Monday, April 30, 2012

Zipping along, we finally arrive at Z!

Zounds!  This archaic word is a mild oath derived from God's wounds.  No origin is given, but it sounds English.  Astound your friends and pacify your mother.  (My mother never realized that Bloody was a bad word in English.)

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Joy's writing news update

[Intermission] My short story, Refugees in the Caves, is now a podcast:
The podcast is available via iTunes, Google’s Feedburner, Podbean (when it catches up), Podcasters (which takes even longer) or Podcast Alley (which doesn’t list the episodes but will let you subscribe).
iTunes (item 1), Google’s Feedburner (final item), Podbean, Podcasters or Podcast Alley.
It's also still available at Flash Fiction Fridays:
My review of Punctuation by G. Miki Hayden is in the May/June issue of Working Writer.
My latest e-book (story collection), The Doorway and Other Stories, is now available on Kindle:
My other e-books include: Hidebound:
(SF)  After Anfissa meets Ferenc, they flee to a planet where even the grass is deadly.
Pretty Pink Planet (free e-book):
(SF)  Lori, an agent of SOESFOL, visits Prism to track down planet pirates and rescue aliens.
Hot Yellow Planet:
In this Pretty Pink Planet sequel, Lori and Chiing continue their adventures.
Remodeling: Buying and Updating a Foreclosure:
How one woman bought and remodeled a foreclosure; it didn’t even have a kitchen sink!
And I'm waiting to hear back on my three novels: Strike Three (SF), Taboo Tech (SF), and Detour Trail (western).

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Yes! It's time to meet Amy Peterson!!

My guest today is Amy Peterson, author of From Zero To Four Kids in Thirty Seconds.

JVS: Amy, thanks for stopping by. I really enjoyed From Zero to Four Kids in Thirty Seconds. It was not only interesting and fun, but your tips were great! I thought that the combination made for not only an enjoyable read, but would help a new stepparent feel a little more confident at least. Have you gotten much feedback about that?

Thank you, Joy, for the comments—I’m so glad you enjoyed my book! I’ve heard from several stepmoms who said they could relate to the tips in my book, and I also heard from two women who said they wouldn’t run away if they found out the guy they were interested in had kids. That was all great to hear. One comment about my book that touched me was when Nikki of Purple Penguin Reviews wrote: “It helped me relate to my own stepmother in ways that I had never considered before. I fell in love with this book and I highly recommend it to anyone, whether you are a stepmom or not.” I was happy to hear that my book might be of help for stepkids, too.

JVS: I'm not surprised; you covered a lot of territory. I know that you're working on a sequel. What will it be about?

My “squeak-quel” is about a whole assortment of critters my husband, Mark, “always wanted.” This one starts with Mark claiming that his son, Conrad always wanted an aquarium, which I question based on the surprised look on Conrad’s face when we give him an aquarium and because he asks what he should put in it. Several frogs come and go, followed by two messy iguanas and finally Mark admits he’s the one that really wants critters. It turns out Mark’s list of “wants” is rather long. All in all, my home becomes habitat for frogs, iguanas, hedgehogs, ferrets, mice, gerbils, hamsters, dogs, a stray cat, fish, a rescued rabbit and a domestic duck. I also share fun encounters with the wildlife that I attract to our backyard.

JVS:Will the book have fun chapters like From Zero to Four Kids in Thirty Seconds did?

Yes. For example, one chapter is called “Goin’ Hog Wild,” and in that chapter, I introduce Sonic, the female hedgehog Mark fell in love with at the pet store. After Sonic is settled into our home, Mark decides Sonic needs a boyfriend and arranges for my dear sister to bring a male hedgehog from St. Louis to our home in Michigan. Louie, the male hedgehog, escapes from his cage several times and literally scales a wall to be with Sonic. The result: several unplanned litters of baby hedgehogs.

JVS: So it'll be about you, Mark, the children, and the critters?

Yes. My book will also show how each pet had a way of taking over the house and how I managed to spoil each one. For example, the chapter “Ferreting Out Another Want” is all about ferrets. We end up with four ferrets, and because they are mischievous, we have to cover up our potted house plants, rubber band our kitchen cupboards shut, and duct tape the underside of our Lazy-Boy chair. In this chapter readers will learn that our ferrets all liked raisins and Pop-Tarts; one liked bananas; another liked bagels bits with lots of butter.

JVS: Will it be as entertaining and full of helpful hints as much as From Zero to Four Kids in Thirty Seconds?

Indeed, my next book will be entertaining and humorous, with the little problem that a few of the animals die over the 17-year history covered. This book will also be filled with helpful tips throughout. For example:

· Fleas and ticks on a rescue rabbit hop more than a rabbit does.
· A domestic duck can be quite content in a house with two dogs and a cat.
· Fish find little humor when their tank leaks all over the floor.
· Hamsters get the most attention when kept on a kitchen counter.

I will also have photos of each of the critters on my web site. And finally, I have four photo books that I hope to convert into e-books, including:
· Purrkins, the Cat
· Bumpkin (about the domestic duck)
· Good-night, Big Wuzzy (about a ferret)
· Dusty, the Angel Pups

JVS: I know there'll be an eager audience for this, and I'm looking forward to it because I can relate. While I've had mostly cats and dogs, I also had a rabbit, parakeets and other birds in our household, as well as White's tree frogs--which aren't as common, but certainly not as much fun as Sonic!

I’m hoping there will be plenty for even veteran animal owners. For example, even as a veteran cat owner, you may find humor in the story of our $100 hairball.

Thank you again, Joy!

For a chance to win one of five (5) copies of the paperback version of Amy's book, go to her site:    and comment that you're following her blog, liked her on Facebook and can't wait to read either her book about being a stepmom OR her next one, about animals, and you'll be entered to win!

Friday, April 27, 2012


Believe it or not, xeriscape isn't in my old desk dictionary!  Oh, wow.  It's from 1988.  (Webster's New World Dictionary)  Basically it means not wasting water...  So when you landscape, you generally use native plants that don't require extra water.  Also don't mix cacti with weeping willows; otherwise one will be too wet or the other too dry.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

I found a really cool W: Winter

I was born and raised in Wisconsin, but now live in Florida; the meaning of winter varies according to location, but I have fond memories of snow and the snow ice cream that Mom made (Dad did the shoveling); here cold weather just makes the alligators torpid.  This last winter here was warmer, btw, and I rarely wore a sweatshirt.  It depends on whether or not the cold fronts make it here.  I love cold fronts--and the needed rain they sometimes bring.  Btw, we did have snow down here a few decades ago. 

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Lots of fun words in V

Vellum (oh, oh. see parchment)
Victoria--four-wheeled carriage dating from the time of the reticule
Venus' flytrap (I wrote a short story about carnivorous plants once: Carnies).
I pick vintage because I like vintage books, furniture, etc. My vintage books include the bound volumes of Chatterbox, which are very rare. My father let us read them early on, and so we colored in them (not bad, btw) and some of the books are truly tattered, but we replaced them over the years, except for one. Drat.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Unicorn is a rare U!

I don't write much fantasy, but I used unicorns in one story, The Trees of Home, and the artwork with that story is lovely.  Unfortunately, it's not archived, but I hope to have it available soon...

Monday, April 23, 2012

My choice for T is Toadhouses

I've collected toad houses for years--from nurseries (sometimes on our vacations), garden centers, and catalogs.  We haven't seen any toads here in town, but the anoles use them.  And remember!  Toad houses don't need floors; they have to sit on the ground so they can dig their way into the dirt to hibernate.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Home decorating ideas

[Intermission]  The May 2012 issue of Country Living has a variety of decor ideas and accessories; I liked the risers counting up from the number one--with brass house numbers (painted)--on an elegant wood stairway. And the pull-down map (possibly from a school) was impressive. Other ideas included using drop cloths from a hardware store for upholstering sofas and chairs. An interesting and different color combination was Salmon Peach (Benjamin Moore) with their Strawberry Shortcake glaze over it. Certainly not to everyone's taste. Speaking of which, the food section included a few pasta dishes.

Sparkle note: If you drag a treat from the box, and click on it again, Sparkle will jump up and catch it!

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Sprinkler system

This sprinks--uh, springs--to mind 'cause we were just working with our sprinkler system--again.  Ever since we moved to our new house with its sprinkler system (our first ever), we've had different people working on the whole system (six zones) for various reasons at various times, and we just got zone 6 working again.  We all thought--and hoped--that it was a loose wire, and it was.  The guy was checking it out, and the wire fell into his hand.  A clue!  Zone 6 is on our big hill, and that area really needs water.  (We've been in a drought.)  Now we stand around and admire the rotating water as it waters the lawn, the trees--the sidewalk...

Friday, April 20, 2012

Reach into your Reticule

A reticule is a woman's small handbag; it originally was made of network and probably had a drawstring. (From French and Latin). You'll come across references to reticules in historical novels and elsewhere.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Whoa there!! No, it's time for Q: Quadruped

A Quadruped is an animal, especially a mammal, with four feet. And it's useful to remember that quad is Latin for four. Pes means foot. And for some reason I'm thinking of horse.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Poking around for P

Let's see. There's parchment--EEK! I didn't know that--or parenthesis--one of my favorite punctuation marks--or perfume--no, usually too strong... Wait! Here's Pet. That gives me a chance to mention some of our dogs: Blue Belle, an ACD and Lacer, a Cocker Spaniel; cats: Pewter and Azure; and birds: Fife, a canary.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Let's pause for an O

This refreshing pause is at an Oasis; it's not only welcoming in the desert--unless it's a mirage--but it can be a relaxing respite in your day.

Monday, April 16, 2012

The start of a New week and the letter is N!

I choose Negative; it's one of my favorite words. (I blame Mr. Spock.) I confess that it confuses people who are expecting a simple No, but when I say Negative, I mean it!

Sunday, April 15, 2012

From Zero to Four Kids in Thirty Seconds (upcoming author interview)


I have the privilege of hosting Amy Peterson's book blog tour here on April 28! I enjoyed reading Amy's book, From Zero to Four Kids in Thirty Seconds, and talking with her. Now I'm looking forward to reading the sequel (title to be announced).

See below for an excerpt from my review and her book tour schedule.

Review excerpt:

"I came across this book online; it sounded intriguing--and fun, so I got it. I enjoyed it from Amy and Mark's first meeting in the workplace when he rejects her proposal (for a study grant), their tentative attempts at getting to know each other and date--despite her understandable reluctance to get involved with a man with four children. ..." I gave the book 5 stars, btw.

Tour schedule:

9th April -



19th April -


24th April -

26th April - - GIVEAWAY (1 NECKLACE)

27th April - - GIVEAWAY (1 NECKLACE)


Saturday, April 14, 2012

A pretty M is like a melody

Melody comes from melodie (Middle English). Synonyms are air and tune.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Let's hear it for lovely lavender!

Lavender is one of my favorite plants and scents. The color's nice too.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Kaput is today's K word

Just because I like the sound of it. It's an adjective and comes from the German word, kaputt (lost, ruined, broken). It apparently also has a French background (capot-- as used in piquet--from capster--capsize.) It's a fun slang word.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Here's a J--and it's smiling!

J is for Jack -o'-lantern. They're not only fun, apparently they were used as lanterns. Now they're used as paper decorations too--with, of course, a black cat popping out. ( I love decorating for Halloween.)

Tuesday, April 10, 2012


I love inventions! They make our lives easier. Okaaay, sometimes they make our lives more confusing, but I still love my computer. What's really fun is watching old movies where computer banks fill up the room. Then I'm really, really grateful. And of course, though I'm never on the cutting edge, by the time I get around to getting a new invention, they are a lot cheaper. Now I want an Internet-connected TV.

(Thanks, Sandee)

Monday, April 9, 2012

H is for hero--and heroine

As a writer, I think about heroes and heroines a lot, and I thought about posting some of my favorites, but I'm fond of all of them. So here's a sampling:
Heroes: Ferenc (Hidebound), Grief (Home Not), Bolt (Detour Trail),and Cheng O'Flaherty (Rocky Falls Park).
Heroines: Anfissa (Hidebound), Lori (Pretty Pink Planet and sequel), Reesa (When Danger Rules), Nessa (The Doorway and sequel), Sugar (Sugar Time), and Juul (Seedlings).

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Ten Tips to upgrade your home (link)

[Intermission] Here are ten ways to improve your home's value, including a front yard makeover, adding attic insulation [something we need to do, btw], and adding more lighting inside your home--or adding dimmer switches. [It's interesting reading the discussions about these projects; not all experts agree, and I certainly don't agree that adding skylights is a good idea.] Check out other ideas here: 10 Investments to Boost Your Home's Value : Home Improvement : DIY Network

Sparkle note: If you drag a treat from the box, and click on it again, Sparkle will jump up and catch it!

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Looking for a G? Try Google!

I was thinking of using Giggle or Guffaw (Giggle's big--and loud--brother), but then Google popped up. It is one of my favorite words, after all. I google all the time 'cause I'm looking up people, movies, websites, ... .

Friday, April 6, 2012

F is for frogs

One of my favorite frogs is the little green native tree frog here in Florida.. We had a few at our home in the country, though the big, brown Cuban tree frogs are displacing them. Btw, the excrement of those big frogs is really icky and requires a lot of work to clean it up, so you know they are definitely not my favorite tree frog! We haven't seen any here in town; we do have anoles, though they're mostly brown. Again the big guys are displacing the beautiful green anoles that are native. (They're often called chameleons, but they're not the real chameleon, which are the ones with the eyes that swivel.) My other favorite tree frog is the White's tree frog from Australia. They come in green, blue, and brown, and we had several over the years: Sydney, Tazi, Kiri, Yampi, and Kiwi.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Echinacea (aka coneflower)

The coneflower now comes in a fun variety of colors and shapes. You can choose from Coral Reef ( a dark orange, double flower), Hot Papaya (red orange pompoms), Firebird (red orange shuttlecock-shaped), Hot Summer (gold orange), Raspberry Truffle (salmon coral pompoms with chocolate stems), Marmalade, Tangerine Dream, and more, including green flowers: Green Jewel and Greenline. We always have some, though the fancy hybrids don't last as long as we'd like...

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

D is for dominoes (the game)

D is for Dominoes, one of my favorite games; I also love board games such as Parcheesi, Sorry, and Chinese Checkers. I keep them on hand for when we want to have old-fashioned fun. They're especially appreciated during power outages, which we often have after hurricanes. They can be found in fancier garb than plain black with white dots; I saw a white set in a catalog recently.

(Thanks, Bob.)

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

C is today's letter

Chamber pots, aka thunder mugs, are not as prevalent today, but I have one that's a family heirlom. (It possibly belonged to my grandmother.) In any case, my family used it when camping, in emergencies, and when I was camping on site when my house was being built--an experience you can read about in Building a Cool House for Hot Times without Scorching the Pocketbook. (We got started a little late--this was when the two-year rollover law was in effect--and we were advised that someone needed to live on the premises.) We had no plumbing, and one power line running to the temp pole, so we did have a fan at night.

Monday, April 2, 2012

The letter is B! (butterflies)


We've always had a variety of butterfly plants, including butterfly weeds (milkweeds), which is the food source for Monarch butterfly caterpillars. Since they are voracious eaters--especially if there are multiple litters (you can tell by the size of the caterpillars), you need a lot of plants, or they'll eat the plant to the stem and possibly kill it. Right now we have a lot of butterfly weeds--so many that the seed pods are bursting with silk and seeds, which are flying all over and self-seeding, which is good. However, all these plants tend to attract a butterfly weed pest, which sucks out the juices of the plant. In the past, we had so many caterpillars that we had to buy more plants or carry caterpillars to the neighbor's butterfly weeds. Now I'm hoping to see more butterflies laying eggs! I'd also like to see some Zebra Longwing butterflies--and caterpillars--on our passion flower vine, which is taking over a side fence. We could buy some, but we don't want to spend the money for shipping. However, the other day we saw caterpillars on some of the vine leaves (really big leaves!), and got out the butterfly reference book. Oh, drat. Not Zebra Longwings. (Those caterpillars are white--with spines.) These are red-orange with black caterpillars with spines, so they are Gulf Fritillaries. Both varieties are brush-footed butterflies and like the passion vine. Well, it's a start. That vine does need trimming.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Acorn (The A to Z Challenge)

The A to Z Challenge starts today, and the letter, of course, is A! I'm going with Acorns 'cause we have lots of oaks here, along with acorns--and squirrels. Acorns cover the ground, and the squirrels are busy burying them and then digging them up later. Sometimes it looks like pigs are rooting up the ground, which is impossible here. (We did see wild pigs out at our place in the country.) Possibly it's armadillos or opossums; we do have them in the city. The dogs love chasing them as well as the squirrels...
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