Kitchen Gadgets

A Clue for Adrianna (Captain’s Point Stories) - The first novel in the Captain’s Point series.  A romantic women’s fiction/family saga/chicklit novel written by Annie Acorn & Juliette Hill writing as Charlotte Kent.

Also available in print on iTunes and for Nook and Kobo.

Chocolate Can Kill (Emily Harris Mysteries) - a full-length, cozy mystery by Annie Acorn.

Also available in print on iTunes and for Nook and Kobo.

Okay, I admit it. I’m addicted to three things:  books, chocolate and gadgets.

Books have been an integral part of my life ever since I played with a cloth volume that sported pinking-sheared edges while still in my cradle.  To this day, I cast my eye around for colorful spines, whenever I enter a room, and believe me, my home is full of them.

Chocolate, too, has been a constant companion from the homemade chocolate syrup made by my maternal grandmother to the fudge Mom whipped up Sunday evenings to go with my father’s popcorn.  Now, of course, my tastes have expanded to encompass such favorites as Lindts and Tobler and Godiva.

A book, though, will only be read so many times in a lifetime, and once eaten, a piece of chocolate connects itself to one’s hip, perhaps permanently, in a very obnoxious way.

On the other hand, gadgets are special friends, providing service as they ease burdens and give pleasure.  The three I remember most fondly resided in kitchens.

True, my definition of a gadget may be a bit broader than that used by most folks.  To me, a gadget is anything used to make my life easier.

Most dictionaries confine their definitions to a mechanical contrivance.  I counter that one should be generous and include a few special memories of items still associated with those held dear.

For instance, both of my grandmothers cooked meat in what I view as oversized gadgets.

My paternal grandmother baked her Sunday beef in an early version of what resembled a crock pot on steroids.  Four times the size of its modern cousins, its outside wall was comprised of a creamy yellow oval with a shiny black top.

Plugged into the wall and sitting on a small table, it held pride of place in her kitchen and kept her oven clear for golden Yorkshire puddings.  When Grandma’s table oven, as she called it, was turned on, you were in for a treat.

When my maternal grandmother cooked a roast, we all ran and took cover, primarily because our mother was scared, but whether she was more concerned for herself or her children, I still couldn’t tell you.

Whichever it was, it really didn’t matter.  The call still went out to seek a safe haven the moment Grandma’s pressure cooker was removed from its cabinet.

From afar, we breathed in rich aromas that wafted forth as my grandmother wrestled the beast into submission in much the same way as an experienced trainer controls a terrifying tiger.  In the end, the meat was delicious.

Not to be outdone, my mother had her own kitchen gadget that was used to prepare meat, although hers was rarely used except for one of our birthdays.

A heavy metal meat grinder that clamped onto the edge of a table top or a kitchen counter, this weighty monster was critical to the preparation of Spam salad, but watch out!  Drop even one little part of it on your toe, and you would hobble around for a month or four.

“But wait!”  You hold up your hand, aghast.  “Did you say Spam salad sandwiches for your birthdays?”

“Yes,” I reply with a sigh of longing.  “Don’t knock it, if you’ve never tried it.”

The recipe is quite simple, and in this day and age, you can dispense with the meat grinder and use a much tamer food processor.

The following directions are for a single batch.  I would suggest you make two.  Women in my family usually process each ingredient separately and then mix them together in a large bowl.

Soooo…

Birthday Spam Salad

Grind/process and mix together:

1 can of original Spam

4 boiled eggs

1 small, preferably Vidalia onion

Add to this:

3-4 Tables. sweet pickle relish

Enough mayonnaise to hold it all together.

Chill through and serve on hamburger buns.

Yes, that’s right.  I said hamburger buns.  You’ll get used to it, and since a food processor is so convenient, you won’t even have to wait for your birthday.

Just watch out for your fingers!

Enjoy!

- Annie Acorn

A Tired Older Woman: Loses Weight and Keeps It Off! - by Annie Acorn

Also available in print on iTunes and for Nook and Kobo.

Murder With My Darling (Bonnie Lou Mysteries) - by Annie Acorn

NOTE: Author is NOT responsible for anything the main character says!

Also available in print on iTunes and for Nook and Kobo.

Captain’s Point Stories Box Set - The first box set in the Captain’s Point series.  A romantic women’s fiction/family saga/chicklit series written by Annie Acorn & Juliette Hill writing as Charlotte Kent.

This set contains the first three novels of the Captain’s Point series – A Clue for Adrianna, A Man for Susan and Love’s Journey as well as the Christmas short story A Christmas Kiss.

The set is available on iTunes and for Nook and Kobo.

Posted in Nostalgia | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Too Much Snow

A Clue for Adrianna (Captain’s Point Stories) The first novel in the Captain’s Point series.  A romantic women’s fiction/family saga/chicklit novel written by Annie Acorn & Juliette Hill writing as Charlotte Kent.

Also available in print on iTunes and for Nook and Kobo.

Chocolate Can Kill (Emily Harris Mysteries) a full-length, cozy mystery by Annie Acorn.

Also available in print on iTunes and for Nook and Kobo.

It was my first time to fly from D.C. to Seattle.  It would be my first Christmas with Son #2 and his new wife.  It was my first stretch of vacation time in quite a while.

The best daughter-in-law in the world had booked reservations at the Needle and a special excursion to Victoria, B.C. for her mother and me to enjoy on our own while I was visiting.  We would be staying at the Empress Hotel and would visit the world famous Butchart Gardens. I couldn’t have been looking more forward to both of these treats if I had been twins.

It was cold in D.C. on the day I was scheduled to take off from Baltimore – bitter cold with small snowflakes and occasional tiny pellets of ice sharing the air. An hour before my sister collected me for the drive to the airport I received a phone call from Son #2.

“It’s been snowing here for two days,” he told me.  “The streets are a mess, and I don’t have chains.  Would you mind taking a cab from the airport?”

“No problem,” I assured him.  “Just pray that I make my connection at Midway in Chicago.”

Always an optimistic traveler, my first understanding that the snow might really cause trouble didn’t occur until the plane for the first leg of my flight had taken off from BWI around two in the afternoon and the woman next to me shared her story.

Heading for Chicago, she had boarded a plane in Detroit at seven that morning.  Due to icy runway conditions, her flight had been redirected to Baltimore for some reason that neither of us accomplished businesswomen could quite fathom.

Frustrated, she pointed out that if the airline had explained the situation before takeoff, she would’ve rented a car and already arrived at her daughter’s.  Instead, here we were, heading to exactly the same place, which the Weather Channel was reporting on the airport televisions currently was experiencing the exact same conditions as this morning.

Grateful that I would be changing planes in Midway and not O’Hare, I settled in for what proved to be an uneventful flight, but then we touched down.  Due to weather delays being experienced here, there and everywhere, the gate where we were supposed to park was still being utilized by an earlier flight, and we would have to wait on the runway until that plane received its fill of fuel.

Not to worry, I told myself, I had an hour and a half in which to make my connection, and I did – with about ten seconds to spare.  Still, the good news was that I had made it into the next can of sardines, along with a lovely woman who I judged to be in her mid-thirties and was now seated next to me.

“Are you heading home to Seattle or going there for a visit?” I attempted to strike up a conversation.

“I’ve been visiting my parents here in Chicago, and I’m heading home,” the woman explained, but then she retained eye contact in a way that made me think there was more, so I remained silent as the lights in the plane dimmed prior for takeoff into what was now a night sky.

Perhaps it was because I was so much older than her.  Perhaps it was because, in the dim light, it was easy to believe we were the only two people in the world.  Whatever it was, she took a deep breath and continued.

“My father has liver cancer,” she shared, “and I’ve been flying back and forth to Chicago every third week since he was diagnosed.  We’ve been told that my next visit will probably be my last with him.”

“I lost my mother to cancer in 2005, and my father to cancer just last year,” I filled her in.

“What can I do to help my mother get through this?” she asked, her beautiful dark eyes sparkling with tears.

“Be there for her, first and foremost,” I began, once again glad that I had given my husband’s death purpose many years earlier by learning how to counsel others in grief, as I proceeded to give her what I hoped she would find to be helpful pointers.

And so, we talked on during much of the longer leg of my flight as she shared concerns and I shared experiences as well as lessons learned.  Finally, our common bond now exhausted, she attempted to get some work done on a small laptop and I covered myself with my coat and dozed off.

A while later, the stewardess woke me with her reminder to everyone that the pilot had turned the seatbelt lights back on.  As we taxied our way along the runway towards SeaTac a few minutes later, the younger woman thanked me again for my shared insights.

“It helped to get some of it off my chest,” she said, “but most of all, I’ll be better able to concentrate on being a wife and mother during the next couple of days.”

Older and slower, I took my time retrieving my carryon bag and lost sight of her, only to find her waiting for me at the end of the ramp.

“Do you need a ride to your son’s?” she asked once I reached her side.

“I’m taking a cab, which should work out fine,” I assured her, not surprised when she gave me a hug.

“I hope you have a wonderful visit and a merry Christmas,” she said.  “I’m very grateful that I sat down next to you.”

I did manage to get a cab, but not before I had waited in a long line.  Unaccustomed to snow, Seattle was a mess the cab driver shared with me gleefully before he began pointing out noted landmarks as we made our way to my son’s condo.

Two hours late, I finally arrived at my destination – stiff, hungry and tired, to be greeted by warm hugs and a delicious pasta supper.

The next day it snowed.  Still, my son and I made our way by cab to the famed Pike’s Market area where we enjoyed a nice lunch and I bought some small gift items to take back for my sisters and friends.

That night it continued to snow, and I realized the next morning that I had yet to see Mt. Rainier, the volcano that looms over Seattle on a clear day.  This intrigued my writer’s imagination no end as I considered how skewed our realities could sometimes be, limited as they are by our five senses.

The dozen roses I had ordered through the internet for my DIL had yet to arrive.

We never made it to the Needle as the restaurant’s staff was no longer able to get to work.  Undeterred, the next day Son #2 declared himself able to get his mother-in-law and me to the dock where we would catch the ferry for Victoria.

Sliding our way downhill towards Puget Sound, I managed to convince him to turn his car right, park and let us out.  The three of us then hauled our suitcases through over a foot of snow as we made our way along the next three blocks and across several train tracks to the dock.

Twenty minutes out, the ferry suddenly slowed almost to a stop as the captain suggested we look over the starboard side of the boat where a huge group of orca whales were swimming, the cold temperatures having drawn them much nearer the city than was normal.  Since it is possible to search for orcas all day and never see one, this was amazing!

Arriving in Victoria, we discovered that the cabs there had virtually disappeared since this city, blessed by the nearness of warm currents off the coast, did not boast a snowplow if several natives were to be believed.

Luckily, the Empress Hotel was actually within sight, and my companion and I made our way there.  I can’t say enough good about this hotel.  From the warm greeting you receive upon your arrival to their famous cream tea to the fine dining to the lounge on the concierge floor, my stay there was wonderful and one I hope to repeat someday soon.

As for Butchart Gardens, I can’t comment.   Our tour bus did arrive at the hotel, slid along ice-covered roads and dropped us off at the welcome center.  The paths, though, were a mess, so my DIL’s mother and I settled for drinking hot chocolate and enjoying a warm scone while we watched the ice skaters.  Next time I visit Victoria, I plan to do so in the spring.

The following morning, I breakfasted in the concierge floor’s lounge as I watched a family of otters work hard to maintain a breathing hole in the ice-covered bay seen from the window next to my table, even as small sea planes landed further from the shore.

Upon our return, we found Seattle bracing for yet another round of the white stuff.  Still, after a bus ride and a short hike, we managed to gather at my DIL’s sister’s home for a Christmas dinner that proved to be a true feast as it morphed the Russian, Anglo-Saxon and Asian heritages represented by our gathered family members into a whole.

The dozen roses had still failed to appear, even though the tracking number with which I had been provided clearly documented their arrival in Seattle two days before.

Woefully short of snowplows in the numbers required to deal with this quantity of snow, Seattle’s streets became silent as snow continued to fall.  Blessed with plenty of food and full power, the television became our best friend as my new daughter-in-law and I discovered a shared love for both Jane Austen and Colin Firth.

Understandably, when we informed Son#2 that we had finally exhausted his wife’s supply of PBS Jane Austen dvds, he let out a loud whoop as my DIL slid her copy of Bridget Jones’s Diary into the player.  As his mother, I almost felt sorry for him.

And so we passed the time for three more days – visiting, watching TV, visiting, eating, visiting, enjoying a movie, visiting and taking naps – as the Weather Channel kept us posted as to the fact that snow was still falling outside our windows.

The roses I had ordered my DIL had still not arrived, so I told her about their sad plight, suggesting that she throw them away upon arrival as they must now be a sorry sight.

My departure day arrived and, miraculously, the snow stopped falling.  According to reports, my change of planes in Chicago would be doable.

After hugs all around, I was dropped off at SeaTac where I had plenty of time before boarding.  For a large airport, I found it to be easy to navigate and filled with more interesting shops than in most other airports.

The winds were not in our favor, and upon our arrival at Midway, other passengers were asked to allow those of us attempting to catch my next flight off first.  The boarding gate was next to the one into which we entered, so we lined up with our fellow passengers per usual.

Upon arrival at BWI, those of us who had made the change were advised that, while we had made it onto the plane, our luggage hadn’t.  My sister joining me at precisely this moment, I ended up third from the end of the line formed for us to arrange for baggage delivery to our homes.

Just as I earned my turn at the counter, the attendant’s phone rang.  “One minute please,” he requested and then answered it.

The call was to advise the desk that our luggage had arrived and was being processed, the airline having sent it from Chicago to Baltimore on a flight by itself.  Ten minutes later, we were loading my suitcases into my sister’s trunk.

The next day, my DIL called.  The roses had arrived, and all but one of them appeared to be in great shape.

So is there a moral to my story?  Absolutely!

Winter travel comes with weather risks, so prepare to be flexible.  Being with your family is the best part of any Christmas.  Sometimes, the end of the line is the best spot in which to be.  Long-stemmed, red roses are much more hardy than you would think.

And last, but certainly not least, you never know when circumstances will put you in a position where you and you alone can truly be there for another, so keep your eyes open as we enter the new year!

Annie Acorn

A Tired Older Woman: Loses Weight and Keeps It Off! by Annie Acorn

Also available in print on iTunes and for Nook and Kobo.

Murder With My Darling (Bonnie Lou Mysteries) by Annie Acorn

NOTE: Author is NOT responsible for anything the main character says!

Also available in print on iTunes and for Nook and Kobo.

Captain’s Point Stories Box Set The first box set in the Captain’s Point series.  A romantic women’s fiction/family saga/chicklit series written by Annie Acorn & Juliette Hill writing as Charlotte Kent.

This set contains the first three novels of the Captain’s Point series – A Clue for Adrianna, A Man for Susan and Love’s Journey as well as the Christmas short story A Christmas Kiss.

The set is available on iTunes and for Nook and Kobo.

 

Posted in travel | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Still Thankful

A Clue for Adrianna (Captain’s Point Stories) The first novel in the Captain’s Point series.  A romantic women’s fiction/family saga/chicklit novel written by Annie Acorn & Juliette Hill writing as Charlotte Kent.

Also available in print on iTunes and for Nook and Kobo.

A Man for Susan (Captain’s Point Stories) The second novel in the Captain’s Point series.  A romantic women’s fiction/family saga/chicklit novel written by Annie Acorn & Juliette Hill writing as Charlotte Kent.

Also available in print on iTunes and for Nook and Kobo.

Chocolate Can Kill (Emily Harris Mysteries) a full-length, cozy mystery by Annie Acorn.

Also available in print on iTunes and for Nook and Kobo.

The year was 1994, and Thanksgiving was fast approaching – the first one since my husband’s death the previous January.  In June, Son #1 had bought his first house and moved out.  In September, Son #2 had left for college in Auburn.

Both of the boys would, of course, rejoin me for turkey and dressing, but the chair at the other end of the table from mine would remain empty, I thought, as another small piece of my still fragile heart chipped away.  What in the world could I do to lighten this burden?

And then, it hit me.  Two of Son #2’s suite mates at Auburn came from places far enough away that they might not be able to return home for only a few days.  This being the pre-cell phone era, I phoned my son’s dorm room and left a message.

Later that evening, I received a callback.  One of the suite mates was a definite.  The other one hadn’t been seen to ask yet.  Oh, and could he ask two more boys who lived in the room across the hall?

Taking a quick inventory of the sleeping potential of our home, I agreed.  The sad atmosphere that had surrounded me in the house for too many months stating it loud and clear – this was a time when the more the merrier would ring true.

Three trips to the grocery store, four pies, two cakes, several dozen cookies and a case of salty snacks later, I believed that I had amassed enough provisions to see six healthy young males and myself through one day.  Patrick, the black dachshund/cocker spaniel mix with whom I daily played me and my shadow, merely shook his head sadly at my naiveté.

Late Wednesday evening, the first contingent arrived – Son #1 would come first thing in the morning and the other suite mate had yet to be located.

“I’m worried about Spud,” Son #2 said.

“Has there been any sign of him?” I asked, thinking that we might need to notify his parents that he was missing.

“Sure.”  My son began popping corn.  “He’s created two new piles of dirty laundry just since Monday.”

“Well, in that case…”  I pasted on a reasonably bright smile.  “Why don’t you try calling his room early in the morning?  With everyone else gone, you might catch him sleeping in.”

“Good idea.”  A second round of popcorn replaced the first, which now displaced about ten percent of the open space in an oversized metal bowl that my son was obviously bent on filling.

Now, don’t ask me why, but every Thanksgiving of my life, I’ve risen from my bed early, looking forward to preparing completely from scratch dressing and stuffing it into the turkey.  Imagine my surprise when I discovered Son #2 already up, showered, and on the phone – evidence of a large breakfast having been consumed spread before him on the table.

“Take your time,” he was saying.  “We won’t eat until around one.”

“Spud?” I asked once he’d hung up.

“You got it.”  He began loading the dishwasher with what appeared to be the remnants of sixteen or seventeen full dinners.

The next several hours passed in a blur as I molded well into the role of short order cook, while at the same time managing to prepare the bird of the day.  Macy’s Parade passed across the TV screen in the family room, and announcers filled the room with tidbits about upcoming bowl games to a moment or two of hushed silence.  The house filled with mixed aromas as I prepared a cinnamon-laced raisin cake and basted the turkey.

Finally, the kitchen filled with young men eager for a first glimpse.  I opened the oven door and stepped aside, as Son #2 lifted the turkey and its pan from the oven and placed the whole on a counter.

Then the doorbell rang.

“Spud…”  The name was spoken reverently aloud around the room as Son #2 hurried to welcome his friend.

Carefully, Son #1 transferred the perfectly cooked bird onto a waiting meat platter, and I moved forward to enhance its presentation with a bit of garnish.  Suddenly, I felt a whoosh of movement behind me and then a pair of strong arms encircled my knees.

“Will you marry me?” Spud’s youthful tenor sang forth his plea.  “That’s the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen!”

Needless to say, the boy was asked back every year until he graduated as I continued to fill the void left in our house by the loss of my husband with youthful energy, forward thinking and optimism.

Did Son #2’s college friends benefit from the experience?  Sure, but so did my sons and me as, especially that first Thanksgiving after our loss, it was brought home to us clearly that while things would never be quite the same, there was still much for which we could be thankful.

So, as you and your family prepare for your Thanksgiving together, look around you for those who may find themselves quite alone, or if you’re the one alone, find some other, similar folks and you all get together.  Thanksgiving is one holiday that always tastes best when it’s shared!

Annie Acorn

A Tired Older Woman: Loses Weight and Keeps It Off! by Annie Acorn

Also available in print on iTunes and for Nook and Kobo.

Murder With My Darling (Bonnie Lou Mysteries) by Annie Acorn

NOTE: Author is NOT responsible for anything the main character says!

Also available in print on iTunes and for Nook and Kobo.

Annie Acorn’s 2013 Christmas Treasury (Annie Acorn’s Christmas Anthologies)  edited and stories by Annie Acorn

Also available in print on iTunes and for Nook and Kobo.

Posted in Thanksgiving | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Want To Be A Successful Author

A Clue for Adrianna (Captain’s Point Stories) The first novel in the Captain’s Point series.  A romantic women’s fiction/family saga/chicklit novel written by Annie Acorn & Juliette Hill writing as Charlotte Kent.

Also available in print on iTunes and for Nook and Kobo.

A Man for Susan (Captain’s Point Stories) The second novel in the Captain’s Point series.  A romantic women’s fiction/family saga/chicklit novel written by Annie Acorn & Juliette Hill writing as Charlotte Kent.

Also available in print on iTunes and for Nook and Kobo.

Chocolate Can Kill (Emily Harris Mysteries) a full-length, cozy mystery by Annie Acorn.

Also available in print on iTunes and for Nook and Kobo.

Once again, NaNoWriMo – National Novel Writing Month – has arrived.  Everywhere I look I see aspiring writers and accomplished authors committing to writing their hearts out in an effort to attain the Holy Grail of the written word – a completed novel.

Some will zoom across the finish line in what for them is a record time.  Others will start, and the beginnings of a work in progress that shows promise will end up in a drawer.  Sadly, many with real dreams and genuine talent will never even get started.

Many decades ago, I picked up my first pencil and applied it to a piece of paper, at first able to create nothing more than unrelated marks on the page.  Then my great-aunt showed me how to guide my efforts and produce an O, followed by a T and then by an I.

Gradually, the letters became words, the words became sentences, and the sentences were discovered by me to have taken up residence between the covers of books.  As I learned to read, I memorized, finally spending hours copying my favorite stories onto clean pages of my own, like a mini female version of a long ago monk.  Soon, though, this exercise no longer satisfied for obvious reasons.

I wished to write a story of my own, and, like you, I had to learn how to do it.  For more decades than I’m going to share, I have made my living from written words that were committed to the page – first from my pen, then on a typewriter and, eventually, through a keyboard.

I have written advertising copy, marketing tools, training documents, survey instruments, grant requests, insurance reports, business plans, magazine articles, contracts, newspaper columns, and government agency reports that would finally make their way, all or in part, to Congress.

Along the way, I became a professional user of Track Changes as I became accomplished at editing technical, nonfiction and fictional works – this necessitated by the need for my own writing to become the best it could be, so that I could successfully write the fiction that I loved to read.

Over time, I have written short pieces, short stories, memoirs, novelettes, novellas and novels – all of them widely read, evidenced by the money I have received for them.

I have also used my writing skills in one form or another, while managing all six of the businesses I have owned.  Make no mistake about it.  A successful author is by definition a business owner, especially in today’s publishing world.

In an effort to better market my own work, I embraced social media, especially Twitter where, much to my surprise, my followers soon numbered in the thousands – many of them listing aspiring writer in their bio.  Gradually, I began receiving requests for everything from one small tip to editorial input on completed manuscripts.

Being only one person, I sought to stem the tide by tweeting out a few tried and true writing tips.  Soon my followers – God bless them each and every one! – were asking for even more.  Now I have decided to write occasional posts aimed at passing on what one lone author has learned over a lifetime.

Do I know everything that there is to know about writing?  Absolutely not!  No one does.  Each and every day I learn something new – often from a beginning writer who has reviewed the processes involved with a fresh eye.  Hopefully, you will find what I intend to offer over the coming months useful, whether you are still aspiring or already accomplished.  After all, none of us knows everything, right?

Want to be a successful author?

The first step along your road to success, as trite as it sounds, is to read, read and read some more, and if you’re an already accomplished author, it never hurts to go back and read again.  Before you can become a writer, you must know who you are as a reader.  Then and only then will you have some sense of the type of story you will enjoy writing.  This is important because, if you aren’t passionate about your work in progress, then no one else will be – not now, not ever.

What kinds of books appeal to you – mysteries, science fiction, romances, or nonfiction?  What is it that draws you to this genre over that one?  Is it the puzzle, imaginative details, or inherent suspense?  Whatever has drawn you to a particular type of book, be sure to incorporate it into your own work in a balanced way as you begin writing – just don’t hit your readers over the head with it.

Ask yourself which books that you’ve read are you keeping and which ones have you passed on to others?  At this point you should have a fair idea of the genre(s) you prefer to read and for which you could be passionate about writing.

Now go back and reread some of your favorites.  How did the greats do it?  Why did they choose to use this word and not that one?  How did they structure their book as they introduced key components?   Can you identify how they showed you as opposed to telling you what was going on?  What made their characters memorable and three dimensional as opposed to flat on the page?

Learn to read as if you’re taking a course, and you’ll end up way ahead of the pack.  Now, don’t just sit there.  Get started!

In a couple of weeks, I will begin to outline for you exactly what will be required of you as you journey towards fulfilling your goal of becoming a successful author.  Don’t waste your time, if you aren’t committed enough to stand firm in the face of these insights!

Becoming a successful author isn’t easy, but then those things that are worthwhile to achieve rarely are.  There will, though, be a whole string of us lined up to greet you at the finish line.

Best wishes

Annie Acorn

A Tired Older Woman: Loses Weight and Keeps It Off! by Annie Acorn

Also available in print on iTunes and for Nook and Kobo.

Murder With My Darling (Bonnie Lou Mysteries) by Annie Acorn

NOTE: Author is NOT responsible for anything the main character says!

Also available in print on iTunes and for Nook and Kobo.

Annie Acorn’s 2013 Christmas Treasury (Annie Acorn’s Christmas Anthologies) edited and stories by Annie Acorn

Also available in print on iTunes and for Nook and Kobo.

Posted in Writing Success | Tagged , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Heading South Again

A Clue for Adrianna (Captain’s Point Stories) The first novel in the Captain’s Point series.  A romantic women’s fiction/family saga/chicklit novel written by Annie Acorn & Juliette Hill writing as Charlotte Kent.

Also available in print on iTunes and for Nook and Kobo.

A Man for Susan (Captain’s Point Stories) The second novel in the Captain’s Point series.  A romantic women’s fiction/family saga/chicklit novel written by Annie Acorn & Juliette Hill writing as Charlotte Kent.

Also available in print on iTunes and for Nook and Kobo.

Chocolate Can Kill (Emily Harris Mysteries) a full-length, cozy mystery by Annie Acorn

Also available in print on iTunes and for Nook and Kobo.

Once again, I find myself heading south to Birmingham, Alabama to visit with Son #1 and author Peggy Teel (@peggyteel).  It’s 2:40 in the afternoon, and to say that it’s already been a long day would be one of the World’s Greatest Understatements.  It’s been a long week, and in some ways, a long month.  There are those who would allow me a long year.

With a sigh, I drop into a semi-comfortable café chair situated in a balcony area that overlooks my departure gate and affords me a clear view across the runways that stretch beyond the floor-to-ceiling windows across the open space below.

To get here, I have already survived cleaning my condo, so that it will receive me in style upon my return.  I have survived the first hair cut by a new stylist, having been forced to make a change after ten years with my previous one – a woman who refused to have absolutely necessary cataract surgery and still believed that I would pay her top dollar for the worst haircuts in the world.  I have survived the discovery that while it would be in the fifties and sixties in the D.C. area during my absence, it would be in the seventies in Birmingham during my visit, thus denying me the simple pleasure of short-sleeve sweater weather.

I have survived the awkward moment when I realized I own fewer outfits than I need that fall in the nebulous category between business casual and acceptable for wear only in private, this when I will be staying with Peggy, who is a true southern lady in all the best ways and, therefore, is never seen in anything that isn’t perfect for whatever occasion and who never sports a hair out of place.

I have survived the realization that even though I barely own any appropriate clothes, I still need to take four pairs of shoes to go with them, as well as the depressing fact that I really needed the assistance of a 6’4” alpha male if I were to have any chance of closing my suitcase.  (“Where are Chase, Jack and Larry when I need them?” asks the @CharlotteKent20 side of me.)

I have survived the fact that no one could drive me to the airport until my elderly neighbor and her jewel of a sister-in-law offered to fill in the breach, the only problem being that I would have to be left at the airport a full three hours prior to my flight’s takeoff, since 92-year-old Mom had to be picked up in a timely fashion from Senior Care.

I have survived the buses that refused to drop below 25 miles per hour in the lanes between the passenger drop-off point and the outdoor check-in gate, this despite the signs clearly stating that, as a pedestrian, I had the right of way.  I have survived the dreaded security check that last time took me an hour due to a Code Orange terrorism alert and this time took me only five minutes, even though the government that’s housed only a few miles along the road is about to shut down.

I will survive the three hour wait time before boarding, probably in much the same way that I already have – by writing.  Love’s Journey, Book #3 in my romantic women’s fiction/family saga Captain’s Point series is already calling to me, and I will satisfy its needs for my attention just as soon as I finish writing to you.

And then, a warm, friendly voice filled with the rich cadence that can only come from a Deep South accent will call me, and I will board.  My footsteps will lighten, my heartbeat will slow, and I may embarrass myself for a moment by doing a happy dance in the plane’s aisle before taking my seat.

Because at the end of the day, at the end of the week, at the end of the month and, yes, even at the end of what has been a long year filled with hard work, I will be heading towards Son #1, the best hostess I know, and the place that still feels like home!

Annie Acorn

A Tired Older Woman: Loses Weight and Keeps It Off! by Annie Acorn

Also available in print on iTunes and for Nook and Kobo.

Murder With My Darling (Bonnie Lou Mysteries) by Annie Acorn

NOTE: Author is NOT responsible for anything the main character says!

Also available in print on iTunes and for Nook and Kobo.

When to Remain Silent (Annie Acorn’s Kindle Short Mysteries) by Annie Acorn

Also available for NOOK!

A Stranger Comes to Town (Annie Acorn’s Kindle Short Mysteries) by Annie Acorn

Also available for NOOK!

The Young Executive (Annie Acorn’s Kindle Short Mysteries) by Annie Acorn

Also available for NOOK!

Posted in travel | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Answers To Eleven Key Questions

A Clue for Adrianna (Captain’s Point Stories) The first novel in the Captain’s Point series.  A romantic women’s fiction/family saga/chicklit novel written by Annie Acorn & Juliette Hill writing as Charlotte Kent.

Also available in print on iTunes and for Nook and Kobo.

A Man for Susan (Captain’s Point Stories) The second novel in the Captain’s Point series.  A romantic women’s fiction/family saga/chicklit novel written by Annie Acorn & Juliette Hill writing as Charlotte Kent.

Also available in print on iTunes and for Nook and Kobo.

Chocolate Can Kill (Emily Harris Mysteries) a full-length, cozy mystery by Annie Acorn

Also available in print on iTunes and for Nook and Kobo.

Many of you already know that @JulietteHill1 and I collaborate as @CharlotteKent20 in the writing of the Captain’s Point romantic women’s fiction, family saga series.  In September of 2013, the two of us were each honored by receiving invitations from Rosie Amber and Stephanie Hurt to do an interview for the #RomancingSeptember 2013 blog tour.

Being a reasonably controlled and contained individual, Juliette kept her answers short and to the point, thereby delivering a blog entry that was appropriately long.  Intrigued by all eleven questions asked, the answers I provided were much more in depth and more thoroughly reflected my thoughts, feelings and ingrained habits.

Rosie (God Bless Her!) dealt beautifully with the overflow, trimming my replies down to the basic nuts and bolts.  Both interviews were posted, and the response pleased Juliette and me immensely.

Since then, though, Juliette has repeatedly expressed her desire that I publish my responses in full, so that other writers/authors would have the benefit of what she claims are helpful reams of information and opinion, without which the literary world will have trouble existing. 

So, in response to this popular demand of one, you will find below the completely unabridged version of my responses to the #RomancingSeptember blog tour questions that were asked of me.

My hope is that, whether you are a multi-published author, possible collaborative partner, hopeful writer or interested reader, you will find this expanded version interesting and helpful.

I should probably add a disclaimer stating that my opinions do not necessarily agree with those of the other authors whose works are published by Annie Acorn Publishing LLC, although I would lay money on a table in Vegas stating that they probably do. 

Reference: A Man for Susan (See Above)

Rosie –

1) Hi Annie, yesterday we met one half of the writing name Charlotte Kent, today we are welcoming you to the blog, please tell everyone how you came to join with Juliette to form Charlotte Kent.

We at Annie Acorn Publishing LLC are very lucky to have Juliette Hill as one of our authors, her specialty being the romance genre.  On January 10, 2013, she and I were discussing how best to organize her efforts during the coming year, and I suggested she attempt a romance series.

In an effort to inspire her, I outlined the basis for a mystery series that I had carried around in my mind for over twenty years.  The series was supposed to be set in a Victorian home in a Midwestern small town with a blonde-haired, blue-eyed heroine, and I thought the basic premise would work just as well for a romance series.

The more I talked, the more excited I got about the project.  In the end, we decided to collaborate.  I committed to writing 1000 forward moving words per day on the current Captain’s Point work in progress, I would then phone Juliette, read the words to her, revise/edit per her input on the spot and so forth.  She would also be primarily responsible for all copyediting and public relations.

For the initial, set-up book, Juliette would provide descriptive passages, write the letters we felt would be needed in the text and make other contributions, including such necessary writerly things as setting up @CharlotteKent20, writing the press release and arranging blog tours, etc.  This worked well, since by definition the initial book could only handle one basic story line that would be wrapped in the necessary introduction to the town of Captain’s Point and many of its primary residents.

The minute I began writing, I knew we were in trouble, because Adrianna refused to be blonde and blue-eyed, demanding to be dark-haired and dark-eyed, was on her way to the eastern shore of Maryland and had bonded with a fellow passenger on the plane, who Juliette and I knew nothing about.  The house had morphed considerably and contained more characters we had not envisioned.  In the end, Juliette and I agreed it would be best if we merely went with the flow, since we could hardly do otherwise.

2) A Man for Susan is the second book in the “Captain’s Point” series, how many books are planned for the series?

The simple answer to this question is who knows?

As I was working on A Clue for Adrianna, text for other books in the series kept coming to me, inevitably at 2:00 a.m. in the morning.  I would dutifully sacrifice my sleep, get up and record these word jewels that eventually morphed into what Juliette and I named as the main storylines for A Man for Susan and two other books we titled Love’s Surprise and I Love You, Baby!

By the time A Clue for Adrianna was completed, I had already written over 10,000 words of A Man for Susan, over 5,000 words of Love’s Surprise, and the entire Adrianna storyline for I Love You, Baby!  Additionally, I had identified a fourth storyline pertaining to Susan’s love interest that I knew for sure would be appearing in book #8 in the series, although I couldn’t for the life of me have told you why.  I should point out here that Juliette was, as always, kind and patient with me throughout and managed to keep any thoughts she may have had in regards to my overall sanity to herself.

Then we completed A Man for Susan, and I began serious work on Love’s Surprise.  We now had a fairly large cast of characters, all of whom our readers have indicated they want to know more about as they follow their lives/romances forward.  Juliette and I had originally envisioned Love’s Surprise as completing the arch of a third couple’s relationship over a period of months, but once again, the characters had other ideas, particularly the newly married ones.

A few chapters into the work, I contacted Juliette and advised her that I had no problem writing the book we had intended, but it would run to approximately 160,000 words.  Being a reasonable person, Juliette suggested that we divide the work into two volumes, the first one – what will now be the third volume in the series – being titled Love’s Journey with Love’s Surprise now filling the fourth book position and I Love You, Baby! being the fifth.  Oddly, I continued to see the additional storyline about Susan’s love interest as appearing in book #8.

I have already suggested to Juliette that we may have a need for another book to go between Love’s Surprise and I Love You, Baby!, and she has agreed, although I’m concerned that she may just be humoring me in an effort to keep me from losing it altogether.  We have a tentative title of Love’s Second Chance.  Yes, the additional storyline will still appear in book #8, although I can’t tell you why.

3) In this book Adrianna sets out to find a man for her friend, that’s quite a controversial issue, how long did it take for you both to agree on the plot?

Two seconds.

Frankly, we didn’t have much choice in the matter.  Adrianna had set her mind on doing so, it was completely in line with her character, and way down deep inside, Susan wanted a man for herself anyway.  It appeared to be win/win/win, so we went with it.

4) When you share writing a book, do each of you have a special role?

Yes, but I would point out that when you’re doing a series the way we are, it morphs.  I outlined our roles for the A Clue for Adrianna in my answer to #1, but as the series has progressed, I have continued to do the basic writing for the primary storyline, while Juliette has taken on responsibility for secondary storylines (Arthur and Edwina in A Man for Susan) and did the initial write through on our soon to be released Captain’s Point Christmas short, A Christmas Kiss.  It is quite possible that in a future book/story our roles will be reversed.

Other series writers have worked quite differently, though.  For instance, the writing cousins who worked collaboratively under the pseudonym of Ellery Queen divided in another way.  One wrote the basic storyline almost like a screenplay, and the other filled in the descriptions and moved the characters from here to there as the story progressed, if memory serves me correctly.

5) I’m glad you have worked humour into you book.  I like a book that makes me laugh.  Many people find writing humour extremely hard, does it come easilyy to you both? Or are you like a pair of comediennes where one of you is the straight man?

Over the years, I have developed a fair reputation as a humorist, although it is not something that I actively intended to do.  Truthfully, I was not aware that there was a fair amount of humor in A Clue for Adrianna until I read the whole book from start to finish, once the writing was completed.  In point of fact, the chapter where Adrianna digs up the bottle that contains locks of hair is quite funny, and I surprised myself by laughing out loud when I reread it.

In A Man for Susan, humor is even more evident, especially in the Chase and Adrianna storyline, but think about it.  Here we have a young, newly married couple on their honeymoon, who are bubbling over with happiness.  They are both intelligent, fun loving people, and Chase is relaxed and free of a heavy burden he has carried for years.  Chapter three set the stage for this storyline going forward to be lighthearted and fun.  Chase and Larry will certainly continue to banter with one another throughout the series as lifelong friends do and have already included Jack in their inner circle.  Susan is probably right.  Part of them will never grow up.

On the other hand, though, I don’t think you can force humor.  It has to happen naturally as it would in everyday situations.  Good humor also relies on very clean copy and excellent timing.

Juliette claims she has no sense of humor at all, but I disagree.

6) How steamy is the romance in this book? What age range have you marketed the book at?

Captain’s Point Stories is not an erotica series.  With the advent of A Man for Susan, though, we now have a young, married couple who are certainly going to be spending a good bit of their honeymoon in bed.  By Love’s Journey we have two such couples, and the numbers will surely grow as the series continues.

Readers can expect situations in which lovemaking between consenting adults begins to develop, whereupon there will be a brief fade, followed by either a humorous or what Juliette and I hope is a deeply moving moment.  We are marketing the series as General Adult.  As for a rendition of explicit details, knowledgeable readers can let their imaginations fly in whatever directions they wish.  This is in line with the overall offerings presented by Annie Acorn Publishing LLC as well.

7) Have you heard of the new marketing bracket for books N/A (New Adult) do you think there was a need for it?

I have heard of it, certainly.  I would suppose that, for those who use this nomenclature to search for titles they believe will be more to their liking, there is a perceived need.  The problem with new marketing brackets is that they tend to be devised by authors and the reality is that book sellers, such as Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo and iTunes, don’t tend to offer the categories as choices to those of us who are uploading content onto their sites.  Additionally, these ‘Big Four’ venues vary widely as to the categories they do offer.

8) You’ve published your books through your own company “Annie Acorn Publishing” do you specialize in certain genres?

We currently have offerings available from a number of authors in the romance, mystery, nonfiction (health, weight loss and finance), anthology, children’s literature and Christian genres, although it is not our intention to limit ourselves to just these.  For instance, we are currently working towards epublication of a well-received book of poems titled Know Alabama, authored by award-winning poet Peggy Teel, for whom we have already published a number of works including her mystery Niki Knows the Dirt written as Denise Hays and her Christian inspirational God and Grandma written under her own name.  A complete listing of our publications as they stand at the time of an individual book’s launch appears in the back of each book.

9) You’re a very busy woman, how long did it take to write and then edit “A Man for Susan”? Could you advise a working time ratio for writers from starting writing to publication?

Now, this is a trick question.  As previously stated, I had unintentionally written 10,000 words of A Man for Susan by the time A Clue for Adrianna was ready for publication.  A Man for Susan comes in at just over 80,000 words, and it was published two months after A Clue for Adrianna.

On the other hand, I worked on my cozy mystery, Chocolate Can Kill, on and off for over twenty years – occasionally tossing it aside as worthless for as many as five years.  Eventually, it became a Malice Domestic Contest finalist under another title and achieved a sales ranking of 12 on the Barnes and Noble website approximately ten weeks after its publication.  Hopefully, this is a sign that I got it right in the end.

Is Chocolate Can Kill a better book than A Man for Susan?  Am I more proud of the former than the latter?  In point of fact, both of them are well-written and edited and provide good entertainment to my readership, based on their reader feedback.  It took me a long time to be satisfied with Chocolate Can Kill because I had to become a good editor in order to become a good writer.  On the other hand, I don’t believe I will ever be any more satisfied as to my having my achieved my goal as an author than I am with both Susan’s love story in A Man for Susan and Chase and Adrianna’s storyline in I Love You, Baby!

Any committed author can write a full-length book.  You simply state that you will write a set amount of forward words per day on the manuscript and follow through on this commitment until you have completed the story.  The trick is for the story to say something that will capture readers’ imaginations.

From my perspective, there are three things that contribute heavily to success in this area:

1).  Write about both what you know and are passionate about

2).  Edit well, and

3).  Always, always, always listen to your characters.

I can’t tell you how many times a writer has come to me completely blocked, and all I had to do to help them move forward was show them where they took over the story and forced their character(s) to do something that was completely against who they were.

I will add two more pieces of advice that I have tweeted out as @Annie_Acorn.  One, the minute you begin to write your character’s dialogue for them, you have killed your character.  Two, you write with your heart and your gut.  You edit with your mind.  The minute you begin to rewrite with your mind as part of what should be the editing process, you destroy the heart and soul of your work.  Think about it…

10) Can you tell fans the title of the next book in the series and its estimated publication date? (I’m hoping there is one!)

Juliette and I are both confident at this point that Love’s Journey will be the third full-length volume in the Captain’s Point Stories series.  The writing on this book is about half finished.  We anticipate publication will occur sometime during the fall of 2013.  The cover has already been designed by @Angel_Nichols, who designs all of Annie Acorn Publishing LLC’s books, and approved.

I will give your readers a sneak preview by confirming that, yes, Kate Sinclair will return to Captain’s Point and will be the center of the new storyline.  The man she is pursuing?  Now, that would be telling.  Suffice it to say that it is someone readers of A Clue for Adrianna and A Man for Susan will have already met.

Stephanie –

Annie, here is my part of the blog tour. Rosie is doing her interview part and my part is to get to know what the author thinks. The question that I am asking is simple. What’s your biggest challenge writing romance in today’s society?

What an interesting question!  From my perspective, the biggest challenge isn’t in the writing of the romance.  I imagine writing a quality romance that will spark a readers’ imagination is much the same today as it was for Jane Austen or Georgette Heyer – two of the early greats.  One could make a case that there are more subgenres today, ranging from sweet to erotica, but once you’ve identified your genre, then all you have to do as an author is stay true to your choice and your readers’ expectations.  Oh, and write a really great story!

The real challenge for romance writers today is the marketing.  Major outlets for romances such as Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo and iTunes vary widely in the categories they offer to indies and publishers such as Annie Acorn Publishing LLC.  This can mean that while you as an author are secure in how you would categorize your work, it may prove to be difficult to denote this to possible readers as they search for your masterpiece on these venues’ websites.

Two other marketing challenges are also making it much harder to achieve real success with a romance, particularly a stand alone volume as opposed to a sequential work in a series.

The first is the sheer number of romances that are now available in the marketplace.  Here’s an example, when I published my cozy mystery Chocolate Can Kill, if you searched under Nook books/mysteries/women’s sleuths on the Barnes and Noble website, you would have found approximately 190 pages of volumes from which to choose.  When A Man for Susan was published as a romance just a little over a year later, a similar search would have provided a possible reader with over 1200 pages of volumes from which to choose.  The pages for Chocolate Can Kill had risen to 236.  The mystery genre is not tiny, but the romance genre is HUGE!

The second is the advent of free books for ereaders.  I have several friends who read romances almost exclusively.  They have individually shared with me that our Captain’s Point Stories romances are the ONLY ONES they have paid for since the advent of free offerings, and they did so only because they knew me personally.  True, they tell me, these free books often include erotica they don’t want, bad edits, poor storylines and fewer total pages, but they are willing to sort through the chaff to reach the wheat when the books are free.

As an author, I am deeply concerned about the trend towards free books.  Because I was eating, sleeping, indeed living in Captain’s Point in my head while writing A Man for Susan, Juliette and I were able to bring it to publication in a little over two months, thanks to her additions to the text and copyediting along as I wrote.  Still, even though I was running on 3-4 hours sleep per night much of time, it took the two of us a fair amount of time working all out in multiple directions to bring a quality, full-length volume to publication.

Believe me, since we rely on our literary endeavors for our incomes, both Juliette and I want to be paid for our efforts, especially as we continue to produce more and more books in the series.  I expect this is the ultimate goal of most of the authors who are offering their books for free as well.  I suspect that many of them see ‘free’ as the only way to get their name known.

In point of fact, I have read many blog posts written amongst my 10,000+ Twitter followers, most of whom are authors, in which the writers state that their sales had in fact been growing slowly, but steadily.  Then they offered their book for free and a gazillion copies were downloaded to folks who were by definition potential purchasers.  As soon as they returned to charging for the book, their sales dropped to their former level and again continued to climb slowly, but steadily – the only problem being that they had now lost a gazillion potential purchasers and the time during which the book was offered for free from that continuing growth.

I like to point out at times like these that the turtle did win the race over the hare, and there are other ways to get your name out there – primarily Twitter, Goodreads, Facebook and wonderful blogs like Rosie’s and yours.  Yes, such aspects of an author’s work are not as exciting as others, but once you have invested the time and built your readership base, if you offer your readers a consistent level of quality entertainment going forward, your efforts will be continuously rewarded over the long term.

In closing –

I wish to thank Rosie Amber and Stephanie Hurt once again for including my thoughts in the #RomancingSeptember 2013 blog tour and for all of the hard work that went into the production of this multiple time zone, across the Great Pond endeavor.  Who knows?  The next Jane Austen or Georgette Heyer may have been inspired, mentored and/or taught something new as a result of their efforts.

As always, I welcome your comments because it is you who inspire me.  If you’re an author, teach me something new.  I’ll be grateful.  If you are a writer, who is still learning our craft, I hope you have learned something helpful.  If you are a reader, then I say, “Thank you!”  After all, without readers, authors would cease to exist.

Annie Acorn

A Tired Older Woman: Loses Weight and Keeps It Off! by Annie Acorn

Also available in print on iTunes and for Nook and Kobo.

Murder With My Darling (Bonnie Lou Mysteries) by Annie Acorn

NOTE: Author is NOT responsible for anything the main character says!

Also available in print on iTunes and for Nook and Kobo.

 

Posted in #RomancingSeptember | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Three Miracles

A Clue for Adrianna (Captain’s Point Stories) The first novel in the Captain’s Point series.  A romantic women’s fiction/family saga/chicklit novel written by Annie Acorn & Juliette Hill writing as Charlotte Kent.

Also available in print and on Nook and Kobo!

A Man for Susan (Captain’s Point Stories) The second novel in the Captain’s Point Series.  A romantic women’s fiction/family saga/chicklit novel written by Annie Acorn & Juliette Hill writing as Charlotte Kent.

Also available in print and for Nook and Kobo!

Chocolate Can Kill (Emily Harris Mysteries) a full-length cozy mystery by Annie Acorn.

Also available in print and for Nook and Kobo!

As I do every June, this past weekend I flew from the D.C. area to my old stomping grounds in Birmingham, Alabama, to visit Son #1 and to meet with Peggy Teel, Angel Nichols and Sheila Lawrence of From Women’s Pens.  This particular trip is always planned around the Birmingham Area Writers’ Group’s summer writing retreat.  Spending serious time side-by-side with Angel (@Angel_Nichols) is an additional bonus because, in addition to being a very talented writer, she is a very accomplished, multi-degreed graphic cover designer and, as such, has the contract to exclusively design all the covers for books published by Annie Acorn Publishing LLC.

Sister #3 had graciously offered to drive me to BWI, and I managed to pack and be ready to go on time – a miracle of inefficiency producing a desired result, as those who know me well will attest.

Some time later, the second miracle presented itself at the outside check-in desk when my suitcase weighed in at less than Southwest’s fifty pound limit.  After all, as anyone who is anyone knows, a female author MUST travel with both books and shoes – not necessarily in that order – and these two items tend to weigh in – lots.

Boarding pass and ID in hand, I proceeded innocently to Security where I took my place in line.  Now, Baltimore isn’t exactly D.C., but it’s close enough to have its share of orange security alerts, so I stood and stood and stood some more.  The line was long enough to have earned a Disney theme park entrance at its end, but sadly there was only a stern-faced, older woman who thankfully did not attempt to crack a smile.  If she had, I swear, her face would have shattered right there in front of me from the strain.

One hour after having been dropped off at the curb, I finally made it through the screening machine, retrieved my life savings and computer full of important-to-me word docs., crammed my now swollen feet from having stood so long into my tennis shoes and plodded towards a fast food counter, where I purchased a banana and a bottled water for close to the same amount that I cough up every month or so in order to fill my compact car’s gas tank.

The special inflight earplugs that are a necessity when I fly having completely dropped from sight in all drugstores and groceries in the D.C. area, I then moved on to a newsstand, which appeared to have cornered the market on these vital items, and emptied my purse of an amount of money sufficient in size to have bought a large home in a third world country, in order to buy a box of said plugs that would take care of one round-trip in the air.

Finally arriving at my departure gate, my purse now substantially lighter, I discovered that all the computer seats, as I refer to them, were taken and pulled out my Kindle, so that I could spend my remaining minutes before boarding enjoying the delightful Heart Marks the Spot by Susan Jean Ricci.  Five stars to this one, folks.  It’s a jewel!  Not that I was surprised.  I adore her Dinosaurs and Cherry Stems.

Then the third miracle of the day occurred, somewhere to my left a microphone was turned on and the voice of a young man, whose mother had obviously raised him right and taught him to speak Southern well, announced that my flight was now ready to board. I handed over my boarding pass and breezed along the ramp onto the plane and into a whole different world.

“How are y’all today?” The pert flight attendant asked as we passed, the second attendant to her left greeting us with a welcoming smile that included her eyes – neither of their faces in any danger whatsoever of shattering.

I chose a window seat, slid Baby as I call my small travel computer under the seat in front of me with my now diminished purse, fastened my seat belt and prepared for takeoff, something I usually dread.  A few minutes later, the plane’s engines sprang to life, and we separated from the ramp, only to come to a stop a few feet away.

“Ladies and Gentlemen,” the voice of the captain came to us, his accent soft and slow.  “Some turkey has decided that we can’t leave without a new tow bar.  I’m going to give the guy a few seconds if that’s alright with y’all.”

“As long as they’ve fed and readied the squirrels,” I joked with the fragile looking, elderly woman from Trussville who was sitting beside me.

“And have given them a shot of Jack Daniels in their water dishes,” she added, knowingly – a twinkle in her eye, her accent the rich, lyrical song of a native of the area just southwest of Dothan.

In that second, I relaxed.  This flight, I now knew would be okay.  I already had one foot back home in the Deep South.

The needed tow bar having been located and stowed wherever such items are stored, we were cleared for takeoff, taxied smoothly along the runway and lifted gently skyward, gaining height and leveling off with an ease that inspired confidence.

The sky presented itself as a deep blue, here and there fluffy white clouds waved as we past, and my heart lifted even higher than the plane that was carrying me.  Passengers around me chatted gaily, laughter ruled, and a group of thirty teenagers, who had come to D.C. as guests of a rural Alabama electric cooperative of some sort, sang songs and entertained us from the back rows.

As often happens when southerners get together, a spontaneous party had morphed into full swing, and the two hour flight, complete with snacks and drinks, literally flew by.  (Sorry, y’all, but I couldn’t help myself on that verb choice – appropriate, don’t y’all think?)

The captain having insured that no one was inconvenienced by making up the initially lost time, we were brought down to earth with a soft landing that rivaled that given by a young mother laying her newborn in a cradle.

“We want to thank, y’all for coming with us today,” the Alabama crew who were getting off the plane, too, grinned at each of us as we took our leave.  “Y’all have a great stay in Birmingham.”

Peggy Teel (@peggyteel), a quintessential Southern lady and a hoot to boot, was waiting for me in the pickup lane and immediately headed us towards the nearest Jim & Nick’s, understanding completely the gnawing need within experienced by anyone who has spent a full year in the barren wasteland of the mid-Atlantic for a full plate of pulled pork barbecue with collard greens, homemade mac and cheese, and cheesy corn muffins on the side, please.

Replenished and refueled, I was then whisked to her beautiful home, where I knew I would be treated like a queen for the next four days.  Everywhere we went we were greeted by folks who smiled with their whole faces, a willingness to please and, of course, a large, ice-filled glass of sweet tea.

We stayed up late, drank wine, added to our number as first Angel and then Sheila joined us, shared innermost thoughts and feelings, laughed and cried.  We went to bed way later than any of us were used to and got up at the crack of dawn.  We ate huge meals, skipped others in the midst of intense bouts of creativity and snacked on fresh fruit, homemade snack mix, brownies, cookies and, of course, chocolate.  All of us left Peggy’s home relaxed, happy and content.

And then, Son #2 picked me up for a final breakfast together – you know the drill – eggs, bacon, ham, hash browns, grits, pancakes, sausage gravy and the biscuits you can only get in the South – all washed down with a VERY large glass of fresh-squeezed orange juice.  Finally, he rolled me out of his car and onto the curb, gently guiding me towards the outside check-in where a personable young man sent me an understanding smile filled with kindness.

“Enjoy your stay, ma’am?” the pleasant stranger asked, avoiding any mention of how much lighter my return suitcase was sans books brought for the ladies.  “Y’all be sure and come back now.”

Inside, I stood in security for ten minutes, the inspectors joking pleasantly with us soon-to-be-boarding passengers, even as they kept careful eyes on us.  I sit now at my flight’s gate, waiting to board.  This time dreading not the flight, but instead the walk along the ramp that I know will take me back to that other distant world.  The one so devoid of fully smiling faces, sweet tea and slow, languid drawls.

Happy travels, y’all!

Annie Acorn

A Tired Older Woman: Loses Weight and Keeps It Off! by Annie Acorn.

Also available in print and for Nook and Kobo!

Murder With My Darling (Bonnie Lou Mysteries) a romcom mystery by Annie Acorn.

Also available in print and for Nook and Kobo!

When to Remain Silent (Annie Acorn’s Kindle Short Mysteries) by Annie Acorn

Also available for Nook!

A Stranger Comes to Town (Annie Acorn’s Kindle Short Mysteries) by Annie Acorn

Also available for Nook!

The Young Executive (Annie Acorn’s Kindle Short Mysteries) by Annie Acorn

Also available for Nook!

 

Posted in South | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Now That Dad Is Gone

A Clue for Adrianna (Captain’s Point Stories) A romantic women’s fiction/family saga/chicklit novel written by Annie Acorn and Juliette Hill writing as Charlotte Kent

Also available in print and for Nook and Kobo!

A Man for Susan (Captain’s Point Stories) A romantic women’s fiction/family saga/chicklit novel written by Annie Acorn and Juliette Hill writing as Charlotte Kent

Chocolate Can Kill (Emily Harris Mysteries) a cozy mystery by Annie Acorn

Also available for NOOK!

Like most little girls in the fifties, I grew up knowing beyond a shadow of a doubt that my father was a hallowed being, due privileges of rank and respect far beyond those called for by the women who surrounded him.

An only child, his own father had succumbed to a heart attack when Dad was twelve.  My paternal grandmother and great-aunt, having been born and raised in Victorian England, immediately cast him in the role of man of the house.  My mother told me once that she knew she was in trouble when she found my great-aunt listening at the bottom of a staircase for the sound of my father’s first footstep of the day, because that was when the table would be set for the family’s breakfast.

In point of fact, Dad wasn’t a demanding person, quite the contrary.  He merely stated his preferences, and miraculously, the women who always surrounded him in life – mother, aunt, wife, daughters always made it so.  Hollywood would have cast him as a mild-mannered British vicar.  Tall, lean, with dark hair and eyes, he could be imposing in a suit, but he never used it to his advantage.

Everyone liked him.  He conversed easily with the butcher, the baker and the candlestick maker.  His shade tree mechanic worshiped him.  The Captain of the boat on which we rode as tourists to Ship Island off the coast of Mississippi said he’d never met anyone more interested in deep sea fishing – this about a man who didn’t even own a rod and reel.

As a young man, golf was his sport and provided income during the lean years of his high school days, when he made good money to help with household expenses caddying for others – the tables turning during his grad school tenure at Ohio State when a teenaged Jack Nicklaus caddied for him one fine day.

He studied hard and was awarded a full scholarship to Wabash College, where he majored in chemistry and earned a Phi Beta Kappa key.  Skipping the master’s program, he went straight to work towards a PhD at Ohio State, where a professor gave him a B+ solely because he didn’t believe anyone should receive straight A’s.

And then he married my mom and fathered four daughters…

I am the oldest of the four, and as far as I know, none of us was ever made to feel “less” because of our sex.  I was taken on my first college tour when I was six, it being assumed that a full education was in my future.  He took on the responsibility for teaching me French every Wednesday evening when I was nine, so that I would be ready to pass the language requirements. Years later, when our roles were almost reversed, he delighted in our watching together Maigret mysteries filmed in this language without using the subtitles, his memory still sharp.

Although not a trained musician himself, Dad loved classical music and bought season tickets each year to the symphony concerts held in our town.  Mother preferred a good theater excursion, so often I accompanied my father, dressed in my Sunday school finest, told as we left the house together each time that he hoped I would remember to act as nice as I looked because everyone could always strive to do better.  To this day, WETA classical radio plays throughout the day in my home, and the arts and music to which he introduced me run through my books, especially those written by me as Charlotte Kent in my Captain’s Point series.

Dad’s scientific papers were presented at international conferences and copies were ordered from behind the Iron Curtain when you could still hear the gates clanging shut.  He produced environmental impact studies for Nuclear Regulatory and testified when permissions to build nuclear power plants were being requested.  He flew in helicopters over the Mojave Desert and went down uranium mine shafts.    He wore a badge each day to the Oak Ridge National Labs that tracked the radiation to which he was being exposed – these badges proving years later that his work had indeed resulted in the cancers that would kill him.

He tutored high school students who didn’t have knowledgeable fathers of their own and welcomed interns each summer to work under him, including a president of Grambling State University, an historically black college, this man being himself a chemist.  When Dad agreed to drive to Louisiana and lecture during the turbulent civil rights era, his cohort and friend locked him in the Student Union building to keep him safe, although my father was never quite sure from whom, everyone having welcomed him warmly.

He was not able to ever successfully tutor me, completely unable to accept that his verbal offspring could not easily understand either chemistry or physics.  Years later, though, retired and sometimes bored, he read and reread Chocolate Can Kill, using his technical writing skills to help me make it the best manuscript it could be.

Woe to those who didn’t obey his rules, for the punishment he meted out was brutal.  “You will sit here until you can act like a lady,” he would say, and there you would sit on the couch next to him, knowing that you had disappointed.

How long would it take for one to be able to act this way?  One never knew as the minutes stretched.  Finally, he would ask, “Do you think that now you can do it?”

Struck mute, I would nod my head in the affirmative, slinking to my room in shame once released, hoping that if I would stay out of sight for a while my misconduct would be forgotten, and miraculously, when I would allow myself back into the world as I knew it, it always had been.

Father’s Day is now for me a little sad.  When you’ve had one of the best, their loss is felt all the more.

Now that Dad is gone, looking back at all the things he accomplished and all that he did, the real wonder to me is that, somehow, he managed to remain throughout the fifty plus years we had together the larger-than-life Daddy I revered so much as a little girl – untarnished and undiminished.

I love you, Dad!

Annie Acorn

A Tired Older Woman: Loses Weight and Keeps It Off! by Annie Acorn

Also available in print and for NOOK!

Murder With My Darling (Bonnie Lou Mysteries)

Also available in print and for NOOK!

 

Posted in Father's Day | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

After My Husband Died

A Clue for Adrianna (Captain’s Point Stories) A romantic women’s fiction novel written by Annie Acorn and Juliette Hill writing as Charlotte Kent

Also available in print and for Nook and Kobo!

Chocolate Can Kill (Emily Harris Mysteries) a cozy mystery by Annie Acorn

Also available in print, at Amazon UK and Smashwords, and for SonyReader, Kobo, and NOOK!

After my husband died, I was filled with a need to do two things – memorialize him in some way and find a way to make good come from the bad that had surrounded my losing him.

It took me a while, but one day I finally saw the elephant that had been standing in the room all along.  His memory would live on both in my heart and through the two sons that we had produced as a result of our love.  Additionally, I recognized there were plenty of small kindnesses that I could reach out and do in his honor, unbeknownst to the recipient of such random acts.

Now all that was left was the harder of my two needs.  How could I make good come of his death and my grief?

Fate has a way of catching us unawares and in ways that we least expect.  The year was 1994, and I was trying to refinance my house, interest rates having gone down.  One interminable wait followed another as I was passed along to the one person who could clear the way for my loan, and as I waited, I read through the Birmingham News until I reached the want ads.

Now understand, at the time I owned and managed a tri-state medical outsourcing business, and I was in the process of successfully flipping a five store retail chain.  The last thing I needed was a job, but when you have the soul of a writer, you will read anything.  And so, my eyes traveled down the columns of alphabetical listings until they landed on the one that read:

WANTED:  Family Services Counselor – Work with families as they deal with the loss of a loved one.

Here was my answer, I thought.  I would pay it forward.  I would provide some sort of purpose for my husband’s too young death by passing what I had learned onto others.

Five days later, I began working at an historic cemetery in a less than safe neighborhood.  Back before time, I had majored in history, and the life stories reflected in the burial books that recorded more than a century fascinated me.  Then I met with my first widow.

She was fifteen years younger than me with a five-year-old son clinging to her leg as she tried to pick out a grave for the man she had loved, who one minute had been alive and the next minute had been dead, struck down by a drunk driver.  We were different ages, different religions, and different ethnic backgrounds, but grief for a lost loved one united us.  Somewhere on the universal balance sheet opposite the huge black void left by my husband’s death a tiny positive check mark was etched.

Two months later, I added managing a cemetery to my already full work calendar, and as I worked with even more widows and helped them achieve healing, a few more checks on the plus side appeared.  Three months later, I took on five more cemeteries and funeral homes as a district manager, and a full row of checks appeared.

Each new family I counseled, each new widow who touched my life had their own story.  Slowly, these accumulated in a journal I kept until they numbered over 400 stories of love, loss and recovery.

One day I woke up and knew that, while the scales never would be balanced, my work at the cemeteries was completed.  Now, as an author, I am working on a book in which I’m weaving a number of these names-changed stories into a fictional umbrella in hopes that through them many others may be helped.

“I love Memorial Day,” the grounds manager at my first cemetery once told me.  “Everyone brings flowers, and the cemetery comes alive.”

I’ve spent much of my life in the Deep South where visiting the cemetery on Memorial Day remains a strong tradition.  Whether or not this is your tradition doesn’t matter.  You can still pause for a few minutes on this special day and remember those you have lost, touch base with them where they reside in your heart and keep their memories alive.

Best wishes to you, your friends and your families – those who are still with you and those who are already gone.  I know I’ll be spending a few minutes with each and every one of both kinds of mine.

Annie Acorn

A Tired Older Woman: Loses Weight and Keeps It Off! by Annie Acorn

Also available in print and for NOOK!

Murder With My Darling (Bonnie Lou Mysteries) a humorous mystery by Annie Acorn

Also available in print and for NOOK!

 

Posted in Memorial Day | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Oddest Dental Visit EVER

A Clue for Adrianna (Captain’s Point Stories) A romantic women’s fiction novel written by Annie Acorn and Juliette Hill writing as Charlotte Kent

Also available in print and for Nook and Kobo!

Chocolate Can Kill (Emily Harris Mysteries) A cozy mystery by Annie Acorn

Also available in print, at Amazon UK and Smashwords, and for SonyReader, Kobo, and NOOK!

The bad news not too many days ago was that I had to go to the dentist.  [A Tired Older Woman Goes to the Dentist]  The good news is that I survived and did not have to drive through snow, sleet and/or freezing rain to get there as originally had been predicted.

Barely had I been taken back and seated in the chair for my cleaning, when my dentist, Dr. Floss, who I LOVE, popped in to do the exam part that’s usually reserved for after the cleaning.  Having delivered a brief preamble, he popped his gloved fingers into my mouth and began rummaging around as he talked.

“Had he ever mentioned to me the poem that his college-aged son had written?” he asked.

“Uh-uh.”  I moved my head cautiously side to side to indicate a negative.

“Well, coincidentally, just the evening before he had reread his son’s wonderful poem and had once again found it to be way beyond good.”  Dr. Floss moved my tongue this way and that, checking for lost objects, I presumed, hoping against hope that he might find the Holy Grail, which everyone knows has completely disappeared.  “Would I be interested in reading said poem?”  He peered down at me.

Once again, I produced a series of guttural noises, somehow managing to indicate an answer in the affirmative.

“And are you still writing?”  Dr. Floss, who had been examining each tooth in my head with great care, now gave me a brief respite.

“Yes,” I uttered, my mouth now being cleared of extraneous debris.  “I’m launching a romantic women’s fiction novel titled A Clue for Adrianna on April 15th that will be followed by a second novel titled A Man for Susan on August 1st.”

Having chosen a particularly sharp looking tool, Dr. Floss once again bent to his work.  “A Man for Susan,” he repeated.  “Don’t you think someone like our Susan would be interested in a young, dashing dentist – dark haired with dark eyes?”

When, I wondered, had the main character in my WIP become ‘ours’?

Since the only two things I could see from my reclined position were Dr. Floss’s dark hair and eyes, set beside the horrified face of my dental hygienist, Ms. Brush, I didn’t have to use my degree in brain surgery to determine who he intended to be the role model for my next alpha male character.

“What a wonderful idea!” I exclaimed as soon as my mouth was free.  “Why hadn’t I thought of that?”

At which, Dr. Floss gave a small, deprecating shrug, his face taking on a look of total humility before he left Ms. Brush alone with me to do her duty.

A short while later, my now being all cleaned, polished and sparkling white, imagine my surprise when Dr. Floss once again popped into the small procedure room – a second meeting never previously having been on our agenda.  With amazing sleight of hand, he now grabbed my purse and headed with me in tow to the checkout counter.

Having placed my belongings on the high countertop, he proceeded to stage whisper into his surprised receptionist’s ear, “Keep her here.  She’s a writer!”

Then he disappeared into another small room from which soon emanated the sounds of a printer, emerging a minute later with his son’s poem in hand.  This, liking poetry, I gladly read and found to be quite beautiful – well constructed, stark and evocative.

“Has your son ever considered publishing his work?” I asked, at which Dr. Floss glowed.

My insurance having been filed and my next appointment having been made, Dr. Floss started to open the door to the waiting room for me, but then halted my progress as he leaned in my direction.

“Let’s not mention Susan to my wife,” he suggested in a real whisper.  “We’ll keep it between the two of us going forward – just our little secret.”

Pleased to have finally made my escape, I sat quietly in my car for a few minutes, reviewing this particular trip to the dentist.

On the plus side, Dr. Floss had been too absorbed in our conversation to notice the somewhat sensitive spot on tooth #14.  On the negative side, A Man for Susan would now require a complete rewrite, if it were to accommodate successfully a normally shy, dark-haired, dark-eyed, forty-something, dentally-inclined alpha male.  On balance, I had to admit, rewriting an entire full-length novel seemed a small price to pay for having saved tooth #14 from the drill.

As Ms. Brush would certainly say, don’t forget to brush and floss several times each day!  It really does keep the dentist away!

Annie Acorn

Murder With My Darling (Bonnie Lou Mysteries) by Annie Acorn

Also available in print and for NOOK!

A Tired Older Woman: Loses Weight and Keeps It Off! by Annie Acorn

Also available in print and for NOOK!

When to Remain Silent (Annie Acorn’s Kindle Short Mysteries) by Annie Acorn

Also available for NOOK!

 

Posted in Humor | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment