Monday, June 30, 2014

Mad? No. Furious.

this is just wrong -

to quote Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg - "The court, I fear, has ventured into a minefield."

Read more of what she has to say here:

This is a problem, folks.  And if you want to change it, you need to vote.  Vote in every election you're eligible to vote in.  Don't let big money and big corporations own this country.  We need to fight to get it back, and the fight isn't going to be won by apathy.
Fight for what's right.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

A perfect day in the mountains

I love living in Boone, NC

Spending a day downtown is one of my favorite things to do.

Toss in a book festival and boy howdy - what could be better?!

Saturday was the High Country Festival of the Book which you been  seeing me post about here and at Facebook.  Actually, there were some events on Friday, and a dinner on Friday evening, but I was unable to attend those.

And sadly, there were many writers here on Saturday that I didn't get pictures of.  There were wonderful things happening, and because there were so many people I wanted to spend time with, I just didn't get everywhere, but come along and enjoy my day with me - - -

I got into town early, wanting to make sure I missed running into the annual Blood, Sweat & Gears 100 mile bicycle race, which passes directly in front of our road.  I've been caught in it before and will now miss it at all costs.  I admire those bikers, but I do not want to be among them on these curvy mountain roads.

I parked behind the Jones House, which always makes me smile.  It's an important part of the Boone community and I was happy that some of the festival activities would be happening here.

Then walked down King St., admiring the flowers (I love this time of year in the mountains), and enjoying being right where I was.

I am not able to walk by our bronze of Doc Watson without taking a picture.  He was a much loved local figure, and will be missed by many for a long, long time.

And treated myself to breakfast at my favorite Boone restaurant, Melanie's Food Fantasy

and got to have a chat with the one and only Melanie.

Melanie rocks.

Then wandered back to The Jones House and Marcia had been busy setting up the book store.  Appalachian State's University Bookstore always does an excellent job of handling the festival book sales.

Our first two speakers of the day were two authors I have long admired.

I was over the moon to find out both of them would be participating in our festival.

Robert Inman


Just so happens, both have new books out - Yay!!!!

Did I even attempt to resist buying both?


No way!

And both were gracious enough to sign their books and have their picture made with this gal who thinks authors are rock stars.

Then I wandered over to our library where even more festival activities were taking place.

More books, more authors, music on the lawn, food tents, children's activities - all on a perfect mountain day.

Outside - 

And, inside - - 

(here's my friend, Paul Benson - Hi, Paula!)

And, I have to tell you.  I was so happy to see Jane Edwards, one of the authors of Jelly Bean Finds Her Special Place

AND, she brought along some of her Jelly Bean toys.  These are the sweetest, the softest, the most lovable little lambs on God's green earth.  I tried just as hard to resist buying one of these as I did buying books - which means, not one whit.

this is the real Jelly Bean.  Do read her story!

Then I wandered back to The Jones House in time to hear Lynn Cullen talk about her new book, Mrs. Poe

I had received an advance copy of Mrs. Poe and loved it.  Now I'm ready to read it again because Lynn's talk was so fascinating.  One thing I'm sad about is that I walked out of the house and forgot to take my copy of Mrs. Poe with me to have signed.  But, maybe, just maybe, I'll cross paths with this lovely woman again on down the road.  

Next up.  The Mystery Panel which I was asked to moderate.  I was tickled pink (and scared to death!).  Panel members included two authors I call friends, who write books I have recommended and given as gifts to many friends and family members over the years.  Vicki Lane and Mike Orenduff, along with Sean Keefer, whose work I now know and won't hesitate in recommending.  Millie West had planned on joining our panel, but things didn't work out.  Millie broke her leg, quite badly.  She was able to participate in the festival, but as a speaker rather than a panelist.  And darned if I didn't miss her talk while I was buying fluffy stuffed Jelly Bean lambs at the library!

Life I said earlier, unfortunately,I missed several of our authors - several of whom I had very much looked forward to meeting.  

Our mystery panel moved out to the front porch (thank you, Suzanne! The best festival chair festival ever), and we had a wonderful time just talking books.  I got over being scared (but not over being a bit nervous, I'm afraid), and a good time was had by all.  
My thanks to the panelists for making it so easy, and my thanks to the readers and writers who joined us.  It was a perfect day.

(photo by Paula Benson)

And here's a picture of the treasures that came home with me

some very cool swag from my friend, Georgia author, Elaine Drennon Little (whose Book I *did* remember to take, but then forgot to ask her to sign.  aargh).

Thanks, Elaine!!

AND - my very own baby Jelly Bean, along with two books I cannot wait to read!!!!  squeeee!

Note:  Vicki Lane has done a blog about the festival.  Check it out!

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Two Favorite New Novels

I have two novels I want to recommend to all of you.

If you're a Meanderings and Muses visitor, you know I have a long list of writers I love.  They're authors whose books are on my "auto-buy" list, usually pre-ordered the second I hear about them.

This year, I've been blessed with a slew of advance reading copies which has allowed me to discover some "new to me" writers, some of whom will join the list of "auto-buys."

But two, in particular, have stood out from the rest.

Gabrielle Zevin's 

This is from the author's blog:

A New York Times Best Seller, the #1 Indie Next Pick, and the #1 Library Reads Selection

In the spirit of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society and The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, Gabrielle Zevin’s enchanting novel is a love letter to the world of books—and booksellers—that changes our lives by giving us the stories that open our hearts and enlighten our minds.  
On the faded Island Books sign hanging over the porch of the Victorian cottage is the motto “No Man Is an Island; Every Book Is a World.” A. J. Fikry, the irascible owner, is about to discover just what that truly means.
A. J. Fikry’s life is not at all what he expected it to be. His wife has died, his bookstore is experiencing the worst sales in its history, and now his prized possession, a rare collection of Poe poems, has been stolen. Slowly but surely, he is isolating himself from all the people of Alice Island—from Lambiase, the well-intentioned police officer who’s always felt kindly toward Fikry; from Ismay, his sister-in-law who is hell-bent on saving him from his dreary self; from Amelia, the lovely and idealistic (if eccentric) Knightley Press sales rep who keeps on taking the ferry over to Alice Island, refusing to be deterred by A.J.’s bad attitude. Even the books in his store have stopped holding pleasure for him. These days, A.J. can only see them as a sign of a world that is changing too rapidly.
And then a mysterious package appears at the bookstore. It’s a small package, but large in weight. It’s that unexpected arrival that gives A. J. Fikry the opportunity to make his life over, the ability to see everything anew. It doesn’t take long for the locals to notice the change overcoming A.J.; or for that determined sales rep, Amelia, to see her curmudgeonly client in a new light; or for the wisdom of all those books to become again the lifeblood of A.J.’s world; or for everything to twist again into a version of his life that he didn’t see coming. As surprising as it is moving, The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry is an unforgettable tale of transformation and second chances, an irresistible affirmation of why we read, and why we love.

And - 

Natalie Lloyd's 

This is from the author's blog:

* A New York Times Book Review Editors' Choice
* A SIBA Okra Pick 2014
* A Junior Library Guild Selection
* A Top 10 Spring 2014 Kids Indie Next Pick

"Whimsical and bewitching ... hang on for the ride!" - New York Times Book Review

"From every angle, Lloyd's first novel sparkles and radiates warmth ... a reassuring, homespun story about self-expression and the magic that resides in one's mind and heart." - Publishers Weekly, starred review

"A delightful and inspiring debut ... As Felicity loves to say, 'Yes ... yes ... yes!'" - School Library Journal, starred review

"This tale offers all the earmarks of fine storytelling, including colorful, eccentric characters, an original, highly likable narrator and a mighty 'spindiddly' plot." - Kirkus, starred review

"In this spellbinding debut novel set in Tennessee, Felicity Juniper Pickle sees magic in the people around her, and her worldview is curiously contagious " - Shelf Awareness, starred review

"If Harper Lee had set out to write the Great American Fairy Tale, we might have gotten A SNICKER OF MAGIC a half century earlier." - The

"The appealing thing to young readers will be how real this all feels. The magical and the realistic are closely intertwined in such lyrically beautiful language that the story feels like it could happen next door, in an adjoining classroom or on their very own auditorium stage. Felicity Pickle and her friends have the perfect word for awesome. Spindiddly! That's exactly how I feel about this book." - Augusta Scattergood, The Christian Science Monitor

"Original, satisfying, and sweet as Blackberry Sunrise ice cream. Natalie Lloyd has a magical way with words." - Natalie Standiford, author of THE SECRET TREE
Midnight Gulch used to be a magical place, a town where people could sing up thunderstorms and dance up sunflowers. But that was long ago, before a curse drove the magic away. Twelve-year-old Felicity knows all about things like that; her nomadic mother is cursed with a wandering heart.

But when she arrives in Midnight Gulch, Felicity thinks her luck's about to change. A "word collector," Felicity sees words everywhere---shining above strangers, tucked into church eves, and tangled up her dog's floppy ears---but Midnight Gulch is the first place she's ever seen the word "home." And then there's Jonah, a mysterious, spiky-haired do-gooder who shimmers with words Felicity's never seen before, words that make Felicity's heart beat a little faster.

Felicity wants to stay in Midnight Gulch more than anything, but first, she'll need to figure out how to bring back the magic, breaking the spell that's been cast over the town . . . and her mother's broken heart.

I hope you'll give them both a try, and let me know what you think!

Happy Reading!

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Review of Ron & Janet Benrey's SEASON OF GLORY by Pat Browning


SEASON OF GLORY by Ron and Janet Benrey
Steeple Hill Books
Steeple Hill Love Inspired Suspense, E-book 2008

Consider the oleander. The big red, pink and white flowering bushes were long a familiar sight in the center median of highways. Landscape darling, strong root system and low maintenance, what’s not to love? Hmmm. For one thing, every part of an oleander is poisonous.

photo by David Beaulieu of

Never mind that SEASON OF GLORY, a Christmas story by Ron and Janet Benrey, starts with a near-fatal oleander poisoning. The Benreys write cozies and SEASON OF GLORY is one of the most delightful books I’ve read lately.

A tip of the hat here to the Benreys – writers, publishers, teachers. Ron earned degrees in electrical engineering, and law. His first real job was as Electronics Editor of Popular Science magazine. Janet’s degree in Communication was from the University of Pittsburgh. Her resume includes executive recruiter, professional photographer, editorial director of a small press and book publicist.

They author three cozy series: The PIPPA HUNNECHURCH mysteries, the ROYAL TURNBRIDGE WELLS series, and the GLORY, NORTH CAROLINA series.

They operate Greenbriar Publishing Company, and are frequent presenters at writer’s conferences. Their workshop and writing courses range from copyright law to “First Pages that make Editors Beg for More.”

Even their fiction is instructional. In GRITS AND GLORY an amateur sleuth ponders the four leading motives for murder: “Greed -- murder prompted by love of money or a related form of covetousness; jealousy--murder driven by possessiveness; revenge -- murder to get even; and self-protection -- murder to prevent the revelation of past acts or deeds.”

The Benreys’ strong sense of structure includes a simple check-off list for building a book. It works perfectly for reviewing SEASON OF GLORY. The story unfolds in orderly fashion through these building blocks.

The setting
Small town of Glory, North Carolina. The prologue opens with a Sunday-afternoon Scottish cream tea at The Scottish Captain Bread and Breakfast, the town’s popular inn.

The people
*Sharon Pickard, co-hostess of the Sunday tea and head nurse in the ER at Glory Regional Hospital; Sharon also chairs the Glory Community Church's Window Restoration Committee.
*Emma Neilson, owner and manager of The Scottish Captain inn.
*Calvin Constable, the inn’s breakfast chef.
*Rafe Neilson, Deputy Chief of:Police, married to Emma Neilson.
*Amanda Turner, a future competitor as new owner of The Robert Burns Inn.
*Andrew Ballantine, tea party guest of honor, from Asheville, an art historian and stained glass expert in town to help the Church replace a stained glass window burned in a fire.
*Dr. Haley Carroll, a guest.

Sharon has made a special Scottish treat, Strathbogie Mist, for Ballantine. It’s a famous concoction of crushed pears and ginger-flavored whipped cream. Ballantine's dessert is poisoned. He collapses and is rushed to the hospital

The odd facts presented
Special Agent Tyrone C. Keefe of North Carolina’s State Bureau of Investigation, shows up at the ER to question Sharon, an expert in treating acute cardio-glycoside poisoning.

What she tells him: Every part of an oleander plant is full of heart-stopping toxin. "It's simple to make a lethal infusion by soaking leaves, stems or seeds in boiling water." Oleandrin, the poisonous toxin, often triggers bradydardia, a dangerously low pulse rate.

Ballantine’s life was saved by antidigoxin antibodies, originally developed to treat digitalis overdoses. He was also helped to throw up, and took multiple doses of activated charcoal to absorb the oleandrin left in his system.

Ballantine remembers eating two servings of Strathbogie Mist but Sharon tosses it off, telling him there were no extra servings. For Sharon, meeting Ballantine is a case of love at first sight.

Other odd facts emerge in the conflict between Ballantine and the church elders about replacing the ruined stained glass window. The church had five stained glass windows, depicting five of Jesus's best known parables: The Prodigal Son, The Lost Sheep, The Lost Coin, The Wise and Foolish Builders, and The Pearl of Great Value, which was the window destroyed by fire.

The elders want a different window, not a replica of the original Pearl of Great Value. They claim nobody understands that painting. They are not impressed by the parable quoted in Matthew 13:45-46: “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto a merchant man, seeking goodly pearls: Who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had, and bought it.”

Ballantine argues that the five paintings are a series developing a common theological theme. He insists that leaving out one panel destroys the meaning. The elders counter that the fifth painting makes no sense, and the Pearl of Great Value looks like a big baseball sitting on a pedestal. Ballantine takes Sharon to visit a stained glass workshop run by Ballantine’s friend Franny and he asks Franny to submit a proposal for a new church window.

Details about food and hobbies, etc.

Here’s where this book really shines. The inn’s chef, Calvin Constable, indulges his creative instincts in all kinds of freestyle concoctions. If you can read the details without making multiple trips to the fridge, freezer and stove, “you’re a better man than I am, Gunga Din.” My favorites:
*Highland Quiche, crustless, made with eggs, cream, Ayrshire bacon, Scottish smoked salmon and Tobermory Cheddaer cheese.
*Dundee Buche de Noel, rolled yellow sponge cake with thick chocolate butter cream frosting.
*Snacks of Glory Benedict, a new breakfast sandwich, made with an oversize English muffin, circular slab of Canadian bacon, a thin omelet and a hefty helping of Hollandaise sauce

Meanwhile, a determined killer has a gift box of poisoned cherry cordials sent to Ballantine. Fortunately he delays eating them until he can share with Sharon, who promptly has them tested.

The puzzle and the triumph of "good" at the end
The puzzle is the unifying message of the fifth stained glass window and in a humorous twist the answer comes unexpectedly from a most unlikely source. The triumph of good happens when a sharp-eyed guest spots the would-be killer trying to slip a cup of poisoned hot chocolate to Ballantine.

The authors include an Epilogue in the form of the newspaper’s coverage of a wedding. Details include lasting images of the men in the wedding party wearing authentic Scottish kilts and a Scottish bagpiper leading the bride and groom down the aisle.

In a postscript the authors address the reader: “If there's a single word we had in mind when we wrote Season of Glory, our fourth novel set in Glory, North Carolina, that word is "joy." For my taste I’d say they succeeded admirably.

Ron Benrey died May 14.    In partnership with Janet Benrey, his wife of 49 years, he left a fine  legacy.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Harley is racking up some good reviews!

One from Mason Canyon at her wonderful Thoughts in Progress blog -

And one from Lesa Holstine at her wonderful Lesa's Book Critiques -

Harley is a happy dog, and I'm a very proud mom.

Click HERE to buy a copy of Harley's book.  It's available in Kindle and paperback editions.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Where I'll Be

I hope to see some of you at the following events -

June 28
The High Country Festival of the Book,  Boone, NC

I'll be signing Whimsey: A Novel, and moderating the mystery panel at 3:00 in the Historic Jones House in downtown Boone.  Panelists are Vickie Lane, Mike Orenduff, Millie West and Sean Keefer.

There will be lots of fun activities, food and music, and some terrific authors at the HCFB this year, including Robert Inman, Patti Callahan Henry, and loads more.

August 11
Malaprop's Bookstore,  Asheville, NC

I'll be joining self-published and small local press authors for a group reading and signing at 7:00 p.m., following a 6:30 wine reception.

August 21-24
Killer Nashville,  Nashville, TN

Panel assignment and signing times TBA

Quarter Moon Books & Gifts, Topsail Island, NC

I'll be doing a signing here again this year in late September.  Exact date TBA