Category Archives: Inspiration

Sunday Morning Musings: Silence Please

Do you think God doesn’t listen to you? Maybe you’re not listening to God.

Do you think He’s not answering your prayers or helping you with your problems? Maybe His answers just can’t get through all the noise and obstacles you’ve created.

I find my car is a good place to pray. I often work very early in the morning. It’s dark and quiet and there’s little traffic. It’s peaceful. It isn’t a long drive to work, but it’s long enough for my prayer ritual.

The drive home is very different. The sun’s usually out. There’s lots more traffic. I watch the inattentive drivers. They text at the stoplights. Their heads are down and they miss when the light turns green to the annoyance of everyone behind them. Or they’re talking on a cell phone. Music is blasting from their speakers.

Not that I never listen to music when I drive, but often I turn my radio off. Rarely am I on my phone. I like the quiet. I think that’s an opening for God to give me ideas. It could be any random thing. A kindness I could do. A reminder of something I forgot. Writing inspiration. Another nudge to do something I’ve been resisting.

There are so many sad and frustrated people out there in the world. I’m sure they think God has abandoned them or that He doesn’t listen to or care about them. But maybe it’s just that they’ve filled up their world with so much noise and activity that He can’t get through to them.

We’ve created a go-go-go environment for ourselves. If we aren’t doing something every waking moment, we’re doing something wrong and we feel guilty. We fill our lives with cell phones and video games and music and television. Work and school and a million other activities that fill up our days and exhaust our energy. And maybe, for some of us, we fill up our lives with church-related activities. But are we really creating a relationship with God? When do we talk to Him? When do we listen to Him?


Naples, Florida. My hometown.

2015-02-06 22.14.14 (4)It isn’t really.  I wasn’t born in Naples, but I grew up there, even though I was in my twenties, married and had a child when I arrived.  Naples was where I grew into adulthood.  It’s where my kids were born and raised and where I called home for thirty years.  I thought I’d never leave.

Before Naples I’d lived about 30 miles away in Fort Myers and  what I knew about Naples was that was where all the rich people lived.  When we moved to Naples in 1983 we could barely afford to live there.  Naples was tiny then compared to what it is now.  Most of the roads were two lanes and I-75 ended at the Immokalee Road exit.  The nearest grocery store to our home in Victoria Park was the Grand Union in Neapolitan Way.  I can remember my excitement when they finally put in a Publix near Vanderbilt Road and a Winn Dixie a mile or so away.  The Naples of today looks nothing like it did in the early 80’s.2015-03-08 23.13.24

It was and is a beautiful and inspiring city.  A place of privilege and of wealth. Take a ride down Gulfshore Boulevard or Port Royal sometime.  But there’s another side to the story.  A city that runs on money and tourism needs people to provide the services for the wealthy.  Those service people have to live somewhere, don’t they?  There was a time when real estate was so expensive there was hardly anywhere for certain segments of the population to live.  They couldn’t afford it.

Write what you know has been the advice given to fiction writers since the beginning of time.  What I know is south Florida and the Midwest where I spent most of my childhood. Over the years we often vacationed in North Carolina. You’ll see those places as settings for my novels.

2015-03-08 23.59.11

The fictional town of Willow Bay was inspired by Naples as was my upcoming novel WHAT A RICH WOMAN WANTS.  How does a former gang member turned sheriff’s deputy meet the CEO of a Fortune 500 company? How do they connect, interact, become involved?  What happens when their two worlds collide?  I loved exploring that idea.  I hope you love reading about it.WhatARichWomanWants72web

He thought she was out of his reach…until she reached out to him.

WHAT A RICH WOMAN WANTS is available for pre-order on Amazon and most other online books sites.

For more information please visit my website:


ajtillock2013 012CLEO’S WEB

Chapter One

“Edgar Allen Poe. You come here. Ow! Dammit, Poe. Aunt Gertie will have my hide in a sling if something happens to you. Although, personally, I’ve always found you to be more trouble than you’re worth. Isn’t that right, kitty, kitty? Come on, now. Come here. Pretty please? Kitty, kitty? We’ll go inside. I’ll open one of those expensive tins of cat food for you. How about the one with the picture of the pretty white Persian on it? You’ve got a crush on her, don’t you, Edgar Allen. I know you do. I’ll open it and you can eat her—dammit, Poe! Owwwww!”
Daniel Webster shamelessly eavesdropped on the conversation between an unidentified woman and Gertie Petry’s tomcat, Poe. Daniel could hardly help it since the woman’s behind was sticking out of a circle of knockout roses Gertie’d planted two years ago, and he’d happened upon the scene purely by accident when he’d stopped his golf cart out front a minute ago.
Daniel happened to know that cluster of rosebushes was Edgar Allen Poe’s favorite place to hide each and every time he escaped the confines of Gertie’s two-bedroom, two-bath home. Gertie had called Daniel twice to help her corral the wayward cat, fretting the entire time until Poe was safely back inside.
Daniel also knew Poe wasn’t going anywhere. Not with a woman around to dote on him and cater to his every whim. Poe got two squares a day, his very own pristine litter box, scratching post and a basket full of catnip mice and assorted other playthings. At night, Daniel assumed, Poe curled up next to Gertie and slept the sleep of a cat who knows he’s king.
But this wasn’t Gertie’s behind peeking out from the bushes and it wasn’t Gertie’s voice alternately cursing and sweet talking the as-of-yet-unseen cat.
Daniel folded his arms across his chest, taking in the unexpected entertainment on what had so far been a fairly routine Wednesday here in the senior citizen manufactured housing community of Idlewood Estates. Oh, he’d had to settle a dispute between Don Clark and Buck Overly about whether the staghorn fern that had been living in the middle of the camphor tree that straddled their lots belonged to Don or to Buck. When Daniel, who’d mediated this exact same argument more times than he could count, suggested they cut the fern in half, they’d both looked horrified and once again agreed to shared custody.
That Solomon, Daniel thought, as he’d returned to his company-allotted cart, he knew a thing or two about keeping the peace. Don and Buck had been muttering together behind his back as he walked away about the craziness of the idea to kill such a majestic staghorn fern. Why it had been in that tree ever since Buck had bought his place from Myrtle MacCafferty four years ago. Long before that, Daniel could have told him. When Stella and Paul Sterling had sold their place to Don and his wife, the fern had been too massive to transport so they’d left it behind.
“Thanks a lot, Poe. You see this scratch on my arm? It’s bleeding. That’s what you made me do. I’ll be scarred for life and it will be all your fault. You are a worthless piece of poop, you know that? If I didn’t love Gertie so much, I’d leave you out here to fend for yourself. Serve you right, you spoiled, overgrown, sorry excuse for warm bloodedness.”
The bushes wiggled and so did the feminine rear end which was covered in a tent of pastel plaid housedress. Still, Daniel had seen an awful lot of fifty-five and over females from behind since he’d been managing Idlewood Estates. For that matter, he’d had the pleasure of seeing quite a few well under fifty-five year old feminine derrieres as well. This particular one, if he had to guess, was at least twenty-five years light on the age requirement for park residents. His day had become a whole lot more interesting.
Not to mention entertaining. The voice that floated out of the bushes had a soft Southern rhythm to it. Even when she was saying the most awful things to Poe she was using a sweet talking, coaxing tone, which apparently Poe wasn’t falling for. Probably that cat knew she’d insulted him whether he could understand the words or not. Daniel would not have been surprised to learn that Poe understood every word she’d spoken and had decided to teach her a lesson by retreating further and further into the circle of bushes until he came out on the other side.
More of her disappeared into the bushes. He could hear her murmuring softly to the cat. The oversized housedress had snagged on the branches and was not making the trip with her. Slowly the material lifted to reveal an inch of smooth thigh just above her bent knees. Definitely not the thighs of a senior citizen. Her feet were bare. Sadly, Daniel had seen a lot of elderly feet in his line of work as well. These feet were not a day over thirty-five. He’d bet his brand new circular saw on it.
“Aha! Gotcha!” she cried in triumph at the same time a massive yowl emitted from the edge of the bushes. There was a mighty rustle and every stem and branch in the circle trembled. A surprised “oomph” was followed by a black cat leaping out of the foliage and running straight at Daniel. When Poe leapt Daniel caught him, holding the cat securely close to his chest, although Poe seemed to have absolutely no inclination to go any further. He started to purr and they both watched and listened as a string of muttered unpleasantries issued from inside the circle and kept up as the body sporting that spectacular set of buns began to back out.
The housedress had not got the memo that it was to reverse and Daniel watched with interest and no small amount of lust as the material floated up another couple of inches. Definitely not the thighs of a senior citizen, he assured himself once again.
He did some quiet cursing of his own when a slight breeze blew alerting her to the fact that a few adjustments were in order. She yanked the hem of the dress down where it draped to mid-calf as she continued to back out. “Damn cat,” was the last thing she said before she cleared the bushes and sat down hard on the velvety grass in defeat.
“Gertie’s going to kill me,” she said sadly to herself. She swiped delicately at her nose with the back of her hand. Surely she wasn’t going to start crying over Poe’s supposed disappearance. Was she? Daniel hoped not. Women in tears scared the hell out of him. Made him feel helpless. He didn’t like feeling helpless and went out of his way to avoid it at all costs.
“Gertie’s not going to kill you,” he said from behind her. “Poe’s right here.”
She gasped and turned around at the same time she stumbled to her feet, moving way too fast and almost losing her balance. She righted herself and stared at him through a pair of ridiculously old-fashioned cat-eye glasses with black rims. He was pretty sure her eyes narrowed in irritation when she saw Poe sitting contently in his arms.
On her head she wore one of those equally ridiculous turbans women of a certain age and stage seemed to favor. It had come askew and several strands of blond hair were trailing around her ears and temples. One fell across her face and she blew it aside in irritation.
“Who are you?”
“Daniel Webster. Most folks call me Web.”
She continued to stand and stare at him so he returned the favor. The longer he looked, the more he liked what he saw. Even behind the crazy disguise she was wearing, which, by the way, wouldn’t fool even the least discerning observer, he could see she wasn’t a day over thirty, thirty-five tops. The intermittent breeze continued to blow and every time it did, the tent of a housedress got caught on her curves. He didn’t know what she was hoping to hide beneath all that material but from what he could tell she had nothing to be ashamed of. In fact, she probably had a lot she could show off if she were so inclined.
Her gaze was lasering through the lenses of those glasses, which he sincerely doubted were prescription. That turban? Maybe she needed to wash her hair or something, but even slightly askew, it lent her a rather dashing air of mystery. He half-expected her to pull out a cigarette in one of those old-fashioned holders and start speaking with a French accent. The thought came to him that maybe he was being punked. Yet there was something very vaguely familiar about Poe’s nemesis.
“And you are?” he finally said.
“None of your business,” she said huffily, absently rubbing at a scratch on her arm, courtesy, no doubt, of her encounter with the rosebushes.
Daniel cocked his head to one side surprised by her response. Most folks here in Idlewood Estates were the friendly type, and the ones who weren’t were, at the very least, civil. He didn’t want to throw his weight around, but he would if she pushed him.
“You want your cat back?” he said with a smile, stroking Poe’s black head right between his ears the way he knew Poe liked.
She sniffed. “He’s not my cat,” she informed Daniel. “And frankly, if it were up to me, he’d never set foot inside again.”
“But it’s not up to you, is it?”
Her bottom lip trembled. A tear slid out from beneath the frames of her glasses. “No,” she said so softly he almost couldn’t hear her.
“Want me to bring the cat in?”
She took a deep breath and Daniel took note of what that did to the material covering her chest. Then she let it out with what sounded like a heartfelt sigh of resignation. “Sure. Why not.”
He followed her, assuring himself that her walk was not the walk of a woman who’d been on earth more than half a century. She held the door open to Gertie’s unit and Daniel walked through. The moment she closed it behind her Poe made a leap for freedom, darting into a bedroom. She walked past Daniel and firmly shut the door to the room as if she’d finally taught the cat a lesson. Daniel bit his lip to keep from smiling. He happened to know Poe’s favorite place in the world was underneath the guest bed.
She proceeded down the narrow hallway to the kitchen, so Daniel followed. She opened the refrigerator door and reached inside. “Want a beer?”
“It’s barely ten o’clock in the morning,” he pointed out.
“Yeah, well, I’m having a rough morning.” She unscrewed the cap and took a long draught from a Bud Light. “You in or out?”
Daniel had been so mesmerized by the movement of her throat as she swallowed, that long smooth column of throat without a line or wrinkle in sight, he barely registered her question. No way was he leaving now and he had the uncomfortable notion that she’d kick him out with pleasure if he didn’t agree to be her mid-morning drinking buddy. “In. I guess.”
She withdrew a second bottle, opened it and handed it to him. She tapped the neck of her bottle against his. “To new friends.”
“New friends,” he agreed, although he was becoming more uncertain by the minute if that’s what she was going to be to him.
When she yanked the turban off her head and sent it sailing toward the overstuffed recliner in the sitting area, he forgot all about the cat in the bedroom and the beer in his hand.


Above is the start of an idea for a contemporary romance novel.  I wish I knew where it was going, but it’s all a bit muddled at the moment.  Look for more FIRST CHAPTERS posts in the future.  Meanwhile, visit me at

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Me and Justin and Matt

Last spring at the coffee store where I’d been working for a couple of months, I noticed a regular customer named Justin. Tall, good-looking, polite. He always ordered the same thing, one of those sweet espresso beverages with whipped cream. One day my coworker Kristen said, “Do you know who that is? It’s Justin Verlander.”
“Who’s that?”
“He’s a pitcher for the Detroit Tigers.”
I’m not a sports fan, but I knew someone who was. My son Matt played baseball from tee ball through high school, and is an ESPN addict. Later that day I texted Matt that Justin Berlander was a regular customer where I worked. (Yes, I thought Justin’s last name was “Berlander.”) Matt texted back, Do you mean Justin Verlander? Okay, sure whatever. Yeah. That guy.
A few more texts then Matt asked, “Can you get me his autograph?”
There aren’t very many sports figures Matt would like an autograph from but he believed Justin Verlander was going to have a history-making career.
But still. Ask for his autograph? I don’t know. How would I?
Buy a good quality baseball and the next time he comes in ask him to autograph it. Trust me, Mom, he gets this all the time. He’s used to it.
Yeah. But still. Wouldn’t that be tacky? And sort of weird? Maybe if I went to one of the spring training games, I could manage it. But I probably wouldn’t. Was there any guarantee that if I did, I could get close enough to Justin to get a baseball autographed?
I laid awake the next few nights fretting. I’m not a groupie. I would feel weird asking for an autograph. I’d be embarrassed. This guy’s a customer. How could I impose on him? I’d never do something like this for myself. But I’d do it for my son. Maybe. Maybe I could do it.
March 18, 2013. I knew time was running out. Spring training would be over soon. Justin would be gone and I’d have missed my window of opportunity to get his autograph for Matt. I’d prayed to God to give me courage, gumption, whatever it was I would need to get over myself and do this for my son.
Lo and behold one afternoon Justin walked in when I wasn’t busy. This was my chance. But I’d never bought that good quality baseball. What was I going to have Justin sign? A napkin? The back of his credit card receipt?
A light bulb came on over my head (aka Divine Intervention.) In our store we sell mugs you can write on with a chalk pen. I grabbed the only one we had left off the shelf. Justin had already paid for his drink and was at the handoff counter when I approached.
“Excuse me, Justin, I wouldn’t normally do this, but my son is a huge fan and it would mean a lot to him to have your autograph. Could you sign this mug for me?”
Justin looked only slightly taken aback before he said, “Sure. No problem.”
I got the packaging off the mug and handed him the little liquid chalk pen. It takes awhile to get the chalk ink flowing. He looked around for something to press it on. The ink was a little thin, but he got it to work. “Oh, can you date it, too?” (Per Matt’s instructions.)
Matt Beard 006I was such a geek, but Justin couldn’t have been nicer. He got his drink and left after I gushed my thanks. Probably, he was very glad to escape. I was on a high. I’d done it. Overcome my shyness and discomfort about asking a celebrity for something.
I took the mug home and following the instructions put it in the oven to bake. But I forgot to set the timer! Luckily I rescued it before it exploded or the chalk burnt off. After it cooled I carefully wrapped it in layer after layer of bubble wrap. The only problem with an autographed mug is that it is breakable.
This was going to make a great birthday present for Matt. Every few months I checked the mug to make sure the autograph hadn’t disappeared or rubbed off. 2013 has been a tough year for Matt. I kept thinking about the mug. I hoped it wasn’t a dumb idea. Everybody has autographed baseballs. Who’s got an autographed coffee mug? With the receipt? And the chalk pen used one time by only one person? No one else, I bet. Still I wondered is this a good birthday present or is it just stupid?
Finally, it’s October. We’re packing the car to visit Matt a few days after his birthday. My husband picks up the bag with the mug in it and drops it on the floor. He’s lucky it didn’t break (all that bubble wrap, remember) or this story would have a very different ending.
When Matt unwrapped the mug from its many layers of bubble wrap, at first he thought it was just another coffee mug. The he stared at it and studied the writing. “Is this Justin Verlander’s autograph?” Matt gives me a high five.
Matt Beard 005
Later Matt posts this on Facebook:
Back in March, my mom mentioned that she frequently had Justin Verlander as a customer in Lakeland during spring training. I said there was about 3 athletes I’d actually ask her to get an autograph from, but she was hesitant and I forgot about it. She surprised me with this last week for my birthday. Had him do it with a special pen that ends with this being baked on and permanent. Best Mom ever? Love you Mom! #family heirloom
Matt Beard 007

I’ve learned I can’t solve all my kids’ problems. I can’t take away their pain or make their lives perfect. But I do what I can. And sometimes, with the help of a guy like Justin, I can bring them a moment of joy they’ll remember and something they’ll treasure forever.

Why The Bible Verses?

Each chapter of The Forbidden Bean opens with a verse from the Bible. Here’s why as best as I can recollect: During the time I was writing it (or more likely rewriting it), I was randomly reading a Bible chapter a day. I don’t know why. It seemed like a good thing to do. I came across this verse: So I worked hard to be wise instead of foolish—but now I realize that even this was like chasing the wind. For the more my wisdom, the more my grief; to increase knowledge only increases distress. –Ecclesiastes 1:18

Eureka moment! Because there in the Bible was exactly what had happened to Tee. She’d acquired knowledge she’d rather not and shouldn’t have and it began to make her life wildly complicated.

After discovering a verse that so closely correlated what was happening in the book, I discovered other verses which directly related to what was happening in one chapter or another, so I started notating them and then I began searching in earnest for ones that would be a good fit for all the chapters. Thirty-nine or so Bible verses later I was done.

Was this Divine Inspiration? I like to think so. I don’t go around touting religion or my personal spiritual beliefs, but it isn’t a secret that I believe in God or that I think He’s the source of all inspiration.

Many writers I know don’t think in terms of theme when they are writing a book, although a particular theme may be there whether it’s conscious on their part or not. Often it doesn’t become apparent until the book’s finished. I know when I sat down to write The Forbidden Bean I wasn’t thinking about much of anything except how to create an unusual premise based on the ideas I had at the time. (See The Forbidden Bean Origins blog prior to this one if you want to know what those ideas were and where they came from.)

Yet in retrospect, I can see there is a theme. It’s a bit like the story of Adam and Eve in the Garden. Because of her job, Tee is surrounded by every type of coffee bean imaginable, yet what does she do when she finds a clearly forbidden bag of coffee beans? She opens it and (accidentally?) swallows one. Which is exactly what Adam and Eve did. Every tree in the garden they had to choose from, but they couldn’t resist the temptation of tasting the fruit from the one forbidden tree. Their lives became vastly more complicated because of their own choices.

Tee has the same problem. They say knowledge is power, but knowledge can also be dangerous. Life for Tee becomes a precarious balancing act. She’s out on a highwire alone because if she told anyone what happened when she swallowed a bean, well, actually she doesn’t know what would happen, but she imagines the worst after she tries to explain her out-of-body experiences to her psychiatrist. Besides, she can’t prove the transformations caused by the beans actually take place.

Whether I intended it or not, there’s definitely a good vs. evil theme in The Forbidden Bean.

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