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Liz Kitchens
Coloring Books for Grown Ups
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As I mentioned in a previous blog post (see Doodle for Your Noodle below) Be Brave. Lose the Beige is obsessed with creativity. I consider myself to be a creativity evangelist I’m so persuaded of its impact on brain health. Studies have demonstrated participation in the arts promotes physical and mental health, particularly among aging adults. Besides, it’s fun and, as per an earlier blog post, creativity can relieve boredom (I find boredom to be a cardinal sin).

Since even the word “creativity” can elicit tension and intimidation, Be Brave. Lose the Beige is on a mission to make creativity more accessible. That’s why I’m delighted to have discovered two non-threatening creative endeavors guaranteed to be stress relieving and fun.

I wrote about doodling in my previous post. Visit Pinterest or Amazon and you will be introduced to a whole world of doodling, an artistic expression that can be a soothing take on relaxation.   doodle

In this post, I want to introduce you to Coloring Books for Grownups. Yes, I really mean it adult coloring books are all the rage right now, largely due to the work of Johanna Basford. The Today Show on NBC did an entire segment on the concept of adult coloring books, which, until Johanna Basford, were virtually unheard of. (Except for those of us who secretly, or perhaps not so secretly, pilfered pages from our kids’ coloring books for our own creative coloring) Basford, who describes herself as an illustrator and ink evangelist, took nine months creating her first book, Secret Garden. This book has sold over a million copies and is selling out all over the world, having been translated in 22 languages. She followed up with Enchanted Forest. The #1 and #2 books on Amazon are not mystery novels or courtroom thrillers, but Secret Garden and Enchanted Forest. (Kids, you better hide your coloring books, grown ups are headed your way.)coloring book pages

Google, Pinterest, and even Johanna Basford’s website, have lots of single coloring pages available for downloading. Markers, crayons, and colored pencils serve to transform these black and white illustrations into colorful masterpieces. Basford has turned her facebook page into a gallery of art work uploaded by fans on her website. Thus, coloring has the triple benefit of being…

  • an engaging creative endeavor (the benefits of which I’ve enumerated above)
  • fun and relaxing
  • possibly featured in an online gallery.

Send your doodles or coloring pages to me at and I will feature them on my gallery page.


Lisa Ricard Claro
The Illustrated Woman: Promises in Ink
Family & Relationships, Work & Money
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Image courtesy of Dannelle Meyers via

Don’t make promises you can’t or won’t keep.

In spite of everything, I still believe in the sanctity of that statement.

When my kids were but wee kidlets, they learned that saying “I promise” is equivalent in the Claro home to engaging in a legal contract. “I promise” is better than “yes,” superior to “okay,” and infinitely preferable to the dubious and despised, “we’ll see.” When “I promise” leaves the lips of a Claro, the deed, whatever it may be, is as good as done.

Over the years other parents have called me crazy for abiding by that rule. “Sometimes,” I was told, “Things just happen and kids need to get over it.” I disagree. If there’s the slightest chance something I’m promising will not come to pass, then I do not promise. My children learned that their word should never be given or taken lightly, and that upholding a promise—or not—is a true sign of one’s character. Unless death or unforeseeable circumstances prevent making good on it, when “I promise” comes out of a Claro’s mouth, there’s no turning back.

Something my kids heard from me often was, “I can’t promise that will happen, but I can promise to give it our best effort.” In the event of a firm, “I promise,” there were broad smiles because they knew whatever they asked for was a given. Point of fact: When Mama says, “I promise,” you can take it to the bank. I thought it important for my children to know they could trust what came out of my mouth. With a son in his 30s and two daughters in their 20s, they still know they can trust what I tell them. And if I promise something, it’s golden.

I believe this is one of the biggest and best gifts I’ve ever given, and continue, to give them.

A few years ago I went through a doubtful period with my writing. I’ll call it a period of “my writing sucks,” a phrase most creatives will understand, whether you are a writer or not. Change it to “my songwriting sucks,” or “my drawing sucks,” or “my photography sucks,” or whatever. You get the idea—and you’ve maybe painted yourself with those negative colors a time or two no matter your vocation. I was in that place, mucking about in the pessimistic slime.

In the midst of this dark and icky ooey-gooiness, my daughters cornered me about the possibility of the three of us getting tattoos together, a mother-daughter bonding, as it were. Yeah, that was a big, fat “NO!” My response required no consideration at all. Well, the two of them badgered me, played me like a pair of violin masters. I should have known better, should have minded my tongue, when one of them said, “Well under what conditions would you consider getting a tattoo with us?” Fed up, I replied, “You know what? If I ever sign a publishing contract for one of my novels, we’ll go get a tattoo.” And then it came. The words I should have run away from. “Do you promise?” And being deep in the “my writing sucks” swampy goo, covered head to toe in the tarry mess of self-doubt, I said, “What the hell. Sure, I promise. Because it’s never going to happen.”

So . . . it happened. Last June I signed a three book contract with Black Opal Books. My youngest daughter overheard me discussing it with my husband. She ran into his office and said, “You signed a book contract? OMG! Do you know what this means?” “That I’ll be really busy?” I said. “No! It means you have to get a tattoo!”

Well, damn it to hell, Buttercup. That’s exactly what it meant.

By agreement, we waited until Christina stepped over the line from underaged-ness and into the world of “I can order a drink at any bar in the country.” Yes, my baby turned 21 last week, and I—well. I got a tattoo.

My daughters and I each chose a snowflake, and we each had all three snowflakes tattooed on a body part. So I have my snowflake, and also my Stephanie snowflake, and my Christina snowflake. They each have the same. Mom-daughters, mom-sisters. Symbolic of we three, the Claro women, like our stars (Orion’s Belt—a story for another post). We chose snowflakes because that was my childhood nickname, the one only my parents called me. It was a term of endearment that embodied love and acceptance, pride and individuality. The symbolism was perfect.

The tattoo is bigger than I wanted. I went in hoping for something the size of my pinkie fingernail and ended up with something much bigger, in order to accommodate all three snowflakes. I’m returning to the tattoo artist for more detail work on the whooshie stuff, as well as a small detail he missed, as did I and my daughters until just this second. How could all of us miss it? Do you see it? In any event, this is the first round result—and I have to say, it looks a lot cooler in person than in the pic:


The hubster is claiming that he’s now married to a wild woman, which is ridiculous, of course, because he’s always been married to a wild woman. But now he’s married to a wild woman with a tattoo. He’s not a big fan of tattoos, but I haven’t noticed that my having one has slowed him down any. Ha.

So I’ve come round again to the point: Don’t make promises you can’t or won’t keep. If the words come out of your mouth, make them happen. And sometimes you find, as I did with that trip to the tattoo parlor, that doing something you never thought you’d do isn’t such a bad thing. Stepping outside one’s personal expectation zone for the purpose of keeping a promise is rewarding to the spirit and the heart, and I’ve proven once again to my children that promises are to be kept. We’ll forever wear a symbol of the strength of a Promise, and our bond. Watch out world, because the Claro women are an indivisible unit. I promise.


Have you ever promised something you wish you hadn’t, and then had to make good on your word? Do you agree with me that promises should never be broken, or are you of the mind that they are made to be broken? In my situation, what would you have done?



Lisa Ricard Claro
ABC’s Castle: Romance & Shenanigans!
Books & Entertainment
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Warning: Look out below! Fan girl spasm of love for all things Castle is commencing!

The Castle season seven premier is Monday, September 29th, and I’m beyond excited. There are so many things to love about this show! If you’re a fan of this delightful series please join me in my blubbering happiness and anticipation for the new season. If you’re not a fan, would you like to be? Read on, Buttercup! Let’s see if I can convince you.

First off, the hubby and I were latecomers to Castle. We ignored it until it went into syndication and began showing up in the early evening in back-to-back episodes. We watched it the first time out of desperation for new viewing because our favorite shows were in between seasons and we had Law & Order SVU-edourselves out. One episode into Castle, we were hooked. We hunted it down on the internet and began our own Castle marathon from season one, episode one, until we were current. That was about two years ago, and I never tire of watching this show.

Here’s the gist: Mystery writer Richard Castle (Nathan Fillion) traipses around behind New York City detective Kate Beckett (Stana Katic) ostensibly doing research for his novels. Naturally, they solve crimes together and romance and shenanigans ensue. And in a humorous play on the mushing together of names (i.e. Brangelina) they call themselves Caskett, a moniker fans embrace with giddy delight.

That, of course, is the stripped down blurb. The show has more to offer than that little paragraph implies. The writing is great, the secondary characters engaging, and the two leads have tons of onscreen chemistry that is so awesome it allows for the suspension of disbelief surrounding the absurdity of the premise. At its core it’s a romantic dramedy, comic but earnest, with enough realism thrown in that relating to the characters is fun and easy.

As a romance writer, I’m an obvious target for a show like this. But even my husband, who would rather sit through two hours of the International Paint Drying Competition than suffer thirty minutes of a rom-com, enjoys the crime-solving escapades of Caskett and company as they exchange witticisms and arrest murderers. Also, it doesn’t hurt that Stana Katic, who plays Detective Kate Beckett, is drop-dead gorgeous and looks hot stalking after the bad guys. If everything else fell apart, my hubby would watch the show for that reason alone. And Nathan Fillion, who plays mystery novelist Rick Castle, is adorable. Some of his expressions are priceless. The man doesn’t even have to talk, although I’m glad he does because he’s talented enough to slip from funny to serious and back to funny again without missing a beat.

One of the great things about the show is that they didn’t consummate the romance until several seasons in which allowed for a lot of sexual tension—a staple for romance—and then after they did the deed and declared their undying love, the writing and chemistry between the lead characters remained strong enough not to screw things up, sort of like a marriage between Gorilla Glue and duct tape. How many other TV shows can say that? (Remember Moonlighting in the ‘80s after Maddie (Cybill Shepherd) and David (Bruce Willis) got together? Gak! No Gorilla Glue or duct tape . . . more like crepe paper in the rain—in a word, ruined).

Castle just keeps getting better and better.  The only thing that worries me going into season seven is that the actors might be getting itchy to move on to other projects. This rumor hasn’t reared its head and I hope it doesn’t, because I’d love to see this series run long enough to get the characters through a couple years of marriage and at least one adorable-but-precocious offspring before it disappears into the sunset. Then maybe they can bring it back a few years after that using the same lead characters. The premise could be a married couple, passionately in love, who drive expensive cars and solve crimes.

Oh, wait. That’s already been done. It was called Hart to Hart and it starred Robert Wagner and Stefanie Powers, waaaay back from 1979-1984. Well, if they ever want to reprise that show and update it for this century, I know just the two actors with the chops and onscreen chemistry to pull it off.  In the meantime, we’ve still got Castle and I can’t wait for Monday to get here. You don’t have to ask what I’ll be doing on the 29th at 10 p.m. EST: My hubby, a glass of wine, and Caskett.

It’s time to love Mondays again!

Are you a Castle fan? If so, what do you love the most about it? If not, what’s your never-miss-it TV show and why do you think it rocks?



Vonnie Kennedy
Do Boomer Women Want to Read About Other Boomer Women Having Sex?
Love & Sex
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I have to admit that with my recent move, I haven’t been thinking about sex lately. Not because I’m over it, it’s just been on the back burner. So when I found this post on HuffPost 50 – Where Are the 50-Year-Old Heroines In Erotic Fiction? by Erica Jagger and got me thinking about sex again, not just as a woman, but also as a reader and writer.

Jagger writes, “I love erotic fiction, but I’m fed up reading about 22-year-old virgins who start f**king like porn stars immediately upon deflowerment. I’d really love to read a sizzling slice of smut featuring a protagonist I can actually relate to.”

I agree whole-heartedly, Erica, but where do we find it? Or the real question may be – is do we really want erotic sexually explicit stories about women are age or are would be as grossed out as the younger versions of ourselves?

A couple of years ago, I wrote a post about the same subject on Vibrant Nation. I received some positive feedback from other women who longed for erotic fiction about women over 50, but didn’t get any suggestions as to where to find these stories.

I also posted a video on my own blog back in 2012 featuring Joan Price who seems to be the lead spokesman for Ageless Erotica and wrote a book with the same name…and seems to be only promoting her book, which is fine but are there any other authors out there writing erotic stories featuring a boomer aged woman?

I have to confess that I haven’t read Joan’s book, yet but it’s on my Kindle list along with lots of other books I want to read.

Before writing this post, I googled ‘mature women erotica’ for research purposes. Warning: DO NOT Google ‘MATURE WOMEN EROTICA’ unless you’re into slimy porn sites involving older women. Nuff said.

So, I regoogled (is that a word?) the phase ‘erotic stories for boomer women’ and came up with another article by Joan PriceSexy Books: Erotica for Boomers at Price listed a few authors that I briefly scanned through, but I didn’t find any boomer age women (or men) as the lead characters. Hmmm.

Next on the Google list:  Why Boomer Women Are Hot for Erotica E-books at Next Avenue. Again, I found no recommended stories or novels about hot and sexy boomer women, so I have to wonder – do boomer women want to read about other boomer women having sex? It certainly isn’t a phenomenon that’s taken off since I wrote about it two years ago.

So what do mature women want to read?

  • Steamy romances about older women?
  • Explicit erotic sex stories involved older women?
  • Stories with no sex about baby boomer women?
  • Erotic stories about 22-year-old virginal women?
  • None of the above

Give me a hint, I’m interested.

In the meantime, my all time favorite steamy/erotic memoir is Free Fall: A Late-in-Life Love Affair by Rae Padilla Francoeur.

So, Rae, if you’re still out there – write another book, will ya?

Bodacious Baby Boomer
It Took Me a While to Find Out I’m a Cozy Mystery Author
Books & Entertainment
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You see it all the time when you shop for ebooks. Erotica. Fantasy. Paranomal urban dystopia (I confess I have no idea what that is). Thrillers with sci-fi elements. Everywhere you look, self-published authors are going off the planet with their storytelling.

As an indie author, I struggle to find the right niche for my work. I do, after all, write thrilling mysteries. And mysterious thrillers. But my books are about real life situations. No one has magical powers. No one is ever perfect. And from the moment my story starts right up to that last page, my characters evolve as human beings. That’s because their fictional lives are changed by the fictional events they go through.

It took me a while to find out I’m a cozy mystery writer. Just about all of my books would be considered to be PG-13 if they were movies. Some adult situations, some violence, the occasional strong word here or there.

But what is a cozy mystery to one person might be too scary to another. Some cozy mystery readers expect no blood, no violence, no sexual content whatsoever. Others just don’t want to read long descriptions of horizontal mambo sessions between the sheets. It’s not that they begrudge characters a little romance and some physical exercise with a partner — they just don’t want to hang around like voyeurs.

Maybe the reason things are so confusing in the ebook stores is because we can’t really be sure what we’re getting when we’re getting it. I belong to an international authors group that has a wide range of participants. Some of the things my fellow authors write make me cringe when I see those words in print. And yet, they are a wonderfully supportive bunch of people. I’ve had to explain that I really just don’t like to share “off-color” material with my followers. It’s not my thing.

Wouldn’t it be nice to know what’s in some of these independently published works? Is it time to post our own ratings? I assume, given the popularity of “Fifty Shades”, there are plenty of readers who would dive into the X- and R-rated stories. But by the same token, I’d like folks to know that, while my books are adult-oriented, they’re fairly tame. Your granny could read them. Your daughter or your husband could read them. There are sometimes sexual situations, but rather like old Hollywood flicks, the action takes place “over there”, out of sight.

Recently, I got some reviews from a mixed audience. One teenager declared my book “boring”. Apparently she downloaded it in study hall. I could have told her not to bother. It’s not a YA tale. Another reader recently criticized the book as having animal cruelty in it. Not only were no real animals harmed in the writing of the book, I’ve actually rescued my fair share of animals over a lifetime, and it never occurs to me to deliberately maim an animal. The scene was more involved than the reader suggested and the story actually had a happy ending, but obviously this reader was seeking a G-rated experience. That same book managed to get a “Boring! Too sappy!” label from another reader. Apparently, I was expected to rip characters to shreds and cause mayhem and vile, unspeakable acts to occur in the tale.

Would a label rating on the stories help? I’m beginning to think so, and not just for my own books, but for others as well. We authors sometimes expect readers to know our genre, and even to read our minds. Explicit sex? Implied sex? No sex? I found out this week that I’m not really a completely “clean read”, because I actually imply that adults engage in sex. By the same token, I’m not sure I’ve ever really gone into great detail about any sexual act. I still like to leave that up to the reader’s imagination. But then, my books aren’t strictly romance novels. While characters get together here and there, and some have romantic relationships, it’s really about the action that takes place. Mysteries are all about the puzzle-solving, after all.

Need a little ho-ho-ho for the holidays? Download your free copy of “Miz Scarlet and the Holiday Houseguests” in all digital formats.

Christmas is supposed to be a time of joy. How is an overworked homicide investigator supposed to find a killer when she’s so distracted by her own family problems? As things heat up at work, little things start to suggest that Larry’s got something bigger than bickering parents to worry about. Secrets from her past begin to creep in, putting everyone in danger. Who can she trust when the chips are down? It’s time to turn to Miz Scarlet and the gang at the Four Acorns Inn!