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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

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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Dust Off that Play and do Some Rewrites…

Don’t be shy about looking at something you wrote a few years ago and rewriting and revising it. Most reputable publishing platforms will allow you to change the interior files and upload a revised, improved edition. I reviewed this children’s play of mine and in doing so found some editing and new writing. 

It’s October, Halloween is right around the corner. So I hauled out a play script that I wrote in 2013. Wow!  Did it need work. So I edited, did some extensive rewrites, gave it a new, more contemporary cover and then re-published. 

Synopsis: A young family rents a deserted lighthouse so that their critically ill daughter can enjoy the sea breezes and beautiful countryside. Little do they know that, for centuries, the lighthouse has been the home and is in the ‘possession’ of four outrageous spirits.  
 
Ben, an eight year old boy, has no trouble whatsoever making friends with two of the spirits, Baubles and Chaos.  The story climaxes as Claire, ill with cancer, slowly fades toward death. Baubles and Chaos have no intention of letting that happen! 

Available now!

 
While this play has it’s serious moments, for the most part, it is a comedy and makes for great fun as the spirits romp around the stage. The adults can neither see nor hear Chaos and Baubles as they converse and play with the children and terrorize a ‘Man of the Cloth’! All in innocent fun, of course!  4f. 4m. 2 children

If you’re an aspiring playwright you might want to take a look at >>>>>>>>>>>>>

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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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Available now!

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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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~~Allie and Bea

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 5 out of five quills      A Review

Allie and Bea by Catherine Ryan Hyde is breathtakingly beautiful. Once again the author takes two unlikely characters and puts them together in such a way that the reader doesn’t question how or why it happened. It becomes believable and a delightful read. 

I could especially relate to Bea. Senior citizens are mostly only a social security check away from destitution. One little thing can tip the scales. And since I avoid writing spoilers, at all costs, that’s all I’m going to say. 

The story is crafted by this author, word by word. It had everything for this reviewer. Struggle, pathos, heartbreak, friendship, love, and a surprise ending.
My favorite book in the world is Hyde’s Have You Seen Luis Velez? but Allie and Bea runs a very close second. I loved this story!
A must read!

Did you see my Interview with CRH?
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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  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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Interview with author, Catherine Ryan Hyde (part 2)

Q. What first inspired you to write?

Astrophotography by CRH

CRH. I can’t define myself as a writer without mentioning Lenny Horowitz, my high school English teacher. I never called him Mr. Horowitz. He let us call him Lenny. Lenny sent my world in a completely different direction (and if you’d seen the direction I was going at the time, you’d understand that he was a lifesaver): he taught me to love reading again, and he told me I could write.

When I was little, nobody had to teach me to love reading. Books were water; I was a duck. I pitched into Dr. Seuss, Winnie the Pooh, the Black Stallion series. I was unstoppable. Then came school, in which my irresistible force met an immovable object. I hated the books I was given to read. They didn’t speak to me. They were almost as bad as–I hate to even utter the word–homework.

I began to avoid reading if possible. I honed the talent of writing book reports on books I hadn’t read. To this day, I have a chip on my shoulder about the classics. I’ve tried twice to read Moby Dick. I give up. I’m not ashamed, either. I like modern, fast-moving fiction. I’ve taken my last run at the great white whale. Ever. It’s over.

Back to Lenny. He gave us different books. Books written in the same century he assigned them. Books with down-and-out characters, people outside the mainstream. I understood these people. I was outside the mainstream. I was overweight and had braces on my teeth. My peer group thought I was from outer space. I liked reading about characters on the margins. We had something in common.

Miracle of miracles, I woke up. One day Lenny gave out a creative writing assignment: an essay, on any subject. I still remember how he walked up to the blackboard and wrote, in big block letters: I AIN’T TAKING IT AFTER FRIDAY. Not exactly your run-of-the-mill English teacher, right? I was so impressed by his willingness to meet us where we lived that I decided to impress him back. I wrote an essay intended to be funny. Always risky. It was a takeoff on the “my dog ate my homework” excuse note, a long, rambling, slapstick story explaining why I was not able to hand in my essay on time.

Sight unseen, Lenny read it out loud in front of the class. They laughed. Everybody, including Lenny. They laughed a lot. For a long time. It was my first whiff of the rare smell of success. Lenny told the class my essay was clever. Later I found out he was still talking about it in the staff lounge that day. He told all my other teachers I could write.

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

CRH. It’s a tie. What comes is a character in a situation. For example, Jody in WORTHY, watching as someone puts a dog out of a car and drives away. Or Pete in SAY GOODBYE FOR NOW, finding the injured wolf hybrid beside the highway. Or Roseanna in HEAVEN ADJACENT, getting into her car and driving away from the city to some remote location and never going home. Or Ruth in ASK HIM WHY, arriving home from school to find that her brother has returned prematurely from the Iraq war in less-than-honorable circumstances. It’s not enough (for me) to find a character. I have to know what is making their life so interesting/challenging in that moment.

Q. Do you ‘get lost’ in your writing?

CRH.   Not really. I’ve been doing this for quite a while. I’m on my 39th book, and that doesn’t count anything that ended up in a drawer. If I get lost, I might get lost. End up nowhere, or somewhere I did not intend to be. Now I’m more like a person following a roadmap. Not calculated, exactly. But fairly organized.

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

CRH. Always. I’m on a two-book-a-year contract. There is never a time when I am not working on something new. And here’s what people don’t tend to see, unless I tell them. You see the book that just came out, and then you want to know if I’ve started another. I’ve started three others. And finished two of them. The one I wrote after Have You Seen LUIS VELEZ, I just finished reviewing the copyedited manuscript. The one after that, I’ve finished with the developmental editing, and we’re going over cover design. The one I have in progress is almost done. But I don’t want to talk about that one, because I haven’t even finished writing it yet. So I’ll tell you a tiny bit about the other two.

STAY is a novel set in the Vietnam War era (but here at home, not in Vietnam). Its hero is a teen boy whose brother is overseas, and who is trying to hold his family and friends together at home. Of course the plot is more complex, but this is just a quick glimpse. Its theme is more or less suicide-related, but there is no suicide in it. It’s about the opposite of suicide. It’s about staying.

PAs to the author, Ella & Jordan

BRAVE GIRL, QUIET GIRL is about a woman who briefly loses her infant daughter in a carjacking, and her eventual relationship with the homeless girl who finds her.

Did you miss Part I?

Conclusion to this wonderful interview is August 2nd.
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MY BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!   May: Boo Walker, June: Anne D. LeClaire and July — Catherine Ryan Hyde.  Coming Soon!  My interview with Susan Wiggs
 
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Book Review…’Before and Again’ by Barbara Delinsky

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5 out of 5 quills           

A  Review

 

Are second chances very common? Can divorced people reconnect and put all the bitterness and heartbreak behind them? Mackenzie Cooper ran far, far away from unimaginable heartbreak and pain. She rebuilt her life and was relatively happy, until her ex-husband showed up. Not in town just for a visit but  purchased an Inn and a house.

Once again, Barbara Delinsky has crafted a beautiful story about real people and real places. The reader is immediately drawn in and becomes a resident of Devon, Vermont, until the last page. What a delightful trip.

This reviewer has been reading Barbara Delinsky for well over 20 years. She never disappoints. Rich, well drawn characters that the reader readily relates to and cares about. 

I highly recommend Before and Again to my followers. 

Did you miss my Interview with Barbara Delinsky?
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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: Susan Wiggs and September: Alan Dean Foster 
 
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