Wednesday, March 30, 2022

A Mini Taste of Heaven

from Helen Carpenter 

There comes a time when your sweet tooth demands satisfaction. This recipe from Carpenter Country is guaranteed to do just that. You may want to double the batch then freeze the extra for the next time the sweet craving gremlin attacks you.

Mini Brownies

Non-stick spray
12-cup mini muffin pan
½ cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
3 tbsp. butter
2 tsp. cocoa powder
1 tbsp. molasses
1 tsp. vanilla extract
¼ cup flour
1 egg
3 tbsp. granulated sugar
3 tbsp. brown sugar

Preheat oven to 350 °F.

Place chocolate chips and butter in a bowl and microwave for 2 minutes at 50% power. Stir until smooth. (Your microwave may take up to a minute longer. Just beware that chocolate chips will retain their shape even when melted, and if you nuke them too long, they’ll burn. Not that we would know from personal experience or anything.)

Mix cocoa and molasses into the melted chocolate. (What? You don’t have molasses? Okay. Use a tablespoon of water instead.)

Add vanilla, flour, and egg, and mix well. Add sugars and mix well.

Spray muffin pan with cooking spray, then spoon the batter into the cups, dividing evenly.

Bake 10-12 minutes. Tops of brownies will be puffy. (Don’t overcook or the brownies will be too dry. That’s what we’ve heard, anyway.)

Cool ten minutes, then transfer brownies from the muffin pan to wire racks. The puffy tops will flatten as the brownies cool (So the instructions say. We’ve never actually waited that long.).

Once upon a time there was a mother/daughter author dup named Helen and Lorri, who wrote as HL Carpenter. the Carpenters worked from their studios in Carpenter Country, a magical place that, like their stories was unreal but not untrue. Then one day Lorri left her studio to explore the land of What-If, and like others who have lost a loved one the magical place lost much of its magic. But thanks to family, plus an amazing group of wordsmiths named Authors Moving Forward (AMF), the magic is slowly returning.

Helen Carpenter loves liking and sharing blog posts from other authors. She lives in Florida with her husband of many years  and appreciates everyday, especially those without hurricanes.

Stay connected on her blog and Facebook.

Monday, March 28, 2022


From Alicia Joseph

When I was in college, back in 1998, I took a creative writing course where I wrote two horribly written short stories and some really bad poems. The stories were called The Hideout and The Attic. Apparently, I wasn’t very creative with titles back then.

To this day, I don’t know why I didn’t toss those papers in the trash the moment the semester ended. But not only did those pages make the trip back home with me, they managed to survive a couple decades in a bin with so many of my other failed writing attempts. 

About eight years ago, (damn time flies) I pulled out that dusty bin and went through those old writings. It had been a while since I’d written at that time, and I wanted to get back into it. After all, being a writer was always my dream. Life, with all of its distractions, had pulled me off course for a little while, but I found my way back to it, and I thought past writings was a good place to start. 

Turns out, I was right. 

Even though those old stories were really bad, as I read through them, I found a storyline in each I could build on. I turned The Hideout into a novel titled A Penny on the Tracks that was published in 2017. It’s an LGBTQ coming-of-age story about friendship, loyalty, and the struggles of coming out. The story revolves around two best friends, Lyssa and Abbey, who discover a hideout near train tracks. They spend the summer before sixth grade hanging out and finding freedom from issues at home. But their innocence shatters when the hide becomes the scene of a tragic death. 

As for the other story, The Attic, that one went through many rewrites with two major plot changes and took me two extra years to write. It was frustrating and many times I wanted to give up, move on to another story, but it was contracted. The new name of that book is Annabel and the Boy in the Window. I’m unable to put into words the relief I feel in finally putting that story to rest. 

I am now in the process of revising what was my first attempt at writing a full-length novel that I wrote shortly after graduating college. I had finished it, but as with the short stories, the writing was horrible. 

So, in the bin those pages went. A couple of years back I fished the pages out of the bin. Just like the short stories, I found a storyline I could work with. I hope to be finished with the story my summer. After that, I have two more previous attempts at novels I will look at and see if there’s a storyline in them to work. 

Despite having a drawer full of new story ideas, I can’t leave my old stories behind. They take up too much space in my head. I need them gone before I can fully concentrate on new projects. 

If you’re a writer, do you keep old stories? How do you decide which ones to salvage and which one to let go? I now realize it’s not just old stories I have a hard time letting go. Past relationships, old friendships, cherished memories from a time that can never be lived again, all have a hold on me.

Here is a glimpse into my coming-of-age novel A Penny on the Tracks. I hope you enjoy it.

"When a train runs over a penny, the penny changes form, but it can still be a penny if I want it to be. Or, I can make it be something else." 

Lyssa and her best friend Abbey discover a hideout near the train tracks and spend the summer before sixth grade hanging out and finding freedom from issues at home. Their childhood innocence shatters when the hideout becomes the scene of a tragic death.

As they're about to graduate high school, Abbey's family life spirals out of control while Lyssa is feeling guilty for deceiving Abbey about her sexuality.

After another tragic loss, Lyssa finds out that a penny on the track is sometimes a huge price to pay for the truth.  


Alicia Joseph grew up in Westchester, Illinois. She has many works-in-progress that she hopes to finish soon. Life permitting.

When she is not writing, Alicia enjoys volunteering with animals, rooting for her favorite sports teams, and playing “awesome aunt” to her nine nieces and nephews.

Learn more about Alicia Joseph on her blog. Stay connected on Facebook and Twitter.

Wednesday, March 23, 2022


from Janis Lane aka Emma Lane 

Nothing tastes better at Easter then baked ham. Therefore, this is the perfect time of the year to share one of my favorite meals with you. The recipes are easy to prepare and are a wonderful combination of flavors that will have your family and friends asking for seconds. 

Baked Ham with Raisin Sauce
1 ham (Cured) bone in or out by choice 
Whole cloves 
1 can pineapple rings, reserve juice 
1 or 2 dashes of bourbon or white wine, optional 
Maraschino cherries to decorate, optional 

Preheat oven to 350° F. 

Score ham ⅛ inch deep. Place 1 clove in each square. Use a toothpick to hang pineapple rings around the ham. Don’t forget the sides! 

Cover bottom of a large pan with ¼ inch of water, also bourbon or wine if you’re using it. Add ham then cover with aluminum foil to avoid drying out. Remove foil twenty minutes before serving. 

Cook 10 minutes per pound or until warmed through. Check often to avoid over cooking. 

Insert cherries into pineapple rings at serving time. 

Spicy Southern Raisin Sauce 
2 tbsp. flour 
2 tbsp. sugar 
1 pinch salt 
⅓ cup dried raisons 
¼ cup water 
1 pinch powered cloves 
⅛ tsp. powdered cinnamon 
3 tbsp. vinegar 
1 tbsp. butter 

 Mix flour, sugar and salt in a small saucepan. Add raisins and water. Simmer a few minutes, stirring frequently. Add spices, vinegar, and butter, blend well. Ready to serve over ham slices. 

Cut pineapple rings in half. Add pineapple and cherries to the ham platter when you serve. 

Acorn Squash 
¼ squash per person 
1 tsp. butter per squash quarter, softened 
1 heaping tsp. brown sugar per squash quarter 
Reserved pineapple juice 

Preheat oven to 325° F. 

Mix butter, brown sugar, and 2 teaspoons pineapple juice in a small bowl. 

Microwave squash or bake in the oven until tender. This can be done earlier in the day. Cut squash in half and remove seeds. Quarter and arrange in ovenproof casserole dish. 

Add brown sugar mix to center of each quartered squash slice. Warm on low heat in oven until ready to serve. 

Marinated Raw Asparagus 
3 spears per person 
1 bottle spicy Italian salad dressing 

Wash asparagus and place in casserole dish. Cover spears with spicy Italian salad dressing or your favorite type. Refrigerate until ready to serve. Remove spears from dressing then set on decretive platter. Use tongs to serve. 

Here is a peek at my latest cozy mystery for your reading enjoyment. 

When is it not fun to be a blond? 

What happens when a blond beauty hits town like a tornado stirring up memories and causing turmoil? Detective Kevin Fowler and his wife, the former Beverly Hampton, owner of the local newspaper, are settling into blissful married life. Although Beverly is sanguine over the demand on Kevin’s time by the good people of Hubbard, she is more than dubious when his duties include the escort of a drop-dead gorgeous female from his past.

There is some concern over the persistent vandalism of residential mailboxes, but an infamous arsonist has decided peaceful but dull Hubbard would make a great place from which to operate. He brazenly locates down the block from the detective and his wife.

What bait and tackle shop in the village has a dual purpose? Kevin ponders why two goons have invaded town shooting at and attempting to kidnap and murder three women. A state patrolman, aptly nick named Rooster, teases Fowler at the riotous scene of a traffic accident where the press, not the police, wins the day.

Another mystery and adventure with a satisfying ending that unfolds in peaceful Hubbard, New York, small-town Americana, where Detective Kevin Fowler keeps an ever-vigilant watch.

Amazon Buy Link

Emma Lane
is a gifted author who writes cozy mysteries as Janis Lane, Regency as Emma, and spice as Sunny Lane. 

She lives in Western New York where winter is snowy, spring arrives with rave reviews, summer days are long and velvet, and fall leaves are riotous in color. At long last she enjoys the perfect bow window for her desk where she is treated to a year-round panoramic view of nature. Her computer opens up a fourth fascinating window to the world. Her patient husband is always available to help with a plot twist and encourage Emma to never quit. Her day job is working with flowers at Herbtique and Plant Nursery, the nursery she and her son own. 

Look for information about writing and plants on Emma's new website. Leave a comment or a gardening question and put a smile on Emma's face.

Stay connected to Emma on Facebook and Twitter. Be sure to check out the things that make Emma smile on Pinterest.

Monday, March 21, 2022

Officials in the Booth?

Really, it was all my idea.

by Anne Montgomery

I became a sports official to learn about the games so that I might become a competent sportscaster. It seemed like a good idea, and yet, during my 15-year reporting career, I never met any other officials who became broadcasters.

A long time ago, back when I hoped to earn a paycheck in front of a TV camera, I had what I thought was a moment of brilliance. Why, I opined, wouldn’t TV networks want to hire sports officials and put them in the broadcast booth? The idea seemed like a win-win.

Of course, I was a tad biased. I had taken five years and learned to officiate five sports: football, baseball, ice hockey, soccer, and basketball. All with the hope that my new-found on-field expertise might wrangle me a job as a sportscaster. While blowing whistles and calling balls and strikes did eventually help me get my foot in the sports journalism world, I never in 15 years as a reporter meet any other broadcasters from the officiating ranks. 

When I was a SportsCenter anchor at ESPN, I suggested it might be a good idea to put former officials in the broadcast booth. My colleagues thought I was crazy.

Fast forward to today, where former officials are now miced up and sharing their thoughts on calls with the viewing public. That makes me want to hop into Mr. Peabody’s Wayback Machine and confront my old colleagues at ESPN.

“It would be great,” I explained in the newsroom back in 1990. “You could put officials in the booth and they could explain why certain calls were made."


 "You know, clear up confusion for the viewers.”

My remarks, as I recall, were met by head shakes indicating that I was certainly out of my mind. Who would ever want to listen to sports officials speak? They intimated. 

Fast forward thirty years and there they are, with the NFL leading the way. Former officials and now rules analysts Mike Pereira, Dean Blandino, and Terry McAulay, among others. Then there’s Gene Steratore, who along with his 15-year NFL career spent 20 years calling college basketball games and is now an analyst for both sports. 

The question is, what took the networks so long? Sports rules are complicated. Don’t believe me? Ask someone to explain what constitutes a catch is in football. Or the reasoning behind and execution of an infield fly in baseball. Or the difference between a foul ball and a foul tip. Or when icing is waved off in hockey. Or how to tell a charge from a block in basketball. Or what constitutes traveling. Oh, wait. No one calls that anymore.

While fans might better understand their favorite sports by listening to former officials in the booth, maybe they're happier just arguing about the rules. 

Anyway, if you don’t believe me, pick up a rule book. Just read one page. I dare you. Rules and their corresponding diagrams can sometimes look like hieroglyphics with descriptions written by folks from MENSA. So why not hire people who study those books for a living? Then they can dumb down the rules to make them more digestible to the viewing public. 

Then again, many fans thrive on controversy and arguing about calls is high on their list of entertaining things to do. Maybe if they actually understood the rules, some of the fun might be drained out of sports fandom. 

As a purist, I think it's better to truly understand the rules, but since I spent four decades as an amateur official, I'm clearly more than a little biased.

Here is a peek at one of my women's fiction novels. I hope you enjoy it.

A woman flees an abusive husband and finds hope in the wilds of  the Arizona dessert. 

Rebecca Quinn escapes her controlling husband and, with nowhere else to go, hops the red-eye to Arizona. There, Gaby Strand – her aunt’s college roommate – gives her shelter at the Salt River Inn, a 1930’s guesthouse located in the wildly beautiful Tonto National Forest. 

Becca struggles with post-traumatic stress, but is enthralled by the splendor and fragility of the Sonoran Desert. The once aspiring artist meets Noah Tanner, a cattle rancher and beekeeper, Oscar Billingsley, a retired psychiatrist and avid birder, and a blacksmith named Walt. Thanks to her new friends and a small band of wild horses, Becca adjusts to life in the desert and rekindles her love of art. 

Then, Becca’s husband tracks her down, forcing her to summon all her strength. But can she finally stop running away? 
Amazon Buy Links E-Book - Paperback

Anne Montgomery has worked as a television sportscaster, newspaper and magazine writer, teacher, amateur baseball umpire, and high school football referee. She worked at WRBL‐TV in Columbus, Georgia, WROC‐TV in Rochester, New York, KTSP‐TV in Phoenix, Arizona, ESPN in Bristol, Connecticut, where she anchored the Emmy and ACE award‐winning SportsCenter, and ASPN-TV as the studio host for the NBA’s Phoenix Suns. Montgomery has been a freelance and staff writer for six publications, writing sports, features, movie reviews, and archeological pieces.

When she can, Anne indulges in her passions: rock collecting, scuba diving, football refereeing, and playing her guitar.

Learn more about Anne Montgomery on her website and Wikipedia. Stay connected on Facebook, Linkedin, and Twitter.

Wednesday, March 16, 2022

Calling All Salmon Lovers

From Stella May 

Honestly, I don’t like to cook fish, especially salmon, but this recipe almost cooks itself. Yes, it’s that easy. This recipe works great with a whole fillet, individual ones, or steaks. Give it a try.

Baked Salmon in Lemon Juice

1 salmon fillet
1 or 2 lemons
Salt and pepper to taste, optional

Pre-heat oven to 350° F.

Wash and dry salmon. If you use a whole fillet, cut into serving size pieces for easier handling. Lay fish into any ovenproof dish that has a cover or use an aluminum foil lined cookie sheet then cover the salmon with heavy aluminum foil. 

Pour fresh squeezed lemon juice over fish. It must be half covered in liquid. Cover tightly with a lid or aluminum foil.

 Bake in the oven for 30 minutes. 

You can sprinkle salt and pepper on before you bake the fish, but I prefer to cook it without. 

And that’s it. Hope you enjoy this dish as much as my family does.

Here is a peek at Stella’s time travel romance for your reading pleasure. 

One key unlocks the love of a lifetime…but could also break her heart. 

Nika Morris’s sixth sense has helped build a successful business, lovingly restoring and reselling historic homes on Florida’s Amelia Island. But there’s one forlorn, neglected relic that’s pulled at her from the moment she saw it. The century-old Coleman house.  

Quite unexpectedly, the house is handed to her on a silver platter—along with a mysterious letter, postmarked 1909, yet addressed personally to Nika. Its cryptic message: Find the key. You know where it is. Hurry, for goodness sake! 

The message triggers an irresistible drive to find that key. When she does, one twist in an old grandfather clock throws her back in time, straight into the arms of deliciously, devilishly handsome Elijah Coleman. 

Swept up in a journey of a lifetime, Nika finds herself falling in love with Eli—and with the family and friends that inhabit a time not even her vivid imagination could have conjured. But in one desperate moment of homesickness, she makes a decision that will not only alter the course of more than one life, but break her heart. 

’Til Time Do Us Part is available in Kindle and Paperback at AMAZON

Talented author Stella May is the penname for Marina Sardarova who has a fascinating history you should read on her website

Stella writes fantasy romance as well as time travel romance. She is the author of 'Till Time Do Us Part, Book 1 in her Upon a Time series, and the stand-alone book Rhapsody in Dreams. Love and family are two cornerstones of her stories and life. Stella’s books are available in e-book and paperback through all major vendors.

When not writing, Stella enjoys classical music, reading, and long walks along the ocean. She lives in Jacksonville, Florida with her husband Leo of 35 years and their son George. They are her two best friends and are all partners in their family business.

Follow Stella on her website and blog Stay connected on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.

Monday, March 14, 2022

An Editor's Golden Touch

from Sharon Ledwith

Do you want to know how to make your manuscript stronger? Polished? Close to publication? Psst…I can help with that. Correction—my former editor, Kathy Teel, can help with that. The following advice is gold to writers seasoned or new. Read on…

·        The word "as" is not your friend. It is almost never your best choice. In any MS, find all occurrences of it and cut at least half. This is especially true when it occurs near a dialogue tag.

·        You don't need both an action tag and a dialogue tag. For example: Jojo sneered at him, saying, "That was helpful." Those should look like this: Jojo sneered. "That was helpful." (This is where many of those words were cut)

·       Dialogue tags go after the first clause in the dialogue, not at the end, unless it's a short bit of dialogue and we know exactly who's speaking. "Thanks," Monkey said. "You never know when you're going to need an antique bassoon."

·        Avoid adverbs, especially around dialogue tags. "I hate you, you big fat jerk!" Merry screamed furiously. No, really, he's furious? We got that from the dialogue AND the verb (scream), you don't have to beat us with it by adding on an adverb.

·        People don't usually use each other's names very much when speaking together.

·        A sentence with 2 independent clauses does not have a comma: My daughter turned on Dr. Who and her friend rolled her eyes. NOT: My daughter turned on Dr. Who, and her friend rolled her eyes.

·        Use "said" 95% of the time. Delete your thesaurus' entry for the word "said," and don't use replacement words for it, except in very rare absolutely necessary cases.

·        Don't use dialogue tags at all unless it's otherwise unclear who's speaking. If you need to indicate who's speaking, try to use an action tag instead of a dialogue tag: Jingle jumped out of his chair. "I know that elf!" 

That’s it. Well, not all. There’s always something when it comes to polishing and gleaning your manuscript to share with the world. The above sage advice was passed on to me because I made these common mistakes. I thought I’d share them so that any writer reading this may in turn, better their best. 

Here’s a glimpse of the premises of both my young adult series: 

The Last Timekeepers Time Travel Adventures…

Chosen by an Atlantean Magus to be Timekeepers—legendary time travelers sworn to keep history safe from the evil Belial—five classmates are sent into the past to restore balance, and bring order back into the world, one mission at a time. 

Children are the keys to our future. And now, children are the only hope for our past. 

Mysterious Tales from Fairy Falls Teen Psychic Mysteries…

 Imagine a teenager possessing a psychic ability and struggling to cope with its freakish power. There’s no hope for a normal life, and no one who understands. Now, imagine being uprooted and forced to live in a small tourist town where nothing much ever happens. It’s bores-ville from the get-go. Until mysterious things start to happen. 

Welcome to Fairy Falls. Expect the unexpected. 

The Last Timekeepers Time Travel Adventure Series:

The Last Timekeepers and the Noble Slave, Book #3


The Last Timekeepers and the Dark Secret, Book #2 Buy Links:


The Last Timekeepers and the Arch of Atlantis, Book #1 Buy Links:


Legend of the Timekeepers, prequel Buy Links:


Mysterious Tales from Fairy Falls Teen Psychic Mystery Series:

Lost and Found, Book One Buy Links:


Blackflies and Blueberries, Book Two Buy Links:


Sharon Ledwith is the author of the middle-grade/young adult time travel adventure series, THE LAST TIMEKEEPERS, and the award-winning teen psychic mystery series, MYSTERIOUS TALES FROM FAIRY FALLS. When not writing, researching, or revising, she enjoys reading, exercising, anything arcane, and an occasional dram of scotch. Sharon lives a serene, yet busy life in a southern tourist region of Ontario, Canada, with her spoiled hubby, and a moody calico cat. 

Learn more about Sharon Ledwith on her WEBSITE and BLOG. Look up her AMAZON AUTHOR page for a list of current books. Stay connected on FACEBOOK, TWITTER, PINTEREST, LINKEDIN, INSTAGRAM, and GOODREADS.

 BONUS: Download the free PDF short story The Terrible, Mighty Crystal HERE

Wednesday, March 09, 2022


A dish fit for a king that takes a little time but is well worth it. Prep more chops then freeze them to finish cooking for another meal.

Stuffed Pork Chops

2 loin chops, boneless
Stuffing, recipe below
1 tbsp. (15ml) olive oil
½ cup (120ml) chicken stock
4 toothpicks

Preheat oven to 350° F (180° C).

Slice a deep pocket in each chop. Pack in stuffing. Use toothpicks to hold pocket closed as much as possible by inserting down through both layers of meat at one end then up as close as possible. You’ll use 2 toothpicks per chop.

Heat oil in a medium-sized skillet until it shimmers over medium-high heat. Add chops and brown on each side 2 – 3 minutes.

Pour stock into an ovenproof dish. Lay chops in dish. Cover tightly with aluminum foil. Bake 35 minutes.



This recipe makes more than you’ll use for the pork chops but it freezes well to use with other meals.

1 package bread stuffing cubes, plain or seasoned
½ lb. (250g) breakfast sausage in a tube or bulk
8 tbsp. (1 stick) (114g) butter
1 celery rib, chopped½ med. onion, chopped
1 egg, lightly beaten1½ tsp. (7.5ml) dried sage
1½ tsp. (7.5ml) dried thyme
2 cups (450ml) chicken stock, maybe a little more 

Empty bread cubes into a large bowl.

Fry sausage in a medium-sized frying pan, breaking meat into small chunks, until no longer pink. Add sausage and its juice to bread cubes. 

Melt butter in same skillet. Add celery and onion when the foam subsides. Sauté 3 – 4 minutes until translucent, be careful not to let it brown. Add vegetables with all their juices to the bread cubes. Mix well. 

Pour egg onto stuffing. Sprinkle sage and thyme across the top. Mix well. 

Stir in chicken stock until mixture is very moist, but not soupy. 

To Bake as a Side Dish

Spoon mixture into an ungreased baking dish. Do not pack it in. Cover tightly with foil. Refrigerate stuffing until you are ready to bake it, but no longer than two days. 

To Freeze

Spoon the mixture into freezer bags, label, and pop in freezer no longer than 3 months. I use several sandwich bags that serve 2. 

No matter which route you take, remove stuffing from the refrigerator/freezer early in the day to allow it to come close to room temperature. 

Preheat oven to 350° F (180°C). Bake for 30 minutes. Remove foil and continue to bake until the top is brown.

May you enjoy all the days of your life filled with good friends, laughter, and seated around a well-laden table!


Monday, March 07, 2022


 from C.D. Hersh

The difference between the right word and the nearly right word is the same as that between lightening and the lightening bug —Mark Twain.

I (The C in C.D. Hersh) personally experienced Mr. Twain’s quote when the telephone company crossed our phone lines with that of another customer. Upon calling customer service, I explained the problem and noted something different about the employee’s accent.

“Where are you located?” I asked him.

“The Philippines,” he replied.

As he was unable to resolve my problem to my satisfaction I asked to speak to his supervisor. Big mistake, as the supervisor had a thicker accent. To make a long story short, I finally got through to the person on the other end of the line that they needed to check my phone records, or rather the phone records of the number I was calling from—which wasn’t my number, and they would see how to resolve the problem as this was the second time they had switched my phone line with this person.

After much checking and rechecking on what I’d said, the phone company employee gave me a time that they would attempt to fix the problem. He said the technician would come to our apartments and look in our phone boxes. I repeatedly told him neither of us lived in apartments and there should be no need for the technician to come into our homes. We lived in houses a mile apart and no one had been messing with our phone boxes. The problem was on their end, or rather in a relay box somewhere near where we live. I should have taken the hint right then that we weren’t on the same page, English-wise or culturally.

Then he said we should keep our phone lines open.

Now I don’t know what that meant to him, but to me it meant staying on the line. “Do you mean you want me to not hang up the phone?” I asked, wondering how that make any sense and how it was going to work for the allotted time to would take to fix the line.

“No,” he said, “keep it by your side.”

“Keep it by my side?” That made about as much sense as putting Godiva dark chocolates on a hot sidewalk. “Do you mean you want me to carry it around with me?” I asked.

“No,” he replied.

I searched my brain for another definition of keeping the line open. “Then do you want us not make any calls or take any calls on our lines?” I asked.

He said some other unintelligible phrase, obviously as frustrated as I was at his botched attempts. Finally, he blurted out, “Don’t unplug the phone.”

“Why would I do that?” I asked, completely bamboozled at his definition. That, I thought, would be a stupid thing to do, and had absolutely no relationship to the phrase “keep the lines open.” What he tried to express to me, with what appeared to be a very basic understanding of English, was as close to lightening as lightening is to a lightening bug.

Next time I have to deal with the phone company, I’m asking where the customer service employee is located, and calling back until I get someone in America. Hopefully, they’ll know the difference between lightening and the lightening bug.