Friday, December 25, 2015

Christmas Giving With Spirit

All of my books so far have been fiction with some true life characters living in them. The story I'm going to share today is not fiction, but it could become the best part of a Christmas story of the future.

                            IT IS A TRUE HAPPENING OF THIS PAST WEEK.

Husband  and I were placing our purchases on the check-out counter at Walmarts. when I noticed that the woman ahead of us had five or six pairs of sneakers, and clothing, all different and all various sizes.  I thought to myself, she must have a large family.

There was a gentleman  checking out in front of her and when he left there was an exchange of words with the clerk which I could not hear. When the woman's purchases were bagged and she was leaving the counter, I heard her say as she turned back to the aisles of the store, "I'm going back and get more".

I was puzzled until it was our turn and the clerk told us that the man who checked- out ahead of the woman heard her tell the clerk  that her order was to be donated, and  he paid for them!
The clerk  added "It is the first time in all the eight years of working at Walmarts, that this has happened on my watch."

It was a heart-warming happening which deserves  blessings for the gentleman with the true Christmas spirit.
                                                And maybe a  scene in a future story. . . 

Merry Christmas, everyone.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015


When I began the second Flora Garibaldi Art History Mystery Umber Rome (coming soon, I hope), I had writer’s block. Or rather, Starting-the-Novel block. I couldn’t seem to get going.

My husband, who is a wonderful and creative supporter, came up with a solution. He built me a bulletin board just for writing (no kid photos or dentist cards allowed): a place to tack up pictures, lists, notes, etc., all about the work-in-progress. He attached the new board to the wall above the small desk where I park my laptop at night.

This is the station I use at the beginning of each day, for email and other tasks. It is a wonderful reminder of what I’m supposed to be doing—writing—and I like to think that the pictures and maps jog my brain even when I’m doing something else on the computer.

What did I put up? A large map of Rome, Italy, with major highways and surrounding towns. A smaller map of my protagonist’s neighborhood, with an “X” for where her apartment is. Pictures taken off the Internet of the major locations in Rome such as the Catacombs, where the novel takes place. Lists of Italian phrases I wanted to use, character lists, and photos of people (clothes models, politicians, ordinary Italians) who look something like my mental image of each major character. Pictures and names of Italian food and wine…you get the idea.

The new bulletin board became a visual map of where I was going with the book. I added Post-It reminders to myself, additional neighborhood maps, colorful photos of my favorite places in Italy. As a writer’s tool, it was a howling success. Did it make me finish the book any faster? Maybe not, but it helped me focus.

Now it’s high time to take down the old stuff and put up the new…

Friday, December 18, 2015

Giving the Gift of Time & Story

When I was a little girl I lived with my grandmother. Every year we made cookies for the neighbors and an elderly shut-in that lived down the street. I'd go with her to deliver these gifts. The recipients always shared with me and I love cookies. But even more than that was the joy that it brought to visit and bring such a simple present. It was worth all the cheek pinches suffered at each home.

My personal favorite was the elderly neighbor who lived alone in her tiny house. The things I remember about her home was the coffee smell and the glorious clutter. There were treasures in every corner and piles on every flat surface. The eyes struggled to focus on any one thing because the room was filled with colorful books, nick knacks, quilts and doilies, old dolls and a tiny television covered in dust. She had a tiny silver Christmas tree with hand made ornaments. The living/dining room was toasty and anything she might want close at hand. It was a comfortable and friendly home with Christmas cards on a red yarn string across the walls at grown-up eye level.  We'd stay for a long time visiting and hearing stories about her extended family. She made the stories and characters so vivid I felt like I knew them.

That connection through story stayed with me through the years and no doubt influenced my desire to be an author. The best stories happen over a dinner with family and friends. They will stay with us forever and pop into our novels from time-to-time. Sharing that time and stories is the most wonderful gift we can give or receive.

Have a Happy, Healthy Holiday Season.

Bonnie Tharp
Author of the feisty family series

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Reflections on Holiday Shopping Plus Giveaway by Jacqueline Seewald

The where and how of holiday shopping plagues many of us. Nothing can quite compare with the yearly ritual of holiday shopping, which theoretically begins on the day after Thanksgiving, Black Friday. However, in actuality it begins much earlier, of late right after Halloween. In fact, the way things are going, pretty soon the stores will start putting up tinsel on the 4th of July.
The frenetic pace of shopping madness increases unabated throughout December. The shopping itself takes on such dimensions that with many people the material supercedes the spiritual aspect of the holidays.
But before the shopping can even begin, there is the business of finding parking at The Mall. Holiday shoppers know when they are nearing this location because traffic becomes as thick as an ant colony, and jockeying for position starts in earnest. Inevitably, a type "A" personality loses patience and aggressively pulls out on the shoulder of the road, speeds ahead, then forces his/her way into the regular stream of traffic. This individual manages to gain perhaps four or five car lengths to ultimately beat the traffic light, forcing other drivers to slam on their brakes and come to an abrupt halt. A cacophony of horns proceeds to announce the general agitation.
Arriving at the mall, one is treated to a breathtaking sight—an unending sea of automobiles. There is quite literally not a parking spot to spare. And so begins the art of cruising for a space. This can be compared to the choreography of a ballet. Automobiles pirouette and arabesque around the lot.
Inevitably, there is a car waiting in each aisle for someone to pull out. Often there are two vehicles set to swoop down like vultures. The poor driver who must pull out of the spot has a serious dilemma: which way to go? One or the other of the waiting drivers must be disappointed, only to drive off angrily, perhaps offering the middle finger salute. Definitely not showing proper holiday spirit! (More like the gunfight at Okay Corral)
Drivers keep cruising, ready to dive like kamikaze pilots when they find a likely target--barely avoiding fender benders--a holiday miracle in itself. No matter how many spaces exist, there are never enough.
Another technique involves following those who are leaving. Sometimes these shoppers are merely putting away their packages and return to the Mall for further exploration. Then there is the individual, fully aware someone is waiting for his/her parking spot, who decides this is a good time to sit and light up a cigarette, fiddle with the car radio, or begin a philosophical discussion on the meaning of life with someone they've conjured on a cell phone.
Most amazing of all are those who decide to grab the closest parking spot. I'm talking here about nabbing the spaces set aside for the handicapped. These artists fall into several categories. First are those who have no physical impediment whatsoever but park illegally because they don't want to continue cruising. We have no trouble spotting them as they run out when the police start ticketing. The second category: those who somehow obtained handicapped stickers yet can move like gazelles, either had some impediment but are over it and kept their stickers, or obtained them illegally in the first place. There seem to be a growing number of these talented artists who we may refer to as prima donnas. With so many people claiming the right to place handicapped stickers in their automobiles, I am waiting for the time when non-handicapped signs will be issued instead.
After managing to obtain a parking spot and reaching the Promised Land of the Mall, we are greeted by a chorus of Hallelujah from the sound system. Unfortunately, by this time, we are almost too weary to shop.
When Christmas and Chanukah come and all the gifts are finally handed out, matters are not in the least resolved, as a good portion of those gifts will end up being returned soon after. (The heaviest shopping day of the entire year is December 26th) So just when we think our holiday shopping is finally done, it's only just begun!
Then there's the matter of re-gifting. That's the most bizarre ritual of all. This refers to presents that don't come with any clue as to where they were purchased. Even Sherlock Holmes would scratch his head in perplexity.
These are gifts that no one in their right mind would want to keep: purple plaid socks, perfume that would make a skunk turn up its tail in disgust. Well, you get the picture! So what does one do with such odious presents? Naturally, we save them and give them to those who have given us their re-gifts. You know you've gone full cycle when one of your re-gifts is gifted back to you.
So how do we avoid mall madness? More people than ever are turning to online shopping. I would like to suggest that books are excellent gifts to give. You don’t have to run around. You can make your selections in comfort. And you don’t have to spend your life savings. There’s a perfect book for everyone, whether a bestseller or something from an unknown author. There are a multitude of useful nonfiction titles: perhaps a cookbook, a book on home repairs, or history. Fiction provides many choices such as romance, mystery, or thriller.
Naturally I’m going to recommend several of my own books that are current:
DARK MOON RISING, adult paranormal romance from Luminosity, is available in All e-book formats and print. Check out Five Star reviews on Amazon:
Also available from:


B&N Online:


THE DEVIL AND DANNA WEBSTER, published by Clean Reads Press in both print and all ebook formats, is not just for teens.
STACY’S SONG, also published by Clean Reads, is another upbeat YA novel. It’s perfect for the holidays. It even ends at Christmas. Check out the excellent editorial reviews at:

 In the holiday spirit, I’m giving away pdf copies of this novel to several readers. Leave an e-mail address with your comment to be in the random drawing.
 There is a book for every taste available for ordering online. What are your feelings regarding holiday shopping? Do you shop online or prefer to shop in person?  Do you give books as gifts? Do you consider books good gifts? Thoughts and comments most welcome!

Friday, December 4, 2015

The Final Polish by Susan Oleksiw

When I read my first scholarly paper to a room of academics (there were barely a dozen seated among the rows of chairs but it felt like hundreds), I learned to my dismay that I was terrified of speaking in public. I held my six pages in my hand and stood at the podium trembling, my voice faltering, for at least twelve minutes before my terror evaporated and I sounded just like anyone else. Unfortunately, I was allotted ten minutes maximum to read my paper.

This was the beginning of learning the last and often most important lessons of the professional writer. After we finish writing the mystery novel, negotiate with a publisher, and survive the first reviews, we have still one lesson to learn--how to be a professional writer in the eye of the public.

First, we will be asked to give talks or appear on panels and read a few paragraphs of our work. We have listened to the words in our head for months, perhaps years, but we may have never heard them read aloud. If you are going to make any public appearances, learn to read your book aloud.

When I am asked to read, I choose a passage from my most current work and read it aloud several times, both for timing and cadence. And I do mean aloud. I stand in the middle of the living room and read loud enough to project across the room, through the hall, and into the kitchen. I read the passage aloud at least three times. You can't count on having a microphone.

I also choose a passage that contains some suspense but doesn't give away anything important about the plot. I can adapt a longer passage by eliminating one or two paragraphs or a few sentences to bring together what I think are the most captivating scenes. I mark these in one copy of the book that I use for all appearances.

I never assume I will know what to read when I show up for the event. I always practice in advance. No one wants to hear me mumble, stumble, or mutter about skipping a few words. And no one wants to watch me flip through pages wondering where I should go next.

If I read typed pages, I make sure to dog-ear the top right-hand corners to make it easy to turn the page. No one wants to watch me lick my fingers to get a grip on the page to separate it from the ones that follow.

Second, have a photographer (professional or amateur) take a good photograph of you, with or without makeup. If you think you'll use this photograph for book covers, publicity mailings, and more, find a professional who will provide the makeup artist if you need help with this. Make sure you have the rights to use the photographs however you want. Be sure to get the correct attribution for publication.

Third, consider the wardrobe you have and what you will wear to panels and conferences. You don't have to buy anything expensive, but you may want to rethink your favorite pair of jeans or sweats. If you write a series set in India, as I do, you might want to wear khurtas in warmer weather, or a nice Indian shawl in winter. If you write westerns, consider a nice pair of red cowboy boots. The idea is to have a wardrobe that is a step up from your ordinary day wear or one that illustrates your interests as a writer. Dressing reasonably well is a sign of respect for your audience.

Fourth, design and order a simple business card. The fancier the card, the more likely you will have to redesign it as your tastes and publications change. Keep a supply of cards in your purse and hand them out whenever you have to make a note or give contact information.

These lessons for polishing an image may seem obvious, but like many others I never knew how hard it would be to read six typed pages to a group of strangers. I learned. And I remind myself whenever I stand in front of an audience that these people whom I've never met came to listen to me and they want me to succeed. That will take you far in getting over the jitters and making a solid presentation and a good impression.