Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Interview with Bryce Stone (hero in Love Finds You in North Pole, Alaska)

Former U.S. Marine Bryce Stone served 10 years in the military, including three tours of duty in Afghanistan. While attempting to protect his men from a land mine, Bryce put himself in the line of fire and suffered extensive injuries. Unable to save one of "his boys", Bryce returned to his home town to heal and put the miseries of war behind him. It's with pride and pleasure that I introduce Bryce Stone, the hero in my next novel, Love Finds You in North Pole, Alaska:

Q: So Bryce, what's with the pirate-like eye patch?
A: The sight in my left eye was destroyed by shrapnel, and I wear the patch mostly to protect others from having to look at the scar that crosses from my eyebrow to my cheek.

Q: Ouch! How many other injuries did you sustain during that battle?
A: This was the result of triggering a land mine, not an actual all-out battle.

Q: I can see that you're not crazy about talking about that period of your life, but I'm sure readers would love to know more....
A: The shrapnel hit head to toe, throwing me about 12' from the blast site and causing a few broken bones and some cuts.

Q: I know you're also uncomfortable with pity of any kind, so I won't say "Ohmygoodness!" or "I'm so sorry!" Instead, I'll thank you from the bottom of my heart for going over there and risking life and limb to keep our country safe.
A: Uh, thanks.

Q: So you're from North Pole, Alaska, eh?
A: Born'n'bred.

Q: And the only time you were away from town was to serve in the Marines?
A: That, and to attend college.

Q: Where'd you go to school and what was your major?
A: U of Alaska, naturally , where I majored in Business Administration.

Q: Guess that came in handy when you got home and found out you'd have to run your parents' gift shop....
A: Yeah. You could say that.

Q: It must be a blast, living in a town where it's Christmas, all year long!
A: Easy for you to say. You don't have to listen to carols 24/7.

Q: Sorry...I didn't quite make that out.
A: Nothing. It's a great town. Clean. Wholesome. Low crime. Great people. What's not to like? Except being surrounded by Santas and reindeer and elves....

Q: Rumor has it that "Rudolph's Christmas Emporium" wasn't doing very well, financially, when you hit home.
A: There's an understatement!

Q: But you saved it. How?
A: I didn't save it. If it had been up to me, I would have sold the store.

Q: But...
A: I know, I was the only thing I had left of my parents, who died in a freak accident.

Q: And your Aunt Olive managed it for you while you were overseas?
A: Right. My dad's sister, and my only living relative. Love the woman to pieces. She's been more a mom to me than...

Q: So what tips would you offer anyone else whose business is in financial trouble?
A: Hire a savvy manager, that's what.

Q: Oh? You didn't manage the store, and instituted changes, yourself?
A: Like I said. I wanted to sell the place, use the profits--if there were any--to open a carpentry shop.

Q: I've seen your work. You're a regular artist with a chisel and saw!
A: Thanks.

Q: So this manager who turned things around for you, what can you tell me about him?
A: Her. Samantha Sinclair. Sam, for short. She's amazing.

Q: Hard worker, eh?
A: Clumsy as all get-out, but yeah, she puts in an honest day's work, and then some. She's the one put all this order and organization into what had been clutter and chaos. Yeah, she's amazing, all right.

Q: Sounds like more than your typical boss-employee relationship here... I hear my cell phone ringing. In the next room. Catch up with you later. Maybe.

Q: Hmmm...I must have touched a raw nerve....

Well, gentle readers, take it from me. This guy is h-o-t with a capital H. Tall as a tree with shoulders that just won't quit and a smile that could light up a dark room, I have a feeling he looked just as gorgeous in his dress uniform as in fatigues, and the faded jeans and fisherman knit sweater he wore to this interview. He tends to be a little on the quiet side, but something tells me he talks a lot more...when he and Sam are alone.

Guess you'll all just have to pick up a copy of LFY in North Pole, AK to find out more about this quiet hero and his beloved Aunt Olive. And Sam, of course.

Looking forward to hearing what you think of the story, which will hit book store shelves this October. Drop me a line at or post a comment here, and you're automatically entered in a contest to win an autographed copy.

Hugs and happy reading, y'all!

Monday, July 13, 2009

Free copies of Love Finds You in Paradise, Pennsylvania!

Hey, everybody!

Hope you're enjoying your summer so far. I know I am.

Lots of stuff going on here, and I'm sure you're saying the very same thing. (Probably, a couple of times a day! ) I've been telling people who ask what I've been up to that "I'm busy as a one-legged Riverdance performer!" But honestly, I'm hard-pressed to name a breathing human who isn't overscheduled!

So I thought I'd offer you a chance to win a free copy of my last novel, Love Finds You in Paradise, Pennsylvania, so you'll have some 'sit in the sun sipping lemonade' reading material on your bookshelves!

All you have to do is 'friend' me at Facebook, 'follow' me on Twitter, or 'shout' at me on ShoutLife, and you're automatically entered in the contest that begins today (July 13th) and ends on my anniversary (August 5th).

The 'how I choose a winner' is loads of fun:

I simply write everybody's name on a slip of paper, then tell my sweetheart of a dog to put his paw on one. (I stole that idea from my long-time writer pal, Robin Bayne, who used to give away Beanie Babies the very same way.)

Send me your email address so that if you win, I can contact you with the good news...and find out where I can mail your copy of the book.

Looking forward to chatting with you on Facebook, Twitter, and Shoutlife. Meanwhile, here's hoping the rest of your summer will be fun-filled and safe.

Hugs to you all!

P.S. Here's my next release, Love Finds You in North Pole, Alaska, due in book stores this October. (Two of my 'single guy' friends have already asked "Can you get me the number of the cute snowbunny on the cover?" LOL)

Sunday, June 21, 2009

In honor of fathers, everywhere...

Who would’ve thought there’d be even a minor controversy surrounding something as simple as the origins of Fathers’ Day!

Some say the first was held on July 5, 1908 in a humble little church in Fairmount, West Virginia, while others insist credit goes to Sonora Smart Dodd who, in 1909 in another humble church in Sonoma, Washington, decided while listening to a Mothers’ Day sermon that it was high time we honored our dads, too. By 1910, she’d convinced a few friends and neighbors to join her, and since her own sweet dad was born in June….

By 1913, a bill was introduced to make it an official national holiday, but few paid the idea any mind until President Calvin Coolidge put his considerable weight behind it in 1924. It didn’t take long for tie makers and greeting card manufacturers to figure out there was money to be made if they could convince the populace to quit makin’ fun of a day dedicated to Dear Old Dad. In the 1930s, a collection of trade groups formed a national committee, intent on legitimizing the sales…er…holiday. But it wasn’t until President Lyndon Johnson issued a proclamation in 1966 that the third Sunday in June was recognized as an official Federal holiday. Wonder if they knew that the Romans celebrated their dads every February? (The major difference…their tribute was for pops who’d passed away.)

Like so many things originated in the U.S., Fathers’ Day caught on in a big way, and these days, it is celebrated in Australia, New Zealand, England, Russia, Germany, Denmark, Ireland, and dozens of other countries.

Some fun (if not weird) facts about dads, compiled by the U.S. Census:

26.5 million…the number of fathers who were part of married-couple families with children younger than 18 in 2006;

2.5 million…the number of single fathers in 2006…up from 400,000 in 1970; among single parents living with their children, 19% are men;

63%...the number of children younger than 6, living with married parents, who were praised three or more times a day by their fathers. The corresponding number for children living with unmarried fathers was 57 % (from the U.S. Census Bureau????);

159,000…the estimated number of stay-at-home dads in 2006. These married fathers with children younger than 15 (which number approximately 283,000) have remained out of the labor force for more than one year to care for the family while their wives work outside the home.

30%...# of children younger than 6, living with married parents, who ate breakfast with their father every day. The corresponding number for children living with unmarried fathers? 41 %. What’s up with that!

64%...# of children younger than 6, living with married parents, who ate dinner with their fathers every day…while 66% of kids living with unmarried dads did the same. (I repeat: What’s up with that?)

It might surprise you to learn that the necktie really is the most common Fathers’ Day gift, and that the rose is the official Fathers’ Day flower. (Wear red if he’s living, white if he’s deceased).

So did your dad ever say:

When I was your age....

My father told me that….

Drive defensively!

Do you think I’m made of money?

Money doesn’t grow on trees!

Please, go ask your mother.

One of my all-time favorite “Dad” articles, written by the ever-popular and always-astute Erma Bombeck is titled “When God Created Fathers”:

When the good Lord was creating fathers, He started with a tall frame. And a female angel nearby said, "What kind of father is that? If you're going to make children so close to the ground, why have you put fathers up so high? He won't be able to shoot marbles without kneeling, tuck a child in bed without bending, or even kiss a child without a lot of stooping."

And God smiled and said, "Yes, but if I make him child size, who would children have to look up to?"

And when God made a father's hands, they were large and sinewy.

And the angel shook her head sadly and said, "Do You know what You're doing? Large hands are clumsy. They can't manage diaper pins, small buttons, rubber bands on pony tails or even remove splinters caused by baseball bats."

God smiled and said, "I know, but they're large enough to hold everything a small boy empties from his pockets at the end of a day yet small enough to cup a child's face."

Then God molded long, slim legs and broad shoulders.

The angel nearly had a heart attack. "Boy, this is the end of the week, all right," she clucked. "Do You realize You just made a father without a lap? How is he going to pull a child close to him without the kid falling between his legs?"

God smiled and said, "A mother needs a lap. A father needs strong shoulders to pull a sled, balance a boy on a bicycle or hold a sleepy head on the way home from the circus."

God was in the middle of creating two of the largest feet anyone had ever seen when the angel could contain herself no longer. "That's not fair. Do You honestly think those large boats are going to dig out of bed early in the morning when the baby cries? Or walk through a small birthday party without crushing at least three of the guests?"

And God smiled and said, "They'll work. You’ll see. They'll support a small child who wants to "ride a horse to Banbury Cross" or scare off mice at the summer cabin, or display shoes that will be a challenge to fill."

God worked throughout the night, giving the father few words, but a firm authoritative voice; eyes that see everything, but remain calm and tolerant.

Finally, almost as an afterthought, He added tears. Then He turned to the angel and said, "Now are you satisfied that he can love as much as a mother?"

And the angel shutteth up!

Ahh, Erma, we miss you!

In closing, here’s a poem I’ve long enjoyed that sums up Dads in just a few short lines. I hope you’ll enjoy it, too:

What Makes A Dad

Author Unknown

God took the strength of a mountain,
The majesty of a tree,
The warmth of a summer sun,
The calm of a quiet sea,
The generous soul of nature,
The comforting arm of night,
The wisdom of the ages,
The power of the eagle's flight,
The joy of a morning in spring,
The faith of a mustard seed,
The patience of eternity,
The depth of a family need,
Then God combined these qualities,
When there was nothing more to add,
He knew His masterpiece was complete,
And so, He called it ... Dad

To my dad, to the father of my children, to men everywhere who (sometimes) respond when kids say “Dad?”, HAPPY FATHERS’ DAY!

Next Fathers’ Day is June 18, 2010, so mark your calendars!

Oh...and that adorable guy in the picture? My own sweet hubby, holding our then-one hour old grandson, Warner. Now that is what Fathers' Day is all about!

Monday, March 23, 2009

Win a Copy of Love Finds You in Paradise, Pennsylvania!

If you're enjoying this gorgous picture of Paradise, Pennsylvania, you can thank talented photographer Gene Cook. The more I look at this shot, the more I could look at this shot!

I'm sure you'll recognize the town's name as soon as I remind you this is where those horrific Amish schoolgirl shootings took place several years ago. Amazing, isn't it, that even something that evil and ugly wasn't able to mar the magnificent vistas.

You can learn even more about this quaint little town in my next release, Love Finds You in Paradise, Pennsylvania. Set in and around Paradise, the novel features one fictional Amish family as very important secondary characters.

But imagine traveling to quaint cities and towns all over the U.S. ... without ever having to leave the comfort of your easy chair! That's exactly what Summerside Press accomplishes with every Love Finds You title.

You'll pay visits to the nearby Wolf Sanctuary of Pennsylvania, where you'll interact with the real residents who call these twenty-some acres home. You'll enjoy a big country breakfast at the beautiful historical bed and breakfast situated on the property, and share a rib-sticking mid-day feast atthe Gunden's kitchen table. (And thanks to little Levi, you'll hear all about how pigs are slaughtered in the family's "killing room"!)

But don't be fooled by the peaceful and serene artwork on the novel's cover... A troubled teen commits a deadly crime that has a hideous and lasting affect on every character in the story.

Though Simon and Julia aren't related to the Gundens, their love for the Plain family is as deep and as real as any forged by blood. When the brutal and atrocious murder steals one of the Gunden's children, the couple's new love is put the the ultimate test. Wolf howls and human tears will mix to test your compassion.

Love Finds You in Paradise, Pennsylvania is available online now, and will be delivered to bookstores near you this April. If you can't find it where you shop, be sure to let me know, and I'll do what I can to see to it the title shows up, soon!

Leave a comment here or on my web site ( for a chance to win an autographed copy of the novel!

Looking forward to hearing from you. Meanwhile, here's hoping the joys of spring are sprouting all around you!

All my best,

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Valentine's Day, Loree Style

Well, if that don't beat all. Another Valentine's Day is upon us. Seems like I only packed up the Christmas decorations a week or so ago, and here I am, baking heart-shaped cookies for the grandkids and planning to comb my hair and put on makeup (NOT a typical Saturday undertaking) for dinner with my darlin' hubby.
We've never gone in for extravagant February 14th gifts. A meaningful card with a thoughtful verse inside, a box of chocolates (from him to me), a favorite meal (from me to him) and we're one happy duo.

When I 'Googled' the date, I discovered a whole long list of Anti-Valentine's Day web sites, and the sole purpose of each is to do everything possible to erase the date from the least as a 24 hour love fest. Maybe if we all focused more on the history of the holiday, we'd have an easier time, uh, celebrating....

Let's keep in mind that it started out as a pagan tradition, way back in the third century. Now, anyone who knows me well understands how fond I am of canus lupus. There weren't many like me back then, when ravenous wolves lurked Rome's borders, hoping some sleepy shepherd had nodded off so they could grab a free meal. So the shepherds called upon the god Lupercus to protect two- and four-legged from fang and claw. The Feast of Lupercalia was celebrated every February, to ensure Lupercus's continued guardianship over themselves and their flocks.

As part of the feast, Romans honored the goddess Juno Februata by putting girls' names into a box, so they could be partnered with young boys, and they'd walk around holding hands and looking google-dee-eyed at one another until the next feast. This practice continued long after the wolves left Rome for better pickins.

Then along came Christianity, when priests made it their business to stamp out such heathen practices. In place of the partnering ritual honoring Juno Februata, church big wigs renamed the feast St. Valentine's Day and substituted saints' names. Kids of both sexes pulled slips of paper from boxes or urns, and the name each chose was the saint they were supposed to emulate until next St. Valentine's Day.

Alas, we're a weak-spirited bunch, we humans, and by the fourteenth century, we'd reverted to 'girls only' names yet again.

Depending which version of history you read, there are as many as seven men who went by the name "Valentine", and one or all are linked to various feasts, celebrated on February 14th. It's interesting to note that only two boast stories interesting enough to give lasting meaning to St. Valentine's Day.

Valentine Number One was well-loved by the worst possible time in the reign of the Emperor Claudius. See, old Claud was having big trouble finding soldiers to fight the wars he'd started, hither and yon, seeing as the able-bodied went all gooey at the very thought of leaving wives and kids and sweethearts behind. Perturbed by this chronic gooey-ness, the Emp ruled that no marriages could take place until all warring had ended.

The well-loved Valentine One didn't become well-loved for no good reason.... Soon, word got around that he was more than happy to thumb his nose at the ridiculous ruling by performing secret marriage ceremonies. If Claud was ticked when he couldn't round up willing fighters, imagine how enraged that news made him! He tossed Val One into prison, and left him there until he died...on February 14th. Lest it be said the Emperor wasn't all bad, let us remember that he allowed Val's friends to cart off his remains and bury them in a Roman churchyard.

And then there's Valentine Number Two, thrown into jail for helping those annoying Christians. Whatever was he thinking, curing a jailer's daughter of blindness while behind bars! Yep, Claud got word of that, too, and since Val Two was already in prison, what choice did he have but to club the poor miracle worker to death, then chop off his head...on (you guessed it) February 14, 269 A.D. (Ugly rumors persist that the real cause of the Emperor's fury was that instead of a cure for blindness, Valentine stole the heart of the jailer's daughter, and wrote numerous letters signed "From your Valentine.")

Eventually--much like the so-called history books in today's American classrooms--the seven Valentines got rolled into one, and in the year 496, Pope Gelasius proclaimed February 14th the day to honor St. Valentine, who either performed the miracle of giving sight to a sightless girl...or infused her heart with everlasting love....

And so it was that the collective Valentines became the patron saints of lovers. As Christianity became more prevalent, priests continued to replace old heathen practices.

So, you ask, how'd we get from prayerful reverence to cards, candy, and flowers?Well, remember those letters that may have been signed "From your Valentine"?

And how the practice grew! These days, a billion Valentine cards are exchanged every February 14th, making it #2 in card sales to Christmas. I find it tough to believe that 83% of those cards are purchased by women, but that's what statistics say....

Because Valentine's Day is responsible for a whopping 32% of their annual sales, florists love the holiday. And here's a stat I do believe: 73% of posie purchasers are men. 110 million roses (mostly red) will be delivered to sweethearts on or slightly before Throbbing Heart Day.

Which brings us to the question: Why red? Well, it's the symbol of warmth, passion, and love. And since all that stuff inspires the ol' ticker to tock, it wasn't a great leap to adopt the 'shape' of the heart as the universal symbol of love.

But...why all the heart-shaped stuff? For the answer to that, some historians hearken back to the ancient Romans, who borrowed the symbol from the Babylonians, for whom "bal" meant "heart", and "bal", don't y'know, was a symbol of Nimrod, Lord of the Babylonians...aka Cupid...often depicted as an adorable li'l guy whose bare butt is, well, sorta heart-shaped. (What can I say? There were no video games back then, no TV, no movies. People's imaginations were way out there!)

On a final note, may I humbly point out that Alexander Graham Bell decided to patent his oh-so-famous invention on February 14th, 1876.So pick up the phone. Call your mother, and wish her a happy Valentine's Day. If that doesn't make her howl with gratitude, I don't know what will!

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Reminiscin' an' snifflin'

Cleaned my office today, and as I ran the dust rag over the photo of my li'l kitty, a lump formed in my throat. Though she's been gone nearly six years, I still miss her. Lots.

She wasn't an easy feline to love. At least, not for most folks. For a reason only Mouser knows, she 'took' to me, right from the get-go. The "keep away or else!" behavior displayed toward others? She was quite the opposite with me.

And so, nostalgia prompted me to pen a poem. (Bear with me; rhyming ain't my thing!):

No Cats in Hell
Once I had a little cat
and Mouser was her name.
Every day, in every way,
that cat, she was the same.
She'd carry on and fuss and spit
and whine and mew and fume,
making life a living heck...
...or so one would assume.

But she was like a pinch of salt
when life-like stew--was bland.
That's why God sent her to me
with her recipe so grand.
A taste is all I needed,
and that is what He planned.

Then one day He said to her
"Now you've salted Loree's stew;
it's time I take you home again,
'cuz I've got plans for you.
So tiptoe up into her lap
and lick her on the cheeks,
like the Eskimo way of saying 'bye'
when they are feeling weak.

And one more thing," God intoned,
"be sure you let her know
how much you enjoyed the Fancy Feast
and other gifts bestowed
by the gal who was your dearest pal
and loved you oh so well.
Let her know you'll be in heaven,
cuz there are no cats in hell."

To Procrastinate or Not

So....weird thing happened this morning.

I took one of those emailed-online quizzes entitled “Are You a Procrastinator?”

It’s a sore subject with me, since in my opinion, it’s something I do way too much. Four pages of Q&A later, I got my score, and whoa, what a surprise.
But I’m not going to share the number with you...yet. First, I’ll share some stuff I learned about procrastination:

The word, as you likely know, comes from the Latin procrastinare, and literally means “to delay or postpone”. Think Scarlet O’Hara, whose personal mantra was “I’ll just worry ‘bout that tomorrow.” At the opening of Gone with the Wind, the dark-haired beauty had a parade of servants to help her tick things off her to-do list. As war raged around her and her life was big-time rearranged, her attitude toward leaving things undone changed. Dramatically. Yet she still found opportunities to spout the famous quote a time or two…

Shrinks agree that one of the main reasons we procrastinate is fear. (If we don’t do a thing at all, how can we fail at it?) Trouble with that mindset, though, is procrastination is self-sabotage. Every action or thought that keeps us from performing becomes an obstacle, blocking forward motion…and our attempts to succeed.

A few interesting tid-bits about procrastination:

Procrastinators are made, not born. Maybe we watched Mom and Dad put stuff off, and picked up the bad habit as kids. And maybe we developed the habit to rebel against ‘by the book’ parents.

Procrastinators actively look for ways to avoid ‘stuff’. If we’re distracted by barking dogs or blaring sirens, well, is that our fault? If we don’t feel like doing…whatever…we substitute other chores, then tell ourselves “At least I wasn’t just sitting around, wasting time!”

In general, people don’t take procrastination seriously. At least, not seriously enough. If somebody promised to do something for us, but let us down? We accept their flimsy excuses, even when we don’t believe them. Which means we've granted them permission to behave irresponsibly, and absolved them from feeling accountable.

Statistics show that more than 20% of Americans feel they’re procrastinators. They’re late with their bills. Late to work. Late sending cards and gifts. Late turning in projects. Are they lazy? Deluded? Selfish and/or self-centered? Crazy? (All of the above?)

Procrastination forces prevarication. That is, in order to continually excuse our own bad behavior, we have to lie, not just to the people we’ve disappointed, but to ourselves. And the worst kinda lie we can tell is the one we tell ourselves.

Perfectionism and procrastination are bunk mates. Dotting every ‘i’ and crossing every ‘t’ is just as good a reason not to deliver what we’ve promised as alphabetizing the spice rack or color-coding the closet. (A neat house might be easy on the eye, but it doesn't get the bills paid!)

And did you know that procrastinators have a much higher incidence of alcohol and drug addiction? Couple of possible explanations for that: One—we tell ourselves we’re gonna quit ‘after this next one”. And two (and I think this is the reason)—we 'partake' to hide from overwhelming guilt, shame and self-loathing. And why wouldn’t we feel that way! It isn’t as if we can hide from ourselves…and the damage we’ve done or the hurt feelings our procrastination has caused.

So what do we do about it?

We get tough on ourselves, that’s what. We decide what we really want out of life, then figure out how to make it happen.
We write serious To Do lists that are physically and mentally do-able.
We admit we’re human. As such, we’re not perfect, and we never will be.
We start a journal of sorts, so we can track our progress, so we can see in black and white how many tasks we’ve completed…and how few people we’ve disappointed.

Now back to the procrastination quiz.
I scored 32 out of a possible 100 points which, according to the pros who crafted the test, means I don't procrastinate very often, after all. That got me to thinkin’ about why I thought I was guilty of frequent procrastination, and 'me-n-it' coexist on a daily basis. Yeah, I sometimes put stuff off…but never if it’ll cost me. (I’d rather eat razor blades than break a promise. To anyone. Turning a project in late wouldn’t just disappoint my agent and editors, it’d make me look like unprofessional. And I’d just as soon swallow molten lava as have that said about me. By anyone.)

But human nature being what it is, I saw that 32% nearly every time I blinked. And thought to myself, ...lotsa wiggle room between there and 100%....

Then reality smacked me up-side the head, and underscored why—though I would’ve bet my shiny new laptop that I’d be labeled a procrastinator with a capital P—I’m not as bad as I thought I was.

The final line of my score is what I’ll focus on: “Procrastination can be a major setback in reaching your goals. With 32%, there is still room for improvement, so be conscious of the times that you do procrastinate and make an effort to stay on track.”

Excellent advice. And it'd still be excellent advice, even if I’d scored 75%...or higher.

So go forth, m’friends, and do not put off ‘til tomorrow what you can do today.