Saturday Night Serenade–Sometimes Stories DO Write Themselves

Since February when my most recent book was published, I’ve been hard at work on the follow-up, the second book in the Redheads & Ranchers series, a novel called HUNTER’S PRIDE.

This week as I worked on a scene in which the hero of the story walks into a small-town bar, I wanted to set the mood of the place. As I imagined Hunter McFall walking into the North Star, this song, Gimme Three Steps by Lynyrd Skynyrd began playing in my head.

Writing experts will tell you there are two types of fiction writers: planners and pantsers. Planners create a detailed outline of their entire story before they ever write a single word. Pantsers (as in fly by the seat of) jump right into the deep end and begin writing the story.

I think of myself as more of a plantser. I don’t outline anything, but I do know where the story begins, where it ends, and the major events that happen in between. I keep a notebook wherein I scribble basics like main characters, their names, descriptions, and details, other characters in their orbit, various significant plot points, and setting details. Mind you, these items are added in a haphazard, stream-of-consciousness sort of way. I even sketch out important places so I can get the details right. My notebook more resembles a madman’s manifesto than a novel outline.

But the cool thing about doing it that way is that often the story unfolds for me in much the same way as I hope it does for the reader. And I end up with moments like when Lynyrd Skynyrd’s Gimme Three Steps comes forward and says, ‘I belong here.’

I’m a Southern girl. I grew up in Tennessee, and I’ve always loved Southern rock. So it’s not really surprising that some of those songs are the ones that present themselves to me. I suppose it all goes to a writer’s voice.

So for tonight’s serenade, I hope you enjoy this oldie.
Fun Fact: My mom’s name is Linda Lou.
Could this song be about her? Hmmm… ūüėČ

Be sure to hug those you love. Have a happy Saturday night!

By the way, if you’re interested,
is Redheads & Ranchers Book 1,
and it’s available now
wherever you buy digital books.

Saturday Night Serenade–Kiss Me, I’m Irish

I LOVE St. Patrick’s Day!¬† ¬†On my bucket list is to pay someone to play Galway Girl in a pub in Galway on St. Patrick’s Day.¬† So far, this first video is as close as I’ve gotten.¬† It’s a joyous street celebration!

Tonight, in celebration of all things Eire, I’ve assembled some of my favorite Irish music by some of my favorite Irish bands.¬† If you’re not familiar with them, it’s a sampling of what’s out there.

To me, the perfect place to celebrate the day is in an Irish bar listening to traditional music.¬† A few St. Patrick’s Days ago, Mr. R and I spent hours at the James Joyce Irish Pub, a wonderful bar in Tampa’s Ybor City neighborhood.

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We listened to great music and tossed back way too many little green shots before we staggered back to our hotel in the wee hours of the morn.  At one point, Mr. R paid the guy to sing Dirty Old Town.  Here it is by The Pogues.

You can’t celebrate the day without¬†Irish Rover.¬† This traditional version is by the Dubliners with The Pogues.¬† Just ignore the bad teeth, it’s brilliant.

The Dropkick Murphys are undoubtedly my favorite jig-punk band, and I was thrilled to go see them last time they came through town.  This is Rose Tattoo.

Again,  here are The Pogues, with If I Should Fall From Grace With God.  Does it seem like  the Irish have something of a fixation on death?

Finally, and if you’re still here, you’re awesome, here’s a set from my favorite Irish band, The Prodigals, at their home bar, Paddy Reilly’s on the lower east side of Manhattan.¬† I actually DID get to see them here once, and it was magical.

Pull up a stool and raise your pint glass.  Sláinte, hug those you love, and have a happy Saturday night.

Saturday Night Serenade–Oh, For A Pint On A Fall Night

Happy November!¬† Can it be possible that the holidays are right around the corner?¬† Oh, it CAN be–judging by the sudden onslaught of Christmas displays in the stores and the commercials on television.

Last weekend was cool here in south Florida.¬† A/C was turned off, windows were opened, a fresh breeze whisked away all the stale air from the house.¬† We even had a fire in the fireplace a couple of nights.¬†¬†This weekend is more or less back to normal for this time of year–bright sunshine and low humidity with high temps around 80.

But last weekend put me in a mood.  I want to escape to a pub in Galway, and sip a pint of Guinness while listening to a local band.

I love this song by Ed Sheeran, and I adore this video even more.  Join me for a pint, and celebrate this beautiful fall evening.  Be sure to hug those you love.  Happy Saturday night!

Saturday Night Serenade–Ready To Feel Good

It was a week. ¬†I can’t complain, not really. ¬†We had a Cat 5 hurricane barreling toward us, and ended up losing power for only about 15 hours. ¬†No damage to the house, just a lot of tree branches and debris down in the yard. ¬†Parts of the Keys are devastated. ¬†I almost feel guilty for feeling relieved.

Local news was 24/7 hurricane coverage for a good five days, warning us of doom, gloom, and imminent disaster.  We had no idea what was going on in the rest of the world.

When the electricity and internet were back up, I was ready to go back to normal life. ¬†Not so fast, though. ¬†Not everyone around here has had their power restored. ¬†We were apparently among the very fortunate. ¬†And the county just lifted the curfews they’d enacted. ¬†For quite a few days, there was no going anywhere from dusk to dawn.

View of the Jupiter Lighthouse from Square Grouper, after Hurricane Irma.

Cabin fever forced Mr. R. and I to go exploring on Wednesday. ¬†On the most off chance, we cruised by one of our favorite watering holes, knowing that because it’s on the water, it would definitely be closed.

It wasn’t. ¬†Precious few people knew, so it was blissfully uncrowded and we spend a nice hour decompressing toward normal.

I’m ready to feel good again. ¬†So for tonight’s serenade, I’m bringing along Ed Sheeran with Castle on the Hill. ¬†I love this song. ¬†It makes me feel happy.

I hope you’re enjoying this September evening. ¬†Is it cool where you are? ¬†It’s still steamy hot here. ¬†Hug those you love, and maybe consider donating to hurricane relief. ¬†Between Texas and Florida, there are a lot of hurting folks out there.

Happy Saturday night!

Saturday Night Serenade–Summer Songs #8

It’s the end of July.¬† Normally around this time, I’d be panicked thinking about going back to work.¬† My living room would be filled with piles of composition books, spiral notebooks, folders, crayons, glue sticks, scissors, pencils, and all the other back-to-school paraphernalia.

This year is different.¬† Since school ended in June, I’ve been working seven days a week on my new full-time career.¬† And loving every minute of it.¬† I don’t mind hard work when I believe in what I do and have the freedom to do it in the way it should be done.¬† Teaching hasn’t been that way for a long time.

Last school year was spectacularly bad, and more than half the staff of my school has found other positions.¬† A few, like me, have found new careers.¬† Since that’s the case and we’ve all gone our separate ways, I’m making it my mission to see that we all stay in touch, and to that end, my bestie Mo and I started a group on Facebook.¬† We call it a ‘book club’, a tongue-in-cheek nod to the code word we used last year when we needed to share ‘ears only’ information (told you it was a bad year), and it’s by invitation only.¬† The main purpose is to have a communication platform–we’re planning to get together for lunch once a month to stay in contact, keep up with everyone, and encourage each other in our new endeavors.


Yesterday was our second meeting, and we had a blast.¬† We’ve decided that ‘our place’ is an outdoor bar on the Jupiter Inlet called Square Grouper.¬† The vibe is island casual, with sand for the floor and palm fronds for the ceiling, with a view of the Jupiter lighthouse across the inlet.¬† Oh, and did I mention that I’ve made it a setting in my new book, due out in September?¬† It’s a place to go when you need to decompress.¬† There’s nothing like the lull of the water and the gentle ocean breeze that lets you sit back and relax.

book club pano

Which is exactly what we did.¬† Before we left yesterday, we made plans for our August meeting.¬† I offered to change up the venue, but everyone wanted to come back to this little slice of paradise where it’s always 5:00.

And that brings me to tonight’s serenade, It’s Five O’Clock Somewhere.¬† It’s a great summer song.¬† It also happened to be shot here, at Square Grouper.¬† The video is old–the place has put in a few upgrades, but they’ve maintained the tranquil, island-time essence that brings everyone back.

Tonight, I’m grateful for good friends, cold drinks, a gentle summer breeze, and life in general.¬† I hope you’re well and enjoying your summer.¬† Be sure to hug those you love.¬† Happy Saturday night!


Saturday Night Serenade–Summer Songs #7

Summer road trip, anyone?  Mr. R and I headed over to Tampa last weekend for an Indie author book convention.  The event featured Indie authors from all over the world, and was held at a party space called Chic Venue.


It was pretty inside (okay, Mr. R called it gaudy) and as soon as we arrived, we set about putting our half of the table in order.


I shared the table with a lovely author named Harmony Stalter.¬† She was super nice, and displayed two books, one of which she called a ‘second-chance romance’, and the other a murder mystery.¬† Which probably explains the jar with the (fake) heart and the other one filled with eyeballs.


She later apologized for the gruesome display, but I replied that her jars probably accounted for most of the people who stopped by our table.¬† The event ran from noon to 6:00, and traffic was slow.¬† Even so, I had a wonderful time and met a lot of great writers.¬† I’m even making plans to return next year.

As Mr. R and I headed home, we stopped in Ybor City, my favorite part of Tampa.¬† It’s the historic Cuban district, and probably where we should have had the author event.¬† I’ll push for that for next year.

Anyway, we found street parking and strolled toward the loud live music coming from down the street.¬† It emanated from Gaspar’s Grotto, a place we know well.¬† It’s where you go when you want the absolute best Cuban sandwich you’ll find anywhere.¬† So with cocktails on the table and¬† sandwiches ordered, we relaxed to live music and reflected on our day.


It was our summer road trip.¬† Which brings me to tonight’s serenade, Love Shack, the ultimate road trip song.¬† And it makes me wonder…¬† We told you about our trip.¬† Where have you traveled this summer?¬† I’d love to hear all about it.

In the meantime, hug those you love.  Happy Saturday night!



Saturday Night Serenade–Still Thinking About St. Patrick’s Day

Yesterday was St. Patrick’s Day.

And I had to work.  All.  Damn.  Day.

You know, there was a time when my Spring Break coincided with St. Paddy’s Day.¬† Once we even took a little mini-vacation for a couple of days.¬† Ended in up Ybor City, the historic Cuban district of Tampa.¬† Which doesn’t sound like the right place for a celebration of all things Irish, but we discovered that the James Joyce Irish Pub was within staggering distance of the San Vicente, the boutique hotel where we were staying, and we spent a good six hours downing green melon ball shots and listening to great music.

No such luck this year.¬† When I arrived home from work, Mr. R asked if I wanted to go out.¬† Umm…¬† Have we met?¬† The next question was where to go?¬† O’Shea’s Irish Pub on Clematis in West Palm Beach seemed the obvious choice.¬† After all, they’d been hosting a block party since 10am Friday morning.

However…In an effort to avoid what a friend of ours calls ‘St. Posers’, celebrants who only go out drinking on St. Patrick’s Day, we decided to cash in a gift card and head to Chili’s in Wellington.¬† I know–not really an appropriate choice for the wearing of the green.¬† But, as it turns out, margaritas are green.¬† So there.

And I know, it’s an effing chain.¬† But I had a Mexican combo and Mr. R had ribs, both delicious.¬† Our server, Sean, was terrific, we’ll totally ask for him again.¬† And did I mention margaritas?¬† Nothing at all wrong with that.

Tonight’s serenade is a beautiful instrumental from the talented, and Irish, Corrs.¬† I’m just mesmerized by this song.¬† I mentioned that one day, Mr. R promises to take me to Ireland.¬† I want to sit in a pub and sip normal-colored Guinness while I listen to something this magical.

Happy Saturday night!

Saturday Night Serenade–Of Dreams and Dreamers

It’s Mr. R’s birthday today.¬† A big one–he’s fifty!¬† You might recall a few years ago when I freaked out over turning the big 5-0.¬† That’s right, I’m a proper cougar, LOL!

Back then, we didn’t have money for a big gift or anything, but he made me this promise–one day we’ll take a trip to Ireland, Scotland, and England.¬† Now, having nearly finished our extreme renovation, and being smack in the middle of a life re-set, we are in the same position.¬† My promise to him–one day we’ll take a trip to Spain.¬† He longs for Madrid and Barcelona.

Those trips will happen.¬† We’re just the kind of dreamers to believe.¬† For now, I’m content to add to my bucket list.¬† And one of those must-do items is: Pay a musician in a pub in Galway to play Galway Girl.¬† Did I ever mention the time Mr. R paid a guy at my favorite bar in the world, the James Joyce Irish Pub in Ybor City, to play Dirty Old Town?¬† Another story for another day.

Tonight, I have two different Galway Girls, and I’m obsessed with both of them.¬† They were each posted by my favorite bar in the world (and yes, I have about five of those) Paddy Reilly’s in Manhattan.¬† Once on a business trip (and for teachers, those are RARE) I dragged my whole group from the upper west side where we were staying, to Paddy’s on the lower east side, just to hear The Prodigals play their home bar (Bucket List item #27, check!).¬† Follow Paddy Reilly’s on Facebook for great music, including the moments they go live.¬† Trust me, you’ll love it!

Anyway, from the pair of us dreamers, to you and yours, Happy Saturday night!

This Should Be Interesting

We have an issue at work these days.¬† For anyone who doesn’t know, for the time being, I’m a teacher at a high-poverty, low-performing public school.¬† According to last year’s high-stakes testing, we are actually the lowest-performing elementary school in the entire district.¬† That’s not good.

Because of the poor test results, the Principal of the past six years was removed in the middle of the summer.¬† He was replaced by a woman who has quite the reputation in the district.¬† When people out in the community find out who our Principal is, they generally make the sign of the cross.¬† And, no, that’s not an exaggeration.

This woman is vile.  She makes Kevin Spacey look like Mr. Rogers.  Staff members have been dropping like flies.  The Assistant Principal, the confidential secretary, the data processor, the attendance clerk, two different IT guys, and about twenty custodians have been replaced.  People have been escorted out by police, only to have this woman tell us in a staff meeting how she clung to their ankles and begged them not to leave.

Teachers have been singled out and bullied, called on their mobile phones after hours and told that they’re not being “team players.”¬† While I’ve had one documented observation, some of my colleagues have them nearly every week, and they’re told that they’re not working hard enough, that their skills are inferior.

Paranoia reigns, and it’s not uncommon for folks to look over their shoulder before they talk to their friends and co-workers.¬† Stories abound of Admin listening in to conversations, of loyalists who report back on things that people say.

That’s not all, either.¬† There is evidence that the Administration has tampered with the recent standardized diagnostic testing, the tests that predict how students will do on the formal tests in the spring.¬† There is also evidence that Administration is playing fast and loose with finances, failing to comply with district-mandated procedures regarding money students pay for special events.

All of which is why, very quietly, a small group of us is working with the union to see that these things are investigated.¬† It’s not unheard of for a Principal to be removed from a school if it is deemed that that Administrator is creating a hostile work environment.

Morale is in the sewer, to say the least.¬† Unlike every year since I started working at this school, there is no formal holiday party planned.¬† Which is why a few trusted friends and I thought it would be nice to get a group together for an informal holiday happy hour at a local watering hole.¬†¬† Just a little spirit-booster to say, ‘Hey, we’re in this together.’

But then…

A little spazz we like to refer to as Hurricane (who wasn’t included on the invite list, by the way) got wind of our plan and decided EVERYONE needed to be invited.¬† I’ve seen her running around the school, babbling like a slot machine that hasn’t stopped spinning, telling everyone about where and when.¬† She even marched herself into the office and invited Administration.

So.¬† A handful of people, including some of those who have been removed, are meeting in a very different location from the original plan.¬† It’s not what I’d intended it to be.¬† I wanted to give some folks a bit of hope right here before Christmas.

What about me?¬† Like I said, knock wood, by and large they seem to be leaving me alone.¬† But when you hear about groups of teachers being called in and berated about ridiculous things, you know it’s only a matter of time.

I’m quietly planning on this being my last year in education.¬† The industry sucks anyway, and this situation only exacerbates that fact.¬† Luckily, because of ignorant choices I made early on, I can actually retire any time I like, taking with me a nice nest egg of a retirement, plus they’ll buy out my banked sick hours at 100%.

Next fall, when every is dragging themselves back to the grind, I’ll be writing full-time.¬† But I might as well raise a little hell before I go.¬†¬† ūüėČ

Saturday Night Serenade–Norah Jones

Happy Small Business Saturday!¬† Hopefully you were able to support small local business at some point today.¬† You could always buy a book by an Indie author, just saying…

Mr. R. and I went out looking to help out the local economy today.  First, we took my new car to a mom and pop car wash.  Next, we attempted to buy some goodies from a small Cuban bakery, but we were thwarted by long lines and slow clerks.

So instead, we ended up at one of our favorite bars, Square Grouper, on the Jupiter Inlet.¬† It’s everything that’s great about an outdoor tiki bar.¬† It’s directly on the water, right across from the Jupiter lighthouse, which has been decorated for the holidays.¬† The floor is sand, the ‘ceiling’ is made up of the fronds of the many coconut palms planted throughout the property.¬† You can order your pirate punch and sip while watching boats going in and out, dodging the stand-up paddle boarders.¬† Flocks of pelicans bob on the swells, occasionally dipping their beaks and scooping up fish.¬† We’ve even seen stingrays gliding along beneath the surface of the water.

And, more often than not, they have live music.¬† Today, there was a lone chick, who was playing East Bound and Down when we first arrived.¬† Later on, she slipped into a bluesy vibe and covered Norah Jones.¬† Which brings us to tonight’s serenade.¬† I love Norah Jones and I love this song.

I hope you’re still feeling thankful and that you’re surrounded by those you love.¬† Hug them extra tight, and remember that every day is a good day to support small business.

Happy Saturday night!