Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Life In the Fast Lane with Spunky Sally Berneathy

I grew up in pre-television days in a small rural town in Oklahoma. Our favorite entertainment on summer evenings was to sit outside under the stars and tell stories. When I went to bed at night, instead of a lullaby, I got a story. That could be due to the fact that everybody in my family had the singing voice of a bullfrog with a cold, but they sure could tell stories—ghost stories, funny stories, happy stories, scary stories.

For as long as I can remember I've been a storyteller. Thank goodness for computers so I can write down my stories. It's hard to make listeners sit still for the length of a book! Like my family's tales, my stories are funny, scary, dramatic, romantic, paranormal, magic.

I have sold fifteen romance novels ranging from comedy to dark suspense. For these novels, I won several awards including National Readers' Choice, Romantic Times Best Silhouette Romance and two Rita finalist slots.

About Sally's book -
Death by Chocolate, available as an e-book, is a cozy mystery with lots of humor and chocolate. My heroine, Lindsay, is a chocoholic who just wants to enjoy her brownies in peace and quiet, but her neighbor's secrets put her life in danger. I've included some of Lindsay's favorite recipes at the end of the book.

Lindsay Powell's only secret is the recipe for her chocolate chip cookies, but she is surrounded by neighbors with deadly secrets. Suddenly Lindsay finds herself battling poisoned chocolate, a dead man who doesn't seem very dead and a psycho stalker.

Her best friend and co-worker, Paula, dyes her blond hair brown, hides from everybody and insists on always having an emergency exit from any room. Secrets from Paula's past have come back to put lives in jeopardy.

Determined to help Paula and to save her own life, Lindsay enlists the reluctant aid of another neighbor, Fred, an OCD computer nerd. In spite of his mundane existence, Fred possesses tidbits of knowledge about such things as hidden microphones, guns and the inside of maximum security prisons.  

Lindsay needs more than a chocolate fix to survive all this chaos.

Amazon Kindle Link:

And now, let's read what Sally has to say about getting old -

You know you're getting old when:

You get upset with your current job and think, "I don't have to take that! I'll just go back to school and get another degree and get a different job!" And then you realize, the employment opportunities for 70-year old interns are probably slim.

Sally at the Grand Canyon
 Your doctor concludes your checkup with: "You're in really good shape…for your age."

You still come in last in a 10K race, but you win first place in your age group…because everybody else in your age group is walking with a cane.

You stop getting speeding tickets.

Okay, I haven't hit that last one yet. As long as I consistently drive 15 miles an hour over the speed limit—and more when I'm in a hurry—I think I'm okay on that one.

As a dedicated speeder, through the years my methods of squeaking out of a ticket have evolved into what I consider my best to date. I credit the wisdom of age and experience for coming up with the story, and my being over a certain age for the cop's acceptance of my story.

One day I was driving along, doing 72 in a 55. The older we get, the faster we have to go because we have less time to get there. Right?

Next thing you know, I hear a siren and see flashing lights in the rear view mirror. So I pull over and here comes gorilla cop wearing a pair of those silly mirrored sunglasses. "Going a little fast there, weren't you, ma'am?"

"A little," I admitted. "Not enough to matter."

"Oh? And just how fast do you think you were going?"

I may be old, but I'm not stupid! No way was I going to admit I was doing 72, and if I'd said 55, he'd have known I was lying. "Well, I had my cruise control set for 65."

He glared at me over the tops of those stupid sunglasses. "Ma'am, this is a 55 mile an hour zone."

I glared right back at him. "Sir, this is a 7 year old car, so deducting one mile an hour for every year, that means I was only going 58 miles an hour. Are you seriously going to give me a ticket for 3 miles over the speed limit?"

He blinked a couple of times, shoved those sunglasses back up on his nose and stepped away from my car. "What? No! You were doing 72!"

"Oh, man! You mean I got it backward? I'm supposed to add the years instead of subtracting them?"

He moved a little further away from me as if senility might be contagious. "Yeah, yeah, backward. Slow it down, okay?" Got in his car and drove away.

No ticket!

I hope that cop's not reading this blog. Is there a statute of limitations on speeding?

When I was young, I thought I'd never get old. Why on earth would I want to do something like that? It didn't look like fun, all those people with white hair tottering around, driving slow in front of me, holding up the line at the grocery checkout. Somehow, just by going to bed every night and waking up every morning, I have achieved membership in AARP and Medicare.

But I'm still in there trying. I've always been a late-bloomer. I graduated from college at the age of 43, sold my first novel at 47, learned computer programming at 56, learned to ride a motorcycle at 60, self-pubbed my first e-book at 66. Sky-diving is next on my list. After that, well, the sky's the limit! At least I don't have to worry about dying young!

However, I haven't been stopped for speeding in over three months. I wonder…

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Spunky Margaret Tanner and Her Good Luck Charms

As well as being a Spunky Senior, Margaret Tanner is a multi-published author of historical romance with Whiskey Creek Press and The Wild Rose Press.

Margaret's novel, The Trouble With Playboys, published by The Wild Rose Press is partially set in Singapore and Malaya during the 2nd World War.

The buy link for The Trouble With Playboys is

Margaret has some stories about good luck charms to share with us here.


Being both a spunky senior and a recent retiree, I thought I would blog about lucky charms and let you be the judge of whether they work or not. Let’s face it, we are more inclined to believe in these things as we get older. I know I do.

I always scoffed at magic or lucky charms. If I couldn’t see it, I didn’t believe in it. Well, that is not until I visited my Dad’s sister, a sprightly old dear in her nineties. It was the 30th anniversary of my father’s death.

After a watery, milky cup of tea and some stale cake, that Aunty said she had baked the previous day, but I think it could have been the previous week, she started telling me about the silver boomerang, which we had found many years ago amongst my late father’s war medals. (A boomerang is an Australian aboriginal hunting weapon). The boomerang bore the words “I go to return.”

It was a good luck charm, and my father apparently wore it throughout the 2nd World War.  There was magic in the boomerang, the lady who had given it to him was convinced of it, as was my aunt. Whether Dad believed in it or not, I have no idea.

The original owner apparently survived the carnage of the 1st World War.  So, did the good luck charm live up to its name the second time around?

Australian soldier of the 1st World War -a memorial for Australian war dead.  
In March 1940 Dad felt duty bound to answer his country’s call to war. When the Japanese poured into Malaya he was there as a member of the 2/29th Battalion of the Australian 8th Division, (most of whom ended up dying as Prisoners of War).

Wounded in action in Malaya, and transferred to an Australian Military Hospital in Singapore, my father was blown out of bed, but survived the Japanese bombs which took the roof off his ward.  The British forces fell back across the causeway into Singapore. Day and night the fires burned.  The bombers came over spreading their destruction. Shattered shops were left to the mercy of looters, bodies rotted in the streets, and packs of marauding dogs gorged themselves with little resistance, as a pall of black smoke hung over Singapore. The giant British guns that might have saved Singapore were embedded in concrete and pointing out to sea. Useless to quell the invaders who came over land through the jungle.

All aircraft and ships had departed loaded with civilians, nurses and wounded, and after this desperate flotilla sailed off, those left behind could only await their fate.

In the last terrible days before Singapore capitulated in February 1942, trapping 80,000 Australian and British troops, a small boat braved the might of the Japanese air force and navy, and set off, crammed with wounded.  Only soldiers who were too incapacitated to fight yet could somehow mobilise themselves, were given the opportunity for this one last chance of escape.

With a piece of his back bone shot away, and weakened from attacks of malaria, Dad had somehow made it to the wharf with a rifle, and the clothes he stood up in. As the boat wended its way out of the Singapore harbour, littered with the smouldering debris of dying ships, a Japanese bomber dived low over them, but the pilot obviously had more important targets on his mind.

They drifted around in the sea for several days until they were finally rescued by a passing allied ship and after another couple of weeks, Dad finally made it home.

So, was their magic in the boomerang? I don’t know, but my aunt’s story certainly sent shivers down my spine. 

Margaret Tanner

Please welcome Margaret Tanner to Spunky Senior Authors and Talents by Leaving a Comment.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Spunky Senior Author, Alicia Rasley, Teaches College English and Busts the Myth of Missing Braincells

It's Never Too Late to Start or Return to College
By Alicia Rasley, Instructor and Guest Lecturer

I've been teaching English in college for two decades, and during that time I've had all sorts of students— very smart twin sisters who hadn't yet finished high school, a heavy-metal rock star, a paroled murderer, an Episcopalian priest, a non-native English speaker escaping from oppression, and hundreds of "returning students." And so now, when I hear over-50s lamenting that they never finished college, I always say, "It's not too late," and hand them an application to my university.

Daffodils in England, Alicia's
Spiritual Homeland

In fact, I'm going back myself this summer, studying Shakespeare for a few additional credits! I've always been inspired by the example of my mother, who got her PhD in biochemistry at the age of 52, after raising eight children. My sister, a successful health care administrator, recently finished her BS degree, and I know our mother would have been proud, and then would have said, "So when do you start on your graduate program?" 

So if you've ever wondered whether you still have the stuff to succeed at college, I'm here to tell you "yes!" Not only do older (we call them "returning") students succeed at college, they're often at the top of the class. Yes—the ranks of the A students are dominated by returners. I've heard young students exclaim exasperatedly at catching sight of a few older students, "Oh, great. Here are the boomers, and they're going to ruin the curve and hog all the good grades!"

The Myth of the Missing Braincells
Yes, it's a myth. I know older students sometimes worry that they've lost too many braincells to compete with the young folk. I don't know how many braincells youngsters have, but I can tell you from experience that at any given time about 50% of those youthful cells are focused on what I as a part-time romance writer like to call "looking for love." (You might call it something else—they certainly do!)

Yes, while the returning students are conscientiously taking notes on my explanation of the structure of problem/solution essays, the younger students are flirting with each other and holding hands under their desks. Advantage: Returning students.

Alicia's husband, Jeff, isn't too busy
to help support a Nepalese village.

The Benefits of Busy-ness
Returning students sometimes worry, with justification, that there's no way to add classes, studying, and homework to an already overloaded schedule. Yes, my older students sometimes have day-planners that look like a symphony conductor's score.  But along with the job, the family, the volunteer work, and the hobbies comes an amazing ability to manage time. 

I have to refer back to my sister Jolynn. She went back to college when she had a more-than-full-time management job, four children (one with the very demanding activity of concert choir), the care for our elderly father, a hopeless addiction to fiction reading, and a very forebearant husband (but still a man, and thus with expectations of at least a bit of her time). What was she thinking, going back to school? Well, she needed just a year or so of credits to finish the degree that would qualify her for promotion to branch manager. And besides, you know the old saying, "If you want something done, ask a busy person." So Jo would come home from a long day's work, sometimes involving getting terminally ill patients set up on ventilators so they could spend their last days at home with their families. She would make dinner for her family and supervise her daughter's homework. And she would turn on her computer and get started on her own homework. Who needs sleep, huh?

A year later, she's busier than ever. She's graduated from college, but that new job running the whole branch is taking a lot of time. She can handle it. And I predict in a few months, she'll be looking back nostalgically on the fun she had finishing that degree. (Maybe not. :)

Fact is, if you've been working at a job and/or raising a family for a few decades, you have learned to budget your time. You've also learned how to compress work to manageable levels. No returning student ever emails me to complain about all the reading I've assigned. A returning student will assess the assignments, the relative point levels assigned to each, and the specific reading required. And then she'll do exactly as much as she needs to do to get that A, and no more. And she for sure knows better than to antagonize the professor with complaints. Returning students know enough not to whine.

The Lingering Effects of Life

Do you think I'm the only one who has noticed how much experience returning students bring when they re-enter college? Universities have noticed too. Most state universities have something called "CLEP" (credit for life experiences program). It might have a different name, but it has the same purpose, to give returning students college credit for what they've learned from their careers.

For example, I had a student who enrolled in the "EXCL" class (in my university, you take that class so you can apply for up to 30 hours—ten courses—of credit) hoping to get a jump on a major in homeland security studies. This was an online class, and one day he logged in from Afghanistan. He'd been sent there to assess the cybersecurity of the military base, and had to write a report to brief the commander. That is, the commander in chief, also known as the president. Of the United States. That's the sort of experience returning students bring back to college. And fortunately, most colleges recognize this and have some way to offer credit. Those years you're looking back on? They are not "lost decades." They are "found credits."

The Expansiveness of Experience

Mountains of Virgian, Where Alicia Grew Up

Another benefit that just comes from living a life is a wealth of events, emotions, memories, and experiences which create a wider and deeper array of potential topics for the papers, speeches, and presentations students have to make. I once taught at a "typical" college, my own alma mater, in fact, a lovely place with very pretty students just out of high school. They were adorable. However, when I assigned a narrative essay where they were told to write about an experience that changed their lives, they were often perplexed. Most didn't have enough life to have needed a change. So they wrote about "My Spring Break in Daytona Beach." So many wrote about that, I had to ban the topic. I just couldn't bear to read another essay about the trauma of seven girls crammed into a hotel room with only one bathroom, or the temptations of the wet t-shirt contests.

Then I started teaching at the community college, where many of the students were over 40. And what did they have to write about? Oh, "My Father's Last Words." And "What I Learned from Risking Love Again." And "Three Books That Guided Me to Joining the Peace Corps." And "Changing Jobs and Changing Lives." And "Community Theater: My Own Standing Ovation." And "How I Forgave My Daughter One More Time." And "The Pleasures and Perils of Raising Grandchildren." And… well, you get the idea. You HAVE the ideas. Returning students just need to learn to honor the wealth of their own experience. Your own kids might groan at your stories, but trust me, your professor will be so glad that you're writing about something real, something true, something interesting!
Youth is a lovely experience. But most young people have no experience. Returning students do. And no matter what the assignment, they draw on a lifetime's experience to add to or underscore the topic. One of the best papers I ever had came from a woman who, when tasked to write about "an object of importance," wrote about her husband's ugly old Lazyboy chair. He'd brought it to the marriage as his only piece of furniture. She'd always hated it, but she recounted how, early in the marriage, she and her husband used to cuddle in that chair as they watched TV. Later, one or the other would comfort babies in that chair. And then there was the time they grouped all the children in the chair and took a family photo. And… well, you get the idea. By the time she wrote about when they got successful and had money to redecorate and the interior decorator set the Lazyboy out with the trash, I was crying. And boy, was I happy when she admitted she and her husband had dragged the Lazyboy into the garage and hid it until the decorator had left. 
Alicia's backyard in the winter, complete with swans!

Personal experience doesn't mean "it’s all about me." Returning students use their own experience as a jumping-off point for greater education, and sometimes they create new knowledge. For example, another student of mine (a native of Japan) responded to a prompt to write about words with a paper about onomatopoeia (words that sound like their meaning, like "screech") in Japanese, her mother tongue. She didn't just rest on her own knowledge of the language, of course. She did research on the origins of Japanese, the nature of onomatopoeia, and the psychological processes involved in word creation. Okay, she was, by far, the best student I ever had. This essay won just about every prize at our university, earning her enough money to pay her final year's tuition. How old was she? 50. She'd completed a career as a bank teller and raised three children before she decided to explore her interest in linguistics.
I just have to point out that returning student never wail, "I don't have anything to write about!"

It’s Never Too Late If You Start Soon
In fact, this is the best time ever to return to college. Most state universities and community colleges have advisors specially trained to help returning students determine their course requirements, even those students who have three years of courses over three decades and two continents. Most colleges now have some program that assesses college credit for work experience. And many colleges now offer online education to make college possible for people with jobs, families, and/or disabilities.
You've managed to create an impressive life without a college degree. You've raised a family, maybe, or you've surmounted serious obstacles, or you've worked your way up to a great career. You can do college. Trust me. You've got more than enough of the right stuff! And your professors will be grateful for your patience, your strength, your organization, your compassion with other students, and your excitement at the prospect of learning.

Alicia Rasley has taught thousands of students at an elite private college, two state universities, a graduate writing program, a community college, online, and in writing workshops around the US and Canada. She has also raised a family and crafted a writing career, writing novels that have won awards and spent time on the bestseller list.  

Her articles on writing and the Regency period have been widely distributed, and many are collected on her website, She also blogs about writing and editing at  Check out the Amazon page for other Regencies by Rasley.

v  Rakish heroes.
v  Reckless heroines.
v  Elegant stories.

She invites anyone interested in returning to college to email her at for counsel, college suggestions, and encouragement.

Please Welcome Alicia Rasley to Spunky Senior Authors and Talents by Leaving a Comment.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Spunky Author, Roseanne Dowell, Shares Her Other Talents

One of my favorite things to do when I’m not writing is embroidery. Another is quilting. I’ve found a way to combine the two. First, I made baby quilts for my nieces. White on white, I machine embroidered them with the darning stitch so I had control. They turned out so nice, but I really love to hand embroidery. That’s when I discovered red-work. During a quilting shop-hop, one of the stores highlighted red-work. For those who don’t know what red-work is – it’s embroidery done in all red floss. Just the outline of the picture, not filled in like other embroidery patterns. 
A Christmas Wall Hanging Done by Roseanne
Anyway, I fell in love with it. Every year I make something for Christmas (usually a Santa) for my six children and give it to them on Thanksgiving. Sometimes it’s ceramic, sometimes wood. I found a Santa pattern and did it all in red-work, framed it and gave it to them.
That’s when I decided to make a baby quilt for each of my grandchildren – not for them, but for their first born. I had already made lap quilts for each of them. But where to find patterns? I started out with coloring books for designs. I traced the images onto 12x12 squares of muslin.  After I finished embroidering the squares, I cut sashing and sewed them together. For the backing I used various fabrics, not nursery print. None of the quilts have nursery fabric in them at all. I’ve used patterns from animals to Winnie the Pooh.
Eventually, I found transfer books and started using them for designs. I looked everywhere for baby designs. Thirteen of them are finished, but I now have 14 grandchildren, that’s a lot of baby quilts. Most of the quilts are done in red work, but several are done with various colors, too. I just finished the quilt top of the 14th. Now, I have to put it together and quilt it.

The others have been finished for a couple of years. It took a several years to embroider all the squares. Since then, I also made quilts for my niece’s twins. One of the patterns is kittens and the other is bunnies. She had a girl and boy, so I thought the bunnies would be good for him. Now, she’s having another child. A boy–so I’m working on baby animals for her.
I gave my first grandchild’s quilt to my oldest granddaughter, who had a baby boy, my first great grandchild.  For my fourteenth grandchild, another boy, I found the perfect quilt pattern for him. Ducks.
I couldn’t wait to get it done, even though it’s going to be many years before he’ll need it. I’ve marked each quilt with the name of the grandchild they’re supposed to go to in case I’m not around to give it to them. My daughters have been instructed to pass them out. I hope I’m still around to give each child their quilt, but if I’m not they’ll each have a piece of me. I hope they treasure them. To store them, I put them in one of those quilt bags you get from the store. Yes, I bought a quilt for my bed. But I did make one too, I embroidered wild flowers in each square – and yes, I filled them in, not just outlined. It took over a year to do it, but it was worth it. Besides, I have nothing better to do in the evening while I’m watching TV. That’s the nice thing about embroidery, you can sit in front of the TV and still work on it.
If you’d like to know more about me or my books, check out my website and you can find my books at Amazon