Friday, January 30, 2009

Friday's Forgotten Books: The Watch that Ends the Night

Child #4 snuggling with Dorothy the Dog and pretending to read my very own copy of The Watch that Ends the Night. This book, BTW, will be re-released in May.

Cover copy (from McGill-Queen's University Press): George and Catherine Stewart share not only the burden of Catherine's heart disease, which could cause her death at any time, but the memory of Jerome Martell, her first husband and George's closest friend. Martel, a brilliant doctor passionately concerned with social justice, is presumed to have died in a Nazi prison camp. His sudden return to Montreal precipitates the central crisis of the novel. Hugh MacLennan takes the reader into the lives of his three characters and back into the world of Montreal in the thirties, when politics could send an idealist across the world to Spain, France, Auschwitz, Russia, and China before his return home.

I think it's pretty universally accepted that Catherine Stewart is based on MacLennan's own wife and her illness. Everyone also agrees that one of the minor characters takes after William Lyon Mackenzie King, a Canadian Prime Minister.

Here's the first line: There are some stories into which the reader should be led gently, and I think this may be one of them.

Last line: Ha! You didn't really think I'd tell you! (And, no, that is NOT the last line. :) )

Simply put, Hugh MacLennan defined Canadian Literature. He's one of our favourite and greatest authors. He wrote about Canadians and Canadian politics which paved the way for other Canadian writers to do the same. (Ironically, MacLennan's first two novels, which were never published, were about his travels abroad.) MacLennan pulled off something as yet unmatched by any others: he was awarded FIVE GOVERNOR GENERAL'S AWARDS (3 for fiction, 2 for nonficiton). The Watch that Ends the Night was his third GG.

Hugh MacLennan (1907 -1990). John Hugh MacLennan was born in Nova Scotia. He studied at Dalhousie University, was a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford and did his doctorate at Princeton. Not just your average Joe! He taught at Lower Canada College and later became a prof at McGill University in Montreal where he taught in the English Department for THIRTY YEARS. He married Dorothy Duncan, an American writer. A couple of years after his first wife's death, he married Aline Walker.

HERE'S AN ODD COINCIDENCE: Mr. MacLennan and I both lived in Quebec at the same time AND we lived really really close to each other. I was at the Universite de Sherbrooke; he was retired in North Hatley. North Hatley is small, small, tiny. I had professors in North Hatley. I definitely did some hanging out in North Hatley. From my research for this post, I discovered that one of my Sherbrooke profs, Ronald Sutherland, was ACTUALLY FRIENDS WITH HUGH MACLENNAN. If I'd only known. I could've come up with an excuse to meet Mr. MacLennan and have all his books autographed to me, me, me. And maybe even invite him out for a coffee and some mille feuilles (my favorite dessert when I was living in Quebec). Sadly, this is one of those stories where paths could've crossed, but didn't. :(

And, lastly, I leave you with a music video of The Tragically Hip (a Canadian group of four guys from Kingston, Ontario that was massively popular in the early 80s. This is The Hip (their nickname) singing their song "Courage (for Hugh MacLennon)"

Please pop over to Patti Abbott at pattinase's blog for links to other posts for Friday's Forgotten Books. It's always a fantastic line-up.

p.s. Sorry for the incredibly long post. I really got carried away with all the tripping down memory lane!


Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Meet Denny's Chick, Kelly! Cheep, cheep!

It's us! The Denny's Chicks! And we're actually at Denny's! Waiting for our breakfast. From left to right: Kathy, me, Kelly, Sandy. You have to admit we are probably the best part of the decor!

Last, but certainly not least, I'd like you to meet KELLY HAYES. Kelly is EXTREMELY well read. If she hasn't actually read a book you mention, she'll know the premise. It's pretty much impossible to stump her. She could make a lot of money on Jeopardy. Alex Trebek would be totally smitten with Kelly and her dry sense of humor. With bottles of his Pinot Noir, he'd try to bribe her to be Writer in Residence at his Napa Valley Vineyards. "No, no, no!" Kelly would cry. "I can't move north and leave my Denny's Chicks!" (Not to mention that she's also happily married.)

The tres tres humorous interjections in blue are mine (i.e. Barrie's)

My name is Kelly Hayes and I met Barrie several years ago at an RWA-San Diego meeting. Shortly thereafter we attended an RWA plotting bootcamp where Barrie and I shared a hotel room and partnered with Kathy Krevat for the whole session. We shared lots of caffeine and even more maniacal laughter. I still feel sorry for our poor fourth partner who no doubt thought we were insane. That night, Barrie and I plotted into the wee hours and came up with some great stuff. Or so we thought under the influence of too much green tea. (Uh, Kelly, it WAS great stuff!) It was the beginning of a productive, if at times slightly wacky, writing friendship.

Soon Barrie wrangled (translation: gently persuaded) Kathy into forming a critiue group with us and Kathy in turn wrangled (translation: well, actually, "wrangled" pretty much covers it!) Sandy. We started meeting at Denny's and the rest is history.

I started writing about nine years ago when I was still living in London (my husband's a Limey). I chose historical romance because I thought it'd be fun to write. And it was, for years. But in the last year or so I've branched out a bit and tried my hand at YA fiction. Yes, Barrie has been a big influence in that respect. Her talent for coersion is quite impressive. (Nix "coersion." Replace with "gentle persuasion.") I had an idea for a near-future sci-fi which somehow, after telling her about it, turned into a YA. But I'm grateful because it was a lot of fun to write something totally different. I'm still revising it and plan to send it out to several agents very soon. (And a smart cookie of an agent will snap it up!)

I work at a local library where I run the library book club. So I spend a lot of time talking about books.

Uh, Kelly, you forgot to mention how INCREDIBLY ARTISTIC YOU ARE! Below is a card Kelly CREATED for me. It's got all sorts of elements from I So Don't Do Mysteries.

Isn't this card just amazingly creative? The letters are hard to read due to my lousy photography, but it reads, Fearless Rhino Warrior

And here it is again next to a $1 bill, just to give you some perspective.

Besides being super artistic, Kelly's an excellent baker, reviews our manuscripts with a fine eye, has a delightful understated sense of humor and is always on time! Can you say EXCELLENT critique partner.

And, uh, no, you can't have her.

She's ours!

Friday, January 23, 2009

Cluck, cluck, cluck. Another Dennys' Chick!

And we're baaaack. At the scene of the crime--Denny's--to meet another one of my awesome critique partners. By the way, I discovered that I loved inserting little blue edits in Kathy's post. So....I'm going to continue the tradition with Sandy's post! Okay, Sandy Chick, take it away....

I’m Sandy Levin, the oldest Denny’s Chick (Note from Barrie: but still very very cute) and the last to join this wacky bunch of writers. I’ve been writing most of my adult life, but I focused on romantic suspense about ten years ago. Since then, I’ve completed four manuscripts but remain unpublished. I’ve started a number of other novels in different genres and tried my hand at non-fiction, but my muse has gone into hiding. Denny’s Chicks have been very supportive of me in my dry spell. This past year I’ve been plagued with a series a health problems, so my writing has been limited to blogging at Peaceful Heart Stained Glass. When I’m not blogging, I’m teaching yoga and creating stained glass. I find that practicing yoga and meditating while creating beautiful stained glass works of art keep me stress free.

I love being a part of this group. While we are all friends, we are all professional when it comes to writing and critiquing. Here’s a sneak peak into how we operate.

How Kathy's handwriting looks. For real!

A few days before our designated face-to-face meeting, we email our pages to critique. Sometimes it’s as little as a page, but most times it’s a chapter or two. It’s important to set enough time aside to review everyone’s work, so we do email in advance if we have a large number of pages or a deadline looming. Some of us like to have comments sent via email, so we can compare notes to our current version. Some of us write comments on printed copies (what better thing to do at your son’s water polo practice or daughter’s play practice, although some of us have neater chicken scratch than others :-) (Note from Barrie: Kathy is BY FAR the messiest. No doubt she was a doctor in a past life.) We always print on the back side of used printer paper (Denny’s Chicks love to recycle). The first one to arrive finds the quietest booth in the restaurant. After ordering our skinny breakfasts, we take a few minutes to chat about our families, (Translation from Barrie: we gossip) then it’s down to business.

We try to divide our time so that everyone gets verbal feedback. The nice thing about our group is that each of us seems to notice something different when we critique. Barrie is the GMC (goals, motivation, & conflict) queen. If the scene doesn’t have it, Barrie’s on our case. (in a supportive, saint-like way) Having been a newsletter editor in my pre-novel writing days, I tend to notice incomplete or disjointed sentences, odd spellings, multiple uses of the same word. Kathy picks up on continuity and can always suggest how to make a passage funny. Kelly seems to notice everything else.

So as we review our work, we not only point out what we think are flaws and make suggestions on how to improve it, but also comment on what we liked about the work. If we don’t all bring pages, we might spend some time plotting ideas for our next chapter or discussing GMC. Our meeting normally lasts about two hours.

After filling our stomachs and reviewing our pages, it’s back to the computer . Writing is not the easiest profession in the world, but it is very satisfying. (Tres, tres true!)

Sandy, Sandy, Sandy! You didn't say that you're a stained glass artist EXTRAORDINAIRE!

And that, dear bloggy friends, is Dennys' Chick Sandy Levin. Isn't she just too adorable?

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Introducing...Dennys' Chicks!

Hey, bloggy friends! The time has come for a melding of my online and offline life. I'm dying to introduce you to my three real-life critique partners: Kathy, Kelly and Sandy. That's them, in alpha order. And today Kathy's going to post here on the blog.

We call ourselves Dennys' Chicks because, uh, we meet at Dennys. Where we
genteelly sip gulp gourmet mediocre coffee and carry on civilized literary discussions hack each others' manuscripts to death. (Don't worry; Kathy, Kelly and Sandy are used to my sense of humor!)

Actually, we have fun together. You'd love to hang with us. Ask our spouses. We hold an annual Christmas do and
invite force our DHs to attend. (Can you tell I have just figured out the strike format??)

Anyway, without further ado, I'm handing over the blog to one of the Chicks. Take it away, KATHY! (Although I might do some LIGHT editing in this blue font.)

Hi! I’m Kathy Krevat, one of Barrie’s critique partners. Kelly, Sandy, Barrie and I have been working for a few years, meeting every other week at Denny’s. Why we originally chose Denny’s and why we’ve been relatively faithful (except for some illicit side trips to Panera’s), I don’t know. Perhaps because we live pretty much on the four corners of San Diego and Denny’s is right in the center, and we had the misguided idea that Denny’s would learn to make real coffee. And because our favorite waitress Holly always remembers how we like our veggie omelets (egg beaters, no oil used to cook the veggies or the eggs). (Note from Barrie: Can you say DRY omelet?)

We met at RWA-San Diego’s boot camp weekend where we successfully plotted out four books. Back then, Barrie was planning a chicklit about [censored], Kelly was writing a historical romance about a cross dresser, and my mystery was driving me crazy. [Okay, I didn’t really need to censor Barrie's chicklit – just trying to spice things up.]

We stayed up way too late that weekend, laughing at just about everything, and annoying our other boot camp partner, and began a friendship that has survived betrayal, divorce and rehab – sorry, that’s my Mom’s Night Out group.

With the welcome addition of Sandy (from my previous group), our critique group has survived something tough – telling each other the truth about how to improve our work. And through it all, we still believe that the publishing industry will one day recognize our genius.

We all knew that Barrie’s book, I So Don’t Do Mysteries, would make it. She has an amazing voice, beautifully timed humor, and a unique concept that kids will love. Add in her incredible work ethic and knowledge of the publishing industry and she couldn’t miss. (Note from Barrie: Kathy, the check is in the mail.)

And she’s just as charming, funny and downright likeable in person as she sounds in her blog. (Note from Barrie: It's a big check.)

I’m currently working on getting an agent for my first book, a humorous mystery called PTA Meetings Are Murder while writing the next two, Moms’ Night Out Was Murder and Stage Moms Are Murder. In PTA, recently-divorced Tiffany Luce must track down the murderer of the PTA president, while juggling three kids, rekindling a romance with her ex-husband, and producing a news segment, “Don’t Get Nailed By Your Contractor.” In Mom’s Night Out, Tiffany’s talented new hairdresser is suspected of murdering her fiancĂ© and Tiffany must find the real killer before her highlights grow out. In Stage Moms, Tiffany learns that the Sunny Ridge Youth Theater is full of something more than theatrical drama kids, ruthless stage moms, and insincere tech people – someone is trying to stop the building of a new theater, and they’re willing to murder to make sure the show does not go on. (Note from Barrie: These mysteries are BRILLIANT!)

From my books, you can probably tell that I’m a mom. I have two wonderful daughters who are far more creative, brilliant, and daring than I ever was – they both have beautiful voices and act in musical theater productions, perform improvisational comedy, write books and scripts in their spare time, and are amazing sisters. My fantastic husband Lee (the girls get the brilliant and creative from him) supports all of my writing efforts, even buying a new house so I could have my own office instead of the dining room table. Okay, there were many other reasons, but that’s the one he tells people.

We are all SO excited about the release of I So Don’t Do Mysteries! (Note from Barrie: I couldn't have done it without these chicks!)

Thanks for having me on the blog, Barrie!

Anytime, Kathy! It's great getting to introduce you to the blogosphere. And, everybody, here's a link to Kathy's fantastic article Criminal Opportunities--Dramatic License.

Watch for posts from Kelly and Sandy!

Monday, January 19, 2009

My Town Monday: WD-40

Before starting this week's My Town Monday's post, I want to wrap up last week's book giveaway.

Congratulations to Alyson at New England Living, the winner of a signed copy of Eileen Cook's WHAT WOULD EMMA DO?!

And congratulations to Paradox of Paradoxical! You've won a signed copy of I SO DON'T DO MYSTERIES! Email me at, and we'll get the ball rolling.

Thanks to everyone for playing!

Now, without further ado, here's this week's My Town Monday post. And it's rust-proof!

Did you know that WD-40 was invented in San Diego?

Way back when, in 1953, the Rocket Chemical Company, a little company of three people working in a little lab, "set out to create a line of rust-prevention solvents and degreasers for use in the aerospace industry."

It took them FORTY tries, hence the name WD-40! The WD stands for Water Displacement. (Apparently, there is a mysterious (for me) scientific connection between corrosion prevention and water displacement.)

Convair used WD-40 to protect the outside of the Atlas Missile from corrosion. In 1958, WD-40 hit store shelves in an aerosol can. In 1960, the company boasted seven employees and sold a whopping 45 cases daily to stores in the San Diego area. In 1971, the company went public. By 1993, sales were up to a million cans/week!

From the product website, here's a interesting tip for you musicians out there:

Try soaking new guitar strings in WD-40 before putting them on a guitar. The WD-40-soaked strings are easier to play and less likely to break because of the reduced friction. (submitted by J. Mark Holbrook)

So, the next time you're at a fancy cocktail party and someone asks you to pass the WD-40, you can totally impress by saying, "Oh, do you mean the Water Displacement that was invented in San Diego on the 40th try?"


Sepiru Chris and Junosmom list links to other My Town Monday participants. They're lending a hand while Travis Erwin, our fearless MTM leader, gets his life back in order following a recent fire that burned his house down. To help him out, please visit Habitat for Travis.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Goose Flesh

It's a Canada Goose. There's a connection. Wait and see. ;)

goose flesh: a rough condition of the skin, resembling that of a plucked , induced by cold or fear; horripilation. Also called goose pimples, goose bumps, goose skin.
(from The Random House Dictionary (of course!))

Today I went to The Yellow Book Road, my delightful local independent children's bookstore. Every single time I visit The Yellow Book Road, I leave something behind. I'm not talking a child or anything major like that But, still, it's always something important enough to warrant a return trip. Today was no exception.

So, I drop off Child #3 at swim team, then swing back onto Interstate 8. When I get to The Yellow Book Road, Mary, Co-Owner Extraordinaire, says, "There's someone who's been waiting to meet you."

And this mystery person was:
-another Canadian from Toronto
-who just published her first book (hers was Nov; mine was Dec)
-who also has pre-green card stories
-who has a child the same age as Child #1
-who lives about six miles from me

It was...

And, yes, we're hooking up for dinner soon. And I'm buying her book tomorrow.

I stayed at The Yellow Book Road where Marlene and I REMINISCED (even though we'd never met before!) Finally, Mary, Co-Owner Extraordinaire, says," Barrie, when do you have to pick up Child #3 from swim?" See, that girl's got my back!

Did the connection work? Meeting each other gave Marlene and me GOOSEbumps. Hence, Canada GEESE. Fine. I know it was a bit of a stretch (like a gooseneck lamp)!

Marlene Wagman-Geller and me (a couple of spring geese! Okay. I'm stopping with the bad puns. Enough with the groans!)

Thank you to everyone who visited yesterday's Book Roast. I quite enjoyed myself.

A reminder: Until midnight, Pacific time, Sunday, Jan. 18, you can comment here to win a signed copy of WHAT WOULD EMMA DO? by Eileen Cook or here to win a signed copy of I SO DON'T DO MYSTERIES.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Please, please, please, come over to the Book Roast where I'm being GRILLED today starting at 9:00 AM Eastern time. Yes, it does sound scary. And I'm not a brave soul. It took me three years to work up to a flu shot. Plus, 9:00 AM Eastern time is SIX O'CLOCK IN THE MORNING Pacific time. By nature, I am not a morning person. Yikes.

And, while you're tripping merrily through bloggy land, please leave a comment on Eileen Cook's interview with me for a CHANCE TO WIN A SIGNED COPY OF I SO DON'T DO MYSTERIES. Seriously. There aren't that many comments, so you have good Vegas odds...

And, finally, be good to yourself. You deserve it.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009


Eileen Cook and WHAT WOULD EMMA DO?

While juggling friendship issues (her best friend isn’t speaking to her), a love triangle-turned-square (okay, maybe she shouldn’t have kissed her best friend’s boyfriend…but it was totally an accident!…sort of), and escalating mayhem in her small religious town (uh-oh…what would Jesus do?), Emma realizes she has to stop trying to please everyone around her and figure out what she wants for herself. It’s time to start asking, “What would Emma do?”

Hi bloggy peeps! I'm baaack!. It's ME, the slightly chubby, super sassy and trailer-trashy KELLY Couric! I'm taking over the blog today to interview Author EILEEN COOK who has a fantastic YA out now, WHAT WOULD EMMA DO? I called Barrie and told her Eileen had called in sick with food poisoning. Due to a moose meat burrito. Eileen lives in Canada, you know. Land of ice fishing, toques and moose meat burritos. I've done my research.

(knocks on door, then cautiously opens it) Hello...hello.....Barrie are you here?

(rushes over to Eileen and does the air kissing thing) So, nice to meet you daahling. I'm Kelli Couric. Barrie BEGGED me to do this interview. I loved WHAT WOULD EMMA DO?I could so relate because I kissed all my girlfriends' boyfriends!

(looks momentarily confused, but quickly reverts to cute, intelligent-looking self) Oh, okay.

So, Eileen, now that you've achieved your publishing goal, are you actually working on anything new? Or do writers publish, then chill on the couch, guzzling cocktails and bonbons?

I keep waiting for the cocktail bonbon stage to arrive. I also note that so far I haven't been invited to any fancy literary parties where I hob nob with famous authors and laugh at their stories.

While waiting for my party invitation to arrive I have been working on something else. My next story is a tale of friendship, betrayal, revenge, and a love of classic movies. I hope to have a publication date for it in the New Year. The working title is Black and White.

Keep me in mind if Black and White gets optioned for a movie. I'm all about betrayal and revenge. (hands Eileen a business card) And now a question everyone's been dying to ask. Do you pay for your ideas? If not, where do you get them? Please be honest. And generous.

Target. I find they have the best value for dollar.

(jumps up in excitement) Seriously??? I'm at Target all the time. Good wine prices.

Uh, no, that was a joke. Really I'm one of those people who collects scraps of ideas, stories, conversations the same way clean black pants collect cat hair and lint. I write them down or tear them out of magazines and newspapers and stuff them into a file. I'm pretty sure my brain works like a compost heap. I just keep piling things on top and eventually something new is created.

Do you, like, outline? Or just write whatever?

I want to outline. I envy the outliners, they have such a clear idea of where they are going versus those of us who sort of wander aimlessly around the story until we sort it out. I've tried to outline. I make a great outline. It looks very snappy on the page. Sometimes I use color coding and regimented lists. Tragically, the outlines I create end up having nothing to do with the story I write.

Tell us something weird about yourself. Preferably juicy and scandalous. We're all friends here. Seriously. What's said on this blog, stays on this blog. And if it's something like a unibrow you've never had taken care of professionally, feel free to include a pic.

I can't do a cartwheel. I've tried. My mother even hired someone to teach me how so I wouldn't be mocked in gym class. Can't do it. I start off good. I have the commitment, but in the end my legs sort of flop over. It's pathetic. My dreams of being an Olympic gymnast crushed.

(frowning) You consider not being able to do a cartwheel scandalous?? Remind me never to let you interview me! (licks lips) And now for the most scrumptious question of all... What is your favorite dessert?

I am not a dessert snob. I'm open to a range of fattening treats. Sometimes I go for the simple- a good chocolate chip cookie or brownie and sometimes I want the high end molten chocolate lava cake. In the summer I like things like lemon bars and fresh strawberries swimming in whipped cream.

                 Is it just me or is anyone else hungry now?

Oh, honey, I'm always hungry. Which explains why I'm Queen of the Muffin Tops!

Thank you, Author Eileen Cook for the marvelous interview. And for writing the marvelous WHAT WOULD EMMA DO? And especially for agreeing to giveaway a signed copy of your book.

Here are the rules:
Leave a comment to this post to be entered once.
Link to this interview, then let us know to get entered a second time.
Contest closes midnight Pacific Time, Sunday, Jan. 18.

Now....hop on over to Eileen Cook's blog for her interview with Barrie Summy and a chance to win a signed copy of I So Don't Do Mysteries!

Monday, January 12, 2009

The truth about teens and reading

I totally outed Child #1!

My 19 year old who says things like, "I'm not a reader. I haven't liked reading since elementary school."

Yes, he knows how to push my buttons. Brutally.

Tonight I cracked open the door to his bedroom because I needed extra light in the hall.

What was he doing?

Lying on his bed and.....reading! A book I'd stuck in his stocking last month.

I bit my tongue. I didn't comment. Didn't ask if he was enjoying the story. Didn't say, "Neener, neener, neener. See. You really are a reader, you poseur non-reader!" Nosirree, I was a mum Mom.

Then, this morning, he was reading again. This time in the living room.

The book?

              Naked by David Sedaris

And speaking of entertaining books, I have a VERY hilarious interview for THIS WED., JAN 14 with Eileen Cook. Her brand new YA, What Would Emma Do? is now on shelves. AND Eileen will post a SOMEWHAT hilarious interview with me on her blog on the very same day. AND we're each giving away a signed copy of our book to a lucky commenter and/or linker!

Also, the Book Roast is re-launching TODAY! Here's the week's line-up:

Monday, Jan 12: Mystery Publisher
Tuesday, Jan 13: Eric Stone
Wednesday, Jan 14: Agent Lucienne Diver
Thursday, Jan 15: Barrie Summy
Saturday, Jan 17: Elysabeth Eldering

Yes, I'm up for a grilling on Thursday. Should be quite the experience. Please come by and see me. Don't worry; I'll remind you. ;)

Friday, January 9, 2009

Yesterday I drove a friend to chemo.

But if you think this is going to be a maudlin post, you're wrong. It's not.

This is a post about spending time with a dear friend. In a surreal situation.

First, you bring a big, heavy bag packed by another friend. It's filled with comfort items like a warm fuzzy blanket, a soft sleep mask, comfy slippers, some food (dark chocolate, clementines, Saltines), a bottle of hand sanitizer, some magazines, an iPod and a laptop. The bag should have two handles so you can carry it together. To share the load.

Your dear friend tells you which subjects are taboo. You honor this.

Once the nurse has the IV hooked up, you get things situated with a cup of ice chips, snacks, a blanket from the warmer, the fuzzy blanket from the bag, the comfy slippers.

Then you both settle in, switching gears from your fast-paced normal world of kids and chores and carpools and sports and homework. Now, it's just the two of you and an IV drip that won't be hurried. You chat. And munch.

Then it's time to boot up the laptop.

And now I will tell you the name of a movie that is perfect for a day like today.

Death at a Funeral.

This is one incredibly zany British flick.

Out of an entire room of people sitting in La-Z-Boy like chairs and hooked up to IVs, we were the only two laughing hysterically.

And that is worth a lot.

Happy Birthday, Cindy. Love you. xo

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Travis Erwin, Blog Round-Up, Class of 2k8

On MONDAY, I wrote about Travis Erwin and his house burning to the ground. On TUESDAY (which goes to show how quickly the Blogosphere mobilizes itself and what a caring place it is), I got an email from Stephen Parrish. Here's what Stephen had to say:

Travis Erwin is one of the truly unique voices in the Blogosphere. In his absence we must turn to Conan O'Brien for entertainment, and I don't have to tell you what kind of hardship that's going to be. For $25 you can contribute a brick toward the construction of Travis's new house. And have your name embossed for all to see. Just visit habitat for Travis.

I know Erica Orloff is also involved with this effort to help Travis and his family get back on their feet. So, go forth, Blogospherians, let's do what we do best, band together and look after one of our own.

Now, abruptly changing topics, I'd like to start a monthly blog round-up for book reviews. Say, the first Wednesday of the month we each post a book review. About any genre (well, within reason. Ack!). Personally, I'll mostly do YA or Middle Grade. Then again, maybe not. I do read books for grown-ups too. :) And I have a couple of middle schoolers who'd like to write reviews. Now THAT could be fun!

Let me know if you're interested by leaving a comment or emailing me ( I'll email you a reminder before Wednesday, February 4. I'll link to your review on that day. I think I'll even have a cute little widget (is that the right word?) made up for us. Ooooo.

Patti Abbott at pattinase's blog does a GREAT job coordinating Friday's Forgotten Books. No doubt I'm her most erratic and unreliable contributor! Although I do love it when I get my act together and rediscover a book from my past.

At any rate, I'm not as ambitious or organized as Patti and am just aiming for a book review round-up once a month about your fairly current reads.

And finally....

This is a picture of Child #4 reading Autumn Winifred Oliver Does Things Different! by Kristin O'Donnell Tubb, from the Class of 2k8. I promised PJ Hoover I'd put this up on Monday. I forgot to take the picture on Sunday evening before tucking in Child #4. Then I said I'd take the pic at breakfast. What was I thinking? Like our mornings are calm and peaceful enough for photo shoots??? Uh, not. It's a good day when all the kids go to school dressed. In clothes. It's a great day when the clothes are clean. A breakfast photo shoot. Yeesh.

Can you believe the amount of linkage in this post? it's positively clanking!

Monday, January 5, 2009

No My Town Monday posts today

No My Town Monday posts today. Travis Erwin, brainchild of this weekly blog round-up, suffered a tragedy early Sunday morning. His home burned down. He, his wife and their two kids are all okay. And now I've passed on all the details I know. Please visit Travis' blog and offer your condolences.

On the car front (where dh was hit by a 22-year-old female who ran a red light, then lied to the police by stating my dh had run the light and then, a couple of days later, told her insurance company she wanted extra money for "bodily damages" (seatbelt bruises):

After dropping off Child #3 at swim practice, I plugged the 22-year-old female's address into my nav. (Got the address from the police report) Sorry, Barbara Martin, I can hear you sighing already. But, please don't despair, I didn't do anything foolhardy. Anyhoo....found the address (scuzzy apartment), found the car (dents in the front), took pictures (as neighbors watched, but didn't speak to me). Drove away. Shaking. I am not as brave a detective as my little Sherry!

DH filed in Small Claims court. The 22 year old was served. Our court date is at the beginning of Feb. We found someone to help us build our little case. Hence the need for the photos.

Several thank-yous are in order. First off, to Kim at It's a Maze and a Maraca for the very adorable photo of her Lizzie and I So Don't do Mysteries. Thank you, Kim!

Also, shouting out to Stephen Parrish for putting up the cover of I So Don't Do Mysteries on his sidebar. One click and you're at for ordering. Thank you, Stephen!

A last shout-out to Becky Levine who ordered I So Don't Do Mysteries with her holiday money and posted a pic. Thank you, Becky!

And, just in case you haven't OD'ed on the book, here's a online interview: Scott William Carter's The First Book blog. Incidentally, this is the last book interview Scott is doing.

Thinking of you and yours, Travis Erwin. You know we're here for you. xo

Friday, January 2, 2009

Revisiting New Year's Resolutions

Child #2 (my 15 year old son) and I stayed up until 2:30 AM this morning reading.* Just the two of us.

The house was quiet and peaceful. He was sprawled out on the couch; I was curled up in the La-Z-Boy with Dorothy the Dog. We made quesadillas about one o'clock, then returned to reading.

I'm writing about this because it's unusual. Although Child #2 is probably the child most like me (except he's smarter and blonder and calmer), he's pulling away more and more. He'd rather be by himself or with his friends or with Child #3 (I'm so glad these two still get along so well).

As 2009 opens, I find myself living with three teen boys.** Three teen boys whose goal it is to connect less and less with me. Who, quite frankly, are often noisy and opinionated and not always pleasant to be around.

And it occurred to me that my New Year's resolutions are too simple; that I took the easy road.

Do I need to take my vitamins daily? Do I need to exercise regularly? Do I need to return my library books on time? Yes. Yes. Yes. But I think this is the year to push the envelope with resolutions. And those resolutions are not pushing any envelopes.

So...I will definitely keep the above three. I will also keep the resolution about watching a movie a month because this is a way to connect with these teens of mine. It means I often end up watching movies of little interest to me, but that's just where I am in life right now.

I'm still finetuning a resolution vis-a-vis these teens. But I believe it's important to get one in there.

I should also add resolutions dealing with decluttering, keeping abreast of the news and providing more homecooked meals. But I'm not going to to. If I heap anymore on my New Year's plate, I'll panic and accomplish nothing.

There is a really nice interview with me up on Authorlink. Susan Vanhecke did a great job putting it together.

* Child #2 is reading Brisinger by Christopher Paolini. I'm reading The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins.
**Yes, DH and 8 year old Child #4 still live here too. ;)

And, uh, Happy New Year all over again!