Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Cucumbers...who knew???

Cucumbers...I didn't know this


Cucumbers contain most of the vitamins you need every day; just one
cucumber contains Vitamin B1, Vitamin B2, Vitamin B3, Vitamin B5, Vitamin
B6, Folic Acid, Vitamin C, Calcium, Iron, Magnesium, Phosphorus, Potassium
and Zinc.

2. Feeling tired in the afternoon?
Put down the caffeinated soda and pick up a Cucumber. Cucumbers are a
good source of B Vitamins and Carbohydrates that can provide that Quick
pick-me-up that can last for Hours.

3. Tired of your bathroom mirror fogging up after a shower? 

Try rubbing a Cucumber slice along the mirror,
 it will eliminate the fog and provide a soothing, spa-like

4. Are grubs andslugs ruining your planting beds? 

Place a few slices in a small pie tin,
and your garden will be free of pests all season long. The chemicals In
the cucumber react with the aluminium to give off a scent undetectable to
humans but drive garden pests crazy and make them flee the area.

5 Looking for a fast and easy way to remove cellulite before going out or to the pool?
Try rubbing a slice or two of cucumbers along your problem area for a few
minutes, the phytochemicals in the cucumber cause the collagen in your
skin to tighten, Firming up the outer layer and reducing the visibility
of cellulite. Works great on wrinkles Too!!!

6.. Want to avoid a hangover or terrible headache? 

Eat a few cucumber slices before going to bed and wake
up refreshed and headache free. Cucumbers contain enough sugar, B
Vitamins and electrolytes to replenish essential nutrients the body lost,
keeping everything in equilibrium, avoiding both a hangover and

7. Looking to fight off that afternoon or evening snacking binge? 

Cucumbers have been used for centuries and often used by European trappers,
 traders and explores for quick meals to thwart off starvation.

Have an important meeting or job interview and you realize that you don't have enough time to
polish your shoes? 

Rub a freshly cut cucumber
over the shoe, its chemicals will provide a
Quick and durable shine that not only looks
Great but also repels

9. Out of WD 40 and need to fix a squeaky hinge? Take a
cucumber slice and rub it along the problematic
hinge, and voila, the squeak is gone!

Stressed out and don't have time for massage, facial or visit to the spa? 

Cut up an entire cucumber and place it in a boiling pot of water,
The chemicals and nutrients from the cucumber
With react with the boiling water and be
Released in the steam, creating a soothing,
Relaxing aroma that has been shown the reduce
Stress in new mothers and college students
During final exams.

11. Just finish a business lunch and realize you don't have gum or

Take a slice of cucumber and press it to
The roof of your mouth with your tongue for 30
Seconds to eliminate bad breath, the
Phytochemcials will kill the bacteria in your
Mouth responsible for causing bad

12. Looking for a 'green' way to clean your faucets, sinks or stainless steel?
Take a slice of cucumber and rub it on the
Surface you want to clean, not only will it
Remove years of tarnish and bring back the
Shine, but is won't leave streaks and won't harm
You fingers or fingernails while you

13. Using a Pen and made a mistake? 

Take the outside of the
Cucumber and slowly use it to erase the pen
Writing, also works great on crayons and markers
That the kids have used to decorate the

Pass this along to everybody you
Know who is looking for better and safer ways to
Solve life's everyday Problems..

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

My Interview With Judy Hogan: Mystery, Chickens, and More

Today I'll be talking with Judy Hogan, a fellow mystery writer, who like me uses an educator for her sleuth.  

1. Tell us what you’d like us all to know about Killer Frost.

It will be published September 1, 2012 by Mainly Murder Press in Connecticut. $15.95 paper, ISBN: 978-0-9836823-8-7; Nook and Kindle, $2.99. ISBN: 968-0-9846666-5-2.
            I am doing pre-sales now.  For $20 I will ship a signed copy to you early in September.  Send me an email and your address with a check or money order: PO Box 253, Moncure, NC 27559.

Here’s the plot teaser:

When Penny Weaver agrees to teach freshmen composition at historically black St. Francis College, her teaching and relationship skills, not to mention her detective instincts, are more challenged than they’ve ever been.  She falls in love with her boss, Oscar, who is very passionate about saving their students from ending up in prison because of how ill-prepared for college they are.  When the Provost is killed, Oscar is the primary suspect, because of his anger at the Provost for not firing the History professor who traded sex for an A with Penny’s student Merilee.  Penny’s detective friend and her husband, Kenneth, are investigating and ask her help, but because Oscar is confiding in her and she’s convinced he’s innocent, she doesn’t want to help them.  She tries to throw suspicion on the abusive History Professor and the Vice President for Financial Affairs, formerly in prison for embezzlement.
            After a spirited convocation speech on truth-telling, Penny’s students lead a protest about Merilee’s abuse, bad food, filthy dorms, but the President undercuts them by threatening to take away student scholarships. Meantime Penny struggles with her conflict: she loves her husband, but she can’t deny she loves Oscar.

Here’s the back cover comment I’m especially happy about:

A charming puzzler of a traditional mystery, this classic academic mystery debut is a pageturner populated with layered, interesting characters.  My hat is off to Judy Hogan on a stellar debut.  I look forward to the further adventures of Professor Penny Weaver at St. Francis college!
            –Julia Spencer-Fleming, New York Times Bestselling Author of One Was A Soldier.

2. What inspired you to write the new book?

This is the sixth mystery in my series, written in 2008.  I had been teaching in a local black college 2004-7, and I was disturbed by how poorly prepared for college a significant number of students were.  I was teaching reading and pre-composition with the goal of their being able to read and write at college level after these one semester courses.  This was a hopeless task for those reading at grade school level.  I came to love the students, and I wanted to call attention to how their hopes were raised by being admitted to college and then dashed when there was no hope of their passing even remedial courses.

3. Tell us a little about your main characters.  Which one is your favorite?  Why?
My heroine, Penny Weaver, is sixty-four in 2001, when Killer Frost takes place.  The first book in the series, The Sands of Gower, not yet published, took place in 1991, when she was fifty-four.  She is married by 2001 to a Welsh police detective, Kenneth Morgan, whom she met in the first book, and they spend about half their time in Wales, on the Gower Peninsula, and half of it in the village of Riverdell in fictional Shagbark County in central N.C., where most of the books take place.  She is enjoying her postmenopausal zest phase now that her children are grown.  She teaches English at a local community college and is a published poet.  She also works closely with others in her village on environmental and other community issues, e.g., the unsafe storage of nuclear waste, air pollution, a difficult local election. 
            She likes to cross the lines that usually keep people apart.  The community group, ACTNOW, is interracial.  By the third book, she is also a small farmer, with her neighbors, as they begin an orchard.  In the fourth book they get chickens.  Penny can usually see into people’s characters more quickly than the police investigators, and she usually intuits the killer before they do. 
            Kenneth is more laid back than Penny.  His main reason to worry comes from her persistence in getting herself into dangerous situations.  They normally work well together as a team, and she is happily married, which is why it throws her off balance when she falls in love with her new boss at St. Francis.  Derek Hargrave is a lieutenant and lead detective in the Shagbark Sheriff’s Department.  Penny and Derek’s wife, Sammie, usually solve the crime before Derek or Kenneth do.  Penny has a young adult daughter who has had various unwise relationships, and she now has, in Killer Frost, a child by one of Penny’s neighbors, who is a little strange and anti-social until you get used to him, Leroy Hassel, but Penny and friends have come to love him.  Other characters include a Lesbian couple, Belle Jones and Kate Razor, very sharp women, the first in public relations, the second, a lawyer.  Then Rick Clegg is a local African American community activist leader and minister, who is now a county commissioner.  He’s the one who suggests that Penny teach at St. Francis.
            My favorite character, who is totally made up (Penny is loosely based on me, and for some characters I’ve had living models to begin), is Sammie Hargrave.  She is African American, also teaches at St. Francis in Killer Frost.  She is bolder and more street savvy than Penny.  She dresses and wear wigs so as to look different every time you see her.  She’s funny, smart, blunt, compassionate, provides a realism to balance Penny’s idealism.  I never know how Sammie will react.  She always surprises me.  She lives in my mind, and I love learning what she’ll say or do next.  Sometimes she makes me laugh, and sometimes she makes me cry.  She’s my favorite because she’s educating me about what she’s like, rather than the other way around.

4. Who is the most memorable character you’ve ever written?

Sammie, as far as I know.  I’ll be interested to see how readers react to her.  

5. Judy, could you tell your readers something about your process of writing.  Do you outline or shoot from the hip?  What is your discipline?

I like to know who the murderer is and who the victim will be before I begin.  I follow the advice of Elizabeth George in her book Write Away: I use prompt sheets as to the characters’ background, description, behavior under stress, strengths and weaknesses.  Then I brainstorm the scenes as far as I can.  Sometimes one chapter is a scene; sometimes a chapter has several scenes.  I may add or subtract scenes as I go.  There are often surprises, which I like, but generally, I follow my plot plan.  Then I find it easier to write.  I set aside some weeks, optimally a month or two, to focus on the book and then write almost every day.  The most recent book I spent several weeks planning (that was the place I struggled most).  Then I wrote it a chapter a day, nineteen chapters in nineteen days, with two in there when I had to be away and couldn’t write.  That way I don’t have to keep rereading the whole book, though I do always reread my most recent chapter before starting a new one. 
            My discipline is making sure I sit down for two hours each afternoon and each evening and do about ten pages a day.  Generally, people see me as disciplined.  I think of it as having rituals.  I follow a daily schedule, and since I work at home (still teaching creative writing and doing free-lance editing), I can vary my work between writing/preparing for classes/editing and gardening and outside work, with breaks for reading, meals, and email.  I’ve been limiting my activities and social life in recent years so I can get more writing done.

6. What is it you want people to take away from Killer Frost?  Do you have a message?

With all my books, I hope to break stereotypes about other people and help my readers consider the feelings and experiences of people different from themselves.  I want the books to help people cross boundaries that usually separate them from others.  In Killer Frost I want to make more people aware of what is happening in the education of young African Americans, especially those coming from inner cities, how poorly they are prepared for life in our computer age, and how tragically blinded we are to their plight.  For me these young people are an endangered species. 

7. For you, Judy, what is the most difficult part of the writing process?

Plotting.  Characters are easiest for me, and once I’ve figured out who they are and what they’re like, the challenge is to put them into a plot with sufficient conflict and surprise for the reader to find the book an engaging read. 

8. What are you working on now?

I have finished the first draft of my ninth in the series, Bakehouse Doom.  I’ll be sending it to some readers for feedback and then revising it as needed.  I plan to revise next a short story that had some problems when I entered it in a contest, and then I want to try to publish it.  It would take place right after Killer Frost, with the same characters.  This summer I hope to do a tenth mystery, going back to St. Francis College.

9. What advice do you have for aspiring writers?

I have often advised aspiring writers, since I’ve been teaching them and also was the founder and editor of a small press (Carolina Wren Press, 1976-91).  I’ve never told a writer that her work was bad.  I always suggest finding someone to give her honest but supportive feedback, but then trusting her own best interior sense.  We often know when someone points out a weakness or a strength, but it helps to get that reinforcement.  I also tell people to persist.  In getting work published, be sure it’s as good as you can make it, because no matter how good, it’s going to be rejected.  You have to keep after it, keep your faith in your work.  I myself go by Virginia Woolf’s advice: “So long as you write what you wish to write, that is all that matters; and whether it matters for ages or only for hours, nobody can say.” [A Room of One’s Own, p. 110]

10. Could you tell your readers what are you favorite reads and why?

I’ve read a lot of literature, going back to Homer.  The Odyssey and Marcel Proust’s In Search of Lost Time are my two all-time favorites.  I also love Jane Austen and Anthony Trollope.  I often go back to reread them.  In the mystery realm, which I started reading only in my forties, I especially love now Louise Penny and Julia Spencer-Fleming.  I have many favorites.  What I love in books are the complex emotional tangles people get themselves into and how they sort it out.  In mysteries I probably read most for the sub-plots and the feelings, also for going into and learning about new places, new groups of people.  The puzzle of the plot carries me along, but it’s not why I want to read the book.  I started on the traditional mysteries from the Golden Age: Dorothy Sayers, P.D. James, Ngaio Marsh, Marjorie Allingham, Josephine Tey, Michael Innes, but in this time I also love Charles Todd, Elizabeth George, Susan Hill, Jacqueline Winspeare, Laurie King, Faye Kellerman, Cara Black, Cora Harrison, Martha Grimes, Sara Paretsky, Margaret Maron.  There are many I enjoy, and I’m always on the lookout for new ones.

11. Judy, would you please give your readers any information you’d like them to have: Website, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, blog, you name it.

            On the blog I cover mysteries I’ve enjoyed, writers, both poets and mystery writers; health, aging, recipes, farming (I have chickens and do chicken workshops)–whatever suggests to me keeping up the zest in the postmenopausal years.  I often post poems I’ve written. 
            So far I haven’t joined in the rush to social network sites, but I like to have guest bloggers and to be a guest blogger.
            I blogged on “My Black Baby Doll: The Sources of Killer Frost” on Kaye Barley’s back on Jan. 29, 2011, and on Jenny Milchman’s “Made It Moment” blog: on Feb.15.  I’ll be chatting with Sasscer Hill, a good msytery writer friend, on “Two Women Chat About” on Kaye Barley’s blog July 18, 2012.
            Sometime in September I’ll be blogging for Debra Goldstein on her blog.
            If you live in the Triangle area of North Carolina, I will be reading locally starting September 22, with a launch party at my Hoganvillaea Farm.  If you’re nearby, you’re invited.

Thank you, Robert.  Excellent and challenging questions!  Judy Hogan

You are most certainly welcome, Judy.  I’ll be on the lookout for Killer Frost in September.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

What's With All These Tribute Bands????

Spiders from Bars.      Fusstop.       Jimmy Bluffett.       Bob Jovi.       Cross-Eyed Mary.      Rain.    

Swan.  Gimme Shelter.  The Black Dogz.  Floyding Around      Lyvyn Skynard

If the names of these bands are familiar to you then more than likely you have been introduced to the wonderful world of tribute bands.  For the rest of you consider this piece a short of primer on this phenomenon.

First of a definition:  A tribute band is a collection of musicians, who for one reason or another, have decided to dedicate their genius and talents to emulating (sometimes uncannily) particular rock, country, rap, you name it, musicians.

Here is your first bit of homework.  All the bands above are members of this club.  Can you, without looking them up on the internet, link them with the bands they emulate?

By the way,in case you think the above list is in any way exhaustive, let me say this. Au Contraire, Mon Frere.  A casual inspection of the internet turned up literally thousands, from every corner of the globe - Italy appears to produce them with Wild Abandon (which by the way, might just be the name of a tribute band).  Just in the past week, my little town of Colorado Springs has hosted no less than three: Queen, the Eagles, and The Beatles.  Some bands seem to be cloned more than others.  There is a rash of bands running around pretending to be Iron Maiden.  Go figure.  And if you think only dinosaur bands are cloned, once again: Au Contraire.  Lady GAGA has her own tribute band.  I'll leave it up to you to research the name of that one.

Before we go another step let me state my position unequivocally.  I think these guys are a kick in the butt, big time fun.

Okay it's time to go to a virtual concert:  For this excursion, I choose the band ZOSO, a Led Zepplin tribute.  I went to see these guys about a month ago at Stargazers Theater over on Pikes Peak Avenue.  If you haven't made it to this little venue (a restored movie theater) you owe yourself the treat.  Anyway, let me give you a bit of my history before we head off.  In my youth I actually went to see Led Zep a few times (I suppose this dates me, but who cares?).  Loved them.  I was heartbroken when I realized I would never have the chance to see Robert Plant and the rest ever again.  I went to see them after the album containing the Immigrant Song.  If you're anything like me, you've actually sang to opening bars of Plant's scream to this little gem of Rock and Roll ambrosia.  Truth is, I know the whole song, but that's a different slice of my personal mania.

Here we go.  We're sitting in the audience waiting for the band to emerge.  We're people watchers so we witness trepidation at various levels evidenced in the crowd around us.  Naturally, we try to interpret this anxiety.

God, I hope they don't butcher Black Dog.

How can they possibly replicate Bonzo's craziness?  After all, the man used to play the drums with his fists sometimes.

Will the lead guitar player have a double neck electric and will he use a bow to play it?

As the lights go down and the band takes the stage we are struck with one initial impression, these guys aren't fooling around.  They even look like the real deal, down to the faux Robert Plant's golden curls and pretend Jimmy Page's low strung guitar.  Life is good..

What will they open with?  And then we hear it.  "Aaaah a aaaah aaa.  Come to the land of the ice and snow...."  Oh my God, the Immigrant Song. Everything is perfect. We are forced to sing along, much to chagrin of the folks around us. Off to our right, a lady in long flowered dress high-tails it down to the open area in front of the stage.  In a minute, we see her dancing.  Forget the fact that she is obviously someone's grandmother. We're talking the Immigrant Song for God's sake.

As the song progresses, Plant does his signature pouty sound effects and gestures.  A breathless sigh.  A tortured scream.  A bowed head over the microphone as if he is praying.  Jimmy Page hunkers over his ax tearing into the lead.  Bonzo loses his mind on the drums.  John Paul Jones remains characteristically stoic as he provides the driving bass line.

The thing we notice and what was always a signature sound of Led Zepplin is that our faux Robert Plant provides the essential dual voices of this legendary band.  Going from a soft whisper, he builds to a piercing scream all within two bars of one another.

As the song ends, Robert (God knows what his real name is)  thanks us as if we all just did him a favor.  Then immediately the band tears into Whole Lotta Love.  This is good stuff.

This structure of this format won't allow a really detailed virtual concert, but let it suffice that tribute bands are mandated to preforming the songs we know. Stairway to Heaven is guaranteed.  As is Dazed and Confused.

Now let me say this.  Not all tribute bands are this good.  Some are barely worthy of the songs they're performing.  I've seen a few of these as well.  Oh well, life isn't perfect.  Truth is, I've even managed to be entertained by these.

Second piece of homework, but this only after you've done the first.  Go to Google and type in Tribute Bands.  I went to a web site that was very educational.  I won't spoil it for you by detailing what I found.  If you're like me you'll be amazed.

Well, I got to go.  I'm heading over to Stargazers to see Long Run.  With any luck, I'll be checking into a certain hotel in the Golden State

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Book Trailer

Okay, this might possibly be the shortest post of all time.  All of you who are so inclined, please click on the link below to view the trailer for my newest Bonnie Pinkwater release, Radical Equations.  I have to admit I love it. 

Monday, March 5, 2012

The Solution to the Interstate 80 Problem

Okay Puzzlers, the key to this problem is the old formula: Distance = Rate X Time or D = RT

Now on my atlas the distance on I-80 from San Francisco to New York is 2944 miles.  We also know that the motorcycle traveled at 65 mph and the Mustang went 85 mph.

Using D = RT we get:

Motorcycle:  D = 65T         Mustang:  D = 85(T-1) because the Mustang left an hour later.

These two distances span the nation, so adding them we get the equation:

65T + 85(T-1) = 2944, okay then let's solve.

65T + 85T - 85 = 2944 distributing 85 across the parenthesis

150T - 85 = 2944 adding the variable terms

150T = 3029 adding 85 to both sides of the equation.

T = 20.19 dividing both sides by 150

20.19 hours is about 20 hours and 11.4 minutes, so the time would be about 8:11 the next morning.  It is the same for the Mustang.  He leaves an hour later but travels only 19.19 hours arriving at the same time.

This translates into the following miles for each vehicle:

Motorcycle - 1312.35 miles    Mustang - 1631.15 miles, fortunately these add up to basically 2944 miles

Working across the nation on my atlas I came up with about 48 or 49 miles east of Omaha, the closest town there was a place called Waverly, NB.

I hope you enjoyed this as much as I did.  If you disagree or just generally feel I have my head up my rear end, feel free to leave me a comment.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Hints to the Puzzler - 3/4/12

This will be a short post.  I just want to give a hint or two about the puzzle from 3/2/2012.  I'm talking about the puzzle concerning a certain Mustang and a motorcycle traveling on I-80.  If you didn't see this one, go back to your Facebook page and look for that bad boy. First though a short recap.  The motorcycle is going 65 mph and leaves New York at 12:00.  The Mustang is going 85 mph and leaves San Francisco at 1:00.  It's this one hour difference that seems to be confusing folks.  Truth is (here's hint#1) when the two vehicles meet (and they do so in Nebraska) the Mustang will have traveled one hour less than the motorcycle.  (hint #2) What this does in effect is shift the journey a bit to the west.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

The Oat Project Launch at Poor Richards

Last night I was privileged to attend Jene' Jackson's get together at Poor Richards Book Store to celebrate the serial release of her memoir, The Oat Project.

Before I get to the actual gathering, and my impressions of same, a word about Jene's monumental achievement.  A few years back (I believe this was also at Poor Richards), Jene' let slip to me that she was considering a book based on a list of activities that she felt she had missed out on - Wild Oats she had failed to sow when she was younger.  Jene' had grown up in a restrictive religious family and had never smoked, drank, - well the list goes on and is in fact the focus of the Project.  At the time, I remember, she was somewhat embarrassed by how little she felt she had experienced. She was now married and the mother of three and maybe time was running out. She had a yen to, at long last, taste what should have been, and still might be, defining moments in her life.  In the coming months, Jene' revealed that she, and some friends, had put together a list with the purpose of actually sowing, albeit at this late date, these selected Wild Oats. 

And then she began to check items off her list.

Get drunk - check. 

Smoke marijuana - check.

Watch a porn film - check

Get a tattoo - check in spades.  This particular Oat is shown on the cover of the new book. A long spiraling life-line that begins at her toes and winds its way around her body culminating at her neck.  A very definite Wild Oat to sow.

If I'm not mistaken, Jene' went out and performed thirty-two activities. Some challenged her preconceptions.  Some challenged her life choices, including her religious views.  Some challenged her fears.  As a group, they proved to be life changing.

 Eventually, Jene' and her husband separated.  She took on few unusual jobs. If you ever see her, ask her about these.  You'll both get a chuckle.

And through it all she wrote, and wrote, and wrote.

Last evening she read a selection from that writing, the opening passages from the book that had consumed and in the end transmuted her.  She started slow, hesitant, her voice at times halting. As she read, the words seem to take her over.  Pages flew after pages and I sat transfixed (which is saying a lot since I had missed dinner and was starving). 

I'm not sure how she'll take this, but I was proud of her.  Good writing reveals something about the writer, great writing can lay the writer bare.  As Jene' Jackson read those I found myself thinking again and again, 'THIS IS SO GOD-DAMNED BRAVE.'

As the night went on Jene' introduced the Wild Oat group, the women who helped her compile and often complete her tasks.  Hugs were shared, a few tears, some gifts, a bit of love.  In the final moments (my final moments really, I understand the party went on long after I departed) folks were invited to share their own Wild Oat stories.  With these ringing in my ears I walked off into the night.