Saturday, August 30, 2014

Lesa Holstine's Blog


If you're a reader, you probably already know my friend Lesa Holstine.  

She's one of the best, most highly respected bloggers out there.  Her blog is Lesa's Book Critiques, and can be found right here - , where you can read well written, honest, in-depth reviews of the latest books, crime fiction, in particular.

Today, however, Lesa chats a little about her five favorite blogs, and she pays me the honor of including Meanderings and Muses.  

Take a look at the others - it's a spindiddly list!

Friday, August 29, 2014


I've been a Margaret Maron fan for a whole lot of years. 

During the many years that I've been a reader (all my life), I've always had some favorite writers.

Many have been on my "auto-buy" list.

Many no longer are.

Margaret Maron, however, is still firmly at the top of that list and I see no signs that she'll be leaving it any time soon.

Her Deborah Knott is a mainstay in my literary world.

My favorite Deborah novels are the ones in which Kezzie makes an appearance, as he does in DESIGNATED DAUGHTERS. 

I have a big ol' soft spot in my heart for Kezzie. The relationship between he and Deborah is sweet and complex, and is always perfectly rendered by Ms. Maron.

It's been a delight watching the development of the characters through this pitch perfect series, and now we're witnessing another relationship grow and bloom - that of Deborah and Cal, which I'm finding to be heartwarming and true. 

I don't believe there's a writer out there with a finger on the pulse of the south in the same sure way of Margaret Maron. 

She manages to finely weave old traditions and new, fairly and honestly allowing her readers to see the good and bad of both. The old south had good and bad just as the new south does - it's a dichotomy some southern writers try to gloss over. Ms. Maron gives them to us straight. 

DESIGNATED DAUGHTERS was a deftly written, firmly plotted story showcasing the strength of family as Deborah's Aunt Rachel spends her last hours in hospice, but is murdered before she can die the peaceful death she deserves. Who on earth murders an old woman on her deathbed?

Some crafty and unexpected twists and turns, purest Maron style, carry us to the end of this latest in the series. But not without some Knott family fun including music, good food and the down home southern charm we've come to expect from this first class author.

And - on a purely personal note, I'd like to thank Margaret for allowing "the good looking Donald Barley" to be a part of this latest installment.  The man hasn't stopped smiling about it yet!  He's honored and I'm tickled pink.

Disclaimer:  I purchased my copy of Designated Daughters No review was promised and the above is my unbiased opinion.

The Secret Place by Tana French

THE SECRET PLACE is the fifth installment in The Dublin Murder Squad series.

Readers of this series will recognize Stephen Moran as a minor character from an earlier installment.  This is one of the things Ms. French does that has become a signature of hers - bringing in earlier minor characters and allowing us to watch their development at her skillful hands.

Stephen Moran is the perfect cop for an investigation involving an upscale girl's school.  He possesses the charm (both natural and manufactured - as the need presents itself) to help lead investigator, Antoinette Conway, connect with girls in a way to get information they've been withholding for over a year.  

Though the book is over 400 pages, the story actually follows the investigation during only one day.  The scenes are moved along with flashbacks telling a story with  adroit twists most readers won't see coming.

Nobody, NOBODY, can take you down a road, have you believing one thing with absolute certainty only to slip you down a side alley where nothing is what it seemed just a minute ago!  I am over the moon about Tana French's newest novel.  She just keeps getting better and better.  Her keen observations into human psyche are unparalleled and turn what you might think of as a police procedural into a psychological murder mystery.

Disclaimer:  an arc of The Secret Place was provided by the publisher.  No review was promised and the above is my unbiased opinion.  

Jan Karon's Somewhere Safe with Somebody Good

I have been keeping up with Father Tim and Cynthia while they were away from Mitford, and loved both HOME TO HOLLY SPRINGS and IN THE COMPANY OF OTHERS.  It was a period of growth for both Cynthia and Father Tim, and some hard times as well.

But, wow.  It's nice to have them back home in Mitford.  I didn't realize how very much I missed Dooley and the rest of his family.  And all the rest of the fine citizens of Mitford - the sweet, the quirky.  And they're all here.  

It astonishes me that there are people who say this series is too "cozy" for them.  I think these might be people who've never given them a try.  While I find Mitford and its citizenry a comfort, I don't find it twee or too cozy.  SOMEWHERE SAFE WITH SOMEBODY GOOD is a joyful novel.  It has its share of sadness,  but some big belly laughs as well - as all the Mitford books have.  Tears, happy and sad.

The Mitford books help me remember to say thanks for the joy and blessings in my own life where I'm "Somewhere Safe with Somebody Good."

If you've been waiting for a new Mitford book, I can't imagine how you might be disappointed. This is just lovely.

Disclaimer:  an arc of Somewhere Safe with Somebody Good was provided by the publisher.  No review was promised and the above is my unbiased opinion.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Revisiting "My" World of Self-Publishing


I received a call from Amazon this evening.

A pleasant young man who told me there was an internal glitch which has caused the problem.

One they have tracked down and are now in the process of correcting.  

He tells me the issues of concern should be resolved and put to rest within 5 days and someone will send me an email or call me to let me know when things are back where they should be.  

I'm fine with this.  

A lot has transpired today before reaching this final (hopefully) phone call and it's all been exhausting.  

As far as the issues between Ingram and Amazon I reported being mentioned to me by an amazon employee  - I think we can put that to rest also as it seems (at least, to me) to be a non-issue, and simply misspoken words.

Bottom Line - I am a happy girl who will be a happier girl once I know for sure things have been straightened out and my books will once again be available through Ingram.

We each have our own stories to tell with the journey when we choose self-publishing.

Because of today's events, I'm going to start mine at the beginning.

I posted this back in January, 2013 -

Then I posted this piece in March, 2013 -

And I told you I'd keep you posted on how things were going, and I've been doing that.

It's been a learning experience.

It's been fun.

It's been awful.

It's been rewarding.

It's been heartbreaking.

And yes, I'll do it all again (as I'm now working <slowly, verrrry verrrry slowly> on Whimsey #2 (which hopefully will have a better name by the time I'm finished!).

But, today.

Today, I'm furious.

As you know, I'm doing a signing at Quarter Moon Books next month. 

Lori, at Quarter Moon contacted me this morning to let me know she had tried to order copies of my books from Ingram - which she has been doing since Whimsey was published. (Some of you know I purchased an ISBN from Bowker because many booksellers refuse to deal with the ISBN given out by CreateSpace, i.e., Amazon).

Ingram told her WHIMSEY was no longer available through them. I (after a lot of searching and futile attempts) finally reached a real person who showed some real concern and was able to tell me CreateSpace (with whom I published the book) had placed a hold on the title blocking Ingram from being able to distribute it.


Next step was, of course, talking with someone at CreateSpace.

First person put me on hold and then cut me off.

Second person told me there was no hold and to get back with Ingram.

I then did what I always do - asked to speak to her supervisor.

After much double talking and me silently singing ("stand me up at the gates of hell, I wooon't back down") in my head, I was told this. There were "issues" between CreateSpace and Ingram and my book was in the crossfire. They would straighten it out, but it might take eight weeks.

You don't even want to hear the rest of the conversation. But I did promise the gentleman I was speaking with that I would absolutely share this story with as many other writers as I could and suggest that they check to see if they too may have been caught in the "issues" between CreateSpace and Ingram if their publishing experience was similar to mine.

I'll be able to order copies of WHIMSEY myself through CreateSpace, so we won't be without books for the signing, but - now I'm wondering exactly when these "issues" between CreateSpace and Ingram took place and how long my books have been unavailable to Ingram.

I have no idea if this particular bookstore is boycotting amazon or not.

But with my non-amazon ISBN, that doesn't come into play in this instance.

This bookstore (which has been very, VERY good to me) orders my books through Ingram which is who she prefers doing business with, I guess.

She may order from other sources too - probably does. If amazon is or is not one of them, I don't know.

It was a different bookseller who clued me in to considering purchasing an ISBN from Bowker back when I was first publishing WHIMSEY. Based on her knowledge and her expertise and the fact that I know and trust her, I chose to buy the non-amazon ISBN giving booksellers a choice.

Because I did, booksellers can buy my book from Amazon.

Or not.

It's usually not my business and not my concern.

Not until today.

The indy bookstore vs. amazon boycott is not new and I doubt there's an author alive who's not aware of it.

But, as I point out - there ARE ways around it so the booksellers don't have to purchase your books from Amazon even if you publish them there.

You know, it is what it is.

And what it is is this.

This crap is going to happen.

It's wrong.

But the authors are not the ones who should have to be caught in the crossfire when corporate "issues" take place.

It's just wrong.

We just want to write.

And if I don't stop my rant right this minute I'll tell you all the other things I think are wrong in this big ol' world today . . . .

AND, it continues . . .

After posting a version of this rant on Facebook, there have been many comments, as you would expect.

One being from a librarian friend who suggests to her fellow ALA Committee members that this is yet another reason not to include CreateSpace books on reading list recommendation lists.


Does that hurt CreateSpace or Amazon or the authors?

Well, that's an easy one, huh?! But apparently, that's fine fine fine. (I'm not going to go into how very much this hurts).

From another Facebook friend who happens to be an attorney, I learn that what's happened here "could" be actionable under a legal civil action called "interference with Business Relationships/Contract." Hmmmm - I'll be thinking about this.

AND, I learned that an author who attended a conference for publishing called Pubsmart, was told by reps from both Amazon and from Ingram it would be best to publish with both CreateSpace and IngramSpark to assure your books being sold through Amazon and be available to bookstores.

Well, now. Do you suppose. Is it possible? That the block placed on WHIMSEY could be the outcome of this new "partnership" (for lack of a better word) between Amazon and Ingram? THIS is the issue, perhaps, that tossed my book into self-publishing limbo? Surely not.

It's almost enough to make an indy writer just stop writing.

note: If you leave a comment and it doesn't show up right away, that's because I have enabled the "moderate comments" feature. I am moderating, but not 24/7. Your comment will be posted. I appreciate your patience.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Louise Penny's THE LONG WAY HOME

I read an advance copy of Louise Penny's THE LONG WAY HOME.

Then I sat down to write my own pitiful version of a review.

But instead, I did what I sometimes do. But only with books that have touched me deeply. I turned back to page one and read it a second time.

But I'm still having a very difficult time writing a review for this book.

Mostly, I think, because I'm so lacking in review writing skills, but also because many of you might find  my words empty and false for the simple reason that I think I have said every single one of Ms. Penny's books are "exquisite." I think I have said each leaves me "breathless" and that I always wonder how she could continue to surpass herself with each addition to the Three Pines series. Well, guess what - I'm saying it again.

She has taken us on a journey that was quite difficult for our beloved Three Pines residents, and therefore difficult for the readers who love them.

Taken us to places of beauty and of beautiful desolation - both geographically and emotionally. Like no one else can, in my opinion.

Heartbreaking, but still sprinkled with subtle humor. She always finds a way to make us laugh out loud in the midst of pain. The conversations ring real and true - and could only happen among dear and close friends sharing outrageous and irreverent quips, teasing and taunts with those they love enough to feel safe in doing.

And a perfect ending.

I always feel magic in Louise Penny's words and I love being able to allow them to caress my heart, while at the same time poke my mind into seeing and feeling all the things I'm not observant enough on my own to see and feel.

She is, without a doubt, a master of observation and has an understanding of people that is simply amazing - their needs, their wants, their strengths and weaknesses. This series is, I believe, a long long way from running its course. I hope it lasts forever.

Disclaimer:  an arc of The Long Way Home was provided by the publisher.  No review was promised and the above is my unbiased opinion.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

A Signing at Quarter Moon Books

I'll be back at one of my favorite bookstores on God's green earth for another signing.

Quarter Moon Books

If you're anywhere around Topsail Island, NC, please mark your calendars for September 25th, from 6-8 p.m.

Lori Fisher has owned and operated Quarter Moon since 1995.

She has a delicious assortment of books, a gift selection with readers in mind, clothing to die for, exclusive Topsail Island jewelry and a coffee bar to top it all off.

It's the perfect beach bookshop - one we all dream about finding.  And they love writers.

Hope to see some of you there!

Friday, August 22, 2014

I Want to Meet Tom Robbins

I have been a fan of Tom Robbins forever. 


 And he's coming to Boone! 

 Am I excited? Well, yes. Yes, I am! 

 And I'm trying to win a contest. Appalachian State University is having the contest through Instagram. They've asked people to submit photos tagged #takeatripwithtom Submit a clever photo and on September 9th the judges will decide the winning entry. 

 The winner gets to meet Tom Robbins, wins an autographed copy of his new book "Tibetan Peach Pie: A True Account of an Imaginative Life," and a spot on the front row at his speaking engagement here in Boone. 

The number of comments each photo has will be a contributing factor for winning. 


 If you're have an Instagram app, I would very much appreciate you scooting over to to #takeatripwithtom and leaving a comment. 

 If you're wondering what I'm dressed up as - well, I'm not sure. I just wanted a picture as wild and wacky and off the wall as some of Tom Robbins writing, so I pulled out the Halloween costume box and decided to go with fairy wings and clown hat with a magic wand. I am ready to Take A Trip with Tom!

“It’s better to be absolutely ridiculous than absolutely boring.”

so said Marilyn Monroe.  I agree.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Writing Book #2 - Harder or Easier Than Writing Book #1?

I don't know about anybody else, but writing Book #2 turned out to be painfully hard for me. 

 I had no idea. 

 When I finished "Whimsey: A Novel," I was exhausted. 

 Then came that roller coaster ride that reviews bring. 

 I was not prepared for this. 

 Those first few negative reviews hurt, of course. The snarky reviews? Whoa! What's with that?! 

 If I were to say now that they don't still hurt, a year and a half later, well - I'd be lying. But, they don't hurt as bad as they did. 

 And, as I've said time and time before about books - they're not all written for the same audience and not everyone is supposed to fall in love with every book they pick up. 

 The fact that so many people discovered and fell in love with Whimsey makes the others seem more insignificant than they felt originally. 

 I started writing the second Whimsey pretty quickly after publishing the first, but it just wasn't working. It was, basically, sounding pretty much exactly like the first one, just focusing on a different character. Not good. How much back story is too much? With not enough, will I lose new readers wondering what the hell I'm nattering about? 

 So, I moved away from it and started working on an entirely different novel. One that's a bit darker and one that I think I'm going to love. 


 My mind and my heart kept wandering back to Whimsey. 

 So much so, that I found myself with my toes in the sand and my eyes on that gorgeous Whimsey sky where it meets the ocean and you can't tell where one ends and the other begins. Vibrant shades of blue, green, turquoise, indigo, azure, sapphires and emeralds topped with frothy white suds that mirror the clouds.

 And now, I've moved back. 

 I'm sitting on Aunt Zoe's front porch and I'm seeing things a little more clearly. Drinking a cup of coffee, scratching some words and seeing some scenes. Feeling a little mix of nostalgia about being back and hoping I find this refuge to be as magical as it was the first time around. 

 I'm wondering how Earlene's doing and can't wait to see her again, and wondering if Willie Nelson will find his way back or if he's completely forgotten about the gal who knew all the words to all his songs, but could never seem to find her shoes . . . 

 Anyone out there want to chime in and let me know if writing Book #2 was this terrifying for you? And if so, how'd you handle it?

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Margaret Maron Writes Of Cameos and Courtesies

Of Cameos and Courtesies

        As most of you know, writers will occasionally use the name of a real person in their books and gives them lines to say and scenes to play.  These are known in the business as cameos and I do it all the time.  I've donated many cameos to charity auctions and I'm proud to say they have raised several thousand dollars over the years.

        Sometimes though, it's simply to surprise a friend.

        In Winter's Child, for instance, I gave the name of a friend's daughter to a nurse. The daughter happens to be a real nurse.  My friend said she was reading it in bed late one night and when she came to her daughter's name, she let out such a shriek of delight that she woke her poor husband.  And then she got up, found her phone and woke her daughter. Her reaction was everything I'd hoped it would be.

        Too often though, if it's the name of a mystery friend, I don't get to surprise that friend because someone will read a review copy the minute it's available and immediately email congratulations to the person I'd mentioned, not realizing that they've licked a little red off the candy. The "cameo" misses that moment of surprise.

        In Designated Daughters, my current book, I stuck in the names of four such friends. Two were told before they read it, one got to be surprised, the fourth hasn't yet read the book and no one's yet told her.

        So please, if you read a new book and recognize the name of a mutual friend, do them a favor and don't tell.  You're allowed one innocent question:  "Have you read such-and-such a book yet?  I think you'd enjoy it." Then sit back and wait for them to tell you, okay?

        And of course, you'd never, never go to an author reading and commit the cardinal sin of asking a spoiler question, right?

        One of my friends went to hear a non-mystery author who had written a best seller. The room was jammed with readers who'd just bought the 400-page book. The author had talked in generalities and read a passage that made everyone so concerned for the main character that they couldn't wait to go home and read it.  And then the first question from the audience was "Did you know from the beginning that you were going to let him get killed at the end?"

        Talk about letting the air out of everyone's balloon!

        It's fun to be in the know, to know things others don't know, but please hold it in. Later you can say, "I was dying to tell you, but I didn't want to spoil it."

        They will thank you for it.

Note: to those of you leaving comments. Please don't be concerned that your comment doesn't show up right away.  I have enabled the "comment moderation" feature, so all comments must now go through me before being published.  Don't worry - it won't take too long, but it is no longer immediate.


Thursday, August 14, 2014

Road Trip!

Donald and I love a road trip.

But NOBODY loves a road trip more than Harley!

We're rarely in a big hurry for anything, so we're able to enjoy the beauty of the trip and all it has to offer along the way.

We see tons of wonderful barn quilts between Boone and Asheville, but catching one is sometimes a challenge

Before we got to our hotel in Asheville, Donald spotted a couple of signs for The Sourwood Festival in Black Mountain, so we pulled over and spent a perfect afternoon just strolling and enjoying the delights of a small town festival.

Harley met lots of dogs.

and made friends with lots of little people.

And he even met a sweet pig named Margaret.

There was lots of good food.

And we ran into old friends.  This is Jim Rice of Old Turtle Man Jewelry.  He makes gorgeous pieces, and I had the pleasure of taking a jewelry making class from him at ASU  a few years back.

I thought about several pals when we spotted this dachshund bench - Mary Jane Maffini, Alice Duncan and Tammy Coia

There were pretty little girls in pretty dresses.

And cute little boys with dogs wearing tutus.

And I had some Mountain Fairy Hair highlights added to my hair.

and watched the world go by - - - 

We were all a little tired by the time we got to the hotel.

But before too long, we were also pretty hungry.

So we hit one of our all-time favorite pizza spots

We love this hotel and it's where we always stay when we go to Asheville.  It's the Holiday Inn on Tunnel Road.  It's an older hotel.  One that remembers what guest services is all about.  And they love dogs.  It's lushly landscaped and there are wooded trails for the dogs and for the kids, with swing sets along the way.  There are bookcases full of used books scattered around the hotel - just one of the little touches to make you feel comfortable during your stay.  It's not the place for anyone wanting a luxury hotel, but it suits us to a "T."

And they serve a terrific breakfast righ here in their funky little bar/restaurant call Big Owl's.  (i know, i know - too much, right?  Wrong!  Excellent food, sourced locally).  But, yes there are a lot of owls.  But you know me - I do love owls.

Now, I may not want all those guys sitting around my house - but here, they make me smile.

After breakfast, we took a ride.

and prompty got lost.

and never did find The Bat Cave.

But.  We did find our way to one of the most wonderful camera shops I've ever been in .  
If you're a camera buff, do NOT miss Ball Photo Supply while you're in Asheville.

That was fun!

Then it was time to go back to the hotel for some rest and relaxation time.

Then time to head downtown.

First stop.  The Chocolate Fetish.  Heaven on earth.

Next up.  Malaprop's Books and Cafe, where I'm going to join some other self-published/small press writers for a reading and signing event.

Sheri Wren Haymore, Court McCracken, Malaprop's Virginia MicKinley, Sue Wasserman, and Art Ramsay

Worried that no one would show up.

But they did!  And they were delightful!

Especially Asheville peeps Sallie Bissell, Celia Miles and Nan Dillingham.  (Thanks, guys!!)

and the best husband, best friend, partner and all round sweetest man on God's green earth.  Donald Barley, who even made a video of the event.

Neither of us can ever resist taking a picture of this sculpture in front of Malaprop's.  It's one of many scattered about the city as part of the Urban Trail.  It's name is Shopping Daze.


And then back to the hotel and a late night bowl of corn chowder at Big Owl's.  yum.

I think this little  fellow went to bed without us.

And now, after a good night's sleep, it's time to head home, but we can't do that without our usual stop at the Harley-Davidson place.

This little stop makes Don Barley a happy boy.

I, however, am a little less enthusiastic (especially seeing as how I am less than "camera ready")

And we happened across this little place on our way home.  All God's Creatures . . . .

Mr. Llama did not want his picture taken.

And he still did not want his picture taken

And another stop on the way home is Tom Johnson RV and Camping Center.  We love checking out campers and motor homes.  Doing some research in hopes of having one of these in our future when Donald retires.  

THIS is the one I wanted  to come home with . . . .

And now -

There's no place like home.

Right, Harley?