Author Archive

Book Review ~~ Haiku Journal

Book Review             D. Donovan, Midwest Book Review 

Haiku Journal acts as both an inspirational collection of diverse haiku by master writers such as Matsuo Basho and Masaoka Shiki and an encouragement for readers to fill in their own blank books with haiku creativity. It pairs lovely black and white drawings with examples of the diversity that can be incorporated into the traditional haiku form.

Where creative writing books might focus on the three-line stanza approach of its poetic structure, Trisha Sugarek provides a deeper interpretation of what makes a haiku piece stand out: “A haiku is a way of looking at the physical world and seeing something deeper, like the very nature of existence. It should leave the reader with a strong feeling or impression. Traditionally the natural world is mentioned.” She also includes works by master poets which didn’t always strictly adhere to the 5/7/5 haiku foundation because “They were too beautiful to ignore and not be included.”

This note advises readers that there is an attention to excellence, here, that goes beyond strict regimentation. Any poem that is uplifting, beautiful, and an example of unique expression is included, such as this: “Well, what must we think of it?/From the sky we came./Now we may go back again./That’s at least one point of view.” –Hôjô Ujimasa

These works appear alongside lined blank pages that encourage readers to become writers through example. The poems are juxtaposed with tips on how Sugarek chooses to write, including creative writing and history information that supports various approaches (i.e. producing a complete poem in three sets of three lines, known as Renku).

Sugarek’s own poetry is juxtaposed with verse and free verse from others, adding just the right blend of encouragement and a flavor of diversity to a haiku journal that serves as both an encouragement and an example.

Wannabe haiku writers looking for inspiration could not find a better wellspring of support than in Haiku Journal. Its format and presentation lend to not just inspiration, but creative effort.
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My weekly BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!    October: George Scott, November: Ella Quinn, December: Lauren Willig, February: Mike Lupica 
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Interview with author, George WB Scott (part 2)

Q. What first inspired you to write?

GS. I’ve always written, since elementary school. I won a contest in junior high school, and have always gotten good feedback from school writing. In ninth grade I showed a girl a story I wrote for another class, and she told me I wrote well. That made a big impression.

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

GS. For “I Jonathan” I have always had the idea of a man out of place, seeing a culture with “new eyes.” I built a story around the historical events, and developed people, some based on historical figures, who would act the parts. One example of a history-based character is the captain of the blockade runner. He’s based on a real person.

Q. Do you ‘get lost’ in your writing?

GS. Oh, yes. When I can work without interruption, I’m totally in the scene. My wife makes me eat.

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

GS. Yes, I’m working on a story about the Christianization of the Slavic people in Bohemia. History is pretty sketchy in that period, so the research is more based on culture, legends and traditions. It’s another clash of civilizations.

Q. When did you begin to write seriously?

GS. I had no direction when I went to college, and dropped out after one semester. Then I worked jobs in kitchens and landscaping for six years. One day I found myself literally digging a ditch, and realized I needed to focus. I went back to college and got a degree, and concentrated on my work, first in television news.
One job I had later involved driving a lot in the country where I listened to a station that played Country music from back in the 1950s and 1960s. This was the inspiration for a screenplay, “Big Sky Country,” written in 2001, and since then I’ve accepted that writing is something I need to do.
When my wife and I visited Charleston in 2000, I was inspired to try to build a story around what I learned about the war, and to go deeper into the “why” of the people who lived there then. I also wrote a childhood memoir in 2004, “Growing Up in Eden.”

George in the Low Country

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

GS. I think paper books will always be around. There is something tactile that is part of my reading experience. People growing up with portable electronic screens may be more comfortable with them, but I believe the printed page will always endure.

Q. What makes a writer great?

GS. I don’t know. Many of my favorite writers are not considered “great” by some, and I have no doubt that there are many, many great writers who never get published, and so will ever remain unknown.

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

GS. It’s a thing you can hold. I can pick up a volume of my work and feel the weight of it, the sum of many hundreds of hours of work. But what it really means to me is a vehicle to convey ideas in a substantial form, one that takes hours to explore, and hopefully leaves the reader interested in the subjects it touches.

Q. How has your life experiences influenced your writing?

GS. I could write nothing without my life experiences. Some people will like my work, and others who lived very different lives may not. A book can be a bridge of one’s experience to another.

Q. What’s your down time look like?

GS. We garden when we can. We ride bikes. I like to travel, to experience new places and learn their histories. And I like movies, though in 2020 I experience them at home instead of at a theater. Hopefully that will change soon.

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

GS. My screenplay was Science Fiction, and I liked that. I’ve got a mystery in mind for another year, and also a series for younger readers.

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

GS. Be kinder, and forgive yourself.
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My weekly BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!    October: George Scott, November: Ella Quinn, December: Lauren Willig, February: Mike Lupica 
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Interview with author, George WB Scott

TS. George WB Scott is an East Tennessee video producer and videographer with a life-long interest in the causes and events of the Civil War. His years of research on this topic are the basis of a story of Jonathan’s personal journey through one of the most interesting and important regions of the South. Scott was born in Stuart, Florida, and is a cum laude graduate of Appalachian State University. He lives with his wife Mary Leidig in Knoxville, Tennessee.

Q. Where do you write? Do you have a special room, shed, barn, special space for your writing? 

GS. I work in an office with many windows that looks out on our backyard. My wife shares the office with a desk next to mine. I write on an Apple Macbook Pro, which I use as a desktop computer. I have two large monitors and a wireless keyboard, which I also use for video editing as part of my business. Sometimes I take the laptop and keyboard to other locations when I need more privacy.

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.)

GS. In the morning I drink at least three cups of coffee, and caffeinated like that I can burn up several pages in the morning. Sometimes when I am into a chapter or scene I write late into the night.
I keep a small notepad by my hand.

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

GS. I’ve always thought of myself as a writer, but until my book was edited I didn’t realize what I didn’t know. For years I have kept a small notebook of random thoughts and musings which I have dipped into for my last novel, and I expect I will for the next one.

Review:  ”I know lots of people who call themselves writers who aren’t as good…Civil War Charleston, was a complex place of fiery secessionists and perplexed immigrants, African Americans both enslaved and free, sailors, soldiers, musicians and drunks, old veterans and young secessionists knew nothing of war but would learn about its horrors all too soon.” –Jack Neely, Executive Director of Knoxville History Project, journalist and author.

Q. What tools do you begin with? Legal pad, spiral notebook, pencils, fountain pen, or do you go right to your keyboard?

GS. I find I do much of my best thinking when I am doing some physical labor, such as yardwork or hiking. For my last novel I wrestled with how to craft a story into the historical timeline of the Civil War, and stressed over that for a long time. Finally I just sat at my computer and wrote one random scene, the chapter about the delivery of the CSS Hunley submarine. After that, I determined how the character came to that spot, and what happened afterwards.

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

GS. I like to get a start after a cup of coffee in the morning, and write until I either have to get up and move around a bit, or when I reach the end of an event in the book. Afternoons are not usually as productive.

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

GS. It’s like I have always heard from every writer I ever asked: write! Just write something, even if it’s a letter to an old friend, or a review of a movie. It’s easier to direct your writing to a bigger project once you have some “writing momentum.”

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

GS. Most characters are derived from people I know. Some I will sketch in as “placeholders,” until I can build a backstory that justifies the actions each is used for. In “I Jonathan,” for instance, I researched how Isabella could come to be where she was and in the condition she was in. The same goes for the policeman Kerry. William was a pretty stock character for Civil War books, but I have known people like him, and I enlarged him to be grander than reality, which was right for him.
Zeke is an adaptation from a man in an old Charles Kuralt “On the Road” episode.

Q. What first inspired you to write?

Part 2 of this wonderful interview will post Oct. 17th.  Please join us. 
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My weekly BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!    October: George Scott, November: Ella Quinn, December: Lauren Willig, February: Mike Lupica 
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Book Review ~~ Return to Virgin River

reviews, authors, writingreviews, authors, writingreviews, authors, writing         3 out of 5 quills  ~~  Book  Review

Most fans of the Virgin River series are going to love this latest offering. It’s a good story of loss, grief, and recovery. But!  Remember, I mostly review ‘the writing’.

This story seemed lopsided. The female protagonist, Kaylee, must have described the loss of her mother six ways to Sunday. Almost everyone she met she told her story to, and the reader had to hear it again. Then every couple of chapters the author found a way for Kaylee to reiterate her loss to the readers; albeit, it was clever and smooth, it was still wash and repeat. Kaylee didn’t come across to this reviewer as strong. She seemed weak and lukewarm about everything. The Christmas tree was beyond beautiful in the town square. ‘Yes, but it would have been better if my mother was here’. (Kaylee) The puppies were fat, soft and cuddly. ‘If only my mother could have seen them. (Kaylee)…  You get the idea. 

I think it would have been a better story if (spoiler alert!) Kaylee’s Dad had shown up earlier, if the love interest had had a conflict or two (he was too perfect and his one conflict was slightly unbelievable.) and it would have been a terrific story if Mallory had entered much, much sooner. 

Robyn Carr always delivers with good writing. (I adore the series, Sullivan’s Crossing). She draws good characters.  I think my only problem with this book was the PLOT. I got fatigued with the grief.  I know grief. Believe me, time does not cure all things. But…Robyn, we get it…move on.  I didn’t love this book, nor did I hate it. It left me lukewarm. 
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My weekly BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!    October: George Scott, November: Ella Quinn, December: Lauren Willig, February: Mike Lupica 
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Book Review ~~ The Last Mrs. Summers

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

This series,  A Royal Spyness Mystery has entertained fans for years and I never missed a’one.  Lady Georgiana began with not two pennies to rub together in the first book. Every job she got she either hated or the royal family got wind of it and forced her to leave (being the King’s cousin and thirteenth in the line of succession).  In The Last Mrs. Summers, she surprisingly finds herself  a sudden heir to a comfortable fortune, newly married, and rattling around alone in an inherited mansion, without her husband. When one of her best friends, Belinda, invites Georgie on a jaunt into Cornwall, she eagerly agrees. Anything to break the monotony of being left alone with just the servants;  her husband gone off on one of his mysterious assignments for the English government. 

The thing I really enjoy best about this series is the deftness in which Rhys Bowen drops the reader into Georgie’s life. We were last glam-camping with Georgie and Darcy (her husband) in Kenya listening to the lions roar twenty feet from the tent.  Now, we are clumping up and down the streets in London, with Georgie,  trying to find a friend who’s at home and wants to help Georgie break her boredom.  I am immediately picked up out of my boredom (Covid-19) sitting at home and racing into Cornwall in Belinda’s sportscar. She’s a terrible driver, by the way. 

Rhys Bowen has a deft way of showing the reader (rather than telling) who is in Georgie’s world, love life, relationship to the crown, and other murders she’s helped solve.  ‘Showing rather than telling’ is a very familiar term to us writers and it takes real talent to keep the ‘telling’ to a minimum. 

This is a wonderful series and it will be well worth it for new readers to begin with book one. However The Last Mrs. Summers stands alone and is a wonderful read.

Did you miss my Interview with Rhys Bowen
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My weekly BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!    October: George Scott, December: Lauren Willig, February: Mike Lupica 
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Book Review ~~ Breakfast at the Honey Creek Cafe

reviews, authors, writingreviews, authors, writingreviews, authors, writingreviews, authors, writing         5 out of 5 quills  ~~  Book  Reviewreviews, authors, writing

 

Jodi Thomas has delivered again!  BREAKFAST AT THE HONEY CREEK CAFE is a new series, beginning with this title.  Jodi’s writing style is consistent and reliable. That means (to her fans and new readers) that she will always deliver flawless writing and  well drawn and thoughtful characters. 

Piper Jane Mackenzie, a small town mayor and a ‘travel’in’ preacher, Sam Cassidy meet while an undercover detective Colby McBride circle the wagons to her heart; sounds like a clique, right? Nope. It turns out to be a charming story written in Jodi’s unique voice, with characters that are provocative and intriguing.  You are pulled in before you turn the first page.

I am a fan and I highly recommend this book. 

Did you miss my Interview with Jodi Thomas?
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My weekly BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!    October: George Scott, December: Lauren Willig, February: Mike Lupica 
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Book Review ~~ Fool’s Paradise

5  out  of  5 quills  ~~  Book  Reviewreviews, authors, writingreviews, authors, writingreviews, authors, writingreviews, authors, writingreviews, authors, writing

Delicious! My favorite to date in the Jesse Stone series.  The story intertwines all of the characters in Chief Jesse Stone’s orbit and most of the characters in PI Spenser’s world in Boston. Suitcase, Molly, Jesse, Sunny, Spenser, Spike, and Vinnie Morris.  PI Sunny Randall (another series Robert B. Parker created) and Jesse have danced around each other for years but never have their stars aligned until now. This is a fascinating love/attraction sub-plot wrapped up neatly in a multi-murder plot.

Jesse Stone is back ‘on the wagon’ while he tracks down what appears to be a random homicide. AA’s motto, ‘One Day at a Time’ is particularly poignant for Jesse as he readily admits that he wants a drink every day and it’s only by sheer will power that he stays sober and makes meetings. In the Alcoholics Anonymous world we call Jesse a ‘dry drunk’. Sober but not working the steps. A recipe for failure. 

Mike Lupica, one of the most prominent sports writers in America (huh?) writes  flawlessly with Robert B. Parker’s voice. To have his stories continue posthumously is a gift. These authors, Mike Lupica, Ace Atkins, Reed Farrel Coleman, et al, have written more stories impeccably in his voice. 

I’m thrilled to announce that I will be interviewing Mr. Lupica in February!

To Purchase
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My weekly BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!    October: George Scott, December: Lauren Willig, February: Mike Lupica 
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How To Format Your (self-published) Novel

The readability of a book depends entirely on how your manuscript is formatted. Something with poor readability probably won’t sell. So if you want to go toe-to-toe with traditionally published titles, your product needs to look its best, inside and out. While cover design is critical for the reader’s first impression, interior design can’t be overlooked.

Here are 11 tips on how your self-published novel should look (in paperback).  I have recently come across a few new authors who have published new fiction and their book ended up looking very amateurish and hard to read. 

Tip #1. Beginning Pages. The important pages such as title page, dedication, and tags extracted from reviews of the book, should be assigned an ‘odd‘ numbered page. The less important content, such as Copyright Notice, a list of the author’s other books and Acknowledgements should appear on’ even‘ numbered pages.  Not to worry if you have a ‘blank’ page on the left (even numbered) opposite the title page, for example. Once your book is built, it will look normal.

Sample. Title Page: (text centered and nicely spaced on page). 

                                            Angel of Murder  (minimum of 20 pt. font)

                                               (4-5 spaces between)

 

                                               by   (10 pt. font)

                                       Trisha Sugarek      (12 pt. font)

 

        Book #4 in the World of Murder series (12 pt. font)

Tip #2. Many new authors (as I spoke of above) have neglected to have a ‘Copyright Notice’ page. This is what it looks like. It is very important as it puts all plagiarists on notice that this content is owned by you, the author.  Note: If you quote anyone in your book you should give them a line of credit.
Sample:  (Text should be centered on the page). 
                                                                                 
                                         Notice (double space)
Copyright (c) 2020 Trisha Sugarek. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without the written permission of the Author. Printed in the United States of America. For information contact author at www.writeratplay.com. The Library of Congress has catalogued the soft cover edition of this book as follows: Sugarek, Trisha, The Writer’s Journal/Trisha Sugarek – This is a journal/handbook. The suggestions and tips are solely the opinion of the author. The quotes were taken from various publications and the author takes no responsibility for the accuracy.

                                    Made in the USA ISBN-13: 9798669379384

                                    Poetry and ink drawings by Trisha Sugarek

                                   Cover and Layout Design by David White

                  To view all of the author’s fiction and play scripts go to:
                                   www.writeratplay.com

Tip #3.  A quick way to see what I am describing is to pick up any novel by a known, published author and see the layout of the first few pages. For the most part Publishers use the same order and layout. ‘Acknowledgements’ (odd numbered page) can be placed in the front pages or at the end, in the back.  This is a list of people or organizations that have assisted you.

Sample: (centered text)

                                                     Acknowledgments

My friend and beta reader, Doug Johnson, whose insights, feedback and encouragement made this a better story.
My wonderful narrator/producer, Daniel Dorse, who helps me take these stories to Audio Books.
The Chatham County Coroner’s office.
And the many police and crime scene experts who share their time and knowledge so generously with me while writing this series.

Tip #4. Each chapter should be on an odd numbered page. The word ‘Chapter‘ can be used, however I’ve noticed that more and more authors are just using the number of the chapter or spelling out the number (One, Two, Three, etc). Placement is arbitrary;  I like to space down 5-7 spaces.  I use a 16-18 size font, and it should be centered. I often times use a different font style for chapter headings. Text should follow after a double space, when beginning new paragraphs.  Paragraphs shouldn’t be too long. 8,10, maximum of 12 lines is when you should begin a new paragraph. I’ve seen authors go up to as many as 22. Of course, content and a natural break also dictates a new paragraph.

Tip #5: Your contact information should never appear on the interior except if you are submitting it to a agent, publisher, etc. (That’s a whole different subject; submitting your ms.)  You can list your website address and/or your email address.

Tip #6:  Pages should be numbered and numbering should begin with the first chapter page. Pages preceding this should not be numbered. Page numbers can be created automatically by using your header or footer feature. Your name, as author, should be on each even numbered page and the title of the book should be on odd numbered pages, in the header. 

Tip #7: Separation between sentences: Single space. (I learned to type when two-spaces after each period was the rule.) One space is now the rule. 

Tip #8: Indentation of paragraphs: You can set this up using:  Home, the ‘Paragraph’ tab; the arrow to the right:   will open the menu. Alignment: Justified. Do not choose ‘left’ or ‘right’ but rather, Choose ‘Special’. Set it at ‘First line‘ 0.3 or 0.5.  Click on ‘Set As Default’ and then ‘This Document only?’  Yes.
 

Tip #9: Word count:  A full length novel is 80,000 and up.  A novella or cozy is approximately 37 to 40,000. 

Tip #10: If your page arrangement causes you to have a blank odd numbered page that seems awkward:  Put another title page on it.  I just finished reading a Robert B. Parker mystery where they use 3 title pages before I got to the first chapter. 

Tip #11:  Use black, 12-point, Times New Roman as the font. Single space the entire chapter. There are no double spacing between paragraphs.

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My weekly BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!  October: George Scott, December: Lauren Willig, February: Mike  Lupica
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My Momma always said Life is like a box of chocolates…

We all remember this famous quote from Forest Gump……my box of chocolates is words…NEW words which I have never heard before.  Words that roll around on my tongue like a chocolate cherry cream out of my box of sweets.  For example here are some words I recently discovered …..

                            Tantalus: a Phrygian king who, for his crimes, was forced to stand hungry and thirsty surrounded by sweet water and fruit laden branches. I’ve seen it used loosely as an adjective: being tantalized without fulfillment.

Muniment:  a document, a title deed or charter

Muniment room: a storage or display room in a castle, church or university where pertinent historical documents or records are kept.

Entresol: a lower floor between two higher floors, between floors, mezzanine.

Cuckoo:  a common enough European bird but noted for its habit of laying its eggs in another bird’s nest which then hatched and raised the young cuckoos. The mother cuckoo never returns.  Which leads to the off-shoot of this word and description:  Usually referring to the husband of an unfaithful wife.  To make a cuckold of (a husband) and it could follow that the unfaithful wife is impregnated by the lover and (like the birds) the cuckolded husband and wife raise the child of another man.  Hence the use of the word.

When you write, never dumb it down for your readers. Remember you are writing prose. It’s okay to challenge your readers….it’s even preferred. 

As a writer, I hope that You love the flavor of words as much as I do….

(Recycled from the 2012 blog post.)
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My weekly BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!    October: George Scott, December: Lauren Willig, February: Mike Lupica 

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Pay It Forward ~~ A Review

reviews, authors, writingreviews, authors, writingreviews, authors, writingreviews, authors, writingreviews, authors, writing

 5 out of 5 quills   A Book Review

The book is better than the movie….as it should be. I watched the movie (an iconic film) years (decades?) ago and took the lesson in the story very much to heart. I have tried to pay it forward when and where I can. Time pasted and then I discovered the book’s author, Catherine Ryan Hyde, when I read her book, Have You Seen Luis Velez? Only then did I learn that she was also the author of Pay It Forward.  Full circle. I love when that happens.  Not long ago I had the pleasure and honor of Interviewing Ms. Hyde. 

A synopsis (which is not my style of reviewing) is unnecessary as everyone knows the premise of the story. Even fifteen years ago, Hyde was a brilliant writer. But, now reading her more current offerings I can say she improves like a fine wine.  Which is all any writer wants for themselves; that they grow and improve. 

If you haven’t read the book, you must!  If you won’t read the book, you must watch this wonderful movie.  We all need lifting up during this terrible time in our country. The movie or the book will lift you up.

I am slowing reading through the entire collection of work by Catherine Ryan Hyde.  Have You Seen Luis Velez? still remains my favorite to date. And that’s saying something!!
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My weekly BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!   June: Mike Maden writing for TOM CLANCY. July: Guest Blogger Desiree Villena, August: Carolyn Brown
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