Sep 02

The Elusive Moonflower


The Moonflower is elusive, and like lots of beautiful things, it’s easy to miss a blossoming.

As I do the final edits on my latest novel, I’m trying not to miss something beautiful. I know – the damn thing is written, don’t go adding to it now. But it’s my way to continue to look for the small hidden things in the final hour of something.

For me, recipes can always be tweaked, and made better. A painting may look fine (to my husband) but not quite yet good enough for me, until it suddenly is, and I’m always surprised. My faith in continuing to hunt for excellence is not – like some think – an inability to be satisfied. It’s just the way I make my own sort of blooms.

What happens when a thirty-something woman is handed her sister’s messed-up kids, and then finds the love of her life? Meet Rae Green, a woman who could handle anything . . . or so she thought.  Three parts love, two parts grit…the perfect recipe to save a family Love on a Half Shell

What happens when a thirty-something woman is handed her sister’s messed-up kids, and then finds the love of her life? Meet Rae Green, a woman who could handle anything . . . or so she thought.
Three parts love, two parts grit…the perfect recipe to save a family
Love on a Half Shell

Aug 21

The Grapes of Wrath


The grapes in the photo were grown in my backyard, and have no wrath at all. I bought them so long ago I couldn’t remember what kind of grapes they were. In my shady back yard, what they did for years was not die, but we never saw any grapes.







Then we got rid of a bunch of trees, and behold the grapes (Concord, it turned out) that I turned into this –

IMG_0651My poor blog has been neglected beyond apologizing. I thought I knew why, my reasons were all the usual ones I’d heard every writer express at one time or another. And although they all had a ring of validity, none of them were true for me.

The truth is, I didn’t take me, the blogging part of the business of writing, or my potential reader seriously enough. To my potential reader I can, and do, apologize. Shame on me.  I allowed writing to you to become a chore, and then procrastinated rather than face it. I allowed guilt about the blog to run rampant too, which resulted in the whole concept of blogging being kept as far away from my consciousness as I could manage.

The only cure for this is to shine some light here, and hope like with those grape vines, something really lovely comes from it.

What happens when a thirty-something woman is handed her sister’s messed-up kids, and then finds the love of her life? Meet Rae Green, a woman who could handle anything . . . or so she thought. Three parts love, two parts grit…the perfect recipe to save a family Love on a Half Shell

What happens when a thirty-something woman is handed her sister’s messed-up kids, and then finds the love of her life? Meet Rae Green, a woman who could handle anything . . . or so she thought.
Three parts love, two parts grit…the perfect recipe to save a family
Love on a Half Shell

Jan 25

My Time at Hampton’s Women’s Show

All us Strumpets had a wonderful time today at the Hampton’s Women’s Show. We met the nicest bunch of women and had the best time ever.

I sincerely hope those who bought my book let me know what they thought about it (, and for the two ladies who mentioned book groups – email me where to send the questions for book groups. I’d love to hear from all of you too.

I absolutely adore Love on a Half Shell and hope (crave) you do too.

Nov 14

My Twin Grandsons

Last week, the twins (three-year-old grandsons – I refer to them as,’the monkeys’) spent two days with their nana, while their dad was getting an operation on his foot.
It went okay, too cold to go to the park, but in my daughter’s van (the kids come with their own vehicle) we went to the Children’s Museum. They played, ran around, and mostly had a blast.
There was one unpleasant moment when Levi (sometimes referred to as, ‘the fat one’) came towards me, doing his Frankenstein walk. I knew from past experience there was some giant load in his underwear, and I was in for a bunch of – well, you know what I mean.
Turned out he’d only peed on himself, big relief. Levi instructed his nana in how to get paper towels (evidently he’s had some experience with this), and blot dry his pants, socks, and underwear, so he could get back to his playing.
Disaster avoided (I had visions of dragging two, stinking, screaming three-year-olds out the front door, and across the parking lot) it was great the rest of the morning. We came back to my house, ate, and took good naps (yes, even me).
After nap time my daughter called to say the coast was clear to bring them home, and had they had dinner yet?
I said, “Not yet.”
She wondered if I might watch them a little longer, so she could go to the grocery store (cleverly shifting the blame to me, for her having to go to the store to buy food, to make their dinner).
I said OK, realizing the coast was no longer clear as I’d first been informed, and put Ice Age on the TV (TV is a BIG treat for those guys).
Ice Age was over, and they had an emergency dinner of scrambled eggs with cheese, yogurt with fruit, and toast with jelly (only Levi didn’t want jelly on his – so I had to eat it).
Their momma called, and said the coast really was clear. Bring them home.
With a great big smile on my face, I turned to the boys, and said, “Hey guys, your momma says you can go home.”
Tyler (sometimes referred to as ‘the charmer’) was standing near me. He put his hands behind his back, looked down sadly, shook his head, and said, “Nope”.
I was shocked. They had NEVER been anything but happy as hell when I said they could go home.
“No?” I asked.
“No.” Tyler admitted.
Levi chimed in. “No,” he said, rather happily.
“You guys don’t want to go home?”
I heard a bunch of nopes as they wandered off to play.
I realized I was trapped , as I was too exhausted to argue with them, something they both appeared to understand long before I did.
Then I wondered how people on the planet only three years, were able to figure that out?

I called my daughter, and told her what was going on.
She laughed, and said cheerfully, “Well, I guess you’re gonna keep them another night, call me if they change their minds,” and hung up.
Evidently, the entire family had changed in drastic ways.
Jessica always missed them, always wanted them home as soon as possible. She was so totally unlike her own mother, I sometimes wondered if we were related. But still, that’s the way she was, until she wasn’t.
I had to admit, part of me was flattered. I always loved it when my older grandkids wanted to stay longer, and now the little ones were doing it too. I was also glad my daughter wasn’t so hermetically sealed to her children anymore, and making me feel guilty for never having been like her.
I began thinking about baths, and wondering what in the hell to put on Levi, as he’d peed in his pajamas. I was debating in my head, how bad the pajamas would smell vs trying to find something else acceptable to Levi (improbable), when they came over to me.
Like hearing from some tiny socialist committee, I was informed, “Go home”.
So I took them home, and drove myself back to my house in my little car, exhausted, worn out, and happy as crap.
Love on a Half Shell
What happens when a thirty-something woman is handed her sister’s messed-up kids, and then finds the love of her life? Meet Rae Green, a woman who could handle anything . . . or so she thought.
Three parts love, two parts grit…the perfect recipe to save a family

I blog here and with Tea and Strumpets (

Feb 02

The Hampton Women’s Show

I had such a nice time at the Hampton Women’s Show yesterday. The blogging group I belong to, Tea N Strumpets (, was there, and we met so many wonderful women.
For those of you who stopped by, thank you for being so kind to your Virginia authors, and as I promised a few of you, here is some information about Love on a Half Shell, and me.
I was a passionate reader as a child; the kind of kid school librarians call ‘library lurkers’. Books were my best friends, advisors, and main source of support through adolescence. I continued to be passionate about reading as an adult.
By the time my second child was born, I no longer cared I was seen as odd for reading as much as I did. From a remarkably early age, my children knew their mother could nod her head, even mutter words of encouragement, and not hear a thing they’d said when she reading.
I’d stay up too late, when a book wouldn’t let me sleep, and be utterly exhausted the entire next day at work, thinking what a terrible price I paid for my obsession.
Then something happened, and reading lost its luster for me. My tastes had grown over the years, and I found myself not finding new authors to adore from afar, which was perplexing, until my little hobby of writing slowly, then relentlessly, took over my life.
On some level I sensed I’d been filled myself up with reading, and it was time to let my own stories come out.
If you like puppies, good food, have ever been involved with the wrong person, or loved a good, believable romance, thinks children are worth all we can do for them, have ever faced real, actual bad luck, or ever gotten really angry at someone, or something, then Love on a Half Shell might be a book for you. Although, to be honest, there are no puppies in Love on a Half Shell, that was a metaphor for people with a heart.
Rae Green, my protagonist, is a tough cookie who’d accomplished a lot professionally, but rewarding personal relationships for Rae were more elusive, until her sister was arrested late one night, and Rae had to pick up her two nieces, aged twelve and five, who she hasn’t seen in over four years.
Rae faces daunting tasks in the coming months; raising disturbed children who were injured by their drug addicted mother, loss of Rae’s prestigious job, financial disasters, combined with bright spots of re-connecting with her older niece, and an old friend, then meeting John Clements, owner and captain of the fishing boat, The Clemency.
There are some fairly intense moments in the book, and funny ones too. If you read Love on a Half Shell, I hope you’ll enjoy Rae’s story, and I’d love to hear from you.
You can contact me at:
Elvy Howard lives with her husband of forty years in Midlothian, Virginia, with two dogs, and one cat. They have four incredible, talented, above-average, extremely good-looking grandchildren, and two healthy grown children who are married, and doing well, thank God.

Dec 02

I Love, Love, Love, Love on a Half Shell

I love, love, love, Love on a half shell.
I mean, I love my book as much as I love my grandchildren, and that’s a lot! When I began writing it, I was roughly ten years older than Rae.
Initially the book was pretty horrible, but over the twenty years since, the book and I have evolved. It’s my life lessons wrapped in a story I wish had been mine, and in lots of ways, was.
Becoming an author, at this late date, has blindsided me. I’d given up on anything of mine being published. Then it was, by a friend – also a writer who became so disgusted by her dealings with two different publishers, she went on to become a publisher for herself.
So, after buying back her own work, and publishing that, she read my book.
And she published it!
And people like it!
(I’m not big on using exclamation points, but nothing else is appropriate.)
One woman, a friend of mine at Jazzercise, after reading it looked at me and said, “I’m going to have to re-think you all over again.”
I knew what she meant; she didn’t even know I wrote, ever, no one in my Jazzercise class did. It was nothing I discussed by then, but suddenly, BAM! There I was, coming out to everyone as an author.
As I’m writing this next part I’m realizing I have always absolutely hated it when some author says, “This is the first book I ever attempted,” when talking about getting published
But it is! (Again with the exclamation points!) I began writing it after getting my master’s degree in social work, an obsession that had preempted the previous ten years of my life.
I’d dallied with writing before attempting college, even joining a group of mostly retired people who enjoyed writing. They were a lovely bunch of folks, and the major reason I went to the group at all. I said I wrote poetry, and even brought in a few that spontaneously blew up inside me, I knew not from where.
I also knew I was no real poet, since wherever those poems came from was a place I could not consciously reach.
I tried a few, very gloomy short stories that died such terrible deaths it is still painful to recall them.
But there I was, shiny new social worker, having obtained my master’s degree in one year, thank you very much, and resuming a life that had been long neglected. And part of that life was writing, so since I had a job with the Department of Youth and Family Services, the idea of Rae was born.
Writing became as much of a challenge as school had been, and Love on the Half Shell the most challenging part. I’d put it down, for years sometimes, and work on other books, or short stories, but always I’d get the bug to return to Half Shell. Let’s have a moment of silence here, for my poor critique group.
It would happen when I innocently scanned the manuscript, when tired, or frustrated with something else I was working on, and a paragraph would stand out. Usually a paragraph I didn’t remember writing, but it would shine, and I’d think, if I can write like this here, why not the entire thing? And I’d be back in Half Shell land, struggling again with the uneven story line, trying to figure out what in the hell I’d been trying to convey. Taking out huge chunks, which is comparable to watching your child suffer some necessary, but painful operation.
And eventually it got published, and people liked it. I mean, I don’t want to go all ‘Sally Field’ on everyone (you like me, you really, really like me!), but it is sort of like that, when people seem excited for me, that I wrote this terrific book. (With a lot of help from my different critique groups, my publisher, my editor.)
I’ve heard more than once, Love on a Half Shell wasn’t what they expected. I guess the cover is misleading (I take full responsibility; I really wanted the porch swing) and the intensity of some of the scenes surprised a lot of my readers. One woman said,” this was no piece of fluff like I thought it was going to be,” but no one has said (at least to me) it was too intense, or difficult to get through.
A cousin of mine, and her daughter, liked Love on a Half Shell so much they are trying to stir up publicity. Other people have done the same. I thank them all, very much. I love, that you loved my story.
The very first book I ever attempted was published. Yes, I can say that.

Aug 17

Summertime is a-Popping at Elvy’s

I wish I had a photo I could use of how beautiful these are. I took some. I’d made a lovely spinach salad, and chive/parmesan popovers, but somehow I saved my photos as videos (don’t ask me how), and I can’t paste them anywhere.

Still, when you see how easy these are, and try any of the variations I’ve included, you will find people asking, “Will you make those great popovers again?” a lot.

These can be baked in regular muffin pans, or custard cups on a cookie sheet, or, if you’re like me, you’ll invest in a popover pan, which I took a photo of, and cannot show you.

Here’s the basic recipe:

1 stick (1/2 cup) of butter (real butter – do not substitute)
4 egg
1 ¼ cup milk (whole, skim, anywhere in-between)
1 ¼ cup regular, all-purpose flour
1 tsp. salt

Begin early in the day. The success of popovers is due to two factors: temperature (room temp) and consistency (heavy whipping cream like you get in a carton, not yet whipped).

Make sure your batter sits out at least four hours, or all the ingredients are room temperature by the time you’re a half hour from dinner being ready (or brunch, I’ve made them then too). Often I’ll make the batter the night before. Put everything in a pitcher and refrigerate overnight, then pull it out and let it sit all day.

How to make the batter:

  • Melt ¼ cup of your real butter (that’s one- half of one stick).
  • Preheat oven to 400°
  • In a food processor, or with a mixer, or whisk, beat eggs, add milk, then flour and salt until there are no lumps. You don’t have to overkill this, just until smooth.
  • Add melted butter and mix in.

That’s it. That’s the whole shebang. If for ANY reason the batter isn’t the consistency of heavy cream, add milk by tablespoons until it is.

Take the last half, of your half stick of butter (get that?), and divide it between your muffin tins, cups, or whatever you are using. Just throw it in the bottom of each cup, and feel free to get more butter if you don’t end up with a good size pat in each. Put the pan, sheet, whatever, in your hot oven for five minutes. The butter should be sizzling when you take it out.

Pour your batter into the center of each cup until ¾ full, the melted butter will go up around the batter, do not go over ¾ full or there will be a mess in your oven. You can fill them ½ full if you want. Throw away any unused batter.

Pop popovers (yes, I wrote that on purpose) into oven, and bake. DO NOT OPEN OVEN!!!!

Eyeball your results THROUGH THE OVEN WINDOW. The popovers will POP, and turn a nice golden brown in about 20 to 30 minutes, depending on how much batter is in each cup, how large the cups are, etc., etc. Just keep an eye on it. They are done when they look done.

In theory, if you want, when they are popped and golden, you could pull out the pan, cut a slit in the side of each popover, turn off oven, and put them back in the oven for five minutes to let them crisp up, and keep their shape. (If only it was that easy for me to keep mine…recipes like this make it a challenge.)

This is theoretical as I have never done it, mainly because everyone is already drooling (including me), and we can’t wait that long. Besides, we like them popped-over, which means they sort-of collapse on themselves.

Sometimes popovers are tricky to get out of their pans. Don’t worry, run a knife around the edges, and POP them out. (Another on-purpose way to use the term ‘pop.’ Aren’t you impressed?)

Serve hot, with another stick of real butter on the table. You won’t believe how good they are.

And, as promised, variations to this recipe:

Variation #1

Add ½ cup finely grated (I took a photo of this too, but you know what happened) parmesan reggiano and ¼ cup of fresh, or dried chives. NOTE: when adding cheese, and especially dried herbs, make batter early and give batter time to set. Check and make sure consistency is not too thick, add more milk if needed, a little cold milk at this point won’t ruin anything.

Variation #2

Add ½ cup finely grated, extra sharp cheddar, ¼ cup parsley, a quarter teaspoon of Franks hot sauce (you won’t taste it, it boosts cheddar’s flavor) and a teaspoon, or so, of onion powder. Read NOTE above.

These are the only two I’ve come up with so far, so experiment! Have fun! If making popovers for a brunch, serve with butter and strawberry jam. As my daughter’s two-year-old twins would say, Yum!

Jun 16

Me, LD, ADD, and ADHD

As far as I know, I’m not LD. I might have been diagnosed ED, when I was in grade school, but not LD. Still, both of my children, with entirely different fathers, had some form of learning disability (I prefer the term ‘Learning Difference’).

The father of my youngest child is a classic ADD/ADHD sort of guy, and since I’ve been married to him for over forty years, I can claim some history with the issue.

My son was called, by one educator, a classic dyslexic. He was a very bright child, who only learned to read when, nearly miraculously, we were able to find him the right kind of education. Once he was able to get information from the page into his head, all his learning difficulties (except for spelling, punctuation, and grasping poetic metaphors) disappeared.

My daughter was a different story. An easy baby, who crawled at six months, walked at a year, babbled and delighted us all as she grew into a lovely young girl, she found school nearly impossible. I went from a concerned parent trying to help with her education, to a desperate mother, trying to keep her daughter’s spirits alive.

I succeeded, and she did too. She survived the teasing, bullying, the ‘special’ classes that labeled her, the well-meaning, but eventually unhelpful tutors, and all the rest.

As a social worker, I spotted the LD kids quickly. One thing consistent among them: these were not kids who were out to hurt others. Not that they were perfect — some of the hyper boys could drive a patient person crazy — but not predatory, not enjoying making a target of others. More often, they were the targets.

Being married to a hyper-active, distracted man wasn’t easy, and I built some large resentments over the years. Then one day a very clear, and very unwelcome thought entered my brain. What if my son’s, or my daughter’s spouses treated them the way I treated their dad? It was a good question, and motivated me to re-think my growing disdain. And it probably save my marriage to a wonderful guy I’m grateful for every day.

It’s struck me, over and over in this world growing more homogenized by the second, how little we, as a culture, cherish different things. ‘We’ miss out on the stuff that makes life what we’d hoped it would be when we were little. Like factory meat with only a faint resemblance to the original flavor, our society promotes emptiness, unattainable perfection, and posturing, which is difficult to impossible for people who are so much themselves they can’t be anyone else.

I know my life is enriched by people who can’t be anything but real, and I dedicate this blog to them all.