Do You Have a Secret Confession?

author 100 x 100   I like recipes. I like reading them, especially the dessert ones. And on Facebook, new ones pop up almost every day. So I print them off and put in my go-to pile. And that is as far as most of the recipes get–the go-to pile. As much as I like reading recipes, I don’t want to make baked goods any more.

Every now and then, I’ll get a wild hare—or is it hair?—and make something, usually for a special occasion, like Strawberry Cake.strawberry cake

Last week, I saw a recipe for a biscuit pull-apart bread with cinnamon sugar and pecans and baked in a tube pan. I’m thinking of making this one. It’s pretty easy for the company that’s coming. I know why I’ve made this change. There’s three good reasons:

One. My creativity has changed from cooking to writing, stitching, and reading.
Two. Handsome can’t swallow these foods. Long story involving cancer radiation from thirteen years ago.
Three. The boys aren’t home to help eat what I fix.

I grew up baking and helping Mom fix dinner. In my early adult years, I loved making goodies to share. Over time, food for the boys became what I could squish in between events. By Sunday noon, I was all cooked out. Eventually, they went off to school and trickled in and out of home. When do return, they really want a box of Cheez-its.

Are you a cook or baker? And if so, what’s your specialty?

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Here’s a bit of creativity to share—an excerpt from Just Desserts…and other stories. Someone said the line “I have a theory about love” and my brain when all creative. BTW, I’m always looking for reviewers. If you’re interested, let me know at: vlmbatman@hotmail.com

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“I have a theory about love.”

Ethan’s statement knocked me from the proverbial mountain top. Eyeing him, I clapped my hand across my mouth to stifle a giggle.

From Day One at our new jobs at Prime Designs, Ethan and I had forged a friendship. I was the artsy heart-sy, emotional gal. Him–the technical, by-the-book pal. We ate an occasional dinner, watched a movie, whatever. Traded small gifts like coffee, a magazine, music. However, Ethan had never made an overture toward me.

Translated: Nothing intimate.

I’d said to myself, “Rats.”

For work, we’d traveled to Colorado Springs to attend a workshop on web design innovations. After check-in, I’d joined him at the bridge crossing the lake to decide about lunch before the meetings commenced.

My six-one geek wearing rimless glasses, leaned against the railing and stared into the sparkling blue waters of the high mountain lake. The feathered fowl paddled by.
Have his feelings changed?

I asked in disbelief, “R-really? A theory…about love?”

Find yours at: Vendor

 

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Crash, Bang!

author 100 x 100   I love computers. I’m betting you do too.

I hate computer “problems.” I’m betting you do too.

Last year, my 1 ½ year old laptop—a first for me—crashed. Like I turned it on, and nothing happened crash. I panicked. My books! My stories! My life!!!

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I had a warranty on this laptop. I don’t buy warranties and a nice tech man put a new solid-state hard drive in. I sent the old hard drive off to have material retrieved (which, by the way, cost more to have done than the actual computer). Soon I was back in business.
But in the back of my head was “when is this going to happen again?”
Last week, my computer program was corrupted. I had everything saved, all was wiped, and restored. I had to spend several hours again to bring it up to speed.
Again, my brain went to the dark side— “when is this going to happen again?”
One week later, my laptop wasn’t running well. I determined to have the security software company run its scans. I’d paid for this premium service after the crash and could use as much as I wanted. Fortunately, what they found was no big deal (except in my head) and no virus had attacked it.
I’m still having thoughts of “when is this going to happen again?”
I don’t like living like that. Maybe that’s normal for laptop people. I’m not sure. I don’t watch movies, TV stuff, or do games. I write and buy handbags. So why me?
After a huge discussion with Handsome, I decided to buy a new laptop, but what kind?
question mark black So, I’m appealing to you and your computer knowledge…what kind of laptop do you like?

 

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No problems here! Just lots and lots of laughs and happy every afters! “Some had me laughing out loud and others had me saying…awww. Quick little stories and a great way to escape from the stress of the day and just sit back and enjoy. Each story shows how two people meet. Sunshine, humor and heart all rolled into one enjoyable book.”

Find yours at:

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Blooming Like Crazy!

Spring began in my neighborhood in February, starting with the flowering quince. When we moved in this house over twenty years ago, I had no idea the large bush in the front bed was a flowering quince. Then Winter came and the shrub turned to sticks. But when Spring came, gorgeous salmon-colored flowers appeared along with the tiniest bees.

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Sure, we can get a cold snap and the blossoms turn an ugly brown. However, most of the time, they last. It is truly a pleasure to sit at my desk which overlooks the front yard and see the signs of Spring appear.

Then more exciting things happen. Like the grass slowly but surely sprouts green. The red oak leaves press forward and in a gentle Spring breeze, wave gently.

Behind my garage is a small bed which leads to the backyard. After we renovated, I planted antique roses. The middle one had devil thorns and never thrived. The other two flanking it produce tiny flowers–one white and one is yellow. Several of the flowers  Rose yellow

Years ago, Handsome and I cruised the Rhine River. I was taken with the different flowers I saw there. When I returned home and showed off my pictures, I realized most were of flowers.

Flowers give me pleasure. They are soft, beautiful colors, sometimes scented. A bit of beauty, like the one I found in a sidewalk crack, in unexpected places.

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Maybe the stories in Just Desserts and other stories are beautiful or beautifully written; however, I like to think they’re fun, too. And life needs fun.

Love blossoms in the small town of Sommerville in these heartwarming, “cute meet” tales, filled with fun and forever possibilities.

Find yours at: Vendor

The Great Outdoors

 

…is the view right outside my office window. Why is that important?

 

My desk where I play What if??? is adjacent to a large window, and when stuck, I take a look outside. Invariably, I’m inspired by the massive red oak trees in my front yard, the leaves changing from dark green to red orange and back. Or the large variety of cars streaming past my house, some speeding more than others.  Occasionally, the emergency vehicles with blaring sirens race to help someone. I spy colorful blooms in the flower beds which tell of Spring’s arrival and make me happy. quince 2

 

So why is The Great Outdoors important?

 

Many times, I’ve incorporated the scenery I see outside my window in my writing because being able to describe those things makes my work more authentic. And hopefully, a reader will be so engrossed, he/she is transported into the world I created and imagining him/herself where the action is. What the characters look like. What the weather is like. What people wear. What cars they drive. And et cetera.

 

Right now,  spring is creeping in. I can see the lacey white blossoms of the Bradford pear trees have pushed out. My quince with flowers in shades of salmon have already bloomed, leaving only the late stragglers, and tiny tiny bees buzzing from blossom to blossom searching for pollen. The grass is dry chaff. The gloomy gray sky makes me want to curl on the comfy sofa with a good book and my favorite beverage and snack. snoopy reading

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Near my home are restaurants and shops I frequent. In the Hattie Cooks mysteries, I have incorporated  a family-owned Italian restaurant similar to the one Handsome and I have frequented. The interior oozes Italian – the faux finished walls from which hang pictures of the Italian countryside, the Frank Sinatra-Tony Bennett-Dean Martin tunes, the ambiance created by the low lights—all perfect for Detective Allan Wellborn to seduce Hattie in Temporarily Out Of Luck. Here’s a sample:

 

Hunger overruled anger. I folded my hand around his and walked with him to our favorite Italian restaurant. He held the glass entry door wide and let me pass through first. My senses were overpowered by the greatest scents ever—spicy garlic, sweet tomato, yeasty bread, and sharp onions.

 

I loved Mama & Papas Italian Restaurant, a place my parents had brought Tracey and me to since elementary school. The same Tuscan prints decorated the golden faux-finished walls. The same Tony Bennett and Frank Sinatra tunes oozed from the sound system. I breathed in deeply then looked at Allan, feeling gratitude. “Nirvana.”

 

               The corners of his eyes crinkled. “Forgiven?”

 

What’s outside your window?

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Have you read very short stories? In very shorts, description is cut to the bare minimum, one choice word or two, to convey the really important things we need to know.  Find out in Just Desserts…and other stories:

 

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Mommy, Would You Read to Me?

I remember the days when Mom and I snuggled on the couch in the family room and she read aloud to me. Being immersed in the pages and studying the illustrations was nirvana. I specifically remember about age six asking her to read aloud, and she said, “You can read.” I said, “Only out loud.” She said, “Just say the words quietly to yourself.” So I did.

No holding me back after that.

110414vickibatmanmkeirblogchildreadingpixI consumed vast quantities of books. When once reprimanded by a librarian that I had to put back some new treasures from the tall pile cradled to my scrawny chest, my mom saw my sad face and asked what was wrong. I told her what the librarian said. My mom spun me around, marched me to the desk and said, “Check out all these books to her. She’ll read them, probably twice and the ones her sisters get too.”

Again, no holding me back.

As a writer, we have to work our projects so they won’t suck. This means we revise and edit. Because I’m a pantser, I make multiple passes, constantly revising to make the book fresh. Like other authors, I’m looking for new editing tricks, too. I used to read my work aloud and eliminated the awful dialogue and weird stuff I heard. I printed the manuscript and hacked a red, er, yellow pencil all over it.

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Then I got my laptop. In Microsoft Office is a feature that is freakin’ awesome—Read Aloud. I turn it on and voila, my book is read aloud to me! I can set the voice and the speed.

I worked my way through my current WIP, my third romantic comedy mystery, stopping to change words, dialogue, move passages. Now, I’m going through again and making a timeline and documenting the clues. What a treasure this feature is!

No holding me back!

asteriks2I’m pleased with where Temporarily Out of Luck is going. Thought I’d share a bit with you and get your thoughts. So here goes:

Sometimes, I felt like a small white mouse housed in a cage with lots of small white mice, whose sole playground activity was to eat, sleep, and revolve constantly on the exercise wheel. And just like one rodent friend, who I named Mr. Happy-Go-Lucky, having a field day back flipping from the top of the spinning wheel, something happened, and unexpectedly, found myself air born.
Not hurt, a sense of disappointment overcame me, plus a bit of confusion, and a whole lot of colorful descriptives too numerous to list. I, mostly known as Hattie Cooks, shook off the pine shavings and hopped back on the merry-go-round of life.

 

If you like that passage, maybe you’ll like other funny stuffy I’ve written. Check me out at:  Website     Author Central

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Being Creative

I admit—I’m addicted to the Holiday Baking Championship shows. The Thanksgiving, holiday, Easter, bake-off with champions, kids. All of them.

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Handsome thinks I’m hilarious. “But you don’t bake much.”

“I know. I just like watching their creativity in the challenges.”

For example: the opening episode of 2019 had the bakers using pumpkin spice in their confections. The winner of that heat had made a baby cake with homemade cranberry jam in the center and a flavored whipped cream. Another baker had started with a panna cotta; however, she hadn’t put in enough gelatin and had to think fast. She made a mousse and her bottom crust became a cookie. See how different their entries were?

Creativity.

grandmother My grandmother made Tomato Cake every Thanksgiving. It’s an old recipe developed during WW2. The unusual ingredient is Tomato Soup. Now before you get all weirdly freaked, know her cake never tasted like tomato soup. It had all the lovely spices used in holiday recipes, raisins, and dates. And once, she got all radical and added chopped canned pears and walnuts. Trust me when I say it was absolutely delicious.

After Grandmother had passed, my sister decided to make her cake and my sister’s twist was to add pineapple cream cheese frosting.

Quite startling for those of us who knew the all-time fav but was very tasty. Then most desserts with cream cheese frosting are very yummy.

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The same thing can be said about writing. So many of us write in lots of genres. I tend to stick with romantic comedy shorts and mysteries; however, I have written shorts with magical elements.

When I decided to add “The Great Fruitcake Bake-off” to the Whispers of Winter holiday anthology, I reviewed and revised. I became more creative.

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If you’re wanting something to cuddle with on a chilly winter night, you might want to try the Whispers of Winter, available at:

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Taking the Long Way Home

palo duro canyon

 

When Handsome and I travel to Colorado, we pass through Texas. I am always intrigued by names of restaurants, towns, and roads we see. Many years ago, one caught my eye-Wagonsellers Road.

 

I searched for any information about Wagonsellers Road and found nothing except for a terrain map. I did find a person who lives near Wagonsellers Road with the same last name. So I’m thinking this person is related. I can fully imagine a family built covered wagons and sold them to people headed west: wagon + seller = Wagonseller. Or maybe the family lived elsewhere, adopted the name, and settled in Texas.

 

I don’t know for sure. Just my writer’s imagination taking me places. I did send an email to the nearby city to ask.

 

We also see abandoned homes. The weeds have grown high. Holes in the roof. Windows are trashed. The wood siding has turned shades of gray and is warped. Acres of farm land surrounds them. Sometimes, there is a tree or two, which looks equally worn out. Every time we pass these houses, we say, “Sad house.” They do look sad. And again, my writer’s imagination takes me to what happened to the families who built the homes. Handsome says the houses might be from the Depression who left the area to go west and discover something better for their lives. As we roll closer to the Panhandle, we think it possible the houses were abandoned during the great dust storms.

 

Most of my stories take place in the fictional town of Sommerville. In a quick Google search, I found towns with this name in Massachusetts, New Jersey, Texas, and many people with the same last name. I knew I hadn’t created a new town, but I had hope it sounded like a decent, stable city. And in that town are many kinds of businesses: Dee’s Delicious Donuts, SuperSaver Grocery, Mama and Papa’s Italian Restaurant. A lot of those are patterned after places I frequent in my hometown.

 

Here are a couple of examples from The Great Fruitcake Bake-off, the grocery store:

               “Ham and pear appetizer sounds beyond delicious. Make it for me.”

               “Ah, but you forget. I’m an awful cook.” With a sniff, she took a tissue from a box and pressed it her nose. “Allergic to the kitchen.”

               Bethany was not an “awful cook.” More like…lazy. Time after time, I’d heard her refer to her cooking as “food assembling.” Take-out from Super Saver Grocery decorated with sprigs of parsley seemed to be her favorite go-to meal. “Everyone knows you’re the worst cook imaginable.”

 

And the theater:

               He asked, “How about we try the theater across the street? I’ve stopped in since moving here and watched some interesting things in the screening café.”

               “I love going there. Maybe silent flicks are showing.” A magnetic energy drew me toward him. My palms smoothed down my jean-clad legs. I wriggled my ragged sweatshirt sleeves into place. I should have dressed nicer.

 

I confess-I love the indie theater in my hometown. Many a time I’ve sat in the café before a movie in the main theater began and watched cartoons or black and white shorts, some from the silent era. Such a treat!

Do you know where the name of your hometown came from?

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Sommerville is the hometown in The Great Fruitcake Bake-off, a romantic comedy holiday story in the Whispers of Winter anthology.

When five-time champion Samantha Greene teams up with her new neighbor, Dixon Roberts, for The Great Fruitcake Bake-off, they discover baking a prize-winning entry is complicated, bad guys are plotting to take the crown, and first prize isn’t just about a ribbon.

Preorder yours at:

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Cover Girl

In June, I published another indie book.

I totally stress over creating covers. As a reader, you may not know what we think when we see a cover.  It is so exciting when I open the email. For example, with my story The Great Fruitcake Bake-off, I wanted to see a cake, some baking elements, a prize ribbon. My name and the title. And because the story is a romance, a cute couple.
For my mysteries, Temporarily Employed and Temporarily Insane, I subbed an art sheet with information about the cover. I did request the Squirrely Shirley font and the first one to be red background, the second one to be in blue. TemporarilyInsane cover 100 x 100  03 18 17 TemporarilyEmployed 314 x 235
I’m lucky in that the friend who designed the cover for Just Desserts…and Other Stories knows me and my work. My voice. When I told her about my latest project’s title, she knew exactly what to do. This:

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Name: The font is Squirrely Shirley, one used with most of my work. It conveys fun. I was concerned about my name in dripping chocolate and if people would think “mud”; however, after querying author friends, it got a “thumbs up.”
Background: Actually came in blue or pink. I went with the pink. I do love the color; however, blue did not seem as much fun as pink, nor as romantic.
Foreground couple: Recently, I put the cover in a Facebook reader’s group for promotion. The group owner asked me if the book is romance. I don’t know about you, but I see a couple with arms around each other. That spells romance. In a way, the pink surrounds them like a cameo. The cover is cartoon-style.
Title: Is in a strong blue. It contrasts from the pink and is in the forefront. The same Squirrely Shirley font. Underneath is not a subtitle. “And Other Stories” is part of the published title but making the font large like Just Desserts would swamp the whole cover. Plus, it is in black and indicates these are “stories.” Very important note because some people won’t ever read stories.
The bottom: is a huge row of chocolate cupcakes with blue, purple, red fruits and green icing. A tiny red and white flag embellishment. This element balances my name at the top and indicates sweetness which the eleven stories are: sweet, cute meets.

What part of the cover causes you to purchase a book? Is there a color that turns you off? Do you prefer real people over cartoon ones?

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Find Just Desserts…and Other Stories at: Amazon      Print      Nook   

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Where Are You Vacationing This Year?

As a kid, my family went on vacations. I remember swimming in the Gulf of Mexico and picking up sea shells, especially sand dollars. One year, we drove to Louisiana and dropped off my grandmother at her brother’s for a visit. We continued on to Alabama where we visited the USS Alabama, a WW2 battleship my dad served on. We moved on the Pensacola and played in the white sand.

Another year, we packed for two weeks and drove to California, stopping in New Mexico and Fresno, California so Dad could visit relatives. We went to the Grand Canyon and the Petrified Forest, saw the cousin’s vineyard, took a trip to Disneyland!, and drove up Highway One to San Francisco.grand canyon

Handsome and  have taken the boys to visit family, and on cruises to Hawaii, Alaska with a stop in Vancouver, Sea World in San Antonio, and not long ago, a Rhine River cruise. Frequently, we visit Colorado.

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Since I’ve begun writing, when I travel, I journal about where I am, what I did, and how I felt. All of this makes good material for my writing. For example, when Handsome and I went to the Broadmoor in Colorado Springs for our anniversary, I spied an event sign and my brain when hello???!!! That inspiration and something someone said ignited, propelled me to write Man Theory. Here’s a fun excerpt.

For work, we’d traveled to Colorado Springs to attend a workshop on web design innovations. After check-in, I’d joined him at the bridge crossing  lake to decide about lunch before the meetings commenced.

My six-one geek wearing rimless glasses, leaned against the railing, and stared into the sparkling blue waters of the high mountain lake. The feathered fowl paddled by.

Have his feelings changed? I asked in disbelief, “R-really? A theory…about love?”

 

Can you spot in the excerpt what I saw one day?asteriks 2
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Find Man Theory in Just Desserts…and Other Stories at:

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The Big Switch

I began my writing career with my first humorous romantic mystery, Temporarily Employed. I wrote and wrote on it, adding and editing over several weeks before I told friends and eventually, Handsome. Handsome was floored.

I worked on that book for a long time, like maybe three years. We weren’t agreeing any more and the editors and agents were passing on it even though it placed in a writing contest.

My friend in my local RWA chapter and I agreed to begin critiquing each other’s work. She kicked off our relationship by introducing me to very short stories. As I read them, a rhythm began in my head and I determined I could write my own story and did!
I was obsessed and churned out story after story after story, eventually culminating with thirty-two short stories. Some are little, like 1,000 words. Some reach over 15,000 words.
Over the years, I put out three little collections. Now, I’ve combined the little collections plus two new very shorts into a new anthology, Just Desserts.
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Here’s a bit: Love blossoms in the small town of Sommerville in these heart-warming and very short and sweet tales, filled with fun and forever possibilities. Included are:
Bug Stuff ~ An accountant unites with his co-worker to exterminate a pesky adversary.
Just Desserts ~ A political dinner gone disastrous brings together a reluctant attendee and her handsome seat-mate.
With This Ring ~ When a wife forgets the all-important little black dress, the evening turns into something utterly unforgettable.
Good Girls Finish First ~ When men friends are challenged to fix breakfast if they lose a race, one woman leads the pack and discovers finishing first can lead to romance.
Ouch ~ Who knew a yoga class would be so dangerous…and romantic?
Man Theory ~ When a geeky co-worker espouses his theory on love, a friend risks her heart.
Tommy and the Teacher ~ A young boy steals from the school’s book fair causing interesting possibilities to arise.
Absolutely Positively Lost ~ Helping a map-challenged young man find his way is truly serendipitous.
The Little Birdie Who ~ A new town, a new friend, a new beginning. Who would have thought a little bird could bring two people together?
Check Her Out ~ It’s a sticky situation, especially between a store manager and Auntie Caren when her nephew must pay for the gum he stole.
This Is Not Working ~ One of those days at a new job when nothing is going right, and then the boss steps in.

Other writers have said to me, “I can’t write short.” I just laugh because I have a hard time writing long. I have lots of ideas for short stories and can write them a lot faster than a book. And I love my books!

Interested in quick reads? Preorder Just Desserts at: Amazon   Nook