Monday, December 5, 2011

Season's Greetings

It's that time of year...time for decorating the house, baking cookies, shopping for the perfect give (at the perfect price) and parties.  Oh, the parties!  Ornament swipes, cookie swaps, cups of cheer and all that good stuff.  In other words, writing (be it a book or a blog or at this point, even a Christmas Letter) is at the bottom of the Must Be Done list.  But worry not, I will be back in January with more great posts and book recommendations and more. 

Wishing you all the joys of the holiday season:  the warmth of a home, the love of family and the laughter of good friends.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Beach Tale: “Christmas—Military Spouse Style” True Stories from the Navy Spouse Trenches

After 28 years as a military spouse, I can honestly say, no two Christmases have ever been the same.  The obvious difference is 18 different addresses over the 28 years, which means large artificial tree purchased for the large bay window in one house will not fit anywhere in the small transitional aparment.  Also, with operating temps what they are, at least 1/3 of the holiday seasons I’ve been separated from my husband.

All military families are faced with extra challenges during the holiday season.  Sometimes it’s geographically difficult or financially impossible to make our way home to join in traditional celebrations.  There are times the ship is deployed so the family at home has to celebrate alone.  Even when the ship is in port, some unlucky sailors pull Christmas “Duty”, meaning they have to spend a 24 hour period aboard that great big ball of steel and can’t be at home with the family.  So in true military spouse fashion we find a way to make the best of the situation, be it opening presents via SKYPE with our loved one an IA or finding ways to distract the children until our duty sailor can get off the ship that morning, or sharing the holiday meal in ship’s galley with the duty sailors (one of whom we’re married to). 

But we’re Navy Spouses, and hence have the ability to adapt to any situation.  Here are a few “stories from the trenches” on how some Navy Spouses have handled the challenges faced during holidays over the years. 

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Beach Read: THE SPELLMAN FILES by Lisa Lutz

There was a tiny bookstore in a San Diego suburb that brought in mystery writers on a regular basis.  Having never heard of Lisa Lutz before, but  having nothing else to do on a lovely SOCAL Saturday afternoon (dh’s  ship was deployed), I went to hear what she had to say about the art of mystery writing.  I, of course, bought all of her books—which she graciously signed--and have been a fan of the Spellman’s ever since!  

Book Title: The Spellman Files, Book 1 in the Spellman series
Author:  Lisa Lutz
Genre:  Contemporary Comedic Thriller
Setting:  San Francisco
Format:  Paperback
Pages: 447  
Publication date: Copyright 2007, paperback edition 2009
Publisher:  Pocket Books
Favorite Passage:  (It would be easier to list my least favorite passage (there isn’t really one) as this book is just one delightful passage after another.  But after much consideration, I selected one from very early on in the book…) 
Car Chase #3
     Speeding over two hills, the BMW, followed by the Ford, reaches downtown in record time.  I check the fuel gauge.  Maybe an hour of high-speed driving left.  I turn right into an alley and sweep through to the other side, making a left turn onto a one-way street, going the wrong way.  Two cars sound horns and careen out of my trajectory.  I check my mirror expecting to have made some headway, but I can’t shake them.
     Driving south of
Market Street
, I accelerate one last time, more as an act of showmanship than an attempt to escape.  I follow it up by slamming on my brakes.  I do it just to rattle them, just to remind them that I am still in control.
     The Ford screeches to a halt about ten feet behind my BMW.  I turn off the ignition and take a few deep breaths.  I casually get out of the car and walk over to the sedan.
     I knock on the driver’s-side window.  A moment passes and the window rolls down. I put m hand on the hood of the car and lean in just a bit.
     “Mom, Dad.  This has to stop.” 

Beach Read Rating:  5 out of 5 Beach Umbrellas

Monday, November 21, 2011

Beach Tale: "Lucky Sevens" a short romance by Sandra Rarey

I'm very happy to welcome back short story teller extraordinaire Sandra Rarey and another tale of finding love.

Cherie Singleton pulled into the Showboat’s self-park garage. She hefted a borrowed travel bag from her borrowed car and wrangled it to the elevators. She had two days and two hundred dollars--barely enough to stay in the casino, where, according to her best friend, she was about to meet Mr. Right.
“Charlie said you can use our car,” Gina had told her.
Cherie had rolled her eyes. “You’ll do anything to persuade me to take that trip. How did you get Charlie to agree to that?”
“It was his idea.”
“You have the best husband in the world.”
“There’s a man out there as wonderful as Charlie just waiting for you. Didn’t that fortune teller say so?”
“I don’t believe in fortune tellers.”
“Well I do. She said you should gamble on love on the seventh day of the seventh month in the city by the sea. You have to go to Atlantic City next week.”
“Hogwash. There are hundreds of cities by the sea.”
“Not where you can gamble--she specifically said, ‘gamble’.”
“I’m not going.”
“What about the seven dollars you found on the sidewalk? You can’t ignore a coincidence like that. You know Coco Chanel started her business on the fifth day of the fifth month.”
“I have nothing to wear.” Cherie pictured glamorous women in fancy dresses and sparkling jewelry.
“I do. You’re going to have a great time, Cher.”

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Beach Read: LIFE'S A BEACH by Claire Cook

For obvious reasons (like the title of the book is the same as my blog and the cover is irresistible) I had to read this one! 

Book Title: Life’s a Beach
Author:  Claire Cook
Genre:  Contemporary Fiction
Setting:  Marshbury, MA and a brush across Cape Cod
Format:  Hardcover, Library edition (but chatter on Amazon indicates it may be available for a free download)
Pages:  250
Publication date:  2007
Publisher:  Hyperion Books
Favorite Passage:  <sorry, the bookmarks marking my favorite passages fell out and I wasn’t willing to reread the entire book to find them again.  But there were a few times the author offered a great turn of the phrase.>>

Beach Read Rating: 3 out of 5 Beach Umbrellas

Monday, November 14, 2011

Beach Tale: Flash Fiction Challenge

I'm BAAAaack!  And what a weekend it was at the New England Crime Bake conference for mystery writers!
As part of the conference fun, attendees are invited to participate the Flashwords Contest.  The challenge is to use 10 words from a list of provided words (culled from the titles of the books written by the keynote speakers) to create a 150-word bit of fiction that includes a crime or at least the hint of the crime.
This year’s speakers were Barry Eisler and Nancy Pickard.  The words to be used were:  Assassin, Bitch, Body, Coast, Confession, Detachment, Die, Fall, Fault, Ingredient, Killing, Marriage, Murder, Rain, Requiem, Scent, Secret, Storm, Truth, Virgin.

I accepted the challenge and submitted the following:

Friday, November 11, 2011

Beach Bling: New England Clam Bake

I’m so excited!  Today I’m heading off to the New England Crime Bake for Mystery Writers and Readers.  The keynote speakers will be veteran mystery writers Barry Eisler and Nancy Pickard.  There are a lot of great workshops throughout the weekend, and a Sleuths, Spies, and Private Eyes Banquet and Costume Party (if I get up the nerve I’ll go dressed as my favorite sleuth, the intrepid Nancy Drew...but I’m not the kind of person who likes to draw attention to myself.)
I know what you all are thinking…Hmmm, that makes me think of a New England Clam Bake, and I think I’ll throw one of those this weekend! 
     What a great idea!  Let’s do it! 
Wait, I see a hand in the back of the room. Yes, you with the Coldwater Creek beaded bouclé jacket.  You’re question?
“Can you clarify what exactly is a New England Clam Bake is, please?”

Wednesday, November 9, 2011


I met Gina Ardito through the Avalon Authors blog and found her interviews and comments so funny and interesting that I hurried myself off to the nearest library and checked out her latest book.  So last weekend while a freak winter storm raged outside (thankfully we were spared any of the white stuff!  It was still October!), I curled up and lost myself in the world of April Raine and Dr. Jeff Prentiss.  It was one of the most delightful weekends I’ve had in a long time! 

Book Title: Nobody’s Darling, A Nobody Romance
Author:  Gina Ardito
Genre:  Contemporary Romance
Setting:  A secluded cabin
Format:  Hardcover, Library Edition
Pages:  202
Publication date:  April, 2011
Publisher:  Avalon Books
Favorite Passage:  “....You’re smarter than you give yourself credit for.”
     “Gee, Thanks.”  She snorted
     He started to explain, and she held up a hand.
     “Don’t worry.  I won’t let it go to my head. Besides, I’m not really book smart.  I’m more like TV Guide-crossword-puzzle smart.” 

Beach Read Rating:  5 out of 5 Beach Umbrellas

Monday, November 7, 2011

Beach Tale: Navy Spouses, Then and Now

          After 28 years of navigating the murky waters of navy Spouse Life without a compass, I recently discovered there IS a Navy Spouse Manual!  And it’s plum-full of good advice, a real How-To manual on what to do and not do in various aspects of being a military spouse.  Welcome Aboard—A Service Manual for the Naval Officer’s Wife was penned by Florence Ridgely Johnson, wife of an Admiral.  Okay, so it was written in 1951 and its age shows when it talks about an Ensign making $129 a month (which wouldn’t even cover dinner and a movie in today’s world.)  It makes the life of a Navy wife sound incredibly romantic, a social merry-go-round of formal calls, fancy teas and elegant dinner gatherings.  But times have changed…and to prove that, here’s a sampling of how things worked then (1951) and now (2011). 

Friday, November 4, 2011

Beach Bling: First Friday Spicy Marinated Shrimp

It’s First Friday today on the Life’s a Beach Blog.  That means it’s the First Friday of the month, an excuse to party.  The tradition that has its roots in the United States Air Force wherein fighter squadrons gathered as a way to build unit cohesion.  (Or so says Wikepedia.)  But Navy wardrooms celebrate it, too.  We’re going to give it a beach twist and dedicate the First Friday Beach Bling post to foods and drinks that one might serve at First Friday Beach Party.  So grab your favorite beach beverage and belly up to a bowl of Spicy Marinated Shrimp and relax while you watch the sun set over the water.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Extra! Extra! Read All About Me!

Affirmation that I'm a "Published Author"--I've had my first interview.   Come learn a little bit more about me at The Avalon Authors Blog.


I joined a book club for two reasons:  to see how readers interpreted things they read, and to push myself outside of my genre comfort zone.  While the subject of this month’s read (Hadley Richardson’s five year marriage to Ernest Hemingway) is intriguing, it’s a safe bet I wouldn’t have picked this book up on my own accord.  But I’m glad I read it.    

Monday, October 31, 2011

Beach Tale: "Gather Round for a Ghost Story, Scary Only Because it Really Happened "

          The time..1673
The place…a 100 acre farm in Portsmouth, RI  (Currently the site of the rather unremarkable establishment known as the Valley Inn.) 

Friday, October 28, 2011

Beach Bling: What This Beach "Ghoul" wlll be Wearing this Halloween

Oh my goodness…I just scared myself silly.  I glanced at the calendar and realized it is already the end of October!  And that means Halloween is just around the corner.  And that, of course, means it’s really time to Get Your Scare On.  Unless, of course, you are like me, who prefers cute over scary, sweet over gruesome, princess-themed instead of monster-ish when it comes to selecting a costume for the season.
 So, in keeping with the theme of this blog, I thought I’d take this opportunity to explore all the adorable beach-themed costumes available for those who live, have visited, or have at least read a book about beach life (and that should include just about everyone.) 

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Beach Read: ASK MARIAH

Original Paper Back/New E Book Ediiton
Today I’m happy to welcome Eliza Fleetwood to the blog.  I’m also happy to add another book to my TBR (that stands for To Be Read) pile.  This looks like a goodie! 

Monday, October 24, 2011

Beach Tale: "The Sniper Sisters"

<<Cross-posted with Avalon Authors Blog>> 
         “It’s my turn to pull the trigger.”  Evie straddled the large fallen tree blocking the trail.  With a grunt, she hauled her left leg over and set both sensibly-clad feet on the ground, enjoying a moment’s rest as her older-by-three-minutes sister Dot struggled with the obstacle.
          “No, you knocked off Marty Knudsen last week, remember?”  Dot executed an awkward belly roll over the log, momentum carrying her until she landed in a pile of damp, decomposing leaves at Evie’s feet.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011


Can you judge a book by its cover?  In this case you can.  The image of an old-fashioned suitcase, a sensible suitcase and a trendy suitcase set atop a car parked along a winding road captures perfectly the story of three generations of women off on a journey, both in the literal and metaphysical  sense. 


Monday, October 17, 2011

Beach Tale: Missing Man Table

          It’s that time of year…Navy Birthday Ball!  And thanks to the 7th wonder of the modern fashion world—Spanks—I will be looking svelte in my ball gown this weekend .  The United States Navy will be celebrating its 236th birthday, but it’s not all one big drinking/dining/dancing party.  The Navy Ball, as well as many other official military dining events throughout the year, serve as a reminder to the POWs and MIAs who yet to return home.  This is done through the Missing Man POW/MIA table set at the front of the room. 

Friday, October 14, 2011

Beach Bling: Collections

Thomas Kincaid's imaginary cottage by the sea

           If you’ve ever visited the home of someone who’s served in the military you’ve undoubtedly seen a “Me Wall.”  That’s the one wall the spouse relegates all the plaques, awards, gags, doohickeys, falderal and other flotsam and jetsam given when someone departs a duty station.  So needless to say, in my cottage by the sea (after I win the lottery), there will be a Me Wall for my husband.  And if this writing gig goes well, I might even get a Me, Too! Wall somewhere.  One can dream…
 Anyway, back to my post.  On display somewhere on the wall I plan to display the command coins my husband has amassed during his tenure in the Navy.  A command coin is a small--maybe two inches round but surprisingly heavy--coin that military personnel collect the way your grandmothers collected magnets or spoons from every state she visited.   Every ship has a coin, usually with a picture or silhouette of the ship on one side and the motto or ship’s crest on the other. While each is unique and interesting to look at, it’s the story behind the command coin story that I find so interesting.  So if you will indulge me just a few minutes of maritime history and lore here… 

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Beach Read: ROYAL BLOOD, by Rhys Bowen

Another mystery to pile on your TBR pile today…

Book Title: Royal Blood, A Royal Spyness Mystery
Author:  Rhys Bowen
Genre:  Historical Mystery
Setting: 1930s London traveling to Transylvania, Romania
Format:  Hardcover
Pages:  305
Publication date:  2010 
Publisher:  Berkley Prime Crime, New York
Favorite Passage: 
  1. I opened the door and standing outside in the dim and damp November twilight was an apparition that looked like a giant Beatrix Potter hedgehog, but not as adorable. 
  2. I tried to picture anybody actually making love to Fig from choice.  But then I suppose it is cold in bed in Scotland.  That had to be the explanation. 
Beach Read Rating:  4 out of 5 Beach Umbrellas

Review:  So I was due to undertake a journey fraught with avalanches, brigand and wolves with possibly the world’s worst chambermaid who was like to set fire to my dress.  It would be interesting to see if I came out of it alive.”  And it is indeed interesting to follow Lady Georgiana Rannoch--thirty-fourth in line to the throne--on her latest adventure. The author has the knack for telling a good mystery, the scenes with the hapless maid Queenie are quite funny, and a peek into the life of a member of the royal family is always enjoyable to read about.  My only complaint is that Ms. Bowen does seem to be exploiting the current vampire trend in literature and does her best to make the reader believe that the character really suspects that she is walking amongst the “un-dead” in Transylvania, but it was not convincing enough for this reader.  Nonetheless, I always enjoy spending time with my old friend Georgie.

Cover blurb:  Penniless and thirty-fourth in line to the throne, Lady Georgiana Rannoch finds herself in a truly draining state of affairs. To escape her hateful brother, Georgie accepts an invitation from the Queen to represent the royals at a wedding in Transylvania. But at the macabre- looking castle, Georgie finds the bride with blood running down her chin, and a wedding guest is poisoned. Now it's up to Georgie to save the nuptial festivities before the couple's vows become: to love and to cherish, till undeath do them part...

Monday, October 10, 2011

Beach Tale: "Eat. Drink. Repeat." A Prequel to THE BLOND LEADING THE BLOND

          Total anarchy. That’s the only word to describe the hodgepodge of homemade food offerings placed on tables stretched the length of Henrietta Zucker’s driveway.  Thick and creamy desserts snuggled up next to light and healthy salads.  Appetizers mingled with main courses.  Sushi sat next to Stromboli while the chips were three feet away from the guacamole.  There were steamy dishes not just next to, but actually touching, chilled Jello-O plates and a heavy bowl of horseradish dip had been plopped on top of an apple crumb pie, forcing the filling to ooze out over the crust and onto the white linen tablecloth. What a mess. 
          Samantha Rose Greene, known affectionately to all who loved her (and even those who didn’t) as Sam, surveyed the potluck debacle with an eye as to how best to make order out of chaos.  If Miss Izzy were here, she’d have it properly organized in no time.  No, if Miss Izzy where here this wouldn’t have happened in the first place.  But Miss Izzy wasn’t here, because she’d suffered a horrible fall down the steep steps of the watchtower and died ten days ago. 
          Sam was skeptical about the facts surrounding her dearest friend and lifelong neighbor’s demise but had refrained from voicing her concerns to the new chief of police in whom she had little faith.  He didn’t seem to be capable of finding a polar bear in a field of buttercups, let alone investigate a suspicious death, the first in their small lakeside resort in over 100 years.  So just like everything else around Braddocks Beach, if Sam wanted things done right, she’d have to do them herself, starting with a few discreet questions asked of others attending the potluck tonight.    
          But first things first.  Sam began moving dishes from the last table and stacking them on the tailgate of her husband’s F350 parked at the end of the driveway.  She then worked quickly to move desserts to the open space and moved down the line to organize side dishes, main dishes, salads and appetizers.  Just as she was finishing, Doris Rodgers, a retired nurse who’d more recently retired from her second career as a librarian, stepped over to lend a hand.
          “Not the same without Miss Izzy, is it?” Doris asked.
          “Not even close,” Sam replied.  “Can you believe they had the plates next to the napkins and forks?  Everyone knows the Chinet goes at the beginning and once people have filled their plates they grab their cutlery at the end.  It’s not like these people have never been to a potluck before.”
          “I know, but we all relied on Miss Izzy to make sure things were done right.  And if you don’t want your head to explode I suggest you stay away from the drink table.”
          “Dare I ask why?”
          “They have pop in the same bin as wine coolers.”
          Sam gasped in horror.  “But kids could grab the wrong—” 
          Doris raised her hand and Sam pressed her lips into a tight thin line to keep from speaking her mind.
          “Hang in there.”  Doris reached out and patted Sam’s arm. “I’ve heard a rumor they found Miss Izzy’s niece and she’ll be here for the reading of the will tomorrow.  I can’t remember her name, though.”
          “Ellery Elizabeth Tinsdale,” Sam said, providing the name of the last living descendant of one of Braddocks Beach’s founding fathers, only recently discovered through an exhaustive—and, she suspected, expensive--search.      
          “I’ve also heard she is the spitting image of her aunt and will no doubt sweep into town take the reins of local society to lead us with the same aplomb as Miss Izzy.  Oh, here comes Flossie and it looks like she broke out her melting pot for tonight.  I’ll just go offer my taste-testing services.”  Doris turned and greeted Flossie Underwood, the local pharmacist, and escorted both her friend and her tiered plate of chocolate-covered Oreos to the dessert end of the table.
          Sam finished organizing the appetizers, her thoughts not quite as optimistic as Doris’s.   After all, what did anyone really know about this Ellery woman?  Her father had disappeared from town a half-century ago and until recently they’d all thought him dead.  Suddenly a private investigator finds he had a daughter, and just like that she’s to be crowned Queen Bee.  Would this stranger have the ability to organize charity events, set fashion trends for each season and play Hostess with the Mostess to everything from a BUNCO party to a posh garden party, continually WOW-ing her guests with culinary masterpieces?  Those skills are not passed down on the DNA, but instead learned by years of walking in the shadows of a mentor, as Sam had been doing the past forty years of her life under Miss Izzy’s careful tutelage.   Now some nobody from nowhere is sailing into town…
          “Belly up, people,” Henrietta Zucker announced.  “Dinner is served.”  The announcement was met with riotous applause from the guests who then stampeded toward the tables. 
          Sam grabbed a piece of broccoli and swiped it through the chipotle pepper dip before stepping away. Like goats to a feeding trough, Sam thought.   The beginning of the end of polite society. She could practically hear Miss Izzy spinning in her grave. 
          Before Sam could work her way to the beverage table to make sense out of that mess, Mystic Sayers, the beat reporter for the Braddocks Beach Bugle, shoved a microphone in Sam’s face.  “Care to comment on the palm trees?” she asked.
          Sam stared at Mystic, who was her usual rumpled self.  “I’m not aware of an issue with the palm trees,” Sam replied. 
          “They’re practically dead.  Waste of taxpayer money, if you ask me.  I believe it was your idea to bring in live palms to, let me see, what were your exact words?  Oh yeah, ‘To lend a tropical feel to our beaches which will bring in more tourist dollars.’ So, your comment for the record?”
          Sam owned up to saying those exact words.  And they did lend a tropical feel to the lakeside resort in central Ohio.  Feedback had been positive and tourism was up enough to warrant the cost of their purchase.  “What’s wrong with them?”
          “Nobody’s been watering them.”
          “What?”  Sam knew Miss Izzy had secretly hired the new police chief’s grandson who was visiting Braddocks Beach for the summer, in order to ensure Sam’s great idea didn’t fail.  But Miss Izzy was like that, quietly funding community events, never wanting nor expecting a bit of thanks from anyone in the community. 
          Come to think of it, Sam hadn’t seen hide nor hair of that redheaded imp, but then she’d been preoccupied with Miss Izzy’s death and funeral to worry about it.  Maybe he thought with her gone he wouldn’t get paid? 
          Sam quickly excused herself from Mystic, offered a quick “Thank you” to her hostess, hopped in the F350 and drove straight to the beach where, still dressed in her pale blue summer sweater and pearls, she proceeded to water the three dozen palm trees herself.  Really, sometimes she felt like The Little Red Hen.  Water the palm trees, organize the potluck, find out what really happened to Miss Izzy, and do her best to settle Ellery in to her new role as Braddocks Beach societal leader.  Was it to much to hope that she carried the Queen Bee gene on her DNA?

Follow the adventures of Sam and Ellery as they try to find out what really happened to Miss Izzy in the Avalon Mystery, The Blond Leading the Blond, available at a library near you or for purchase through the following links: 

Friday, October 7, 2011

Beach Bling: Signal Flag Barware

I lost $60,200,000.00 last night.  Well, I didn’t so much loose it as fail to win the POWERBALL jackpot.  <<sigh>> And I had it all spent, too.  But that hasn’t stopped my virtual window shopping excursion today, trolling through web pages of interesting things to decorate my cottage by the sea (which I was also going to purchase with my lottery windfall.)    It was going to be gorgeous, decorated in Early Beach Bum style, with colors of green and blue inspired by the ocean against walls painted the color of southern California sand. And it had an outdoor bar, and that’s because I need somewhere to show off the barware I found today.
But in order to understand just how cool this stuff is, I hope you’ll first indulge me a brief lesson on the ways seafaring vessels communicated with each before two-way radios.   Really brief.  I promise.
Since Indian Smoke Signals were not an option (think about it…an open flame on the deck of a wooden sailing ship where--hopefully--there was a lot of wind?  Not wise…)  So mariners of long ago got together and developed a way to signal each other using flags.  Called “semaphore”, a sailor would stand on the deck of a ship and hold the flags in various positions to indicate letters of the alphabet.  In this manner they would spell out entire messages as needed, and then transcribe returning ones.  (It sure makes one thankful for email, huh?)  A semaphore message would look like this:
Sending the message  SOS in semephore
(A little aside, S.O.S, which is the universal wireless signal for ships in distress does not stand for “Save Our Souls” nor “Save Our Ship” as is common conjecture.  According to official maritime publications, that idea may have been the dream-child of some romantic publicity man, but wireless operators promptly jeered the idea into oblivion. They explained that the letters S.O.S (which in Morse Code is three dits, three dahs, three dits) were just a quick and compelling combination to command instant attention.  The letters themselves have no hidden meaning. )
     Another way was to communicate an entire message by hoisting a “code” flag that represents a letter of the alphabet (and if you don’t know your military flag alphabet, a complete chart is included at the end of this blog.)  They can be used to spell out a message (such as Welcome Aboard) or the vessel’s name (VooDoo Queen) or even a seasonal message (TGI Summer.)  A fully decorated boat would look something like this:   

In addition to each flag representing a letter it also has a unique full message, such as Oscar means "Man Overboard."  And that (finally!) brings us to the purpose of today's Beach Bling Post!   

Some people much more clever (and enterprising) than I have figured out a way to decorate barware with signal flags.  And those clever people have selected flags that, when flashed at a party, the code can mean something innocent or something maybe with a whole different meanting.  (I love a good double entendre, don’t you?)

First from Nautical Décor and Gifts <>

Say “Cheers” in a new and entertaining way. Our 16 oz. Beer Tankards feature the Code Flags:

Delta: I am maneuvering with difficulty
Romeo: You may feel your way past me
Tango: Keep clear
Xray: Stop carrying out your intentions

Also loved these glass tumblers from Nautical Luxuries:    <>

Colorful Signal Flags have multiple meanings that make great conversation and nautical fun for boaters and land-lovers alike. The boxed set of four 14 oz. acrylic glasses features one each of four different code flags. Each flag also has an important secondary meaning for ships at sea:

India: Coming alongside
Kilo: I wish to communicate with you.
Uniform: You are running into danger.
Zulu: I require a tug.

     I imagine those of you who are romance writers are racing to their computer to type up a scene using these coded tumblers.  I will admit today’s research sparked a few ideas of my own that may show up in my next mystery, so be sure and watch for "The Clue in the Coded Barware" coming soon to an e-reader near you. 
   Now as promised, here is the entire alphabet of signal flags along with their maritime meanings.  (Another quick peak into Navy Wife life, one way to help pass the miles and those cross-country drives for PCS (permanent change of station) moves is to recite the Flag Alphabet…Alpha, Bravo, Charlie, etc…yeah, that’s only after we’ve sung Ninety Nine Bottles of Beer on the Wall and found all 50 state license plates and played I Spy with My Little Eye until it felt like our heads were ready to explode.  Yes, six cross-country drives were tedious!)    

(Wouldn't this look good framed and hanging over the outdoor bar in my imaginary cottage by the sea?)

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Beach Read: CALLIE'S CHOICE by Emilee Hines

(I’m busy promoting my book this week so thank goodness for writer friends who step up to guest blog at a moment’s notice.  I’m happy to have Sandra Brown Rarey back with this week’s Beach Read Review.) 

Book Title: Callie’s Choice
Author:  Emilee Hines
Genre: Historical Romance
Format: Paperback
Pages: 187
Publication date: October, 2010
Publisher: Create Space

Beach Read Rating:  5 Beach Umbrellas

Review:  I’m such an American history buff, that while all America watches Dancing With the Stars or Monday Night football, you will find me snuggled on the couch watching How The West Was Won. Or reading. This weekend it was Callie’s Choice by Emilee Hines. Callie’s Choice is a delectable American historical romance with great sexual tension, danger and an intriguing view of history. 
Callie Spencer has known the touch of three men in her 18 years. The loving touch of her father, who died too young, the brutal hand of her stepfather, whom she may have killed. And now, a stranger who has accused her of spying, threatened to beat her and trussed her like the furs on his saddle. Of course, she’d tried to steal everything he owned.
Thus begins Callie’s journey as she flees from Virginia to New Orleans in the pivotal year of 1814. On the way, Callie and her unwelcome benefactor, Andrew Logan, a young man who both draws and repels her, face enemy soldiers, thieves, wild animals and floods. Callie may be a hunted murderess. Or, she may be hunted by her vengeful stepfather if he survived her defensive attack.
Callie saves Andrew’s life after a knife attack by a robber. Andrew, who was on his own journey to New Orleans to face his unsavory past begins to think of her as an asset instead of a distasteful responsibility. If only he could rid himself of his unwelcome desire for her. A desire not reciprocated by a distrustful Callie. A desire that could derail his ambitions and destroy this woman/child who, under his protection, is blooming from an unkempt waif into a sensuous woman.

Cover Blurb:  Callie Spencer's first choice was born of a survival instinct: her need to escape her stepfather and his plans for her. Her mission is to make it to New Orleans and her Aunt Rachel, who she hopes will recognize her by her late mother's ring. But the road from western Virginia to southern Louisiana is treacherous, especially in 1814: thieves, Kaintucks and British troops are just a few of the dangers Callie faces, and a battle is coming that will endanger them all. When she meets Andrew Logan, Callie is drawn to his strength and bravery. But Andrew has his own ambitions... and his own secrets. Now Callie must make another choice: can she trust him?

About the reviewer:  Sandra Rarey writes contemporary and historical romance and paranormal romantic comedy. She writes romance because she loves love. It is the root of human hope and the foundation for almost all of the classic tales ever told. It is the lure that pulls us together and the tie that binds us forever. 

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Monday, October 3, 2011

Beach Tale: "The Honor of Your Presence is Requested", a short prequel to THE BLOND LEADING THE BLOND

          Have you ever felt like a dry martini, shaken not stirred?  I don’t mean felt like imbibing in one, I mean actually felt like the gin and vermouth inside a shaker where the bartender rattles it up and down and side to side to make sure all the ingredients are sufficiently blended but not bruised?  That’s how I’ve felt ever since the letter arrived from Geoffrey Maxamillion Eddington the Third, Esquire.  I don’t imagine anyone likes getting a letter from an attorney, but this one had the effect of shaking me like a martini. 
          On the surface, one might consider his request for "the honor of my presence for the reading of the Last Will and Testament (his capital letters, not mine) of one Isabel Genevieve Tinsdale," to be held June 11 at his office in Braddocks Beach, Ohio, to be a good thing.  There’s a hint that I might be a beneficiary of some sort, and with my current financial situation, well, any little bit would help.      
          But here’s the problem.  I’ve never heard of Braddocks Beach, let alone anyone by the name of Isabel Genevieve Tinsdale.  So I ran to my computer and Googled both and I discovered the small lakeside resort in east central Ohio to be nothing more than a dot on the map and found an obituary for the Tinsdale woman. Based on that, it seems a nomination for sainthood was immanent.
          Figuring they must have mistaken me for some other Ellery Elizabeth Tinsdale, I called this Geoffrey guy to tell him he had the wrong person.  He was out of the office, but his secretary asked me a question that had every last one of my neck hairs standing at full attention.
          “You are the daughter of Jack Elliott Tinsdale, born March 9, 1940, aren’t you?”
          “Yes,” I answered.  At least in my head.  My mouth didn’t seem to be functioning at the time.  How would she know who my father is?  He and my mother have been gone from this earth for more than 15 years. 
          “Miss Izzy was Jack’s little sister.”
          Oh.  Well then. That explained it.
          When I had been about five years old, my mother told me that everyone from my dad’s side of the family, including his sister Bella, had been killed in some sort of tragic accident when he was 18 years old.  Mom warned me to never ask Dad about it because it upset him, so I never did.  Could Bella and Izzy be one and the same?  And if so, why then, up until a few days ago, had she been alive when Dad thought her dead? 
          “Why didn’t my aunt contact me before?” I asked, my voice revealing just a hint of the suspicion I was feeling.  Could this person be fishing for information so they could steal my identity?  Sure, I've heard horror stories about that stuff but I didn't think it would ever actually happen to me. 
          “I’m not at liberty to discuss the details with you,” the secretary said. 
          Nor was the secretary able to answer any of the other twenty questions I bombarded her with. But she did reveal just enough information to lead me to believe that this was no hoax.  I was due to inherit something, and anything that tied me to my father as a child, say a picture of him and my grandparents, would mean more to me than all the money in the world.  But truth be told, a little money would be nice, too.   
          Eventually, and in the most syrupy sweet voice, the secretary said, “If you are able to meet with Mr. Eddington on Friday at 2 p.m. you’ll get all the answers you need.” 
          “Okay.” Really, what choice did I have? 
          I brushed away the niggling worry that I would have to leave tomorrow and that the pilgrimage would take four days out of the two weeks that were already slammed full with myriad of things that needed to be done before my summer vacation, which had been three years in planning and saving.  I was booked on a cruise to Alaska, and my ship sailed in a little over two weeks.    
          “I’ll tell Mr. Eddington you’ve confirmed the appointment,” the secretary said. “He’s looking forward to meeting you, as is everyone else in Braddocks Beach.”  And she hung up.  Just like that, with the faintest of clicks, my tenuous connection to my father’s childhood was severed.
          Most self-respecting females when faced with the prospect of meeting kin she didn’t know existed for the first time would plan a trip to the mall.  And even though I had long ago accepted the fact that I had not been blessed with the Shopping Gene in my DNA, I did just that.  This was perhaps the one instance where a snazzy new outfit was needed.  I mean, I couldn’t very well show up in my teaching uniform of denim skirt and polo shirt now, could I?  So I dragged myself to McArthur Center in downtown Norfolk and blew an entire year’s clothing budget on one outfit, complete with shoes and a dab of classy (translation: pricey) jewelry. 
          On the afternoon of June 10th, I threw an overnight case in the passenger seat, hung my new outfit on the garment hook and pointed the nose of Bessie (my bold and brassy Land Rover) northwest.
          No sooner had I cleared the limits of Virginia Beach than I got a craving for pimento stuffed olives.  Preferably ones at the bottom of a gently shaken martini.  

You can read what happens when Ellery gets to Braddocks Beach in The Blond Leading the Blond, a cozy mystery published by Avalon Books and available for reading at a library near you or for purchase from Barnes and Noble or

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If you missed the post of Aunt Izzy’s obituary, just click the Read More button to see it now.