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Book Review ~~ The Summer of Sunshine & Margot

reviews, authors, writingreviews, authors, writingreviews, authors, writingreviews, authors, writing           4 out of 5 quills   Book  Review

 

Susan Mallery always delivers a solid story. The Summer of Sunshine and Margot was no exception.  I found the main characters (Sunshine & Declan, Margot and Alec) empathetic and charming. I had a little trouble with Margot’s career and the services her company offered. Was she a life coach? A therapist? A baby sitter for adults? It was never made clear. 

And that leads me to write about one character, in her story. Bianca. She was an aging film star who evidently had been indulged her entire life. The result was an implausible, spoiled brat. Immature, thoughtless, reckless and a bully. I worked in Hollywood many years ago and her antics would have led her to be, at the worst, blackballed. Or at best, she would have been considered a ‘difficult’ actress when casting a film and to be avoided. Difficult actors cost money.  I found her outrageous behavior tiresome and unbelievable. 

The character of Bianca was the reason I couldn’t give this book my highest rating. 
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MY BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!   December: Dervla McTiernan  
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An Irish Country Family ~~ Book Review

reviews, authors, writing reviews, authors, writingreviews, authors, writingreviews, authors, writingreviews, authors, writing          5 out of 5 quills 

 

Every time I begin the newest (#14) in this series it is like returning home to my village. BallyBucklebo, (the village), is a character unto itself.  This particular story goes back and forth between the current year (1969) in the village and when Barry Laverty is still in residency at a local hospital. (1964-5). So half the book is before Barry ever met the patriarch and senior country physician, Final Flahertie O’Reilly or was offered a position in his practice. 

A rich series that spans decades in the ‘wee village’ of Ballybucklebo, Ulster County, Ireland. Seldom will readers find characters more deeply drawn. Beginning with An Irish Country Doctor (2007), each book follows the characters’ stories.  The author, Patrick Taylor, has an opulent flavor to his writing which is brilliant. The reader can smell the salty brine of the nearby Lough, the whisky and stale smoke in the Mucky Duck (pub). See the golden crust of Kinky’s latest offering for lunch. Feel Barry and Sue’s personal pain. I particularly enjoyed the accurate weaving of medical history throughout the story. 

This writer intertwines his characters’ stories with a precise ebb and flow. Each book makes the reader wish for more.

Did you miss my Interview with Patrick Taylor 
Book Available for Sale ~ November 12th
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Interview with Author, Kristina McMorris (part 2)

Q. Do you ‘get lost’ in your writing?

KM. Oh, goodness, yes. Usually, as luck would have it, right before school hours are over. 

Q. Are you working on something now? If so tell us about it.

KM. I’m working on another WWII novel that I’m not quite ready to talk about yet but can’t wait until it’s time to spill!

Q. How long after were you published?

KM. I started writing my first novel in 2007, sold it in 2009, and was over the moon to see it published by a large NY house then appear on actual store shelves in 2011!

Q. Do you think we will see, in our lifetime, the total demise of paper books?

KM. Not if I have any say in that! For me (even more so because I work on a computer all day), I undoubtedly prefer a printed book when reading fun. And I’m pretty sure I’m not alone in that. At least I hope?

Q. and the all-important: What does the process of going from “no book” to “finished book” look like for you?

KM. Once I have the general gist of a premise and main characters established in my mind, and enough research completed to know what’s possible, I essentially picture the story rolling out like a movie in my head. At that point, I create a basic plotting board using mini Post-its, and off I go!

Q. How has your life experiences influenced your writing?

KM. Since I literally grew up in the film industry, cinematic forms of storytelling continue to have the strongest influence on my writing. And of course, bits and pieces of myself and people I’ve met throughout my life inevitably sprinkle my stories—both the heroes and the villains!

Q. What’s your down time look like?

KM. Spending time with family and friends and catching up on life (which, after a tight deadline, largely includes laundry, bills, and much-needed sleep)!

Kristina with her family

Q. Have you or do you want to write in another genre?

KM. If I were to choose another genre, it would have to be psych thrillers, since that’s another type of story I thoroughly enjoy reading.

Note to Self: (a life lesson you’ve learned.)

KM. Just because you can doesn’t mean you should.
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Click here for Part I of the Interview

Review of Sold on a Monday
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MY BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!    July — Catherine Ryan Hyde.  August:  My interview with Susan Wiggs  September: Alan Foster (sci-fi) and October: Kristina McMorris
 
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Interview with Author, Kristina McMorris

TS. Kristina was inspired to write by the newspaper photo shown below. I was inspired by the beautiful cover of Sold on a Monday to buy the book and subsequently interview her. Kristina McMorris is an acclaimed author of two novellas and five historical novels, including Sold on a Monday, which is now celebrating five months on the New York Times and USA Today bestsellers lists. Initially inspired by her grandparents’ WWII courtship letters, her works of fiction have garnered more than twenty national literary awards. Prior to her writing career, she owned a wedding- and event-planning company until she had far surpassed her limit of YMCA- and chicken dances.  She lives in Oregon with her husband and their two sons, ages thirteen and fifteen going on forty.

Q. Where do you write? Do you have a special room, shed, barn, special space for your writing? Or tell us about your ‘dream’ work space.

KM. Something that’s probably unique about my writing space is that, although it’s always located somewhere in my house, the specific spot changes with every book I write. By the time I spend a year or more working on a manuscript, I’m so tired of sitting in the same place day after day (my rocking chair, office desk, kitchen table, living room couch, etc) that I have to switch it up for the next book. I often joke that after a few more books, we’ll have to move to a new house because I’ll have run out of fresh spots for writing!

Q. Do you have any special rituals or quirks when you sit down to write? (a neat work space, sharpened #2 pencils, legal pad, cup of tea, glass of brandy, favorite pajamas, etc.)

KM. As a recovering event planner, I still absolutely have to have a clean work space. A large tumbler of decaf tea is a must (admittedly with an embarrassing amount of vanilla creamer) and fuzzy socks are the norm.

Q. Could you tell us something about yourself that we might not already know?

KM. I was fortunate enough to spend an entire college year living in Florence, Italy, an incredible experience that taught me an enormous amount about pasta and wine and, best of all, tiramisu. Ha. Seriously, though, I learned so many important life lessons there, and now even enjoy weaving Italian characters into my stories.

Q. Do you have a set time each day (or night) to write?

KM. That’s an easy one to answer: school hours. The clock starts when the kids get on the bus and stops when they come charging back through the door full of stories from their day!

Q. What’s your best advice to other writers for overcoming procrastination?

KM. Unplug from the Internet. (It’s hard, I know!) Take a walk, think about where the story is going, write the next scene by hand if needed (in other words, change things up), and sit down in the chair and just write.

Q. Where/when do you first discover your characters?

KM. A nugget of a premise always comes to me first, then I start to imagine who landed in that situation. I figure out how they got there by backtracking and digging deeper into their lives until I finally understand who the characters are at their core.

Q. What first inspired you to write?

KM. About a dozen years ago, I was creating a homemade cookbook featuring my grandmother’s recipes, meant as a Christmas gift for the grandkids. When I interviewed her for the biographical section, she shared that she and my late grandfather had dated only twice during WWII, fell in love through an ongoing letter exchange, and were married for fifty years until he passed away. Then she said, “Would you like to see the letters?” After spending an afternoon poring over those beautiful wrinkled pages, I envisioned a Cyrano de Bergerac-type story set during WWII, which ultimately became my debut novel, Letters from Home—and the course of my career at that point completely changed.

Q. Do you ‘get lost’ in your writing?

Review of Sold on a Monday

Don’t miss Part II of this Interview next week.
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MY BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!    July — Catherine Ryan Hyde.  August:  My interview with Susan Wiggs  September: Alan Foster (sci-fi) and October: Kristina McMorris
 
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Other Writers Will Inspire You If You Let Them

I’m enjoying everything written by Catherine Ryan Hyde. I stumbled upon her as I searched through online book stores a few months back. Looking for  new authors to read and possibly interview….but mostly to read.  The cover of Have You Seen Luis Velez? caught my eye. Two figures (from the waist down) walking together; one obviously a boy with his worn jeans and sneakers. The other an older woman in a house dress and ill fitting coat. A white cane searching the pavement out in front of her old lady shoes. It intrigued me. It could be a grandson with his grandma but something about the image said no. It was something else. I ordered it and thanked my lucky stars I went with my instincts.  As I have said before, it is #1 of my top ten hits. It’s beautifully written and a gorgeous story. 

After that I read Allie and Bea. The joy of reading Hyde’s writing continued. Luis Velez was not a one shot wonder as I had feared. 
I am now  reading Say Goodbye For Now. The beautiful prose continues. Catherine Ryan Hyde is a master. It’s a turn a phrase, connecting words perfectly—(now I’m just plain gushing). But let me give you an example. It’s a small one but worth the mention.
 

On page 138 the two young boys are talking. It’s the dead of night and neither of them can sleep. The day had been jarring and scary. Pete is a thoughtful young boy. He isn’t quick to answer or judge or act. The two boys are exploring if it’s only scary when you’re a kid or are grownups scared too. They find it a depressing thought that just being a person, no matter what age, will be scary. 

Pete’s new friend has asked, “Just…I don’t know. Being a person, I guess. Is it just me, or is it really scary?”

“That’s a good question.” Pete says. “I’ll have to think about that.”

(Here’s the example of this writer’s thoughtfulness and mastery with words)

‘But once again, Pete didn’t exactly think. More left simple openings for thoughts or feelings to volunteer.’

AND: (on page 293)
“She couldn’t quite read his expression.  His face looked the way it always did. The way it always had, as long as she had known him. Maybe his sadness over these new events was no bigger or more powerful than the sadness he had brought with him to her door on that first day.”

These questions, thoughts, observations are on every page. They are sometimes so subtle, like this one, you have to be on your toes to even notice them. But, damn! They’re beautiful when you catch them and stop a moment to taste them.

Did you see my Interview with Catherine Ryan Hyde?

Watch for my Review and the Release of her newest book, Stay  (On sale December 2019)
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MY BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!    July — Catherine Ryan Hyde.  August:  My interview with Susan Wiggs  September: Alan Foster (sci-fi) and October: Kristina McMorris
 
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Review~~Coming Home for Christmas by RaeAnne Thayne

4  out of  5 quills     A  Review

Coming Home for Christmas is the long awaited sequel in the Haven Point series. Fans really invested and empathized with Luke, a single Dad, in previous books set in Idaho. A good man and husband, he and his two adorable kids are suddenly abandoned by his wife with no explanation. It takes seven years to find Elizabeth and bring her home to clear Luke of charges of murdering his wife. 

And that’s just for starters!  As a reviewer, I don’t write spoilers so you will not see a synopsis of the story. I have been a fan of Thayne’s writing for many years so this was a read for pleasure as well as reviewing it. The author always writes cleanly and keeps her readers enthralled in the story she is weaving. 

 I highly recommend it to my readers. 

Available September 24th at your favorite book store.

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MY BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!    July — Catherine Ryan Hyde.  August:  My interview with Susan Wiggs  September: Alan Foster (sci-fi) and October: Kristina McMorris
 
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Interview with Sci-Fi Author, Alan Dean Foster

Alan Dean Foster

TS. His first attempt at a novel, The Tar-Aiym Krang, was published by Ballantine Books in 1972. Hence began close to a 40 year writing career. Since then, Foster’s sometimes humorous, occasionally poignant, but always entertaining short fiction has appeared in all the major SF magazines as well as in original anthologies and several “Best of the Year” compendiums. His published oeurve includes more than 120 books.His work to date includes excursions into hard science-fiction, fantasy, horror, detective, western, historical, and contemporary fiction. 

Though restricted (for now) to the exploration of one world, Foster’s love of the far-away and exotic has led him to travel extensively. After graduating from college he lived for a summer with the family of a Tahitian policeman and camped out in French Polynesia. He and his wife JoAnn  have traveled to Europe and throughout Asia and the Pacific in addition to exploring the back roads of Tanzania and Kenya. Foster has camped out in the “Green Hell” region of the Southeastern Peruvian jungle, photographing army ants and pan-frying piranha (lots of small bones; tastes a lot like trout); has ridden forty-foot whale sharks in the remote waters off Western Australia, and was one of three people on the first commercial air flight into Northern Australia’s Bungle Bungle National Park. He has rappelled into New Mexico’s fabled Lechugilla Cave, white-water rafted the length of the Zambezi’s Batoka Gorge, driven solo the length and breadth of Namibia, crossed the Andes by car, sifted the sands of unexplored archeological sites in Peru, gone swimming with giant otters in Brazil, surveyed remote Papua New Guinea and West Papua both above and below the water, and dived unexplored reefs throughout the South Pacific and Indian Ocean.

The Fosters reside in Prescott, AZ in a house built of brick salvaged from a turn-of-the-century miners’ hotel/ brothel, along with assorted dogs, cats, fish, several hundred houseplants, visiting javelina, roadrunners, eagles, red-tailed hawks, skunks, coyotes, and bobcats. He is presently at work on several new novels and media projects.

Ready to work with help from Stubbs

Q. Where do you write? Do you have a special room, shed, barn, special space for your writing? (shed, room, closet, barn, houseboat….) Or tell us about your ‘dream’ work space.

AF. For years I worked in a tiny tack room attached to a large garage. When we had enough money saved, we pulled the roof and made a single room above the garage into my study. Since it’s a separate building, I’ve always had a sufficiency of peace and quiet.

Q. Do you have any special rituals or quirks when you sit down to write? (a neat work space, sharpened #2 pencils, legal pad, cup of tea, glass of brandy, favorite pajamas, etc.)

AF. I read news from around the world until I get tired of it. Then I enter my own world(s). I have (as you can tell from photos) possibly the most organized work space of any writer alive. It’s just…me.

Q. Could you tell us something about yourself that we might not already know?

AF. In the 1965-69 198lb. class, I have a world record in competitive raw power lifting…and a bunch of state records. Healthy mind in a healthy body.

Q. Do you have a set time each day (or night) to write?

AF. I prefer to work in the morning. My mind is clear and I have a lot to do around the house in the afternoon (my wife’s physical condition restricts what she is able to do). But if the muse strikes, I can write anytime.

Q. What’s your best advice to other writers for overcoming procrastination?

AF. Persistence. Internalized anger at your inability to set down words. Just tell yourself to write one page. Just one. Even if the content is goop. Usually I find that I end up writing two, three, or many more pages. It’s those first few words that get you started. Just like turning the crank to start a car in the old days. Keep cranking, as it were.

Q. Where/when do you first discover your characters?

AF. Some I invent out of whole cloth. Some I base on people I’ve encountered. As an example of the later, when I was writing the novel CACHALOT I needed a dignified gentleman of oriental extraction to fit a character. You never know how something like that will morph. Here’s a rather unusual example.

Q. What first inspired you to write?

Check out Part II of this wonderful interview on September 27th.
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MY BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!    July — Catherine Ryan Hyde.  August:  My interview with Susan Wiggs  September: Alan Foster (sci-fi) and October: Kristina McMorris
 
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We’ve Lost One of the Great Writers

Dorothea Benton Frank

TS.  By now fans around the world have heard about Dorothea Benton Frank’s passing earlier this month. A rare blood cancer swiftly took her life at age 67. When I interviewed Dorothy Benton Frank back in 2015 it was a large feather in my cap as I had been a fan for decades. I found her warm and friendly, much like her stories. As a tribute to this wonderful story teller, I have resurrected that interview so that we might once again enjoy her humor and inspiration. You and your stories will be sorely missed, Dorothea.

The interview

dottie.lowcountry.5

in her office

Q. Where do you write? Do you have a special room, shed, barn, special space for your writing? Or tell us about your ‘dream’ work space.

A. I write in my office in my home in NJ or in my office in my home in SC. My dream work space would be to occupy my little office in SC full time. This cruelty of this past winter’s plummeting temps, deep snow and black ice has cured me of any desire I may have had to remain in NJ. It’s not that I have anything against NJ. I have had many wonderful years here. It’s that I’m trapped indoors for months. But check back with me in a few years when I finally do reside in SC and hurricanes have me screaming for higher ground. Is anyone ever completely happy?

Q. Do you have any special rituals when you sit down to write? (a neat work space, sharpened #2 pencils, legal pad, cup of tea, glass of brandy, favorite pajamas, etc.)

New Release 2019

A. Water. Solitude. My work space is neat and tidy in chapter one. By the end of a book it looks like someone dropped a bomb on my desk. Usually I dress for work the same way you would if you reported for work in a very casual corporate environment.

Q. Could you tell us something about yourself that we might not already know?

A. The nuns who taught me in high school told my parents I wasn’t “college material.” Nice, right? In 1970, parents believed teachers, especially clergy, as though their words were spoken Ex Cathedra.

Q. Do you have a set time each day to write or do you write only when you are feeling creative? 

Click here for more

The book that started it all….stories about the low country>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

 

 

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MY BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!   June: Anne D. LeClaire and July — Catherine Ryan Hyde.  August:  My interview with Susan Wiggs  September: Alan Foster (sci-fi) and October: Kristina McMorris
 
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Book Review ~ Oysterville Sewing Circle

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   5 out of 5 quills ~~ A Book Review 

Domestic violence is when a husband or boyfriend physically abuses a mate and only in the privacy of their home. Right? Wrong. Who would have thought that the bigger than life, extraordinarily beautiful models strutting down the runway, would be hiding a dirty little secret? And had the bruises to show for it? You don’t imagine their life filled with anything but exotic locations, Krystal Champaign, fancy yachts and handsome escorts.

In Susan Wiggs’ newest novel, The Oysterville Sewing Circle, she explores the fashion industry and the mental and physical abuse that regularly occurs there. But, oddly, this is not a dark story. It’s filled with love and hope and two of the most adorable children you could ever hope for. 

The characters are well drawn. The reader is rooting for Caroline and the two orphans from page one. Sewn into the fabric of the tale is a wonderful love story. And redemption for the survivors of domestic abuse. 

As my readers know, I don’t write spoilers in my reviews.  For me it’s all about the story and the writing. Susan Wiggs never disappoints. Her latest offering is filled with surprises, twists and turns. I highly recommend this book. 

Did you catch my Interview with Susan?

For more information about domestic violence:
#MeToo
www.thehotline.org
1-800-799-SAFE
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MY BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!   May: Boo Walker, June: Anne D. LeClaire and July — Catherine Ryan Hyde.  August:  My interview with Susan Wiggs and September: Alan Foster (Sci-fi)
 
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Interview with Author, Susan Wiggs (part 2)

Q. What first inspired you to write?

SW. It wasn’t an inspiration but a suspiration. Seriously, I thought everyone thought in stories and to me, it was as natural as breathing. I know this is true because I had a very patient mom who would write down my stories as I dictated them to her, because I was too young to read or write.

Q. What comes first to you? The Characters or the Situation?

SW. This varies from book to book. For The Oysterville Sewing Circle, the characters and situation are so entwined that they appeared concurrently on the page. Caroline, an aspiring designer, is not inherently interesting until we see her confronted with a situation of epic proportions—a shocking tragedy and the need to protect two small children. That sets the story in motion. I’m a sucker for stories about an ordinary person thrust into extraordinary circumstances he or she never expected.

Q. Do you ‘get lost’ in your writing?

Susan’s first novel

SW. I love when that happens! When the world of the story and the characters feel as real as life itself. The downside is, there are situations and characters that break my heart, as in The Oysterville Sewing Circle. I have to confess; I experienced a lot of anger when I was researching and writing this book. I hope I did justice to the women who shared their stories with me.

Q. Are you working on something now? If so tell us about it.

SW. I’m desperately trying to finish The Lost and Found Bookshop (Summer 2020), set in a vintage bookshop in historic San Francisco. The main character finds hidden artifacts in the old building that turn out to be clues to her family’s past.

Q. When did you begin to write seriously?

SW. I wrote my first novel while studying for my master’s degree at Harvard. I wrote it on a typewriter and it was probably awful but the experience was completely exhilarating, and I never looked back.

Q. How long after that were you published?

SW. A few years. I sold my first book in 1986 and it was published in 1987. My very first editor was Wendy McCurdy and we’re still friends to this day.

Q. Do you think we will see, in our lifetime, the total demise of paper books?

SW. No.

Q. How have your life experiences influenced your writing?

SW. It’s like holding up a distorted mirror. A character might reflect an old memory of mine (Caroline’s first love in The Oysterville Sewing Circle or the first time I learned to surf…) More importantly, my world view and heart are reflected in my writing. I believe in the fundamental kindness of humanity, the power of following your passion, and the absolute necessity of opening our hearts to one another.

Q. What’s your down time look like?

SW. Reading. And more writing. I also enjoy hiking, biking, and skiing. Spending time with my mom and granddaughter. They’re both named Clara, and my daughter Elizabeth.

Q. Have you or do you want to write in another genre`?

SW. Sure! I want to learn the craft of screenwriting, for sure. I keep wanting to write a mystery or thriller, but I’m too squeamish.

Note to Self: (a life lesson you’ve learned.)

SW. Probably one of the biggest life lessons came from The Oysterville Sewing Circle! Believe women. Believe your gut. If something doesn’t “feel” right, it’s not right. And if something’s not right, speak up. For some women, this takes enormous courage—but the rewards are boundless.

Did you miss Part I? Click here 

 My Review of The Oysterville Sewing Circle

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MY BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!   May: Boo Walker, June: Anne D. LeClaire and July — Catherine Ryan Hyde.  August:  My interview with Susan Wiggs and September: Alan Foster (sci-fi)
 
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