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A Literary Commentary and a Book Review

Historical romances are fun reading and in the good ones, the reader learns a little history along the way. Second only to ‘sci-fi’, this genre is the most popular with the reading public. It is part of the ‘bodice ripper’ tradition that sex scenes range from vague titillation to  down-right pornographic in their descriptions.  In the well written ones, it’s a fine line between eroticism and blatant porn. Sometimes the most provocative is what is not said.  As in the case of my two favorite authors in this genre, Grace Burrowes (early books) and Annie Grace, who are masters at this. They suggest, they titillate, they let you use your imagination.  It is so much more satisfying than crude, blatant sex described in lurid detail which is porn written on paper and not to my taste.  In the case of sex scenes, less is more. 

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 5 out of 5 quills           ~~  Book Review

Madeline Hunter deftly walks this line successfully in her earlier books. She seems to know when to stop and let her readers participate with their imagination.  Lady of Sin was such a great story with many layers. Lady M. was a strong, independent woman. Nathaniel, our sexy hero was strong, confrontational and opinionated, but was a softie in love with Lady Charlotte.  The plot had lots of twists and turns and led our reader around by the nose until the very last page.

The main thread of plot is about divorce. Women of that era, 1800’s, were pursuing ‘divorce’ laws more favorable to and including women who were victims of domestic abuse. They were not allowed a position in the House of Lords or House of Commons (our Congress) so they had to petition through the influence of their fathers, husbands, or brothers.
Then add in a wonderful sub-plot about a ‘lost boy’ of aristocratic birth, if it can be proven. No spoiler alerts here. All I am saying is the plot is sophisticated and rich in layers.  Excellent writing that never needs the crutch of flagrant sex scenes to prop it up. 
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My weekly BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!    October: George Scott, November: Ella Quinn, December: Lauren Willig, January: Madeline Hunter, February: Mike Lupica 
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Book Review ~~ A Woman of True Honor

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

Delicious! For fans of this genre, that is historic romances, A Woman of True Honor is a must read. Book #8 in this series, Emily Pepper is a merchant’s daughter and an heiress. She has narrowly escaped several fortune hunters trying to woo not her, but her money. And try as her family might, she has not entirely escaped ‘the stench of the shop’. 

Enter Valerian Dorning (of the True Gentlemen series) penniless, but charming and industrious, a true gentleman. He doesn’t have many prospects as a younger son of an earl because titled families are not allowed in be involved in ‘commerce’.  His book is probably not going to be a commercial success, much less read by many. 

How can an heiress and a younger son with pockets to let find their way to happily ever after.  And this is exactly where ‘delicious’ comes in. I LOVE Grace Burrowes’ style of writing and her effortless storytelling. This one is not to be missed. 

Did you miss my interview with this author?
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Book Review ~~ One for the Blackbird, One for the Crow

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5 out of 5 quills           ~~  A Book Review 

Look up ‘beautiful prose’ in the dictionary and you’ll find a picture of this book cover.  Every word is a musical note in the English language.  The book is a lyrical and yet powerful saga about homesteading on the high prairies of Wyoming in the 1800’s. But don’t let my praise about the ‘prose’ make you hesitate. This is a page-turning story with rich characters that you will come to love. 

Tragedy brings two families together for simple survival. A pasture, and an ocean of pain, divides the two homesteads. Two women battle it out so that their children might endure. 

As a reviewer, I love it when I can read for the pure pleasure of reading a good book. This book delivered in spades. The plot kept me engaged from page to page. The characters were well drawn. 

I highly recommend this book to my readers. 
And I look forward to my interview with this author in March. If you sign up for my blog, you will be reminded of the interview when it posts. 

Check out my Interview with Olivia.

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MY BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!    December: Dervla McTiernan – January: David Poyer, March: Olivia Hawker, April: Dan Sofer 
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Celebrating Black History Month!

Billie Holiday, black history month, African-American, people of colorBillie Holiday, jazz singer,one woman cast,segregation      A Tribute to Billie Holiday, in celebration of Black History Month.  It’s always a joy to hear Billie’s music again.

Scent of Magnolia” by Trisha Sugarek.……’tells the story of a young woman who rose above poverty, rape, bigotry, prostitution and imprisonment to become one of the most memorable and celebrated artists of the twentieth century. The one woman show portrays the life of a black jazz singer in America during the 30’s. The script does not dwell on the sensationalism of her addiction to alcohol and drugs but chooses, rather, to celebrate the whole woman and her music.

Billie tells not only her story, but our nation’s story. She interjects her tale with her most famous music as well as some of her more obscure songs. In her own words, she talks about her struggle to succeed in spite of the segregation of that time and the billie Holiday, black singers, musicians, jazz,difficulties she experienced singing with the great bands, most of which were white musicians. Without self-pity , she talks about the

(Note: Original song written by Gary Swindell, for this stage play.) daily slings and arrows that are a part of bigotry. Billie takes complete responsibility for her life, her choices, and her actions. Her triumph was her music and her songs that will live on forever.’                                          

Billie Holiday, jazz, stage play, one act play,

Latrelle Bright as Billie – 2004

black history month, billie Holiday, people of color,…….Ben Rafuse as the ‘piano man’

 

We have much to celebrate this year with people of color serving our country in the   military abroad, serving the community and nation in the political arena.  The many musicians who gave ‘birth to the blues’.

The giants and philosophers, playwrights and politicians…..authors, writers, Walter Mosley

It’s taken us over eighty years to evolve to this point, t williamssince Billie Holiday struggled as a black woman to survive in this country. …….we still have a way to go but we, as a nation, have much to be proud of. Did you miss the post about Savannah’s black orphan kids

James Baldwin, writers, authors

(Hank Aaron,  Kamala Harris, Corey Booker,

Tennessee Williams, Walter Mosley,Martin Luther King, Jr., Spike Lee,   James Baldwin, ) and thousands of others who fill our world and our history. 

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~black musicians, jazz, Billie Holiday, music

 

Start your month off right!! DON’T MISS UPCOMING BLOGS. “The Writer’s Corner” INTERVIEWS with other best-selling AUTHORS! March: Olivia Hawker, April: Dan Sofer 

 

So come along with me; we shall sneak into these writers’ special places, be a fly on the wall and watch them create!
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Celebrating Our Veterans on Their Day, 2019!

          Members of the military impacted my life in many ways. My life  was certainly changed by members of my family serving in the armed forces.  So what better time than on this Memorial Day to honor them….those who keep us SAFE and FREE!  And to honor those who gave the ultimate sacrifice for us and their country.

                                                    ****

Gerald Guyer (cousin)   US Marines**WWI – gave his life in Normandy, France ** Son of Gladys; nephew of Violet, about whom I have written many stories.

W. Jay Woods

William Jay Woods (father)  US Navy ** WWII –   South Pacific – PTSD.  He met my mother in San Francisco, where she owned a bar and grill.  He returned from war  an alcoholic, experienced rages and had a parrot named Butch.

John Cable, ‘Dad’

Johnny Cable (step-father)  US Army/Infantry ** WWII Southern Pacific. Lost an eye, suffered from jungle rot and PTSD.  At five years of age I remember not being able to run in and jump on the bed in the mornings to wake up Daddy.  He would wake up ready to fight the ‘Japs’ and in those first few seconds he was back in the jungle.   He was a wonderful father but the horrors of the South Pacific battles were never far from the surface.
He later served on a ship in the Korean War as a meat cutter.  He was instrumental in serving the troops a HOT Thanksgiving dinner on the beach that year.

family histories, family secrets, story telling, writers

my mother, Violet

Violet Guyer (mother) US Armed Forces ** Wife, sister, and mother of members in the military.
My mother, who I write about, was auntie to Gerald.  She married Jay (active Navy) and Johnny (active Army) and was a military wife for two decades. She was mother to Jack (US Air Force) and Doris, (US Marines).

Brother Jack

Jack Borden (brother)  US Air Force ** Loaded B52 bombers – hot spots around the world – 20+ years of service.  My brother would come home from far away places like Germany, Iceland, Africa, Panama and because he  didn’t have a hometown girl, he would take me, his teenage sister, ballroom dancing.

Jack Henderson.  (first husband) US Air Force * While in the military, he was on a ship in the Pacific and

Robert.Berry

Robert Berry, Navy Seal

witnessed one of the first A-Bomb test explosions off Enewetak Atoll in the Marshall Islands.  

Robert Berry (second husband)   US Navy Seals, US Coast Guard ** 20+ years of service.  Robert was a Navy Seal, underwater demolition during the Viet Nam years.  He later served as a warrant officer aboard an icebreaker and was certified to scuba dive under the Arctic ice.

 

john.Viet.Nam

John Sugarek, Viet Nam

John Sugarek (husband)  US Marines ** Viet Nam –   John was my husband for 30 years. He was kind-hearted and funny and everyone loved him.  I witnessed two of his  flashbacks from battle in Viet Nam (twenty years later)  and he suffered, untreated, from PTSD. Partially due to the PTSD (I believe) he died at his own hand in 2006.  His fellow wounded warriors celebrate at the Whiskey Battery Reunion, once a year.marines

 

We are all grateful to our military for their unswerving bravery, service, and loyalty and we honor those who have come home, battered but alive.

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The White Rhino Hotel by Bartle Bull ~~ A Review

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                                                The White Rhino Hotel   ~~ A Review

A sweeping epic reminiscent of Hemingway, Steinbeck and Kipling. But, none of these…a unique voice that will touch you deeply if Africa touches you. 

The setup for the legion of characters and the landscape of Africa took about 100 pages. By then I was hooked by the richly developed people that fill Bull’s story. The writing is pure prose.

“Remember these stories, Tlaga. My people live inside them. When a tale is told, everyone who ever heard that story is alive again….” 

“An alphabet makes the words that keep a people together….” 

The story is dusty, hot, dangerous and violent. But so is Africa.   Just when the new settlers think they’ve domesticated the continent, warrior ants, a herd of elephants and floods storm through.  Bull’s characters populate Africa but never effect it, much less conquer it. Olivio, the grotesque dwarf. The reader can’t help themselves, they love and hate him at the same time. The star-crossed lovers, Anton and Gwenn. Hugo von Decken and his son, Ernst. German pioneers homesteading their piece of Africa. The list goes on and on. 

The story begins in (literally) the last days of World War I as a German unit traverses the plains of Africa, toting along their prisoners of war, some severely wounded. I don’t write spoilers so that’s about all I will tell of the story. I adore fiction that teaches me history. I had no idea of a Soldiers Lottery for land in West Africa after the world war ended. Whereby soldiers who fought in Africa could enter a lottery and homestead land that belonged only to the African native.  

This is their story. But it’s also Africa’s story; how it was fought over and then the land was passed out as booty after the war. Given away even though none of it belonged to any white man. 
I highly recommend this book. Take your time, savor each word, taste the air of Africa. That’s what I did! 

To Purchase
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The Tuscan Child ~~ A Review

reviews, authors, writingreviews, authors, writingreviews, authors, writingreviews, authors, writingreviews, authors, writing5 out of 5 quills ~~  The Tuscan Child by Rhys Bowen

All writers have a voice. A flavor, a timbre. Some good, some not so good. Rhys Bowen has her own unique essence. Like fine wine her words flow across the page effortlessly.  The tale of The Tuscan Child journeys between England and Italy. Within this author’s superb writing she captures the staid, stoic, ‘stiff upper lip’ of the English personality and the extravagant, dramatic over-the-top flamboyance of the Italians.  It’s perfection.

We travel the countryside of Surrey, England which Bowen has brought to clear and gleaming life. The rolling hills, the hedgerow lanes, the tiny villages, the ancient, cold stone from which most of the great houses were built, centuries ago. In alternate chapters the author thrusts the reader into another fortress-like village, surrounded by olive trees under a hot Tuscany sun, full of the aromas of cooking. The absolute power of the church and  the old, archaic Italian families dominates the population. Mixed in with life in the 70’s we travel back in time to the same village in occupied (by Germans) Italy in the 40’s. We hide out with a downed pilot behind enemy lines. 

If you know me, as a reviewer, I don’t write spoilers. I don’t fill my review with a synopsis of the story. I prefer to tell you about the writing. It’s always about the

mysteries, best sellers, Rhys Bowen, author

Rhys Bowen, Author

writing.  But I will tell you this; Bowen has created two wonderful new protagonists: Sir Hugo Langley, bomber pilot in the RAF and his daughter, Joanna Langley.  Their stories separate them by thirty years as the daughter tries to understand a time when the world was at war and her father was fighting for his life.  

Released February 20th for sale.  Rhys Bowen’s fans can look forward to an exceptional story and superb writing!!

Did you miss my Interview with Rhys? Click here 
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MY BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!   Did you miss the past few months?    January: Sue Grafton ~ In Memory
March: Larry D. Sweazy
                                                                                   
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Black Orphans…What Did Savannah Do With Them? (Nostalgia-part 7)

   In honor of Black History Month I am reposting this  story about orphans and an old man.  The other day I was out on errands and spied a ‘For Sale/Waterfront’sign .  In my neck of the woods that usually means river front and/or marsh land.  So I turned around and followed the  signs.  At the end of the road I found a beautiful home on some acreage.   I always like to look at real estate and I am always curious about what ‘water front’ costs.  Driving slowly onto the property I began to look for a flyer. Failing that, I slowly rounded their circular driveway heading back out.

I paused at the street as a man, riding a John Deere mower, chased me down and asked if he could show me the house.  What luck!   I was going to be able to see the beautifully restored plantation house. I never could have imagined the story that awaited me!

It sits on three acres with a six car garage, a guest house, a barn and a doll house.  The lawns spill down to a large deck overlooking a tidal creek which feeds out to the Vernon River. The live oak trees are hundreds of years old, Spanish moss dripping from every branch.  The deck has been built around an oak even to the point of interrupting the hand railing to accommodate an oak branch eighteen inches thick.  (it’s a southern thing; we love our live oaks.)

But it was the owners’ story that I wanted to share.

Courtesy of sonofthesouth.net

Courtesy of sonofthesouth.net

Dick and Sue bought the working farm and farm house in 1975.  Back then, common in those days, the kitchen was outside on a porch so that it wouldn’t add to the summer heat within the house.  The house was approximately 1,000 sq. feet compared to its 5,000 sq. ft. now.

Part of the sale was that the new owners must care for a middle-aged black man; the grandson of slaves, for the remainder of his life.  That in itself was remarkable but they agreed.
Parker Bell was illiterate, didn’t know how old he was, didn’t know his mother or father’s name.  As a child he was blackmanraised on the ‘Brown farm‘. At first I found little history referring to a ‘brown farm’ but had heard that this is where young African-American children (orphans) were housed after the civil war and into the early 1900’s.  I wondered if the name was an acronym in reference to John Brown, the abolitionist?

But thanks to a friend, who loves this kind of research as much as I do….we found the ‘Brown Farm’ in Savannah, GA., and a census map.

Young black children who were orphaned in Savannah from the latter part of the 19th century to 1943 had – for a number of reasons – nowhere to live except Savannah’s penal farm. There the young children were surrounded by such sights as men in shackles laboring in the fields, windows with bars and chain gangs. The kids were not being punished, but it was common practice for them to be taken there.

Savannah Penal Farm

Savannah Penal Farm 

Because there was no orphanage for black children, Chatham County black youth were often placed at the old  Brown Farm, a 400 acre county penal farm for convicts (located on Montgomery Crossroad near where Lake Meyer is now) where they remained until they reached legal age. The girls were sent to the Chatham County Protective Home, operated by the Savannah Federation of Colored Women’s Clubs. This practice went on for years, until Greenbriar Children’s Center was established.’   (Courtesy Greenbrier Children’s Center)

Lori’s mother-in-law, Mamie (now 94 years of age) remembers the Brown Farm.  She told us, When I was a young’un, me and a girl was in a fight, and both of us was sent to the Brown Farm for thirty days.   The people in charge there,  had us to wash clothes for the boys that were living there.  I believe that old brown farm is where Memorial Hospital is now, just off Waters.”

the old Brown farm

Census map of the Brown Farm in Savannah

 

 

 

Back to the old man. Parker Bell lived in the guest house and had the run of the property until his death a few years back.  The family treated him like a favorite cousin.  He didn’t have a social security number and because of his learning disabilities couldn’t work an outside job.  But he kept busy cleaning up leaves, mowing grass and helping the children with their horses.  Dick and Sue kept their promise and supported Parker Bell, until his death. Dick told me the fascinating story of the night they had a dinner party for twelve.  In the middle of the meal, Parker walked into the house and into the candle-lit dining room, proudly holding up a stringer of fish, saying, “Mr. Dickie, I caught us a mess of bass outta that creek.”  

My whole adult life I have had my best adventures when I’ve been ‘lost’….and today was no exception.  To other writers out there? Our stories are all interwoven as human beings.  Your new story could be around the next bend in the road.
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DON’T MISS UPCOMING BLOGS featuring INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!

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The Paris Spy by Susan Elia MacNeal ~~ A Review

writing, creating, reviews,fiction, children's books, fiction for adults, women's fictionwriting, creating, reviews,fiction, children's books, fiction for adults, women's fictionwriting, creating, reviews,fiction, children's books, fiction for adults, women's fictionwriting, creating, reviews,fiction, children's books, fiction for adults, women's fictionwriting, creating, reviews,fiction, children's books, fiction for adults, women's fiction A REVIEW 
5 out of 5 quills ~~ The Paris Spy

 

A real cliff hanger! To the last page (especially the last page) MacNeal’s new book keeps the reader on the edge of their seat.  This series is a delight. Beginning when a ‘math-o-holic’ girl gets hired in Prime Minister Winston Churchill’s office as a typist. WWII is just gearing up.  With an aptitude for numbers and codes Maggie Hope quickly rises, for a woman, in the war offices.  In this latest offering, we catch up with her as she ‘wrangles’ her way into war-torn and occupied France.  Searching for her sister, she is thrown into the deep end of espionage.

The Maggie Hope Mystery series offers intrigue, twists and turns and great characters. Woven expertly through world history the reader is treated to the workings and intrigues of 10 Downing Street and M16 (the CIA of England) . This reviewer strongly urges the reader to start at the beginning with Mr. Churchill’s Secretary and read the books in order.  But, of course, The Paris Spy stands very well on its own. With each book Susan MacNeal gives the reader a complete story, albeit a dangler most likely leaving the reader in a most delicious sort of suspense.
 
Available at www.amazon.com or your favorite book store.

 

 

 

Did you miss my Interview with this Author??
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MY BLOGS feature INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!   Did you miss the past few months?     Johan Thompson (South African author)  joined us in April.   June: Mehreen Ahmed.  July: Janet Macleod Trotter, author of Tea Planter’s Daughter and in August we say ‘hello’ to Cheryl Hollon.
                                                                                   
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Motivational Moments…for Writers! #27

I’ve always believed that to be a good writer you must read. Why? 

I can only answer for myself. Other writers inspire me to improve my writing skills. This is true of my fiction, stage plays, and poetry.
Their styles are innumerable, their dash extraordinary, the story telling superb.  Oh sure, I stumble upon the ‘not so good’ authors but they contribute to my self-confidence.  I say to myself, “Oh! So I’m not the absolutely worst writer out there.”  I learn from the great ones and I learn from the mediocre.

When I’m not writing, I’m reading. Fiction mostly. I love a good story…and better, a good story-teller. I recently discovered Janet Macleod Trotter, one of our hidden treasures and, I predict, her books will be considered some of the best modern-day classics of our time.

Here are more some quotes that I stumbled across recently and really enjoyed. 

“That’s what the greats of literature did — they got their characters up a tree and threw rocks at them…” Robyn Carr (excerpt from ‘What We Find’)  Another great weaver of stories. 

“Be able to be alone. Lose not the advantage of solitude.” Sir Thomas Browne

“Technique alone is never enough. You have to have passion. Technique alone is just an embroidered pot holder.” Raymond Chandler

 

Coming Soon! Release date, May 15th.

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MY BLOGS feature INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!   Did you miss the past few months?    February’s author was Sheryl Steines.
Johan Thompson (South African author)  joined us in April.  May’s author will be Cheryl Hollon and in June: Mehreen Ahmed. July: Janet Macleod Trotter, author of Tea Planter’s Daughter
                                                                                   
                                        
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