Saturday, January 30, 2016

Allyson Abbot Provides Step-by-Step Instruction to Create Basic Book Review in Exceptional How-to Book...

"What is in question is a kind of book
 reviewing which seems to be more
 and more popular: the loose putting
 down of opinions as though they were
and the treating of facts as though
 they were opinions." --Gore Vidal 

When a new writer begins to publish, and market her books, one of the first things realized is that it would be great to have reviews in support of those books. 

Many hope and work in many ways to gain recognition...and then feedback...but no matter how much they work--or even give free copies of their books, there is a very low percentage of what free books were taken versus the number of reviews given in feedback.

What to do?

Well, if you are Allyson R. Abbott, you write a Five-Star Readers' Favorite self-help book. Why? To help readers know how to give feedback regarding books they read!

If I wanted to write, this would be something like I would write, with a few minor changes based upon experience. I have, in fact, read a number of books regarding reviews. This is the best I've far...LOL

How to
Write a Simple Book Review

By Allyson R. Abbot

The one main difference in Abbott's book is that she takes the time to differentiate between types of reviews.  As a quote by Gore Vidal notes: the publishing world has expanded tremendously and the review process has necessarily broadened and become, perhaps, for the first time in publishing history, a major component of the marketing process. What that means is that in order to meet the need, more people are required in order to gain feedback for the millions of books being published. And there are millions out there reading, enjoying and loving books but never take the opportunity to share about that last book...

I have been reviewing books for many years, the first during my professional work when I started writing articles for trade magazines and reviewing for professional organizations. I have been in many discussions about the pros and cons of paying for reviews, and, yet, I continue to blog routinely with more requests than I can handle... Abbott covers people like me, and points out that there are many like me these days...but her book is about you, readers, who have enjoyed many books, but have never felt they could write a review like some that may have appeared in newspapers or online at various sites.

What Abbott does is teach you...yes, she teaches you to write a one-word review and proceed on to another word, a sentence, and then another sentence...until you have a full paragraph! Let's face it, no matter what you, the reader, is interested in, there is going to be a book about it to enjoy or learn from. Why not take a few minutes to thank the writer of that book as soon as you have finished reading.

Several things should be noted...this book is geared toward Amazon, sad to say. While at the same time I acknowledge that most readers use that site, including me. But regulations about reviews at Amazon might be totally different for other sites--even those that are mentioned. For instance there is a reference to paying for reviews. Since I have done both, I want to add that once payment is accepted for a review, you must report that activity to the IRS and file taxes on the income. The site where I was working closed because Amazon stopped accepting the reviews. If you wish to review, be very careful that your actions are kept open and above board. There are many scammers out there and articles that you can read about what criminal actions are being done these days.

If you love reading, review because you love sharing your thoughts about a book. There is no discrete way to go against regulations and ensure that you are not discovered by the IRS...Be sure any site proposing you are paid is thoroughly checked out.

Other than that, in general the book is well layed out, although the author, admittedly, tends to go off subject once in awhile. I found this somewhat endearing--the book reads as if she, a writer and author, is trying to help readers realize that feedback is necessary to book authors and she's hoping by writing this easy-to-read book that she helps you to provide something that is helpful to, the reader, included, since you are not only sharing your feelings about something you've taken the time to read, but you are also helping a large group of new writers, called Indie writers, who are for the first time able to routinely share their books with all of us across the world. Isn't that a wonderful option to have!

Since most of my reviews are for Indie authors, I wholeheartedly support Abbot's work in creating this how-to book. Not only has she done what the title says, but she has expanded her research and information to explain how each reader can help and enjoy sharing about books they've read as well as enough about the publishing activities and other types of reviews that helps each one of us to say thanks for writing this or that book (even if they didn't totally like it). She has included a bibliography and references as do most well-done self-help books. Other than the information about paying for reviews, which I've included above, I believe you can feel confident in acquiring this book...and, please, I do add... Write reviews - once you get into the habit, you'll find you want to talk and share your thoughts... Best wishes in taking on this exciting activity/hobby/recognition of other's works...


I 'm very lucky to have the indulgence of time and space to enable me to write. I took a sabbatical from work to accompany my partner on his bucket list travels and adventures, and never went back. I really thought I would struggle with all the free time, so decided to write to keep myself occupied. Now writing has consumed my time and I am never sure where we will be or when, hence my novels could be classed 'international' as they may have been written across a few countries. We are still travelling, although we do pop back to the UK for a few months every now and again.

I love the fact that no matter what our age we can use new technology to connect to the rest of the world and enhance our lives. Back in the UK I have my friends and family and with emails, phones, Skype or face-time, we are never out of touch for long. Even my mother at eighty-six uses face-time to catch up with me. I have the world at my fingertips and only twenty-four hours away from anywhere.

Being a 'mature aging gracefully' woman, I feel akin to the problems of aging and relationships. I spent many years on my own before finding my truly remarkable and very patient partner who I happily gave up my whole world for. My stories are about mature relationships with mature people. People who have character and humour, who have a history; people just like us.

I like to call it Hen Lit, Not Chick Lit, but it is not just about falling in love. They are about real relationships.

I hope you enjoy my stories. Please check my web page or social media pages if you would like to contact me. I love emails and try to answer every one as soon as possible.

Friday, January 29, 2016

Tim Johnston Spotlights Suspenseful Family Drama During Kidnapped Daughter's Search...

The Rocky Mountains!
When she'd seen them for the first time, from the car, her heart had begun to pump and the muscles of her legs had tightened and twitched. In a few weeks she would begin college of a track scholarship, and although she had not lost a race her senior year (COURTLAND UNDEFEATED! ran the headline), she knew that the girls at college would be faster and stronger, more experienced and more determined, than the girls she was used to running against, and she'd picked the mountains for no other reason...
The sun was still climbing the far side of the mountains...Caitlin was not yet running but high-stepping in a brisk pantomime of it, like a drum majorette for a parade consisting of the boy alone, wobbling along behind her on the rented bike. The boy wanted to go back for sweatshirts, but it was July, she reminded him, it would warm up.
His name was Sean but she called him Dudley, a long-ago insult which had lost its meaning. They'd come into town the day before, up from the plains on the interstate, up through Denver and then into the mountains on a swinging cliff of road that swung their hears out into the open sky, into dizzy plungings of bottomless green, the pines so thick and small of the far slopes. Up and up they'd climbed, up to the Great
Divide and then down again--down to nine thousand feet there the resort village appeared suddenly in the high geography like a mirage. The wintry architecture of ski shops and coffeehouses at midsummer. Chairlifts hanging empty over the grassy runs. Impossible colors at this height and air like they had never breathed before.
Now. in the blue morning, they drew this air into their lungs and coughed up white clouds. The smell of pine was like Christmas. "Here we go," Caitlin said, and she turned onto a road called Ermine and began to run in earnest, and the boy followed...

By Tim Johnston

While the Courtland family slept, Caitlin and Sean, their children, got up early to go on their first run; i.e., Caitlin would be running and Sean would be following on his bike. Caitlin had asked to come here for their vacation, so that she could train before starting college and the whole family had been willing to support the star of their close family.

But Caitlin had never descended from her first run... Sean'd had an accident on his bike and later was found by other hikers...He remembered that he'd try to tell Caitlin not to go--there was something about the man's eyes when he'd stopped to help... 

Sometimes when I'm reading the early information on a book, I get some idea about what it might be like. For instance, many called it a thriller, so I expected something like Charles G. Orion's Summit Murder Mystery Series...Not!

In my own thoughts I can only refer to this book as a Literary Dramatic Suspense novel. To me, there were few thrills--in fact, the story line does not lend itself to fast-paced thrills, in my opinion...

This book is about a kidnapping of a young girl but there is very little time spent on Caitlin. Indeed the story surrounds the impact of her loss on the remaining family. We see the trauma, the separation of the parents, not necessarily on purpose, but based upon what they felt needed to happen. The father stays in Colorado, while the mother returns home with Sean, after he was out of the hospital with a permanently damaged leg injury. Readers are privy to what is happening with each of the remaining family members and captured in their respective pain, struggles, regrets, as well as hopes.

Caitlin and Sean had stopped at a rest area where a statue of the Virgin Mary had been placed. Sean had braved a question that had been bothering him about whether their father was screwing around--then explained what he'd seen. She remembered a time when he had stopped living with them for awhile. But that apparently was far in the past. He had come back with part of his fingers missing--a mystery that kept both of them wondering...

And then Sean had been found, taken to the hospital and Grant and Angela quickly learned that their life had been turned upside down! 

Jessica Ennis seemed to fit our
runner's goals...and she wore
red sneakers that day...only to...
Don't do it, don't you do it, don't you get into that car, but she did, and he told her to buckle up and she did that too and they picked up speed, rocking along over the dirt road, his hand on the upright stick shift as upon some elegant cane, until he would suddenly throw it with slamming violence, as if this were the only way it would work...
It was late morning. They'd be up by now and showered. Sitting in the cafe next to the motel drinking coffee and reading the local paper and trying not to look too often out the window--trying not to even though they'd chosen the table without discussing it, for the view that would include, any second now, the paired familiar shape of daughter and son, exactly as their minds saw them, demanded them, moving careless up the strange street. Maybe, waking up in the strange rooms, even in separate strange rooms, but waking up without kids in the strange rooms in the strange mountain light and the air that made the heart work, maybe they'd felt closer to each other. Maybe they'd laughed. Touched. Maybe their hearts were beating with a new old love over their coffees when the phone rang.
She was smiling, she was crying, already hearing his voice: Hello? Caitlin? Where are you, sweetheart?
And then she did hear his voice, deep and steady and familiar in her ear, and though it was only his voice mail she began to sob.

Daddy, she said, before the first blow landed.

Yes, the writing is superb, but the story line quickly overrode thoughts of how well it was written...and the characters quickly won me over. So you have much to look forward to with this book. The unique aspect of looking at the family's actions as opposed to the criminal or victim, create a drama with depth and details in their lives that allows readers to become vested in their loss--their need to regain the family structure that  had once existed. Soon, readers will also find themselves giving up, as months, years go by without any trace of either Caitlin's whereabouts or her death...

And then, WHAM, the author takes off in an entirely different direction, with little buildup to even guess what was happening, to produce an overwhelming and unbelievable ending that left me breathless with surprise, agitation... and...hope... Was it really, possibly, after all this time, going to have a happy ending? I was so shocked by the actions of a character that I kept stopping and rereading--is this really happening like this? All I can say is that, for me, the ending shot this book's rating from great to stupendous! Surrrrreeee wish I could give you a hint but not on this one! 

Disaster striking in a family that seems to be living the good life will always jerk us into the reality of the world we live in...So much is unplanned, spur of the moment--a chance of being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Can it ever work out? Descent will keep you in suspense related to Caitlin, while the family drama, broadly drawn to bring in history as well as present time in the parents lives, strengthens the drama of daily life that slowly moves day after day...month after month. It's slow paced with spurts of traumatic action keeps readers off-kilter--in a tantalizing, compelling manner. I was surprised and disappointed related to the almost continuous cigarette smoking by the men. It's the first I've seen of this dangerous habit in entertainment situations for many years...

I do want to highlight the character, Sean, who was, I believe, most affected by his sister's kidnapping while he was lying hurt. Thereafter, we see a boy that cannot settle down any longer, who is trying to find a place where he can find himself again...Well done! At the same time, Caitlin presents as a dedicated school athlete with strict discipline drive, and goal-oriented. Her knowledge surprises even those who work with athletes, at least for one reason.  Special tribute for this finely-crafted individual!

Whew! Do check this one out! Highly recommended. 


Tim Johnston is the author of the novel DESCENT (Jan 6, 2015 from Algonquin Books), the story collection IRISH GIRL, and the Young Adult novel NEVER SO GREEN. Published in 2009, the stories of IRISH GIRL won an O. Henry Prize, the New Letters Award for Writers, and the Gival Press Short Story Award, while the collection itself won the 2009 Katherine Anne Porter Prize in Short Fiction. Tim's stories have also appeared in New England Review, New Letters, The Iowa Review, The Missouri Review, Double Take, Best Life Magazine, and Narrative Magazine, among others. He holds degrees from the University of Iowa and the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. In 2011-12 he was the Jenny McKean Moore Writer-in-Washington Fellow at The George Washington University, and he currently teaches in the Creative Writing Program at the University of Memphis.

For more, please go to
On Twitter: @TJohnstonWriter
On Facebook: TimJohnston.Writer

See Also Miami Herald 

Interview: Tim Johnston, author of ‘Descent’

Q&A  and Conversation Provided by Publisher...
The Rocky Mountains serve as the majestic setting for your novel; the setting is so important that it essentially serves as a primary character. While grand and breathtakingly beautiful, the Rockies also take on a sinister aspect. Why did you choose this part of the country for your setting?

I don’t believe I chose the Rockies as a setting any more than I chose my characters or their story: it all arrived together in a package deal. And it all arrived because of my circumstances at the time of working on that house up in those mountains. But, as is generally the case with fiction writing, the significance of the setting evolved along with the novel’s characters, themes, and structure. The Courtlands, I now understand, are the descendants of men and women who looked at the mountains beyond the plains and saw more territory to be seized as their own. Good old-fashioned Manifest Destiny. As modern recreational Americans, my characters were attracted to the grandeur and beauty and mythic wildness of the mountains; they came for what passes for adventure in our times, and could not have known that the vast majority of the Rockies are still as wild and dangerous as they’ve ever been. 

The ending of the book is really unexpected and heartbreaking. Did you know how the story would wrap up from the very start or was it also a surprise for you? 
Every semester I tell my students (parroting much more credible writers and teachers than myself ), “If you are never surprised by where your story is going, chances are your readers won’t be either.” Stories that reach their intended endings never quite soar. In the case of Descent, it was even worse: having the ending in mind all but killed off the novel itself—though I did not understand this at the time. At the time, I had reached the point in the story where I could not write another sentence without committing to the projected ending, and I just could not do that. And then, suddenly—almost a year later—it came to me that I could not live with that ending. And when I understood that, a new ending altogether took shape, and once I committed to that ending, the pages began piling up again. (Note: For the careful and curious reader, that original and projected ending is actually and secretly in the finished novel, disguised as just another scene along the way  toward the ending.)

David Sedaris selected your short story collection, Irish Girl, as one of his favorite books of 2009, and included your title story in the short story anthology he compiled and edited, Children Playing Before a Statue of Hercules. You’re the only author in the collection who is relatively “unknown.” How did Sedaris find out about your work? And what was it like for your career when he recommended Irish Girl to audiences during his 2010 book tour? 

“Irish Girl” the short story was first published in the beautiful but now-defunct DoubleTake Magazine. The story went on to win a 2003 O. Henry Prize, and a year after that I was alerted by my agent that David Sedaris had chosen the story for his anthology of favorites—a decision that placed my name in the company of many of my storywriting heroes: Richard Yates, Flannery O’Connor, Tobias Wolff, Alice Munro . . . a surreal development I still haven’t come to terms with. When my manuscript of stories won the 2008 Katherine Anne Porter Prize in Short Fiction, a prize that included publication, I thought we might entice Mr. Sedaris’s interest—or at least jog his memory—by naming the collection after the story he’d chosen for his anthology. This incredibly generous man not only provided a wonderful endorsement for the jacket, but he went on to hold the book up before one packed auditorium after another on his 2010 book tour, and my little volume of stories got some of the most head-spinning publicity available short of an Oprah sticker or a glowing New York Times review. I can’t even guess how many people bought and read Irish Girl because of him—to say nothing of the several New York editors who became interested in seeing my novel when it was ready, one of them because Sedaris called him up directly and told him to seek out my agent. Neither do I underestimate the significance of The Sedaris Factor when it came to being taken seriously by the two universities that have hired me since. I wrote the stories, but Sedaris gave them a fighting chance in a culture that little notices slender collections by unknown writers. Understating it to an embarrassing degree, my debt and gratitude to the man is enormous.

DESCENT ON-SalE DaTE: DECEmbEr 1, 2015 ISBN 9781616204778 • Paperback $15.95 • 400 pages Contact: Michael McKenzie 212-614-5639 •

Descent is essentially a literary page-turner with a plot ripped from the headlines—a teenage girl mysteriously disappears while out on a run—but the telling of the story is so unlike any other thriller. You go into remarkable depth about how this sudden disappearance affects every family member, showing each character’s own secrets and tribulations. Can you talk a bit about the inspiration for your novel?

This story, and these characters, snuck up on me as I was doing the finish work on a house way up in the Rocky Mountains. I was all alone up there for months, happy just being a carpenter for a while—that is to say, not actively trying to write—when this family of four, the Courtlands, became so prevalent, so insistent in my head that one day I had to drop what I was doing—painting a bathroom, as it happens—and begin writing.  The inspiration was a combination of the solitude, the carpentry, the astounding mountains themselves, and the books I was reading at the time, which were infused with an American West harshness, vastness, and lyricism that thrilled me. This was suddenly the kind of novel I wanted to write—although it would be a long time before I would admit to anyone, least of all myself, that I was writing a novel.  The ripped-from-the-headlines subject matter and the storytelling technique may seem like unlikely bedfellows, but in fact they were two sides of the same coin of creativity: as a literary writer, I wanted to write as well and gracefully as I could, sentence by sentence, about my characters. But I also wanted the novel to be more than literary; I wanted it to be the kind of story I loved to read before I knew the world made a distinction between a great story and great writing. I wanted it to be both. 

While Descent is a work of literary psychological realism,  it is also a heart-racing, suspenseful read. Did you set out  to write a thriller?
I did not. All my training as a writer is in literary fiction; likewise my ambitions. When I began to write Descent I had in mind to write the best sentences and paragraphs I was capable of writing, and to write, as Hemingway decrees, 
truly—even if the story seemed ripped from the day’s headlines. No: because it seemed ripped from the day’s headlines. For, in fact, it was the familiarity of such news that fascinated me and made me love these characters: the idea that no matter how many times we see such stories in the news, still none of us ever believes such things can happen to us, to our loved ones, until it does—and when it does, there is nothing familiar or sensationalistic about it; it  must be lived for the first time, day by day, hour by hour.  I wanted to write that story—familiar but also a one-of- a-kind story of loss and survival—as truly and artfully  as I could.  At the same time, I wanted to satisfy that young reader in me who used to tear through novels for the sheer plotful excitement of them. I wanted to write a book that would be at once lovely to read, sentence by sentence, and entertaining in the most primal sense—a book where the reader’s urge to slow down and savor is continually at odds with his or her desire to rush ahead and find out.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Show Your Glow! Shimmer Shows Us How! By Shelby Herman A 2016 Personal Favorite...

Glowworms have been around for a long time, but there's a new girl in town! Her name is Shimmer and she lives in a cave right next to a great big tree. The tree is so big that she had never looked up to see that it was a "me tree." But you know what, Shimmer probably wouldn't have understood what was there until she actually participated in discovering these special words! That's why, when an older Glow Worm saw her one day, he decided to talk to her. You see, she didn't play with the others; she didn't dance...her glow was not very bright! In fact, it was barely showing a glow at all!

"Shimmer, my dear, you seem to have a low glow. Maybe you should leave the cave to go explore and see if you can find your glow."

Shimmer thought about it for a long time. I wonder why my glow is low? Maybe I CAN find the answer out there, she thought, as she went to sleep that day.

The next night, she woke up ready to go on her journey. She said goodbye to the other glowworms and left the cave. Shimmer had hope.

Shimmer: The Glowworm
  Finds Her Glow

By Shelby Herman
Illustrated by Natalie Kelly

This book doesn't come right out and say that Shimmer was sad, or discouraged, or even a little depressed. But the wise old Glowworm and her friends saw that something was wrong, although they weren't sure what. Perhaps you have a little child in your family that sometimes exhibits some type of aura that puts parents on the alert... If so, I highly recommend you check this book out!

Ollie flew back to the branch and said, "Look,"
Shimmer, your glow is starting to show."
I found it interesting that, upon leaving home, it was Shimmer who began to take the initiative to speak to those she met along her way. Perhaps she saw that they looked sad and wanted to help (just like Shimmer's friends wanted to help her?) The first new friend she met was an owl and he was surprised when she asked his name! "Hoo, Hoo." It was an owl. She said, "I'm Shimmer. What your name?" Owl said, "Nobody ever asked me that, because I'm always alone. My name is Ollie."

Since they were both alone, Shimmer climbed right up on the limb to talk to him. She promptly asked why he wasn't flying around. Shimmer was surprised that he seemed to feel the same way as she did. But she was even more surprised, after telling him that she was looking for her glow, that he announced, "I think maybe the answer is inside of you."

Now Shimmer didn't stop to ponder what he'd said right then, she immediately turned around and paid Ollie a compliment, "You are very wise, Ollie. You have a lot of wisdom."

Suddenly Ollie acknowledged what Shimmer had told him and got excited that he could share his ideas with others. After thanking her and telling her he was so happy, he flew off on some new adventure, I am sure...

After meeting Ollie, Shimmer went on her way and became friends with Cray, Kiki and Scout. And guess what, each of them had something that had discouraged their activities. Cray, for instance, was made fun of by the bullies in school when he changed into some really beautiful colors!

Cray said, "I match the things I touch. I used to like to be all the colors, even sometimes two colors at once, but one day I was pink and blue and I got laughed at."
"You were pink and blue?" asked Shimmer, "Can I see that?"
"Sure," said Cray, and he hopped up onto a red flower and a purple flower, and now he was red and purple."
"Wow, that's amazing!" said Shimmer.
Cray was beaming with pride..."

And you know what happened? After she had talked with each of her new friends, they all pointed out to her that...She Was Glowing! What had happened was that she had made others feel good about themselves and when she did, she began to glow! All of the friends had learned how to be proud of what they could do and show their glow! Can you guess what Shimmer had learned about showing her Glow?! Shimmer had started to glow so much, she was glowing in different colors!

This is one of my favorite children's illustrated books.  While the words are there to learn at the end of the book, Shimmer's actions in helping others is a far better way to learn those words than by just explaining the definition to your children.

Why not have your child build a Me Tree so they can begin to know what kinds of things they can tell about themselves...I am musical! I love friends!

Help your children and their friends get excited about learning and doing things that they can share with others. It really isn't hard if you turn it around and try to help somebody else feel good!

The book is 54 full-color pages that are bright and eye-catching. The characters are large enough to allow the children to learn and identify each one and be able to talk about each of the words to be used to identify each on the Me Tree. This is exceptionally well done thanks not only to the brilliant story but the attractive illustrations for which a kudos is sent to Natalie Kelly. By the way, all of the pictures were obtained from author's sites across the Internet and from what I can tell there's must more coming, especially related to music! Highly recommended for your children's library!


I have been asked how I came to create all of this and where did I get my inspiration, so I decided one day to write my "story." I didn't want it to sound like a sad country song (I love country music) or some self-serving saga about my lessons, so I thought I would write it as a fun story about a girl....and then I thought, maybe I should make it rhyme. So -HERE'S MY STORY
Shelby Herman created the ME TREEs to empower and inspire children to discover their unique qualities about themselves and to find their own treasure. The ME TREE's are being used in classrooms to teach mindfulness and awareness. She expanded on that vision telling the story of "Shimmer the Glowworm" soon after, she wrote the theme song "Show Your Glow," to provide a message that touches the heart.

Monday, January 25, 2016

Fling! by Lily Iona Mackenzie

I apologize for the incorrect sizing of paragraphs so small that it is hard to read...I tried and tried to get them saved but the BLOGGER Program continued to change my instructions!!!

A Goddess* may take many forms based upon various cultures. But nobody expected Bubbles, a 90-year-old Canadian woman traveling with her daughter, to be mistaken for one...Especially when the small town people crowded around her, seeking her blessing for rain!

Feather and Heather each take one of Bubbles' hands, and the three women wade through the chest-high water into the tunnel. It gradually becomes darker, opening up into a cave-like, circular enclosure, supported in the center by a post. Hot springs gush out of a crevice in the stone wall, and ribbons of light pass through a few narrow openings in the ceiling, creating a strobe light effect.
The water is even warmer in the cave and supports Bubbles. She feels lightheaded and free, a girl again, buoyant, the weight of her years dropping away. She hops around without much effort, the skirt on her white bathing suit floating on the pool's surface, resembling a lily. She's always liked water, and she does the dead man's float, her bones turning to jelly, making her think of cherry Jell-O. She could use a nice dish of it right now, whipped cream on top.
Later, Feather leads the way to the changing rooms...Bubbles leaves there wearing her mother's mantilla and Feather's caftan. Feather stares at Bubbles, started. Except for the glasses, she resembles images she's seen in some of her goddess books...
Heather drifts over to the stand and orders a round of cervezas in Spanish. The vendor delivers them, falling to his knees in front of Bubbles, whose mantilla flutters behind her. He removed his hat, bowing over and over. She giggles, inching her skirt up a little higher.
"Give me your blessings,
Eineeuq, Queen of Heaven. I am your slave," he says in Spanish. The vendor falls prostrate in front of Bubbles, shaking in awe...

Feather can't believe it...He thinks Bubbles is a goddess. Feather looks at her as if for the first time. She does look queenly...


By Lily Iona Macknezie

Perhaps because I've traveled quite a bit in my life and am quite happy to stay at home these days, I couldn't image thinking about traveling to Mexico at the age of 90!

Of course, I also couldn't imagine that my own mother's ashes had been lost for many years--in the dead-letter bin--and the government of Mexico was demanding to know when I would be picking her up... Well, let's just say that I'd quickly figure out I was in a fantasy, LOL! Actually, the umbrella of Women's fiction was insufficient for me. I had a hard time getting into the story, not knowing where it might go. The front cover includes the statement "A madcap journey of an aging mother and her adult daughter from cold Protestant Canada into the hallucinogenic heart of Mexico's magic..." Well, magic and hallucinogenic gave me some clues but even while I was reading, I wasn't sure whether there had been a huge festival, where everybody was drugged and the story evolved from that event...

In fact, I went all the way to the ending before the book's story pieces fell into place... In fact, there is almost too much being said that readers may miss by getting caught by the frivolity of the various scenes. Can we hide serious issues behind humor? Can we learn to forgive what once was totally unforgivable?

Bubbles was born to a mother who had left her when she was young, running off with a man... Bubbles then did the same to Feather. 

Feather had wound up in a hippie camp where she, among other things, learned to smoke pot and to begin developing her artistic skills as a sculpture. Feather had maintained contact with Bubbles by phone, but rarely saw her. In fact, she was already scheduled to travel to several places in Mexico to study more in support of her future creations.

When Bubbles called her about having to pick up her mother's ashes in Mexico City, Feather had adapted her trip to accommodate her mother's traveling with her.  

Coatlicue. Primordial earth goddess,
mother of the 
gods, the sun,
the moon and the
stars displayed in Mexico City.

Though Feather hadn't included the capital city in her travel plans because of the dangers lurking there, she realizes it could be the centerpiece for her summer research. An eight-ton statue of the moon goddess that the Aztecs worshipped stands in the Great Temple in Mexico City. Carlos Castenada's books have further convinced her there's something mysterious going on south of the border. That's why she hoped to find a shaman--male or female--who could guide her. That had been her plan until Bubbles talked her into this made expedition to pick up her grandmother's ashes. Feather hadn't anticipated Bubbles being the shaman she sought but who knows. In Mexico, anything could happen. Still, she feels her wings have been clipped again. Weighed down by Bubbles' demand to travel with her, Feather also feels guilty for resenting it, knowing this could be their last trip together. Even so, she had anticipated a summer free of responsibility, with time to explore and expand and try out new modes of art. Pushing the envelope. Throwing off the restraints of teaching and being in control.
Bubbles' abundant energy suddenly makes her feel old, though it dawns on her that she'll be orphaned one of these days. Though Bubbles seems immortal at times, she can't go on forever. That thought makes Feather think of the upcoming Mexico trip differently. It could be an opportunity for them to make a deeper connection before...She doesn't want to finish the sentence.

What she hadn't planned on was her mother pouring a cup of water into her grandmother's urn of ash...and having a woman, about her own age, soon appear as a passenger on the back seat... which is my only clue of what is coming!

Bubbles, on the other hand, is thinking about the "possibilities" in Mexico... 

Bubbles hums, "I'm gonna wash that man right out of my hair." relieved that it's Ernie who is now underground and not herself. They buried him a few weeks earlier. The two had tied the knot when she was seventy, in her prime. They met at a singles' dance, and it was love at first sight. Nine years her juuior, he was quite a dresser in his white tux with a red bow tie and red cummerbund. All the women wanted to get their hands on him, but he chose her.
If she had known then what she knows now, she never would have married the bastard. He couldn't get it up the whole time they were together, and he ran her ragged. It's a wonder she isn't in the grave instead of him.
"Mother, get me my dinner. Mother, I need some razor blades," Mother this, Mother that. It drove her crazy. He also put a good dent in her savings.
When she viewed him for the last time at the funeral home, she had asked for a few minutes alone with the body, wanting to leave something for him to remember her by. The others tiptoed out of the viewing room, and she stared for a few minutes at that face she'd grown to hate. The crooked Popeye nose with the black hair growing out of the nostrils. The mouth permanently twisted in a cruel smirk. Well, she'd get the last laugh on him. A waste of twenty good years. She could have met someone else and had a nice life...
Bubbles had leaned over the coffin and picked up his left hand, the fingers stiff and resisting. She wrangled with the wedding band she had bought him until it flew off, landing on the  floor. She bent over, snatched it up, and dropped it into her coat pocket. He wasn't going to the grave with her ring on his finger...
Bubbles turns away, her feet moving to the rhythms of "La Cucaracha," a tune that she hums. She dances around the room in the arms of a handsome Mexican with a thin, black mustache. He's wearing one of those floppy sombreros. After bumping into the TV set, she falls, out of breath, only the couch, laughing and grabs and letter from Mexico's dead-letter office, fanning her face with it, feeling hot suddenly, though she shouldn't be getting hot flashes at her age. She still can't believe it. Her mother's ashes? She's heard how bad the mail service can be in Mexico from Feather, who sent her a post card once from Puerto Vallarta that reached her two years later. Everything manana. But seventy years? Holy smoke. It's just like her mother to make a surprise visit.

There is much to ponder regarding family relationships in this book--about family that has already died and those for whom death may be near. When we are disappointed or hurt by a parent, is there a way to rekindle the love that once existed--before the hurt occurred. Bubbles is 90 and thinks nothing about her possible near death, while her daughter, recognizing her age, is more aware of it, while at the same time, considering what time she has lost in finding her own way...

I identified more with Feather, a serious woman, living her life as she is able, but still cognizant of others in her life--yet knowing that the loss of her mother at a difficult time led her to grow up faster than normal and to resent what she had lost...On the other hand, it is Feather who finds her "Shaman." I loved this character! He had gone to college to learn about Agriculture to help his own community and then started to learn to become a Shaman to actually care for them. The fact that he had never learned everything he should have been taught allowed for a really funny set of things that constantly happened around him--bits of magic that just happened because he'd not learned how to control his powers. That alone, created a levity for Feather that seemed to change her, becoming more youthful as she fell deeper and deeper in love.

It is the way death was looked at, in the end, that won over my full support for the book. What occurred in the book is pure fantasy--or was it? Who knows, when we reach 90 and head for Mexico, we might also be caught up in the festival where Bubbles' presence resulted in rain sufficient to save the crops... And, of course, then prepare for the Dia de los Muertos festival...
 As night falls, they all move in procession from the square to the cemetery. Bubbles leads the way, holding on to Victor's arm. He carries a pail of water from her fountain...As they pass among the graves, the children strew them with flowers. Bubbles dips her fingers into the water and sprinkles it about, some of it landing on the ground, some on the people. No one minds...Later, rockets will flare, dancikng will resume, and the merrymaking will continue into the night. Laughter and children's voices will float above them all, Bubbles' the loudest.

Do check this one out! 


*(Please note that I had a hard time correlating the gods/goddesses mentioned in the book with those I tried to find through research...I have no idea whether I've been successful in that endeavor.)

Writing requires exertion, the ability not to give in when we've received yet another rejection. Some people call this perseverance. But is that what it takes to keep writing in the face of adversity, rejection, and lack of recognition? The word sounds so duty bound, so driven. To me, a better word is discipline because at the root is disciple, though there are many lovely variations on this word that I actually prefer: student, follower, learner, devotee.

I'm devoted to following the intricacies of language and where it takes me. I'm ardent about words and what they evoke in our minds and imaginations, the worlds they create. And I'm constantly learning, a student of the writer's craft, eager to open myself each day to the endless possibilities this calling presents. No wonder I love to write!

About me? Born in Edmonton, I was raised in Calgary and currently live in the SF Bay Area. A high school dropout and a mother at 17, in my early years, I supported myself as a stock girl in the Hudson's Bay Company, as a long distance operator for the former Alberta Government Telephones, and as a secretary (Bechtel Corp sponsored me into the States). I also was a cocktail waitress at the Fairmont Hotel in San Francisco; briefly broke into the male-dominated world of the docks as a longshoreman (and almost got my legs broken); founded and managed a homeless shelter in Marin County; co-created THE STORY SHOPPE, a weekly radio program for children that aired on KTIM in Marin County; and eventually earned two Master's degrees (one in Creative writing and one in the Humanities). I've published reviews, interviews, short fiction, poetry, travel pieces, essays, and memoir in over 145 American and Canadian venues. Fling! was published in July 2015. Bone Songs, another novel, will be published in 2016. My poetry collection, All This, was published in 2011. Visit my blog at

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Paul M. Kramer Provides Children's Book on Sensitive Subject... Grandma Went to Heaven...Coming Soon!

Grandmother's Love - Cynthia Snider


 A love that has no limits
 a love that’s always there 
A love that is never ending, 
a love beyond compare. 
Someone you can laugh with, 
someone you can tell your secrets to. 
Someone who will protect 
and keep you safe, 
someone who will always love you. 
Caring and forgiving,
 no matter what you’ve done.
 Patient and understanding, 
for you’re her loving 
granddaughter or grandson.

Grandma Went to Heaven

Written by Paul M. Kramer
Illustrated by Helda Tacke

Over the Christmas and New Year holidays, we lost the grandfather in my sister's family (my brother-in-law) and I suffered with his grandchildren as they faced the loss of their loved one. I remembered when my mother died and, though different children, due to the timing of the deaths, the emotional turmoil for my nieces and nephews was very real, especially for those who had lived and been close to Mom...

Paul Kramer seems to know the topics that are or could be emotionally troubling or deeply felt by children and he tackles each one with love and care so that his readers can use his books to help--in this case--in a time of grief. You may recall another hard subject was covered by Kramer in Jenny, Cancer Survivor. While his books do not overtly talk about God, it is clear to readers, that he shares God's love as he writes to our children on matters of emotional importance. I applaud Paul for his great efforts!

I love my Grandma very, very much.
I’m so sorry she had to leave.
She wasn’t with me long enough
One immediate attribute you will quickly see is that Paul and Helga, his illustrator, pick bold beautiful colors to complement the story. They are warm and glow with heavenly love to envelope the children as they deal with a heavy subject like death. I can almost guarantee that any reader who has had a close relationship with a grandparent will feel tears of remembrance as they share this book with a beloved grandchild.

The poem above closes out the book, but each page is also rhyming words, easily read and meaning grasped. They provide wonderful memory triggers so that the child may begin to recognize that they will always have those memories of loving times, even though Grandma is now gone.

The book mentions about having secrets between the child and grandparent, memories of playing games together, protecting him when he became afraid, making his favorite foods, and reading books to him before bedtime...

The book makes it quite obvious that the child felt safe with Grandma, even when his parents weren't around. And isn't that the most important thing--helping the child feel safe, even in the face of having a loved one no longer be readily there in his life.

Thinking about my grandma 
sometimes makes me want to cry. 
I feel better when I realize 
she’ll always be with me. 
For In my heart, she’ll never die.
I know my grandma will be watching over me. 
I’m so lucky to have had her as my grandma. 
She will live forever in my memory.

I believe this is the perfect book for a child, at the appropriate time. It may be sometime when Grandma is sick and the parents want to prepare the child. Or it may be later...  But I believe sincerely it will help children in their loss.  My niece called last night and I quickly told her she had to give herself time to grieve. Children grieve too, but may not fully understand what death means, or know how to express their feelings. A book might be just what is needed so that parents can talk to their child and help them remember all the love and good times shared with Grandma...

A must-read, when needed...


Mr. Kramer's books attempt to reduce stress and anxiety and resolve important issues children face in their everyday lives. His books are often written in rhyme. They are entertaining, inspirational, educational and easy to read. One of his goals is to increase the child's sense of self worth.

He has written books on various subjects such as bullying, divorce, sleep deprivation, worrying, shyness, and weight issues.

Mr. Kramer has appeared on "Good Morning America," "The Doctors," "CNN Live" as well as several other Television Shows in the United States and Canada. He's been interviewed and aired on many radio programs including the British Broadcasting System and has had countless articles written about his work in major newspapers and magazines throughout the world.