Pic courtesy of dreamstimedreamstime_xs_47410098

There are all kinds of shoppers in the world. The kind that spend hours searching online or in the stores for the perfect gift, the kind that goes to one store and, in the course of an hour, gets something for everyone on their list, and then there’s the practical shopper who gets you something you might not necessarily want, but he/she feels you need.

The latter reminds me of one Christmas in particular when I was in high school. It was three days before Christmas and me and my sisters had just finished helping my mom make three batches of fudge, along with a pile of divinity.  We were in the process of tidying up the kitchen when we heard the back door open and close, followed by the sound of my dad’s footsteps.

“Why did you come in the back door?” asked my mom when he appeared.

“I had something to put under the tree,” he replied as he sat down at the kitchen table to take off his boots.

My sisters and I looked at each other and then took off for the family room, where we found the biggest box we had ever seen; it was neatly wrapped in red Santa paper, and was so big, it technically sat in front of the tree, instead of under it.

“Who’s it for?” asked my twin sister.

“Your momma,” said my dad, who had apparently followed us into the room.

I pursed my lips as I stood there scrutinizing the box.  There were several things wrong with this picture.  The first was that my dad didn’t really do presents; he did money.  On Christmas morning, white envelopes addressed to each of us kids would be handed out; twenty dollars apiece – the same as every year.  My mom, would get fifty (I suppose this was because she ranked higher, being his spouse and all).  The money would always be in the form of a check, which meant we would have to rely on someone to drive us to the bank to cash it.  On the rare occasion that my dad would purchase an actual present for my mom, it would be the very best that the gas station down the street had to offer on Christmas Eve.  So, for him to have a present for her three days before Christmas showed that he’d obviously put some thought into it.  But what could it be?

For the next three days, we stared at the ginormous box, speculating amongst worst-presentourselves what was inside it.  I mean, even though my dad had stated that it was for Mom, something that big had to be for the whole family, right?  My mom seemed particularly intrigued, as well as thrilled that it was too big to be a toaster (a present from my dad two Christmases ago).

FINALLY, the blessed morning arrived and my sisters and I gathered around the tree, the anticipation so great, I could hear it crackling in my ear.  After opening our envelopes, we offered my dad an obligatory thank you and then turned our attention to Mom and what had come to be called “the present”.

My mom began to tear gently at the wrapping, taking her time as if she wanted to savor the moment.  After several agonizing seconds, there was no more paper to tear and she opened the lid to that massive box.  A pair of snow tires appeared – followed immediately by a foul odor.  As my sisters and I drew our heads back and away from the stench, we saw that the box the tires had been placed in once contained mutton from the restaurant that sat adjacent to my dad’s repair shop.  Together, the smell of new rubber and rancid meat made for a sickening combination.

“Snow tires…”  My mom hid her obvious disappointment behind a fake smile.

My dad leaned back in his recliner and grinned.  “Those are the best snow tires that money can buy,” he said in a booming voice, the pride of such an achievement evident upon his face.

“Thank you, Raymond,” said my mom, getting up to give my dad a hug.  “I can’t wait for it to snow so I can try them out.”

My sisters and I sat there in both bewilderment and awe of our mom’s gratitude for what had to be, hands down, the worst Christmas present in the history of all Christmas presents—until the smell emanating from the box drove us to the kitchen.

My dad and my older sister have since passed, but that story has been told every Christmas—twenty-nine of them to be exact— and it is told with affection, love…and most of all, laughter.

WorstChristmasPresentEverWhat was the worst/strangest Christmas present you or a family member has ever received? I would love for you to tell me.





Today, I am honored to have my good friend, Joe Perrone Jr., join us.  Joe is a proud grandpa, avid fisherman, devout NHL fan (is that really a thing?) and an incredible writer.  I’m pretty sure he’s also a great husband, but his wife, Becky, refused to comment.  All kidding aside, Joe is the author of numerous books, including the amazing Matt Davis Mystery Series whose titles include As the Twig is Bent, Opening Day, Twice Bitten, and Broken Promises. photo-on-2-28-17-at-11-44-am

Never one to sit on his laurels, Joe was hard at work on the fifth novel in the series which was on track to be released in early 2016.   

But 17 months ago, Joe’s life was upended.

Joe, you suffered a stroke during the early morning hours of OCTOBER 2, 2015.  Did you know what was happening to you?

I awoke around 4:30 and thought my cat that had awakened me. I told my wife, Becky, that I was going to use the bathroom down the hall and then go on down to the basement to watch a little TV until I could fall asleep again. When I put my feet down on the floor and started to walk out of the bedroom, I noticed that the toes of my right foot were dragging just a bit, and I thought my foot must have fallen asleep.  However, as I made my way down the hall, I could tell that something definitely wasn’t right.  I took a baby aspirin and looked in the mirror to see if my face was symmetrical.  It appeared normal. After using the toilet, I went to gently lower the solid oak toilet seat down, but it fell out of my right hand and slammed onto the commode. By then, I was pretty sure I was having a stroke.

Your wife called an ambulance and 15 minutes later, you were en route to the hospital.  What were some of the things running through your mind?

In the ambulance, I had a long talk with God.  I assured Him that I was ready to go if he wanted me, but that I would really like to see my new granddaughter grow up a bit first. I never felt afraid. Once I was in the hospital, all I mostly thought about was not wanting to leave my wife, and how upset she would be if I didn’t make it. I immediately began to concentrate on doing whatever it took to give myself the very best chance of surviving.

That was a good attitude to have.  Once you were stabilized and things calmed down, were you afraid that you might not be able to perform the most basic of tasks, like signing your name, fixing yourself breakfast, walking unassisted, etc.? 

Yes. For the first day or so, my right arm was practically useless. I remember eating dinner that first night and every time I would lean forward with the fork in my left hand, the tray would magically move away from me.  I said to Becky, “Watch this.”  I leaned forward with the fork, and the table moved away.  I did that several times.  Finally, Becky started to laugh. “What’s so funny?” I asked.  Becky informed me that “It’s your right arm hitting against the tray that’s causing it to move away from you.”  I started to laugh really hard.  It occurred to me that what I was experiencing was a quintessential example of gallows humor. 

Before I was released from the hospital, the neurologist told me that I had definitely had a stroke, and there was a fairly good chance that I could have one or more strokes in the future.  She said that a change of diet and regular exercise would give me a better chance of not having another one, but that there were no guarantees.

No guarantees is a scary prospect.  How did you handle the news?

I experienced one or two panic attacks, but once I recognized them for what they were, I was able to diffuse their effects. 

Were you fearful that the damage from the stroke would prevent you from writing creatively?

As soon as I got home, I went straight to my computer and tried typing. It was a laugh riot.  My right hand kept sliding down a row, so that everything I typed came out as gibberish. The next morning, I was back at it, and things were much better.  But I was terrified that I wouldn’t be able to type. I write best when I can type, since I can type about 70 wpm, which permits me to keep up with the ideas and words that form in my mind. So I kept at it, until, by the third day, I was typing as fast as ever.  When I saw the neurologist later that week and told her about my typing, she said it was the best thing I could ever have done.

Some people may not know that you suffer from ADHD.  It’s a tough problem for children, let alone adults.  Did this impede your recovery process?

Fortunately, thanks to my wife’s diagnosis, I have been on Ritalin for nearly sixteen years. As a result, my ADHD is well controlled, and did not impede my recovery.  If anything, having the Ritalin probably helped me to stay focused on getting well.

How hard was it to get back in the saddle and begin writing again?

I wouldn’t say that it was difficult getting back to my writing, but, to be honest, writing was the farthest thing from my mind for the first six months or so.  During that time, all I wanted to do was eat properly, lose weight, exercise, do my special exercises, and get healthy again.  I lost 30 pounds, and I cut my cholesterol in half.  I can’t recall exactly when I got back to writing, but I kept on blogging all through my recovery.  My stroke occurred on a Friday, and normally I publish my blog on Saturday. However, I didn’t get home from the hospital until that Sunday evening. My youngest son, Matt, noticed that I hadn’t published my blog and asked if he could write a guest post.  I was delighted.  The following week I wrote my first post-stroke blog and called it “A Stroke of Luck,” because that’s exactly what it was.  It was a wake-up call, and I answered the call!

In what ways has your life changed since that day?  Describe a typical day for you now.

In general, I try to do something constructive every day, and I try to enjoy every day as fully as possible.  I know that my days are finite, and I want to make the most of what time I have left on this Earth. I guess it could best be described as living in the moment. I try to see my granddaughter as often as possible, which, thanks to FaceTime, is at least once or twice a week. A good deal of my day is spent in planning and preparing food for my near-vegetarian diet, writing some, and just relaxing. I try to walk at least two miles every day, and, following the stroke, I did not miss a day for approximately six months, including walking in rain, ice, and snow.

What sort of advice would you give to your younger self if you could?

Oh, wow, that’s a hard one. I guess I would advise me to not take anything for granted, and to make every moment count. I would also suggest that I not eat the usual half pound of chocolate per day that I used to consume.

I think that’s good advice for all of us! 

Your latest book, Deadly Ransom, the fifth book in the Matt Davis mystery series, released March 1.  You’ve overcome a lot of obstacles to get to this day.  How does it feel?

I guess it would be fair to say that I feel relieved. So many of my readers were expecting its release way back last spring, and I didn’t want to disappoint them. Knowing that it’s out there for them to enjoy is very satisfying.

Tell us about Deadly Ransom.

Well, it’s a bit different from the last four Matt Davis mysteries. A good small_front_cover_deadly_ransomdeal of the action takes place in Montana, which is a place I’ve never visited, but to which I’ve always wanted to go. I did a great deal of research for this book, which kind of gave me a nickel tour that I might not have experienced otherwise.

Would you mind to give us a small snippet?

Sure.  I’d be happy to.  This scene takes place right after a ranch owner’s foreman has been kidnapped.  The rancher’s name is Clint Davidson and he’s at his neighbor Ralph’s home, relating the events to his friend.


Ralph sat in his study and listened in disbelief as his friend and new neighbor, Clint, rattled off detail after detail about his predicament.  Ralph was incredulous.  After all, this was Montana in the twenty first century, he thought.  These kinds of things just didn’t happen here.  He needed to understand exactly what his friend was up against.

“Slow down, Clint.  It’s too much for me to absorb all at once.  Now start from the very beginning and don’t leave anything out.”

Clint’s face was ashen.  Ralph hadn’t seen him this distressed since Harriet died.

“I’m sorry, Ralph.  I’m just beside myself.”  Clint took a deep breath and began.  “Let me see, I guess it began when I didn’t smell the coffee this morning.  Shorty always makes the coffee before he does anything else—it was seven o’clock already and I couldn’t smell a damned thing.”

Ralph listened intently, running his fingers through his thick white hair.  He was 73 years old, and tough as they came.  He, too, was a bachelor—but by choice.

“I went downstairs,” continued Clint, “half expecting him to give me some bullshit excuse for not having the coffee ready, but he wasn’t even there.  I checked his cottage.  No Shorty.  That’s when I walked out to the barn and saw that Tyrus wasn’t in his pen.  It was no big deal.  He’s usually been fed and put out by seven, but I figured Shorty was probably inside the barn feeding him.”

“Then what happened?”

“Well, first thing I noticed as I got closer to the barn was that the door was ajar.  Now that’s something I never expected to see.  The padlock was unlocked and the door was open a good six inches.  I called Shorty’s name, but he didn’t answer—and that’s when I found Tyrus.”  Clint dabbed at the corner of his eye with a handkerchief.  “His throat had been slashed and they’d . . . well . . . they’d gone and cut his pecker off and wrapped it in newspaper—with a note attached to it.  Can you imagine that?”

Ralph gasped at the graphic image.  “And what did the note say?”

Clint reached into his back pocket and extracted a crumpled piece of paper, thrusting it at Ralph.  “Here, read it yourself.”  The note read:

“We killed your bull and we got Shorty.  We killed the bull to show we mean buziness.  Were tired of you White Men taking advantage of us.  We want to hunt and fish like we always have.  This is our land.  We want fourty thousand dollers too and than you can have Shorty back.  If we don’t get the money well do the same thing we done with your bull to your man.  Don’t get no FBI or police or else.  Well contact you soon and tell you where to bring the money.  Remember no funny buziness.”

The note was unsigned.

Ralph chuckled.  “Not much for grammar or spelling,” he observed.

“I guess,” Clint replied.  “But what do you make of it?”

Ralph shook his head.  “You got, what, ten thousand acres?

“More like closer to fourteen.”

“Plenty of neighbors, too,” added Ralph.  “Hell, it could be anybody.  But whoever it is, it sounds like they’re not fooling around.”

Clint frowned.  “So what do I do?”

“Depends,” admitted Ralph.  “Depends what they say when they contact you again.  My guess is they’re gonna try to bleed you for more and more money.”

Clint shrugged his shoulders. “I know everybody thinks that just because I’ve got this big ranch I’ve got money coming out the wazoo.  But hell, I’m mortgaged to the hilt.  I’d be lucky to scrape together twenty thousand, let alone forty.”

Both men were silent for a moment.

“Hey!” said Ralph.  “How ‘bout a cup of coffee?  I got some fresh-brewed in the pot.  Made it myself this morning.  Get the old corpuscles going.  Whatta ya say?”

Clint smiled.

“Atta boy.  Black, no sugar, right?”

“Right,” sighed Clint.

“Hell, we’ll figure this thing out.  I promise.”

Clint had his doubts.


Great excerpt!  Where can we buy a copy?

 Deadly Ransom is available on Amazon as an EBOOK and also in PAPERBACK.

Do you see more books in Matt Davis’ future?

That’s a difficult question to answer. As of now, I’m not planning another one. However, if Deadly Ransom is successful, and I feel there is enough interest on the part of my readers for me to write another, I might reconsider.
However, I will tell you that I am already eight chapters into writing a new stand-alone thriller called Getting Even!  It has a soon-to-be-retired FBI agent matching wits with a serial killer, and I’m pretty excited about it.  It’s going to be fairly hard edged compared to the Matt Davis series, and a bit of a departure for my readers and me.

Wow, that sounds like a toe curler for sure!  Thank you so much, Joe for taking time out of your busy day to answer my questions.  I wish you the best of luck on Deadly Ransom, and I’m looking forward to reading Getting Even! as well.

Thank you, Belinda! I enjoyed answering your questions.

To find out more about Joe and his books you can visit his links:


Belinda G. Buchanan is an author of edgy, women’s fiction & mystery novels. Her titles include, After All Is Said And Done, Seasons of Darkness, The Monster of Silver Creek, and Tragedy at Silver Creek.




How do you like your heroes? Strong? Brooding? Funny? A bad boy with a good heart? Sensitive? Manipulative? Damaged? Troubled? With or without fangs?

Heroes come in all types of packages; sometimes the wrapper is shiny and new, while other times, it’s tarnished and torn, and bears a few scars.  This December, it’s all about heroes, and in order to kick off the celebration I am offering you a chance to win a free e-book written by yours truly.  A Christmas present from me to you.

HOW TO WIN:  Simply enter a comment below telling me what you like in a hero, OR, tell me who your favorite book hero is.  

CONTEST ENDS –  Dec. 15, 2016 at midnight US Eastern time

5 Lucky Winners will be chosen at random. If selected as the winner, you can choose from one of four e-books listed below made available to you either through Amazon Kindle USA or Smashwords:  




**Photo top left courtesy of**


The Sound of Gravel by Ruth Wariner – review

I read this memoir in two sittings. Held captive by Ruth Wariner’s words, I found that I could not put the book down until I’d read the final page. To say that I enjoyed the book would trivialize its content-but the author’s telling of growing up in a polygamist community had me spellbound.

The Sound of Gravel is a touching story that depicts poverty, isolation, tragedy, and heartache. It’s a story of love, hate, determination and the unbreakable bond that tethers Ruthie to her brothers and sisters – as well as her resolve to keep them all safe.

This was a tumultuous and fascinating read…and one that I will think about for months to come.

A solid 5+ stars


Belinda G. Buchanan, Tragedy at Silver Creek

I had the opportunity to be interviewed by the wonderful Berneta Haynes from the Waking Writer.

Waking Writer

What have you written so far?

I have written four novels to date.  My first one, After All Is Said And Done, was born out of the incessant need to create a story about two couples who worked together that had an affair, resulting in a pregnancy.  So many times, we see the immediate results of infidelity, but not the long-term effects.  I wanted to follow these four individuals for two years in their lives in order to depict the devastating ramifications that adultery can have on a marriage.

The Monster of Silver Creek is my sophomore novel and is a mystery about a troubled police chief trying to stop a serial killer.

I like to write stories that deal with real issues, such as alcoholism, abuse, and mental illness.  Seasons of Darkness was my third novel to be published and follows a lonely young man as he tries…

View original post 861 more words


A few weeks ago, I had some major downtime in the way of a hurt back and had begrudgingly relegated myself to the recliner. Now, let me just be clear that I don’t mind vegetating in front of the TV one bit, it was just that this particular day I had A LOT to do. So while I was moaning about my plight to anyone who would listen (not that my children ever would) I came across a title on the DirectTV guide called Johnny Belinda. I stopped immediately-mainly because it had my name in it and you just don’t see it that often in print. Having liked what I read in the description and seeing that it was about to start, I typed in the numbers for the TCM channel and settled farther into the chair.

For the next 103 minutes, I don’t believe I spoke, breathed, or moved. It was that good.


Lew Ayres, Jane Wyman, Charles Bickford in Johnny Belinda

With a battered seaside village in Nova Scotia serving as the backdrop, the film opens with the new doctor in town (played wonderfully by Lew Ayres) being called out to the farm of Black McDonald (played here by Charles Bickford) to help deliver a breech calf since there are no veterinarians.  While there, Dr. Richardson (Ayres) discovers that McDonald’s daughter, Belinda (played by Jane Wyman), is a nineteen-year-old deaf mute. He goes on to learn that Belinda’s mother died giving birth to her and as sad as the situation is, Black McDonald does not have time to deal with a “dumb” daughter; he has a farm to run, and with only Belinda and his indifferent sister (Agnes Moorehead) to help him, he’s barely making ends meet.

Belinda spends a lonely existence working on the farm, finding simple pleasure in her chores and doing what her father needs her to do by watching his hurried and gruff hand gestures.

A few days later, Dr. Richardson returns with a book on sign language that he gives to Belinda. Over the next few weeks, he pays many, many visits to the farm, helping Belinda learn the signs. When Richardson gives her father a demonstration of what she’s learned, he’s astounded by the fact that Belinda can understand at all, let alone communicate with them. Crusty Black McDonald nearly breaks into tears when she signs the word for father to him.

The lessons continue, and over the course of time, you can start to see Belinda’s unspoken affection she carries for Dr. Richardson, the man who changed her life.

Then, one evening, things suddenly take a violent turn for the worse as Belinda is brutally attacked by a drunken Locky McCormick, and her resulting pregnancy causes a scandal to erupt placing Dr. Richardson’s job in jeopardy.

I’m going to stop right there, because the rest of what happens needs to be seen by you, the viewer, and not dictated by me.

Johnny Belinda was released by Warner Bros. in 1948 and was directed by Jean Negulesco. Early on, the studio was worried how a movie could be made in which the main character does not speak. Regretting their decision, Warner Bros. let Johnny Belinda sit on the shelf for nearly a year after production wrapped. When it was finally released, it opened to rave reviews and critical praise; cashing in at the box office with earnings of over 4 million, it became the fifth highest grossing movie for that year.  Jane Wyman, who was thirty and in the throes of marital turmoil with husband Ronald Reagan while filming, is absolutely brilliant in her portrayal of Belinda.  She conveys Belinda’s plight with a sensitivity and a subtlety that is unmatched, and her performance won her the Oscar for Best Actress.

Johnny Belinda is a timeless classic; it’s a movie that stirs all of one’s emotions: pity, happiness, outrage, tears…it’s all there.  And when the credits rolled, I found myself wanting to watch it again…and I did.


Jane Wyman

*Trivia fact* – Because Wyman didn’t have a problem with her hearing, she felt that she was lacking a certain realism in her expression, so she wore wax ear plugs to blot out the noise.

Belinda G. Buchanan is a writer of Women’s Fiction & Mystery . Her books include, After All Is Said And Done: a Novel of Infidelity, Healing, & Forgiveness, Seasons of Darkness, The Monster of Silver Creek, and the recently released, Tragedy at Silver Creek. Married for twenty-five years to her soulmate, she is the mother of two sons, (one who loves her unconditionally, and one who loves her only when not in public), and a menagerie of animals.


Today’s Featured Author – Belinda G. Buchanan

I had the pleasure of being featured on Susan Leigh Noble’s blog yesterday.

Into Another World

Today, I welcome author Belinda G. Buchanan to my blog. In September 2015, she released a stand-alone sequel to her mystery/thriller, The Monster of Silver Creek. Here is an excerpt from her latest – Tragedy at Silver Creek.

Excerpt -Chapter One

Cheryl Collins breathed sporadically through her mouth and nose, trying, without success, to ease the contraction that was currently slicing through her body.

“You’re doing great, Cheryl.”

Grimacing, she looked between her parted knees at Dr. Jensen, whose gloved hands were resting against the innermost part of her thighs, as he studied the fetal monitor beside his shoulder.  Two nurses—one, a thin redhead with a diamond stud protruding from the fold in her chin, and the other, an older, frumpy brunette with a dour expression—stood on either side of him, staring at her nether region.

Cheryl closed her eyes, wishing that the intimate act of giving birth did…

View original post 1,817 more words

Here is my interview with Belinda G. Buchanan

I am honored to have been interviewed by the amazing Fiona McVie on her blog today.


Name Belinda G. Buchanan

Age Wise enough not to answer

Where are you from Kentucky, USA

A little about yourself `ie your education Family life etc

I was born in Owensboro, Kentucky and am the youngest of four girls, beating out my twin sister for the title by a scant two minutes.  A self-proclaimed introvert growing up, I spent my youth making dollhouses for my cardboard figurines to act out the drama I’d created for them.  I met my husband on a blind date, and this past June we celebrated our 25th anniversary.  After having spent fifteen years working in export/transportation, I am now a stay at home mom to two boys (one who loves me unconditionally, and one who loves me only when we’re not in public).

Fiona: Tell us your latest news? 

I recently published my fourth novel, Tragedy at Silver Creek in September.

Fiona: When and…

View original post 3,244 more words



Guilt is a powerful thing, and former deputy Jack Collins is mired in it.  Unable to forget the events that have taken place in the town he was sworn to protect, he feels as if he is slowly drowning as he tries to cope with the aftermath of a serial killer’s reign of terror, as well as his new—and unwanted—job as chief of police. 

When the body of a young woman, having the same puncture wounds as the serial killer’s previous victims, is discovered, Jack must determine if this is a copycat crime or the work of a possible accomplice—either of which—could put the killer’s only surviving victim in grave danger.

As Jack delves deeper into the murder, his vow to keep the victim safe, combined with the secret he’s been harboring, begins to take its toll.  His sudden inability to confide in his wife, Cheryl, causes their home, which was once a haven for him, to become just another source of tension.

An overzealous news team, a threat from his not so distant past, and a mayor who wants the murder swept under the rug, only add to the pressure surrounding Jack as he struggles to do what’s right in this riveting, stand-alone sequel to The Monster of Silver Creek.