Bean Bag Frogs

I’m a Pinterest-a-holic, but it took a few queries before I realized that others might be interested in creating this crazy little frog. For me, it was a memory I could recreate. My mother made these when we were young and we played with them a lot. Folks have been mentioning their own mothers and grandmothers made the same pattern.

It took some time for me to find it and then … it wasn’t available. So, I searched some more, found a template, tried it … hated it, adjusted it and tried again … didn’t like most of it, so I adjusted it one more time and created a winner.

To make one frog, you will need:

Fabric
Felt (for tongue)
Safety eyes (12 mm)
Navy beans (for filling)
PDF Frog pattern (click through again to get to the downloadable PDF)

You’ll need a few things close by:
Scissors
Needle & thread
Funnel
Straight pins
Turning tool
Fabric marker (any marker will do, you cover it with the eyes)

The PDF Frog pattern is 8.5 x 11, so you can print it on a regular sheet of paper. It is the perfect size for this frog.

I haven’t put my hands to a sewing machine for anything other than a quick repair in more than ten years, so there were a few things I (re) learned along the way. I’ll tell you about them, but you’re probably already a better seamstress than me and you can just smile inside, knowing how silly I was.

Frog patternMy frogs are a little wild. I love color and so, my belly and back are cut from two different fabrics. But you certainly can make these any way you like. The pattern is only half of the frog, so set the straight edge on the fabric fold and cut the rest.

20150330_1513471.  Pin the pieces right sides together. Sew from the inside of one leg, all the way around to the inside of the other leg, leaving space for turning and filling. I told friends, that I felt as if I violated the poor frog by jamming that funnel in there and then made it worse when I sewed him up, but they keep smiling.

Don’t forget to pin your tongue to the inside. I’ve pinned it to the outside, upside down and everything else … oh, and I’ve forgotten it, too, making a poor, mute frog.

20150330_1526342. Once you’ve sewn all the way around, snip around the curves, making sure not to cut the seam. Another (re) learning experience. I tried to ignore this, but seriously, seamstresses from way back know better than me.

3. After you’ve turned it inside out, iron your froggy flat, making sure all of your curves are pushed out. The curves are the best part, am I right?

20150330_1538294. Use whatever method you need to mark where you’ll place the eyes. I failed at eyes for a while. I put them in before sewing – nope, that didn’t work. I put them in before ironing. That didn’t work. I finally learned. Now is when you insert the eyes. I use Suncatcher Craft Eyes – I love the available colors and that they’re safety eyes, makes all the difference.

20150330_154039Snip just a little bit of fabric in order to insert the eye. I fold the fabric and using the tip of my scissors, snip down less than 1/8″.

Eyes washerHere’s something else I had to learn. Maybe it’s obvious to everyone else, but I had no idea how to put the backs on these things and I’m thrifty (cheap) enough not to want to try it several times and get it wrong, having to throw away sets of eyes. The side of the washer where the metal pokes up is the outside, the other presses against the fabric. The pokey metal keeps the washer from sliding away. These are way cool.

20150330_1543025. Once the eyes are in, it’s time to fill your bean bag with beans! I use navy beans because my mom did, but also because they’re a really good size and fairly stable texture. I looked at all of the different options available and settled back on Mom’s mainstay. Do whatever you like, though. Polyester pellets are another way to go, too. I bought a wonderful funnel at a convenience store and started filling from the bottom. Make sure you squeeze beans down into the extremities (hold the opening closed while you’re squeezing into the legs). Fill him as full as you want. Fat little froggies are as adorable as can be.

20150330_1552226. Hand sew up his little bottom and you’re finished!

This little bundle of fun is really easy to make and will make anyone smile. Admit it – you’re smiling just looking at that face!

I’m planning to have even more fun with these, attaching mustaches, glasses, hats (berets, oh my) and any number of things to them. They’re going to make great gifts, because who doesn’t need a fun frog in their life!

Easter Eggs

I grew up thinking that Easter eggs were things to be decorated or filled with candyEaster-Eggs1. Nowadays, the phrase has taken on a new connotation – a joke or bonus added to a piece of software or even a movie.

Or … a book.

They aren’t nearly as much fun if I’m the only one who knows about them. Now, while there are stories of mine in every book, both embarrassing and sweet, I tend to intermix them with pure fiction. Unless you know me very well, you may never know which is which.

In Pages of the Past, there are a few that I figured my sister would recognize. We grew up together. When I explained them, she was startled. She’d missed ‘em.

In no particular order, here are some fun bits of information I dropped into the story.

When Polly talks about having to go home from a slumber party, I did that in second grade. I was miserable. However, my family didn’t invite friends over later for me. AJ and Dev were two of my closest high school friends, though. Alice is a beta reader / rock star editor and knowledgeable about all things horsey.

The wrestling match between Aaron Merritt and his sister, Helen, actually happened. My horrible, hideous, rotten brother played me big time the year he was learning tae kwon do. The mat was right outside my bedroom and he called me out to help him perfect a move. Wham! I was on my back. I shook it off and went back into my room. He called me out – telling me he was going to try something different. Wham! I was on my back. No, I didn’t wet myself, but I learned a lesson about trust that day. Yes, that’s Jamie McFarlane, the author. He was and always shall be my little brother, the brat.

Lydia and Aaron Merritt’s five month engagement equals that of my parents, as does Lydia’s comment to her friend that if he asked her out again, that was the man she’d marry. While Mom and Dad didn’t go to the State Fair, their first date was at an amusement park. The other little bit of information in there was the name of Lydia’s friend – Nena Mack. Nena was Mom’s mother’s middle name (rearrange the letters to make Anne, by the way) and everyone called Mom’s father – Mac.

I guess I dribble these little bits and pieces of my life into my stories so they stay alive – even if they’re encompassed in fiction.

There are other things within the books that come from my life. Sometimes I work out annoyances at people I’ve experienced, other times you’ll get moments of beauty that I’ve watched occur. Much of the time, it’s just my brain on overload

Now… I suppose I should get back to work on Book 10! Thanks for reading along!

Ethel’s Sugar Cookies

Ethel's Sugar Cookies 002When we were young, these were Mom’s go-to cookies. For everything. If we wanted a quick sugar fix, she made this recipe. If we wanted chocolate chip cookies, she simply added chocolate chips to this recipe and dropped them on the cookie sheet.

Mom was married in 1958 and received the classic Betty Crocker cookbook as a wedding gift. It was a good thing, too, since she had never learned to cook. Fortunately for Dad, their first church was within close proximity to his sisters and when they realized how little Mom knew, they took her under their wing. She became a terrific cook.

3487.1LThe cookbook was worn and used. I still have it and it is as much a treasure to me as anything. The page with Ethel’s sugar cookie recipe is long gone. However, much like the page in the picture, it was covered in dried dough, the page was wrinkled from wet spoons being dropped on it and it had been taped together so many times, it was quite heavy.

Here is the recipe. These are truly amazing.

Ethel’s Sugar Cookies

Mix together
1/2 C. butter, softened
1/4 C. shortening
1 C. sugar
2 Eggs, room temperature
1 T. vanilla (or lemon flavoring)

Add:
2 1/2 C. flour
1 t. baking powder
1 t. salt

Bake at 400 – 6-8 minutes
Ungreased baking sheet

All Drained Out

IMG_2546I slept really late this morning, curled up around my cat. The weather cooled down again and I sleep so well when that happens. TB is an odd little wonderful cat. He has different zones for sleeping depending on what time of the night it is. He starts out under the blankets and then wakes up with the dawn (I think it’s ingrained in him, how does he even see that from under there?) After wandering the house and doing everything possible to wake me up, we settle back in for the second half of our night (by the way, you read that right. When I don’t start sleeping until 2:30 – the second half starts about 7:30 am).

At this point, TB doesn’t want to go under all of the blankets. If I lift them for him (which he requires, by the way) he’ll wait … and wait and wait and wait. No, what he wants is to be just under the top comforter. A blanket and the sheet is between he and me. But truthfully, I’m fine with that – his little paws and claws aren’t stretching out on my poor legs, startling me awake.

There is something about him curled up behind my legs or in the crook of my tummy, depending on which side I’m on. His purring, his heat, the weight of his little body – all combine to send me into the deepest sleep ever. And out I go.

This morning I was drained, though and did not want to get up at all. It wasn’t that I’d done anything terribly difficult or laborious the last couple of days. While the actual publishing of a book is a chore, it’s not that big of a deal. But the emotions that surround putting it out there for the world to have are really something else. It isn’t about excitement or congratulations or any of that, it’s just … emotional.

I planned better this time around than I have for any of my other book releases. I chose to sew and spend the day chatting with readers. It was a great day, but even so, I was exhausted when I finally went to bed … and if I didn’t know myself better, I would have thought I was crazy to be so tired, but even at the age of 50 *cough*, I’m still learning how I respond to different things.

The afternoon is getting so much better. My brain is turning back on. I’m mid-way through Chapter 14 of Book 10 (well past 50%) and already starting to think about a couple of characters and activities for Book 11. Polly’s stories are always messing around in my mind, no matter what else is going on.

GiraffeSpeaking of sewing … I made a giraffe yesterday. I love him. Some changes I’ll make the next time around, but this was fun. Other than quilting – what are some of your favorite crafty things to make when you’re at your sewing machine! I need ideas! Send me pins on Pinterest or comment with your favorite sewing websites. I’m dying for fun, new ideas to occupy my fingers while my brain is working out a plot line.

I’m totally looking for a great stuffed doll and I want a cool dog that is not a dachshund (have one of those). I have yarn to make a doll’s hair … so, something that is simple and like dolls that were made nearly a century ago. I don’t have all of my skills back yet, but practice makes perfect, right! Whee!

Pages of the Past – Book 9

Book 9 100 dpiIt’s finally here! Took me long enough, right? What a fun ride this is that I’m on. Click on the book cover to order your Kindle copy.

In Pages of the Past, we spend more time with Aaron and Lydia Merritt, two of my favorite people. Since I introduced the characters … long, long ago, I’ve been wanting to uncover how they met and where Aaron came from. We already know that Lydia grew up in Bellingwood.

One theme I will probably never get enough of is that we can always do something to help one other person. We don’t have to do everything, but we can do something. The impact we can have on a person’s life with just a small gesture or something we might consider inconsequential is often huge for them. Jeff and Henry tease Polly about trying to rescue the world, but she does it one person at a time – mostly by paying attention and offering what she has. These are things I learned growing up with my parents. It didn’t take much – sometimes only a meal – but the impact on another’s life was a big deal.

If you received the email newsletter, you got the fourth and final vignette for Book 9. I put my head on the pillow for a nap last night and all of a sudden, I realized which set of characters wanted to tell a story. I wrote it and laughed all the way through. There is just something about siblings, isn’t there? You love ‘em and hate ‘em all at the same time – when you’re a kid.

However, I will apologize for the spelling error. If you didn’t catch it, good for you – you just enjoyed the story. If it bugged you and you couldn’t enjoy yourself, I’m so sorry. There’s nothing worse. I love language, words and grammar. I spend enormous amounts of time reading, studying and learning about those things. And … I screw up.

This is why I will never promote myself as a grammar / spelling Nazi. I’m too prone to make my own mistakes and the last thing I want to do is set myself up as better than someone else. I have a lifetime of learning behind me. The lesson? As soon as I get arrogant, I fall flat on my face. Every single time. If that’s not a lesson you’ve ever had to learn – I’m happy for you. But humility is a close companion of mine. If I don’t live that way, humility seeks me out.

If you signed up for the email newsletter and haven’t received it, let me know and I’ll send you a direct link. If you haven’t signed up and would like the latest issue (which gives you links to all of the vignettes), let me know that too and I’ll hook you up.

Be sure to join us on the Facebook Bellingwood page (click HERE). There are contests and conversations, fun and laughter. I love sharing the journey of writing and publishing these stories with you.

One More Day

20150324_171158

It’s lonely and needs my attention.

Today … I’m finishing formatting, making last minute changes (because I forgot something in the acknowledgments), building the email newsletter, entertaining the cat (every day … every day), looking for my mind.

Tomorrow … Day off. I will clean up my computer’s desktop – whoa, lots of things build up on there while I’m working on a project. I’m going to watch all of the television shows that have built up over the last couple of weeks, go to the grocery store and post office, sleep late (oh, I do that already), entertain the cat (I’m telling you – he’s relentless) and SEW!

Picture (2)

Who buys 5 pounds of this stuff? Me. Sigh.

I have a pile of material and patterns – and oh, dear heavens, but I bought a five pound bag of recycled fiberfill. Do you know how big a five pound bag of fiberfill is? I didn’t … until it showed up at my door. That is a LOAD of stuffed animals that need to be created.

The funny thing about me looking for a day off … I’ll still be writing. I find that the nights I don’t spend writing aren’t quite as much fun. My brother and I were talking today about how many stories we want to tell and how limited we are by our linear brains and the fact that we only have two hands to type with. With that hanging over me, I have to write.

So … tonight I have plenty of work to complete before release day tomorrow. I can’t wait for you all to get the book in your hands. I love these characters so much and it thrills me that you enjoy hanging out with them.

The cat is sleeping again – it won’t last long, but it does give me a few minutes of breathing space, which I will use to do something productive.

Book 9 – Final Stretch

Book 9 pictureI woke up this … umm … morning (we’ll just call it that, it was a late night of writing – I mean four o’clock in the morning late. Those are my best nights) and realized how close I am to publishing Pages of the Past!

This last week I have been through the manuscript nine times … some quite quickly, some in other crazy ways and one major edit. I printed it out last night after finishing an edit and decided to take the night off. Well … from editing.

The stuffed heart happened. Monsieur Maurice Le Grenouille (that’s French for frog) occurred earlier this week in a moment of insanity. And yes, they’re only in the picture to frustrate you!

Today I read through the book in an entirely different format, knowing that it will be quite different from screen to paper. I take every opportunity to catch as many errors, changes, oddities, etc., as possible, knowing, of course, that something will be missed.

While I’m reading today, my house is going to smell amazing. This last week has been crazy busy and once I start in on a task, it’s hard for me to come up for air. I managed to get to the grocery store on Tuesday. They had a corned beef. My favorite thing, but this little store only carries them once a year. I bought cabbage, carrots and potatoes and since I am alone, didn’t worry about maybe being a day late for the celebration.

Well, it’s now Saturday and all of the vegetables are cut up and in the pot on top of the beef – it’s simmering away. Maybe I should be wearing green – but I’m not Irish, I just love the dish. The best thing is that I won’t have to think about cooking for several days again. Maybe a loaf of homemade bread for sandwiches – that sounds good.

Making a commitment to write one thousand words a day has been an extraordinary thing for me. Even when I’m too tired to think, I know that I can write at least that much. The best thing is that I rarely write that little. Once I get started, it’s difficult to stop … hence, the four o’clock bed times. I am flying through Book 10.

One thing I’ve been doing throughout the month of March is letting my mind wander and explore new thoughts and ideas for stories. Oh my goodness, I’ve had the best time with this. There are so many things I want to write, but this week all I can think about is finishing the book so I can get it out to you.

The first people who will know about the release are those who receive the email newsletter (sent out on the 25th of each month), so make sure you’ve signed up for it. I’ll announce it on Facebook and Twitter later on during the day.

Off I go with a red pen in hand. It’s going to be a fabulous weekend.

Why Nammynools?

1961 08 Rachel & Diane

Two year old Diane and the goat – Rachel.

When we were little, Mom had trouble keeping track of our names. Or something like that.

It didn’t matter which of us was in the room or which one of us was in trouble, she went through an entire array of names before just pointing and saying, “You.” By that time, we were all laughing at her and her anger had pretty much dissipated.

The animals in our house were part of that array of names. Usually there were only a couple of dogs, but gerbils, fish (lots of fish), cats … and even a goat when I was a baby, were part of the Greenwood menagerie. The goat story? Poor Mom had to make a choice between it and her baby. The goat was jealous and kept butting me down the back steps. Mom always said it was a difficult choice.

Another thing that Mom did was to play with words. The thing is, these odd words she created are still such a normal part of my vocabulary that I have trouble identifying most of them individually. Rabbits were bun-rabs and I still can’t see a rhino without mis-placing the emphasis. It was never a rhi-NO-cer-ous, but a rhi-no-SORE-ass. To this day, I see the word and every rhino in my imagination has bright, red hindquarters. A knife was a two syllable word – cuh-nife, as was most every other silent ‘k’ word. Unique was pronounced you-nee-cue.

My animals

Ichabod, Howard, and Bert (maybe 1998-1999).

Her standard vocabulary was immense. The woman was absolutely brilliant and a voracious reader and writer, so when she wanted to play around with words, it wasn’t that she didn’t know better, it was a choice she made.

Back to all of the animals in her world.

All of the warm-blooded (oops, cold-blooded fish too, I guess) beings around Mom were her naminals. Poor Dad couldn’t even escape that classification. And, by the way, his name got tossed in there along with every single named naminal when Mom was trying to identify the person standing in front of her.

IMG_2545So … I took the word she’d used for all of the beings she ever loved and made it mine. Trust me, it has been perfect over the years. When you make up a word, it is easily accepted by the web as being unique (did you say that in your head correctly? you-nee-cue).

And what better reference could a girl have than to all of the nammynools that have been part of her life since she was just a little girl. Am I right?

Bellingwood Vignette – 02

Happy Valentine's DayI love writing these tiny stories. If you missed the first one, you need to sign up for the email newsletter. There will be a story each month – and there will also be links to the previous month’s email so you can catch up. But this is an extra – a Valentine’s Day gift from me to you.

The Bellingwood stories are written from Polly’s perspective, so if she isn’t around, we don’t see what happens in the lives of other characters. These vignettes, though, give me an opportunity to peek into their lives, if even for just a few minutes. They won’t change the story or add anything that you would necessarily miss if you didn’t read them, but they will give you a little background and a hint as to what’s happening next.

This story is part of the happenings of Book 9 …

Make Room for Everyone

“C’mon, honey. The babysitter will be here soon. I don’t want to be late.”

Joss Mikkels sat on the edge of her bed with her shoes in hand. Today had been a rough day. Both of the babies were crawling and sometimes they moved faster than she could keep up. She’d felt guilty when Cooper pulled himself up to stand at the sofa and not only had she not taken a picture, but up until this point, she’d forgotten to tell Nate about it.

She looked up at him with weary eyes. It would keep. Maybe Cooper would do it tomorrow afternoon when they were all in the living room at the same time.

Later that afternoon, Sophie had been playing with her favorite soft book when her brother decided that he wanted it for himself. Joss had turned around for just a second and all of a sudden the two were screaming at each other. She wasn’t sure why today was worse than any other day. Maybe it was because she was looking forward to a romantic evening with Nate. They hadn’t had too many of those since the twins had come into their lives. Or maybe Sophie and Cooper had picked up on her desperation. After eight months, though, she thought they’d gotten past all of that. It wasn’t teething. She knew that sound. Oh, did she know that sound.

“Joss?” Nate was standing in front of her, holding her coat.

“Where are the babies? Why aren’t you watching them while I finish dressing?”

“Cindy’s here.”

“Already?”

He looked at his watch. “Are you about ready?”

Joss put her feet into her shoes and stood up. “I’m sorry. It wasn’t the best day around here and I need to shake it off so we can have fun this evening.”

Nate helped her into the coat and kissed her nose. “You’ll have fun, I promise.”

“I’m looking forward to it. How late can we stay out?”

He chuckled. “First it was our parents and now it’s our children. Do you miss the days when no one cared what time we got home?”

“Sometimes and not really? Does that make sense?” She wouldn’t trade any point in her life for these days with Sophia and Cooper, but there were moments when she craved a little freedom.

“It does. Do you want to say goodnight to the kids?”

“Are they happy with Cindy right now?”

“Absolutely.”

“Then let’s slip out so they don’t have to watch us leave.”

He escorted her to the Impala. Joss didn’t care what car they took, but whenever Nate had an opportunity to take his baby out on the road, he grabbed it. The weather had been rough enough lately that it had been trapped in the garage, but tonight was special and they only had a few blocks to drive to Sycamore House.

Nate had already warmed the car up and Joss leaned into him as he drove. She felt warm and snuggly this evening, just like one of their date nights back when they were still in college.

“Where are you going?” she asked as he drove south past Sycamore House.

“It’s a nice night for a drive, don’t you think?”

“You made me think we were going to be late?”

“I might have exaggerated. I just want to spend some time with you, all alone.”

Joss squeezed his arm. “Are we going parking? I could get into that.”

“We’re a little old, don’t you think? Can’t you just imagine Ken Wallers pulling up beside us, shining a flashlight into the back seat?”

“He knows this car. He wouldn’t think a thing of it.”

“Except that he’d worry that something was wrong and would stop and check on us and there we’d be in flagrante delicto. And besides, there’s a perfectly comfortable bed at home.”

Joss let out a very audible sigh. “I knew it. We’ve gotten old. There’s no spark left. You never take risks anymore.”

“Honey,” he said, patting her hand. “Don’t be ridiculous. I’ve never been a big risk-taker. Especially when it comes to having sex in the great outdoors.”

That was absolutely true. She’d tried to get him to make out with her on the beach during their honeymoon and the poor man had done nothing but look around, worrying that someone might sneak up and catch them.

Joss let him off the hook. “It’s okay. You do when it’s important. Cooper and Sophia were a big risk and you never flinched. Not once. You’re pretty wonderful.”

“Now you’re just being sappy.”

“I know. It’s a good thing I don’t have any wine in me yet.” She took a breath. “When do you think we should get back on the list to adopt more children?”

She felt him chuckle beside her, and then he said, “After the day you’ve had with those two and you want more?”

“I told you I wanted a houseful. Did you ever meet my friend, Janet?”

Nate shook his head. “I don’t think so.”

“She was the fifth of twelve kids. She had two older brothers and two older sisters and then there were … ” Joss had to think. “Two more girls, three boys and then a set of twins, a boy and a girl. Their dad was a doctor and they lived in this huge, sprawling ranch house out in the country. It was always a crazy zoo out there, but they had so much fun. And now that they’re all grown up, they come back with everyone for immense family reunions. That’s what I want.”

“You want twelve kids?”

“Maybe not that many, but a lot.”

“Are you going to let Mom come out and help with all of them?” He cackled evilly.

“If I have to.” Joss leaned back. “That would be so perfect, though. When they get older, their friends will come over and the house will be complete chaos. Joyous chaos.”

“You know it probably won’t be just like that. There’s always the potential for tons of problems.”

“It can be just like that,” she insisted. “It’s all in how you look at it.”

“That’s why I love you.” Nate pulled off the highway onto a gravel road, and directly into a driveway. He got out of the car and came around to open her door, offering his hand to help her stand up.

“What is this?”

He left the car’s headlights on, shining on an old dilapidated two-story house with four other buildings in close proximity. Trees and brush had overgrown most of it. Nate turned on his phone’s flashlight app, shining it on the concrete driveway, then held her close to him while they walked. He stopped, bent over and opened a red cooler that had been left on the ground. With a flourish, he pulled out two red roses and presented them to her.

“I was thinking this could be your sprawling ranch house. We would pull everything down except that building over there.” He pointed to one of the better looking buildings. “That would be my shop. It’s big enough for everything I need.”

“What?” Joss stunned. She brought the roses up to her nose to give herself a moment to take it all in.

“It just came on the market and the land is a great deal. Henry would build the house. Any house you want. There are nine acres here. What do you think?”

“I don’t know.” Joss was glad for darkness that hid the tears in her eyes.

Nate grew quiet. “If you don’t think we’re ready for this, we can wait until you’re ready. I haven’t done anything or talked to anyone. I wanted to show you first.”

“No, that’s not it. I just wasn’t prepared for anything like this today. We can really do it?”

“Why not?”

“No reason, I guess. It’s just such a big step.”

“Bigger than adopting two children? We have plenty of room here for a lot of children. All that you want.”

“I don’t know what to think,” she said.

“Talk to me.”

“All of this, for us?”

“For all of us.”

Joss threw her arms around her husband and lifted her lips for a kiss. Nate’s lips were chilled from the evening air and they held onto each other as she finally let the tears flow into the shoulder of his coat. “You really know how to wish a girl Happy Valentine’s Day,” she said.

“It’s okay?”

“It’s perfect. Can I tell everyone when we get to Sycamore House?”

“That’s up to you. All I wanted to do was surprise you with the idea. You and I will do everything else together.”

Joss kissed him again. “This is amazing. Maybe we’ll put a barn up and get some horses, too. That way our kids can ride over to Polly’s house. We aren’t that far away.”

“Sweetie, that’s her land right back there.”

“This started out as such a rough day. Now it’s turned into one of my top ten days. Thank you!”

What Do You Like to Read

A few readers have asked me in the last couple of days what I like to read. I’ve been a reader since Mom put flash cards in my hands. She never had to convince me that reading was important. It was all I wanted to do.

gardnerstutteringWe lived in a very small town and the library was right across the street from my Dad’s church, so every day that I could, I was there. By fifth and sixth grade, I was caught up in Erle Stanley Gardner’s ‘Perry Mason’ series and read every single one they carried, as well as all of the other pulp fiction available. The librarian, an older lady, soon realized that she had a pair of young legs attached to a little girl who wanted nothing more than to spend time with books, so before I knew it, I was running up and down ladders, shelving books for her, learning where everything was. My mind exploded with the possibilities. There were words everywhere and I couldn’t wait to read them.

Scholastic Book Fairs and school libraries were as familiar to me as that library, which was good because when we moved the next year, the librarian in a much larger building was not quite as willing to encourage a very excited young reader. She made my mother quite furious with her attitude and scared the daylights out of me. The first time was the last time I set my foot in that building willingly. Which only meant that Mom had to find other ways to keep feeding my voracious habit. However, as thrifty as my father was, the one place he was willing to spend money was on books. My personal library began to fill.

61942In junior high and high school, I discovered science fiction and fantasy. Isaac Asimov’s Foundation and Robot series, Frank Herbert’s Dune, Tolkien and C. S. Lewis, Alan Dean Foster, David Drake, Mercedes Lackey, Anne McCaffrey, Roger Zelazny’s Amber books, Larry Niven, Ursula K. LeGuin, Frederik Pohl, C. J. Cherryh, John Varley, Robert Silverberg, Vonda McIntyre, Marion Zimmer Bradley, Poul Anderson, Andre Norton, Gordon R. Dickson, Piers Anthony, Barbara Hambley, Robert Heinlein, Orson Scott Card, John Varley, Joan D. Vinge. Every single one of those authors and more are worth your time.

6560143-MDuring this time I also really got into WWII spy novels. Robert Ludlum, Frederick Forsyth, Helen MacInnes, Ken Follett and of course Ian Fleming. I love Rex Stout – Nero Wolfe and Agatha Christie And because I liked big books, Leon Uris became a favorite. I never did get into Michener. He was just too rambling for me.

I spent an inordinate amount of time and money in bookstores once I was on my own. I used to get annoyed when I wanted to read a series and only found part of it in stock. I just put the whole thing back and walked away, knowing that I’d have most of it consumed before the rest came in. And that would just annoy me. Amazon was a godsend. I could order every single book in a series and have it all show up at once.

And then, the Kindle? Holy smokes, I was in heaven. Books arrived like magic. I never had to be without reading material.

Once I got my Kindle, I discovered paranormal fantasy. Well, good night ladies, that is some seriously fun stuff! And you know what? I’m annoyed by those who thrash and trash authors because they might not be the type of books that are read in hallowed halls. I loved the Twilight series. It didn’t change my life, but it was sure fun to read. I have read so many of these authors: J. R. Ward, Sherilyn Kenyon, Christine Feehan, Laurell K. Hamilton, Jeanine Frost, Diana Rowland, Karen Marie Moning, Keri Arthur, Kim Harrison, Karen Chance, Lynsay Sands, Charlaine Harris, Carrie Vaughn, Lara Adrian, Devon Monk, Ilona Andrews, Jennifer Estep, Richelle Mead, Kresley Cole, Nalini Singh, Terri Reid. Some are awesome, some are okay, some are just pure fun.

eng_1Young Adult novels are amazing reads for me. I was one who waited with bated breath for the next Harry Potter book, then read through it as fast as I could so I could pass it to my sister. Angie Sage -Septimus Heap series, Eoin Colfer – Artemis Fowl, D. J. MacHale – Pendragon, Jeanne Duprau – Ember, Rick Riordan, Christopher Paolini, Scott Westerfield, Cassandra Clare, Suzanne Collins.

I still love long series. J. D. Robb – In Death, Janet Evanovich – Stephanie Plum (seriously … wet my pants laughing), Faye Kellerman – Peter Decker/Rina Lazarus, James Patterson, John Sandford, Jeffrey Deaver. I love Jim Butcher’s Dresden series, Patricia Briggs – she has several series other than Mercy Thompson and they’re all really good. Robin Hobbs, Lisa Shearin, Ann Aguirre, Sue Grafton, Brandon Sanderson, Bob Mayer. A reader here just turned me on to Tamora Pierce. Alex Kava is an Omaha author and a favorite. If you like sci fi -Nathan Lowell’s Trader Tales is good. Estelle Ryan’s Genevieve Lenard is a great indie series and Shelley Adina’s Lady of Devices is a great steampunk series. Liz Long’s Donovan Circus is another good indie series – she’s just getting started with it.

These lists are by no means comprehensive. As soon as I started thinking through them and finished typing a paragraph, three more names would come to me and then three more after that. There are massive holes, but search Google with some of these names and see what you might enjoy.

You’ll notice that I don’t have a lot in this list that is just general or true-life fiction. It’s not my thing. I love great mysteries – things that cause me to work through a puzzle. Fantasy / sci fi have been passions of mine for decades – where I can get lost in worlds that only exist in my mind.

As I think about these book lists, I realize there are so many I want to re-read. I read Dune and Asimov’s Foundation last month. Those books are still amazing. I need to tear through the rest of the Dune series so I can catch up to the new stuff being written by Herbert’s son, Brian, and Kevin Anderson. Oh … and oh my, all of the Star Wars novels that have been written! I love ‘em. Wow … why am I writing this post when I could be reading instead. Or writing my own book. Back to work, Diane.