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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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 * Saints of Swallow Hill by Donna Everhart

5 out of 5 stars     ~~ Book Review 

Donna Everhart knows how to capture the heart and mind of her reader from (practically) the first page.  Del and Rae Lynn couldn’t be two more different personalities, but the reader quickly empathizes or feels some affection (in the case of Dell) early on.  While Donna has her own unique voice she did remind me, at times, of a blended flavor reminiscent of One for the Blackbird, One for the Crow by Olivia Hawker, and Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens. Lofty company, in my opinion.  

If you had told this reviewer she would be reading about ‘turpentiners’ next, I would have said, “Say what?”
It’s a fascinating, exciting story set during the Great Depression.  Desperate people using any idea just to survive with literally the shirt on their back and little else. 

If you don’t read another book this year, be certain you read Saints of Swallow Hill.  I highly recommend it!

Coming soon! An Interview with Donna Everhart!


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Crow Mary by Kathleen Grissom ~~ Review

    4 out of 5 stars   ~~  Book Review


A much-awaited novel by Kathleen Grissom, who is well known and touted for her two previous books, The Kitchen House and Glory Over Everything.  While she never mis-stepped when writing the latter and, as far as I could tell, got it mostly, if not entirely right, there were a few things that made me itch to correct her while reading Crow Mary.  Maybe I’m overly sensitive as I myself lived on tribal lands (Makah Nation) as a young woman for over two years in Neah Bay, Washington. (Pacific NW.)

I had a problem with several nation lineage issues regarding Crow Mary’s knowledge of her own people. Wouldn’t Mary mention that the Crow People were originally a minor subset of the Sioux Nation and now were at war? The Crow had migrated from the Great Lakes area to the Dakotas and Montana.  Know that in spite of the fact that the Sioux were now an enemy of the Crow People?

Secondly, Nakoda is spelled in the book with a ‘D’ when the correct spelling and the most commonly used name is Nakota with an ‘t’. 

Mary is a proud Crow woman who really doesn’t take any guff off of any man, native or white.  Yet she refers to herself and to her tribe as “Indians”, a derogatory term invented by the white man.   I don’t know of any written history of where the People in question thought or spoke of themselves as “Indian”.  I think the author also missed an opportunity to weave in Mary’s nation’s full name that the white man bastardized it to simply, “Crow”. 

Please don’t misunderstand, this is a really, really good story, and maybe the average reader wouldn’t pick up on any of the things that bothered me but be that as it may…..I could not give the book the resounding 5 stars that I had anticipated doing.  

Spoiler Alert:  Don’t read the prologue. It’s a clear indication of how the book ends. (or one of the endings) Within the book itself once I read of the practice of the ‘wolfers’ using strychnine when trapping, I thought I knew how the book would end and that spoiled it for me somewhat. 

Did you miss my interview with Kathleen Grissom?

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Book Review ~~ The Boardwalk Bookshop

4 out 0f five stars  ~~ Book Review


No surprise here. Susan Mallery dishes up another excellent contemporary fiction for women. A great story with lots of plot twists and romance. A real page-turner. 

This time three women who don’t know each other share a lease on a retail space none of them can afford by themselves. They set up shop, books, muffins, and gifts, right off the sand, on the boardwalk in Santa Monica, California. Each has been wounded by love in the past, romantic or familial; it all hurts the same. 

All three main characters are equally balanced with in-depth storylines, so the reader has the opportunity to care about each one of them. Will their particular shop succeed? Will true love win out?  How many nasty turns will life serve up before the women find happiness?

I highly recommend this as your next book. But it’s no secret (by now) that I’m a huge fan of Susan Mallery myself.

Did you miss my Interview with author, Susan Mallery?

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Review ~~ Dreaming of Flight by Catherine Ryan Hyde

5+ out of 5 stars  Book Review


Odd, loveable, quirky characters are sprinkled throughout this story. From the first page they  seduce and beguile the reader.

Stewie, a 10 year old boy (when we first meet him) is passively neglected by his overly taxed, older sister.  His Gam has recently died and as a way to stay connected to his much beloved grandmother, he adopts and takes over the care of her chickens.  During his ‘egg route’ he meets Marilyn, another grandma-type with the same rough edge as his Gam. 

And that’s where I’ll leave the spoiler alert.  The writing is done with the same brilliance we have come to expect from Catherine Ryan Hyde. Her turn of phrase is unapparelled.  Her balance of descriptive text and dialogue is near-perfect. And my readers know how too little dialogue irks me!  This will never happen in a Hyde book.  The characters are well thought out and deeply written. Hyde ‘shows’ you her characters; never tells you who and what they are. And who else could get a beautiful story out of a young boy and his chickens?

I highly recommend this book to my readers. If you loved Allie and Bea (and I did!) you will certainly love Dreaming of Flight.

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Book Review ~~ A Spanish Sunrise

 5 out of 5 stars ~~ Book Review


Sigh. Another delicious, wonderful story from Boo Walker.  Perfecto! Magnífico!   We all know him for his fabulous series, Red Mountain.  Plopping his readers down amongst the vines in northern California. Introducing us to wonderfully drawn characters that we could savor through the series. 

With  A Spanish Sunrise, he takes us on a journey of loss, grief, fear and love. A Dad and his little girl, each seeking peace in their own way.  And then a surprising and shocking email arrives one day.  Enough said, I try not to write spoilers. 

A little while ago I wrote a “teaching” book review about the writer who ‘tells’ the story instead of ‘showing’ the story with the actions and dialogue of his characters.  This book is a perfect example of ‘showing’ the story.  Through the characters’ voices I could smell the loam in the olive tree orchards. Feel the hot sun on my shoulder, taste the pungent, spicy oil on my tongue.  Because Walker showed me, through his characters’ actions and dialogue. He didn’t tell me “the oil was good.” 

I’ve read most of Walker’s books; maybe all of them. A Spanish Sunrise is my all time favorite from this wonderful writer… far.  It would be divine if this was book 1 of a new series. Boo, are you listening? 

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Create an Audio Book!

Several years ago a friend asked me, “when are you going to create audio-books?  Your kids’ books would do great.  Anyone under the age of 25 is ‘listening’ to books not reading.”   This friend even found (Audiobook Creation Exchange) for me so I had no more excuses as to why I wasn’t putting my books on audio.  Since was an Amazon company, I knew there would be quality there and a great distribution plan in place.

It’s a pretty easy web site to use and they have a very large ‘stable’ of narrators to choose from.  As the author, you are in control every step of the way.  You start by posting an audition excerpt from your book.  Professional narrators then send you their audition.  I have always received 8-15 auditions for each book, so I had many to choose from. You can pay them outright from a sliding scale (which is my preference) or give them a percentage of the book sales.  It took me two tries to find the ideal narrator, Carin Gilfry, for my children’s books.  She is open and friendly and extremely patient making any changes I want, no matter how small.

Book 1 in series

After you find your narrator and they accept your terms of the contract, there are very easy steps you go through as they narrate your book.  You proof chapter by chapter, (on line) ask for the corrections or tweaks via email or personal email.  

I then went on to launch my true crime series into audio-books. Daniel Dorse is the voice of my lead detective, Jack O’Roarke of the NYPD. His voice is right out of the Jack Webb, Dragnet era and I love it! 

Tip: You should always review and edit the manuscript that you are converting to an audio book before giving it to the narrator.  I find that with an audio book, I delete about 50% of the:  ‘she said.’  ‘he replied.’ ‘she exclaimed.’ ‘he told her.‘  They are just not necessary because you have a voice telling the listener who is speaking.

The result is that I have a steady stream of sales every month from these books.  

Emma and the Lost Unicorn
Dance of Murder 

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Book Review ~~ The Raffle Baby

 5 out of 5 stars ~~~~ Book Review


This is one of those rare books where the reviewer wants to give it ten, no, a hundred, no, two thousand stars!  The writing is stunning. Ruth Talbot has a delicate, beautiful usage of words that we mortal writers can only dream of for ourselves. 

And her words craft a wonderful story. Griping, grim, tragic at times, nostalgic and loving. About friendship, perseverance, crushing hardship, with no real happy ending.  Talbot takes us tramping across this great nation of ours during one of the bleakest times in our history. The Great Depression. I, for one, never imagined that children….yes, you heard me correctly….children were cast out into the world to join the thousands of ‘hoboes‘ who jumped on and off trains and used them as their only transportation. Following work and seasonal harvests in order to not starve to death. 

Beautiful writing….a book you’ll want to take your time with. Mulling over a turn of phrase in the prose if you are a ‘English literature’ buff….or view, in your mind’s eye, the stunning visuals Talbot paints for her readers. 

This appears to be Talbot’s debut novel and we can only hope that she is working on her next one.  

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An Irish Country Yuletide by Patrick Taylor ~~ Book Review

 3 out of  5 stars    An Irish Country Yuletide

A sweet little story ideal for an easy read during the holiday season. If you’re a fan (which I am) of the Irish Country series, you’ll love this novella. 

The village of Ballybucklebo turns out strong for the Christmas season.  All the characters that readers have grown to love return in this book.  Including a few new ones that are a complete surprise. The prodigal son returns after decades of being banished in Australia.  A new young family (temporarily) in trouble arrives to shelter for awhile.  Engagements and new marriages abound.  

Fans of Patrick Taylor will thoroughly enjoy this book. 

Did you miss my Interview with Patrick Taylor?

My weekly BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!    August: Veronica Henry, October: Life Coach, shaman, author, Jennifer Monahan, November: Susanne O’Leary, December: Mimi Mathews
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