The $2000 Crack

No, this isn’t the story of a drug deal — but it is the story of a BIG deal. Finding two grand is a fairly big deal at this house.

My tale started innocently enough Sunday morning as I was getting ready for church. I took my hearing aids out of the box — and dropped one. Usually they stand a bit of shock, but this one went on strike. Nose out of joint — or whatever.

On Tuesday when we went into the city I took the injured appliance back to the Sask Hearing Aid Plan office where I’d purchased it — and learned that this plan was phased out in the recent provincial budget cuts. (Now only children are eligible.) The steno checked my record, though: I bought these hearing aids in Feb 2012 and they have a five year warrantee. Do the math.

I took them to a private clinic that fixes this brand and she couldn’t get the thing working again. She phoned the Oticon company and they did the math. For $500 I can get the warrantee extended for six more months. Then I can send it to their lab, but there’s no guarantee that when they take it apart they’ll be able to fix it.

A new hearing aid will cost somewhere between about $1400 and $3000. To complicate things, I have two, synchronized to work together, and there’s no guarantee a new hearing aid would be able to work in harmony with the old one. “Quite often,” the receptionist told me, “people end up having to buy two.” Whimper!

This story will be familiar to anyone who’s needed to replace a hearing aid; they just are pricey little gadgets. Dropping one isn’t wise, but it happens. So since that fateful fall my mind has been contemplating payment options:
— If I were in good health I could sell a kidney but I’m keeping my arms and legs.
— If I were a prolific writer I could crank out twenty novels by the end of the year.
— I could make do with only one hearing aid. (Bob vetoes that idea.)
At any rate, I have an appointment at a hearing aid clinic tomorrow morning and we’ll see what conclusion we can come to with those folks.

What can you say? The older we get, the more it costs.

I’ve finished Silver Morning Song, my book of short stories and poems, and am waiting now for a business name registration and an ISBN. But I have a number of stories and poems that don’t quite fit this book so I’ve been compiling a second book. The items in this one— I’m calling it Wisdom in Whimsy— will be mainly just-for-fun stories and poems.

I didn’t have very many items for this book until this morning when I plugged in an old flash-drive and found quite a few more to add. I’m thinking of writing some more stories about Winnie and Raylene (see Winnie Plays Monopoly) and including them in this second book, too.

During the past several weeks I’ve been going through a book on depression by Pastor J S Park, as one of his beta readers. Entitled How Dark It Really Is, this book is well worth reading if you want to understand what someone with depression is going through and how you can best help them. And if you’re the one dealing with this affliction, it helps you to identify negative voices that want to drag you down. You can read it and realize you’re not alone, that others have felt this same pressure, hung on in the bad times and made it through.

For no specific reason I was feeling rather blue myself last night, so I went for a walk. Need to do this more often. And I and saw a bobolink — first one I’ve seen in a long time. This afternoon at our finch feeder a mottled, odd-looking bird attracted my attention, being much larger than the pine siskins plastered on it these days. Got out my binoculars confirmed my initial guess: it was a young male rose-breasted grosbeak. A rare summer visitor.

Last week at a birthday party I was telling the ladies I hadn’t seen a gopher all summer. This is the prairie; gophers usually abound. So where are they? Have these last wet years taken such a toll on the gopher population?

Be careful what you wish for, they say. Yesterday I let my black tom, Angus, out and fifteen minutes later he came back with a full-size dead gopher dangling from his teeth. Hoping to bring it inside and eat it at his leisure. 😦 Nope — not a chance! But now I know why I never see any gophers around our yard.

Others don’t think it’s been very wet here, but it seems to me we’ve had a lot of thunder-storms and tornado alerts in the past six weeks. The sloughs along our road are drying up now, though.

And that’s another glimpse of life at our house. 🙂

Free Book: When Night Comes

When Night Comes: Free on Amazon for one more day.

When I got Dan Walsh’s e-mail on Sunday I wanted to quickly do a write-up and and tell you all about this great book that’s free on Amazon right now. Sadly, the days have slipped by and there’s only day left to get this fast-paced suspense novel.

The story opens with Sergeant Joe Boyd arriving at the scene of a possible homicide. “Check it out, Joe. It’s pretty strange,” patrolman Hank Jensen told him.

Homicide or not, they definitely had a dead body in that bed. There was no mistaking that familiar smell… Boyd guessed the boy probably died late last night, or in the early evening. He walked to the bed and looked down at the body, then at the kid’s face.

Yeah, that’s weird.

As Sgt Boyd was contemplating this mysterious death, Jack Turner was arriving in Culpepper, GA, as a guest lecturer at the invitation of his old history prof and mentor, Thomas Thornton. Jack, with his Master’s in Military History, was planning on giving a series of lectures on WWII.

Within days Jack has several bizarre dreams. It’s like he’s gone back in time to the scenes he’s been describing in his lectures, being part of the action as it unfolds. And Jack isn’t the only one having dreams. Two students are dead after experiencing bizarre hallucinations that seemed to drive them mad.

Forced into this puzzling situation, Jack wants to discover the cause of his strange dreams. He teams up with Rachel, an old acquaintance, now an attractive young teaching assistant at the university. Together they do some investigating — but someone’s determined to stop them.

For me this book is a keeper, one I can read over several times and still shiver with the thrill of the story. And it’s a bonus that Jack returns in a second and third book in the series.

Dan says in his e-mail, “The Kindle version of When Night Comes is absolutely FREE for the next 5 days. If you enjoy reading it, there’s a sample chapter for Book 2 at the end, and an Amazon link.”

And now there’s only one more day! So if this book sounds appealing, here’s the link to Amazon .com. And here’s the LINK to his BLOG.

Book Review: Blue Hydrangeas

BLUE HYDRANGEAS: An Alzheimer’s Love Story

Novel written by Marianne Sciucco
Published by Bunky Press (April 2013)

It’s apparent to Jack that his wife has gone beyond “a little forgetful.” Their doctor is talking about Alzheimer’s and suggesting 24/7 care is needed, but Jack’s convinced he can care for her in their home. He has a negative image of nursing homes and dreads the idea of putting the love of his life in one of them.

This is an awesome tale of love, devotion — and stubbornness — as Jack grapples with the Alzheimer’s disease that is slowly stealing his wife’s mind. We can relate to his efforts to help her remember, his fear and panic when he turns his back for a moment and she’s gone. The story draws the reader into the thoughts, emotions, and desperation that many people feel who have loved ones affected by dementia.

All through the book I sensed the darker undercurrent of truth here: Alzheimer’s can hit anyone. In an informative, encouraging way, Blue Hydrangeas introduces the reader to the possibility of dealing with this disease, should it strike someone near and dear to us. And the take away point is powerful: a couple should enjoy each day they have together.

This isn’t the newest book on the shelf but well worth reading. I received an advanced reader copy of Blue Hydrangeas from the Story Cartel in exchange for an unbiased review. If you’d like to help an author and are willing to do book reviews, do check out the Story Cartel.

“Strawberry Cream Cupcake” Missing Ingredients

Book Review:
Strawberry Cream Cupcake & Murder
(A Dana Sweet Cozy Mystery)

By Ann S. Marie
National Bestselling Author
Indie Published

Recently dumped by her finace, Dana has inherited a cupcake cafe from her deceased Grandmother. She’s moving back to Berry Cove, Ontario, intending to turn this cafe into a profitable business again. We read very often in the first couple of chapters how the business was going under and Dana has to make a profit or lose her life savings. Readers are also told quite often how much she misses her grandmother. Most of this could be deleted or switched to the “show, don’t tell” technique.

This first book was a freebie, so I’m really looking a gift horse in the mouth. However, I’m not sure who appointed Ms Marie a national best-selling author. The structure of some sentences and wording of some phrases makes me suspect English isn’t her first language. For example:

— Dana couldn’t read any further. Heat rushed to her chest.

— “It’s not true,” Inga added with her thick Russian accent rolling her R, yet again.

— She noticed the detective glancing at her neck when she swallowed. He probably thought she was guilty of sin. Which, of course, she wasn’t. No where even close.

A few overly long sentences actually came off quite amusing:

— Her eyes were wide and her jaw fell open as she looked at Brad slumped over on his desk, a cup of coffee turned over, spilling on the side of the desk, and a half-eaten strawberry cream cupcake topped with a high frosting with a spoon dug into it from the Cozy Cupcakes Café right there by his left hand.

— But Katie had been such a darling sweetheart seeing how Dana had been pulling all-nighters just as she’d done back in college, getting the disastrous bookkeeping records straight that had been neglected since Nans passed away by her elderly accountant who had started to have trouble with his memory, locating receipts and his failing eyesight. Poor thing.

I did finish the story, but this isn’t what I’d call a reader-friendly mystery. Instead of clues being introduced so readers can try their hand at divining whodunit, in the last chapter Dana informs the suspect that she’s gone online and learned points of his/her personal history. She then rattles off a bunch of incriminating info and makes the accusation. Rather a letdown for the reader.

The potential is there for a good story, but there are too many flaws in the telling of it, IMO. Dana could be a more sensible, likeable character. She doesn’t come off as the type to manage a business, IMO. A seasoned editor could have improved this book A LOT. However, the writer has some real fans judging by the Amazon reviews — AND she’s achieved her dream of getting a cozy mystery series written. As long as you don’t keep repeating the same mistakes over and over, practice should make perfect.

If you decide to give this writer a try, she has written seven books in the series. This first one is free on Amazon. (Note: Front cover designs and titles are similar to Joanne Fluke’s well known Hannah Swensen Mystery series, so don’t be confused.)

Books: Pennies From Burger Heaven

Written by Marcy McKay
SkipJack Publishing, Dec 2015

2016 USA Best Book Awards Finalist, General Fiction

This poignant story of one street kid’s search for her mother has lots of danger and suspense, twists & turns.

Life on the streets of Remington, Texas, is rough and raw at best. It becomes sinister after Copper’s Mama, a homeless prostitute, disappears one morning. Her daughter, Copper (Penny), blessed with abundant nerve — and a good deal of scared — sets out from their cemetery “home” determined to find her. She heads into the inner city they know so well, slowly untangling the web of her mother’s past involvements, hoping one of the threads will lead to Mama.

If the reader doesn’t want to be dragged through the mire of a ghetto — the crime, drugs, gang wars, predators and hookers — then don’t read this. Language isn’t a stream of profanity, but there’s enough realistic dialogue. God, Jesus and religion get a lot of bad press. There’s your stereotype phony televangelist visiting ladies-of-the-night when he’s not singing “Amazing Grace.”

That said, McKay has been accurate in her portrayal of the living conditions among the homeless and the people who prey on them, as well as the confusion about religion that exists among those who never attend a church or open a Bible. Coming from a non-religious background as I do, I see the thinking of my own people in this story.

For me the real hero isn’t so much the I-can-do-it-myself, spit-in-your-eye Copper, but rather the Detective who tries so hard to grab this scrawny little alley cat who’s clawing, kicking, and lashing out at him and everyone else. He tries to grab her from the streets before her life is destroyed as her mother’s was. Copper suspects his motive for his interest in her: what connection could this cop have to her mother?

Thanks to some supernatural — you might say divine — intervention, this kitten is granted another of her nine lives. On one hand, you somewhat anticipate the ending, yet all the slimy twists and turns — and final revelations — are totally unexpected.

Marcy McKay has penned a sequel to this book; this hasn’t been released yet, as far as I can tell. Marcy McKay is a frequent guest contributor to The Write Practice site, where she gives tips and exercises for improving your writing skills.