until the end.

young-teacherYoung Teacher by Bobbi Ruggiero
This is yet another book purchased during the Seasoned Romance promotion, and again I was disappointed at how young the main characters are. Julia is an urban professional in her mid-30s and Matthew is ten years younger. To me, Julia hardly qualifies as an “older woman.” Other than that, the story is entertaining. I find it a bit hard to believe that a twenty-something young man would have the passion for teaching guitar and arrange recitals for them, while working full-time in a sandwich shop AND performing in a rock band. But the romance itself is nicely done.

So there’s my list! A family emergency has caused a huge shift in my daily routine, so my list might be smaller next month. I hope not. Guess I’ll just have to keep looking for ways to get my reading in.

Have you completed anything from your 2017 TBR list?

Posted in Books, Patricia Kiyono, TBR List | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 10 Comments

Hot Water Soup

We are discussing our favorite cold-weather drinks this week and that is a hard choice.
Right now, I have been drinking a lot of coffee. I only drink coffee in cool weather. My absolute favorite is Kenyan Arabica, which I stumbled across many years ago. I have been brewing quite a bit of flavored coffee, notably hazelnut, vanilla or something even more interesting, such as caramel or raspberry, perhaps raspberry/chocolate. When I had my bakery-restaurant, we had a coffee club and the flavored ones were a big hit. Coffee is also supposedly good against gout…that’s my story and I’m sticking to it!
I go to the coffee aisle every time I go to the store, looking for sales

I do love a good cappuccino, especially from a John Conte machine, but I can’t handle the carbs any more. I use stevia in my homemade coffee.

I like original Ovaltine [malt], but usually when I have it, I make it in cold milk, when I am not cold.

I do love a good cup of tea. My grandkids and I often had ‘teas’, and I can still get the girls to eat well if I make finger foods or other foods ‘appetizeresque’ and serve it on fancy plates, with tea.

I really like fruited teas, but iced, and only in warm weather. I will have an occasional raspberry hot tea, but I normally go for a simple cup of black tea, no milk, but with stevia or a sugar/stevia mix. I will add lemon sometimes. But when it comes to lemon, I will often make plain hot lemon ‘tea’: slices of fresh lemon brewed in boiling water and sweetened. It is also said to be good against gout, but I took a liking to it when I was very young. My brother once looked into my cup and, quoting Eb from ‘Green Acres’, “Oh, boy! Hot water soup!” (I hope you know the context. If not, well, I actually found the clip: ).
There have been times when, with this “Hot Water Soup”, I have spiked it and made a Hot Toddy. However, since for many years my situation called for me to be available any hour day or night to leave to get my grandson, or if he or the granddaughters were here I needed to be 100% clear-headed and quickly awake, I have not made one in some time. Also, now, it would be in conflict with meds I am taking. But I will tell you, if you need someone to calm down or if someone has a cold, a half-shot of Seagram’s Seven or Jameson added to a cup of sweetened hot lemon makes a nice, soothing cup. (Honey makes a nice addition here.)

I find most commercial hot cocoa mixes to be weak. The only one I ever truly liked is Nestlé’s Rich Milk Chocolate. Unfortunately, it is also full of carbs, (I am allergic to most artificial sweeteners.I get terrible headaches). When I have an absolute craving for a cup of cocoa, I do what my mother did, and use real, unsweetened ‘baking’ cocoa. Although she used sugar or honey, stevia mixed with sugar is now my choice. It can often be hard to get the cocoa powder to dissolve fully, so I place it in the bottom of a cup, add a couple of tablespoons full of boiling water and make it into a paste. I slowly add the sweetener and heated milk…and I have cocoa the way it should be made!

Have I raised any thoughts?

Posted in childhood, Family, Life, Tonette Joyce, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

Drinking Hot or Cold

My Favorite Winter Beverages

By Jeff Salter

Gosh, this topic will be difficult to respond to unless I clarify a few things first. If it’s wintertime and I’ve been inside all day (and not ventured out into the cold weather), I’m just as likely to drink the very same things, in the same amounts, as I would during a typical summer day — coffee in the mornings, water or juice in the afternoons and evenings, and (often) a bit of iced tea after my nap. I also love milk shakes… and (to me) they taste just as good in January as they do in July.

The one winter beverage that I used to drink a bit is the very seasonal egg nog. Not sure why, but I haven’t had any egg nog in a long time, but I still remember the delicious, rich flavor. Yum!


So, I guess I should say that the following are beverages I particularly enjoy when I’m either out in the cold weather… or have just come inside after being cold outside.

Hardly anything tastes as good to my body and soul as a cup of hot cocoa after I’ve rushed in from trudging through snow or ice (or cold rain). It’s not only pleasing to all the senses, but has the extra “value” of seeming to properly honor traditional values somehow. Almost as though it harkens back to an earlier time, something more primitive — perhaps around a hundred years ago or so. Am I truly honoring history by sipping hot cocoa after trudging through the snow? Probably not. But it makes me FEEL traditional and comfortable, as though I could step into a 1940 Norman Rockwell painting.

Okay, if cocoa is my beverage AFTER coming in from the cold, I must say that hardly anything tastes better while staying outdoors watching a long, tedious pre-teen winter soccer game… than a steaming cup of coffee. The downside of drinking coffee at a soccer game is that you’ll soon need a “facility” and there’s nothing near those soccer fields except MAYBE a port-a-let. And perhaps not even that.

Let me add here – since at least one of the Foxes mentioned that drinking coffee in hot weather seemed unusual – that I need my morning coffee, no matter if I’m hacking through a tropical jungle or perched on an Arctic glacier. Yeah, your innards do respond slightly differently to hot coffee when your outsides are already sweating from heat and humidity… but caffeine is caffeine, folks.

Another of the Foxes mentioned something about coffee tasting bitter or otherwise unpleasing. Well, yeah, unless you stir in some sugar and pour in a dollup of creamer. [Actually I don’t use creamer or milk, myself, however].

I got started drinking coffee as a 17.5 year old freshman at Mercer University in Macon GA. It was the cheapest drink at the campus co-op (10 cents per cup) and you got free refills. A cola was (I believe) about double or more that price and you paid for each serving.


What about YOU? Is your favorite winter beverage any different from your favorite summer drink?

[JLS # 314]

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