Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Let's all be Mellow

I thought after slamming HOAs and talking about road rage, it would be a good idea to focus on something pretty and relaxing.

In Texas we have some of the most spectacular cloud formations I have ever seen. And the sky can go on forever, giving this amazing "postcard" view of the clouds. At sunrise and sunset, the colors can take your breath away.

Last night, as I was coming home from picking up some hay, I almost ran off the road when I saw the clouds along the eastern horizon. Of course, by the time I got home and ran in to get my camera, some of them had dissipated. Plus I didn't have the same vantage point I did when I was on a high point in the road. Not to mention the problem of  the trees that tend to get in the way. But I did get some shots and I hope you enjoy them.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

A Double Whammy of Absurdities

First,  I thought the story about the woman in a suburb of Dallas who was told she had to get rid of the tree stump in her front yard was the most absurd news item I read this week. According to the report, the stump has been in her yard for about 15 years and the city just now cited her for it.  The stump is huge. In fact, her son carved part of it into a seat where she can sit and watch the birds and the rabbits who frequently visit. It is a special place for her but apparently, the city does not care. There is an ordinance against having a dead tree stump on private property.

Could we all say "private property?"

As absurd as that is, however, it pales next to the story about a Homeowners Association in Texas that foreclosed on the home of a soldier  because he was late in paying his dues. The soldier was serving in Iraq at the time and apparently his wife did not open the mail that had the notices that the HOA payment  was overdue. The dues were $977 and the HOA sent several notices that were not responded to. So they foreclosed on the house and sold it at auction for $3, 201 to a man who later sold it for $135,000.

The house was originally purchased for $315,000.

Those who support the Texas law that allows foreclosures for non payment of HOA dues say that foreclosing is the only way that HOAs can compel people to pay the annual dues and abide by the other rules.

That reasoning is so absurd the person who drafted it ought to be tarred and feathered.

What do you think?

Friday, June 25, 2010

Road Rage

Sometimes I wonder if there's a new element in the air making people crazy. I especially wonder when I find myself fighting an urge to do something stupid while I'm driving, like drag a car that's trying to pass me. (By the way, I lost. A Pontiac Vibe, even a very nice Pontiac Vibe, is no match for a Datsun 280-Z.)

That type of behavior is totally out of character for me as I am normally a very mild-mannered person. Some of my friends even call me Maryann Milquetoast.

But I'm beginning to understand Road Rage.

I get it when I'm tooling along the Interstate with my cruise set about seven above the posted speed limit. Then I glance in my rear-view mirror to see the grill of pickup truck bearing down on me like some wild beast straight out of Japanese animation.

Why does he wait until he's crawling up my bumper to pass? We're on a flat stretch of road for Pete's sake. He could clearly see my car while he was still a half a mile back; plenty of space and time to move over. But, no, he's got to practically crawl into my trunk just to let me know what he thinks of my lollygaging.

Road Rage also threatens when I get stuck in a construction area where two lanes are siphoned into one. Nobody likes the idea of a delay, but most folks simply sigh and get in line. But some folks think they don't have to. Despite the signs that have warned for a mile that the right lane is closed ahead, drivers zoom up to the flashing arrow and inch their way into the bottleneck.

Of course, they don't consider themselves a primary cause of the bottleneck. Hey, they've got places to go and people to see, and they're just making sure they get to their places faster than anyone else. Too bad for the fools who all dutifully lined up in the left lane.

As they force their way into the line, careful not to make eye contact, do they really think we don't know what they're thinking?

Years ago when I had a big Chevy van, I liked to straddle the line between the two lanes to prevent cars from slipping around me. I'd seen a Semi driver do this once and thought it was a nifty idea, but an eighteen-wheeler is a lot more imposing than a van.

I still had people try to squeeze past and we'd do this weird little road-dance familiar to racing fans who've watched drivers maneuver to keep a car from passing on the straight-away.

Keeping all the cars behind me did wonders for my blood pressure. I could feel it subsiding from near stroke level with every little giggle of delight. And I didn't even mind that the success had less to do with driving skill and more to do with the fact that I was driving a vehicle that wouldn't even notice another dent.

Of course, this isn't something I could try now. People no longer vent their frustration with severe pounding on their steering wheels. Now they pull a Colt 45.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

What Happened to Customer Service?

Yesterday I was at  a Wal-Mart store to pick up a card table I had purchased in a Site-to-Store transaction. The store is almost 30 miles from our home, so my husband and I decided to make it an afternoon out, doing some other shopping, picking up the table, then going out to dinner.

This was my first experience with Site-to-Store transactions and I had no idea that getting the merchandise was harder than making a withdrawal from my bank. I went to the counter with my printed receipt and pick-up slip in hand and the clerk asked for a picture ID.

Oops, my drivers' license is in my car, which was still parked at home since we took the truck to pick up the table.

I didn't know I would need picture ID to pick up my table. And I will admit that that was my fault for not carefully reading the entire purchase agreement. But I still thought there had to be a way I would not be forced to drive 30 miles home, then 30 miles back to the story, then 30 miles back home again.  And I had the paid receipt and order number in my hand.  It's not like I just walked in and asked for the table that Maryann Miller had ordered. The clerk didn't even blink.  I had to prove my identity.

Stupid, stupid, stupid, so I asked to talk to a manager, who likewise would not budge. She said it was store policy so they would know the right person was picking up what was ordered.

When I asked how the "wrong" person would have the receipt and pick-up slip, they went on about how someone could hack into my computer and print out the slip. Like that would really happen for a $39.00 card table. 

I walked away so frustrated my husband offered to let me punch him. Since he had nothing to do with the mess, I passed.

What do you think? Is this a stupid policy or is it just my frustration making me think so?

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Who Can Resist a Kitten?

Living out here in the country, we frequently have cats, kittens, puppies and dogs dropped off by people who no longer want them. This is a practice that we all wish would never happen. Do those people really think most of these animals stand a chance against hunger, coyotes who are hungry, and trucks that can come barreling down our county roads?

We, my husband and I, have acquired most of our cats via this dump-method, and we now have a kitten that may make cat number four for us. I am going to try to find her a home. Honest I am, but if that doesn't happen soon, well.....

She is a cute little kitten who misses her mother with an angst that is loud and persistent. She cried for five solid hours the first evening she showed up.

And our poor old dog, Misha, has had to put up with the kitten's attempts to find solace and sustenance in a "foster mother." I never knew this dog had so much patience.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Book Review- The Serpent Pool

One of my writer friends is kind enough to share his book reviews with me. Thanks to Carl for the following....

By Martin Edwards
Published by Poisoned Pen Press,
February, 2010, Hard cover, 284 pgs.
ISBN: 978-1-59058-593-1

The author is experienced, long published. He has four mysteries in this, the Lake District police cases, featuring DCI Hannah Scarlett and historian Daniel Kind. I admit, ever since I was introduced to the Lake District through the excellent novels of Arthur Ransome, he of The Picts and Swallows, I’ve been a big fan of almost everything written by for and about the area.

Edwards has twelve novels and a sizable canon, plus he is a well-received critic and commentator. For those reasons I was somewhat disappointed by the long set of annoyances he as narrator has put forth. He appears to dislike the wealthy, attorneys, police funding, professional police administrators, the high-born and the low, plus a bunch of others. Too bad. His annoyances get in the way of the full enjoyment of a really well-conceived and rendered story.

DCI Hanna Scarlett, is still coping with her irascible lover and book dealer Marc Amos and her attraction to historian Daniel Kind. Kind, back in the district is the son of Hannah’s ex-boss. Hannah heads the local Cold Case squad looking at the seven year-old death of Emily Friend. Was it murder? Or suicide and does it matter after so many years? DCI Scarlett thinks so and she takes her upstanding sense of justice into a case that grows more and more complicated and closer to home than she care to contemplate.

It is often said that good mystery writing is founded on the careful and measured release of information to the reader. Martin is a master of the technique. Whether he writes about Hannah’s personal problems with the men in her life, the interesting murders of two book dealers/collectors in the immediate area, or the weather which can be depressing at times, the author maintains careful control. In most aspects, this is a novel that can be savored and fully enjoyed.

Carl Brookins
Case of the Greedy Lawyer, Devils Island, Bloody Halls


Since Carl did not include the FCC disclaimer. I will disclaim that I profited in any way from this book or this review. Unless you factor in that I did not have to write my own blog today. Whatever that is worth.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

States' Rights in Jeapordy?

Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer has indicated that she is ready to fight the federal lawsuit that will be filed challenging the immigration law passed in her state earlier this year.

In a statement issued late Friday, Brewer called the Obama Administration's decision "outrageous" but "not surprising."

The law, which takes effect July 29, requires officers to question a person's immigration status if there's a reasonable suspicion that he or she is in the country illegally. There have been at least five legal challenges filed against the law since April, alleging that Arizona's law will lead to racial profiling. The lawsuits also argue that it's the federal government's responsibility to regulate immigration.

The problem with that second argument is that the federal government has not been doing such a hot job with the problems along the Mexico/U.S. border, so what are the border states to do? Wait? Just like they did after Katrina and now after the oil spill?

There is a little thing in our Constitution called the 10th Amendment. It provides that “powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”

"To the people." Do you all get that up there in Washington?

That means that the fishermen who would like to go out and help clean up the oil in the Gulf should be allowed to do so. The local governments and municipalities in Lousiana, Mississippi and Alabama should have been able to step up in the hours following the hurricane to start the clean up and rescue efforts instead of having to wait days for federal coordination.

And states should have the right to deal with the problem of illegal immigration as they see fit.

I'm not getting into the debate over illegal immigration. That is a whole other topic. What I am advocating for here are the rights of states and the citizens of those states. The federal government has been infringing on those rights for too many years now. They need to back off and take care of the business that is clearly theirs and allow the states to take care of their business.

What do you think?

For more on States Rights visit this Web site The Tenth Amendment Center

Friday, June 18, 2010

The Lawn Wars

Here is another excerpt from my humorous memoir, A Dead Tomato Plant and a Paycheck. And what does a horse have to do with it? You'll see at the end. Enjoy....

One of the joys of living in the suburbs is the inevitability of the Lawn Wars. You know what I mean. Who has the prettiest, neatest, best maintained lawn in the neighborhood?

Normally, I did not enter into that competition. Hey, I know when it is futile to even try. But one Sunday I told my husband that it was about time we did something about our lawn.


"Because just once this summer I'd like to see the lawn mowed, edged and trimmed all on the same day."


"I don't know. It's just this strange desire that comes over me now and then. It's the same compulsion I get once or twice a year to see the house all neat and clean for more than five minutes at a time."

"But it's a futile effort. It's all going to grow back."

"I know, but it will look so nice for a day or two. And who knows, we might even find the kid who got lost out there last week."

So we dusted off our yard tools and set to work.

A couple of hours later, the thrill of our adventure had worn thin, and I was beginning to think that maybe my husband had the right attitude all along. We were hot and sweaty and surly, and I had just made my third trip to bandage a new blister, wondering what idiot had ever invented lawn care.

Obviously, humanity was not born with a desire to have a lawn that looks like a putting green, and lawn care could hardly be included as one of the basic primitive instincts of survival. Not only would it have been next to impossible to keep a nice lawn with all those dinosaurs stomping about, I think a caveman had a lot more important things to worry about than what his neighbor's yard looked like. So where did this compulsion to tame green growing things come from?

After giving this question careful consideration, I decided that once upon a time there must have been this obsessive compulsive pioneer woman who drove her neighbors nuts by keeping her house so clean she didn't have to send out for a new sod floor every six months like the rest of them. She probably never had a wrinkle in her sunbonnet either. And she was probably the type who had all her work done while the rest of the ladies were still trudging down to the creek with their baskets of clothes.

One day, to stave off waves of boredom, she probably got this brilliant idea to take her compulsion for neatness outside. And that, folks, was the birth of lawn care.

But what I’d like to know is why her great-great granddaughter had to move in across the street from me?

Now I live in the country and have a different kind of lawn mower....

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

A Pitch For Liberal Arts

In a recent article, New York Times columnist David Brooks made a case for studying liberal arts in college. He said that in these difficult economic times many students are thinking they need to focus only on classes that lead directly to specific jobs.

While that is a good approach on many levels, Brooks also encourages students to study the humanities. He wrote "Studying the humanities improves your ability to read and write. No matter what you do in life, you will have a huge advantage if you can read a paragraph and discern its meaning. You will have enormous power if you are the person in the office who can write a clear and concise memo."

How many work-related memos and e-mails have you read that needed some serious editing?

Another point Brooks made about the importance of studying liberal arts was that it helps students be thinkers. It sharpens critical thinking skills and helps with understanding human behavior that goes beyond scientific study. He wrote that "deep down people have passions and drives that don't lend themselves to systemic modeling. They have yearnings and fears that reside in an inner beast you could call The Big Shaggy."

It is The Big Shaggy that prompts people to do things that we simply cannot understand or explain logically. Brooks wrote that some people are able to take the upheavals of life that emanate from The Big Shaggy and represent them in many forms. One of those forms is literature.

I tried several searches and have not been able to find a link to the whole article, and I wish I could. It would be interesting for all writers to read. I think we are all aware of the importance of having clear motivations for our character's actions, but the ability to really dig deep into The Big Shaggy would add even more dimension to the characters and the plot.

Thanks to Susan for providing the link to the Brooks Column in her comment.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

A Bit of Humor

Thank goodness I can always count on my friend, Tracy Farr, to have something fun to read on his blog. I have been out of town for a few days and swamped with work, so coming up with something new for the blog is a challenge I just can't deal with right now.

Tracy is gracious enough to let me ste..., er, borrow, from him when I am in a bind and the following is the lead to a piece he has on his blog today. It really is funnier than anything my overloaded brain could come up with right now. Enjoy.....

I spend way too much time on the computer. And when I say “I spend too much time,” I’m including YOU because you do too, and you can’t deny it – unless you don’t have a computer, then I guess you could deny it, but I’d think you were lying, so don’t.

We all spend way too much time on our computers and not enough time mingling with the people around us because 1) we don’t have to brush our teeth to chat with someone over the internet, and 2) we don’t want to talk to real people out in the real world on the off chance that they’ll have last night’s spinach stuck between their teeth.

To Read the rest click HERE

Sunday, June 13, 2010

The Good Old Summertime

Here is another excerpt from my humorous memoir, A Dead Tomato Plant and a Paycheck. Enjoy....

Since our family didn’t take many formal vacations, a primary source of recreations for a lot of summers involved going to the neighborhood pool. I’d bargain with the kids to leave me alone in the mornings to work, then we’d go swimming almost every afternoon.

Quite often we’d head right back to the pool after dinner for a quick dip before bedtime. That was a tremendous boon to our water bill at home, as a quick rinse in the pool shower eliminated the need for a bath, especially when I remembered to bring the shampoo.

At the beginning of each pool season, we were like everyone else, not sure if we wanted to bare our pale white skin to the hot Texas sun. Extra t-shirts and sunscreen were in abundance. Plus, there was that adjustment period where regulars would start marking off territory that was pretty well respected back then. Certain families liked certain spots on the grass surrounding the pool and they staked their claim with blankets, towels, and an assortment of beach and pool toys.

Territory was marked off in the pool, too, and when the twins were little, I had my own little section of the kiddy pool reserved for the year. There I could keep an eye on the twins and cultivate a suntan, or a new acquaintance, or both. I’d look across the pool with envy, longing for the day I’d get to sit on the other side of the pool with the rest of the grownups.

In the evenings, there was a whole different set of people at the pool, mainly lots of teenagers. Carl would always cast an appreciative eye on the new crop of sweet young things who ought to be arrested for looking so good, while I tried my best to hide my varicose veins and the bulges that had fallen from all the right places to all the wrong placeson my body. I knew there was no hope for me to be considered a bathing beauty when I no longer got even a passing glance from some kid who was too young for the sweet young things, but too old for Tinker Toys.

Typically, my kids wasted a lot of time and energy testing to make sure I really was not going to bring money to the pool. Not ever. They also had to make absolutely sure that I was not going to referee their fights, or decide who would get to play with the ball next. “Settle all that yourselves,” I’d tell them. “I’ve come to the pool to relax.”

Indeed, going to the pool could be very relaxing. When the noise topside got to be too much, I could always go under the water and stay there as long as I could hold my breath. Sometimes I swear it was the only time I was completely alone in any given day, and it sure was quiet and restful down there.

That’s when I realized that if I ever have suicidal tendencies, I will definitely have to stay away from the pool.

Friday, June 11, 2010

I'm Forever Blowing Bubbles

The buzz in publishing is all about marketing, branding, establishing a platform and promoting. It's enough to make a writer's head spin.

Thankfully, there are a lot of resources to help us as we try to navigate our way through an area we are not familiar with, nor particularly comfortable in. Just like there are reasons that only younger women have babies, there are reasons that writers should write and marketers should market.

Since that is not the case, we have to do as much as we can, when we can, and learn from people who are doing it successfully.

Just a few of the helpful resources that can be found Online are: Writer's Write.com -- Book Promotion.com -- PumpUpYourBook.com Help with virtual book tours can be found at BlogBookTours.com

For everything you could ever want to know about promoting books, just do a Google search for "book promotions". More sites will pop up than you can look at in one day.

One of the things that I have learned by reading and listening to marketing experts is that the hard sell does not work. I thought I was the only one turned off by "you've simply got to read my book." But apparently I'm not.

At a recent marketing seminar given by Jeff Crilley who has a PR firm, Real News, he said that selling is about connecting to people on an emotional level, which is what I have been hearing from other marketing experts. He said the best way to create buzz about a book is to talk to people. He encouraged authors to arrange speaking engagements at Rotary Clubs, Kiwanis, and any other civic or church organization. "When you talk to people in person, that's where hearts and minds are converted," he said.

When his presentation was finished I realized what was probably the most important part of his workshop. Not once did he push his book. He did talk about the book. How he came to write it. How he has used his marketing strategy to sell it. But not once did he directly invite the audience to buy the book.

The other thing that has stayed with me since attending his workshop last week was how much fun we had. He was quite entertaining and frequently made everyone laugh. And... now I'm getting to the bubbles... to make his point on how ineffective press releases can be, he gave everyone a little jar of bubbles. He had us all stand up and blow bubbles and then he said that the bubbles represented the hundreds of press releases that might be received by a newsroom of a major television station or newspaper.

Very effective illustration of the point he was making; a point that might have gotten lost if it had just been part of a Power-Point presentation.

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Loving My New Cover

Here is a peek at the coverart for my mystery that will be released in December by Five Star Cengage/Gale. The story is set in Dallas, so that is the Dallas skyline and the police badge is a picture of a real officer's badge. A friend let me take a picture of his to send to the artist who did the cover.

I am thrilled with what was done and some of the feedback I've received has been great. One person said, "The color scheme and the way the building scene is presented gives it a crime noir look that fits the book - a nice hard edge that I think will attract readers of crime novels."

I have also received some author blurbs from two writers for whom I have the greatest respect. I just posted a piece on the Criminal Minds at Work Blog, so if you are interested in reading what L.J. Sellers and Bruce Cook have to say about Open Season, just click HERE

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Meet Author Donna Crow

I am pleased to have as my guest today, Donna Fletcher Crow, who is the author of 35 books, mostly novels dealing with British history.

Instead of detailing her publishing history, I will let the interview we did introduce you to Donna and her work.

She titled the interview "The Power of Story" and I found that an intriguing title.

Q. What was your favorite book when you were a child? Tell us a little about it.

DONNA: Well, my mother read the classics to me: Bambi, Heidi, Hans Brinker. As an only child I loved reading The Bobbsey Twins series. I thought living in that family would be heaven— having adventures with brothers and a sister was the way I wanted to live. I especially remember The Bobbsey Twins and Mystery Mansion, The Bobbsey Twins at The Seashore.

The point isn’t really what I read, because I didn’t move on to great literature until my sophomore high school English teacher required that I read Wuthering Heights and I never looked back after that. But the thing is that I LOVED to read! I was an only child growing up on a farm in the days before television. Now that dates me, doesn’t it? I spent days on end lost in books. And I never came out. I suppose I do the same thing now when I’m writing.

Q. When did you know you wanted to be a writer?

DONNA: As you can tell, my original passion wasn’t writing, it was reading, although I did write poetry and short stories as a child, mostly I just wanted to read. I loved stories. And when I didn’t have a book in front of me— late at night in bed— I would tell myself stories. It was always stories: stories I read; stories I told myself.

I guess I’ve always been fuzzy. When I was writing my grail search epic Glastonbury my daughter’s high school friends would say I was “Lost in Glastonbury” whenever I did something particularly spaced-out.

Q, What was the first thing you wrote? The first to get published?

DONNA: Well, if you don’t count the series of adventure novels I wrote and illustrated in the 6th grade— starring myself and my friends and each lasting about 5 pages— my first writings were plays for our church drama group because after we had done “The Robe” and “A Man Called Peter” there wasn’t much else available. I still use the dramatic approach in writing my novels— arranging the action in terms of scenes and watching it all play out in my head.

My first published? Oh, my goodness— can you believe I had to get the books out and look at the copyright dates to be sure? The confusion is, they weren’t published in the order I wrote them. My first novel was a Regency-style historical novel, Brandley’s Search which was eventually published in 1986 about 7 years after my first draft and about a hundred rewrites. My first published were two inspirational category romances, Greengold Autumn in 1984 and The Desires of Your Heart in 1985. Writing category fiction was a great way to learn my craft, but as soon as I realized I couldn’t read it any longer I had to quit writing it.

Q. How many years did you submit before your first publication?

DONNA: Oops, I answered that last question all wrong. My first book to get published (I had done a lot of short things before that) was The Frantic Mother Cookbook in 1982. I never imagined a writing career for myself. I was a mother and a retired (I hoped) English teacher. But after 3 sons we wanted a girl. And I didn’t get pregnant. I had to do something, so I started developing my writing skills. Writing the long-unpublished Brandley’s Search was part of that process. Then in 1980 Elizabeth was born. The Frantic Mother Cookbook was my response to survival with four children, one in high school, one in junior high, one in grade school and one in diapers. A through line is, “Will someone pick up Elizabeth? She’s crying again.” (Which is actually libel because she wasn’t a fussy baby.)

Q. What kept you persevering? What helps you now when the frustrations of the business mount?

DONNA: Mmm, good question. I suppose there was really never anything else I really wanted to do. There was always another story I wanted to tell, even most recently when I came through my 10 years-long “Wilderness.” I was still writing, I just wasn’t publishing. A Very Private Grave is one of the products of the wilderness. A supportive husband and writing community have been great helps in keeping going, but in the end, it has to come from inside oneself. And that comes down to Faith.

Q What do you like to do when you are not writing?

DONNA: I’m a passionate cottage gardener. You can see pictures of my garden on my Web site. I also love to drink tea with family and friends and read, read, read. I have 10 grandchildren that I adore spending time with but since they are spread from California to England I don’t get to spend nearly as much time with them as I would like.

Q. What feeds your creativity?

DONNA: Reading. Mostly English mysteries. I love those who write in my genre of ecclesiastical thrillers: Kate Charles, Phil Rickman, Susan Howatch. . . Also the classics: Jane Austen, Dorothy L Sayers, P. D. James. . .

Travel to favorite sites in England also feeds my creativity because background is so important to me in my writing— and also in my choice of reading— so there we are full circle.

Q. What is the best book you have read this year?

DONNA: Connie Willis’ To Say Nothing of the Dog. It has everything: history, sci fi, mystery, humor. I love the concept of time travel because I get as close to that as possible when I research the background for my books, and in this case the device of rebuilding Coventry Cathedral really gripped me because I have always been emotional about its bombing.

Q. What have you been dying to tell readers that no interviewer has asked so far?

DONNA: Since I’ve spent so much time in this interview looking back on the early days, it’s fun to recall how I wrote my first novel Brandley’s Search. We had built and moved into a new home, (our dream home, if you will, lots of room for the family inside and out) and I was exhausted. I felt like an avalanche victim covered in all those cardboard boxes. When I tunneled out I spent days— weeks— on end sitting in a comfy chair in our bedroom reading Georgette Heyer.

And then I read her Venetia and was consumed by the character of Venetia’s little brother. I can’t even recall his name now, but I had to know what happened to him. I would wake up in the middle of the night and scribble ideas. I would pull over to the curb when driving to make notes. I wrote all over my shopping list in the grocery store. It was like being pregnant. That story had to come out. And the first draft took me about nine months, too. I have often wished all my stories would come that easily, but it was a great way to start.


Donna's latest books are A Very Private Grave, book 1 in the Monastery Murders series and The Shadow of Reality, a romantic intrigue that will be published later this summer.

A Very Private Grave features Felicity Howard, a young American woman studying for the Anglican priesthood at the College of the Transfiguration in Yorkshire. She is caught up in a mystery when she finds her beloved Fr. Dominic brutally murdered. This is a contemporary novel with a thoroughly modern heroine who must learn some ancient truths in order to solve the mystery and save her own life as she and her church history teacher, Fr. Antony, flee a murderer and follow clues that take them to out-of-the way sites in northern England and southern Scotland.

“With a bludgeoned body in Chapter 1, and a pair of intrepid amateur sleuths, A Very Private Grave qualifies as a traditional mystery. But this is no mere formulaic whodunit: it is a Knickerbocker Glory of a thriller. At its centre is a sweeping, page-turning quest – in the steps of St Cuthbert – through the atmospherically-depicted North of England, served up with dollops of Church history and lashings of romance. In this novel, Donna Fletcher Crow has created her own niche within the genre of clerical mysteries.” – Kate Charles, author of Deep Waters

Donna and her husband have 4 adult children and 10 grandchildren. She is an enthusiastic gardener and you can see pictures of her garden, watch the trailer for A VERY PRIVATE GRAVE, and read her international blog on her Web site

Sunday, June 06, 2010

Clever Marketing

I just read a STORY in the New York Post online about a 'novel' approach to marketing and promoting a book. Jennifer Belle, who's latest book , "The Seven Year Bitch," was just released, is the best-selling author of "Going Down" and "High Maintenance." But she didn't rely on just her reputation to boost sales of the latest release.

According to the news story, she hired 40 actresses to go out across New York City and burst out laughing in public while reading her book. Belle was quoted in the story saying it's like in India where people hire professionals to cry at their loved ones' funerals. "I'm hiring actors to laugh at my book."

What a clever idea. Marketing is all about buzz, and I can hear the drone of a million bees.

People are naturally curious, so I'm sure a number of them will ask what the reader is laughing at. I'm guessing that the actresses have been given a sales script to use. And even if people don't ask, they can see the title of the book and make a mental note, "Gosh, if that book is so funny I should read it."

I'm going to have to keep this in mind for when my memoir is published. (You'll notice I said when and not if.)

What about you? What do you think of this idea? Is it something you would do?

Friday, June 04, 2010

Book Review - Server Down

Server Down
by J.M. Hayes
HC from Poisoned Pen Press - May 2009

Reviewed by Carl Brookins

Poisoned Pen Press is probably the elite crime fiction publisher in the nation right now. Their standards are very high and under Barbara Peters gimlet eye and firm editorial hand, they rarely stumble. Having Bob always around to beat the drums doesn’t hurt, either. In fact, their growing power in the crime fiction community allows them to support authors who are interested in stretching their personal visions as authors.

Server Down , is a good example. J.M Hayes is engaged in writing a series set in the flatlands, a small mid-Kansas, largely rural, community in Benteen County. The series, this book is the fifth episode, is a gentle tongue-in-cheek riff on an old and rude English public house song with the refrain, “Only mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the noon day sun.”

Principal fellow is a part Indian Kansan who yearns to be a Cheyenne shaman. His adopted moniker is Mad Dog. His brother, the Sheriff of Benteen County is named English. It’s a family name. So naturally, people here and there refer to the Sheriff as "Englishman." Mad Dog is a militant pacifist who is forever getting involved in causes, peaceful protests. That, of course, sets him against movers and shakers who’d like to develop the hell out of Benteen County.

Among his other interests, Mad Dog is a gamer. He apparently satisfies his bloodlust with a computer game called War of Worldcraft. Unfortunately, it turns out the massive violent game has more to it than mere pixels on a screen.

Mad Dog is in Tucson to witness classic Indian Easter ceremonies when life goes off the rails. His home back in Kansas is blown away and he’s accused of murdering a local officer. Things spiral out of control until his entire family is at risk and the bodies begin to fall with such rapidity that it becomes difficult to keep track.

This is where the author has begun to take risks. Will his audience, used to the slightly off-kilter amusing antics of the Benteen characters, moving in generally placid currents, accept the grittier, more violent and hard-edged tone of this novel? I hope so, because this is a dandy novel. Of course the press is taking a risk as well. Author Hayes is an excellent writer and if the novel gives short shrift to the compute game that is part of the fundamental functionality of the plot, the characters and their trials are far more interesting anyway.

An eminently satisfying story, the characters perform viciously or admirably as are their roles and of course there’s Hailey --everybody’s favorite wolf. Excuse me? You haven’t met this creature? Too bad. You’re missing one of the most interesting, effective, and silent law enforcement figures to come down the pike. Tall dark and handsome, Hailey is something else and he’s mostly silent in the bargain.


Carl Brookins
Case of the Greedy Lawyer, Devils Island, Bloody Halls

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Win Free Books

I belong to a promotional site along with a lot of other terrific writers, and lest that sound too boastful, I was trying to find a way to leave myself out of the terrific category, but there was no other way to write that sentence.

Anyway, Books We Love has a great contest every summer with ongoing weekly prizes and a grand prize at the end of the summer. This year we are giving away a Border's Kobo e-Reader as the grand prize. Weekly drawings are for e-books, and a copy of my One Small Victory is on the prize list.

Entry instructions for all prizes are on the Books We Love Web site: To enter the contest simply visit five of the author pages displayed on the Web page index and sign the guest book of the author you choose to visit. Then fill out the entry form on the Web site and click submit.

PRIZES: (1) Every week until July 31 we will draw one winner to receive their choice of an ebook from any one of our Books We love authors. (2) On May 31, June 30 and July 31st we will draw three winners who will each receive an autographed copy of one of the print books displayed on the page. (4) GRAND PRIZE: Borders KOBO EREADERS. On July 31st one lucky winner will receive a Kobo and their choice of any five Books We Love ebooks.

Enter Now: http://www.bookswelove.net http://www.bookswelove.net/>

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Summer Reading Trail

I'm participating in The Summer Reading Trail with a number of other authors to introduce readers to our work. Everyone is providing excerpts of their work, and I decided to feature my Young Adult novel, Friends Forever, which is available as an e-book from Kindle.

Friendship is a tenuous thing when you’re thirteen and everything in your life is changing, especially your best friend. Terrified that she will lose Laura to the influence of Angie who is rich, beautiful, and the most popular girl in school, Debbie Webly will do almost anything to hang on to Laura. When her efforts backfire, Debbie finds out that true friendship is based on much more than looks or popularity.

There are a number of other authors offering samples from inspirational novels, romance, paranormal and others. Follow the trails and discover great new writers this summer. The free reads include short stories, serial installments, deleted scenes and book excerpts from published and unpublished authors.

The Summer Reading Trail started in May and will run through the end of July. New links will be updated on the first of every month, so you can enjoy a summer of reading. You are encouraged to explore authors’ websites and blogs, to take a moment to leave them a comment and to bookmark sites and visit often.

Here is a LINK to the site where you can find the authors listed. Enjoy.....