Book Review – Catherine Ryan Hyde’s latest book


5 out of 5 stars

One of the most delightful things about this author is the reader NEVER  knows where she is going with her story-line.  And A Different Kind of  Gone is no exception.  
Catherine Ryan Hyde starts us off with a  search and rescue for a missing girl.  And ends us…..well…….I’m not known for my ‘spoiler alerts’, am I?
This was my favorite.” Wait! I say that every time I set one of her books down, finished.   Until the next one comes out (grin).

I can’t  give my readers  even a short synopsis because no matter what  I write, it would give something away.  But the story has everything!  Norma, Jill and Wanda are incredibly brave. The horses and dogs (two of my favorite things) swirl through the story and add such color and flavor. 

I recommend all books by Catherine Ryan Hyde but my top three favorites are this one and Allie and Bea and  Have You Seen Luis Velez?           

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News Flash! Writer Goes to Prison

From stage play to novel was an incredible journey for me as a playwright turned novelist. In playwriting, you must tell your story in 100 pages or less, definitely in less than two hours and everything you want to relate to the audience must be conveyed through the dialogue.  In the theatre world, there’s a term: “method acting” which means you get as close to your character as you can.  If the character you are going to portray is a prostitute, you follow and talk to whores. (been there, done that. Honolulu, 1992 ) If your character is a woman who’s husband has been in prison for the past 13 years, you get inside her head or better yet visit him in prison.

I’m a ‘method’ writer, (every chance I get.)

In 1999 I had reason to visit a men’s DOC facility. (prison).  I was visiting a confessed murderer as research for one of my earlier scripts.  My writing has taken me to some unexpected places to say the least.  On a Sunday morning I found myself sitting in the reception area with three dozen other women.  Wives, sisters, mothers, daughters of convicted felons.  As I waited, I wondered how long they had been coming to visit; how long would a woman wait for her man behind bars; and what a terrible impact this must have on the children, visiting their fathers in this place.  Sitting there I was suddenly compelled to write their stories.  I tried to interview as many women as I could and this was no easy task.

Their closed society is cloaked in guilt and shame. But they finally let me in and I discovered, for the most part, incredibly brave and strong women.  They would tell their friends and neighbors, “my husband travels with his work” to explain the man’s absence.  Always appearing cheerful and strong while visiting their men, the women I spoke with, had a pull off down the highway where they would congregate (after leaving the prison) where they could cry, scream, and moan and be comforted.  Where they could share, with other women who understood, what their lives were really like outside the walls.  Away from the eyes of their men and the prison officials.

For someone who was so comfortable writing in the genre of ‘scripts’ this was a scary prospect. Yikes! I thought, a novel was at the very least 70,000 words and over 300 pages long. What could I possibly have to say?  One year and four months later I had a 335 page novel in my hands. Evidently my characters had plenty to say!  At times I was surprised and delighted with my women and their stories. At other times appalled. As many writers will tell you, at some point, the characters sort’a….no…they definitely take over and you become simply the typist.

I am hoping that my readers enjoy this journey and find some empathy for those women doing hard time outside the walls.

Book Review ~ October in the Earth by Olivia Hawker


5 out of 5 stars

My favorite book of all time was Hawker’s One for the Blackbird, One for the Crow.   Until now.

Little did I know this author has more to write and stories to tell. The writing is exquisite in October in the Earth.  The characters are compelling and easy to love.  While I have never ridden the rails, myself, I was completely empathetic to the two lone women out in a cruel and mean world, during an era that suppressed women and crushed dreams and aspirations.  

As a rule, I skim ‘acknowledgments’ and ‘author’s notes’ but I wanted to know what Hawker was thinking when writing this great American novel.  So I read on…to discover that she started rewriting it (for the sixth time) just a few days after she had sworn off writing forever.  That’s how close we all came to never seeing this masterpiece. How close we came to losing this brilliant author.   Lucky for us she was compelled to return and write a little more. 

The Great Depression hit the 30’s of the last century with a devastating effect on the nation. Whole families take to the rails because, while dangerous, it is free transportation to maybe a better life…a life where they can, at least, feed their children. Fate or life…or whatever you want to call it…has driven Del and Louisa away from a relatively safe home life to riding the boxcars looking for any menial job. Sustenance for one more day.  Following the harvest, crisscrossing the nation by rail.  They meet by accident and forge a bond that nothing can break…maybe. 

Olivia Hawker writes compelling page-turners and usually, the ending is a surprise. In my humble opinion, this book replaces The Grapes of Wrath, by John  Steinbeck as the classic story of the nation’s struggles during the Great Depression. 


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A Good Writer is a Good Observer

A good writer is always observing and watching other people and their interpersonal relationships with others. Relationships are complex and rarely resemble yours. And of course…listening.  Everyone speaks differently, with a different word choice and a varied cadence to their speech.  This can translate to your writing and add another layer of ‘flavor’ to your dialogue.  

I also recommend watching movies or series to learn dialogue writing.  But, not just the ‘bad’ movies, poorly written, poorly directed, and poorly acted.  Watch the good ones too…ones you liked. 

I recently was binge-watching an older series, “Six Feet Under“.  One which I had loved when it was new and couldn’t wait for each episode to air.  I began watching for the simple pleasure of re-watching it.  But three or four episodes in, I began to critique it.  Especially the character of Ruth; the mother of the Fisher family.  She had a hot temper and I am certain that was ‘written’ in for the character.  However, the actor, (Frances Conroy) went from 0 to 10 when the script called for  temper.  There was no layering.  At first I blamed the writing…then the director.  My final analysis was that the

 writing (without seeing the script) was hardly at fault. Or maybe a little bit not having enough blocking written in. Don’t forget, emotion can be written as part of the blocking. 

Then I laid some blame at the director’s feet for not noticing that his actor had only two levels; calm and yelling. And the yelling came out of the blue and was all the same.  Why didn’t the director catch this?  Well, he did have a huge cast to direct and watch over. So mostly the responsibility lay with the lazy actor. An actor who wants to get as much as possible out of a part would look for those layers, subtle though they may be. Ed O’Ross (Nikolai, the fiery Russian florist) was excellent at layering his character’s emotions.  

No script or production is perfect. You can watch ANYTHING and learn from it.  Same with reading. I’ll give you an example; when I noticed a couple of authors using the same word or phase over and over in their work of fiction, I realized I might suffer from the same curse. My nemeses is the word ‘just‘.  My guard dog is the feature (in any word processing platform) ‘find’ or ‘replace’ and I use it to root out the 300 times I used ‘just’. (hahaha)

If you’re a screen writer, visuals are more important than diaglogue.  Your blocking can include the silent dialogue. Write in the non-verbal speech of an actor.  In ‘Six Feet Under‘, actor, Lauren Ambrose (Claire) and Jeremy Sisto (Billy) were superb with their non-verbal dialogue, using facial and eye expressions and body language. This credit I give to the director and the excellent actors.  

When writing stage plays the playwright should keep ‘action’ simple. Write some emotional blocking in but always remember the director is going to have their own thoughts about how the scene should go.  Be careful not to do the director’s job for them.  It won’t be appreciated.  

If you are a screenwriter or writing fiction you probably think you have no interest in theatre.  One of your best sourses to learn about writing dialogue is the theatre.  Live stage plays are the Mecca of good or bad dialogue.  Go there, observe and learn! 

Another link on the subject of over-usage of words.

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I am the daughter, sister, wife and mother of a Veteran!

         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 Veteran’s 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, my mother.

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 awaken 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.


                            Doris Borden (sister) Joined the US Marines, Reserve and was upgraded to active duty when the Korean War broke out.


Jack Henderson, US Air force

Jack Henderson.  (first husband) US Air Force * While in the military, he was on a ship in the Pacific
and witnessed one of the first A-Bomb test explosions off Enewetok Atoll in the Marshall Islands.  

Robert Berry, Navy Seal

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 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 him 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.



MY BLOGS feature INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!   Did you miss the past few months?    

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Interview with author, Donna Everhart (conclusion)


DE.  I was going through chemo again in 2019. My hair had grown back in, [at least I had hair at the moment]. but I was about to lose it for a second time – and within two months of this photo, I had none.  I just got home from receiving a heavy dose of chemo at the hospital. 

Q. Are you working on something now or have a new release coming up? If so tell us about it.

DE. I’m always working on a new book, and my next novel, When the Jessamine Grows, releases January 23, 2024. It’s a different story from my others because I’ve stepped back further in time to the Civil War era. This is a morally complex story about the McBride family, subsistence farmers whose principles are brought to the foreground after their eldest son runs off to join the Confederacy after being influenced by his staunch Confederate grandfather. The father, Ennis, goes after his son, leaving his wife, Joetta, (my main character) to look after their younger son, and the farm. What follows is a harrowing time for her, and the rest of the family as she is bound to stand by their beliefs, and by doing so, becomes a pariah in the community.

Q. When did you begin to write seriously?

DE. In 2008, when the company where I’d been working for twenty-five years went bankrupt. I’ve often wondered if they hadn’t, whether or not I would’ve started. It was the shove I guess I needed, because I’d thought I would retire from there. I’m so happy they folded. (haha)

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

DE. No – at least I hope not. (You do have wonder about all that paper, and the trees, and the pulp industry) But, I think this was already sort of proven when there was those few years when it seemed e-books might surpass sales of paper books. I haven’t looked it up lately to see if e-books are overtaking sales, but I think we’d hear it from the industry if that were to happen. Speaking from my own personal experience, paper book sales for my work is always higher than e-books.

Q. What makes a writer great?

DE. Speaking personally, what makes a writer great for me is when I look forward to getting back to the book, when they teach me something I didn’t know, or when they write about a concept, or topic that’s never been written about before. It’s when their way with words makes me re-read their sentences. Some writers hit all of these marks, some hit maybe one or two, but some aspect of these things, or all, are what I think make for a really brilliant writer.

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

DE. It looks . . . never-ending. It looks impossible. It looks like a fever dream. Chaotic. Messy. Dumb. I’m usually at a loss at the start. There are days/weeks of staring at nothing. Days/weeks of thinking, thinking, thinking. Trying to write, tossing it out, trying something else. It’s endless discussions with other writer friends. Eventually, a foundation, an inkling of THE idea comes. Then, it’s brick by brick through the first sentences, to the first paragraphs, and first pages. It’s getting through those 1,000 words a day goals. It’s self-editing, killing words, and birthing better ideas. Then comes the moment of angst when someone else reads it. Then the agent reads, and then the editor. There’s praying involved during the “others are reading it” phase. Lots of it. Then comes the polishing, (copy edits) honing, (first pass pages) and then, voila. Book!

Q. How have your life experiences influenced your writing?

A. I’m a Stage IV cancer survivor, and at one time, I was a single mother, and all along, I’ve been known to be stubborn (hard-headed???) so, this is something I draw on when writing my stories. I gravitate toward writing about characters with fortitude, and mental strength. Physical strength is important, too, but, writing about characters overcoming the odds because of their convictions – whatever those might be – is compelling. I love writing about people who were doing just fine until something comes along and knocks their world topsy-turvy, and now they have to figure out how to straighten it up. I’ve been there, we’ve all been there, and it’s rewarding to overcome obstacles.

Q. What’s your downtime look like?


DE. Well. Downtime for me is getting away from my computer. I used to run, but since I can’t do that anymore due to all the radiation I’ve had, I like to walk

 (sometimes with weights) or go on a long bike ride. I also love to go to the movies, or watch a movie on TV, or a good series. We got caught up in Yellowstone, but then it started getting over the top. We gravitated toward the origin stories (1883 and 1923) and enjoyed those more. I love to go to the Blue Ridge mountains, and to sometimes take day trips – like I just took my grandkids to the zoo this past week.

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

DE. I did write this one book . . . that will likely never the see the light of day. It My agent said it was a “hard crime” novel.

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

DE. What you worry about at night is nothing in the morning.

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Interview with Author, Donna Everhart (part 2)

Donna & her grandkids

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

DE. You’re “looking” at a procrastinator. I’ll come to my desk every day and have a word goal in mind (usually 1,000 words) and oftentimes do everything but start working toward that goal. What follows is GUILT as time ticks by. By the end of the day, if I haven’t made the word count because of lost time on something unrelated to my writing goal, there’s the inevitable slump in mood. My best days are when I make a concerted effort to get the word count in. Even if I don’t, and get, say, 500 words, I’m happier for it because I know the effort was honestly made. It takes discipline to not get onto social media or think of the other million ways to avoid doing what needs to be done to accomplish the end result – i.e., a finished book. What I’ve found works best, write first; everything else comes after – even laundry.

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

DE.  Usually through an idea for a story. Sometimes a name comes to mind first, and I start to think about who this person would be, and what is it they want, what they’re good at, what they’re bad at, and if they have any enemies. It’s kind of all over the place. A messy, messy process.  

Q. What first inspired you to write?

Donna with hubby

DE. Reading stories that made a big impact on me were the main influence or motivator. The enjoyment I got from books where I wouldn’t stop reading for a long time, and when I finally took a break, I’d look around in a daze. I’d become so invested in that world, I think I was surprised I wasn’t “there,” instead of sitting on a couch in my living room. That kind of story made me want to create something similar. The idea of affecting a person’s mood, thought process, and emotions resonated for whatever reason.

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

DE. It’s actually been both. It’s never always this, or that. For example, in my debut, The Education of Dixie Dupree, it was the character of Dixie. In The Road to Bittersweet, it was the situation – the 1940 flood in western North Carolina. It just depends. When I begin to search for a story, I’m often lookin g for a situation, but out of nowhere, a name will come to mind – and then I’m thinking, who is this? (I have to have a name before I can develop a character)

Q. Do you ‘get lost’ in your writing?

DE. Absolutely. When I’m really in that zone, hours can go by and I’ll sort of come out of it and realize, oh, wait. I haven’t eaten. I’m often shocked half the day is gone. It’s kind of scary sometimes!  

Donna with her granddaughter

Q. What compelled you to choose and settle on the genre you now write in?

Donna with daughter

DE. I love, love, love reading stories set in the South where I’m from, and so I guess it makes sense I’d want to write about my culture and the region I love. Aside from the classics out there for Southern literature, like Flannery O’Connor, William Faulkner, etc., it was reading the more contemporary writers like Kaye Gibbons (Ellen Foster) and Dorothy Allison, (Bastard Out Of Carolina) that jumpstarted my urge to pursue it. After I read their books and I was on the hunt for more stories like theirs. This was around 1987, or so, and as I began to discover these Southern stories which really resonated with me, I knew if I ever wrote anything, it would be something like this.

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A New Mystery Series from Grace Burrowes ~ Book Review

4.5 out of 5 stars   ~~   Book Review 

Grace Burrowes is well into her new series, The Lord Julian Mysteries.  And Burrowes is the VERY BEST at writing in the 1800’s. There is no one who comes even close to her accuracy and care with the period.  She evokes the people, the places, the animals, and the activities, for her readers to ‘see’.  Her flavor never wavers. 


Book One, A Gentleman Fallen on Hard Times, is a mystery to the last page.  I don’t know why but this reviewer had it in her head that these would be murder mysteries.  Not so (so far as I’ve only read book 1), and the stories are richer for it.  No spoiler alerts in the form of a synopsis from this reviewer. 

I particularly love Burrowes’ rich character development.  Lord Julian and Lady Hyperia are perfect protagonists. And Lord Julian Caldicott is a welcomed addition to the list of Burrowes’ characters. 

 I am so looking forward to reading A Gentleman of Dubious Reputation soon and recommend A Gentleman Fallen on Hard Times to all of my readers. Book Three is out!!

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Author, Donna Everhart ~ Interview

Donna Everhart is a USA Today bestselling author known for vividly evoking the complexities of the heart and a gritty fascination of the American South in her acclaimed novels. She received the prestigious SELA Outstanding Southeastern Author Award from the Southeastern Library Association, among many others.  Born and raised in Raleigh, she has stayed close to her hometown for much of her life and now lives just an hour away in Dunn, North Carolina.  

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

DE. I have an office upstairs that’s pretty secluded, which I love. It’s actually the same office I used when I was working way back when in the corporate world. Since I left that occupation in 2012 to write full-time, the one big thing I’ve changed is adding bookshelves. Lots of them! These shelves hold my inspiration and of course, my entertainment. The books in the pictures were placed right after the bookcases were built when I was still organizing, and boy, that was a lesson learned. I must’ve moved my stacks at least three times until I finally settled on read non-fiction/craft books to be read and my own work.

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

DE. We’re all so uniquely different with how we approach writing, so, I suppose you could say we all have quirks. I don’t necessarily need a completely pristine

 workspace, but I don’t want it so messy it’s distracting. I like medium point pens, although I don’t (and never will) work in long hand. The pens are for taking notes when I have an idea I don’t want to forget. And, usually, around 4:00 p.m., I often need a break, and I’m prone to have some caffeine so I can catch a second wind. It’s usually coffee, but if it’s really hot, (I’m in NC – it gets pretty hot!) I’ll opt for slightly sweet iced tea with a squeeze of lemon.

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

DE. I found a body on the beach once. It was a young man in his early 30s who was pulled out by an undertow. It was right after 9/11 and eventually I found out he was fasting, and praying, and on that particular day, the day he was due to go back home to West Virginia, he went out for a swim and, sadly, drowned. I found out all of this through his mother who contacted me later. She was able to find my address from her other son who was a state trooper, and had access to information. She wrote to thank me for holding his hand until help came. Even though he was gone, I felt compelled to do that. It was kind of scary because his eyes were still open, and I SWEAR he could see me, but given other things going on with him physically, it was apparent he’d passed on. It was really tragic and sad.

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

DE. I go right to the keyboard. My writing is too messy, (note the remark about long hand above) and I think too fast (sometimes) to be able to write anything legible. I even have trouble with my grocery list and deciphering what the heck I wrote on it.

Q. Do you have pets? Tell us about them and their names. 

DE. I don’t have any pets at the moment. I used to have Yorkies. First, we had “the girls,” Bella and Kiwi. We tragically lost them in the summer of 2012, within three weeks of each other due to that whole fiasco with jerky treats. (If anyone is wondering what I’m talking about, just Google dog jerky treats made in China and FDA.) About 4 months later, in December of 2012 we got another little Yorkie we adopted who was 3 years old. His name was Snickers, but we renamed him Mister. (close in sound) He was a mess, really quirky, was NOT food driven – at all. He had some health issues like IBD, and chronic pancreatitis. We also tragically lost him in the summer of 2021. I took him to get his teeth cleaned and he suffered a catastrophic event. It’s a long story, but it tore my heart to pieces. Right now, we don’t have any pups, but I keep going out to sites to poke around and look. I know one day we’ll have some again. I’m thinking of adopting a bonded pair, if I can. I think that would be perfect.

Q. Do you enjoy writing in other forms (playwriting, poetry, short stories, etc.)?
If yes, tell us about it.

DE. The only other form of writing I’ve done is a very short form of flash fiction. I used to write these one-hundred-word stories where five prompt words were

Coming Soon!

provided and the goal was to write a complete story (beginning, middle, end) in 100 words. I’m so consumed now with writing to contract that I’ve not done this in years, but it was fun, and actually really challenging – more so than you’d think.

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

DE. You’re “looking” at a procrastinator.

Don’t miss part 2 of this entertaining interview with Donna next week. 


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Book Review ~~ Just a Regular Boy by Catherine Ryan Hyde

   5 out of 5 stars  ~~  Book Review

A Jewel.  Flawless, as is the norm for Hyde.  

A story of unconditional love and bottomless generosity of spirit.  
The characters are so richly drawn that writers of lesser talent or experience have cause to weep. 

This reviewer flirts with being bombastic, I know.  But I know with each book, [like the last], I crack open to the first page of the story, and I am lost in Catherine Ryan Hyde’s world be it runaways, old crotchety men, strangers coming together in unlikely, but totally believable situations, or in this case a “wild thing”. 
My readers know I abhor giving a synopsis of the story [ruining it for everyone]  and I will refrain once again. I will say this, ‘Just a Regular Boy’ will uplift you and make you happy that this author created these characters and you got to meet them!

This book is a must on your ‘books to read’ list. 

To receive my weekly posts, sign up   On the home page. Enter your email address. Watch for more interviews with authors.  April: Author, H.W. ‘Buzz’ Bernard.  May: Victoria Costello.  June: Laila Ibrahim, August:  Donna Everhart