Saturday, October 31, 2009

Blogging Can Be A Dangerous Profession

Until recently I never thought much about how dangerous blogging can be. You start a blog and decide to share what interests you. But what if someone doesn't like it? What if someone is offended by one of your posts and leaves a nasty comment on your blog? Worse yet, what if your blog is reported and subsequently suspended and you suddenly don't have access to months or years worth of work?

Depending upon the comment left at your blog, your online reputation could be damaged and there is little way to know how many people heard about the incident. Yes, blog stats will tell you how many people read it on your site, but who knows how many people your readers told about it or how many people the commenter told?

In addition, bloggers are at the mercy of the sites that host their blogs. Yes, we read the Terms of Service, but who ever thinks there will be reason to worry about them. They're standard and rarely do they apply to you. Right? Well, that's not always the case, as my experience this week shows. You can read more about it here.

The incident above came on the heels of a challenge that some users who are hosted by Blogger recently experienced. Google decided to place a 2000 label limit on blogspots. Well, after blogging for years, I exceeded that limit and for a week or so I wasn't able to take advantage of SEO to drive traffic to The Book Connection because it wouldn't let me use any labels--even ones that I had used in the past.

Google increased that limit to 5000 unique labels, which will be helpful, but what happens when I reach that limit? Do I have to start a new blog every time I can no longer use unique labels?

The WordPress incident truly sidelined me for a couple of days, but more importantly, that combined with the Blogger issue made me realize how little control we have over what happens with our blogs. Somehow, that doesn't seem quite right.

Where does that leave bloggers? I guess, like authors who send books out for review, we never know what we're going to get. We never know when our happy world will be interrupted by some blogging issue outside of our control, like the author whose happiness is destroyed by a negative review. It doesn't mean we stop trying to get our names out there, but it does mean we open ourselves up for some knocks that non-bloggers may never know.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Moving Forward

Well, by now most of you know how my week has gone. Up until yesterday I was having a very productive week. It came to a standstill when I went to post a review at my kid's blog and found it suspended.

I don't know if venting here was the wisest choice, but I guess since I don't usually do it I'm allowed one error in judgment from time to time. Not only am I disappointed, I'm angry that one person could do that to another human being. It would have been such an easy thing to ask if I would consider changing my blog's URL or put up a disclaimer stating there was no affiliation between the two sites; but instead I was immediately put on the defense by a confrontational individual who accused me of malicious intent when there was none, and it could possibly have done damage to my online reputation. Wishing that WordPress would see through the ridiculousness of these accuasations also proved fruitless, so I am still considering my next step; but life must gone on in the meantime.

While coming out here tonight I ran across a quote from Ann Landers who put this all in perspective for me:

"When life's problems seem overwhelming, look around and see what other people are coping with. You may consider yourself fortunate." - Ann Landers

In the larger scheme of things, this incident is just one royal pain in the neck. I can start a new blog like I did in July when I began The Kids Book Connection and work on building that brand up instead. The principle of the whole thing still shakes me to my core, but at the end of the day I am still safe and warm inside my house, loved by my family, and have been blessed by God in many ways. By the way God, if this incident was a test of my patience, I again failed miserably.

My thanks go out to all of you who offered words of encouragement and support. Those words mean a great deal to me, and let me know that no matter what I am falsely accused of, I am still surrounded by a lot of wonderful, helpful and generous friends in the virtual world.

Tonight I am preparing for NaNoWriMo, which will kick off on November 1st. I have several character interviews drawn up and have a basic idea of setting and plot. I'm more excited than I was in 2006 when I gave NaNoWriMo a shot, so hopefully that will bring me closer to success.

Good luck to anyone who is tackling NaNoWriMo this year, and thanks again to everyone for their support.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Should WordPress Be Able to Suspend Your Blog without an Investigation?

As our readers know, we branched off our children's and teen books onto a new site on WordPress and called the new blog, The Kid's Book Connection.

I wandered out to this blog today to post a review and found it had been suspended.

Why you ask?

Well, it seems that a woman paid WordPress to use the to sell Usborne books and she feels that my blog--though it doesn't sell anything--takes business away from her. This is the comment she left on my blog on October 27th:

"DO you know or care your using another person domain name? your doing a free one on wordpress when others PAY to do theirs the right way PAYING for the domain name and hosting -How sad you choose to do this to another person who is just a work at home mom with a disbled husband trying to make extra money. WHY the need to do this instad of doing it the right way??????"

I deleted the comment, but retained it in my dashboard. I then explained in an email sent from a form I found on her site that my using was not done intentionally to steal her business--after all I don't sell anything on that blog. I merely chose a URL that made sense and flowed well with The Book Connection. I also told her I didn't appreciate her littering my blog with that comment and attacking me for all the world to see.

I have integrity and I would never do something as low as trying to steal business from someone else. The only thing I could be guilty of is not being smart enough to check to see if The Kids Book Connection was already being used on WordPress, and if I had, I wouldn't use it anyway because I don't want something close enough to anyone else's site to cause confusion.

I get this in return:

I put NO comments on your blog at aLL id did was to view it only and ask some freinds who this can be allowed
I did not litter anything esp your blog trust me there as I am not the kind of person to do that
What words where as I di dnot do any!

When you sign up for a blog it offers to have you buy the domain name and you choose not to as it is already owned had you looked and tried to buy it

You say "" troublesome to you, "" well it is as a work at home mom I find this so sad!!
tryingto make a few dollars on line with a domain name and website which I PAY for both of them and then comes someone using it for free -SIgh! How sad!..."

Okay, so first she denies leaving the comment on my blog--which I have--and again, she's angry that I got something for free that she paid for, keeping in mind however, that "wordpress" appears in my URL and not in hers.

Today, I wander out to The Kids Book Connection to post a review and guess what--my blog has been suspended. Gee, is that a coincidence? I think not.

After reviewing their Terms and Conditions, I honestly don't see where WordPress has just cause to do that; but what worries me more is that any Tom, Dick or Harry can report your WordPress blog and it is immediately suspensed without warning and without sending you an email to let you know there has been a complaint issued.

So, I am asking you, my readers, is that fair? Do you think it's right that your ex-boyfriend could get ticked at you and report your blog and have all your work be held up in limbo without any type of investigation performed first?

I was considering a move to WordPress for all my blogs because Goggle has recently placed a limit on the number of labels your blog can use, but I definitely won't do that now.

I usually pride myself on keeping emotion out of my writing, but today I failed miserably. I can't believe another human being would do that to someone, and that all that work of mine might have to be recreated just because an Usborne sales representative is angry that she paid for a blog she could have gotten for free. I am totally beside myself and I certainly won't be buying anything from or recommending any products from Usborne in the near future if these are the type of people they employ.

Young Guns by Robert Tuchman - Book Review

Superb! Informative. Filled with great advice. All these terms and more can be used to describe the powerful new business/entrepreneurship book Young Guns: The Fearless Entrepreneur's Guide to Chasing Your Dreams and Breaking Out on Your Own.

At the age of 25, Tuchman founded TSE Sports and Entertainment out of his one-bedroom apartment. TSE went on to appear on Inc. 500's list of America's Fastest Growing Privately Owned Companies. Tuchman had a vision, and he made it happen.

So can you!

"Why Not Me?" This is the question Tuchman says you should ask yourself. The author reminds his readers that successful entrepreneurs build a sense of mission into their lives.

Tuchman shares why he made the Big Decision not to continue working for someone else, a dream many of us probably have, but one that we continue to deny because of our fears. Young Guns isn't a how-to book on starting your own business. This is a book that will empower the entrepreneur in you and move you toward what you've always dreamed of.

In this book you'll learn how to:

- formulate your great idea
- identify your strengths
- make your business stand out in a crowded marketplace...

and so much more!

I especially enjoyed Chapter 5, The Partner Principle, which discusses the importance of choosing the right partner: what you should look for, what roles a partner should perform, and how costly choosing the wrong partner can be.

The one thing I must say about Young Guns is that the author's passion is visible and overflowing right from the beginning. I dare anyone to read this book and not start working toward making his own Big Decision right away. While this book is targeted more toward college graduates, anyone who has dreamed of owning his/her own business will learn much from it.

There are books out there about entrepreneurship, and then there is Young Guns, a highly motivating, passionate and inspiring book that will energize you from the very first page.

Buy it today!

Title: Young Guns: The Fearless Entrepreneur's Guide to Chasing Your Dreams and Breaking Out on Your Own
Author: Robert Tuchman
ISBN-10: 0-8144-1070-7
ISBN-13: 978-0-8144-1070-7
SRP: $21.95 (U.S.)

Also available in a Kindle edition.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

One Holy Night by Joan Hochstetler - Book Review

A husband and father, tormented by nightmares of a war he can't forget.

A wife and mother, fighting a battle of her own.

A misunderstood son, serving in another controversial conflict overseas.

A married daughter, always playing the peacemaker.

And the baby, who would change it all!

The Viet Nam conflict is in full swing, but Frank McRae still lives in the past, tormented by his nightmares of fighting the Japanese in WWII. Even worse, Frank's family is being torn apart. His wife Maggie, the love of his life, is being tortured by ovarian cancer. The thought of losing her is devastating and he urges her to continue the fight. His son, Mike, goes off to Viet Nam, where God knows what could happen to him. Actually, Frank knows all too well.

When Frank learns that Mike has fallen in love with Thi Nhuong, despite Maggie's pleas and his daughter Julie's urging, Frank disowns his son. If there is a God, where is He? How could he let such horrible things happen?

"As on that holy night so long ago...
in a world torn by sin and strife...
to a family that has suffered heart-wrenching loss...
there will be born a baby..."

I have never read a book quite like One Holy Night. This modern-day retelling of the nativity story set in Minnesota in 1967, finds a family that is torn apart by the war, disease, and suffering brought together again by the miraculous birth of a baby.

This is a deeply emotional, heart-wrenching book. I have never cried so much while reading as I did with One Holy Night. And yet, it is such an inspiring story of hope and how God's grace touches all of us, that you can't help but feel uplifted by the time you're done reading it--which certainly won't take you long because you'll never be able to put it down once you start.

Hochstetler has a rare gift for words. As I write this review, I don't feel I've even been able to express how touching and powerful this story is, how the author's words created so much emotional energy in me that I had to keep reading until I finished, and then was ready to read it all over again.

One Holy Night is destined to become a Christmas classic as moving as Max Lucado's The Christmas Child. This book would also be wonderful on film.

If you want to experience the true meaning of Christmas, buy this book. I can't recommend it highly enough. Joan Hochstetler has gained a fan for life!

Title: One Holy Night
Author: Joan Hochstetler
ISBN-10: 0-9797485-0-X
ISBN-13: 978-0-9797485-0-9
SRP: $12.99 (U.S.)

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Bickering with My Editor by Rolf Hitzer, Author of Hoodoo Sea

Joining us today is Rolf Hitzer, author of the supernatural science fiction book Hoodoo Sea.

The government of the United States of America is on the verge of startling the world.

Billions of dollars had been invested in its space program.

And now, the moment of truth has arrived…

Scott Reed is the man for the historic mission. He is the Wing Commander chosen by the elite brass at NASA. The assignment to test flight the first speed of light craft, held top secret, was about to shock the world. The risk? Utter and complete failure. The reward? Being a part of the greatest human accomplishment ever known to mankind.

Major James Harrow, second in command of the four person crew, despised his Wing Commander. Harrow was a proud and patriotic American. What was NASA thinking when they selected a Canadian to pilot the voyage? There was no comparison as to who was the better skilled aviator. This was his time, his moment. Major James Harrow was about to prove to everybody they were wrong to bypass him as Commander.

The weather conditions were perfect and lift-off for the test flight was text book. The triumphant cheers from Mission Control in Houston were echoed all the way to Cape Canaveral. The silent fear of the first hurdle of the flight had been succumbed. All systems were go! That is, until the crew and SOLT-X1 entered the Bermuda Triangle…

"Bickering with My Editor" by Rolf Hitzer

When I had penned, Hoodoo Sea, I had put my heart and soul into the creation of the story. Upon completion, it was time to find out if the novel was worthy for print. I prepared a query letter; made multiple copies and mailed them to as many literary agents I could locate throughout North America.

A stream of rejection letters followed, but one agent said she would give the manuscript a look. The moment of truth had arrived. Several months later I received a response. Her letter started with the book having potential, but I was unknown and I would need to shorten the length of the novel. She had also recommended additional changes, and then I was welcome to return the rewrite for another look and she would consider signing me on with their agency.

Oh boy! I needed help. I tracked down an editor, a professional. The first word, sentence and paragraph, he boldly told me to delete. What, this was my dear creation? The battle was on. You see, I had to defend my honor, not to mention my ego.

Our healthy debate continued through the entire editing process with my rewrite. This guy was beginning to really annoy me. In fact, for three weeks he was relentless on how I should change one of my main characters in the book. How dare he? To be honest, I don’t know why I gave into him, but I did. My editor, Norm Asher, I will always be grateful for his insight and help, he was right all along.

Rolf Hitzer was born in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada in 1959 and raised by his parents, Erna and Julius Hitzer.

Rolf attended Princess Margaret Elementary School, John Pritchard Junior High and Graduated from Kildonan East Regional Secondary School where he had majored in Culinary Arts.

Rolf is married to his wife Irma since 1997. Together they have a wonderful blended family with Rita and Clark Bodoano and Grand children, Alexandria, Patrick and Braeden. Jason and Leah Tutlies, and Grandson Easton. Mandel Hitzer, and the youngest Jessica Hitzer. Clearly the growth of his family is still a work in progress.

Rolf Hitzer has several passions besides writing, they include being at the log cabin on weekends. Spending time on the water with a fishing pole in hand. Wildlife viewing and especially Moose calling during the fall rut. Playing a range of Poker card games and a variety of board games.

Rolf is a Member of the Winnipeg Real Estate Board, The Manitoba Real Estate Association and the Canadian Real Estate Association. He is currently working on his second novel.

For more information on his book visit:

Follow Rolf Hitzer's virtual book tour by visiting every weekday in October.

Will You NaNoWriMo?

So, how many of you are going to tackle National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) this year? I had several reservations, as I am busier than I have ever been, but I decided I wanted to paticipate too much to ignore the desire and knew I had to go for it.

For those like me who are considering adding a sizeable project into an already jam-packed schedule, my latest Writer2Writer article might give you a hand. "Tackling the Big Gorilla - How to Add a Large Project to Your Schedule and Still Be Stress-free around the Holidays".

For help preparing for NaNoWriMo, including many links and resources, visit the Let's Write a Novel Together blog.

Good luck to everyone who will be participating in NaNoWriMo 2009!

Pushing Yourself Over the Edge by Gary Morgenstein, Author of Jesse's Girl

Today's guest blogger is Gary Morgenstein, author of the thriller Jesse's Girl.

How much should a parent sacrifice for a troubled child? In Gary Morgenstein’s taut new thriller, Jesse’s Girl, the answer is – anything.

Anchored around a floundering father-son relationship, finding roots and re-uniting vanished bonds, this timely novel about teen addiction and adoption follows a desperate father’s search for his son, who has run away from a wilderness program to find his biological sister in Kentucky.

Available exclusively from, Jesse’s Girl opens as a jarring phone wakes lifelong Brooklynite Teddy Mentor well after midnight. It’s the Montana wilderness program saying that his 16-year-old adopted son has vanished – and they haven’t a clue where he’s gone. Only two weeks ago, Jesse had been taken to the program by escorts to deal with substance abuse problems.

Jeopardizing his flagging PR job in New York, Mentor rushes across the country to find Jesse, who is off on his own quest: to find Theresa, the sister he’s never known. When Teddy finally discovers Jesse at a bus stop in Illinois, he is torn between sending him back or joining his son on a journey to find this girl in Kentucky. He decides to go. They become embroiled in a grisly crime when Theresa’s abusive husband Beau attacks her – Jesse stabs the big beast of a man, leaving him for dead.

Given Jesse’s misdemeanor criminal record, Teddy can’t go to the authorities without risking his son’s arrest. However, Beau is not dead, merely wounded, and he hunts them down, thirsty for revenge. Teddy, Jesse and Theresa flee across the Bluegrass State with Beau in hot pursuit. Seeking safety but finding trouble, their story leads them to an ultimately shattering question: is Theresa really Jesse’s sister or has he been scammed?

"Pushing Yourself Over the Edge" by Gary Morgenstein

A writer must push his comfort level. What else is writing but descending/ascending into that abyss/summit where your strange imagination lives in a parallel world? It is painful and scary. But we’re not alone. While pressing against our own internal boundaries, we’re also inviting the reader along for the ride.

In Jesse’s Girl, I ripped out my creative spleen. After all, this is a thriller about a family in crisis, the trifecta of parenting, addiction and adoption. A widowed guilt-ridden father, Teddy Mentor, has his troubled adopted teenage son Jesse escorted to a drug treatment program in Montana. Their relationship is fractious and intense to read. The turmoil of the violent plot -- their lives are in danger from a brutal killer -- is not intended for the faint of heart. No Saw V for goodness sakes, but real people get hurt.

Real people, especially teenagers battling addiction, swear. Check out an AA meeting sometime. The language can be rough. I had a couple of adoption bloggers refuse to review the book because of that. Not sufficiently family friendly. I mean, really, what world do they live in? The one where adoptees don’t suffer trauma? Where’s that, a right turn past Neptune?

But the harshness comes not from saying %$# or the bloodshed. It comes from the emotions. Jesse’s Girl is about parenting. I’m a father. There is nothing, other than religion, which evokes such a strong consuming response. To write about being a parent means letting go and allowing all the ugly, shameful conflicts pour out. Unless you think raising a kid is tickling your infant and saying kitchy kitchy goo? That world’s a left past Pluto.

You can’t write wrapped in self-censorship. You’re cheating the reader and cheating yourself. I wouldn’t do that to my characters. Nor my fans. Teddy is angry and confused. You parents understand the inherent conflict. You love your child unconditionally and want them to do well and, when they don’t, you beat yourself up emotionally.

Teddy loves and hates his son. He wants to help Jesse and is furious because Jesse won’t help himself; hello, addiction is a disease. Teddy wants Jesse home and he wants to send him away so he doesn’t have to deal with him anymore. Many of his thoughts embarrass him. How can a father think like that?

Because the core of Jesse’s Girl is that Teddy loves his son so much and will make any sacrifice to save him; his very emotional being is a seething cauldron of conflict and contradiction. In some scenes I brought tears to my eyes, forgive the egregious egotism, by what I’d written about Teddy and Jesse. As a father-novelist, the book at times was very difficult to write.

Perhaps some readers will wince at the naked emotions of the novel. But I think anyone who has ever been a child or a parent will appreciate the honesty. And honesty is what writing is all about.


"Gary Morgenstein is a master at twists and turns. His latest work, Jesse's Girl is a masterpiece. The characters are exquisite. The plot will capture the reader's attention and hold them captive until the last page." - Readers Favorite

"...'Jesse's Girl' by Gary Morgenstein, is a thrilling, engrossing page-turner from the very beginning right through the end. But along the way, the author shares serious and wise observations concerning the relationships between the very lifelike characters and challenges the reader to come to a deeper understanding of the bonds between people and the bondage of addiction. The drama is real, and the geographic setting is depicted in vivid and accurate detail. The nature of addiction and the power of the parental bond are central issues in the book, but this in no way detracts from the excitement of the plot, which is a non-stop thrill ride all the way through. The language is quite coarse at times, but the characters are people who are, at best, on the edge, and this makes the language quite realistic for the situations. There is nothing gratuitous about the language; nor is there any gratuitous violence. In fact, there is little in this taut drama that is wasted...I emphatically recommend this book, and look forward to reading other works by this author, who may well come to be regarded as one of the keenest voices in contemporary fiction." - John Balchunas, Psychologist

Novelist/playwright Gary Morgenstein is the author of four novels. In addition to Jesse’s Girl, a thriller about a widowed father’s search for his adopted teenage son who has run away from a drug treatment program to find his biological sister, his books include the romantic triangle Loving Rabbi Thalia Kleinman, the political thriller Take Me Out to the Ballgame, and the baseball Rocky The Man Who Wanted to Play Center Field for the New York Yankees. His prophetic play Ponzi Man performed to sell-out crowds at a recent New York Fringe Festival. His other full-length work, You Can’t Grow Tomatoes in the Bronx, is in development. He can be reached at

Monday, October 26, 2009

Breaking the Mold for a Generation by Carol Sue Gersham

Today's guest blogger is Carol Sue Gersham, author of the memoir, The Jewish Lady, The Black Man and the Road Trip.

A late 60 year old, interracial, innovative, passionate couple travel from Miami to Montreal in a hot yellow mustang convertible visiting family and friends that takes the reader far past the turns of the road.

Cleverly written in flashbooks, this memoir is about life: Marriage, children, grandchildren, race, sex, guilt, loneliness, birthday parties, facelifts, travel, and obsession.

When her lover walked out, it was obsession that drove her to write. Carol Sue Gershman took all of her negative energy and pain and turned it into a book. She hoped that she would shock him with their story; they would read it together, realize their mistakes and go right back together again. She describes her obsession at this age not to be any different from when she was 14 years old.

This book is long overdue; Having grown up in the 50’s she holds back nothing about what it took for her to cross the racial boundary. She details older people having passionate sex telling the younger generations, YES WE DO.

In this page turning and sometimes humorous memoir, she lives agelessly and passionately. Women and a few good men will learn that THEY CAN TOO, if they do not pay any attention to how old they are!

Explore your own passion and purpose as you read this sizzling memoir.

"Breaking the Mold for a Generation" by Carol Sue Gersham

It has been said that I break the mold for my generation. I am adventurous, gutsy, unstoppable and pay no attention to how old I am, especially now at 73. My last lover told me that I live on the edge of the universe, where there is no safety net. Actually, I have no idea what that actually means. I simply live life.

Would I bunji jump or sky dive? No not that kind of gutsy. It is my spirit that is adventurous always re-inventing my self. I may be getting older, but I am not old.

Unlike most women who depend on others, I pride myself on being completely independent, maybe too much so. "Me and Carol Sue get along very well.." The worst thing I can do is bore someone and especially my self. This summer, I decided to go on a book signing tour reliving all of the cities and states I wrote about in my memoir. It kept me on the road for 21 days putting 4500 miles on my hot yellow mustang convertible. Friends told me, Be careful! Alone? How could you? Why would you? They can be naughty out there! Life is not what it used to be! No doubt I would not put myself in harms way, but if I listened to my friends and their fears, my life would be theirs, not mine. And what a blast I have had with lots more to come.

Do I look different than the average 73 year old woman? Probably so; even though my generation is proving to kick themselves up a notch. I eat healthy foods, (ice cream is healthy,isn't it?) exercise, and consider clothes to be fun. Eloquent prim dresses are not my style nor does jewelry interest me to any great extent with one exception. Big earrings. But go find clip ons. I never liked the thought of piercing my ears; suppose somebody decided to pull on one.. ouch....I love hats and have a cool collection and still shop in the junior departments; I simply dress for that second look and get it most of the time. A new tee shirt is what excites me! I never followed the label syndrom; in fact I am completely against showing off a designer label; I would rather show myself off.

I pride myself on being free in the world to do as I please; If that sounds selfish, it could be that I am. I have my responsibilities, I work, and I am blessed with 3 children and 5 grandchildren. However, I never phsically go to work. After my divorce, I made it a point never to HAVE to work so I went the entrepreneur route. I learned to live below my means by never threatening my security. I do not indulge myself in expensive items or expensive travel. I have travelled the world with my back pack; Hostels are fun and a great place to meet other people and have seen more than most people by traveling in my style; oh yes, I guess a luxury hotel would be nice but then who would want to leave my room? This way I am out early checking out the culture and just come back to sleep.

Next trip? I have not been to India or Buenos Aires and miss Paris. Life is always beginning for me!

Yes, I am unstoppable....

Constantly reinventing herself, Carol Sue Gershman attended the Miami Dade College memoir class and decided that she would turn her two and a half page “Adventure in Love Story” into a book. Never having written before, it was passion that drove her each day to write.

After spending 25 years in New York City, she was one of the first to arrive into the new phenomenon of Miami Beach (South Beach) She is presently writing her next book while working on laws to ban smoking in residential buildings.

Now at 73 she will take her completed book back on the road re-living the cities and states visited on the road trip. You might just see her driving her hot yellow mustang convertible packed with books, hats and what it takes for life on the road.

You can visit her website at

Read the Reviews:

"This book is great for any age but especially women over 50. Besides the great story line that evolves throughout the telling of a road trip, it makes you think about all the things that you are missing out on." - Linda A., Amazon Reviewer

"It's an adventure, so honest, so true, so unbelievably great that you just can't put it down for a second." - Mark Lipman, Lip Man and the Lips

"Diversity and acceptance create a sublime backdrop for this story but no matter who you are you should grab your keys, fill up the gas tank and go on this road trip!" - Tracy Fox, Amazon Reviewer

"Detailed description of the characters coupled with the smooth flow of sequence of events result in a fast paced, and an enjoyable read. Happy to recommend." - Midwest Book Review

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Make-Ahead Meals for Busy Moms by Jane Doiron--Book Review

Enjoy cooking again!

Make-Ahead Meals for Busy Moms is perfect for those moms who constantly find themselves answering the dreaded what’s for supper question or for those whose family’s schedules make it impossible to whip up a meal quick enough before running off to the next practice or meeting. Moms will find themselves enjoying cooking again because these are meals that can be: made a day ahead, partially made a day in advance, or made and then frozen.

I've tried a couple of these recipes and they turned out great and saved me time in the kitchen. I'm also looking forward to using the "easy make-ahead recipe" for a Flaky Pie Crust, as church wants to take pie orders this year.

I absolutely love this cover. Cover art is such an important selling point, but I think even more so with cookbooks because if the meals don't look appetizing, no one will ever attempt them, and therefore, won't be buying that book.

Make-Ahead Meals for Busy Moms starts off with an introduction from the author and also provides helpful tips on freezer storage, items that are easy to prepare a day ahead and how to save money by purchasing alternate volumes and versions of ingredients you don’t often use. The recipes are broken down into sections: Appetizers, Breakfast and Brunch, Dessert, Main Dishes, Side Dishes, and Soup. There are also measurement equivalents and a weight conversion chart, along with an index of the recipes by section to make finding your favorites a quick and easy task.

Don’t let the title fool you, however; all families, no matter what size will enjoy the quick and easy way to prepare food found in this book. It will also simplify holiday menu planning and preparation

Make-Ahead Meals for Busy Moms by Jane Doiron might just become my all-time favorite cookbook!

Interview with Melissa Burmester, Author of the YA Fantasy Novel Ginger High

Joining us today is the talented author behind the young adult fantasy novel, Ginger High. We’ll talk to Melissa Burmester about her debut release, the challenges of being a young novelist and what her future plans are.
Welcome to The Book Connection, Melissa. We’re excited to have you here.

Why don’t you start by telling our readers a bit about yourself? When did you decide you wanted to be a writer?

I don’t remember but I have always been writing short stories. It just comes out, sometimes I don’t even know that I am writing.

Now at 14, you’ve already published your first novel. How do you feel about that? Is it all exciting or are there parts about being published so young that are scary too?

I feel… normal about it. I feel the same like before I published it. When I get a bad review I get sad but a couple of minutes later I just shrug it off. The scariest part is if I have to do a live interview either on the phone or on television. I am really shy and I don’t talk much unless I feel really comfortable around someone.

Tell us about Ginger High?

Ginger High is about a school that is for students with powers. Some of them can control air, fire, and some come heal. There is also an alternate universe called Animist where the people with powers reside. In this book, a group of students and their friends have to solve a murder that has been happening for years.

Where did you find the inspiration for this story?

Mew Mew Power. This anime show was my inspiration for the alternate world. Also I watched Angel and I loved it.

How long did it take you to bring this book from the first draft to the final published product?

It took about two years for everything. For the first draft I worked with it for a year then another year for the second draft and the editing.

Tell us about your main characters. Why will readers relate to them? What will they like about them?

Some readers might find some of the characters relationships like their own. There are a lot of friend problems between some of the characters. Also, some will not give up a relationship even if the other person wants them to.

Where can readers purchase a copy of Ginger High?

You can go to

Do you have a website or blog?

My website is

What is up next for you? Any plans to release another book in the future?

I am working on the rewrite of Ginger High 2 right now. After that I might rewrite two other books that I wrote last year.

Thanks for spending time with us Melissa. I hope you’ll come back and visit us again soon. Good luck with your book!


"This is a fast moving story with plenty of twists and just enough action and adventure to keep the pages flowing." - Nelaine Sanchez, Blogger and Book Reviewer

"Fourteen year old, Melissa Burmester has written a fast paced debut novel; combining horror, mystery and fantasy." -

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Author Spotlight: Scott Gale and Your Family Constitution

Your Family Constitution Helps Busy Parents to Create Manageable Family Structure

Just in time… a formerly stressed-out dad’s perspective provides a common-sense playbook to reach family harmony. As today’s parents cope with scores of competing obligations and responsibilities, raising kids with good core values is an extreme challenge. Combine this perpetual struggle with the effects of technological distractions, societal lack of discipline, and failures to communicate, and it is not hard to understand why so many parents throw up their hands in defeat and accept mere survival.

Author Scott Gale refused to settle for chaos. Instead, he designed a powerful tool that allowed him to alleviate family challenges through the thoughtful application of clarity, consistency and commitment (the “3Cs”). Your Family Constitution: A Modern Approach to Family Values and Household Structure tells his story and provides a step-by-step process that parents can follow to balance schedules and produce time they never before had, improve family communication, relieve pent-up frustration, and wrap healthy boundaries around core values; applying rewards, consequences and accountability standards to maintain them.
A stressed-out parent downloaded the first chapter and replied, “You are easy to read, easy to understand and easy to identify with. It seems that intentional parenting has gotten lost, and you’ve provided a blueprint for creating a family with positive family values, ideals and rules to live and grow by. So, thanks for your courage to detail your own experience and offer personal insights for the benefit of frustrated, busy and untrained parents.”

Scott Gale is an author and instructor at University of California Irvine. His passion is helping families communicate and re-connect in spite of today’s hectic lifestyle and increased demands. Scott’s new book, Your Family Constitution: A Modern Approach to Family Values and Household Structure, inspires readers to increase togetherness and progressively improve by leveraging clarity, consistency and commitment.

For more information on his book or to learn how to create your customized Family Constitution visit: or e-mail:

Read the Reviews:

"...'Your Family Constitution: A Modern Approach To Family Values And Household Structure' by Scott Gale is so valuable for men and women striving to form, nurture, instill, and live the values they hold dear." - Midwest Book Reviews

"Mr. Gale has extracted the essence of parenting and incorporated it into an entertaining and easy to follow parent manual. Since we adopted our own Family Constitution, my kids have tackled their chores without complaints and the time we spend together has become much more rewarding. I highly recommend it to all parents." - Bentley Kerr, Amazon Reviewer

This book is also available in a Kindle edition.

To see where Scott stops next on his virtual book tour, please visit

Author Spotlight: Angel Lane by Sheila Roberts

The small town of Heart Lake is beginning to lose its friendly, small town feeling, so Sarah Goodwin, who owns the town bakery, Jamie Moore, owner of The Chocolate Bar, and Emma Swanson of Emma’s Quilt Corner decide it’s time to find a way to help people feel more connected. Their solution: random acts of kindness. And not just from them. The women sponsor a town meeting, encouraging the few people who turn out to start a movement. Soon people all over town are extending kindness to each other in heartwarming small ways. But as the three friends cope with lost cats, mixed signals, business challenges, and unexpected romance, they learn that no good deed goes unpunished. Most important, though, they learn that the only way to get a better life, a better town, a better world, is to give your heart.


Change. Sarah hated it, unless it was good and was happening to her. What she hated most was when people moved away. First her sister and brother-in-law had to drift off to California in search of sun – which was highly overrated, if you asked Sarah – and take her nieces. (At least one of them had had the good sense to come back.) Then Jonathan had left. And now Steph was moving.

And speaking of moving, Sarah thought, checking out the strangers driving past her, was Heart Lake some new destination spot? It seemed like lately she was seeing as many new faces as old, familiar ones. Why couldn’t life stay the same?

By the time she came through the door of the chocolateria even the sensual aroma that danced around her nose couldn’t tease her into a happy mood.

She took in the array of truffles behind the glass counter with a scowl and marched to where her niece, Jamie Moore, stood, smiling and holding out a steaming cup of Sarah’s usual weekly treat, a coconut mocha. (Hold the whipped cream – a woman had to draw the line somewhere.)

“I hope that’s a double,” said Sarah. “I need it.”

“A double with decaf so you won’t be awake all night,” said Jamie. She arched a delicately penciled blonde eyebrow. “Is this a two truffle day?”

“More like a ten, but I’ll stop at one. How could you tell?”

“Other than the fact that I knew Steph was leaving today? Just a lucky guess.”

Sarah took the mocha with a sigh and moved over to the glass case. A summer of weekly truffle treats at her niece’s new shop had already added three pounds to her hips. Even when Sarah was young she’d had a bit of a bubble butt. After opening the bakery it had grown from a bubble to a balloon, and now, by fifty-six, it was nearing the size of a hot air balloon. Every once in awhile she suggested to herself that changing this weekly coffee klatch to the back room of Emma’s quilt shop wouldn’t be a bad idea. A girl couldn’t get fat on fabric.

Her friend Kizzy, who owned a kitchen shop in town, kept urging her to join her teeny bikini diet club, but Sarah wasn’t ready for that. So Kizzy settled for getting Sarah out on a Sunday afternoon walk around the lake. Sarah wasn’t sure it did much good. At the rate she was going, to see any improvement she’d probably have to walk all the way to Florida. And back.

Okay, one truffle. She bent over to examine the rows and rows of treats calling to her from behind glass. Flavors ranged from dark chocolate with Grand Marnier filling to white chocolate with lavender. Then there was the fudge: traditional chocolate, rocky road, penuche, and the new caliente flavor with its south of the border bite. And now, with summer giving way to fall, white and milk chocolate-dipped apples had replaced double-chocolate ice cream bars.

“Decisions, decisions,” teased Jamie. How she managed to stay a size eight was a mystery. Maybe it had something to do with the fact that the girl didn’t eat.

“Don’t laugh. It’s hard when you’re only choosing one,” said Sarah. “You could do my hips a good deed and come up with a no-fat, no-calorie truffle.”

“I could,” Jamie agreed, “if I made it out of cardboard.”

“How about the white chocolate-raspberry?”

“Good choice,” Jamie approved, and pulled one out for her.

The shop door opened and in stepped a woman in her early thirties with a round, freckled face, a curvy figure, and strawberry blonde hair pulled back in a ponytail. She had a coat thrown on over jeans and a pink flower print flowing top. Emma Swanson, proud owner of Emma’s Quilt Corner. One Wednesday in September, she’d wandered into the shop just as Jamie and Sarah were getting ready to end their day with a dose of chocolate. The impromptu get together had quickly become a weekly tradition, and casual friendship had made a fast evolution into sisterhood.

Emma flipped the sign hanging on the door to Closed and locked it, announcing, “It’s officially five.”

“Good,” Jamie said with a sigh. “I’m ready to sit down. I’m pooped.”

“Too much business,” said Emma. “I wish I had that problem,” she added with a sigh.

“Be patient,” Sarah told her. “Quilting is catching on.”

“I hope so,” said Emma. “So far my best customers are still my grandma and my mom. And Mom doesn’t even quilt. Oh, and you, of course,” she added, smiling at Sarah.
Sarah had spent a small fortune on fabric a week earlier so she could make quilts for both the girls for Christmas. She’d been so busy with the bakery that she hadn’t quilted in years. But she was sure it would all come back to her, like riding a bicycle. She hadn’t ridden a bicycle in years, either. She’d rather quilt.

They settled at one of the white bistro tables on the other side of the shop, Emma and Sarah armed with their mochas and truffles and Jamie only with a cup of chocolate tea.

“No wonder you’re so skinny,” Emma said, pointing to it. “I don’t know how you keep from eating all your inventory.”

“I have Clarice for that. Anyway, I sampled so many truffles when I was first learning how to make these things that I don’t care if I ever taste another one again as long as I live. Well, unless it’s a new recipe,” she amended.

“I sampled a lot of my recipes when I started the bakery, too,” said Sarah. “All it did was turn me into an S.T.”

“Yeah, that was what did it all right,” mocked Jamie.

“What’s an S.T.?” asked Emma.

“Sweet Tooth,” Jamie answered for Sarah. “And you were an S.T. before you even opened the bakery. I was around, remember?”

Sarah shook her head. “This is the problem with having an older sister who makes you an aunt before your time. You end up with lippy nieces who know too much.”

“You imported me,” Jamie reminded her with a smile.

“And I’m glad I did. Someone in your family needed to come back home. You make a great addition to Heart Lake.” She took a sip of her mocha, then sighed.

“They’ll be back by Christmas,” Jamie reminded her, accurately interpreting the sigh.

“Seeing them go had to be pretty hard,” said Emma. “I know how much you love your granddaughters.”

“My mom wore sunglasses when I went to say good-bye,” said Jamie.

“Doesn’t everybody in L.A. wear sunglasses?” asked Emma.

“In the house?”

“Um, that’s weird.”

“She didn’t want me to see she’d been crying.”

“I was brave and didn’t cry,” bragged Sarah. “Not until they left, anyway.”

“Well, we sure could use a few more Stephs here,” said Jamie. “You’re not going to believe this, but two little twits ran the four-way-stop on Lake Way and Alder yesterday.”

Emma looked at her questioningly. “Somebody ran a stop sign and you’re surprised?”

“Somebody ran a stop sign in Heart Lake and I’m surprised,” Jamie corrected her. “There were two old ladies at the crosswalk. If I hadn’t let them go they’d still be standing there.”

“You know, people used to just about kill each other with kindness at that four-way stop,” Sarah reminisced.

“Well, they’ve kept the kill each other part,” said Jamie.

Emma sighed. “I wish Heart Lake could stay just like it was when I was in school.”

“Nice places like this can’t help but grow,” Sarah said. “Everyone wants to be the last person in Paradise. Of course, as more people move into Paradise it gets harder to stay connected. Then people stop caring and it’s not paradise any more.” She frowned and took a sip of her mocha. “I guess people are too busy to be nice.”

“It only takes a minute to let two old ladies cross the street,” Jamie said in disgust.

“Well, there’s your random act of kindness for the day,” Sarah told her. “You know,” she added thoughtfully, “if everybody just did one nice thing a day . . .”

“We’d be living in Mayberry,” Jamie finished.

“I used to love those old reruns when I was a kid,” said Emma.

Jamie rolled her eyes. “Why am I not surprised?”

Sarah was still thinking. “Why couldn’t we do one good deed a day?” she asked suddenly. “It might be fun to try. You know, paying it forward.”

“Like in the movie,” Emma said with a smile.

“That worked real well at the stop-sign,” said Jamie. She downed the last of her chocolate mint tea. “Well, here’s my something. Your chocolate therapy is on the house,” she said to Sarah and Emma. It always was, but she cocked an eyebrow and grinned at Emma. “So, top that.”

“Maybe I will,” Emma said. “If I see a hot-looking homeless guy, I’ll take him in for the night.”

Okay, they weren’t taking her seriously. Sarah could see that. But somewhere in there was a good idea, and she was going to find it.


"Roberts returns to Heart Lake, Wash., for a second beguiling visit (after Love in Bloom)." - Publisher's Weekly

"A beautifully written story that is populated with real and charming people." -

"Angel Lane is a delightfully, wonderful and inspiring story, that I had to literally pull myself away from." - Cafe of Dreams

Sheila Roberts lives in the Pacific Northwest. She's happily married and has three children. Writing since 1989, she has had 24 books published, both in fiction and nonfiction under different names and in different languages. However before she settled into her writing career, she did lots of other things, including owning a singing telegram company and playing in a band. But writing and helping others to find ways to make their lives better are her greatest passions.

Her down-to-earth wisdom and quirky upbeat sense of humor make Sheila a popular speaker to groups large and small. Her books are becoming perennial hot sellers. Her book Bikini Season was a Bookscan top 50, a Target Breakout Novel pick and an Amazon Beach Read pick. On Strike for Christmas will be released this year for the third year in the row and has been optioned for film. Her new release Love in Bloom has been chosen as a Reader’s Digest Condensed Book. Now… if she could just get on “Dancing with the Stars”!

You can visit her website at to find out about her latest women's fiction novel, Angel Lane.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Choosing Your Hero (It’s Kind of Like Getting Married) by James Hayman, Author of The Cutting

Today's guest blogger is thriller writer James Hayman, author of The Cutting.

Someone is Stealing the Hearts of Beautiful Young Women.

NYPD homicide detective Mike McCabe left New York for Maine to escape his own dark past and to find a refuge from the violence of the big city for himself and his teenaged daughter, but on the fog-shrouded, cobblestone streets of Portland he finds far more than he bargained for.

On a warm September evening the mutilated body of Katie Dubois, a pretty high school soccer star, turns up, dumped in a Portland scrap yard. Her heart has been neatly and expertly cut from her body. The same day Lucinda Cassidy, a young Portland business-woman and competitive runner, disappears during her morning jog.

Soon other bodies turn up. All young, all blond, all athletes. Very quickly McCabe discovers he’s on the trail of no ordinary killer. Rather his prey is a brilliant, psychopathic surgeon who kills in a bizarre way to satisfy his own strange and frightening desires.

McCabe knows he has to move fast. He has less than one week to find the killer before Cassidy dies and Casey, McCabe’s own daughter is threatened.

He also knows the clock is ticking.

"Choosing Your Hero (It’s Kind of Like Getting Married)" by James Hayman

I decided to write my first novel in January of 2006. I had no idea what I was getting into. Not a clue.

Yes, I’d been a writer all my life. I wrote TV commercials for a living for more than twenty-five years. And when I left the agency business to become a freelancer, I wrote brochures, byline articles, annual reports and white papers for clients mostly in the financial services and healthcare industries. I even wrote two non-fiction books. Big glossy corporate histories written under contract to corporate clients.

But never any fiction. Not even a single completed short story let alone a three-hundred page novel. But it was something I’d always wanted to try, I wasn’t getting any younger, and as Rabbi Hillel famously asked, “If not now, when?”

But where to begin? What kind of novel wasn’t much of an issue. I was and am a fan of thrillers. Michael Connelly, Ian Rankin, Tess Gerritsen, Dennis Lahane, and Laura Lippman are all among my favorites. I wanted to write the kind of book I liked to read.

Choosing a setting wasn’t a big issue either. I’d moved to Portland, Maine a few years earlier and was convinced Portland would make a great location for a series. For reasons why, check out my blog post “What Came First?” at

A much tougher question was creating a hero I could live with. It seemed like it had all been done.

There are plenty of examples of the hero as superman as in Ian Fleming’s James Bond or, more recently, Lee Child’s hugely successful Jack Reacher series.

Ethnic diversity also abounds. Consider Alex McCall-Smith’s Mma Ramotswe from Botswana’s No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency and Tony Hillerman’s Navajo Indian detectives Jim Chee and Joe Leaphorn.

Examples of interesting professions or unusual skills? No problem. Dick Francis’s ex-jockey turned private eye, John Dunning’s rare book expert in the Bookman series and, probably the biggest money-maker of all time, Dan Brown’s Harvard Symbolologist, Robert Langdon.

Handicapped detectives seemed to represent an entire sub-genre. Suzanne Barnhill notes in her piece The Perfect Detective Novel, “There are blind detectives (such as Ernest Bramah’s Max Carrados), deaf detectives (Jack Livingston’s Joe Binney, Ellery Queen’s Drury Lane, and Dwight Steward’s Sampson Terhune), and lame or handicapped detectives (M. K. Shuman’s Micah Dunn and John Lutz’s Fred Carver)” Of course, we’re all familiar with Raymond Burr’s wheelchair-bound Ironsides. And a writer named George C. Chesbro has even written a series featuring a dwarf detective who is also a professor of criminology.

There may be even more clergymen and women out there solving fictional crimes than handicapped people. A list compiled by reference librarian Beth Radcliffe includes eleven nuns as sleuths and eight series featuring priests (most famously G.K. Chesterton’s Father Brown and Ralph McInerny’s more recent Father Dowling). Jews are less well represented, though Harry Kemelman’s Rabbi series (Friday the Rabbi Slept Late et al) was hugely successful. As for the Protestants,there are quite a few of those too. The one I’m most familiar with (and personally enjoy) is my fellow Mainer Julia Spencer-Fleming’s Rev. Claire Fergusson who is both an Episcopal priest and a US Army helicopter pilot (I believe Claire’s currently back in the pilot’s seat in Iraq, her National Guard unit having been called up.)

It seemed the only thing left for me was to create a series featuring trans-gender Siberian piano-tuner with a passion for raising parakeets. And, for all I knew, that had probably been done as well.

But the more I thought about it the more I realized it didn’t matter.

The heroes I liked best I liked not because of their peculiarities or deformities. They were simply flawed human beings like the rest of us. They solved murders because it was their job as cops. They were people we could all identify with. Yes, they each have a few individual quirks. Everyone does. Michael Connelly’s Harry Bosch is the orphaned son of a prostitute and his first name is Hieronymus. Ian Rankin’s John Rebus is an anti-social alcoholic. And Tess Gerritsen’s Jane Rizzoli has deep insecurities, anger management issues and major problems with both her mother and her insensitive lout of a brother. But they are all cops and, more importantly, they are all real people.

And so Michael McCabe, the hero of The Cutting, was born. Like all good characters, McCabe has a few idiosyncrasies of his own. He studied to be a film-maker and has an encyclopedic knowledge of old movies. He has an eidetic memory and can remember verbatim virtually everything he ever read or heard. But most important he’s a real human being, a good guy cop with plenty of problems and flaws. He’s a single father struggling to raise a teenage daughter on his own. He drinks too much. He has a hang-up about his ex-wife Sandy and still dreams about her. And he thinks he can solve every crime all by himself with little or no help from anyone else. As McCabe’s partner Maggie tells him in The Cutting, “Shit, McCabe, you always think you can do everything alone. And you call Kane a risk-taker. Even the Lone Ranger never went anywhere without Tonto.”

If you intend to write a series think very hard about who you want your hero to be. It’s the single most important decision you’ll make. And if you’re successful you’ll have to live with him or her for a long long time.

Like McCabe, I’m a native New Yorker. He was born in the Bronx. I was born in Brooklyn. We both grew up in the city. He dropped out of NYU Film School and joined the NYPD, rising through the ranks to become the top homicide cop at the Midtown North Precinct. I graduated from Brown and joined a major New York ad agency, rising through the ranks to become creative director on accounts like the US Army, Procter & Gamble, and Lincoln/Mercury.

We both married beautiful brunettes. McCabe’s wife, Sandy dumped him to marry a rich investment banker who had “no interest in raising other people’s children.” My wife, Jeanne, though often given good reason to leave me in the lurch, has stuck it out through thick and thin and is still my wife. She is also my best friend, my most attentive reader and a perceptive critic.

Both McCabe and I eventually left New York for Portland, Maine. I arrived in August 2001, shortly before the 9/11 attacks, in search of the right place to begin a new career as a fiction writer. He came to town a year later, to escape a dark secret in his past and to find a safe place to raise his teenage daughter, Casey.

There are other similarities between us. We both love good Scotch whiskey, old movie trivia and the New York Giants. And we both live with and love women who are talented artists.

There are also quite a few differences. McCabe’s a lot braver than me. He’s a better shot. He likes boxing. He doesn’t throw up at autopsies. And he’s far more likely to take risks. McCabe’s favorite Portland bar, Tallulah’s, is, sadly, a figment of my imagination. My favorite Portland bars are all very real.

You can visit our website at

To see where James Hayman stops next on his virtual book tour, please visit

Friday, October 16, 2009

Emily Arsenault and The Broken Teaglass

The dusty files of a venerable dictionary publisher . . . a hidden cache of coded clues . . . a story written by a phantom author . . . an unsolved murder in a gritty urban park–all collide memorably in Emily Arsenault’s magnificent debut, at once a teasing literary puzzle, an ingenious suspense novel, and an exploration of definitions: of words, of who we are, and of the stories we choose to define us.

In the maze of cubicles at Samuelson Company, editors toil away in silence, studying the English language, poring over new expressions and freshly coined words–all in preparation for the next new edition of the Samuelson Dictionary. Among them is editorial assistant Billy Webb, just out of college, struggling to stay awake and appear competent. But there are a few distractions. His intriguing coworker Mona Minot may or may not be flirting with him. And he’s starting to sense something suspicious going on beneath this company’s academic facade.

Mona has just made a startling discovery: a trove of puzzling citations, all taken from the same book, The Broken Teaglass. Billy and Mona soon learn that no such book exists. And the quotations from it are far too long, twisting, and bizarre for any dictionary. They read like a confessional, coyly hinting at a hidden identity, a secret liaison, a crime. As Billy and Mona ransack the office files, a chilling story begins to emerge: a story about a lonely young woman, a long-unsolved mystery, a moment of shattering violence. And as they piece together its fragments, the puzzle begins to take on bigger personal meaning for both of them, compelling them to redefine their notions of themselves and each other.

Charged with wit and intelligence, set against a sweetly cautious love story, The Broken Teaglass is a tale that will delight lovers of words, lovers of mysteries, and fans of smart, funny, brilliantly inventive fiction.


How did a guy like me end up in a place like this?

Excellent question. It’s the very question that ran through my mind on my first day on the job, and for many weeks hence. How the hell did I get a job at the offices of Samuelson Company, the oldest and most revered name in American dictionaries? In the end, this might strike you as the greater mystery—greater than the one I’d later find in the company’s dusty files: How does a clod like me end up in training to be a lexicographer?

Now that you’ve paused to look up lexicographer, are you impressed? Are you imagining lexicographers as a council of cloaked, wizened men rubbing their snowy-white beards while they consult their dusty folios? I’m afraid you might have to adjust your thinking just a little. Imagine instead a guy right out of college—a guy who says yup, and watches too much Conan O’Brien. Imagine this guy sitting in a cubicle, shuffling through little bits of magazine articles, hoping for words like boink and tatas to cross his desk and spice up his afternoons.

Don’t get me wrong. When I first got the job, I was pretty excited. I’d been starting to doubt my employability, since I’d majored in philosophy. Admittedly, I’d applied for publishing jobs on a whim, having heard some English majors talk about it. No one at the big New York companies bit at my résumé, but someone at Samuelson must have liked all the A’s on my transcript in heady-seeming topics like Kant and Kierkegaard, and they called me just in time—just as I was starting to thumb through pamphlets about the Peace Corps and teaching English in Japan. My interview was with one Dan Wood, a pale, bearded middle-aged guy who didn’t really seem to know how to conduct an interview. He mostly just described the defining process quietly, peering at me occasionally as if trying to gauge my reaction. I guess I didn’t make any funny faces, because two days later Dan called me to offer the job.

Excerpted from The Broken Teaglass by Emily Arsenault Copyright © 2009 by Emily Arsenault. Excerpted by permission of Delacorte Press, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

Emily Arsenault has worked as a lexicographer, an English teacher, a children’s librarian, and a Peace Corps volunteer. She wrote The Broken Teaglass to pass the long, quiet evenings in her mud brick house while living in rural South Africa. She now lives in Shelburne Falls, Massachusetts, with her husband. You can visit Emily Arsenault’s website at

To see where Emily is stopping next, visit

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Medical Authorities Take Over the Government in Stewards of the Flame by Sylvia Engdahl (GIVEAWAY)

Joining us today is Sylvia Engdahl, author of the science fiction novel Stewards of the Flame. Read this guest post and then follow the instructions at the end on how to enter to win a copy of this book.

When burned-out starship captain Jesse Sanders is seized by a dictatorial medical regime and detained on the colony planet Undine, he has no idea that he is about to be plunged into a bewildering new life that will involve ordeals and joys beyond anything he has ever imagined, as well as the love of a woman with powers that seem superhuman. Still less does he suspect that he must soon take responsibility for the lives of people he has come to care about and the preservation of their hopes for the future of humankind.

This controversial novel—winner of a bronze medal in the 2008 Independent Publisher (IPPY) book awards—deals with government-imposed health care, with end-of-life issues, and with the so-called paranormal powers of the human mind. Despite being set in the distant future on another world, it’s not intended just for science fiction fans. Blogcritics said, “The story is compelling, and drew me in from the first few pages. . . . Stewards of the Flame is a thought-provoking novel that may make you question the authority and direction of modern Western medical practices. I recommend it to anyone who enjoys reading genre fiction with some substance to it.”

"Government Controlled Health Care to the 10th Degree" by Sylvia Engdahl

Are you wondering how far government control of health care might go in the future society? In Stewards of the Flame, I carried it to its ultimate logical conclusion: a world in which medical authorities have taken over the government completely, leaving citizens no trace of personal freedom. There are no officials other than the hospital administrators, no police but the ambulance crews -- all crime is considered illness and untreated illness is considered crime. Unhealthy behavior is against the law. Even death is not allowed; bodies are maintained in stasis forever after minds cease to exist. The story is necessarily set in the distant future on a planet colonized by settlers from Earth. But although that makes the novel science fiction, it’s not meant just for sci-fi fans.

I have been disturbed for many years by the increasing involvement of government in personal health care decisions. Now, since the novel was written, this has become a timely issue. But I find that most of the people who oppose current proposals for the government to control health care aren’t worried for the same reasons I am. They are afraid that we won’t get enough medical care, that what we need will be denied us; whereas I am afraid that we will get too much. Certainly taxpayers will pay for too much, but that’s not the main issue. The issue, in my opinion, is that unnecessary health care and medication does more harm than good. It leads not to less illness, but to more. Furthermore, any attempt by the government to impose treatment where it’s not wanted is a violation of individual rights. If you think this isn’t beginning to happen, take a look at some of the real-life examples on the “background information” pages of my website at

It’s easy for government policy to slide from a genuine concern for people’s welfare toward an interest in maintaining power. As one of the characters in Stewards of Flame says, “Whenever health authorities succeed in overcoming some actual problem, such as contagion, they are left with a bureaucracy that must justify its existence by medicalizing more and more aspects of simply being human. Where it’s combined with the natural tendency of government to encroach on personal liberty, that process has been unrestrained.” But the underlying problem cannot be blamed entirely on government power-seekers. In the story, the voters have established the laws under which they live democratically through fear of illness and misconceived placement of health considerations above all other human values -- and this, I fear, is all too realistic a scenario.

I don’t see any way to reverse this trend once it’s established, although as one reviewer said, in the story it’s carried to reductio ad absurdum lengths. The countermeasures my protagonists use are also exaggerated for the sake of drama, and in any case are not available to us today. I believe they someday will be, for my view of the future is a basically optimistic one. In the meantime, I hope the book will cause readers to stop and think.

Sylvia Engdahl is best known as the author of highly-acclaimed Young Adult science fiction novels, one of which was a Newbery Honor book and a finalist for the 2002 Book Sense Book of the Year in the Rediscovery category. However, her trilogy Children of the Star, originally written for teens, was republished as adult SF, and she is now writing fiction only for adults.

Engdahl is a strong advocate of space colonization and has maintained a widely-read space section of her website for many years. She lives in Eugene, Oregon, and currently works as a freelance editor of nonfiction anthologies.

More information about Stewards of the Flame, the topics with which it deals, and its newly-released sequel can be found at Her main website is at


"Grips the attention with the raw immediacy of the problems. . . . An inquiry and commentary on the nature of what it is to be human, and where evolution can take us from here. It asks the sort of questions only SF can pose, and paints a vivid picture of where failing to answer those questions might lead. . . . Stewards is the kind of SF I've been craving!" --Jacqueline Lichtenberg, Monthly Aspectarian, June 2008

"Stewards of the Flame is a brave book, and the numbers of those holding to the sentiments it conveys are growing. While the novel portrays extreme measures taken to prolong life to reductio ad absurdum lengths, it can’t be faulted for challenging our comfort zone, when after all, that is one sure measure of worthwhile fiction."
--Carlos Aranaga, ScifiDimensions, February 2008


1) Comment here with your working email address so that we can contact you if you win.

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This giveaway will run from today until 11:59 p.m.(Eastern) on October 31st. A winner will be announced in early November.

This contest is open to all residents of the United States and Canada.