Terrible at Keeping Secrets

I don’t really have a BIG secret. However, this one is important to me (and hopefully, you!).

Last year, I decided on two new writing projects. Oh my, how the work tied me in knots. I was still working on my third romantic comedy mystery.  I’ve plowed through and turned it in. I’m working on those edits now.

In July, I gathered three short stories into a collection entitled Sommerville days. All of my stories take place in Sommerville. Or the characters reside in Sommerville. I updated and fixed, had a great cover made–voila! I’m thrilled those are available.

Then I started working on Sommerville holidays. Over the years, I’ve written many Christmas/holiday stories. I went back to the cover designer and we worked on this:

Sommerville Holidays Ebook Cover 1600x2400

Here’s a bit about the stories:

Hopes and wishes and holiday kisses…Sommerville holidays.

Holiday Disaster: Days before Christmas, a librarian experiences plumbing issues and a Mr. Maintenance Man who isn’t nearly as jolly as Santa Claus.

The Littlest Angel: Two people. One ornament for the tree. Can a twosome find common ground and discover the true meaning of Christmas?

Holiday Handbag Extravaganza: Christmas Countdown is on! A hunk-a-licious customer pesters a boutique owner to locate a vintage handbag for his mother. Too bad the wedge between them is his sister, the meanest girl in town.

THREE WEEKS TO GO! Stay tuned here, on Amazon, or at my website  for

Sommerville holidays-live!

Noteworthy

author 100 x 100Recently, Handsome and I traveled to Italy and boarded a small ship to sail the Adriatic Sea. I like to journal when traveling. I jot down what we did, the weather (unbelievably hot), good–good and bad, but mostly good, people we met, aches and pains, etc. I took a keyboard which bluetoothed with my iPhone and using the notes app, kept the daily journal. When I returned home, I shared them to my email and cut and paste into the journal I keep on my laptop.

Why keep a journal? I pour a lot of emotion and details into my journal. (Maybe my way of having a therapist!) I go back and visit my notes when I need to feel or see or even smell something from then. I put that into my work.

An example from Ljubljana, Slovenia:

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Upon arrival, we took a slow water taxi tour to the old city of Ljubljana. The temperature was warm, but not unbearable, especially on the water. The sky was slightly overcast. We disembarked and the guide (most excellent) took us on a walking tour. I fell in love with Ljubljana. The old city is pedestrian-only (nice!)  and the town provides little green cars to pick up people and drive them around. The streets are super clean, made of cobblestones, but very even compared to Italy where the streets are a walking hazard.

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We saw fountains, sculptures, dragons, and a lovely recently restored, salmon-colored church. The guide told us about the bridges, the ruling family Hapsburg, the wars (always a war). We went to the Green Market (like our Farmers’ markets) where vendors sold flowers, vegetables, and fruit. After we passed the city hall, we stood at the base of the castle high on a hill. After lunch, we could purchase tickets for the vernicular and visit, but opted to tour the city instead. lub church

The guide circled back to the river where we walked through the old Jewish quarter. The Hapsburgs expelled them, and now, no one remains, except for a lot of empty buildings looking for tenants.

lub chandelierFinally, we ended at our restaurant for lunch. The interior had a trendy bistro look. Chandeliers were shaped like deconstructed lampshades (I want some!). Impeccable waitstaff served perfect sesame and flax seeded bread, mushroom soup in a flavorful clear broth, chicken rolls fat with broccoli and spinach,  a spicy gravy poured over mashed parsnips, and thin roasted carrots. I longed to see what was for dessert, and I wasn’t disappointed–apple strudel. Thin sliced apples inside dough which flaked when touched with a fork. Delicious!

After lunch, Handsome and I walked on our own. The old town is built next to the river. We followed it and found the green market area. At one booth, we bought a Pinnochio for our new granddaughter and a mouse. The wooden toys were connected to a long spring and when pulled, bounced lively.

I found tiny animal drawings created by a young lady from northern Slovenia. She told me her inspiration for her work comes from the animals on her farm. I purchased a pig looking at a heart-shaped balloon and a girl walking a dog that resembled the kiddoes beloved. Handsome had dropped to a curb to wait for me. I sat by his side and showed him the treasures. In no hurry, we people-watched other shoppers. A woman threw a bone for a stray dog. Young couples passed with babies in strollers or backpacks. Truly, a delightful atmosphere.

On our way to our meeting place, we paused at a window. Handsome was intrigued by an antique shop. I thought why not because I love antiques. We were wrong! The shop owner designed and painted porcelain. A very nice surprise! I bought a plate decorated with poppies and gold curlicues, and two small white bowls embellished with the same kind of golden curls.lub porcelain

lub doll Next to that shop, we peeked in another which featured all kinds of handmade goodies. Nirvana! Handsome found a knitted doll for the baby. I bought a handpainted ceramic brooch (the shopkeeper said the tiny, delicate flowers were painted with one hair on a brush).

Handsome told me I’m buying too much (after all, this was Day Two on the cruise). Laughing, I said I bought for Christmas.

 

While the journal isn’t perfect, I instantly am transported back to Ljubijana and can picture myself in various places, what I’m eating, seeing, and doing.  All is pot of wealth for someday (maybe a Christmas story)!

 

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The lazy days of summer are drawing to an end. Recapture your moment with these tales in Sommerville days

Raving Beauty: What if the love of your life was in front of you all along?

Store Wars: The competition is heating up when Janie’s old flame returns to town and is running his family’s store. Could following dreams break her heart?

San Diego or Bust: When a young woman plans a romantic getaway with her boyfriend, disaster strikes. Is her Mr. Right the right Mr. Right?

Available at: Amazon and KU.

Something new!

author 100 x 100     Well, lots of somethings new around here.

First and foremost: a baby girl will be added to my family. We’re so excited to welcome her. My #1son is about to jump out of his skin.

Second: a new book released–Sommerville days. Many of you know my love for stories with fun and sassy heroines. I’ve collected three together and wrapped them in an awesome cover. Here you go:

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Don’t you want to find a hammock under a shade tree with a tall cool drink (like almond tea) and a great book? Here’s a bit about Sommerville days:

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

Store Wars: The competition is heating up when Janie’s old flame returns to town and is running his family’s store. Could following dreams break her heart?

Raving Beauty: What if the love of your life was in front of you all along?

San Diego or Bust: When a young woman plans a romantic getaway with her boyfriend, disaster strikes—is her Mr. Right the right Mr. Right?

(My sister told me the end of “Raving Beauty” made her cry. I had never heard this about my work before because I write funny. And there are funny things inside, too.)

Find your relaxation device at: Vendor

And lastly: Handsome and I will be on vacation. I can’t wait. The heat is pretty strong after our rainy and cool Spring. Hopefully, we can dodge some of those oppressive days.

Happy Summer!

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Almond Tea-Mix together:   3 tablespoons instant iced tea powder
1/4 cup white sugar     2 cups boiling water    Add 1 (12 oz.) can frozen pink lemonade concentrate     1 tablespoon vanilla extract    1 tablespoon almond extract    Add 4 cups of cold water. Stir and pour over ice. Totally addictive.

 

 

 

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

Just Desserts 400x600 72dpi

“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

 

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!!!

computer-smile[1]
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?

 

Just Desserts 400x600 72dpi

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:

Amazon    Amazon print Nook Other vendors

 

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.

hbw quince close up

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.

Just Desserts 400x600 72dpi

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

asteriks 2

 

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?

Just Desserts 400x600 72dpi

 

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:

 

Amazon ebook     Amazon PB    B&N     Other Vendors

 

 For the latest and greatest, contests, and more, sign Up for HBW News at: Newsletter

 

 

 

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.

pencilsyellow

 

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.

375px-Holiday_Baking_Championship_logo

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:

Amazon

Nook
Kobo
iBooks

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?

asteriks 2wow winter pix

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:

Amazon
Barnes & Noble
Kobo