Sunday, November 29th, 2009

Guest Blogging Today – Dishin’ It Out

Grandma's Tombstone
I’ve got a guest blog post today over at Ginger Simpson’s Blog “Dishin’ it Out.”

Her theme for the month is “Thankfulness,” of course.

I talk a little about writing and genealogy and thanking “those who have gone before.”


Thursday, November 26th, 2009

It’s Not Just the Tryptophan, It’s the Carbs

Chemical Compound of Tryptophan - From WikipediaFrom Indiana Public Media’s “A Moment of Science:”

Tryptophan, commonly found in turkey, is an essential amino acid, meaning that the body cannot produce it and must get it from foods you eat. Tryptophan stimulates the production of serotonin, which is a chemical that helps keep people happy by calming anxieties, relieving depression, and promoting sleep.

But the tryptophan in a lot of foods competes with other amino acids to get into the brain. So you might actually feel more of tryptophan’s effect after eating a meal heavy in carbohydrates.

This is because carbs cause the body to secrete large amounts of insulin, which clears the bloodstream of most of the amino acids that compete with tryptophan. Thus, there’s more room for tryptophan in the brain and it ends up having a stronger effect. In addition, eating a large meal can stimulate gut hormones that cause a sleepy feeling unrelated to tryptophan.

This is the body’s way of ensuring that you’re still and quiet, so that it can better digest.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 24th, 2009

Appearance! Greenbelt Festival of Lights, December 5

I just got the word that I’ll be at the Greenbelt Festival of Lights, Arts and Craft Fair Saturday, December 5. A bunch of folks from the Maryland Writers Association will be there, talking about MWA, peddling our books, and answering all kinds of questions about writing and publishing. With luck, we’ll have time to do a short reading. We’re all planning on it.

If you’ll be in the Greenbelt, MD area on Saturday, why don’t you drop by? I’ll be there from 9 until noon (probably longer) but lots of folks will be out and about until 5 p.m. or so.

Here are the details:

Greenbelt Festival of Lights, Arts and Craft Fair
Greenbelt Community Center
15 Crescent Road
Saturday, December 5 and Sunday, December 6
9:30 – 5:00 p.m.

Tuesday, November 17th, 2009

Why Yes, Blood Soup is a Real Recipe

Cover of the Book Several people have asked me if Blood Soup is a real recipe.

Yes, it is–an old Polish recipe, in fact.

True: Just before I submitted the story to a publisher, I removed the recipe from the book. I’d included it at the end, just for fun, to give people an idea of what was actually being served in the book. However, I removed it on the advice of a fellow critique group member. Now, I sometimes wish I’d left it in.

For your personal edification, here’s the recipe:

Blood Soup


5-6 lb duck OR 3-5 lb spare ribs or pork loin ribs
Fowl trimmings, if available
1 gallon water
2 bay leaves
4 whole cloves
4 whole peppercorns
4 T flour (Add more if a thicker soup is desired.)
1 T sugar
2 T salt
2 T pepper
1/2 c vinegar
1 c sweet cream or whipping cream
Fresh Apples, Pears or both. (Peel, core and chop into pieces less than 1/2 inch.)
Dried fruit: 1/2 lb pitted prunes and 1/2 lb raisins
2 c duck or goose blood OR 1/2 c pig blood

(If you’re squeamish, 32 oz prune juice with pulp may be substituted for blood.)

1/2 tsp crushed marjoram


In a soup kettle, cover meat and foul trimmings with water and boil slowly 1-3 hours depending on the size and age of the duck. Skim off foam from top of soup. Place spices in cheese cloth bag and add to soup.

Boil slowly until meat is tender.

Remove meat and spice bag from soup. Reserve meat to be added back later. Take out 1 cup of boiling stock and set aside. Add fruit to soup. Boil until apples or pear are soft.

In a separate bowl, blend the flour, sugar, salt and pepper into 1/2 c of the blood until smooth.

Add cream to the flour mixture. Mixture should be a light paste.

Add the 1 c of hot soup stock and mix until smooth.

Add vinegar and blend.

While soup is still boiling, add flour mixture and remaining blood (or prune juice if no blood was used).

Stir constantly.

If a thicker soup is desired, add 1 c of pureed prunes.

Boil another 5-10 minutes. Meat may be returned to the soup.

Taste and adjust seasoning.

Allow to cool and place in refrigerator. Allow soup to stand overnight before serving.

Because of the raisins, prunes and fruit, the soup will be sweeter the next day.

Thursday, November 12th, 2009

Did You Know November 1 was National Author’s Day?

I didn’t! To boot: it was the 80th anniversary!

Let’s be fair: none of the many author/editor/agent Web sites I frequent mentioned the date. I hadn’t heard it advertised anywhere. Only by mere chance did I learn of it. Even Web searches turn up very little.

I did learn that National Authors’ Day was adopted by the General Federation of Women’s Clubs in 1929. (Note: but apparently the holiday has slipped under their radar, since I could find no mention of it on their Web site.)

In 1949 the US Department of Commerce awarded the observance a place on its list of special days, making it official.

The resolution states: “by celebrating an Authors’ Day as a nation, we would not only show patriotism, loyalty, and appreciation of the men and women who have made American literature possible, but would also encourage and inspire others to give of themselves in making a better America…”

(This information from Jane Sutton on her Web site, Jane’s Ride. –Thanks, Jane!)

If you missed it, it’s not too late to celebrate!

Here are some ideas:

  • Buy a new book! How about mine? Here’s a link to Blood Soup.  😉


  • Have a book party! Ask everyone to bring their favorite and read a few passages from it. (Better yet: ask people to read from things they’ve written… a poem, a short story, a novel, even a term paper.)

  • Swap books with someone (or ask your guests to bring some to swap). This is a great way to learn about new authors and take a chance on reading genres you might not have picked up otherwise.

  • Get kids involved by reading with them. I recommend anything by Edith Nesbit and Edward Eager and (almost anything) by Shel Silverstein.

  • Email your favorite author.

  • Write something yourself!


    and, my favorite, from Janette Rallison’s blog:

    • Yes, pull out your Mark Twain centerpieces, your Jane Austen wreathes, and those life-size twinkly Bronte Sisters for the yard. Then let’s all sing a few Thank-goodness-we’re-not-in-school-anymore-so-we-don’t-have-to-read-Hemingway-again carols.

Wednesday, November 11th, 2009

Thank You, Veterans…Thank You, Current Service Men and Women

Orvalle Harmon

Your hard work, service, and dedication are neither forgotten, nor overlooked.

My family has a strong history of military service: grandfathers on both my mother’s and father’s side of the family and more uncles than I can count have served. Some have given their lives in service, some have dedicated their lives to serving.

Pictured is my grandfather, Orvalle Harmon.

I often wonder, not just on days of remembrance, what life would have been like had they not made the choice to enlist. I know it wouldn’t be as good as it is.

To all U.S. Military personnel: Thank You.


From the Department of Veteran’s Affairs Web site, History of Veteran’s Day:

The United States Congress officially recognized the end of World War I when it passed a concurrent resolution on June 4, 1926, with these words:

Whereas the 11th of November 1918, marked the cessation of the most destructive, sanguinary, and far reaching war in human annals and the resumption by the people of the United States of peaceful relations with other nations, which we hope may never again be severed, and

Whereas it is fitting that the recurring anniversary of this date should be commemorated with thanksgiving and prayer and exercises designed to perpetuate peace through good will and mutual understanding between nations; and

Whereas the legislatures of twenty-seven of our States have already declared November 11 to be a legal holiday: Therefore be it Resolved by the Senate (the House of Representatives concurring), that the President of the United States is requested to issue a proclamation calling upon the officials to display the flag of the United States on all Government buildings on November 11 and inviting the people of the United States to observe the day in schools and churches, or other suitable places, with appropriate ceremonies of friendly relations with all other peoples.

Thursday, November 5th, 2009

Are you Blind? Let’s Talk e-books…

Depending on your point of view, my title might have been a little inflammatory. I only meant to grab your attention. On the other hand, if you really are blind, I do want to hear from you. I want to know how you feel about e-books.

This is a tad long, so please bear with me…

In my day job, one of the hats I wear is “Section 508 Coordinator.” Very briefly, Section 508 is a part of the Rehabilitation Act which requires making the Web accessible to people with handicaps. (Right now, it only applies to federal agencies…but I can see it being expanded in the future.) The law’s been around for quite a while, but lacked enforcement.

When President Clinton was in office; however, he gave the law teeth. The legislation he signed allowed anyone to sue a government agency for not making accessible products.

For the last several days, I’ve been attending a Section 508 Conference where there’s been lots of discussion about new technologies, and ways and means to make existing technology accessible. Today was the vendor dog and pony show.

What’s exciting is that many of these technologies can be useful for non-disabled folk, too. For instance, there is software (and I’m not going to name names, because I don’t want to make an advertisement) which will read aloud all the words on the computer screen. It’s meant for use by the blind (or folks with “low vision”). But couldn’t the elderly benefit from it, too? Or anyone, for that matter, who finds reading the written word difficult.

Another company makes similar software, but it highlights the word on the screen as it’s being read. Couldn’t it be used to teach children to read? Or persons for whom English is a second language? In fact, I could see myself using it, say, if I wanted to tidy up my desk and “read” at the same time.

Interestingly, I learned today from a vendor that Web sites, software, hardware, etc. which conform to 508 standards usually garner a market share of use 20 – 40% higher than those who don’t–mostly because they’re reaching a segment of the market that is largely ignored by others.

Wow: 20 – 40%.

With that thought on my mind, I got to wondering about e-book sales to the blind. With assistive technology (AT), e-books are very accessible. (And believe me, the voices of the AT readers are a jillion times better than the craptastic voices included in some bundled or freebie software, making the narrations pleasant to listen to.)

I had the opportunity to chat with several blind and low-vision folks today at the conference. What I wanted to know was: have they found a much larger selection of e-books lately? And, have they been purchasing more?

Overwhelmingly, the few folk I chatted with usually purchased audio books. I expected that. But, many of those I spoke with said that they *are* purchasing more e-books than they used to. And why not? Rarely is an audio book available at the same time the print version comes out, but an electronic version is often available simultaneously. Not only that, there’s a much larger –as well as current–selection available.

I’m a big fan of e-books for a lot of reasons. Until today, I never considered their marketability to the blind. (You might say, my eyes have been opened…)

So: are you blind or have low vision? I’d love to know how you feel about e-books. The debate is heating up over all kinds of issues, but this isn’t one I’ve seen explored yet. Please drop me a comment below.

Monday, November 2nd, 2009

Susan’s Got Me Thinking…


Susan Adrian posted a great essay on her Web site a few days ago that really got me thinking. It’s called, “How Not to Act,” and she describes two writers she’s following through the course of their careers.

One writer takes the time to comment on blog posts and to reply to comments on her own blog as well as to any tweets she receives, etc. The other doesn’t.

Guess which one sets the better example, according to Susan?

Susan tells it better. Go read her essay and then come back.  I’ll wait.

I know her post is about many facets of Web etiquette, but it really got me thinking about commenting on blogs. I read a lot of blogs but rarely comment – especially if I have nothing new to add to the conversation. After all, why should I comment if my point has already been made? I get tired of reading, “Me, too!” comments on blogs…so why should I inflict them on others?

Why, to build a community, of course.

(And there are much nicer ways to say, “Me, too!” without actually saying it.)

Susan really hit the nail on the head.

If I’m not commenting, how do you know I’m even reading your blog? How do you know I’m out here listening to what you have to say? How do you know I care?

The thing is…you don’t.

So, I think I’m going to change my personal comment policy… I’m going to try to comment a bit more on the blogs I read…even if someone else beat me to my point. At the very least, it will have me considering how can I say, “Me, too!” without using those words? Writers love these kind of exercises, you know…

Thanks, Susan!


photo credit:
Monday, November 2nd, 2009

Good Review for Blood Soup!

Cover of Blood Soup

Blood Soup went out to several reviewers in September and October and I’ve been anxiously awaiting a response.

I’m thrilled to see the first is a good one.

Kari at Kari’s Korner Reviews apparently enjoyed it very much. I’m doubly honored since Kari reviews mostly romance.

To wit:

With the scary title BLOOD SOUP (Eternal Press, ISBN: 978-1-926704-53-1) by Kelly A. Harmon, it even has a cover that immediately catches your eye and makes you shiver. This is a medieval tale about a kingdom destined for certain dire ruin if the King’s heir isn’t a girl.

The characters in the story work together AND against each other as they secretly manipulate, scheme, hope, and react to the surprising birth of the King’s heir.

Filled with murder, mystery, and very dire consequences, this is a fast paced Novella with vivid portrayal of events and characters, pulling you into this harsh world the author has created and no doubt leaving her with new fans eagerly awaiting her next book.


If you’re interested, Blood Soup  can be purchased: