Saturday, January 27, 2024

A Little of This... by Liz Flaherty

Happy Saturday! I hope you're staying dry and safe. No regular post today. I have writing-type stuff going on, so I'm not writing. How does that work? Not always very well. 

The picture is a Facebook game that shows what I look like as a hippie. Although I'm not sure it looks like me--even me 40 years ago--but I just like it. It's too different from how I look to use it as an author photo, but since you know better anyway...

I'm part of an all-day Facebook celebration today, with lots of authors and giveaways. Fun conversations and interesting posts. I hope you come by! The event takes place here: 

I got a lovely message today from Leah Leach, Executive Director of Gal’s Guide to the Galaxy in Noblesville letting me know my essay, The Rickrack Chronicles, will be include in the Gal's Guide's annual anthology. It is both a pleasure and an honor to be included with some very good company. You can pre-order and find more out about the Gal's Guide here:

My friend Nan and I are taking off for a few days to do some writing in Nashville, Indiana. It's one of our favorite places. We may stop in while we're down there and take a look at Ron Luginbill's ukuleles at
Weed Patch Music

Speaking of music, if you're looking to hear some, Lew Little and Mike Almon release weekly reports on who's playing what kind of music at which location.

I'll try to have more to say next week. I hope you have a great one. Be nice to somebody. 

Wednesday, January 24, 2024

The Gardner's Secret with Sheila Hansberger

Please welcome Sheila Hansberger, an award-winning author and artist, to the Window today. Sheila resides in California. Her paintings can be found in permanent collections across the USA. Full-color illustrations of her apple-themed artwork are included in the five-star rated paperback, The Better Than Average Apple Cookbook. The Gardener’s Secret is her debut novel. Visit her website at:

Thanks for coming today, Sheila! I'm so happy you're here. I love your interview!

    What is your favorite thing about yourself? And your least favorite? My favorite thing about myself is that I’m determined, and I never quit on a project, no matter how long it takes to get it done right. That is also my least favorite thing, because I’m too much of a perfectionist. More could be accomplished if I didn’t expect everything to be perfect. A case in point: I wrote a romance…in fact I’ve rewritten it more times than I care to admit. Although one of the rewrites won 2nd place in a writing competition, I’m still not happy with the finished product…or should I say “unfinished” product? I’ve set the manuscript aside in favor of completing work in which I have more faith. Yet, it still lurks on my computer, trying to woo me back. I plan to finish it someday, but for now, I shove it to the back of my mind and work on other more pressing projects.

    Is there a particular line you won’t cross in writing, even to satisfy a trend or—possibly—to make a story more compelling? I won’t write erotica. I’m not a prude, but I’m a mom and grandma first.

    Is there someone you’d like to make proud of you with your writing, and do you think you’ve done it? Making my late husband proud would top the list. I’ve been a professional artist most of my life, and he was always my greatest fan and supported all of my creative endeavors. He’d come home from his office and greet me in my studio where I had hovered over a painting for hours. He’d sniff the air and say, “I don’t smell dinner cooking. What would you like me to fix?” I hope he’d do the same now if he found my fingers attached to a keyboard.

    What do you do on those days when you’re pretty sure the muse has died and you’ll never again write a publishable word? I rarely have moments like that, but if I did, I would read books, blogs, and articles about writing. Or, I would update my mailing list or tidy my studio. 

    What would you want to be if you weren’t a writer? I’ve been a successful artist for over 30 years and would go back to that profession full-time. Currently, I write more than I paint, but if the balancing act ever ceased, I’d be happy to be creative in any way possible.

    Do you have any particular fan-girl moments you’d like to share? We’d love to hear about them, especially if they were embarrassing and good for a laugh! As a newbie writer at my first conference, I perused the hotel’s buffet, then settled my breakfast tray on the only empty table. A young woman approached and asked if she might sit opposite. As we ate, I admitted indecision about which classes to attend. She suggested looking for topics that interested me, but not to worry, because even if the subject matter didn’t meet my criteria, I’d come away with valuable information. That afternoon, I rushed into a class already in session. Lo and behold, she was at the microphone! Good thing I didn’t know she represented a publisher, or I might have pitched my not-yet-ready-for-consumption manuscript way too early. 

    Looking back, what do know now that you wish you’d known the first time you opened a file and typed “Chapter One”? OMG, it’s so true what people say about ignorance being bliss! If I knew then what I know now, I probably wouldn’t have had the courage to begin, because I didn’t realize how unschooled I was. I mean, anyone can write a romance…right? I’m not a plotter, I’m a pantser, so writing…er a, rewriting…slows me down. But in three months, I wrote a 60K-word story and thought it was salable. I even sought advice from a published author about what to do next. She was so patient, listening to me babble on and on about my manuscript. She even offered a sample query letter. I cringe now, remembering how I called myself an author that day. Years later, after joining two national writing organizations, finding critique partners, taking classes, and reading everything possible about the art of writing, I can say I possess the skills to claim the title of author.

    What was a best day of your life? A worst? (Feel free to skip this one—I know it crosses the line into nosiness, but I’ve been fascinated by it ever since the first time I saw City Slickers.) Choosing one “best” day in my entire life is impossible; I’ve been blessed with dozens. But Death lingers on what you’d call my worst days. So many family members and friends have left this earth far too soon. My husband fought Multiple Myeloma cancer for fourteen months. Shock and grief soften with time, but you lose a piece of your heart along the way.

    Do you have a favorite quote? Feel like sharing it? A quote by Paul Sweeney reminds me to write the very best story I have inside me, because this is what readers expect: You know you’ve read a good book when you turn the last page and feel a little like you’ve lost a friend.”

    Who are your heroes / heroines? Have they made a difference in your writing? Rather than lean toward one particular hero or heroine, I admire certain human qualities any of us can possess. Individuals who exhibit unselfishness, generosity, and loyalty to loved ones get my vote. And, yes, I write those attributes into my characters.


    Believing she’ll get to report gritty news, Callie accepts a job at her hometown newspaper. Instead, she’s assigned the gardening column—a subject she knows nothing about. She begs advice from a tight-lipped neighbor when he admits he’s a retired gardener, even though his mannerisms and speech suggest he’s anything but. 

    Not knowing the full truth doesn’t matter—she needs his help. The townsfolk think him strange and warn Callie to keep her distance, but she regards him and his family as friends. Learning their horrifying secret doesn’t deter her, even though loyalty will draw her into danger.

    Buy links: 

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    Saturday, January 20, 2024

    Songs of Winter by Liz Flaherty

    Friday morning early: It's snowing. My cottonwood is wearing white on her broad and aging shoulders. There is a stillness that only snowfall brings--and then only when the wind isn't buffeting things around. 

    I remember snow days when I was in school. My dad was never home, because he worked on the highway department, which lent a different kind of freedom to the days. If the snow was deep, which it often was, my brothers built tunnels. We slid down the hill behind the barn. On wood-cutting days, we slid down the bigger hills where my uncle lived, coming to a crashing stop in a gully at the bottom of the hill. I learned to use a two-person saw with my brother. I didn't get good at it, but I could do it. (Same thing happened with cooking--go figure.)

    I read a lot in the mornings, especially when my own writing voice is still croaky and stubborn, and this morning I read Amy Abbott's essay about musical theater. It made me think of songs I've heard sung on stages, plays and concerts I've been privileged to see. 

    Music's always been part of our lives, from when I first saw my husband in a band while I was still in high school (he didn't see me --that came later) to watching the Three Old Guys at Legend's on Wednesday night. The kids were in choir and swing choir--our daughter still sings on her church's praise team. The grandkids were in band--the youngest one still is.

    It's basketball season, complete with snow and school being called off late this morning. I thought of all the games I'd been to. When our school played in the semi-state my senior year, when we watched our oldest play, and later a grandboy or two. It's funny how your own gym always feels the same, regardless of the changes that have been wrought there, the adulthoods reached for. The tassels turned on mortarboards.  

    On my phone this morning was a picture of our youngest standing behind Eamon, his and Laura's youngest, helping him with his tie. That's been a while, Jock texted when I sent him the picture, and I thought of how long ago it was Duane helping him and Chris with double Windsor knots. 

    Oh, the memories. 

    I titled this Songs of Winter, because the snowy stillness of morning is one of the times so many things seem clear. Even though one of the worst parts of aging is what happens to your memory, when even the reason you went into the kitchen totally escapes you, you still recall how things made you feel. 

    Wishing you a week of feeling good things, making memories, and being nice to somebody.

    For the time being, Window Over the Sink and Window Over the Desk are both 99 cents for ebooks. 

    Saturday, January 13, 2024

    Baby Jesus, Respect, and Never All by Liz Flaherty

    Baby Jesus was found. I saw it on Facebook, and an ache I didn't even realize I had was relieved. 

    It wasn't a real baby, of course, but a statue taken from the downtown nativity scene. There've been TV shows about lost and stolen Baby Jesus figures. They're usually found, as the one in Peru was. Sometimes they're damaged. They're always treated disrespectfully. The pain of that disrespect is very real. 

    Even if I were not a Christian, even if the nativity scene wasn't something so important to me, I wouldn't understand why someone would want to defile it. The same with a menorah. The same with a crescent and star. They are symbols of belief systems that are important to the ones whose faiths they represent. 

    I am not in anyway trying to say all Christians, Jewish people, or Muslims (or any other religions) are good people. I'm not trying to say some of their "rule books" don't have parts that make me cringe. I'm not comfortable with some of the modes of dress, with any culture that considers any of its members lesser, with men wearing hats in church. (You already knew how old I am--now you really know.)

    But then, I don't like a ton of tattoos, a ton of piercings, or personal body parts being uncovered in public. I don't like the f-word used just to use it--especially by people who can't differentiate between they're, their, and there. I don't like when people straddle two parking spots, take up residence in the left lane, or don't use turn signals. I have no respect for any one who puts their trash into the recycle receptacles or litters. 

    I hate ear gauges. 

    Wow, that is a bunch of dislike, isn't it? 

    But you know what? It's okay to dislike things others do, to not agree with or even respect their beliefs. It's just fine to be uncomfortable with cultural things that make you flinch or usage of the language that makes your ears curl inward so you can't hear it. It's okay to not know where to look when there's more ink on a person's skin than it takes to print a book or if they have huge holes where you have ear lobes. It's definitely not a mark against you to get mad at drivers who give idiocy a bad name. 

    But it's not okay to act on it, to in any way damage or even talk about all purveyors, wearers, or drivers as bad people. You don't know that. You don't even come close to knowing it. 

    As a Democrat in Indiana, I understand more than I want to about disdain. But I don't know what it's like to be black where most people aren't, what it's like to be part of the LGBTQ+ community where most people aren't. However, I know the word all gets used way too often. While I'm fairly certain all of those people, Democrats included, aren't good ones, I can guarantee they're not all bad, either.

    Something else I know is that much of the criteria we use for judging others is flawed. Seriously flawed.

    So, there you go. My time on the soapbox has expired. I wrote this from a perspective of sour grapes, of having my feelings hurt by someone I've known my entire life. It's something that happens more and more these days, isn't it?

    Maybe we can try to do it less often. Maybe we can remember before we say or do something hurtful that what means nothing to us means the world to them. In a lesser way, from pure thoughtlessness and often misplaced righteousness, we might be stealing their Baby Jesus. All we have to do to give Him back is say Hello. Have a great day. Smile. And go on.

    Have a good week. Be nice to somebody.

    Saturday, January 6, 2024

    I Liked 2023 by Liz Flaherty

    I liked 2023. Well, maybe not that much. Not enough to be sorry to see it go. Like many others, I'm exhausted by its shenanigans. By politics as a whole. By the state of health care if you choose not to live in a metropolitan area. By J-turns and traffic circles for the aid and comfort of certain areas being more important than well kept roads for the rest of us. 

    But wait. Those things aren't the fault of the year that just passed. Although they are the fault of the times, and I guess that's really where the exhaustion comes in. The older you get, the more times you can remember and the faultier the memory becomes.

    That's the thing about memory, isn't it? While it lends pleasure and knowledge and lots of oh, yeah moments, it also makes you revisit places you never wanted to go again. Things that hurt years ago still hurt. Things you thought you forgave...well, maybe you did, but forgetting's an entirely different thing, isn't it? 

    I've been writing this column all week and this is as far as I've gotten. We've had sickness in the house through the holidays and even though I've seen or talked to nearly everyone in the family, I feel a sense of disconnect, too.

    I miss the house being full. I can't explain why it was harder this holiday season than ones in the past. Not only have our children flown the nest, most of their children have, too. Life is still fun and full (regardless of those empty spaces I'm whining about) of writing and music and living in a place we love to live.

    So, fine, Liz, what is your problem?

    There isn't one. 

    Life is good. 

    Although time goes so fast, the sun still rises and sets at the beginning and end of each day. I know I've said that before, but sometimes I need to be reminded.

    Just as I need to be reminded that even when those times are exhausting and hope seems like a distant pinpoint of light at the end of a very long and dark tunnel, there will be good times that usually outweigh the bad. For all the people who feel as if they owe nothing to humankind, there are more who know that we do. For all the people who spread hate, there are more who spread love. For all those who are greedy, there are more who are generous. For those who suggest that we "get over" the shooting of children, there are more who will never get over it. Those deaths have left behind houses that will never be full again.

    I liked 2023 okay. So far, I'm not impressed by 2024, but I'm willing and wanting to be wrong about that. I leave you with an apology for my inability to dredge up happy thoughts tonight. 

    But this won't post until Saturday morning, when the sun will come up again. When we can start again and remind ourselves that life is good. 

    Have a great week. Be nice to somebody.

    Monday, January 1, 2024

    The Christmas Bears by Sherri Easley

    It was the first Christmas after losing my son, and I was struggling to find joy in anything, much less Christmas. I had not put up my tree and there was no trace of any holiday cheer.

    My daughter saw a post on a social media Mom’s page, asking if anyone had experience in repairing memory bears. Not for the first time, my daughter volunteered me. I am beyond blessed and sometimes frustrated that she seems to believe I can fix or make anything when it comes to sewing.

    I got the woman’s information, and we chatted a bit by text. Her grown son was off to college and was struggling with being away in his new environment. The only thing he asked for that Christmas was for his childhood bears, “Bear” and “Other Bear” be repaired.

    When the woman delivered the bears and all I could do was bite my lip and think to myself, this would require a miracle. She handed me two ragged brown, near faceless bundles and explained to me how she held one of them while she was in labor with her now grown son and that her son loved the bear so much; they had to find another one because the first one was showing wear.

    She asked how much I would charge, and I told her I wasn’t sure if I could do anything and that there would be no cost. I have always felt like when you are blessed with a skill or gift, you should pay it forward as much as possible and this was the perfect opportunity.

     I looked up the well-loved bears to see how they looked like in their less loved days and found, to my shock, that they were originally white. Picking one up, I inspected it closer, wondering what I had gotten myself into and how I would return them to their actual youth. Doing what I always do when in doubt- I jumped in and started working.

    I made a bath of warm soapy water with a little oxy clean and let them swim for a while. That did little, so I sprayed them with an oxygen based cleaner and a miracle occurred. I rinsed them well and put them between a towel and squeezed out the water and let them dry.

    I used a wire dog brush and gently brushed them out. They really had fur, after all, at least a little. I had to be careful, because they were pretty fragile. Then, I fattened them up with fluff and restitched the many holes and sewed their heads back on.

    I used oil-based paint pens to paint the eyes and even add that special white dot for the gleam. It was the nose, though, that brought the bears to life and gave them back their personalities.  

    As a side note, I sent a photo to my daughter as I was repairing them, and she asked if I had changed out the fabric on them.

    The last time I saw the bears, they were neatly tucked in a box awaiting pickup. I thought nothing more about them until Christmas eve when I got an emotional video of the young man opening his gift and his sweet and sentimental reaction at the realization it was Bear and Other Bear.

    … and just like that – the joy and spirit of Christmas found me once more.

    Sherri Easley was born and raised on a farm in rural east Texas, surrounded by good country folks and lots of great cooking. Growing up with an idyllic childhood in a small community provided her with lots of tales and characters for the stories she writes. When she is not creating Strategy at her corporate day job, you will find her snuggled up with her three dogs and two cats, writing stories from the heart. You can reach Sherri at