Tuesday, January 22, 2013


Sportster and I are heading home. For the first time since December first, the GPS ordered, “Head West.” Excited and moody my imagination runs wild with what reaction Sportster must be having.

He has become addicted to the excitement of travel, but then as a pet owner, I transpose my feelings to him and believe he feels the same as I.

The sights and sounds of Florida. The alligators of the Florida Everglades, the turquoise waters of Key West, the mansions of Hemingway and John Ringling and even Kenny Chesney. The manatees, the panther, 

and Lu, the Hippopotamus at Homosassa Springs. Birds of every size and species squawk their calls and sing their songs from coast to coast. And continent to continent. These musical sounds, these images and eyes of nature now live in my mind.

What didn’t I see? I didn’t see a desert but I saw a sea of saw grass stretch as far as a bird could fly.

 I didn’t see the spines of cactus needles but instead the delicate draping of Spanish moss decorating every live oak and cypress tree.

I didn’t hear the silence of the desert but instead the voices of the real snow birds, who have visited the South for centuries; the blue herons, the egrets, the spoonbills and the flamingos.

My favorite place in Florida?  St. Augustine by far. Not because of the being the oldest town, but because of Kevin Crowell and his service dog, Bella and Kevin’s friend, Michael. The inspiration and peacefulness of nature  can take my breath away, but nothing can compare  to meeting  veterans who have not only defended my country for me, but also  attacked their own personal demons of war and now live on to inspire others who have similar struggles of despair. Nothing comes close to the feelings of honor and gratefulness that fills my heart from knowing Kevin and Michael…and Bella. People like you Kevin and Michael, make me want to sit a little taller in the saddle. A mere thank you will never be enough.

Fort Walton, Fla. Elks Lodge

On a lighter note, but not… as I spend my last days in Florida, I not only am I taking home many memories, but extra pounds as well. We arrived at the SKP Park in Wauchula on the day of their annual auction and bake sale. Only half of the pineapple upside down cake I bid on remains in my fridge, next to the homemade fudge. Eighty miles to the north at the SKP Park in Bushnell, we feasted on pinto beans, mashed potatoes, polish sausage and corn bread … and dessert. Add the sampling of seafood and alligator to the scale from the various restaurants, and you can bet more exercise than just moving my fingers across this keyboard is on my resolution list.

California Here I Come!

Wednesday, January 16, 2013


I entered a contest offered by Writer's Digest for Self Published Authors. Although I did not win below is a review of my first book, COAST TO COAST WITH A CAT AND A GHOST from one of the judges. It made me feel as if I were stepping in high cotton, as they say down here in the South.

Entry Title:Coast To Coast With A Cat And A Ghost

Author: Judy Howard

Judge Number: 30

Books were evaluated on a scale of 1 to 5. This scale is strictly to provide a point of reference, it is not a cumulative score and does not reflect ranking.

In some cases, you may see special or out of place characters/symbols in your commentary. For example, you may see that a character/symbol replaces an apostrophe, copyright, and other "symbols".

These substitutions occur for various reasons – and are unavoidable. They are often [programming] misinterpretations due to encoding, installed fonts, web based content/sources etc.

Since the “content”[data] of the commentary is comprised of data sent from several different computers (programs, fonts etc.,) and from the internet (online entry system),

you may at times see an interpretation of what had been an apostrophe, quotation mark etc.

Structure and Organization:4

Grammar: 4

Production Quality and Cover Design:4

Plot (if applicable): 5

Character Development (if applicable): N/A

What did you like best about this book?

The novel is top notch from start to finish. A nice cover design and professional presentation including excellent, attention-grabbing back cover copy. As a judge of memoirs, I must note that it reads more like fiction—very smooth and entertaining. I’m particularly fond of the humor within. The author has done a great job of adding emotional depth to the storytelling. This is a well crafted, professional read that is both humorous and full of heartache with new beginnings looming on the horizon. It comes with a dose of therapeutic tenderness that will twist your insides and inspire you to keep on going when the road gets tough.

How can the author improve this book?

As a judge, I’m supposed to come up with one hundred words as to how the author could improve this book but I’m finding this task a difficult one. So, my advice here will be mostly from a marketing standpoint. The author should work to make sure you get this book out where readers can find it. I don’t believe I would have ever stumbled across this book if I weren’t a judge in this contest. Getting this type of well-crafted novel into the hands of your target audience (really any woman I’ve ever known would fall into this category) should be your top priority.


Saturday, January 5, 2013


I wrote a blog about 2011 Year In Review. We are a week into 2013! Last January began with a trip to Quartzite, Arizona boondocking, no electric or water, only my trusty generator and my friend, Vicki, her dog Tika, and hundreds of thousands of other RVers in the desert. A myriad of groups converged for their annual get - togethers; the WINS (Wandering Individual Network), The Elks, The Geocachers, The Escapees and their many individual chapters and the Good Sam RV Club with their various groups. Hundreds of families and friends gathered on Bureau of Land Management Land (BLM land), as they do every year, to experience this annual mecca to indulge in friendship and shopping.

I spent a day at the Oasis Bookstore’s Book Fair whose tanned nudist owner, Paul Winer, sports a big reputation not only for his collection of books in this small town, but mainly for his lack of attire.
Add There is another "side" to Paul Winer besides the obvious. In his younger life Paul was a male stripper in Canada and the US who performed boogie woogie music and was known as "Sweetie Pie." caption

Darlene Miller and me showcasing our books.

I was drawn to Stu Campbell's table because he had a hat bigger than mine. His "voice " in the series of short stories about cowboy life in Colorado is as true to life as his stories. A humorous look at the western side of life, I found his book "HORSING AROUND A LOT" not only funny but made me feel like in was in the saddle riding along. I can't wait to read the rest of the series. He has a new book coming out, "COMEDY IN THE CORRAL."
Inside the Oasis Bookstore

Steady traffic flowed through the bookstore that typical sunny day in January 2012. I talked shop with many talented authors and members of the Penwheels Club another RV club of wandering writers. One member, Darlene Miller, author of RV CHUCKLES AND CHUCKHOLES became a dear friend.
In February I attended a huge Family Motor Coach Association (FMCA) Rally in Indio, California and presented my writing workshop. An attendee of my workshop, Mark Sickman, became another acquaintance and asset to my writing career eventually writing a raving review of my book, COAST TO COAST WITH A CAT AND A GHOST that appeared in the Roadtrek Magazine.
I spent the entire month of March on the road, traveling to Yuma, Arizona to conduct two seminars at a Good Sam Rally and another at a Gypsy Journal Rally. It was there I met Nick Russel, author-editor and owner of the GYPSY JOURNAL who became instrumental in jump starting the sales of COAST TO COAST WITH A CAT AND A GHOST by mentioning the book on his blog. Until then it had been on the market almost nine months and the sales only trickled.
I got to watch the Air Force demonstrate their military dogs.This dog was the sweetest dog until it got out on the field and went to work, then you better not be on her bad side.
I learned how to make a "Whatdinger" at the Yuma rally.

A "Whadinger" is dough mashed around a wooden dowl and cooked over coals, then stuffed. . Here they were stuffed with strawberries and cream, but I imagined scrambled egss and bits of sausge would be good too.

After Yuma I traveled to Pahrump, Nevada with a stop-over at Parker, Arizona. My new friend, Darlene Miller became my tour guide of the area since she called it her home in the winter.

Parker Dam, Parker, Arizona

The London Bridge, Lake Havasu, Arizona


 In Pahrump I conducted two more seminars at another Good Sam rally and a Winnebago Rally, adding to my wealth of readers, authors and friends.  By the time I returned at the end of March, book sales were gaining in momentum.

At home, throughout the rest of the year, several libraries and bookstores invited me for book signings and workshops. Meanwhile I worked feverishly on my second book, GOING HOME WITH A CAT AND A GHOST, while working at my grooming shop, the CANINE BEAUTY SALON in Sun City, California.

Attending the Santa Barbara Writers Conference in June was an invaluable experience. I participated in pirate workshops, listened to inspiring and entertaining speakers and seminars. I  had my manuscripts critiqued by agents from the big publishers and met countless editors, teachers and aspiring writers I will always remember for their bits of wisdom and camaraderie.

I took my first kayaking lesson on my sixty-sixth birthday.
INVISIBLE HEROES now consumes my time like the others did in their infancy. I don’t have the luxury of drawing from my past or inventing a pretty story for this book. Researching the subject of this book is critical.  Although fictional, it will be based on the real life of veterans and their dogs as well as the trainers. Anxiety for getting the story right looms over my shoulder, but I write on.

And now as I write this I gaze out my motor home window at the  I have traveled once again, with the ghost and the cat from the Pacific to the Atlantic and will be heading home soon. The ghost is quiet and content and the cat is a seasoned traveler. The people and adventures will probably settle within the pages of some future book, because I write about what I love.
Because of all of you, my readers, fans and friends, both books are doing very well on Amazon. They zigzag but maintain their ranking in in the top ten percent amongst the two million books in Amazon’s book store. I keep on writing hoping to make the next book more memorable and more meaningful than the last.
Happy New Year. Thank you.