Sunday, November 23, 2014

Book Review - Edward Adrift by Craig Lancaster

Edward Adrift
Craig Lancaster
Paperback: 320 pages
Publisher: Lake Union Publishing; Unabridged edition (April 9, 2013)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1611099056
ISBN-13: 978-1611099058 

BOOK BLURB: The follow-up to 600 Hours of Edward, this novel revisits Edward Stanton three years after the end of the previous book and finds him in a scattered state. When he learns that his young friend Kyle is in trouble, Edward sets out on a road trip that carries him to some unexpected places—and might just deliver him to the doorstep of love.

Craig's first book was one of my favorite all time reads, and I was delighted when I finally made time to read the sequel. Edward is a 42-year-old man with Asperger's Syndrome, who is trying his best to find "normal" in a world that does not conform to this way of thinking and operating. If you've ever wondered what goes on in the mind of someone with Aspergers, Edward can clue you in, and as he reminds everyone, "I'm not stupid, I'm just developmentally challenged."

I loved Edward when I met him in the first book, and love him even more as I see how he has managed to take control of his life. In 600 Hours Edward was just coming to terms with his uniqueness and starting counseling to learn coping techniques. To see how the counseling has helped him get from there to where this new story starts is a joy, as I have come to think of Edward as a real person and am rooting for him all the way.

One Amazon reviewer commented, "... to say that this book is about aspergers (sic) syndrome, or even about a guy with aspergers syndrome is to sell it short. Really short. This book is about a guy. A fantastic guy with quirks and foibles who does the best he can to cope with his life, and who sometimes succeeds. It's a richly drawn portrait of a really, really interesting guy who you'd like to know more about, who also happens to have aspergers, which affects his personality to an extent."

I agree. While I found the insights into how his mind works, I also connected to Edward as a person, and he was just as interesting to me as some of my quirky writer friends.

Another reviewer commented that this wasn't a road-trip book, or a book about Asperger's, it wasn't a romance, it wasn't a story about triumph over adversity, and it wasn't a coming-of-age story. I disagree. It was all of those, just not in the usual style that we are accustomed to, and it doesn't fit neatly into a genre. It's simply a novel. And one hell of a story.

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DISCLAIMER: I purchased this book, and Craig did not bribe me in any way to say nice things about his writing. We are friends, but that didn't influence me either. I loved his writing before we became friends on Facebook.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Friday's Odds and Ends

There was an interesting article in last Sunday's Dallas Morning News written originally in the Princeton Alumni magazine by Lawrence Otis Graham, an attorney and author. His article, Wealth can't protect your kids from racism, had some interesting things to say about the problem. What prompted the article was in incident involving his 15-year-old son and a bigoted white guy at a New England boarding school.

Apparently, as the young man was walking across campus, a guy in a car pulled up beside him and called out, "Are you the only nigger at Mellon Academy?" (Graham changed the name of the school.)

Graham was most upset about the incident because he said he and his wife had worked hard to teach their children how to act and talk so they would fit in smoothly with the white community. No slouchy pants, no sunglasses, no hoodies, and no ebonics. Yet this young man obviously did not fit in smoothly to the entire white community.

I found this article most distressing. First, just the blatant bigotry that young man in the car displayed. I thought we were past that kind of thing. But therein lies the problem. We are not past it. Not one bit.

Racism and bigotry are two themes I explore in the Seasons Mystery Series that debuted with Open Season, and I have done a lot of research about racial profiling, the use of deadly force, as well as interviews with police officers both black and white about the difficulties they face. That initial research was done almost 30 years ago, and sadly not a lot has changed. You just have to consider what happened to Trayvon Martin in Florida in 2012 and the tragedy this year in Ferguson, Missouri.

I think part of the problem is that different bothers us. Sometimes it even scares us. We like to stay in our own area of comfort where we know the people and we know what to expect from them. We are hard-wired to be alert for stranger-danger. 


So maybe we should stop thinking of others as strangers and more like friends we just haven't met.

Something else of interest in the Dallas Morning News was a story about a new program in West Dallas. Two graffiti artists, Eder Martinez and Kirk Garnett went to a city hall meeting and asked if the city would consider a santioned graffiti wall where artists could express themselves creatively and not worry about being arrested. Other cities have freewall public art projects, and Garnett thought that should work in Dallas.
Image courtesy of MarcoFolio.net
Apparently it has. There are plans to add more sites for artists, and it is a win-win on both sides. Kudos to the city leaders for their willingness to listen.

Now here's some advice from Will Rogers to kick off your weekend on a light note:

* There are two theories to arguing with a woman. Neither works.
* Never miss a good chance to shut up.
* If you find yourself in a hole, stop digging.
* The quickest way to double your money is to fold it and put it back into your pocket.
* There are three kinds of men:
         The ones that learn by reading.
         The few who learn by observation.
         The rest of them have to pee on the electric fence and find out for themselves.
* Good judgment comes from experience, and a lot of that comes from bad judgment.
* Lettin' the cat outta the bag is a whole lot easier'n puttin' it back.
* After eating an entire bull, a mountain lion felt so good he started roaring. He kept it up until a hunter came along and shot him. The moral: When you're full of bull, keep your mouth shut.

Please do leave a comment if you have an opinion to share, or if you have a joke to share with us.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Legendary Thanksgiving Dinner

Please welcome Slim Randles as today's Wednesday's guest. He has a cute story that tells us how not to plan a Thanksgiving dinner. Since it is never too soon to have some pumpkin pie - and mine are the best, just ask any of my kids -  we can all have a slice to go with our morning coffee. Hey, who says you can't have pie for breakfast? Hurry and grab you a piece before the pie is gone. Enjoy....

Courtesy of Deliciously Delicious where you can find a recipe for the pie
Steve will have Thanksgiving dinner over at Doc’s and Mrs. Doc’s this year, and any number of his friends are grateful for that. Steve is one heckuva cowboy and trainer of young colts, and a good friend to all, but he’d never make it as a dinner host.

Very few Thanksgiving dinners achieve legendary status, but “Steve’s Thanksgiving” was certainly one of them. Some said it happened because he’s lived alone and cooked meals for himself for so many years. Some say he has worked alone for so long that he isn’t of a coordinating mind. The answer could be buried in the middle there somewhere. Steve himself isn’t certain.

It all happened early in Fall a couple of years ago when Steve completed his cabin up in the mountains here. He’d even finished the turret. In about September of that year, he’d started cleaning the place up on his infrequent visits, because he just knew somewhere inside that he’d created a modest monument there and wanted to share it with his friends. Naturally.

So, back at the ranch bunkhouse down in the valley, he’d studied up on how to roast a turkey: what to put on it, how to thaw it, how to tell when it’s done, all that stuff.


Then he invited his friends for Thanksgiving dinner, up at the cabin. He told each one that he’d be fixing a turkey dinner up there and to come on up and have some fun. And each of them, in turn, asked Steve what they should bring for the dinner.

“Oh, I don’t care,” he’d said, “you know … whatever you’d like, I guess.”

He said that to Doc and Mrs. Doc. And Dud and Emily. And Herb. And Bert and Maizie. And Marvin and Margie. And Mavis at the Mule Barn.

That Thanksgiving Day was a sparkler … crisp sunshine, Fall colors. Oh man, it was great!

And the turkey was in that wood-fired Home Comfort range and looking brown and juicy when the friends started to arrive. They’d each made the considerable drive up the mountain to the end of the road, then walked in the last hundred yards to the warm and cozy little cabin.

And each of them … every one of them … brought a pumpkin pie.

Turkey and pumpkin pie. Traditional favorites on Thanksgiving. But … strangely enough, after three of the pies had been consumed, there were still some left over.

But hey, that turkey turned out all right. And this year, Steve’s going over to Doc’s and Mrs. Doc’s for dinner. Mrs. Doc told him to bring biscuits.
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Brought to you by Home Country, the book (now an ebook as well) on Amazon, Kindle

Monday, November 17, 2014

Monday Morning Musings

I'm reading Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline, and it is a wonderful story. Vivian, now 81 years old, was an orphan in the late 20s and early 30s and part of the story is set back then, chronicling her experiences after she is taken by Child Services from New York to Minnesota to find an adoptive family. Many children were taken on the train, with stops in several cities and towns to find homes. The children were often not more than indentured servants, and too often treated horribly. Such was the case for Vivian.

Jumping ahead to 2011, Molly, another child in foster care, enters the story. She is an older teen, almost ready to age out of the system. She has been in a number of foster homes and has all the problems of any young person who was shuffled from place to place and never appreciated for who she is.

Molly goes to work for Vivian, and the ways their lives parallel each other and then intersect is very touching.

I am so enthralled with the writing, I just have to share this short excerpt that occurs late in the story when Molly is thrown out of her latest foster home:
She's too old for this- too old to wait around to be placed with another foster family. Too old to switch schools, move to a new town, submit herself to yet another foster parent's whims. She is so white-hot furious, she can barely see. She stokes the fire of her hatred, feeding it tidbits about bigoted idiot Dina and spineless mushmouth Ralph, because she knows that just beyond the rage is a sorrow so enervating it could render her immobile. She needs to keep moving, flickering around the room. She needs to fill her bags and get the hell out of here.
I didn't intend to do a review when I started the blog today. I was just going to mention what I was reading, but this has been such a terrific read, I just had to share.

On another note, I found an interesting bit of trivia about Vernors Ginger Ale. On one of the mystery readers lists I belong to, we were discussing different kids of sodas, and someone mentioned Vernors.  That is a soda I remember from my childhood that was bottled in Detroit and only sold in select places in Michigan. We could go down to the bottling plant and get samples, sometimes as a float with vanilla ice cream. It was also widely used to soothe stomach upsets, and I remember my mother warming the ginger ale and adding some milk. I liked it so much, I asked for it even when I wasn't sick.

I was curious about the history of Vernors, so I went over to Wikipedia and found some interesting information. According to company legend, prior to the start of the American Civil War, while a clerk at the Higby & Sterns drugstore in Detroit, James Vernor experimented with flavors in an attempt to duplicate a popular ginger ale imported from Dublin, Ireland.

Here is another website, created by Joe Blizzard,  with more information if you are dying to know all the history of this unique ginger ale.

I remember this sign which was at the front entrance of the bottling plant for many years.

It wouldn't be Monday without a joke to start your week off. A friend sent me these quotes from Phyllis Diller, and I thought they were cute:

Whatever you may look like, marry a man your own age.  As your beauty fades, so will his eyesight.
 
Housework can't kill you, but why take a chance?
 
Cleaning your house while your kids are still growing up is like shoveling the walk before it stops snowing.

The reason women don't play football is because 11 of them would never wear the same outfit in public.
 
Do you have a favorite soda that is unique to the part of the world in which you live? Got a joke to share? Let us know in the comments.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Just a Little BSP

Yesterday was the official launch party for the new International Anthology, Short and Happy (Or Not), that contains my short story To Love Again. The book was just released this week on Amazon and already has 9 reviews. One reviewer wrote: "A sampling in all the right ways. Overall one of my favorite reads in the past couple of months. I had a lot of fun stepping inside the minds of somany diverse and engaging authors."


I also want to announce that my mystery, Boxes for Beds, which was a Kindle exclusive for almost a year, is now available for Kobo, Nook, iTunes, Inktera. Of course it is still available for Kindle readers, too. I just decided to open distribution and used Draft2Digital, a terrific company that helps indie authors who don't want to take the time to create all the different formats for all of these retail outlets.


The folks at D2D will convert a Word document into an ebook, create clean chapter breaks and a functioning table of contents. It is a quick and easy process from the author end and I highly recommend the service. There is no upfront charge and D2D only takes 10% of the retail price.

And now, so this isn't just about me, here is an interview with Laura Parker on Regan Walker's blog Historical Romance Review. Laura is the best-selling author of 40 books, many of them historical romances, and her Rose Trilogy is being offered as a boxed set through Untreed Reads. I read all three books in the series that started with Rose of the Mists and they are terrific stories. The new release has a different cover, but here is the original from that first book.


Since books make great gifts, it is not too soon to think about some of the written treasures for folks on your gift list.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Friday's Odds and Ends

Here we are at day 3 of the Arctic Blast that is affecting much of the United States. The way the media is going crazy with reports you would think we never had winter before. Granted, winter does not usually come this early. I can't remember freezing temperatures before December here in Texas, but then my memory is not what it used to be.

I was worried about that - my memory not the snow - until my sister sent the following to me:

Brains of older people are slow because they know so much.  People do not decline mentally with age, it just takes them longer to recall facts because they have more information stored in their brains, scientists believe. 

Researchers say this slowing down is not the same as cognitive decline.  The human brain works slower in old age, said Dr.Michael Ramscar, but only because we have stored more information over time.
The brains of older people do not get weak. On the contrary, they simply know more, but just may not be able to access the information.

Also, older people often go to another room to get something and when they get there, they stand there wondering what they came for.  It is NOT a memory problem, it is nature's way of making older
people do more exercise.  SO THERE!!

Whew! I feel so much better now.

Did you know that Medicare fraud adds as much as 10% to health care costs? Peggy Sposato is a data analyst for the Justice Department, and she pioneered a program that uses Medicare billing data to target suspected fraud. It is estimated that she has saved the taxpayers billions of dollars since the mid 1990s when she assumed her current position. As much as $20 billion a year is lost to Medicare fraud, and AARP has some helpful links that you can use to help spot and report fraud.  

An interesting commentary by Ruben Navarrette carried this headline: Life isn't far and never will be, so get over it.

Ruben went on to say that Americans need to stop listening to populist rhetoric and accept the many injustices of our system. He then quotes JFK, "There is always inequity in life...It's very hard...to assure complete equality. Life is unfair."

One point that Ruben made in his commentary is that sometimes dealing with the unfairness in life is what makes us stronger

He also seemed to be saying that instead of jumping on every claim of "unfairness" we should work on just accepting the reality and figuring out how to live within that reality.

One of the most absurd news items I read this past week was about Arnold Abbot, a 90-year-old man who was arrested in Fort Lauderdale for violating an ordinance that restricts public feeding of the homeless. 

Really? The police couldn't just tell him to pack up the food and go away?

Now I'll leave you with a bit of humor from One Big Happy by Rick Detorie. Ruthie is sitting at the table with her father, Frank, who is helping her with her math homework. He says, "You have 22 carrot sticks on you plate. If your friend Sam takes six sticks and your Friend Tessa takes four sticks... But Tessa returns two sticks... How many carrot sticks are on your plate?"

Ruthie thinks for a few moments and her father asks, "Shouldn't you be writing down some numbers, Ruthie?"

"First of all... I don't know who these people are. Secondly, if I did know them, I would never eat with them. Thirdly, it's a stupid question. Who wants to steal carrots?

"Now, if they were French fries? Maybe."

Brother Joe pipes up with, "She makes a good point, Dad."

I knew there was a reason I relate so much to Ruthie. I hated those word problems in school, too. What about you?

Have a great weekend everyone.
 

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

A Helping Hand

Please welcome Slim Randles as today's Wednesday's Guest with another one of his tales featuring the guys at the Mule Barn Truck Stop Think Tank. This story really resonated with me, as I could relate to Mrs. Morris, and thank goodness I have neighbors like Windy, although my neighbors talk purt near normal. 

While Slim is entertaining us here, I am over at the Blood Red Pencil blog with a bit of mid-week humor to help you over the hump. Do stop by if you have a chance.

It is bitter cold here in most of the United States, and I'm sure in plenty of other places across the world, so let's have some hot chocolate and stay warm. Enjoy....


 Windy looked out the window. A great day for helping. Windy Wilson sets one day aside each week for helping others, you see, and this was helping day.

Mrs. Morris, he thought, checking on the calendar. Yes, Mrs. Morris’s poor ol’ shed that’s leaning dangerously to one side.

“I can just whup over there today and see that gets fixated,” Windy said, smiling. “By dark, she’ll have a perp-up-and-dicular shed she can be proud of.”

Windy talks like that. A lot.

Armed with enough tools to recreate the city of Troy, Windy arrived at Mrs. Morris’s house and set to work. He rigged a come-along to a tree and used it to straighten the shed. Then, while he had it straight up, he attacked it with bracing.

Mrs. Morris brought him coffee a couple of times, and later had him in for lunch. Mr. Morris had passed away several years ago, and some of these bigger chores were beyond her abilities.

Windy hadn’t asked Mrs. Morris about fixing the shed, because that’s part of the fun for him. You just show up and do it. Do it until it’s done. Do it right. Fortunately, Windy has always been pretty handy with tools.

By three o’clock, that shed was up and braced, and several loose boards had been nailed back in their homes again. He brought the can of paint out of his truck and started painting it the same light green it had always been.

Inside the house, Mrs. Morris looked out upon the wonder of a reconditioned shed in her back yard. She picked up the phone.

“Mr. Johnson? This is Mrs. Morris. That’s right. Look, I know I’d asked you to take down my old shed, but I’ve changed my mind. No, I don’t think the old shed will fall on anyone. Thanks so much anyway.”

Nothing like a good helping day, Windy thought, rinsing out his paint brush and dancing a little jig carrying the tools back to his pickup. Nothing like it.
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Brought to you by Saddle Up: A Cowboy Guide to Writing