Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Accidental Activist is now out in paperback :-)

My new book, "Accidental Activist: Justice for the Groveland Four", which I co-authored with my son Josh, is now available in paperback for the low price of $6.00. 

It would make a great gift for the activists in your circle, or anyone who wants to be inspired to take action for social justice, but doesn't know how to start. Josh's four year quest for justice for the Groveland Four is a true story, filled with memorable people, and one you won't soon forget.


Groveland Four Update!

If you've read my new book, "Accidental Activist: Justice for The Groveland Four" which I co-authored with my son Josh, you will be happy to see that history is still being made and the story isn't over yet. 

This article came out today: https://www.wmfe.org/exoneration-for-the-groveland-four-state-leaders-call-on-desantis-to-sign-order/140993?fbclid=IwAR3trDBBJ3I8mWDbtyGauRIcV_DtvMPcs8Pme8DXnwaEwQ8TzRe_BmUM4kw

State leaders are calling on the DeSantis administration to exonerate four black men accused of raping a white woman in Lake County in 1949. 

The leaders will demonstrate today in Tallahassee with family members of the Groveland Four.  

The DeSantis administration pardoned the men earlier this year. But family members, along with Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, State Senator Gary Farmer and State Representative Geraldine Thompson say only exoneration fully acknowledges their innocence.

Commissioner Fried who is on the Clemency Board says exoneration is the only way to fully acknowledge the men’s innocence. 

“And a pardon is saying almost like you have been forgiven for the acts that you were convicted of. But an exoneration says you should have never been convicted or charged to begin with.”

State Representative Thompson says exonerating the men would set a precedent for criminal justice reform in the state. 

“It would mean that we are committed to righting a wrong, we’re committed to justice, and we’re committed to racial reconciliation.”

Monday, December 2, 2019

Hooray for a New Audio book & Free Download Codes! :-D

Happy Holidays! :-D

I'm thrilled to announce that my children's book, "The Fight for Magicallus", has finally become an audio book, thanks to the beautiful narration of Sara M. Sapp. 

Check out the sample:


Here's the blurb:

While experimenting with a magic wand, two young brothers are pulled into a computer game called: The Fight for Magicallus. In the land of Magicallus, they encounter goblins and knights who are on the brink of war because their ruler has mysteriously disappeared and the knights blame the goblins! The boys learn of a frightening prophecy that foretells the end of Magicallus. They must find an ancient book hidden in a dragon’s lair before the prophecy comes to pass and they are all destroyed...

Can the boys find their way home? Will the knights and goblins go to war? Or will the dragon destroy them all? With both humor and suspense, this story pulls you in and doesn't let go.

Message me if you'd like a free Audible download code, and not just because it's Cyber Monday. This offer doesn't expire until I run out of codes. :-D

Thursday, October 17, 2019

New Book Free on Kindle thru 10/21 :-D

I'm excited to announce the arrival of a new book I co-authored with my son Josh about his quest for social justice: Accident Activist: Justice for the Groveland Four.

It is free on Kindle today through 10/21, so please check it out. Thanks!

Blurb:  This book will take you through my incredible four year quest for justice for The Groveland Four and teach you how to pursue your own causes, whatever they may be. It is a primer for positive action, a journey through Florida's past as well as its future. Some of the things you will learn: everything takes more time than you think, nothing ever goes according to plan, help can come from unexpected places, time is on your side, everyone is connected to everyone else, you can reach your tipping point for success and not even realize it, your goals can change along the way, and flexibility is key. Let's get started, shall we?


Saturday, September 14, 2019

The Workaround :-)

I'm technologically challenged and odds are you are too. Let's face it, someone is keeping all those IT call centers in business and it's not me. I'm a do-it-yourselfer. When a gadget goes on the fritz I try to muddle through and hope I get lucky. I figure even a broken clock is right twice a day. Last week, my luck ran out. 

I'd parked myself in front of my computer to complete an online training course but the program refused to run. I was alarmed when the screen suddenly went blank so I switched browsers, which didn't help at all (thanks for nothing, Firefox). I then followed the troubleshooting instructions (trouble is my middle name) and tried to download a new version of Adobe Flash. That's when all hell broke loose and my keyboard became possessed by evil spirits. The shift key stopped responding as did the caps lock. I could have lived with typing in lower case letters like e.e. cummings, but there were more problems to come. When I touched the control button the calculator kept popping up and the keyboard lit up like Christmas. Had my car gone crazy like this while I was driving I would've been in full panic mode. I closed the program but that didn't stop the demonic possession so I shut down the computer and restarted it, which also didn't help. It didn't seem like a malware problem--more like a 'me' problem--so I started Googling all the reasons these things could be happening and how to fix them. I tried a few of them, typing my inquiries in lower case letters, of course, and avoiding the control button since it wasn't a complex math problem that required a dozen calculators. No luck. I finally arrived at my tried and true method, banging my head on the keyboard because it feels so right.

I forgot to mention how this was the last possible day to complete a training I desperately needed. Foiled by my procrastinating ways, I'd been hoisted by my own petard. Again.

I texted my husband for advice but he had none to offer, so I gave up. I drowned my sorrows in a bowl of chocolate ice cream and waited for my very own IT guy to get home. The first thing he did after he kicked off his shoes was switch out the keyboard for an old one in the closet. Problem solved. All the demons went back to hell and I finished my training before midnight. 

Whew! It's a good thing I'm so self-sufficient.  

Thursday, July 18, 2019

Free Audiobook Download Codes! :-)

I have a new audiobook of essays and wanted to offer some free download codes in exchange for an honest review.  

Here’s the link on Amazon to check it out, please let me know if you're interested: https://www.amazon.com/Smidge-Crazy-Quirky-Essays-People-ebook/dp/B07C7184KH/ref=sr_1_1?crid=J06DLGI883KM&keywords=a+smidge+of+crazy&qid=1563492233&s=gateway&sprefix=a+smidge%2Caps%2C157&sr=8-1   


The Book Decoder :-)

I found a fun blog and also made a new friend, all the way in India! Rekha lives in Bangalore where my husband used to live and she has bonded big time with Jamie Quinn. :-D  She and I would both love to hang out with Jamie and the gang because they lead such exciting lives.  

Rekha's blog is The Book Decoder and she has not only reviewed my Jamie Quinn series, but she was kind enough to interview me. 

Check it out here:


Tuesday, July 2, 2019

Saving Face :-)

I know I'm not the only one who finds obituaries irresistible. Admit it, you do too. Where else can you find so many stories, so many surprises? You may see a picture of a stoic older gentleman whose favorite hobby was tap-dancing next to a woman who died two days shy of her 103rd birthday. You think what a shame she couldn't hang on. 

As a last hurrah, people fill obituaries with myriad details of their departed loved ones, from their education to their marriages to their political views. You find out their nicknames, their love of travel, how many afghans they crocheted for newborn babies; their pets, their careers, their charity work, their hobbies, and how brave they were battling their last illness. Every child and grandchild and all of their spouses must be listed. Even their parents, who predeceased them by half a century, might be listed. And those obituaries aren't cheap! They charge by the word and you need to make every word count. With the longer obits you wonder if the writer is well-heeled or just trying to dispense with some leftover guilt.

Some people write their own obituaries. After attending the funeral of a friend my father handed me a piece of paper scrawled with the details of his life. He also had a special request. I had written a funny essay about him years before describing his crazy hobbies, how they had taken over our house and our lives when we were kids. He loved it so much he asked me to read it at his funeral. So I did. It was called "Crazy Hobbies". I call 'em like I see 'em.

The obits that puzzle me most are the ones of old people whose photo is from their teenage years. Surely, none of their friends would recognize them from that photo. Does it reflect a pinnacle of achievement in their lives, their fifteen minutes of fame? Were they simply vain? I couldn't figure it out. And then I had an epiphany about my own photo. 

As a self-published author on Amazon I needed a photo and I chose to use the best photo I had at the time, me in a red dress, dolled up for my 30th high school reunion. My hair permed in soft waves, I'm looking at the camera and smiling--instead of squinting and shutting my eyes like I usually do--and I'm wearing makeup. 

I love that photo but each year that passes I think I should find an updated one. I know I look less like that picture with every passing day. A few years ago, I covered a court hearing for my partner and unbeknownst to me the secretary had sent that photo to the client so she could find me in the crowded hallway. When we connected she scrutinized me from head to toe and with a skeptical expression said "I never would have recognized you." Ouch! That stung a bit. Keep in mind I do dress up a little to go to court, as opposed to my usual jeans, political t-shirt, and sneakers. 

I finally decided that when the photo was ten years old I would replace it--even if it shocked and confused my readers. How did she get so old so fast? One minute she looked pretty good and now this? It's like watching a rerun of the movie "Big" and then immediately watching "The Post". What happened to Tom Hanks, you ask in dismay? The same thing that happens to all of us, if we're lucky. We get old, we get wrinkled, we lose our hair (not me!), and we are flabbergasted. Inside we feel so much younger and if we avoid the mirror we can almost believe it. If we see a ten-year-old picture of ourselves we say, hey I looked pretty good back then, I remember that.

Well, that day has arrived. In two months, that photo will officially be ten years old and it's time (way past time) to replace it. Dear readers, I'm trying to ease you into it, but I will keep that photo and one day I think it will be used again--in my obituary. In the meantime I need to start some exotic hobbies so there's something to write about. One thing is for sure, it won't be tap-dancing.

Saturday, June 29, 2019

Stamina :-)

I hear about women in their fifties who run marathons, take spinning classes, or kick box like they're auditioning for the WWE and I’m amazed. How do they do it? Is it their diet? Their chi? Their can-do attitude? It’s a mystery. In my dictionary, though, there is no ”I” in stamina and I must confess it’s not a recent development. 

In my thirties I had to attend hearings on the 10th floor of the courthouse twice a week for work. I always took the stairs because the elevator was packed in the mornings and the thought of getting stuck there made me hyperventilate. Alphabetically, claustrophobia was number three on my list of phobias.

For six years, I climbed the stairs, in heels, and it never, I mean never, got any easier. Luckily, there were no security cameras because it was not a pretty sight. The first two floors were effortless but after that you’d think I was scaling Everest. I would stumble onto each landing, huffing and puffing like a chain smoker. I would’ve quit smoking if I’d ever started.
After gulping down some musty air I’d push on, the burning in my lungs only exceeded by the burning in my legs. Had there been an oxygen mask available I would’ve used it, cameras be damned. Also, a defibrillator would’ve been nice (just in case) but as I was the only masochist climbing the stairs, it didn’t matter. I couldn’t do the whole Grey’s Anatomy thing myself.
By the eighth floor my legs were like rubber and I was hoisting myself forward with the handrails like a reverse slingshot. Being alone meant I could use any means necessary to reach the top, however ridiculous. The stretch between the ninth floor and the tenth was the worst—like swimming the English Channel, but without the glory. When I finally reached the top I was too winded to speak—which was awkward since speaking was how I made my living.
Then, panting like a dog and sweating like a horse I stumbled out of the stairwell to officially start my morning.
Nowadays, stairs aren’t a problem and I don’t wear heels anymore but even the right shoes can’t save me when my husband takes me on a hike. How am I supposed to reflect on the beauty of nature, its babbling brooks, lush canopies, and rarefied air and also focus on walking? And why are hikes so hard? They are all uphill, through snow and mud, over slippery stones and sharp boulders, with knobby tree roots conspiring to trip me. As my husband effortlessly glides ahead of me, he knows to reach behind to pull me up. When I finally make it to the end, gasping but proud, I check out the people who got there ahead of me: a toddler, a grandma, a pregnant woman and a three legged dog. Oh, yeah? Well, I’d like to see them try the stairs in the courthouse.

Friday, March 15, 2019

Defying the Laws of Physics

Imagine you're speeding down the highway and a police car suddenly appears in your rear view mirror, lights flashing. You panic. With pounding heart and a mouth as dry as the Sahara you frantically try to pull over--right as the cop screeches past you into the night.

I felt sweaty just writing that! Look, I've gotten a ticket before and it's no big deal but the lizard part of my brain freaks out anyway. You'd think I had a body in the trunk or something. Which leads me to my point--how detective shows want us to believe a person would just go about their business after committing a heinous crime. When the worst thing a character ever did (before committing murder) was jaywalk, how did they suddenly turn into a sociopath? Where's the guilt, the remorse? Where's the Lady Macbeth trying to wash the blood off her hands, or the narrator who hears the tell-tale heart of his victim beneath the floorboards?

Every work of fiction asks the reader to suspend their disbelief to a degree. The author may condense time or sprinkle in some amazing coincidences, but the reader doesn't mind. The reader wants to believe. Otherwise, there would be no Harry Potter, no Game of Thrones. But there is a line that cannot be crossed, at least for me. Okay, two lines. The first is the Hannibal Lecter syndrome I just described. The other is when the writer defies the laws of physics. When a hundred pound woman kills her rival and moves her body down several flights of stairs and then hauls her away in a car to bury her in the woods I lose my mind. I can't even carry ten pounds of groceries that far. Yet it happens all the time, people effortlessly moving bodies hither and yon without anybody seeing them. Not only that, there's an episode of Castle where a woman supposedly hangs a body upside down from a catwalk. I need to know who her personal trainer is. Why isn't she entering body-building competitions instead of murdering people? She missed her calling.

One of my favorite scenes of tongue-in-cheek self-awareness is from the film, My Cousin Vinny, where Vinny questions a witness.

Vinny: How could it take you five minutes to cook your grits when it takes the entire grit-eating world 20 minutes?
Mr. Tipton: Um... I'm a fast cook, I guess.
Vinny[across beside the jury] What? I'm sorry I was over there. Did you just say you were a fast cook? Are we to believe that boiling water soaks into a grit faster in your kitchen than any place on the face of the earth?
Mr. Tipton: I don't know.
Vinny: Perhaps the laws of physics cease to exist on your stove! Were these magic grits? Did you buy them from the same guy who sold Jack his beanstalk beans?

Yes, Vinny, the laws of physics do cease to exist on TV, but if you miss them you can always switch off the TV and pick up a book. No, that won't work either. Why don't you carry a heavy bag of groceries up and down the stairs and then bury it in the woods? I promise you the laws of physics won't disappoint.

Thursday, March 7, 2019

Safe :-)

Those of you with overseas relatives may remember a time when communication with loved ones was not so easy. There was no internet, texting, instant messaging, WhatsApp, Facebook, or cell phones. Sure, there were landlines but calls were expensive. (Were you expecting me to say telegrams? Carrier pigeons? How old do you think I am anyway?) What we did have were those tissue-thin, faded blue, self-folding aerogrammes, the cheaper way to send a letter. The aerogramme is one of many things I learned about from my husband. (Others include: hot lemonade is good when you're sick, and for some reason beyond mortal comprehension Australians love Vegemite).

I used to watch my future husband dutifully write to his parents each month filling the aerogramme front and back with his neat handwriting and then carefully folding it up and sealing it. It would take a week for that flimsy piece of paper to reach India and it was nothing short of a miracle that it did. His parents always wrote back, sometimes separately, and those letters also took a week to arrive. As a native Floridian attending college in New Orleans I saw my parents frequently and couldn't imagine being so far away for such a long stretch; I also spoke with them every Sunday. This formal process of communication that took weeks to complete was fascinating to me. It was like looking up at the night sky knowing the light you saw had taken thousands of years to reach your eyes. That star could already be a supernova but it would take generations to find out. In other words, it was old news.

My husband would let me read the letters he received and explain to me who everyone was and their backstory. It took me a while to notice that every letter from his mother had the same word at the top right corner--Safe. When I asked about it, he said that's how he knew everyone was okay and the letter wasn't bad news. Even then, when I was only 24, I thought that was wonderful. Isn't that the first thing you want to know about your loved ones, that they're safe? In their case, of course, a lot could change in the week it took a letter to arrive--but that's what telephones were for, right? Now, 33 years later, I reflect on all the times I've received bad news and how the delivery was never fast enough to keep my imagination from running wild. Once, my mother called me up crying and I thought something had happened to one of my sisters. By the time she finally got around to telling me my 87 year old great-aunt had passed away, I was faint with relief. Safe, why couldn't she just start with that?

After my husband and I were engaged I started writing to my future in-laws on aerogrammes. I soon learned that if you try to erase a mistake, you'll tear the paper and have to start over. When I was a kid I had a pen-pal I never met so I had experience writing letters to strangers, but it was weird to do it as an adult with your future mother-in-law. We got to know each other though and soon felt comfortable enough to joke around. When she wrote to me that we would have to work on my handwriting, I responded good luck with that.

Now I can communicate with my mother-in-law in India instantly and by Skype. Sometimes when we're chatting on Facebook my brother-in-law in Australia will jump into the conversation, all of us in different time zones, one waking up while the other gets ready for bed. It's amazing and I love it but the best thing is I don't have to wait. I always know everyone is safe.

Sunday, January 6, 2019

Saving the World in My Pajamas :-)

Batman and Superman are cool but you have to wonder why they fight crime in their pajamas. You're not crazy, they do--and I can prove it. When I was five, my mother bought me a Batman costume for Halloween and it said right there on the label: "Costume can be used as sleepwear". And sleep in it I did, probably until the next Halloween. It made me feel strong and mighty, a girl batman, a real bad-ass. Not much has changed. I did stop dressing up for Halloween when my kids stopped and even then my costume consisted only of a witch's hat ('cause witches are bad-ass too), but I kept the job of world-saving in my heart. 

But how do you save the world when you don't have a single super-power? It's a dilemma, for sure, and a problem I thought about for a long time. Wealth is a super-power as money can save lives, heal the sick, house the poor, but I didn't have that either. What did I have to offer? I was just one person with good intentions and there were so many things that needed fixing. I didn't even know where to start. Then I thought, what would Batman do? He wouldn't hesitate, he would leap into action even if he might not succeed, or it wouldn't be enough, or he might die (don't worry, Batman always lives), so I took a leap. I joined a civic organization, I wrote a letter to the editor, I joined activist social media groups, I gathered signatures to restore the vote to the disenfranchised. I kept going until one day I realized things were changing, and I was helping.  

Sitting at my computer late at night sending e-mails, planning meetings, and writing letters, I realized that I, too, am saving the world in my pajamas. And Batman and Superman showed me how it was done.