Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Christmas in New Mexico

 As night fell on Christmas Eve, we started out in Old Town, where there was a gigantic Christmas tree and Santa.

Next we drove over to experience the incredible luminaria display along Ridgecrest Drive in Albuquerque.  We walked at least a mile down the small boulevard.  Each side of the boulevard  and the sidewalks of the street were lined with luminaria, small paper bags weighted down with sand, each holding a lighted votive candle.  Along the way, people greeted each other wishing one and all a Merry Christmas.  This picture doesn't do justice to the peaceful, beautiful lights flickering in the night.

Back home, it was hard to fall asleep.  "Santa's coming tomorrow," we told each other.  The next morning, I was awakened by a little voice.  "Time to get up, Grammy Judi.  It's Christmas."  Then came the fun of opening presents.

"Look what I got, Dad."

Check out my new apron . . .

and my very own cooking basket.

What a mess!!

We finished up with eggs and green chiles, hashbrowns and Dad's homemade cinnamon rolls.  Yumm.

I hope you and yours had a very Merry Christmas.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Back Seat Drivers and A River of Lights

I think of myself as pretty savvy about computers and electronic gear.  But I met my match several days ago.  My son had a meeting and let me use his new Prius so that my granddaughter and I could have lunch.  In my defense, I knew you pressed a button to start the thing.



Press again.

Still nothing.  Then I glanced at the computer readout on the dash and it told me I had to step on the brake.  Did that and still nothing.

Then, I hear my three-year old granddaughter from her car seat in the back.  "Grammy Judi.  You need to put in park."  There's no park on what would loosely be termed a 'gearshift'.  I finally found the park button, pressed it, then pushed the start button.  Of course, not much happens 'cause it's not a typical internal combustion engine.  I put my hand on the gearshift and thought I shifted it, but the car just sat there.

Again the little voice.  "Grammy Judi.  You use D for drive and R for reverse."

So I moved what amounts to a toggle switch down to the D, and lo and behold the car started to move.

Thank goodness for observant youngsters.  In spite of their bad rap, back seat drivers can be very, very helpful.

A Little Sweetie back seat driver

The other night we went to the River of Lights at the in the Albuquerque Bio Park complex. 

This is an incredible light display of lights covering about 10 acres of the 20 developed acres in the Botanical Gardens.  It was mind blowing.  

Here's a picture of my Little Sweetie beside one of several penguins playing on a glacier.

We wandered through the display, following the lead of my granddaughter and her exclamations of delight.  There were dinosaurs, a whole field set up to simulate walking through the ocean, 

with an octopus,

a whale and many other sea creatures,

elephants, a mesmerizing animation of a jaguar, the lights sequenced so he jumped down, raced along and leapt to the top of a wall, many many flowers

The evening was cold, so we stopped for hot cocoa and went inside the tropical garden enclosure to warm up.

We ended up going through the Children's Fantasy Garden, where everything is over-sized so even adults feel small.  High up, at the entrance, is a huge, buzzing bee.  There's a maze to wander through, eggs bit enough for kids to crawl into and a vegetable garden.  

Here's No. 2 son, sitting in a gigantic carrot.

Now, we're on the countdown for Santa's arrival.

HO!  HO!  HO!

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Random Observations While Flying

Traveling is always an adventure even if nothing unusual happens.  Even better that way because it give me time to just look around.  There are always different things to enjoy.  People watching in the airport.  Striking up short, casual conversations with strangers.  An excuse to eat junk food--not that I really need one. 

This trip, I flew to Albuquerque and here's where I'm staying

After landing for what seems to be the obligatory change of planes on any trip these days, as we taxied to the gate to deplane, I saw a couple of airplanes sitting by themselves, front end to a barrier, as if they had been put in time out.  Hopefully, just for cleaning and not bad behavior.

Back in the air after a layover in Denver that gave me just enough time to recharge various electronic devices, we climbed to fly over the Rockies.  If I'm lucky enough to get a window seat, I can watch the world go by beneath me.  The folds of bare land in the mountains look like rumpled sheets.  Further on, what I know are trees covering the ground look like blades of grass.  Miniscule dirt trails that snake up and down hills, crisscross the landscape and seem to go nowhere.

But, best of all, after I landed I get hugs from my son and granddaughter and get to spend the holidays with them.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

A Few Things I'm Thankful For

At some point during the day on Thanksgiving, I like to stop and consider the good things in my life.  When the kids were little, while we were eating, we'd go around the table and share what we were thankful for.  So here are some of the things I'm grateful for today.  

My health is good, I live in a house I love with three little dogs, Sassie, Mishka and Gizmo, who make it possible for me to talk out loud and justify it as talking to the dogs and not myself.

I have grown kids and three granddaughters that I enjoy being with.  They all live in wonderful places I love to visit.

I have wonderful and supportive friends, especially my writing groups and critique parters.  

I am grateful for my muse who always has plenty of ideas for me--sometimes too many.  But that's a good thing.

So, life is good.  Looking forward to many more Happy Thanksgivings.

And here's a blast from the past--Thanksgiving 35 years ago.

A very Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Gemma K. Murray visits Sugar and Spice

I want to welcome Gemma K. Murray to my blog today.  Grab a cup of cyber espresso (I just finished a real one) and enjoy a fun visit with her.

Hello! My name is Gemma K. Murray and I am an urban fantasy/paranormal romance author. I was born and raised in Michigan. After a few attempts at living elsewhere, my husband and I along with our five canine kids moved back to Michigan. Instead of living in the Lower Peninsula, we decided to give the Upper Peninsula a try and I am so glad we did. It provides plenty of fuel for my Cedar River series as well as the independent stories I’m working on.

So tell us about your latest or upcoming masterpiece. What inspired it?
Keeper of the Golden Dragon’s Heart is my debut novel. It actually started as a dream. I tend to dream in color and, if I don’t write them down right away, they keep recurring. When I reached a breaking point, I sat down and began to write it all down. One thing led to another and here I am. One book in the series out, the second one on its way, and a third, fourth, fifth, etc. waiting in the wings. There a spin-off coming with Book 3, but I’ll let the readers stew on that for a bit.

What character out of all your books is the closest to your personality?
Oh goodness! I’m currently working on Book 3 in the Cedar River series and readers will be introduced to Silver Larkin, a witch. She is naughty and wicked and sexy as sin. She has a mouth like a truck driver and she makes no apologies. She is as close to me as anyone will ever find. Her bold and brazen attitude fits me to a tee.

What comes first for you when you sit down to write a book? Plot or Characters? Characters, always characters. They tell who they are and they simply begin their story. I write what I am shown and it takes me down paths I never thought I’d go. With Keeper of the Golden Dragon’s Heart, I tried to steer Anastasia in a completely different direction. Let’s just say that didn’t go well. She called me names and yelled at me constantly (in my head) until I changed it and let her have her way. The story flowed and I couldn’t stop it. That opened the floodgates for the entire Cedar River series.

Do you "cast" your characters using pictures or actors to help inspire you when you're writing?
I do it as I go especially if a character has a particular look. It makes it easier for me to visualize them. Silver is tattooed and has a very funky look. I had to piece pics together to find the perfect look for her. Ana and Luna (Keeper of the Golden Dragon’s Heart and Natural Born Enemies) were very “all-American” looking women.

Do you work on multiple projects at the same time?
I’ve tried to, but it seems to fail me. I started off writing contemporary romance and I’d like to send them out to publishers, but I can’t step out of the urban fantasy world without making the characters angry. If I stay in that world, the stories come together. That being said, I am working on Cedar River series: Book 3 as well as a series set in the same type of world.

How much does reader reaction mean to you as an author?
I can’t begin to express how much it means to me to hear from a reader. I have been very blessed. My readers have been so good to me and it means so much. I had a reader reaction the other day and I laughed out loud. She had been flying in first class on a business trip. She had told me she reached a point in the story where she was belly-laughing out loud in a very sedate first class. That made my day!

If someone hasn't read any of your work, what book would you recommend that they start with and why?
Keeper of the Golden Dragon’s Heart is the first book in the Cedar River series (and currently the only one available). The reader is introduced to the town of Cedar River and while it can take a while to become accustomed to the sense of community, it will be well worth it, if you stick with the series. You will get to visit with old friends as the series continues and meet new ones along the way.

What is your favorite movie of all time? The one where you can watch it and still get affected at the same spots each and every time?
Catch and Release seems to be the one I turn to a lot. It’s the emotion of watching Gray discover that her dead fiancĂ©e is not who she thought he was and discovering his best friend, Fritz, is all that and more.

What is one historical figure you would love to chat with and why?
Mae West. My grandma used to always compare me to Mae as well as Totie Fields. I’d love to hear what they think of when now and how far we’ve come. I love bold, brash and brassy “broads”. (I say that with the highest regards.) Can you just imagine sitting down for a drink with these two?

What do you have coming up next for your readers? Care to give us a glimpse into your upcoming projects?
Natural Born Enemies is up next. It will be released this fall. It’s the story of Adam Thomas (the deputy from Keeper of the Golden Dragon’s Heart) and Luna McIntyre. They are star-crossed lovers in so many ways, but second chances are what life is all about. Will these two get their second time around or will fate decide to keep them apart?

Where can we find you on the web (website, Facebook, Twitter, others)?

Please share your cover and a blurb or short excerpt and a buy-link for your book.

The Upper Peninsula of Michigan seems like it is another country. The rawness and beauty of the land draws people from every walk of life. What most people don't realize is there is a little town nestled on the banks of Lake Superior that an entire group of supernatural beings call home. Shifters of every shape and size live there. They raise their families there. Tourists come from near and far to visit the quaint town of Cedar River, Michigan. The tourists never realize they are walking among some of the most unusual beings on earth.

Bowie Golden is a dragon shifter who is in charge of Cedar River's safety. Until now, the biggest threat to anyone's safety was Anastasia Plum, a witch/puma-shifter. She has been the town hellraiser since she was a teenager. Now someone has discovered the secret the residents of Cedar River keep for one another. These radicals are determined to eradicate the entire town. It's up to Bowie to keep them all safe.

Ana has always idolized Bowie. She may have stirred up trouble from time to time, but Bowie or one of his brothers would always get her out of the trouble she was in. One day, it happened. The unthinkable, the unimaginable occurred. Anastasia Plum fell for the "golden" boy. What an unlikely duo- the sheriff and the hellraiser!

Just as these two discover their passion for one another, a group of people is determined to keep them apart. It's up to Ana to prove that she is the only Keeper of the Golden Dragon's Heart.

You can purchase Keeper of the Golden Dragon’s Heart at the following online stores:

You’re offering a free electronic copy of the preview of your ­­­­­­book to a lucky reader. What question would you like them to answer in a comment to be eligible for the draw?

If you visit the Cedar River series Facebook page, you will find a picture of the actor who inspired Bowie. Can you tell me the actor’s name?

Friday, September 7, 2012

Catrina Barton visits Sugar & Spice

My guest today is Catrina Barton.  Catrina Barton is a licensed Kung Fu Instructor of the Black Dragon style and draws on that experience to make her fight scenes both realistic and action packed. She enjoys being surrounded by the stark beauty of mother nature. Whether it's a moon lit starry sky, or a picnic by a peaceful waterfall cascading from the mountain side.

Growing up no matter where she was physically, she always had at least one book in her hands and spent every free moment lost in a book. It's only natural that as she grew up, her passion for reading grew into an even stronger passion for writing Paranormal Romances.

Judi - Welcome to Sugar & Spice, Catrina. I’m delighted you could drop by.  Since it's barely fall here in Maine, I thought we could sit outside on the deck.  Whatever the time of year, I always enjoy visiting with a fellow author.  Help yourself to your fav cyber beverage and let’s dish.

Judi - If you were stranded on a deserted island, what 5 things would you have with you?

Catrina -  Hunting knife, fishing net, plastic bottle, a good book, sun block.

Judi - What is your favorite way to relax after a hard day working and writing?

Catrina -  Either just walking with the family, or listening to music.

Judi - What is the one era you would love to go visit and why?

Catrina -  The Renaissance era. Kool clothes.

Judi - Out of all your books, do you have a favorite one? If not, then which one is closest to your heart?

Catrina -  I only have one published at this time. Dangerous Temptation.

Judi - When you sit down to start a new book do you begin with an outline or synopsis or do you just go with the flow?

Catrina -  Outline.

Judi - How long does it take you to finish a book from start to finish?

Catrina -  Depends on the type/genre, and length of the book.

Judi - What is the hardest part of writing your books?

Catrina -  Pacing.

Judi - Where do you dream of traveling to and why?

Catrina -  Someplace surrounded by nature. I found having nature around me relaxing and peaceful.

Judi - Has a vacation trip ever inspired a book?

I don't really go on vacations, so nope.

Judi - Tell us about your characters in your latest book. Are they inspired by anyone?

Kaitlin's a 17 year-old daddy's girl, who's just lost everything that matters. Her prickly exterior hides a fragile heart that she's afraid will be broken again. Her only peace is when she reads paranormal romances. She's forced to move to Indonesia in order to live with an uncle she knows nothing about. As she looks into her parents' pasts, she's thrust headfirst into a foreign world full of danger, and uncovers some disturbing secrets.
When Cadmon, a Tiger shifter, returns from a five year sabbatical he took, trying to move past his twin sister's murder, he's forced to take over the reigns as leader of his people {The Caspians.} He questions his leadership abilities, because the last time he led, got someone killed. When he discovers Kaitlin on his peoples' lands, it reminds him of the circumstances behind his twin's murder, and brings forth a lot of inner turmoil.

Judi - What do you enjoy most about writing?

Catrina -  The creative flow, and the freedom to create a new world.

Judi - List two authors we would find you reading when taking a break from your own writing.

Catrina -  Katie Salidas, and Christine Feehan.

Judi - Where can we find you on the web (website, Facebook, Twitter, others)?

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/KittyB78
Blog: http://kittyb78.wordpress.com/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/Kittyb78
Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/6423796.Catrina_Barton
Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Catrina-Barton/e/B008BYQCYA

Judi - Please share your cover and a blurb or short excerpt and a buy-link for your book.

Catrina -  Seventeen year-old Kaitlin Sinclair's world is turned upside down when she moves to Indonesia, and discovers the secrets that threaten the existence of the enchanting Cadmon and his people. She dives into a foreign culture, full of mystique and dangers everywhere she turns, where keeping her heart safe might prove as impossible as staying alive!


Judi - You’re offering a free electronic copy of the preview of your book to a lucky reader. What question would you like them to answer in a comment to be eligible for the draw?

Catrina -  What to you is the most important component of a great book?

 Judi – Great question, Catrina. Even though I’m not eligible for the draw, I still want to answer!  I think the most important component is the black moment.  Everything leads to that and a great story provides a way out that the reader didn't see coming.

Okay readers, now it’s your turn. Please include your email addy, but provide the hacker proof version (ie. – yourname AT gmail DOT com). The winner will be selected at random and announced here on September 10. Good luck!

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

My First Day Back in Minnesota

I'm visiting the Twin Cities in Minnesota for a couple of weeks.  I haven't been back since I moved to Maine in 2001.  All my kids and grandkids are here, and we've been revisiting some of our favorite places.

Yesterday we went to the Minneapolis Institute of Arts (currently hosting a Rembrandt display) and then stopped by the Sculpture Garden at the Walker Art Museum

I'd forgotten what a special place that is.  Larger-than-life sculptures in a beautiful outdoors setting.

                                          A walkway filled lined with flowers

My artistic ability consists of drawing stick figures.  But here's a new take on a stick horse.

The girls had a great time exploring. 

       An i-beam sli

and posing for pictures in a gigantic frame     

                                           We all had fun on the giant swing

And stopped by to visit my most favorite piece, a gigantic glass fish in a crystal house.  I've been there in the winter when there were several feet of snow outside, but inside it's a tropical garden.

We topped off the excursion admiring one of the iconic pieces, a giant cherry on a spoon.

Today, we're headed out to one of the 10,000 lakes Minnesota is famous for.

And if you want a taste of Maine, check out my latest release, Wishes and Dreams, from Whispers Publishing

Thursday, July 5, 2012

My Fourth of July

Fourth of July always brings back memories of when I was a kid.
I hated firecrackers—too noisy.  Loved those 'snake' things—you lighted the tip of a coil and the ash turned into a snake.  Sparklers, too.  I loved running down the driveway, waving them in the air in circles and figure 8s.  And I remember for a couple of years we ordered fireworks from a catalogue.  Roman candles, firecrackers, and a variety of other items were shipped to us through the mail.  Gotta love the good old days.
And we always had salmon and fresh peas from the garden.  I have no idea why my mother chose that menu, but it was a tradition.

One that I've used off and on.  Since I had a nice piece of salmon in the freezer, I figured why not?  But the peas were a problem.  Mine have only started to blossom

But, I had cucumbers . . .
so I decided fresh-from-the-garden cukes were a nice substitute.  I mixed up a tasty dill and yogurt dressing, baked the salmon and I was good to go.

Then the thunder-boomers rolled in.  Shut down the computers (hence the day-late posting).  Waited and waited and waited for the sat TV to reacquire the signal (I remember why I like cable—except that it's three times the price) and despaired of having my own backyard fireworks display.

Finally the storms moved away and the downpour stopped and it was close to being dark enough.  Quick, before the next storm arrives.

I dashed outside, strategically placed half of my Morning Glory sparklers and lit them.  Here's my favorite picture from last night.

So, what's your favorite memory of the Fourth?

Friday, June 8, 2012

Wishes and Dreams coming soon

Today, my mother, Charlotte Bucklin Peabody, would be 95. 

One summer, many years ago, when I was bored and had read all my books for the umpteenth time, she introduced me to romance novels.  I was hooked and have read them since then and eventually began writing them.

So, when I got the idea for Wishes and Dreams, my book releasing July 26 (which, coincidentally is my father’s birthday and he would be 97), Culinarians Day.  I decided it would be fitting to use some of my ancesters on Mum’s side.  She was a great cook and should have been a food critic.

I had lots of fun writing it, remembering my mother and stories she told about my great-grandfather.

Can a grumpy old ghost stand in the way of a woman's wishes and dreams?

What can go wrong for Dakota Bucklin in one morning?  Everything, when her great-great-great grandfather is meddling and her long-time friend, Will Graham, is distractingly attractive.

And here’s a taste:

Dakota stood to one side holding a flat pan in her hand, her sherry-colored eyes wide open as she surveyed the mess. A few wisps of her dark brown hair peeked from under a crooked red bandana.

Will stepped into the room, the door swinging shut behind him. "You doing some heavy-duty redecorating?" He regretted his teasing in case she'd been hit by one of the falling pans. "Seriously, are you okay? Did you get hurt?"

Dakota shifted her gaze to his chest. Her eyes widened even further.

At that moment, Will realized he wore only his pajama bottoms. In his haste to discover what had happened, he had neglected to slip into his jeans and pull on a T-shirt.

"No, I'm fine. It's just… I don't know what happened."

Her voice sounded dazed, worrying Will that she had indeed been injured in spite of her assurance she wasn't. He didn't see any blood or bruising, so he had to assume she was okay.

"I reached for this," she waved the flat pan she held, "and everything came tumbling down."