Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Great review!

The Message by Mary A.Berger

When I started to read The Message, I really did not know what to expect as I had never read any of Mary A. Berger’s novels before. However, this is the third book in her Mattie Mitchell series. It won the Pinnacle Achievement Award for the Best in Category in the Autumn of 2014. I am not surprised. This novel is an excellent example of mary bergerMystery Chick Lit. A genre I enjoy.
The author’s background in English at Schoolcraft College in Michigan is certainly in evidence. The book is well written, with vivd descriptions and crisp, realistic dialogue.
The Message revolves around Mattie Mitchell and Clare Tibbitts who are older ladies. They are  friends who work in a thrift shop in a little town in the mountains to the West of North Carolina, USA. When a broken lap top is found amongst items donated to the thrift shop, the ladies discover a mysterious message on it. Mattie’s is curious and she decides to ask her nephew Scott to fix the messagethe machine.
In The Message, Mattie discovers a slick operator who runs on an online dating site. They try to talk lonely widows into parting with their money on a dating website for his own purposes.When Mattie learns of this Internet scam on a dating services site, she becomes enraged. She feels that, as someone has been wronged and Mattie is determined to make things right for them.
So, with Clare’s help, Mattie decides to contact the operator. She joins the site, but soon fears she might be in over her head. However, fate works to her advantage and Mattie shows her true metal. There are some surprises in the story that I do not want to give away. Suffice to say that Mattie’s plan backfires! She also discovers that her new friend, Angela, is not all that she thought.
The Message is an easy read. It is a mystery story wrapped up with humour. The story is told with a deft touch and I highly recommend it. I now plan to read the other two books in the series.
Valerie Penny

Friday, November 27, 2015

Heart Healthy Eating—on a Gluten-Free Diet by Mary A. Berger

Last time, I wrote about eating heart-healthy foods. But let's take that lifestyle one step further and add the element of gluten-free.

What? you might spout. First she's urging no fatty meat or gravy. No heavy salad dressing. No potato chips. And certainly no calorie-loaded Danish or cream pie. Okay, that's eating heart-healthy. But now she's tossing gluten-free into the mix! What is she, a crazy lady? you might wonder.

Don't mean to sound pessimistic, but here's the status of my spouse's diet: Not only must he go easy on the above mentioned items for his cardiac well being, he also cannot ingest foods that contain gluten, a sticky substance found in wheat and other grains. He has celiac disease. That means going "gluten-free." In someone who's gluten intolerant, many normal foods cause internal distress and, if left unchecked, weight loss and weakness.

Years ago, my spouse learned there were food choices to be made—not the least of which was common bread. Back then, however, we found only one bakery that sold g/f bread. It tasted awful and had to be handled with care, it was so fragile. The only way it passed the "palatable" test was toasted. So we bought a toaster oven just for that purpose. Even though I'd gingerly slide the bread slices into it, chunks would fall off, land on an element and cause flames to shoot out. But I didn't panic, even when it set off our smoke alarm.

Today there's a great selection of gluten-free products from bread to cereal to pizza—and most are quite tasty. Many restaurants also offer g/f menus. I've even switched over to a few of my husband's specialty foods myself. You just have to be flexible.

See? I'm not really a crazy lady after all! So would you please pass the jelly—the low-cal, low-fat, gluten-free, sugar-free jelly?

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Eating Heart Healthy by Mary A. Berger

After dealing with a small stroke, a writer friend of mine posted a blog detailing his fondness for all the wrong foods, which he felt probably contributed to the stroke. His advice on making better food choices made a great deal of sense—cut out high cholesterol, pasta laden with creamy sauces, and sodas containing heavy amounts of sugar and caffeine.

Since my better half has endured a cardiac condition for many years, we long ago began watching what we ate and the quantities we ingested. This, along with my writer friend's words of advice, inspired me to share the following ideas that made made our journey into the world of "healthy eating" more palatable.

Meats - I rarely buy steak or beef products. Since we eat out now and then, we can get the red meat treat at those times. Skinless chicken is a must. I've also found that ground turkey, with a sprinkle of garlic or onion powder, is a good substitute for making hamburgers, and I serve non-battered, baked fish about twice a week.

Fruits and vegetables - There's no end to the variety, and most are good for heart healthy diets—with the exception of fried green beans which many restaurants now offer. An occasional sweet potato also makes its way onto my spouse's dinner plate. The key word is "occasional" since sweet potatoes contain lots of sugar. We even try to watch baked potatoes, or rather what we put on them. It's easy to overdo the added calories/cholesterol from too much butter. A cardiac dietician even recommended using liquid butter in place of tub butter.

Salads - Since many restaurant salads are served with creamy (and cholesterol-y) dressings already added, we try to avoid those and request dressing on the side or a lighter oil dressing. At home, I usually keep lite ranch dressing and seasoned rice vinegar on hand. One trick I've learned to extend ranch dressing is to pour a small amount into a container, then add some plain, fat-free yogurt. You still get the ranch taste, but the dressing is better for you. Or simply choose lo-fat dressing.

Side dishes - Plain, fat-free yogurt as a side dish can be made more palatable by sprinkling with a little sweetener or adding a spoonful of sugar-free jelly to it. Natural applesauce added to yogurt is also a tasty side. Yogurt added to potato salad in place of mayonnaise gives it a nice taste. I even add stirred plain yogurt to meat drippings for a delicious gravy/sauce.

BTW, Morton makes a Lite Salt product with half the sodium of regular salt, and LaChoy makes a lite sodium soy sauce with 55% less sodium. Even in low doses, both are tasty alternatives to their sodium-packed products.

I hope my suggestions will help anyone who's trying to watch their diet. And I wish the best to my writer pal and thank him for his willingness to "spread the word" about better eating habits.


Monday, August 3, 2015

T.V. Interviews Can Be Hilarious!


The two women rushed into the lobby of MTNC Television Studios. A solemn Diane Paige greeted them with a cool, “Welcome, ladies.” With a hasty glance at her watch, she added, “I thought perhaps you’d forgotten our interview. We’ll have to hurry.” One could almost see icicles forming on her lips as she spoke. She whisked the women away to a cozy little set. A television camera was aimed at the seating area, its operator standing by with an elbow propped over the camera. He directed Mattie and Clare to their seats while Diane took a third seat, facing them.

Mattie was wearing a sharp yellow pantsuit and Clare wore a black dress and stockings and her sexy black pumps to make her legs look “long and slender,” she’d bragged earlier to her pal.

After the director fit the women with small microphones, he said, “Now just sit back and relax and everything will be fine. Ready in three . . . two . . . “ He nodded at Diane.

“Hello, everyone, and welcome to Neighbor to Neighbor Live!  Our guests today are Mattie Mitchell and her friend Clare Tibbitts, two outstanding women on a mission.” Mattie noted a strain in Diane’s voice while attempting to sound sincere. “Two women,” Diane continued, “on a mission to fight online dating scams. Two pillars of the community who—“

“Oh, crap,” Clare moaned loud enough for the microphone to pick up. She was checking her stockings and slumping. “A run! How’d that get there?”

Diane Paige’s eyes widened while Clare smoothed the run with her hand, only to snag a fingernail and spread the run into a good-sized hole. “Oh, great, now there’s a hole. Of all days to wear stockings!”

“Clare, we’re on television!” Mattie scolded, her sharp whisper caught on air. “Just ignore it.” She turned to Diane and attempted to carry on the interview.

“I can’t ignore it!” Clare hissed. “Look at that hole. It’s bigger than a sumo wrestler’s butt!”
Ms. Paige gasped. The director stifled a grin.  And the camera rolled.
Claaare,” Mattie whispered louder, still oblivious to the microphone, “stop fussing!” Shaking her head, she turned back to her hostess and attempted to get on with the interview.
“Easy for you to say,” Clare interrupted, “you’re wearing slacks!”
Mattie sniffed. “Well, you’re the one who had to wear stockings today!”
Eyes narrowed, Diane Paige glared. “Ladies,” she said with restraint, “can we please get back on topic? We want to hear about your endeavors.”           
Mattie turned and displayed an angelic smile for the camera.
Fists clenched, Ms. Paige said, “Mattie, tell us about your quest to curtail online dating scams.” Her words sounded stiff, her lips pinched in an affected smile. “What spurred you into this challenge?”
“Well, a friend was taken in by a no-good predator online. That’s how it all began.” Mattie went on, explaining the purpose of her investigation, while Clare squirmed trying to conceal the torn nylon.
Diane frowned. “You’re not suggesting all online dating sites are risky, are you?”
“No, not at all. In fact, many people go on to form meaningful relationships.”
The director twirled his index finger, giving a wrap-up signal. With stiff propriety, Ms. Paige thanked Mattie and Clare. When the camera shut off, her icy smile disappeared. Grumbling to herself, she stomped off in a huff, but a silver-haired man in a booth waved her over.
Mattie was rehashing the show with Clare when Ms. Paige rushed back to them. “Ladies, wait,” she said, her eyes dancing with false enthusiasm. “It seems our phone lines have been flooded with callers. They want to know—“ she swallowed hard “—when you’re 
. . . coming back.”

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Feisty, funny, snoopy Mattie in The Message - Goodreads GIVEAWAY!

"The Message," with snoopy, feisty, funny Mattie Mitchell on my upcoming 
GOODREADS GIVEAWAY. Learn all about it on the following link, where anyone can enter for a chance to win a copy.

Monday, April 6, 2015

"The Message" - Lovable Mattie, the snoop

"The Message" April excerpt - by Mary A. Berger

Mattie has taken the laptop home, determined to unravel the odd message it holds and hoping to enlist the help of her computer-savvy nephew, Scotty.

"Down on the floor! Both of youse—now!" a giant-sized man shouted, exploding into the thrift shop.
     Clare screamed and Mattie's eyes popped wide. They were in the shop alone. Normally, Mattie would've gotten right in the man's face and stood up to him. There was only one problem: he had a gun.
     Petrified, the gals did as they were told. They watched as the man wearing dark glasses, black gloves, and a red hooded jacket tore through the place. He tossed things from side to side as if a giant pinata were flying apart, all the while keeping an eye on Mattie and Clare.
     "Where is it?" he demanded. "Where's the damn computer?" The women couldn't speak. The guy's eyes darted into the storage area, the sorting room, and finally back to where Mattie and Clare sat like dutiful children. Then, almost as quickly as he had barged in, the would-be thief fled from the shop, muttering profanities on his way out. The entire episode probably lasted a minute.
     After the man was out of sight, Mattie flew to the door, trembling, and snapped it locked with the deadbolt. With her back to the door, she let out several quick gasps. 
     Swallowing hard she turned to Clare. "Are you okay?" she asked, her voice somewhere in her stomach.
     "I . . . I guess so." Clare was trembling, her dark eyes still filled with fear. "Sonofabitch," she muttered. "What was that all about?"
     "The guy wants the computer."
     "That would be my guess."
     "But why would he come storming in here like that?"
     "He wants the computer badly?" 
     "We'd better call the cops.They might want to know about this."
     "You think?"
     Ignoring Clare's sarcasm, Mattie checked a list of phone numbers which the desk workers kept on hand. Hands shaking, she dialed the police and gave them a report.
     A short time later, an officer showed up, interrogated the gals, and looked around. "He was looking for a computer, you say? What was that all about?"
     Mattie and Clare turned to each other with innocent shrugs. "We had a laptop here a few days ago," Mattie said, "but the others told me it was broken. I even took it home, and they were right. It was broken."
     "Huh," the officer said, shrugging. "I'll have to let the owners know about this." He handed Mattie a card and told the gals to call him again if the man returned.
     "We'll report it," Mattie assured him with a sarcastic sniff, "if we live to tell about it."
     The officer thanked them and left, checking up and down the street on his way out.
     Obviously upset, Clare said, "Why not just lock up and call it a day?"
     "What, and miss more excitement?" Mattie had felt frightened out of her wits and caught off guard, at first. But now that things had settled down, she was angry. "I'm not about to let some gun-toting idiot ruin my day. No way. If he comes back again, we just might have a surprise for him."
     Clare wheeled around. "What are you talking about? What kind of surprise?"
     Mattie hesitated. "I'm not sure. Haven't decided yet. But I'll think of something."


Wednesday, March 11, 2015

"The Message" March Excerpt - Mary A. Berger

The Message is my latest launch into the happenings of my “go-to” gal, Mattie Mitchell, who discovers that the Internet can be a dangerous place. Mattie and gal-pal, Clare, two spunky mid-lifers, discover a mysterious message on a laptop. Here’s how things begin:

“Clare, put that back. You don’t need a thermos bottle and you know it.”
“But it might come in handy for some of my special four o’clock brew.”
Mattie Mitchell and her pal Clare Tibbitts were rummaging through donations at Hastings House, a thrift shop where they both volunteered. The women never knew what items might show up. Donations ranged from a size petite woman’s dress form to old clocks that hadn’t run since 1810. Once they even came across a set of dentures.
Nothing in today’s articles seemed out of the ordinary, until they noticed a laptop computer someone had dropped off. Unusual, Mattie thought. She knew most people ditched their computers at a recycling center or took them back to the shop for repair.
She considered taking a closer look. Except for shooting out email messages with proficiency, she and Clare remained clueless about computers. However, Mattie’s curiosity got the best of her. To her surprise, when she plugged in the computer and lifted the lid, it actually came to life. After randomly tapping a couple of keys, the screen appeared clear.
Then she saw it.
“Hmm, what’s this?”
“What is it, Matts? What’d you find?”
“I’m not sure but it seems odd. Something about getting in touch with someone right away. Could’ve been an email.”
“Good thing you’re not nosy.” Clare peered over her pal’s shoulder. “Let’s have a look. Maybe I can help”
“Now who’s being nosy? Well, go ahead, Einstein. I mean, you know as much about computers as —“
“As you do?”
The message appeared again but was gone in an instant. Clare could only catch a quick glance at the screen. She made a face that lit up like a child getting an ice cream cone. “There was definitely something there,” she said. “Probably a love letter for me.”
“Yeah, right. From one of your stud boyfriends.”
“Jealous?” Clare said with a mocking sniff before turning back to the laptop. “It’s probably only gibberish anyway. But this is what I like about you, Mrs. Mitchell. Can’t let anything slide by, can you?”
“Not if it’s for a good cause.”
Everyone who knew Mattie knew she’d go to almost any length to do the right thing for the right reason—at times even risking her life. But she lived by her wits, somewhat like the proverbial cat with the nine lives. In fact, one day when Mattie was in her thirties and worked at a bank, she heard shouting in the lobby. It was near closing time. A man stood with a gun aimed at a teller.
“The money!” he demanded. “Gimme the money—now!” She was witnessing a robbery! Without thinking, she hoisted a fire extinguisher from the wall in her office, ran up behind the would-be robber, and doused him with foam. A teller called the police, and a late customer jumped the man and held him down until the officers arrived. Mattie realized her actions were questionable. Brave, yes; smart, not so much.
Staring once more at the laptop, Mattie said “You’d think people would clear out a computer before ditching it.” She glanced over at the woman who was in charge that day. “Betty, know anything about this computer?”
“Oh, some woman dropped it off. Said it was broken and she didn’t want anything more to do with it.” Betty frowned and added, “Kind of an odd acting woman too.” With a shrug, she said, “The owners told me to get rid of it. No one here wants to work on a dead computer.” She returned to some filing.
         By this time, Mattie was hooked. An odd acting woman and a computer with a mysterious message . . . the perfect combination for giving her goose bumps and stirring her curiosity like wild fire.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

On De-cluttering by Mary A. Berger

Everyone says I should clean up my office. But it only takes two days to get to my desk. What's the problem?

I know, I know, we authors need space in which to work—neat, uncluttered space. On a personal level, I've actually misplaced a chapter or two of a novel in that vast stretch of territory I call my desktop. So there's no one to blame but myself for such non-organization.

However, I am making progress. Nowadays, you'll see fewer sheets of 20-weight, 92-brightness strewn across the floor, requiring visitors to watch their step. Thanks to my latest round of tidying, some of those scraps have found their way to that shredder wastebasket in the sky. This fact called for a major celebration—with a touch of white zinfandel on the side.

Seriously, I've come up with a few tips to help avoid or at least tone down the amount of desk clutter.

* Don't set something down and tell yourself you'll file it later. Find a home for it now, even if it's a hastily marked manila folder, then tuck it away in a desk drawer or file cabinet.

* Choose one area of your desktop and concentrate on that section, be it the overloaded box of office supplies, a pile of writing-related books, or the ceramic bowl filled with dried out marker pens.

* Rather than taping or affixing sticky notes all over a desk shelf, hang strips of colorful duct tape about ten inches in length, then adhere your sticky notes to those strips, one just above the other. Your desk will appear more organized and might even look like a fun place to be. 

These are but a few ideas I've come up with to help myself feel more organized. Remember, you control clutter; don't let clutter control you! 

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Not to Brag About My Creator but . . .

Mattie here, folks -

I'm not one to brag, as some of you may have noticed from Mary A. Berger's previous tales about my experiences, but there is some great news regarding Mary's writing endeavors. 

After entering the NABE Pinnacle Awards competition last fall, Mary's name showed up as a winner in her book's category: Fiction—in Mary's case, humorous mystery. She received the rating of "best" in the Pinnacle Awards Achievement competition for her story, "The Message." Again, not to brag, but the story centers around yours truly and my faithful pal, Clare. We poke our noses into an online dating site where a predator recklessly talks lonely women into parting with their money for noble purposes—his. Things get pretty sticky when I make a bold move to contact this man. But I have to try to get the creep onto my turf. Stick around to see what happens next, including a few surprises along the way.

I thought I'd fill you in on this award news because I can almost guarantee you won't hear it from Mary, herself.

See you in Mary's next story, "Gossiptown," where someone finds a body in Holy Redeemer's baptizing tub and the gossip begins.

Mattie Mitchell