Thursday, April 1, 2021


 I’m the first to admit that I enjoy April.

April is when all the flowers from bulbs beneath the sleepy earth emerge. Daffodils, crocus, wind flowers, and small grape hyacinths bring color, scent, and life back to the flowerbeds.

I think back to my childhood and how my mother loved plants and bushes of all types. We were a  farm family, and  it was not unusual to visit a neighbor’s house and go home with a piece of a bush, or some shoots wrapped in a wet rag, or a bundle of roots tied up in a burlap feed bag. Mother always found a place to plant her treasures and nurse them to maturity. And the favor was returned when friends, relatives, and neighbors came to call and left with a clump of rhubarb or day lilies.

At the front corner of my house, I still have trumpet vines from cuttings my mother gave me decades ago. Every fall we chop them back to stubby trunks, and in the spring they explode in a flourish of leaves and blossoms that entice the hummingbirds.

In the back yard, I have a bed of rag roses from around an old stone foundation of a house built in the early 1800s and situated along a well-used route westward. Everyone always referred to the cleared, often muddy pathway as “The Old Road.”

And, my favorite from our farm is at the side of my house—a large clump of Jack in the Pulpits my mother coddled in one of her flowerbeds.

April brings back lots of good memories. It’s a time of warm days, a time to get ready for spring planting and, for those of us who like to play in the dirt, it’s a month of sheer joy.

I’ll end with a colloquialism that the farmers often used in northeastern Pennsylvania: “So long, March. Hello, April!”



Monday, March 1, 2021

Can Spring Be Near?

 March has arrived. Is it too early to hope that spring is here in Pennsylvania?

This winter, we northern folks have struggled with snowfall after snowfall. Our roads are lined with gray, dismal snowbanks, and most of our yards have a stack planted within view, the result of clearing our walks and driveways.

Last night, our first thunderous spring rain arrived. It pounded down in waves, soaking the yards and washing away some of our snow.

With warmer daytime temperatures inching upward, we now hear the gurgle and drip of water from our gutters. A layer of snow slides off the house and garage roofs making a plopping sound heard indoors. At long last, small patches of grass and earth peek through the lawns. Pussy willow is struggling to emerge. Who would have thought that the smell of mud and wet dried leaves would cause such a joyful reaction when we take a jaunt to the mailbox?

   Coming Soon!
Birds have become more lively and vocal. If your timing is right, you can now catch a chorus of bird songs coming from the trees in the backyard. When I filled the bird feeder the other day, being careful to walk in small patches where the snow had melted, a lively chickadee in the cedar tree scolded me for not working fast enough. Four-legged wildlife is making its appearance, too. Gray squirrels and rabbits are exploring the yards.

Now is the time to listen for the first flock of Canada geese to wing their way northward, confident that spring is on its way. Let’s hope for their sake and ours—they are right. 

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Tuesday, February 16, 2021


Everyone wants to know where writers get their ideas. It’s a question every author who has a book signing or who gives a presentation is asked. Many times, you will hear writers (myself included) admit that they “truly don’t know” where they get them.

For a writer, ideas are like the ocean waves—sometimes they come crashing into our minds; sometimes they roll quietly in and then slip away, receding like a calm ripple; and sometimes they tumble around like a sneaky undertow before they pop up, surface and become a viable thought.

However, there are some truths about all writers:

Good writers are voracious readers, devouring anything they can get their hands on—from the back of a cereal box to a placemat at the restaurant to the directions for the new coffeemaker.

Writers are often asked how do you manage to read and write at the same time? Simple--just like a chef eats, but creates and cooks for his vocation, we read and write. It’s part of the job. Good writers exchange and read works of their fellow writers who create in a similar format. The short story writer will read short stories of masters like Jack London, Edgar Allen Poe, Mark Twain, Louis L’Amour, Kurt Vonnegut,  Eudora Welty, or Alice Munroe. . .and the list goes on. 

But don’t be fooled, good writers also read the masters and modern day writers of other genres as well. Why? To discover what is good and what is bad writing. To get ideas. To listen to new voices, to understand new styles, and to discover how characters, descriptions, setting, dialogue, and storylines are created by others.

I personally have found that most writers I know are receptive to new things, are often curious, and do not like to be idle.  They are observant of their environment, situationally aware of everything and everyone around them, and often embrace change, sometimes just for the newness of it. They are able to remember details and, like the cartoonist  who can capture the essence of person with a few  features unique to only that person, writers are also able to sort through detail and write images readers can see and relate to.

Thursday, February 4, 2021



Part of the Stand Alone Candy Hearts Series!

 Can one sweet kiss revive an old love?

Hard-working Kate Clark opens a thriving coffee shop that quickly becomes the local hang-out for students and the community. Her one wish is to eventually buy out her sister’s share of the old Florida home they inherited. However, Violet is need desperate of cash and has other plans.

Tappe Vanderberg, Kate’s childhood friend and high school sweetheart, has sold his lucrative internet security business to return to Little Heron Shores and fulfill his dreams of owning a marina. Now the handsome Dutch-born businessman is making waves with single women all over town—including loony, post mistress Eva May Poole who’s in search of husband number three.

But it’s Kate Clark who’s wreaking havoc with Tappe’s heart, not Eva May. Can he find away to shake the dingbat post mistress and convince Kate to give him a second chance and the sweet kiss he remembers from an earlier time?

Judy's Amazon Author Page Link

Sweet Kiss Link

Monday, January 18, 2021


§  You'll waste a lot of paper. Wasting paper and purchasing printer cartridges are part of the trade. When you print your work and find it's beyond help or you need to start over, throw it away and delete it from your computer. Physically throwing it into the trash signifies a new start mentally. Don’t worry about killing trees. Like crops, trees for paper mills are planted, held in rotation until mature, and harvested. However, if you think you do have a few paragraphs, sentences, or nifty phrases that are worthwhile, start a "miscellaneous scrap" file and squirrel them away on your computer. 

§  Writing is a lonely, solitary occupation. Writing takes time. You'll miss being out in the sunshine or watching your favorite television show. You may miss family gatherings with a deadline near. You'll miss sleep. Make friends with other writers. They understand your crazy burning need to create.

§  Find a place to write where you feel comfortable and secure. Arm the location with a good collegiate dictionary, The Chicago Manuel of Style, and an unabridged Roget’s Thesaurus. Roget’s has more than ten times the amount of synonyms than any online site. Then, find something that signals routine and the need to sit down and write—like making your bed, drinking that second cup of coffee or tea, or taking your dog for his morning walk—or choose an evening signal if you write at night.

 §  Never, never send out your first draft to anyone, anywhere. If possible, let your words sit for a while to cool like a hot custard pie. It’s easier to see missing data, mistakes, and grammar problems when you’ve distanced yourself from your work. Having trouble finding your mistakes? If you’re prone to using Times New Roman on your computer screen, print your work out in a different font like Courier, Arial, or Century Schoolbook. Have a friend help you. Intensive editing is part of the writing process. Also, printing a hard copy gives you a different perspective to look at it. You can also email the doc. file to your Kindle or digital tablet for another perspective when editing.

§  Don’t believe people who say that writing doesn’t have to be as perfect as possible—because that’s what editors are for. Everyday, editors reject dozens of manuscripts. Do you think they’ll accept one with grammar and punctuation mistakes or basic sentence structure problems? Your writing is a reflection of who you are. It’s your first shot at making an impression and getting a toehold into the publishing world. Just like a job interview, you need to make it a good one.  

Friday, January 1, 2021

Happy New Year!

Here's hoping your New Year ahead is filled with all good things like health, happiness, contentment and peace.

Too often we forget the important things while we hurry forward in life. Take time for family, and take time for yourself—be it a quiet corner to read and reflect or an activity that brings you joy whether it's a favorite sport or a creative endeavor. I plan to finish a multi-author, contemporary short piece involving cookies as a theme, and I’d like to create and write another novella.

This year, my resolutions are few: Besides reading, writing, and finishing projects that I start, I plan to eat healthy. And, I believe it’s my duty to do everything possible to try to keep myself and others safe by wearing a mask, practicing social distancing, washing my hands, and getting a vaccine when it’s available. I pray for an end to this Covid virus and an end to the deaths and suffering that have occurred.

Let's raise our glasses and give a toast to 2021—and hope it's a good year for our people and our nation!

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Sunday, December 6, 2020

A Polish Christmas Eve - Wigilia

For people of Polish ancestry, Christmas Eve is a special night. It is a night of magic when animals are said to talk and people have the power to predict the future. It’s a time for families to gather and reconcile any differences, and to remember loved ones who have gone before them. It’s call Wigilia (vee-GELL-yah) which means, “vigil,” or waiting for the birth of Baby Jesus.

Pollish Santa
As dusk approaches, the mother of the family places a lighted candle in the window to welcome the Christ Child. Straw or hay, a reminder of Christ’s birth in a stable, is placed under a white linen tablecloth, which symbolizes Mary’s veil which became the Babe’s swaddling cloth. The eldest woman of the house places the blessed Communion-like wafers called oplatki (Oh-PWAHT-kee) on a fine china or silver plate. In modern times, straw and evergreens are assembled on a serving platter and covered with a white napkin. The oplatki is then placed on the napkin.

An extra place is set of any weary stranger who happens to pass by, in the same way Joseph wandered from home to home looking for a place for Mary to give birth, and in memory of those who are departed. (The extra place is also set in hopes that Christ will dine with the family.)

After sunset, the youngest child is sent to watch for the first star. This is why the wigilia dinner is also known as the Star Supper. Only then are the candles on the table lit and the dinner begun. But not a morsel is eaten before the “breaking of the oplatki.”

The eldest family member takes the wafer, breaks it and shares it with the next eldest with wishes for good health and prosperity, and a kiss on each cheek. Each person then exchanges oplatki with everyone else at the table. It can be a very emotional time as grudges are forgotten and deceased family members are remembered.

Instead of sending Christmas cards to friends and family not present, Poles send oplatki, first tearing off a small corner to show that the donor has broken it with them as a token of affection. (In America, Polish families often enclose oplatki in their Christmas cards.)

In some regions of Poland, at the end of the supper, Father Christmas, known as The Starman (very often the parish priest in disguise), accompanied by singing Starboys, pays a visit. He brings rewards to good children from Starland, and scolds the naughty ones, who eventually get their reward, too.

Typical food dishes on Christmas Eve include borscht, mushroom dishes, herring, white fish, meatless cabbage rolls, gingerbread cookies, pierogis, poppy seed rolls, spice cake, fruit, chocolates, tangerines, and cognac, liqueurs, and vodka made into a variety of drinks.

A fun video to watch with great music:     

[Information taken from “About Food – Polish Christmas Recipes and Traditions” - by Barbara Rolek, Eastern European Food Expert.]

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Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!