Toby Interviews Hazel Mitchell

Posted by Maryann on September 28, 2016 |

Please help me welcome Toby and Hazel Mitchell as today’s Wednesday’s Guest. We are getting to know a little more about Hazel, and Toby, through the interview that Toby is conducting. What fun! Here is a link to the review I wrote last Sunday about the book.

And for refreshments I thought Toby might enjoy a couple of homemade dog bones from. For myself and the two-legged visitors, why don’t we have some cake to go with our coffee, or tea, this morning. Enjoy!

Dog bones

Dog bones. (Just so there is no mistake. LOL)



hazel-and-toby-low-resToby interviews his author:

Why did you write a book about me?
Well, Toby, you are so darn cute I just couldn’t help myself! Seriously, when you came to live with us in November 2013 you captured my heart. I just had to draw you! And when I started to draw you I couldn’t help but think what a great character you’d make in a book. It’s been a long journey for you getting used to being with people and having a family and I thought that would be a very good story to put in a book. Aren’t you glad I did?

Yes. I am. In the book I have a different family, is there a reason for this?
There is. When I started to draw pictures of you and write about your struggles to be a normal dog, I thought it’d be more interesting for the reader if you had a child as a companion instead of me. Then the reader could relate to the character too. I decided you would be adopted by a young boy and his dad. It made a better story arc in the book. Do you like the boy?

Oh yes! He’s a lot of fun. Especially when I got to know him and trust him. He never gives up on me, just like you in my real life! Which reminds me, you put a lot of the things I do in real life into the book. Did you mean to do that?
Yes I did! I took a lot of the incidents that happened to you and wove them into the book. Like how you wouldn’t play or eat treats when you first came to live with us. How you’d hide under the dining table on the chairs and how you’d collect toys and shoes and put them on the sofa. You still collect shoes! And you had a stuffy bunny in real life, too, to keep you company. Do you remember?

And Toby, I will never give up on you! I didn’t give up when you were lost, did I?

WOOF! I know. I don’t like to think about the time I got lost. People over all over the world didn’t give up on me, either! I do remember my stuffy bunny, though. I used to put him in my feeding bowl so he could eat, too. I don’t like being hungry … I’m not, not any more. And I still love shoes! They smell of you guys and when you are gone somewhere I like to sniff them. You know, to remind me of you.
Aww, Toby, That’s so sweet!

toby-sketches-1How long did it take you to create my book?
From the first thoughts about it until it was published was about 2 years. The actual artwork took about a year.

That’s a long time! I am only 4 years old so it’s half my lifetime!
It is! It takes a long time to make something like a book, but it’s here now. Are you excited?

Yes! WOOF! I love my book and all the readers who read it and EVERYTHING! WOOF WOOF WOOF!
Do you think you will put me in another book?
I would love to write and illustrate another book about you. I even have an idea for it!

OOH! Will you tell me? Will Lucy be in it too?
Later. And, yes, I think we can have Lucy in it too.

But not the cat. I was scared of the cat in my book.
OK one more question – pepperoni or dried chicken?
I think pepperoni. What do you think?

I think I am getting hungry after all these questions!
OK, come on, let’s go and get a snack!




When a young boy and his father move from one house to another, they decide to adopt a dog from the local rescue shelter. But their chosen dog, Toby, is having a tough time adjusting to his new life outside the shelter—howling all night, hiding fearfully from his new humans, forgetting where to go to the bathroom, and chasing a ball through the flower bed. The boy has promised to train his new companion, and he’s trying his best, but Dad is starting to get exasperated. Will Toby ever feel comfortable with his new family and settle into his forever home, or will Dad decide he’s not the right dog for them after all?



Hazel Mitchell has always loved drawing and still cannot be reliably left alone with a pencil. She has illustrated several books for children including Imani’s Moon, One Word Pearl, Animally and Where Do Fairies Go When It Snows?  Toby is her author-illustrator debut from Candlewick Press. Her work has received several awards and been recognized by Bank Street Books, Learning Magazine, Reading is Fundamental, Foreword Reviews, NYCReads365, Society of Illustrators of Los Angeles, Charlotte/Mecklenburg , Chicago and Maine State libraries among others. Originally from England, where she attended art-college and served in the Royal Navy, she now lives in Maine with her poodles Toby and Lucy and a cat called Sleep. She still misses British fish and chips, but is learning to love lobster.


www.hazelmitchell.com *  Blog  *  Twitter *  FB
represented by Ginger Knowlton, Curtis Brown Ltd. NYC

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Book Review – Toby by Hazel Mitchell

Posted by Maryann on September 25, 2016 |


Hazel Mitchell
Age Range: 4 – 6 years
Grade Level: Preschool – 1
Hardcover: 40 pages
Publisher: Candlewick (September 13, 2016)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0763680931
ISBN-13: 978-0763680930

BOOK BLURB – When a young boy and his father move from one house to another, they decide to adopt a dog from the local rescue shelter. But their chosen dog, Toby, is having a tough time adjusting to his new life outside the shelter—howling all night, hiding fearfully from his new humans, forgetting where to go to the bathroom, and chasing a ball through the flower bed.

The boy has promised to train his new companion, and he’s trying his best, but Dad is starting to get exasperated. Will Toby ever feel comfortable with his new family and settle into his forever home, or will Dad decide he’s not the right dog for them after all?

REVIEW –  This is a touching story about a boy and a dog and the bond that can form so quickly when the two come together. When I first read the book, it made me think of my oldest grandson and a special dog that came into his life when he needed a fur-friend.

Like the father and son in this story, my grandson and his mother didn’t talk about why he might need a dog, but after Arthur came to live with them, we could all see the positive results. Some things in life can never be fixed, but having something warm and furry and comforting in your bed goes a long way toward making a child have a reason to smile.

It was interesting that neither the boy or the father are named in the story, and I didn’t even realize that until the second time through. At first I wondered why, but then, when I thought about it further, I realized it was a clever decision to have the dog be the only character with a name. How could we ever forget Toby?

That realization brought another. This story is about so much more than what is on the page. At least that’s the way I saw it, and I agree with what Dani Greer had to say at The Blood-Red Pencil blog earlier this month:

Like any really good book clearly written for children (and not with a hidden message for adults cloaked in #kidlit), the book still has enough innuendo and intrigue to engage the imagination of the older reader. Where is the mother in the story? Where does the dad work? What kind of sports do they like? What is the boy’s name and how old is he? What books does he like to read?

Not answering those questions in the narrative, leaves room for the readers, young and older, to use their imaginations to fill in the blanks. I can picture a scene where a mother or father reads the book with a young child and together they find the rest of the story.

And there is so much story to find in the illustrations that are so stunning, I couldn’t resist the impulse to look at them again and again. It is easy to see why Hazel is an award-winning illustrator.




In addition to all the other reasons to love this book, is the fact that the real Toby is a rescue dog – as was my  grandson’s. The idea to create the delightful book came from Hazel’s experience with her own Toby. Apparently, he resisted training, too.


Toby, Hazel and I encourage you to rescue a dog.

Do come back on Wednesday when Hazel and Toby will be my Wednesday’s Guests for a fun interview. 




www.hazelmitchell.com *  Blog  *  Twitter *  FB
represented by Ginger Knowlton, Curtis Brown Ltd. NYC
TOBY. Copyright © 2016 by Hazel Mitchell. Images reproduced by permission of the publisher, Candlewick Press, Somerville, MA.

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Friday’s Odds And Ends

Posted by Maryann on September 23, 2016 |

First off something to hopefully bring a chuckle:



A Facebook friend recently cautioned me about what I post concerning political issues, as it may not help my career to get in the middle of controversial issues. That friend did so in the nicest, most well-meaning way, but I don’t agree that we should hold back just because we run the risk of angering people to the point of losing followers and money.

My response to my friend was that I believe writers owe it to the public to be a voice of reason and truth, and if that means taking a risk, so be it.

So I will be taking lots of risks between now and November as the worst political campaign continues to unfold. I won’t call names – well, I can’t resist The Trumpster – but I won’t dredge up ugly things to say about him or about Hillary, just to say ugly things. I will just post comments that shed a light on the absurdity that is the current campaign.

To that end, I want to share this great article by William Rivers Pitt  at Truthout.

There are many aspects of presidential electioneering in the United States that make me want to run my head through a stone wall. The dirty money, the endless campaigns, the corporate “news” media’s insipid talent for dividing their time between the horserace angle and “coverage” of a handful of utterly unimportant bits of quasi-factual flotsam that have no bearing on policy or the state of the nation.

If I didn’t have this nasty Ramsay Hunt Syndrome, I would be joining William at that stone wall. The misinformation that is poured out in the media distorts truth in ways that are so distressing.

As an example, here is a video from The Daily Show where Jordan Klepper interviewed people who were at a Trump rally about campaign issues, and their responses were mind-boggling. One lady proudly announced that her mind was made up with no facts or information to sway her opinion. Is that really the way we want a president to be elected? By people who don’t consider the issues or the facts or the truth to be important?

The prospect scares the bejeebers out of me.

Okay, enough of that. On to some fun.


The following are responses from kids when asked what love means. They are not laugh-out-loud funny, but they do elicit a smile. I dare you not to smile.

‘Love is when Mommy gives Daddy the best piece of chicken.’ — Elaine-age 5

‘Love is when Mommy sees Daddy smelly and sweaty and still says he is handsomer than Robert Redford.’ – Chris – age 7

‘Love is when your puppy licks your face even after you left him
alone all day.’ – Mary Ann – age 4

‘I know my older sister loves me because she gives me all her old clothes and has to go out and buy new ones.’ – Lauren – age 4

‘When you love somebody, your eyelashes go up and down and little
stars come out of you.’ – Karen – age 7

And this sweet sentiment from a four year old child whose next door neighbor was an elderly gentleman who had recently lost his wife.

Upon seeing the man cry, the little boy went into the old gentleman’s yard , climbed onto his lap, and just sat there.

When the boy’s mother asked what he had said to the neighbor, the child said, ‘Nothing , I just helped him cry.’


Robert Bruce who is a contributor to Copy Blogger, recently posted an article that offered advice on The Art of Finding Ideas. He pointed out, as most of us writers know but sometimes need to be reminded, that there are no new ideas in the world, and he suggested we steal ideas.

Now, I don’t think he meant felony burglary, but rather that we get the ideas from being a good listener. He shared this quote from the legendary copywriter, Eugene Schwartz :

“You don’t have to have great ideas if you can hear great ideas.”

Bruce continued, “I stole this post from him, and he stole it from many others.

“Listen more. Talk less.

“Read less. Read better.

“The Art of Finding Ideas is then … the act of going out and finding ideas.

“Originality? That’ll come from using your own voice, and your voice develops from writing more. And more. And more.”

That is advice I give to new writers at workshops and in my freelance editing business, and it is so true. We learn by reading good writing in all genres and practicing our craft every day. 

What about you? Where do you get ideas? What advice do you have to offer new writers? Have a joke to share? Please do. And have a wonderful weekend.

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Meet Author Rich Zahradnik

Posted by Maryann on September 21, 2016 |

rich-headshotRich Zahradnik is my Wednesday’s Guest today. He is the author of a mystery series featuring a journalist working in New York in the ’70s. A Black Sail is the latest book, and I reviewed it HERE last Sunday.

I forgot to ask Rich what kind of refreshments he might like, but since he and Coleridge, the central character in the series, are both journalists, I thought they would like a mug of ale. Help yourself if you wish to join us.



Rich has agreed to let Coleridge interview him, and I can envision them both sharing a draft and a story. Enjoy….

I sat down to interview mystery author Rich Zahradnik in his office. I wasn’t happy about it. I’m working on a story about a double murder in Harlem and don’t need to be wasting my time on fluff like this. But my editor insisted. Zahradnik has so far written three in a series of six crime novels featuring a journalist as the hero. He claims the hero is me. We’ll see.

Taylor: How long were you a journalist and why did you start writing fiction?

Zahradnik: I was a journalist for almost thirty years working in newspapers, television and online. Somewhere in the middle of my career, ideas for crime novels started popping into my head, and I decided to start writing fiction. It was an idea I’d give up on in high school, but now came back to. I wrote novels while working full-time in journalism until around seven years ago, when I was able to quit and spend all my time on fiction. Took another two years to get the first book out.

Taylor: What’s the difference between journalism and fiction writing?

Zahradnik: Well, the oblivious one is I can make things up and you can’t—

Taylor: You bet your sweet bippie I can’t. It would be the end of my career if I made up a story.

Zahradnik: Yes, I know. In one of the novels, you’re accused of doing exactly that and get demoted to writing obits.

Taylor: Wait, how do you know that? Oh right, you claim I’m a character in one of your books.

Zahradnik: I’m writing what you’re saying right now.

Taylor: Riiiiiight. Let’s get back to the interview. Are there other differences between fiction and journalism?

Zahradnik: To finish my answer, there are actually some things I can’t make up. The books are set from 1975 to 1977 in New York City. The historical details, little and large, need to be accurate. That means there is some research involved. Which brings me to another difference. The most important work in journalism is reporting. That’s why the job is called reporter. The great journalists aren’t great writers—some are and many aren’t—but they are great reporters. They know how to find the story—how to dig out the facts, research documents, track down witnesses. Most importantly, they know how to do great interviews, which is an art in itself. In almost all fiction, the most important work is the writing.

Taylor: Do you miss it? Journalism?

Zahradnik: I miss the people, not the work. I like making stuff up.

Taylor: You would rather make things up then write stories that could help a victim, or at least change the direction of an investigation? What about deadlines?

Zahradnik: I have deadlines.

Taylor: How often?

Zahradnik: About once a year.

Taylor: (Laughs.) That’s not a deadline. That’s a holiday. I really find it hard to believe you were a real journalist.

Zahradnik: Well neither of us is a real journalist at this point.

Taylor: You were a reporter and I am on. Are we similar?

Zahradnik: I was only a police reporter at the beginning of my career, and I didn’t cover really serious crime like you do. You’re a much better reporter than I ever was. You’re far more focused on getting the story—often to your detriment. I was interested in and distracted by too many other things—like novel writing. I think my writing is better than yours at this point. Writing for you is about following the formula to get the story on the wire fast, with a good strong lead and the facts needed to support it in descending importance.

Taylor: Do you always compliment and insult people at the same time?

Zahradnik: Only people I know really well.

Taylor: Is there anything else you do besides write the novels?

Zahradnik: I volunteer to teach kids how to publish newspapers around my area and in New York City. It keeps my hand in journalism and in touch with the energy of kids.

Taylor: At least you’re doing that.

Zahradnik: Which reminds me…

Taylor: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. Back to the grindstone for both of us.



A Black Sail is book three of a mystery/thriller series featuring newsman Coleridge Taylor, set on the mean streets of Manhattan and surrounding boroughs in the ’70s.  On the eve of the U.S. Bicentennial, Taylor is covering Operation Sail, and  New York Harbor is teeming with tall ships from all over the world. While enjoying the spectacle, Taylor is still a police reporter. He wants to cover real stories, not fluff, and gritty New York City still has plenty of those in July of 1976. One surfaces right in front of him when a housewife is fished out of the harbor wearing bricks of heroin, inferior stuff users have been rejecting for China White, peddled by the Chinatown gangs.

BUY LINKSAmazon  *  BN  *  Indiebound  *  Kindle  *  Audio/Downpour


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Book Review – A Black Sail by Rich Zahradnik

Posted by Maryann on September 18, 2016 |

black-sail-coverA Black Sail

Rich Zahradnik
Camel Press
October 1, 2016
264 Pages
ISBN: 978-1-60381-211-5

BOOK BLURB –  A Black Sail is book three of a mystery/thriller series featuring newsman Coleridge Taylor, set on the mean streets of Manhattan and surrounding boroughs in the ’70s.  On the eve of the U.S. Bicentennial, Taylor is covering Operation Sail, and  New York Harbor is teeming with tall ships from all over the world. While enjoying the spectacle, Taylor is still a police reporter. He wants to cover real stories, not fluff, and gritty New York City still has plenty of those in July of 1976. One surfaces right in front of him when a housewife is fished out of the harbor wearing bricks of heroin, inferior stuff users have been rejecting for China White, peddled by the Chinatown gangs.

Convinced he’s stumbled upon a drug war between the Italian Mafia and a Chinese tong, Taylor is on fire once more. But as he blazes forward, flanked by his new girlfriend, ex-cop Samantha Callahan, his precious story grows ever more twisted and deadly. In his reckless search for the truth, he rattles New York’s major drug cartels. If he solves the mystery, he may end up like his victim—in a watery grave.

REVIEW – This story resonated with me on several levels. First off, it is a terrific mystery with just the right amount of drama and intrigue to carry the reader along. I also love history, so the historical elements were interesting. I experienced the Bicentennial while busy raising kids, so I did not know how it was celebrated across the country, which made it more fun to find out about Operation Sail and the ships that came to New York from around the world. And finally, as a journalist, I could really relate to Taylor and his desire to write a really great story. The glimpse into the inner workings of the newspaper business took me back to the years I worked for that arm of the publishing world, and it was a nice visit.

I also saw Taylor as a bit of an idealist – something else we have in common – and I liked the fact that he was compelled to try to help a young woman who was new to the drug scene. Mary had given him some information that helped in his investigation, and she ends up in danger. He manages to get her out of that danger, but he doesn’t want her to go back on the street.

As he’s considering whether he should try to help her, he thinks about an addict he helped before and wonders if he can help this one. But he knows how hard that will be. “Prying an addict from the spike in her arm was a serious battle, a full-time project.”

With the help of his girlfriend Samantha, Taylor manages to at least get Mary to a halfway house where she can take the first step towards getting clean.

Samantha also helps Taylor in the investigation, and I liked her character very much. She is a good counter-point to Taylor’s idealism, as well as bringing her skills as a police officer to his efforts to find out who is bringing China White into the country.

SALES INFORMATION – A Black Sail is currently available for pre-order on Amazon.com. After October 1st, it will also be for sale in both eBook and trade paperback editions in bookstores and online retailers.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR – Rich Zahradnik has been a journalist for 30-plus years, working as a reporter and editor in all major news media, including online, newspaper, broadcast, magazine, and wire services. He lives with his wife, Sheri, and son, Patrick, in Pelham, New York, where he teaches kids how to publish online and print newspapers. For more information, go to his WEBSITE

Do come back later this week when Rich will be my Wednesday’s Guest. A journalist will interview a journalist. Not saying which journalist is asking the questions. You’ll have to come back to see. In the meantime, if you have any questions for Rich, please ask away.


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Friday’s Odds and Ends

Posted by Maryann on September 16, 2016 |

Some of the things I like best about living in a rural setting are the beautiful scenes that are all around me early in the morning and in the evening when the sun is going down. Here in Texas we do have spectacular pink and orange and gold skies at certain times of the day.

I love to take pictures, although I am not a real accomplished photographer, and sometimes I don’t even have my phone with me to take a shot while I’m working outside. By the time I go inside to get my phone, the moment is lost, so often I just take a picture with my heart.

This morning I had my phone with me.


The fog was thick this morning when I went out to feed my critters.

The following essay has made the rounds online and some of you may have already read it. It’s been circulated for several years, but the message is still so relevant I thought I would share it here. I looked online to see if I could find the author’s name, but everywhere it appears it is with “author unknown.” 

I would like to thank that author unknown for the heartfelt message.

I grew up with practical parents. A mother, God love her, who washed aluminum foil after she cooked in it, then reused it. She was the original recycle queen, before they had a name for it… A father who was happier getting old shoes fixed than buying new ones.

Their marriage was good, their dreams focused. Their best friends lived barely a wave away.


I can see them now, Dad in trousers, tee shirt and a hat and Mom in a house dress, lawn mower in one hand, and dish towel in the other. It was the time for fixing things. A curtain rod, the kitchen radio, screen door, the oven door, the hem in a dress. Things we keep.

It was a way of life, and sometimes it made me crazy. All that re-fixing, eating, renewing, I wanted, just once, to be wasteful. Waste meant affluence. Throwing things away meant you knew there’d always be more.

But then my mother died, and on that clear summer’s night, in the warmth of the hospital room, I was struck with the pain of learning that sometimes there isn’t any more.

Sometimes, what we care about most gets all used up and goes away…never to return.. So… while we have it….. it’s best we love it…. and care for it… and fix it when it’s broken… and heal it when it’s sick.

This is true for marriage… and old cars… and children with bad report cards… and dogs with bad hips… and aging parents… and grandparents. We keep them because they are worth it, because we are worth it.

Some things we keep. Like a best friend that moved away or a classmate we grew up with.

There are just some things that make life important, like people we know who are special… and so, we keep them close.


First off this funny bathroom sign.


1) No matter how hard you try, you can’t baptize cats.
2) When your Mom is mad at your Dad, don’t let her brush your hair.
3) If your sister hits you, don’t hit her back. They always catch the second person.
4) Never ask your 3-year old brother to hold a tomato.
5) You can’t trust dogs to watch your food.
6) Don’t sneeze when someone is cutting your hair.
7) Never hold a Dust-Buster and a cat at the same time.
8) You can’t hide a piece of broccoli in a glass of milk.
9) Don’t wear polka-dot underwear under white shorts.
10) The best place to be when you’re sad is Grandma’s lap.


Q: Why did the orange stop in the middle of the hill?
A: It ran out of juice!

Q: Why are the floors of basketball courts always so damp?
A: The players dribble a lot.

Q: What starts with E, ends with E and only has one letter?
A: An envelope.

Q: What is at the end of everything?
A: The letter G.

Q: What nails do carpenters hate to hit?
A: Fingernails.

Q: How do locomotives hear?
A: Through the engineers.

Q: Why is tennis such a loud game?
A: Because each player raises a racket.

Q: Who earns a living by driving his customers away?
A: A taxi driver.

Q: What two things can you not have for breakfast?
A: Lunch and dinner.

That’s it for me folks. I have a busy weekend ahead with a concert tonight at the Winnsboro Center for the Arts. Going to hear Verlon Thompson, a singer, songwriter and amazing guitarist. Then on Saturday there is a Women in the Arts exhibition at the art center, and my daughter and I are both in the show. What a thrill. On Sunday, I meet with my writer’s group, also at the art center, before the annual ice-cream social.

I think I will nap on Monday.

How about you? Do you have plans for the weekend? Have a joke to share? Please do.

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Going to The Fair

Posted by Maryann on September 14, 2016 |

Slim Randles is back again as today’s Wednesday’s Guest, and I really like this essay about the state fair. I have always loved to go to fairs – the rides, the livestock barns, the funnel cakes, the cotton candy, and have I mentioned the livestock barns?

Not everyone likes to tramp through those hot, smelly buildings looking at horses, cows, sheep, goats, and other animals, but that is always one of my favorite things at the fair. I’d rather do that then go on the rides any day.

So I’m going to grab a piece of this funnel cake and pretend I’m at a fair. Care to join me?



September means pencils and books for the youngsters, but it also means state fair season. That’s when the world’s largest zucchini squash is at its prime, of course. The farm animals are all shed off and shiny and cute, their horns polished to diamond-like perfection by hard-working and hopeful kids.

Going to the state fairgrounds is an annual pilgrimage of sorts, going to another temporary home. We need to touch base with turkey legs, corn dogs and deep fried everything.

We who sport gray in our hair, or no hair at all, can look with relief at that giant slingshot that shoots high school kids into a state fair orbit. It’s a relief because no one expects us to do that. And when we were young enough to actually do that, thankfully the diabolical state fair scientists hadn’t invented the darn thing yet.

Cruising around, you get to see everyone at their best. Best fair-type clothing. Best behavior. Best smiles. If you scowl at any point during a visit to the state fair, you either aren’t trying very hard or someone ran off with your date.

And we make those little secret promises to ourselves, too. You see, we’d love to win a ribbon for making a quilt, or raising an animal, or taking a fabulous photograph or coming up with the best painting in the whole state. But not all of us can do those things.

Maybe there should be some other categories for the rest of us, such as finding a parking spot close to the fairgrounds that doesn’t cost $5.

Practical things.

Or how about a ribbon for not missing a day’s work all year? Or for being a nice guy and always letting other drivers change lanes in front of you.

Somehow, though, we have to be content with just knowing we did those things, so we can feel like a state fair blue-ribbon winner inside.

Do you like to go to the county or state fair where you live? What is your favorite part of the fair? Do share in the comments.


The Home Country radio show with Slim Randles will be coming soon to a radio station near you! New, from Syndication Networks.

Slim Randles writes a nationally syndicated column, “Home Country” that is featured in 370 newspapers across the country. He is also the author of a number of books including  Saddle Up: A Cowboy Guide to Writing. That title, and others, are published by  LPD Press. If you enjoy his columns here, you might want to check out the book Home Country. It has some of the best of his offerings through the years.

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Monday Morning Musings

Posted by Maryann on September 12, 2016 |

First I want to share this picture I took the other day. I have a lovely bed of Mexican Petunias,  and they are in full bloom now. This shot was taken with my phone camera, which isn’t the best, and I could not get the colors to show true. The flowers are a deeper purple.

This bed of flowers started with one plant my daughter-in-law gave me and spread to fill a space five feet long by about two feet wide. Prolific little buggers these Mexican Petunias, and I find new guys popping up in places I don’t want them.

I hate to kill any living thing – well, spiders in my house don’t count – so I cringe just a bit inwardly when I pull the unwanted plants up. But I console myself by throwing them over the fence as a treat for my goat. She is happy to get this unexpected delicacy, so I figure the plant was not killed, just re-purposed.



This next picture shows the true color of the flowers a little better, although they still look more blue than purple.


And I do love my garden critters, especially since they do not munch on the flowers like the real bunnies do, or sweep down and take cats like real owls do.

So what did you do this weekend? On Saturday I got some writing done, then I went to a concert at the Winnsboro Center for the Arts and met the amazing Sarah McQuaid.  She’s a singer, guitarist and songwriter, based in the UK and is on a 7-week American tour. For tour dates to see if she is coming to a venue near you, check out her WEBSITE  She puts on a terrific show, blending folk with celtic with her lovely voice and amazing guitar playing.


“Keep away from people who try to belittle your ambition. Small people always do that, but the really great make you feel that you, too, can become great.” — Mark Twain

“Everyone seems to have a clear idea of how other people should lead their lives, but none about his or her own.” — Paulo Coelho

“Any fool can criticize, condemn and complain … and most fools do.” — Dale Carnegie

“A non-doer is very often a critic — that is, someone who sits back and watches doers, and then waxes philosophically about how the doers are doing. It’s easy to be a critic, but being a doer requires effort, risk, and change.” — Dr. Wayne Dyer

“Trying to blow out someone else’s candle doesn’t make yours shine any brighter. In fact, yours is the one that is dimmed the most.” — Dave Erhard

“Any powerful idea is absolutely fascinating and absolutely useless until we choose to use it.” ― Richard Bach

“Pay no attention to the criticism of people who have never themselves written a notable work.” — Ezra Pound

“You’ve gotta dance like there’s nobody watching. Love like you’ll never be hurt. Sing like there’s nobody listening. And live like it’s heaven on earth.” ― William W. Purkey

“People’s disrespect, insults, and criticism of highly successful people just shows how shaky their own position is and how lousy their internal world must be.” — Dave Erhard

“Great spirits have always encountered violent opposition from mediocre minds.” – Albert Einstein

“The world in general doesn’t know what to make of originality; it is startled out of its comfortable habits of thought, and its first reaction is one of anger.” — W. Somerset Maugham

“When you do work that matters, the crowd will call you a fool. If you do something remarkable, something new and something important, not everyone will understand it (at first). Your work is for someone, not everyone. Unless you’re surrounded only by someones, you will almost certainly encounter everyone. And when you do, they will jeer. That’s how you’ll know you might be onto something.” — Seth Godin

“My courage always rises at every attempt to intimidate me.” — Jane Austin


Thanks it for me folks. Do you have any inspiration to share? Please do. Did you do anything especially fun this weekend?

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Book Review – Someone by Alice McDermott

Posted by Maryann on September 11, 2016 |

Before posting the review, I just want to take a moment to pause and remember that horrible day when a series of four coordinated terrorist attacks by the Islamic terrorist group al-Qaeda on the United States occurred on the morning of September 11, 2001. 

As with all horrors that men inflict upon mankind, this one should not be forgotten. 


And now the review.


Alice McDermott
File Size: 614 KB
Print Length: 241 pages
Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0374281092
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux; Reprint edition (September 10, 2013)
Sold by: Macmillan
Language: English

BOOK BLURB — We first meet Marie Commeford at age seven, when she’s sitting on the stoop in her tight-knit, Irish-Catholic Brooklyn neighborhood, waiting for her father to come home from work. A seemingly innocuous encounter with a young woman named Pegeen sets the bittersweet tone of this remarkable novel. Pegeen describes herself as an “amadan,” a fool; indeed, soon after her chat with Marie, Pegeen tumbles down her own basement stairs. The magic of McDermott’s novel lies in how it reveals us all as fools for this or that, in one way or another.

Marie’s first heartbreak and her eventual marriage; her brother’s brief stint as a Catholic priest, subsequent loss of faith, and eventual breakdown; the Second World War; her parents’ deaths; the births and lives of Marie’s children; the changing world of her Irish-American enclave in Brooklyn.

REVIEW — This is the first book by McDermott that I have read, actually listened to, and I found the story compelling. The author presented the tragedies in the lives of the characters with great sympathy, and the nuances of the way people rationalize behaviors reflected great insight.

The story is told primarily from the viewpoint of Marie and moves back and forth in time. The jump from one time period to another was sometimes hard to catch when listening to the audio book, and I think this is a story that should be read on paper or electronically. In part to catch those leaps back and forth, but also to be able to go back and reread a particularly well written sentence, of which there are many.

The title comes from a comment made to Marie by her brother, Gabe, when she asks who will ever love her. She has just had her first romantic heartbreak and shares her pain with her brother, who has always been her comforter. His response to her question is, “Someone.”

Such simplicity in the title and in the story itself in many ways. It is just life. Things happen and people make choices in how to respond. When handled well, that is what makes for a good story, and McDermott handles it superbly.



I’ve teamed up with a number of YA authors to sponsor this back-to-school contest and the prizes include a Kindle Fire and 15 free YA novels. I am so happy to sponsor this one with Friends Forever, and can’t wait to send copies to the winners.

ONLY TWO DAYS LEFT – Enter by September 12th for your chance to win!

CLICK HERE to enter. Good luck!!

FF giveaway image

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Friday’s Odds and Ends

Posted by Maryann on September 9, 2016 |

First this meme to start us off with a chuckle. I couldn’t resist. My husband was a minister, frequently wore a white dress, and doused many a child. 


And before we move on to the news, don’t forget to enter the YA Back-to-School Giveaway. The last day to enter is September 12. I am one of the author sponsors and can’t wait to give copies of Friends Forever to a few lucky winners. The grand prize is a Kindle Fire and 15 YA novels to enjoy with that new Kindle. How cool is that!


FF giveaway image


This week I once again visited the Good News Network site for stories that are more uplifting than what is happening in the regular news. I was not disappointed.

The Town Dog – Bruno, a large mixed breed dog belongs to Debbie and Larry LaVallee. Bruno is 12-years-old, but he still trots four miles every day to go to town, Longville, Minnesota, and make the rounds visiting people. His first stop is the butcher shop where the workers always treat him to some leftover scraps of meat. Then Bruno heads over to the gas station, city hall, the library, and the ice cream shop where all the residents greet him with love.

Helping Teachers –  Earlier this week, as schools in Wisconsin started the academic  year, Herb Kohl Philanthropies announced they are fully funding the requests of every Wisconsin teacher posted on the education crowdfunding site DonorsChoose.org. As a result of the generosity of U.S. Senator Herb Kohl, approximately 600 Wisconsin teachers will receive materials for their 43,000 students — ranging from health and hygiene items to paper, pencils and books to laptops, musical instruments and microscopes.

Fewer Hungry Kids – The USDA, a government agency that provides food and nutrition assistance programs for low-income households, says the estimated percentage of U.S. households that were food insecure in 2015 declined significantly, continuing a downward trend from a high of 14.9 percent in 2011 to 12.7 percent last year.

As a side note to that story, I wonder who decided that people are food insecure as opposed to hungry. Seems like a silly way to say something that was very straightforward when I was a kid and was hungry.


Some Over the Hill Jokes

Just remember, once you’re over the hill you begin to pick up speed.

Remember back when we were kids and every time it was below zero out they closed school? Me neither.

Kids today don’t know how easy they have it… when I was young, I had to walk through 9 feet of shag carpet to change the TV channel.

Senility has been a smooth transition for me.

I may not be that funny or athletic or good looking or smart or talented … I forgot where I was going with this.

I love being over 60 … I learn something new every day … and forget 5 others.

A thief broke into my house last night … He started searching for money … so I woke up and searched with him.

My dentist told me I need a Crown … I said, “You bet, pour mine over the rocks”

I think I’ll just put an “Out of Order” sticker on my forehead and call it a day.

Some Funny Truisms 

I didn’t say it was your fault, I said I was blaming you.

In filling out an application, where it says, “In case of emergency, notify…” I answered “a doctor.”

Women will never be equal to men until they can walk down the street with a bald head and a beer gut, and still think they are sexy.

Going to church doesn’t make you a Christian, any more than standing in a garage makes you a car.

You’re never too old to learn something stupid.

I’m supposed to respect my elders, but it’s getting harder and harder for me to find one now.


In a terrific post by at Writer Unboxed today, Margaret Dilloway presents a few scenarios of the kind of In-Your-Face Criticism writers experience, including this:

You have lunch with an old colleague who tells you how awesome your book was. Then he says he got it second hand, since he won’t pay more than a quarter for a book, and tells you how he’s sending it through all his friends and relatives so they won’t have to pay for the book either. He figures twenty-five people will read it for a quarter! That’s one cent per person! (He knows authors aren’t good at math). And then he tells you how after that, he’s planning on using it for kindling, too.

That scenario particularly resonated with me, as I cringe every time people share their money-saving tricks with me. I know they don’t realize that this might be the month my royalty is so low I can’t even treat myself to dinner out, but I must refrain from pointing that out.

The best response to stinging comments about the writing or the income or the research, or any of the issues some people might take with us, is a careful, non-emotional one. Margaret offers some really good advice about how to do that on the blog, and I hope you will go over and read the post.


That’s all for me, folks. Do let me know which jokes you liked best. Do you find “food insecure” to describe hunger as odd as I do?

What are your plans for the weekend? I will be doing as much writing as I can, and I will also be at a concert at the Winnsboro Center For the Arts to enjoy music by Sarah McQuaid. 

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