Kathleen Kaska's Blog
August 29, 2016
Judy’s just released her new mystery, which has been flying off bookstore shelves. For a peek, scroll down and read an excerpt.
Skeletons in the Attic: A Marketville Mystery by Judy Penz Sheluk
Publisher: Imajin Books (August 21, 2016)
What goes on behind closed doors doesn’t always stay there…
Calamity (Callie) Barnstable isn’t surprised to learn she’s the sole beneficiary of her late father’s estate, though she is shocked to discover she has inherited a house in the town of Marketville—a house she didn’t know existed. However, there are conditions attached to Callie’s inheritance: she must move to Marketville, live in the house, and solve her mother’s murder.
Callie’s not keen on dredging up a thirty-year-old mystery, but if she doesn’t do it, there’s a scheming psychic named Misty Rivers who is more than happy to expose the Barnstable family secrets. Determined to thwart Misty and fulfill her father’s wishes, Callie accepts the challenge. But is she ready to face the skeletons hidden in the attic?
Leith let out a theatrical courtroom sigh, well practiced but over the top for his audience of one. “You haven’t really been listening, have you, Calamity?”
I was forced to admit I had not, although he now had my undivided attention. Marketville was a commuter community about an hour north of Toronto, the sort of town where families with two kids, a collie, and a cat moved to looking for a bigger house, a better school, and soccer fields. It didn’t sound much like me, or my father.
“You’re saying my father owned a house in Marketville? I don’t understand. Why didn’t he live there?”
Leith shrugged. “It seems he couldn’t bear to part with it, and he couldn’t stand living in it. He’s been renting it out since 1986.”
The year my mother had left. I’d been six. I tried to remember a house in Marketville. Nothing came to mind. Even my memories of my mother were vague.
“The house has gone through some hard times, what with tenants coming and going over the years,” Leith continued. “I’ve done my best to manage the property for a modest monthly maintenance fee, but not living nearby…” He colored slightly and I wondered just how modest that fee had been. I glanced back at the photo of his vibrant young family and suspected such treasures did not come cheap. There was probably alimony for the other trophy wives as well. I decided to let it go. My father had trusted him. That had to be enough.
“So you’re saying I’ve inherited a fixer-upper.”
“I suppose you could put it that way, although your father had recently hired a company to make some basic improvements when the last tenant moved out.” He flipped through his notes in the folder. “Royce Contracting and Property Management. I gather the owner of the company, Royce Ashford, lives next door. But I’m not sure much, if anything, has been done to the house yet. Naturally all work would have stopped following your father’s death.”
“You said he wanted me to move into the house? When was he going to tell me?”
“I think the initial plan was that your father was going to move back in there. But of course now—”
“Now that he’s dead, you think he wanted me to move there?”
“Actually, it’s more than wanted, Calamity. It’s a provision of the will that you move into Sixteen Snapdragon Circle for a period of one year. After that time, you are free to do what you wish with it. Go back to renting it, continue to live there, or sell it.”
“And if I decide to sell it?”
“Homes in that area of Marketville typically sell quickly and for a decent price, certainly several times your parents’ original investment back in 1979. You’d have to put in some elbow grease, not to mention some basic renovations, but your father left you some money for that as well.”
“He had money set aside? Enough for renovations?” I thought about the shabby townhouse, the threadbare carpets, the flannel sheet covering holes in the fabric of the ancient olive green brocade sofa. I always thought my dad was frugal because he had to be. It never occurred to me he was squirreling away money to fix up a house I didn’t even know existed.
“About a hundred thousand dollars, although only half of that is allocated to renovation. The balance of fifty thousand would be paid to you in weekly installments while you lived there rent-free. Certainly enough for you to take a year off work and fulfill the other requirement.”
Fifty thousand dollars. Almost twice what I made in a single year at my call center job at the bank. Leaving there would definitely not be a hardship. And my month-to-month lease would be easy enough to break with thirty days notice. “What’s the other requirement?”
Leith leaned back in his chair and let out another one of his theatrical sighs. I got the impression he didn’t really approve of the condition.
“Your father wants you to find out who murdered your mother. And he believes the clues may be hidden in the Marketville house.”
Judy Penz Sheluk’s debut mystery novel, The Hanged Man’s Noose, was published in July 2015. Skeletons in the Attic, the first book in her Marketville Mystery Series, was published in August 2016.
Judy’s short crime fiction appears in World Enough and Crime, The Whole She-Bang 2, Flash and Bang and Live Free or Tri.
Judy is a member of Sisters in Crime, Crime Writers of Canada, International Thriller Writers and the Short Mystery Fiction Society.
Find Judy on her website/blog at www.judypenzsheluk.com, where she interviews other authors and blogs about the writing life.
Find Skeletons in the Attic:
June 27, 2016
My husband and I grew up and lived in Texas until we retired to spend most of the year in a cooler climate. We’ve been in the PNW for just over five years, but it amazes me how many Texans we run into to; some living here and others vacationing. I met Janet Shawgo when I attended the Chanticleer Writer’s Conference in Bellingham, WA a few weeks ago. I was delighted to learn that Janet lives on Galveston Island, where my husband was born. Janet is a fellow mystery writer and I asked her to be my guest on Birds and Books. Read on to learn about Janet and her protagonist, Jace Bowen.
Mystery writer Janet Shawgo
It’s time to get Jace Bowen, our protagonist, out of her comfort zone. You want to present her with a challenge and you’ve given her the following choices: climb Mount Everest; run a Marathon; trek across the Sierra Desert with a tribe of nomads; or sail around the world alone. Which would she choose?
Jace Bowen is an adventurer. So I believe she would trek across the Desert with a tribe of nomads. This would give her something new to experience plus being a nurse she could learn from their people about new herbs and remedies to use. Jace is kind and would do all she could as a nurse should she be needed.
If Jace could live in another time period, which would she choose and why?
Jace would go back to the Civil War. First to meet her ancestor Sarah Bowen. Then she would join Sarah and the ladies the traveled to heal. Jace would probably end up wearing pants as I believe the long dresses would be difficult for her. Jace’s largest challenge would to always know she could not change the past. She would have to constantly be vigilant knowing the future and not interfering.
If Jace could change anything in her life, what would it be and why?
I don’t believe she would change anything. The decisions she made and mistakes lead to her fate and growth as woman.
What do you and Jace have in common?
Jace and I have many things in common. We are nurses, we care about the job we do. We are adventurers, travelers, curious. Jace finds love and marriage. Me, ahhh not so much.
If you and Jace had an argument, who would win and why?
Who would win the argument…tie, definitely at tie.
What’s in store for Jace in your next mystery?
Jace will be a part of the next book but a smaller role. There will be some interesting developments that you will definitely want to know. That is all I will say.
Find me, Again.
Over a hundred years ago a promise was made between two people in love. As Samuel White died in the arms of Civil War nurse Sarah Bowen, she promised to search for eternity until their two souls were reunited. That time has come.
A necklace, a note, and a request from a dying man bring the White and Bowen families together again in this the third and final book in the Look for Me Series.
With a fortune at stake and controlling interest in the family business, Taylor White-Shaw, independent reporter is hurled into a journey to fulfill the request of his Great uncle.
Jace Bowen, travel nurse, receives a package from home containing a worn medical pouch holding the remnants of a time long gone. A bell, three books and a note referring to a journal lost will send Jace to search for answers and hopefully return what rightfully belongs to the Bowen family.
Zack Keens, LSU graduate, fluent in three languages, becomes an interest to the CIA, who offers her a job with the company. Zacks special ability seems to get her in and out of trouble but it will allow her to connect to the past and save the lives of those close to her.
This next generation of Whites, Bowens and Keens find themselves entwined again in a promise made by those before them. They must work together and finally bring peace to those separated by war and death.
Janet K. Shawgo starting writing in 2009. This was a passion that was not realized until the release of her first novel Look for Me. She was born in the Texas panhandle and presently lives in Galveston, Texas near the beach. She has been a nurse since 1983 working mainly in high risk Labor and Delivery area. Janet began travel nursing in August of 1995 and continues to this day. She has traveled across the United States including Alaska on assignments. Janet has four books published at this time: The Look for me series, Look for Me, Wait for Me and Find Me Again; a Romantic comedy e-book, You Just Can’t and a Mystery Thriller to be released hopefully in the fall, Archidamus.
June 6, 2016
It’s my pleasure to host mystery writer Carol Wright Crigger today on Birds and Books. This is her 4th China Bohannon mystery and a series well worth reading. I love mysteries with strong, independent women, especially when the setting is not in current times. China is a detective in the 1890s in Spokane, Washington; a time and place for a gutsy woman to prove herself. This is my kind of mystery series!
Carol Wright Crigger
It’s time to get your protagonist out of her comfort zone. You want to present her with a challenge and you’ve given her the following choices: climb Mount Everest; run a Marathon; trek across the Sierra Desert with a tribe of nomads; or sail around the world alone. Which would China choose?
These are all daring choices, especially for an 1890s bookkeeper, although China Bohannon is a gal who’d rather sleuth than keep accounts. I doubt she’d climb Mount Everest because she couldn’t take her dog, Nimble. Ditto a marathon, since she’d probably have to carry the dog. Besides, it’s hard to run when one is constricted by a corset. Hard, although not impossible. She’s always up for an adventure and, because she’s a sucker for helping people, you’d find her trekking across the Sierra (Or Sahara) Desert with a tribe of nomads. Somebody in the group is bound to be in trouble. Most likely there’s a woman who has either been kidnapped or is running from someone trying to kidnap her. China, you see, seems to have a penchant for victims of abduction. And why not? She’s been abducted often enough to know how terrifying an experience it is!
If China could live in another time period, which would she choose and why?
Miss China Bohannon is a lady of independent nature. After her father died, her evil stepmother got away with claiming the fortune that was supposed to go to China. China even feared for her life. Instead of sitting around crying, she surprised her uncle, Montgomery Howe of the Doyle & Howe Detective Agency, by turning up and asking for a job. No charity for her. She keeps the books and earns her keep. Beyond that, she doesn’t see why she can’t be a detective. She knows for a fact she’s smarter and better informed than most men of her acquaintance. And she believes it’s past time women had the freedom to live and work as they please. China would never want to go back in time. The future beckons to her, but it’s her lifetime future. She’s determined to have her name on the agency door as a full partner, sooner rather than later.
If China could change anything in her life, what would it be and why?
The Doyle part of the Doyle & Howe Detective Agency is her uncle Monk’s partner, Gratton Doyle. Doesn’t it just figure she’d fall head over heels for him, while his feelings for her are questionable? China would like to know if Grat cares for her in “that” way, or if he’s just . . . um . . . friendly. She wants him to love her, but doesn’t know how or if she can make that happen. Furthermore, there’s bad blood between Grat and an officer in the police department over one woman already, and China doesn’t want to become the second. She’s afraid she can’t compete with the beautiful Fern Atwood in any way. Needless to say, she wishes Fern to perdition!
What do you and China have in common?
This one is easy to answer. We both love dogs, receiving comfort, joy, love and limitless amusement from our furry children. Maybe I should give China a cat, as well. A small creature for Nimble (China’s Bedlington terrier) to boss around and to nurture. Nimble certainly has her own personality. It would be fun to throw a cat into the mix; one that grows up big and bossy. I’ll have to think about it. What else do I share with China? Well, a love of justice and the idea there’s more than one way to achieve it. Sometimes it’s best if the method remains hidden from view. Let’s see, we both have a sense of adventure. A determination to take care of ourselves, even though we’ve both received a lot of help from our friends and family. A will to succeed.
If you and China had an argument, who would win and why?
I certainly hope I would win our arguments. The majority, anyway. I am, after all, China’s creator. I direct most of the actions she takes in her adventures. You notice I said “most.” She often has a will of her own and is apt to take off on some tangent I never expected. Sometimes I have to go along with her because she is, after all, the one living the story. I believe she’s more headstrong and set in her ways than I am, possibly because of the era in which she lives. I’m a product of my own times, more apt to adapt to quickly changing views, and more likely to concede certain points of argument.
What’s in store for China in your next mystery?
The next China Bohannon mystery (fifth in the series) takes pieces of Spokane history and twists it into a nefarious plot. Sepp Amsel, a wealthy German immigrant, (based on a real person although the rest of the story is a complete fabrication) has sent for a mail-order bride from the old country. He doesn’t get exactly what he asked for in this crazy story of bamboozlement, murder, and, as usual in a China Bohannon story, a kidnapping. And of course, somebody is out to get China. Thank goodness she’s a hard woman to kill! It’s set in a freezing cold winter, so I have the cast slipping and sliding everywhere. A couple new characters are introduced, we revisit some my readers have already met, and I expand upon others. I’m still pondering over the title.
Born and raised in North Idaho on the Coeur d’Alene Indian Reservation, Carol Wright Crigger lives in Spokane Valley, Washington. Imbued with an abiding love of western traditions and wide-open spaces, Ms. Crigger writes of free-spirited people who break from their standard roles. In her books, whether westerns or mysteries, the locales are real places. A fan of local history, all of her books are set the Inland Northwest, and make use of a historical background.
Ms. Crigger is a member of Western Writers of America, and is a two time Spur Award finalist, in 2007 for short fiction, and 2009 for audio. Her western novel, Black Crossing, was the 2008 EPIC Award winner in the western/historical category.
FOUR FURLONGS BLURB: The Interstate Fair is underway in Spokane, Washington. Derby Day is fast approaching. Bunco men and pickpockets abound, and the racing commission has hired the Doyle & Howe Detective Agency to patrol the fairgrounds.
China is in charge of the Doyle & Howe office when a fourteen-year-old girl shows up seeking the detectives’ help in a case of what she says is murder. Neva Sue O’Dell’s jockey brother has been killed during a race, the horse he was riding—the dead-on derby favorite —lamed. Neva claims her mother and grandfather have been paid a lot of money to rig the race. Who paid them? Neva doesn’t know, but she wants China to find out.
It so happens China loves a challenge as much as she hates injustice. Nothing can deter her, not threats, physical assaults, or kidnappings.
Buy Link for Four Furlongs: Amazon: www.tinyurl.com/hz369fp
May 30, 2016
Please welcome award-winning writer Sherry Roberts. Her newest Maya Skye mystery has just been released! Sherry and I met at the IBPA publishing conference in Salt Lake City last month. Anyone who is from the beautiful state of Minnesota, feeds hummingbirds, and cycles, is a kindred spirit.
It’s time to get your protagonist out of her/his comfort zone. You want to present her with a challenge and you’ve given her the following choices: climb Mount Everest; run a Marathon; trek across the Sierra Desert with a tribe of nomads; or sail around the world alone. Which would she choose?
Maya Skye, the star of Down Dog Diary and Warrior’s Revenge, is a yoga teacher and committed to helping others travel their individual paths to inner peace. Being raised in a commune and having traveled extensively (including living in an ashram in India), she would feel right at home with a tribe of nomads and their free-spirited lifestyle. She would find trekking across the Sierra Desert a meditation of sorts. And when bandits attacked the nomads, she would fight to protect the young ones and the helpless. After all, while Maya is dedicated to peace and enlightenment, she is attracted to mayhem.
If Maya could live in another time period, which would she choose and why?
Since Maya grew up in a commune in New Mexico, she practically did live in a different time period. Or maybe a better way to put it is she lived out of time. Whispering Spirit Farm was a community dedicated to the ’60s hippie values of live and let live, the Zen principles of planetary responsibility, and an incredibly naive do-it-yourself attitude. She was raised by tree huggers, spent a lot of time running wild in nature, and believed in magic (still does). She wouldn’t want to live in any other time, which would seem utterly restrictive to her.
If Maya could change anything in her life, what would it be and why?
Maya is burdened with a guilty secret: she killed a man. If she could go back into that New York alley and somehow save the woman being beaten, without killing her attacker, she would. While Maya’s mother, Evie, called it an accident and Maya’s father, Larry, said it was self-defense, Maya knows it was still an unforgivable act. But as her old friend James Tumblethorne, a Hell’s Angel turned shaman, once told her: “Some things can’t be changed, kid. They’re karma killers, and that’s the bitch of life.”
What do you and Maya have in common?
Maya and I both love yoga. We both believe that all humans seek inner peace and that all strife in the world would be resolved if we could just attain that inner peace. Like Maya, I love kick-ass movies, Buffy the Vampire Slayer (the TV show, not the movie), and nature. We each seek meaning in the natural world. Maya gets guidance from crows, which I find the most fascinating of birds. Highly intelligent and so loyal to family that they mourn the passing of a fellow crow, they are sentinels of the forest. If you look through a Maya Skye novel, you will see crows in the interior and on the cover. Also Maya has a thing for a certain journalist, and I married one.
If you and Maya had an argument, who would win and why?
Maya would because she keeps a punching bag in her closet. No, really, she would win because I dislike arguing; it takes too much energy. I am more the “let’s agree to disagree” type. But Maya also would seek a common ground just because she hates all those negative, argumentative vibes cluttering up her yoga studio and her life. She has been known to give her studio a thorough cleansing with sage to rid it of bad energy.
What’s in store for Maya in your next mystery?
Crows in large numbers (a murder of crows) invade Maya’s hometown, Gabriel’s Garden. The nervous townspeople are thinking Hitchcock’s Birds, but Maya knows this is a warning of trouble coming. While searching for an injured deer in the woods, she stumbles onto a dead body and a plan that could destroy the gentle life of Gabriel’s Garden.
Sherry Roberts is the author of award-winning mysteries and literary fiction. Down Dog Diary and Warrior’s Revenge are part of the Maya Skye novels—Minnesota mysteries with a yoga spirit. In Book of Mercy, a dyslexic woman fights a town banning books. Maud’s House is the story of an artist who loses and finds her creativity, and WriteTips is a guide to giving your writing power and improving your business.
She has contributed essays and articles to national publications and anthologies including USA Today and the Saint Paul Almanac. Her short fiction has been published in newspapers, literary magazines, and O. Henry Literary Festival Short Stories.
She lives in Apple Valley, Minnesota, where she feeds the hummingbirds, rides her bike, reads by the fire, bakes cookies, and practices yoga and tai chi.
Visit Sherry’s website at www.sherry-roberts.com.
Book Blurb for Warrior’s Revenge, the newest Maya Skye novel released May 1
When loss is too great, love can unhinge us all.
Threatening messages from a dead man send yoga teacher Maya Skye and reporter Peter Jorn down a trail of betrayal, revenge, and grief that ultimately will test Maya’s own depths of forgiveness as she and Jorn face an opponent not only bent on revenge—but murder.
From a scavenger hunt in Paris to a tent revival in her Minnesota town, the past is coming back with a vengeance, and it is bringing out the warrior in Maya.
Warrior’s Revenge is book two in the Maya Skye series. Down Dog Diary is book one. Both are available in paperback and ebook.
Sherry’s website: www.sherry-roberts.com
Sherry’s Facebook Author page: https://www.facebook.com/Sherry-Rober...
Sherry on Twitter: @sherryroberts7
Osmyrrah Publishing: www.osmyrrahpublishing.com
On Amazon: www.amazon.com/Warriors-Revenge-Maya-...
On Barnes & Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/warri...
On Kobo: https://store.kobobooks.com/en-us/ebo...
Down Dog Diary:
On Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Down-Dog-Diary-...
On Barnes & Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/down-...
May 23, 2016
Welcome awarding winner writer, Judith Kirscht, as she shares an excerpt for her novel, Hawkins Lane.
Hawkins Lane Cover
The Bellingham courtroom fell silent as the jury filed in. Ned Hawkins stared at their faces and shivered, then gripped his older brother’s hand. Billy was staring, too, but his eyes were ablaze, daring them. Chairs scraped, someone dropped a pen. They were seated.
“The defendant will rise.”
Ned’s stomach heaved as the word “defendant” rang out, and beside him Billy jerked.
Their father rose. The tall, narrow man who should have been in a checked wool shirt and boots looked naked in blue prison garb. His neck too long.
Ned couldn’t see around Billy to their mother, but he could see her hand clutching Billy’s arm, as though to restrain him.
“Mr. Foreman, have you reached a verdict?”
The foreman stood. “We have, Your Honor.” He unfolded a slip of paper and one hand fell to the rail. “We find the defendant, Amos Hawkins, guilty of murder in the first degree.”
Ned reached for Billy as he lunged, and together he and his mother held him fast as a murmur of satisfaction rose from the surrounding crowd.
“Time we saw the end of the likes of you!” a man behind them yelled.
Their father didn’t turn. Nor did he look at his family as they led him out.
Ned Hawkins dealt with the last hiker of the day and looked at the clock that hung above the backpacks. Five o’clock. Five minutes later, he called goodnight to Paul Stagg, closed the outfitter’s door behind him, and stepped into McKenzie Crossing’s main street. A pair of teenage girls jumped away and made a wide circle around him.
There was a time he would have tipped his hat to their backs. But he’d given it up, like most everything else.
He headed for the old logging trails above town, his daily escape the chronic mid-week feeling of being trapped in his life. It was early fall, when the air cools and the tourists and campers begin to thin, the time of year that meant the gray months lay ahead. The sparkling of the snow when the sun broke through would only mean that skiers would replace campers at Staff Outfitters. And he would still spend his days filling the needs of outsiders who flowed through his life with a freedom he couldn’t even imagine, then vanished to be replaced by another batch. The mountain air never eliminated the need to go back to town, but a couple of hours climbing the rocky trails made it more tolerable. And he’d settled for that, long ago.
He’d just cut off the trail toward the creek when he heard the whistle of a fishing line cutting the air. He stopped, then approached the water ahead carefully, expecting to find his brother, who he didn’t particularly want to see.
Originally from Chicago, I raised my family in Ann Arbor Michigan and taught writing at the Universities of Michigan and California, Santa Barbara, for many years before moving to Washington State to devote myself to writing fiction. I have published short stories, novel excerpts, and four novels: nowhere else to go (Florida Academic Press, 2011), the inheritors, home fires, and hawkins lane (New Libri Press, 2012, 2013, 2015). home fires was a finalist for the Pacific Northwest Writers Association Nancy Pearl Award in 2014, received an honorable mention in the 2014 Readers Favorite mainstream fiction contest, and won a first place in contemporary fiction from the Chanticleer Review Somerset Award contest, 2015. HAWKINS LANE won first place in the mystery and suspense category in the Chanticleer Review Somerset contest in 2016,
BLURB: HAWKINS LANE
Son of a murderer, Ned Hawkins has resigned himself to an outsider’s existence until he meets Erica Romano, daughter of the town’s new doctor. Their love of the mountains overcomes their dissonant background, and they fall in love and create a life for themselves as forest rangers in the North Cascades—until the release of Ned’s father from prison disrupts the harmony. When Erica rebels against Ned’s renewed fatalism and over-protection, her recklessness sets off a chain of disasters that begins with a near fatal accident and ends with the disappearance of Bonnie, their daughter and finding the body of Ned’s brother in the stream below their house. The search for their child and the investigation into the death brings both face-to-face with the destructive power of their pasts and an uncertain future.
April 25, 2016
Welcome, Maren Anderson, to Birds and Books. When I learned that Maren’s latest release was a romance involving alpacas, I recalled the first time I saw this llama-like animal. My husband and I were touring San Juan Island in Washington and came upon a field with odd looking creatures with camel-like faces. We stopped on the side of the road and the owner of the property came over to the fence and invited us to tour his ranch. That was just one of the wonderful discoveries we found that day. Years later we decided to take a break from the real world and moved to San Juan Island. Whenever friends would visit, the first place I showed them was the alpaca farm. When Maren contacted me about being a guest on my blog, I responded with a big “Yes!”
It’s time to get your protagonist out of her/his comfort zone. You want to present her with a challenge and you’ve given her the following choices: climb Mount Everest; run a Marathon; trek across the Sierra Desert with a tribe of nomads; or sail around the world alone. Which would she choose?
Meg would run a marathon. She’s not much of an adventure seeker–she’s happy with her animals on her ranch. She satisfied her travel bug long ago when she was in college.
However, while she’s fit, she’s not marathon fit. It would be a good challenge for her.
If Meg could live in another time period, which would she choose and why?
The future. Eventually, men treat smart women as equals, right? Right?
If Meg could change anything in her life, what would it be and why?
Meg will tell you that she can be indecisive and afraid of doing things on her own. She sees both these things as signs of weakness, so she strives to change those parts of herself. For example, she ditches her old life in the city and buys a literal farm in Oregon. She is a bit of a contradiction, but all interesting people are contradictions, aren’t they?
What do you and Meg have in common?
Well, we ditched our old lives in the city and bought literal farms in Oregon.
January 15, 2016
Good Trouble: Building a Successful Life & Business on the Spectrum & Against the Odds
Two thousand fifteen is gone, but just barely, so my only-somewhat-tardy pick for “best book” of the year in the category of inspirational memoir is Good Trouble: Building a Successful Life & Business on the Spectrum & Against the Odds, by Microcosm publisher Joe Biel. I finished the book a few days ago and have picked it up several times since then to reread my favorite passages. “I wanted to project my experiences and those of the people around me who I felt did not have a voice anywhere else,” Biel says. The experiences he writes about include growing up in an abusive home, having difficulty in school, failing at personal relationships, and finding salvation in the “punk” subculture of the eighties and nineties. This is a story of survival; a story about never giving up and finding the courage to make painful changes to succeed in both life and business.
Biel started Microcosm at the age of seventeen to publish zines (a noncommercial publication usually devoted to specialized and often unconventional subjects) as forums for “wounded young people” to express themselves, seek help from others by sharing experiences, and heal and grow.
Caught up in a world of dysfunctional personal and professional relationships, Biel found a therapist to help him sort out reoccurring issues that were crippling his emotional growth. Although Microcosm was experiencing some success in the publishing world at the time, low staff morale and financial strains threatened to collapse the company. Struggling to get his business back on track and smooth out personal problems that were causing him physical and emotional stress, Biel continued with therapy and was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome. After learning the four defining traits of AS, Biel felt he was a poster child for the disorder. Rather than use the diagnosis as an excuse for his problems, he adopted a glass-half-full-attitude. “If I didn’t have clinical-strength egocentricity [one of the AS traits], I never would have had the gall to start a publishing company based on my vision as a seventeen-year-old and funded by my under-the-table job at an Italian restaurant.” He also writes about how the three other traits contributed to his success. Over time, he learned how to set boundaries and take care of himself. Then in 2011, while attending BookExpo America, the largest publishing trade show in the U.S., he met Temple Grandin, the bestselling author of several books on autism. He told her he was a big fan, but felt slightly disappointed by her indifferent response. Biel began to wonder how many times he had disappointed his own fan. He continued to hone the social skills learned in therapy, and as he got his life in order, his business began to grow. His personal relationships became healthy and meaningful.
Since that time Microcosm has evolved and grown to become one of the most successful publishers of DIY (Do It Yourself) books, zines, and art. Their upcoming catalog includes graphic novels, books on the bicycling culture, vegan cooking, travel, history, music, and memoirs.
Good Trouble is one of the best motivational books of the year. It is inspirational tonic and a must-read for anyone seeking for a more wholehearted life. Biel writes with candor and courage. His willingness to share his vulnerability testifies to his emotional growth and strength. In the final chapter entitled, “Reconciliation,” Biel notes that, “. . . I’ve found that I can make my own path independently without compromising my values. And I can shine a light behind me so people who relate to my experience can follow.”
To Buy: http://goo.gl/Azt6Wj
The post Book It for Friday Book Review: Good Trouble by Joe Biel appeared first on Kathleen Kaska.
December 17, 2015
Bonnie MacBird’s new Sherlock Holmes pastiche is spot-on. A Sherlock Holmes Adventure: Art in the Blood is like reading an Arthur Conan Doyle novel. MacBird captures Dr. John Watson’s voice perfectly as he narrates the Holmes’ adventure. It’s 1888, Holmes is thirty-four years old and in a funk as only Holmes can be. Earlier that year Dr. Watson married Mary Morstan and was enjoying a quiet domestic life. But evidently, too quiet and too domestic. Then he receives an urgent telegram from Mrs. Hudson: “[Holmes] has set 221B on fire! Come at once!—Mrs. Hudson.” Here is MacBird describing Dr. Watson’s hurried trip to his old digs: “I hurtled through the streets; tore around a corner,” and “skidded into Baker Street,” He “leapt,” “ran,” “pushed,” and “raced” up the seventeen steps to find his friend, recently released from the gaol and in a drug-induced stupor. Holmes has not eaten in days and wouldn’t explain the details of the fire other than calling it an accident.
It isn’t until the arrival of a letter—redolent of Jicky perfume—from Paris the next morning that Holmes resurrects. Cabaret singer Mademoiselle Emmeline “Cherie” La Victoria, sender of the aromatic missive, pleads for Holmes to locate her missing illegitimate son, Emil, who apparently resides with his father, the Earl of Pellingham. Ninety minutes later Holmes and Watson are crossing the Channel on the way to the Continent. The game is now afoot!
As the adventure unfolds, Holmes and Watson travel to Paris, but go back to London and eventually to the Earl’s estate near Lancaster. Holmes is circumspect over Mademoiselle La Victoria’s story, the sincerity of her male companion, Jean Vidocq, the honesty of Lord and Lady Pellingham, and the motivation behind brother Mycroft’s involvement.
The story is fast-paced; the dialogue authentic; the twisting plot intriguing. Elements readers have come to expect in any Holmes story are there: Holmes in disguise; Watson with his theories; Mycroft and his hidden motives. There is also disappearing ink; disappearing clients; and, of course, a disappearing Holmes.
Holmes spews a few classic lines. Here are a couple of my favorites: On French women: “When a Frenchwoman is not a beauty, she is yet a work of art. And when she is beautiful, there are none of her sex to surpass her.” On Watson: “My brother quite literally has the Army, and sometimes, the Navy at his beck and call. I will have only you.”
Visit MacBird’s website (http://www.macbird) for a list of annotations and view her sketches depicting scenes in the book.
December 2, 2015
I’m blogging over at Ladies of Mystery. Agatha Christie is the topic. Here’s a bit of AC trivia? Click the link below to find the answers.
Who inspired Agatha Christie to write her first mystery?
What is the title of AC’s first mystery?
Which mystery is considered the most controversial?
In which mystery is Anne Beddngfield the heroine?
In which mystery is Victoria Jones the heroine?
November 27, 2015
James Herriot, vet and author, of the acclaimed All Creatures Great and Small series has nothing on Dr. David Gross. Gross’s book, Animals Don’t Blush, takes us through a year in the life of a new vet. Right out of veterinary college and newly married, Gross accepts a position as associate veterinarian in remote Sidney, Montana. Dr. Marcus Schultz’s small veterinarian practice was growing. After an initial interview, Gross spent the day assisting Dr. Schultz’s in taking blood samples from thirty-five cows and an angry, uncooperative two thousand pound bull. The day ended with a verbal analysis of the day’s event, a salary negotiation, and a handshake. Dr. David Gross would begin his life as a country vet on June 9, 1960.
The book begins with the story of Skipper Jones, family dog of the Jones Family, who met with a terrible accident on the ranch thirty miles from Sidney. Skipper survived the drive to the vet’s office, but the surgery and treatment would be extensive and costly. Children Ferdie and Jenny’s pleading eyes and Gross’s special discount, convinced the parents to give the young vet a chance to prove his worth. Skipper pulled through only to check himself out of the hospital as soon as he was feeling frisky. I won’t spoil the rest of Skipper’s story except to say and the family was eventually reunited.
Throughout the following months, Gross and his wife, Rosalie, adjusted to life in rugged Montana, befriended ranchers and farmers who struggled to make a living in the Badlands, and made an unforgettable contribution to the community. People like country folk Joe and Sally Lufkin, professional radio cowboys, brothers Ted and Ed Simpson, diary farmer Fred Homer, big, hairy rancher and eloquent story teller Will Dow, gorgeous newspaper editor Janice Freeman and her pet chicken, Banty, and, my favorite, Taco Baldwin, a tiny, feisty four-legged nightmare, who mellowed under Grosss’s direction and advice to the animal’s owner.
Gross tells a compelling story which had me reading late into the night until I finished the entire book. Animals Don’t Blush was the second David Gross book I read in a week. Click on to my Book it for Friday Book Review blog of October 23 for my review of Travels with Charlize: In Search of Living Along. After reading these two books, I was eager for David to tell me a little more about his life as an author, vet, a more recently a recovering widower.
After that first eye-opening year in Sidney, did you know you’d one day write a book about your experiences?
No, I never thought about a book but over the years I told stories about the various animals and clients and cases and people seemed interested in them. I didn’t start thinking about writing a book about that experience until after I retired from research and teaching.
You’ve also just published Travels with Charlize: In Search of Living Alone, a heartwarming book about a difficult life transition. I found your writing uplifting and encouraging. Did you know at the time you adopted Charlize that you would eventually share your travel experiences with her a memoir?
I am a big fan of John Steinbeck’s writing and have probably read and re-read his Travels With Charley a half-dozen times. Rosalie held on for almost exactly a year after her diagnosis of stage IV lung cancer and during that year I had to face what I would do after she passed. I decided I would buy a camper and just travel until I could get used to the idea of living alone. I also knew I would get a dog as a companion. After she passed I applied to the German shepherd rescue organization and adopted Charlize. I changed her name to Charlize because I had the idea, as a method of healing, of writing articles reminiscent of Steinbeck’s work. I had been writing veterinary advice columns for on on-line newspaper, My Edmonds News and the publisher agreed to publish my travel experiences. I also posted the articles on my blog. I didn’t think about a book until a fan that happens to be a professional editor contacted me. She said I needed to put the articles into book form and she would help me and also help me find a publisher.
I had the pleasure of meeting you and Charlize at a recent book event and she is one of the most patient, loving dogs I’ve ever come across. How did you find her? When did you realize she was the right dog to help you in your emotional recovery?
Charlize is the third German shepherd I have cared for, along with mixed-breeds when I was a child and at various times a Labrador retriever and an Airedale. In Animals Don’t Blush I tell the story of how my first purebred German shepherd named Mister, convinced me to marry Rosalie then he adopted her into our pack. We always had pets until Rosalie suffered a viral encephalopathy that left her with balance problems and she was afraid of tripping over a dog. So for the last six or seven years of her life we were dogless. When the foster lady from the German shepherd rescue group brought Charlize to see how we would get along, only a week or so after Rosalie passed, the dog was extremely nervous and scared. Having been around all kinds of dogs for so many years I guess I have a “bed-side manner” that calms them. Charlize quickly sensed my emotional state and needs and became very solicitous and aware when I got depressed. I think all dogs are very tuned in to their people’s moods but Charlize is, I think, especially sensitive to how I’m feeling. For many years my research involved doing cardiovascular surgery on animals. During those procedures things often happen that require the surgeon stays very calm, calming everyone else in the OR and getting the problem solved in the most efficient and speedy way. I suppose that method of dealing with stress became a part of my personality and Charlize, as many dogs do, absorbed that personality as well. I don’t think we become more like our animal companions they become more like us.
Not only were you in private practice you also taught and did research at Texas A&M University for sixteen years. You were the director of Cardiovascular and Thoracic Surgery Research Labs in the University of Kentucky College of Medicine and finished your career as professor and head of Veterinary Biosciences at the University of Illinois. During all your years practicing veterinary medicine, teaching, and conducting research, you must have witnessed vast changes in animal science. What changes surprised you or encouraged you the most?
Three things have drastically changed the way Veterinary Medicine is practiced since I started. My class in veterinary school only had three women, all of whom were married to classmates before we graduated. The profession was primarily male from an agricultural background. Today veterinary classes are eighty to eighty-five percent women and almost all of the students are from urban backgrounds. The second thing has been the concept of animals as members of the family. When I started the profession was very pragmatic, every animal had a monetary value and few people were willing to spend more for veterinary care than the cost of replacing the animal. Today’s clients are willing to spend thousands of dollars to keep animals alive another six months or a year. The third is the development of specialists. When I graduated only radiologists were board certified. Today we have almost the same board certified veterinary specialists as in human medicine. It’s not the same profession it was back in the 1960’s.
What advice would you give someone who was considering a career as a veterinarian?
Take every science and math course you can fit into your schedule. Learn to manage your time and get in the habit of learning effectively and efficiently. My book Succeeding as a Student provides the methods of accomplishing this. Getting into veterinary school is very competitive, only the best students make it and doing well in the veterinary curriculum requires the same skills as a student. I cannot tell you how many young people I’ve met over the years who tell me they want to be or wanted to be veterinarians but never got the opportunity. Most of them were unable to do well enough academically to make it into veterinary school. Anyone can learn to be a good student it takes discipline, practice and determination.
You also write crime-fiction and have published a novel, Man Hunt, set in the American West during the Civil War. How did you make the transition from fiction to nonfiction?
I think writers write. For me the subject is anything that catches and holds my interest. I mostly read history for fun and have an inordinate interest in the Mountain Man era of American History. Naturally everything I write tends to include some sharing of this information just because I am obsessed with it and need to communicate what I have learned. That’s the teacher in me I guess, the sharing of knowledge.
You are now retired and living in Seattle. You are active in many social causes. Could you share some of those causes with the readers?
I am very concerned with the problem of homelessness particularly family homelessness. This is a problem that engulfs and traps and devastates members of the family by circumstance, mostly not of their doing, particularly children and pets. I believe it is almost criminal that in this country we cannot take care of these families, get them back on their feet and provide them with the opportunities they need. There are many charity and volunteer organizations that do a great job with this problem but they are always underfunded. Private charity giving just cannot keep up with the need. This is a society problem and society needs to address it so all citizens share the financial burden it can’t be left to charity, although charity giving is also important.
Family homelessness is different than individual homelessness. In most instances the later is the result of mental and/or addiction illness. Our society must recognize mental and addiction illnesses and work harder and more effectively to institute programs and treatments and research to combat these illnesses. Our current pseudo-solution is to fill our jails with these folks because their illness has resulted in criminal behavior. That is NOT a solution to the problem. Sorry you asked me to climb up on my soapbox.
For more information about David Gross and his books visit:http://www.DocDaves.Voice.com