Required Reading

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Books I have authored.

Many times I receive books for FREE to give them an honest review. I do not get paid to give a good or bad review. Spotlights are promotional and should be regarded as advertising for the book spotlighted. Regardless of where or how I got a book, my review will be as honest as I can make it.

Friday, December 30, 2011

A Sword In Her Hand by Jean-Claude Van Rijkeghem and Pat Van Beirs

In 1347 a surprisingly modern female protagonist was born in Flanders. Not Flanders N.J. but Flanders a region with a rich history in Belgium.

In the modern world it is entirely to easy to forget how important small and nearly unknown regions of the world had historic impact. Marguerite Van Male was the last heiress of the Count of Flanders. From the authors’ deductions she would have been burning her bra and marching on the Pentagon if she had been born 625 years later. I enjoyed the portrayal of a young woman unwilling to accept the stereotypes of her time period. The authors painted a grimly realistic portrait of poor hygiene, stringent social codes and devastating diseases culminating in an early demise for the bulk of the population.

Even the background setting of the story provided insight to how the wealth involved in sheep and woven goods was changing the fabric of a stagnant society both literally and figuratively. The supplanting of the power of hereditary nobles by the wealth of the rising guilds was a excellent backdrop for the coming of age of a feisty non-conformist.

This is a book that will go well in my list of butt kicking female protagonists.

I recommend the book.

Body of work of Jean-Claude Van Rijkeghem

Body of work of Pat Van Beirs

Web Sites:

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

The Start-Up! Episode 2: The Anti-Social Network by Sadie Hayes

This is a follow up to The Start-Up, a short story on fledgling businesses and the geeky intrigue of Silicon Valley.

I reviewed the first episode and liked it. This picks up where episode one ended. Adam and Amelia, twins are the featured protagonists again. Amelia portrays a clueless coder who revels in technology. Adam is her more business focused brother. The both exhibit startling naïveté in the story, Adam more than Amelia.

I’m familiar with overly ambitious young entrepenurs and I think there was reasonable accuracy at depiciting the unscrupulous behavior where large dollar amounts are involved.

The story reads quickly, one sitting quickly and I read it on my beloved Droid X.

Worth reading.

I recommend the book.

Body of work of Sadie Hayes

Web Site:

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas

May all your wishes come true this holiday season!
Merry Christmas!

Friday, December 23, 2011

The Temple Mount Code Giveaway Winners

Congratulations to Marjorie from Ontario and
Kara from Indiana!
You have each one a copy of The Temple Mount Code.

Thank you to all the rest of you who participated.
Please stop back there are more GiveAways to come.
Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 19, 2011

Outrage by Robert K. Tanenbaum

It is always a treat to “discover” a new author. Sad but true with 20 plus books to his credit, Tanenbaum is hardly new but he is new to me. Described as a legal thriller, this book had good cops and robbers mystery aspects with some refreshing social commentary.

Butch Karp and his wife, Marlene are reoccurring characters in Tanenbaum’s books. Note this book stands alone quite well and there is no need to have read any preceding to catch up to the story. I suspect if you enjoy it as much as I did you will track down more of his books but that is another story.

I liked the shoot’em up parts as well as the defense of the defenseless but I most enjoyed the family dynamics of the Karp clan. I think the twins demonstrated a much needed example of how hard it is to buck the system.

I highly recommend the book, I enjoyed it.

Body of work of Robert K. Tanenbaum

Web site:

Friday, December 16, 2011

The Temple Mount Code by Charles Brokaw

In a snap shot of current events, Thomas Lourds’ linguistic talents have landed him in another intriguing mystery. A deadly grad student, a relentless Iranian zealot and a Saudi guardian angel make up the cast of Lourds addressing a mystery that may rock the Islamic wolrd. The forces of evil marshal to thwart Lourds in solving a linguistic nightmare that purports to change the world again.

As in the Lucifer Code and Atlantis Code, Brokaw paints vivid characters with strong characteristics. His main protagonist, Thomas Lourds, is a world famous linguist of immense sex appeal who unlike Indiana Jones attempts to avoid any physical confrontation outside of the bedroom. Once again Lourds shows naïve good character and although he purports to be in good physical condition, he doesn’t seem to have the sense to duck a punch. So far this is pretty much the same description as his last two books. The formula is there is a secret that captures Thomas Lourds’ attention, he ferrets out the secret and is saved from harm by lethal females smitten with his boyish charm. It sounds simplistic but regardless of that, the stories move well, entertain and provide creative action.

As in the Lucifer Code and Atlantis Code, don’t anticipate a great deal of cerebral activity just lean back and relish the action.

I recommend the book.

Body of work of Charles Brokaw

Web Site:

Charles Brokaw author of
the Lucifer Code
The Atlanti
s Code
has a new thriller!
The Temple Mount Code is another action thriller featuring Thomas Lourds
the action linguist!
Two Copies of The Temple Mount Code will be given away this month.

Contest runs from December 13th to December 23, 2011
Nothing to buy or do except fill out the simple form. Comments on the Temple Mount Review will also earn an entry. Contest is open to all, no restrictions on shipping.
Good luck!

Temple Mount Code by Tom Brokow GiveAway!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

The Temple Mount Code Giveaway

Charles Brokaw author of
the Lucifer Code
The Atlanti
s Code
has a new thriller!
The Temple Mount Code is another action thriller featuring Thomas Lourds
the action linguist!
Two Copies of The Temple Mount Code will be given away this month.

Contest runs from December 13th to December 23, 2011
Nothing to buy or do except fill out the simple form. Comments on the Temple Mount Review will also earn an entry. Contest is open to all, no restrictions on shipping.
Good luck!

Temple Mount Code by Tom Brokow GiveAway!

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Interview with H.S. Toshack, Author of The Meerkat Wars

Thank you to H. S. Toshack (‘The Meerkat Wars’) for his willingness to be interviewed and his insightful answers.

1.) Why did you write this book? What initiated this particular burst of creativity?

Basically because I so much enjoyed writing the first two books in the Paka Mdogo series. I should talk about them first of all.

I lived and worked in Africa for ten years, and still miss the continent. Mankind may or may not have originated there, but I felt during those years that I had returned home. Waking up in the Serengeti or the Selous and stepping out of your tent onto the savannah and into the early sunlight is to emerge once more into a very young, and very pure, world.

Then there was Sheena. She was our cat in the Caribbean, and a very special animal (I have stories to tell). So when we moved to Africa she had to come with us. We couldn’t take her on safari. But I fell to wondering (much later) – what if we could have done? What if she had got lost in a Game Park? What adventures might she have had?

So came the first story, Paka Mdogo – Little Cat. It told itself, or rather Sheena told it through me: I had the very strange experience of being not a narrator but a medium.

Why did I enjoy writing it, then? Because it took me back to Africa; and because it brought Sheena alive for me once more.

The second story, The Gradual Elephant, came as easily, and as joyfully.

My third ‘burst of creativity’ began with a great unhappiness. I watch and read the news, and ask myself, ‘Why do we do these things to each other?’

‘Because we see other people, other cultures, other nations as very different from us,’ I answer.

‘But they aren’t, really,’ another voice inside me said, last year…and it was Sheena speaking.

So she began to tell another story, about the time she befriended the Duwara, a meerkat tribe, and found they were at war with the Utongo, a rival tribe – for several reasons, none of which she could see as justifying the terrible things they were doing to each other. She decided to do something about that.

2.) All your books seem to be for kids, why did you choose this particular genre?

My earlier writing has largely been for older (pre-University) students – literature resources to help them prepare for those tricky things, exams. There’s been some travel poetry as well, including, of course, a collection of African poems. Writing for children, however…well that too is like stepping into a younger, purer world, where words are fresh and powerful for your readers, and there’s a good chance they will be amused by your jokes, however questionable.

3.) What was the most difficult part about writing a book?

These books? The research. I don’t find it easy to acquire or retain facts, so I had to make lots of notes. Then you have to be selective – there’s so much information out there. It’s easy to overburden your writing with detail. The story’s the thing.

4.) Do you have a favorite character in the book and if so why?

Obviously it’s Paka Mdogo – ‘Little Cat’ – Sheena. I’ve described her in the book blurbs as ‘a clever and cheeky little black-and-white cat’, and in my press release as ‘a cat for all seasons’; but only the stories can do her justice.

5.) What do you like the most about writing?

Enjoying the stories as they develop. Writing them is more like reading them: it’s an act of discovery. Then there’s putting together the words. And moving them around. And changing some of them. And giving them a last touch before ‘fixing’ them ready for printing.

6.) Where do your new story ideas come from?

Somewhere. Here’s a quote from Paka Mdogo, about Sheena: ‘She had a little dark place at the back of her mind where ideas were born.’ Me too.

7.) What advice has helped the most in your writing?

What I’ve taken from E. M. Forster’s Aspects of the Novel. The book is a direct, simple and authentic account of how fiction works.

8.) This seems to be your third book, do you have something new in the works?

More Paka Mdogo stories. I have a very clear idea of what the last book in the series will be about (it’ll be an enormously difficult one to write) – but I want to take Sheena to several places beyond Africa before that. Or rather, I’ll let her take me.

9.) Who is your favorite author and why?

Jane Austen, because of both her style (humorous, exact, elegant) and her narrative control (unfailing).

10.) What advice would you give for the want to be writer?

Enjoy your writing for its own sake.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Helping A Fellow Author Reach Her Star!

This missive is from a fellow blogger and author:

Recently, I received good news I just had to share! Two of my picture books were accepted in an online contest through!

Round 1 is currently underway! Please help me in voting for my stories by following the links below and clicking “Like”. (Voters must have a Facebook login). The Grand Prize Winner will have their story published online and on digital devices, receive $1,500, and a publishing contract!

Please note that Round 1 ends on December 18th, so every vote counts! Should I make it to Round 2, my stories will be illustrated online in a second round of voting, leading to a Grand Prize Winner! Please feel free to share the above links with your readers and other bloggers.

I would very much appreciate it if you could help me reach my goal of publication!

Thank you in advance, and have a warm and cheerful holiday!


Katie Sparks

Please follow me!

Twitter: @KathrynSparks

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

The Meerkat Wars by H. S. Toshack

This book has a domestic cat acting as a mediator between two warring tribes of meerkats.

The book provides some very good lessons on helping others. It also shows that just because something is different than you doesn’t mean it is less or more than you, it is just different.

Sheena, the cat, finds herself on an unintended, hazardous adventure. The book demonstrates how philosophic differences, in this case the nature or belief of the One True Sun can turn creatures of similar nature against each other.

There a few well placed illustrations in the book and it reads easily. I like how the author demonstrates positive behavior without preaching about it. I think that will carry much more weight with the reader.

I liked the book, good messages while providing an entertaining read.

It should be readable by the advanced 2nd grader and certainly enjoyed up to and including adults, particularly cat lovers.

I recommend the book.

Body of work of H. S. Toshack

Web site:

(not really his web site but good info.)

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Kill Alex Cross by James Patterson

Alex Cross is once more in the cross hairs of a psychopath. This time national security and terrorism are assaulting the Cross family.

You have to give Patterson credit both for the pace of his books and the relevancy to current events. This book moved at a break neck pace and yet showed how life goes on even in the midst of a crisis.

Alex Cross shows a more conflicted moral sense in this book than in some of his others. Samson is still got Alex’s back but is more of a bit player in this book. The relationship to terrorism and the terroristic aspects of some crimes made some aspects of this book difficult to read. The difficulty was that it smacked too true of realism.

Do your self a favor and block out a couple of hours and read it at one sitting, it will save you some angst.

I highly recommend it.

Body of work of James Patterson</a>


Saturday, December 3, 2011

Help Some Kids and Get A Great Deal On A Good Book.

Win-Win Christmas Gift

Whit Gentry wrote an excellent psycho thriller. I reviewed it on Pick of the Literate. This fall Whit’s grandson died suddenly. As a grandparent I can not imagine the pain that ensued from that sad event.

Whit has put his book on which is a website that presents Ebook formats that can be downloaded to all ebook readers, PCs, laptops, and Ipads. Smashwords is a user friendly web-site, they will not be contacting you to buy items. He put the price of his book in ebook format at $0.99 (less than a dollar).

Whatever sales yield between now and Christmas will be donated to St Jude in the name of his grandson Cager Neal Gentry. He will post the money order that he will send to St Jude's for all to see what was achieved.

If you're interested, this will take you to the purchase page --

I am posting this wherever I can to promote both Whit’s excellent book but also to help honor the memory of his grandson.

Whit is one of the good guys which proves that adage that sometimes bad things happen to good people. Rather than bitterness he is trying to help other families and their children through his donation to St. Judes.

It’s less than a buck, do what you can!

Please pass this along if you are so moved. I certainly was.


Thursday, December 1, 2011

Creep by Jennifer Hillier

Do not give up after 25 pages! I had trouble getting into this book but once I got hooked, it was impossible to put down. This is a psycho thriller with plenty of emotional trauma, action and spooky people.

Sheila Tao is a psychology professor who has trouble practicing what she preaches. She has a wealth of personal issues and makes the mistake of becoming involved with one of her students with disastrous results.

This book has something for everyone, a pro-football player, homeless people, educationally elite, private eye, psychopath and much, much more. But wait! Buy it today and you will get group addiction advice, serial killers, murder and mayhem.

This was a disturbing but captivating book.

I highly recommend the book.

Body of work of Jennifer Hillier

Web site:

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Win a copy of Antiquitas Lost: The Last of the Shamalans

Starting December 3rd

Win a copy of Antiquitas Lost: The Last of the Shamalans a rollicking fantasy. Authored by Robert Louis Smith M.D., MSc by entering at Azure Dwarf on December 3rd or on the Interview with the Author that will be posted at Azure Dwarf on December 6th. The Contest runs from Dec. 3 to Dec. 10 and shipping has been restricted to the U.S. or Canada.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Invisible (Ivy Malone Mystery Series #1) by Lorena McCourtney

I read this on my Droid X, it is a mystery whose protagonist is an unlikely older woman who refuses to age gracefully. 

Ivy Malone is a widow who refuses to accept any limitations.   She suspects foul play in a friend’s disappearance.   She investigates vandalism on her own.   She is an unstoppable force when battling injustice while searching her purse for her Medicare card.  

This book was a treat.   The mystery was suitably complicated to hold your interest but the characterizations were terrific.   Ms. McCourtney has captured an indefatigable spirit in Ivy Malone.   She drives home a point that you are as young as you are willing to accept.   She also drives home a sobering thought that as we age we often become invisible to those around us.  Old people are often overlooked and this book points out why that is a mistake.  A delightful story with a very strong moral!

I recommend the book.

 Body of  work of Lorena McCourtney

Friday, November 25, 2011

Thawed Out & Fed Up by Ryan Brown

Sam Bonham is a no account grifter who discovers internal depths he didn’t realize he had in himself in a pseudo western style.

There were some bizarrely interesting aspects to this book.   Interesting really doesn’t cover it.   Sam Bonham finds himself immersed in a culture he thought died out years before.   Sam is a disagreeable character that you see grown into a likeable human being.  

The set for this play is a western town held hostage by a gang of throw back thugs.   The premise is mildly preposterous and yet still entertaining.   John Wayne and the rest of the characters merely provide scene dressing for the personal redemption of Sam Bonham.  

I recommend it.

Body of work of <a type="amzn"> Ryan Brown </a>

Web Site:

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

My Rhinoceros by Jon Agee

Rhino’s are cool.  Admittedly though I never considered having one for  a pet.   This book describes what is good about having a rhino for a pet.

The illustrations are large, simple and colorful.  They appeal to the younger child.  My 5 year old grandson liked the book but it really wasn’t appropriate for his age.  My 2 year old grandson, however, liked the book a lot.   It is reading level appropriate for 1st graders but I think the story will be more appreciated by pre-schoolers.  

Very cute and I recommend the book.

Body of work of Jon Agee


Saturday, November 19, 2011

Zero Day by David Baldacci

Baldacci has a new hero, a new ethos and another, never boring cliff hanging, throat grabbing thriller.

John Puller takes over for John Carr without a Camel Club or a gang of cronies.  Although Puller is dedicated Army, he runs without a safety net throughout the book.   The Army is his life and his passion is it’s Criminal Investigative Division.  He is an elite Army cop and he is thrown into a situation involving mass mayhem.  Every time he turns around there is another murder.  

Puller ends up partnering with Sam Cole and the two of them bond through their mutual desire to find the perpetrators’ of mayhem in an impoverished coal mining community in West Virginia.

Once again Baldacci paints such a vivid picture.  He sets his stage with clarity and depth.   His characters are both larger than life and realistically human.  

I worked in an impoverished Appalachian coal community years ago.  Baldacci accurately captures the poverty and despair that often results from long term un or under employment. 

One can only hope that we see more of John Puller.  He was a complex, likeable character.

I highly recommend it.

Body of  work of David Baldacci </a>

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

The Covert Element by John L. Betcher

Once again, James Becker,  a retired agent of some type is a small town attorney. James Becker has retired from a terrorism fight to live a sedentary life with his wife and girls safe in a small, insular community. In his first book, The 19th Element detailed the story of a Islamic terrorists’ attack on a nearby nuclear plant.   This time Becker gets entwined with a drug cartel.

Once again I am impressed how John so thoroughly humanizes his protagonist.  (John Betcher is an eminently approachable author.)  Becker’s sense of humor is endearing and highly annoying to his buddies Gunner and Bull.   Beth is a no-nonsense wife whose common sense and CIA background keeps Becker grounded and safe. 

The book deals with the dismaying invasion of drugs and the impact of the drug cartels on law enforcement and society in general.  John Betcher is not making any claims as a successor for those of us who loved Robert Parker’s Spencer but as a confirmed fan I have to say the mantle may fit.   The interplay between Becker and pals is entertaining in spite of the seriousness of the topic.  I enjoyed interviewing John Betcher and I enjoyed reading this more polished novel.   Keep up the good work Betcher!

I highly recommend this book.

Body of work of John L. Betcher

Web site:

Soldier of Rome: The Sacrovir Revolt" by James Mace

Soldier of Rome: The Sacrovir by James Mace

 A snapshot of the life of the Roman Legionnaire is the most succinct description of this book although as this is the second book the common Legionnaire has been promoted.

Artorius continues to mature both in body and intellect.  This story chronicles a revolt in Gaul.   The revolt is motivated more by personal greed and revenge than subjugation of a populace.  Once again Mace makes the common soldier of Rome a believable being.  Looking at James Mace’s web site, you see he has immersed him historically in the Roman time.  

Once again I liked the fact that Mace was not one sided in his approach.   I thought he showed both the frustration of some of the Gallic nobles and the acceptance of others.  In particular I liked the parent child conflict in regards to participating in the revolt.  The cruelty of the slave trade is presented in graphic detail.

As in the first book, anyone fascinated by military history will love this book.  Historic fiction fans, in general, will also enjoy the book.  

I recommend the book. 

Body of work of James Mace

Web Site:

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Lot’s Return To Sodom by Sandra Brannan

This book provides more details than you may want to hear about the underbelly of the 1% outlaw motorcycle gangs.  A murder and other despicable behavior are offset by the tenacity and courage of the female protagonist.

Liv Bergen is recovering from her encounters with murder in a previous book.   I think a smidgen more of back story would be helpful in understanding Liv.   Liv’s feelings for her brother Jen overwhelm whatever common sense she might have.   Liv is the consummate “stick your hand in a hornet nest” protagonist.   Her passion and tenacity are laudable.  

Mully is an outlaw biker whose character is somewhat confusing.   Streeter, an FBI agent, apparently held a major role in the previous book.  Streeter is carrying a large torch for Liv who is unaware of his existence.   The book has action, intrigue, violence, romance and interesting twists to the plot.  The setting of the Sturgis motorcycle gathering is colorful and somewhat dismaying.   All in all, Ms. Brannan put together a fun book to read.

I recommend the book.

 Body of  work of Sandra Brannan

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Winner of the Nettie Parker's Backyard GiveAway is Marjorie from Ontario

Congratulations to Marjorie from Ontario on winning a copy  of Nettie Parker's Backyard!
 Thank you to all who participated in the GiveAway!
Stop back often here and at Azure Dwarf to see future GiveAways!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Under Fire by Margaret McLean

A superb courtroom drama with volatile emotional context is the theme of this book.

Sarah Lynch is an attorney is not practicing law, she is playing hockey.   As  this book takes place in Boston, her career change is not seen as terribly radical.   She had a bad experience that is alluded to but never explained.   Her eccentric Uncle Buddy Clancy, worried over her state of mind, entices her to the dark side, that of defending an accused criminal rather than the prosecution side she once practiced. 

Buddy Clancy would top the list of interesting people anyone has encountered.   He and his golden retriever, Rehnquist, both sport bow ties and both have a sweet tooth.   The case is fraught with current topics and undertones of intolerance.   The accused is a African Muslim who is regarded by the community as an “Arab” in the worse sense.   She is accused of killing a fireman who was attempting to rescue her from her burning store.

The plot is complicated and believable.   The current emotional attitude toward anyone different, particularly any one that can be considered related to terrorism, weighs heavily on all of the characters.   Greed, redevelopment and the pedestal fireman now occupy fill out the emotional provocative aspects of the book.

This was a very good book and an outstanding courtroom drama. 

I highly recommend it.

Body of  work of Margaret McLean </a>

Monday, November 7, 2011

Snowman's Revenge by Mark Smythe

A snowman with hurt feelings seeks revenge on his builders.

That pretty much sums up the plot but it doesn’t really describe this delightful kids’ book.   I read it to my 7 year old granddaughter and then she read it to me.  I liked the fact that it was readable by a primary age child.   She spent quite a bit of time going over the book and enjoying the illustrations as well as the “grumpy” snowman.   It is a short book and a very quick read.   There are some pages with a very grim looking snowman that could be scary to little folks.  One grim graphic was diffused by the humorous touch of the snowman eating an ice cream bar.   In the end the snowman got his just desserts. 

My granddaughter and I could not come up with a moral for the story. 

I recommend book.

Body of work: Mark Smythe

website: I did not find one.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Lethal by Sandra Brown

This is an excellent mystery with rogue agents, dirty cops and sexy women.

For some reason I think of Sandra Brown as a romantic fiction author.  Well I, once again, need to revise my thoughts.  This was a very entertaining, difficult to put down mystery. 

The characters were varied and colorful.   Ms. Brown paints a brilliant canvas with bold strokes and steamy sexual tension.   Oh, and action, I can’t forget action.  There is plenty of gruesome violence and determination.   The bad guys are bad but Ms. Brown provides enough background to get a feel for why they are bad.   The good guys are just as complex and so are their feelings and actions.  

Coburn is the quintessential bad good guy, ala James Dean.   He is on a path of discovery and his tour guide is a sexy widow and a 4 year old ice breaker.  Emily’s impact on Coburn may have been the most telling emotion in the book.  

I really enjoyed this book.

I highly recommend the book.

Body of work of Sandra Brown

Web site:

Monday, October 31, 2011

An Interview & GiveAway with C.V. Smith Author of Nettie Parker's Backyard

 1.)   Why did you write this book?  What initiated this particular burst of creativity?
I have been a teacher and para-educator for over 30 years, most of which were spent in classrooms where students were just beginning to think for themselves and about themselves.  The book is written for ages 9-13, the time when youth questions everything.  Adolescence is starting and many children feel insecure about themselves, their relationships with peers, or even their own families and homelife.  These insecurities manifest themselves in various behaviors; some children withdraw into themselves, while some overcompensate for their fears by bullying others.  I have witnessed that when bullying begins, even if innocently meant with only an off-handed word or two, prejudice often follows not far behind.  I wrote this novel hoping to illustrate to children that bullying and intolerance toward race, religion, or the physically challenged have no place in our world.  Certainly, with tools such as the internet, facebook, twitter, etc., the world is becoming smaller in many ways, and so the ill-effects of prejudice are felt even more strongly today than in the past.  I believe that my book
inspires readers to see that what matters is the "core" of each person, and that acceptance of others and their differences truly means enriching themselves.  I further believe that more must be done to inhibit bullying; not doing so only enables the passing of prejudice from one generation to the next.

The idea for Nettie Parker's Backyard came to me in a very vivid dream, and whereas most of my dreams go unremembered, this one was definitely unique.  Its powerful detail and message ended with a revelation that has affected my own personal beliefs, further compelling me to write the book.

2.) Does your story line develop organically or is it a gestalt before you begin?
I didn’t realize it at the time, but my dream was actually the ending of the book, not the beginning, so I had to construct the entire beginning and middle to fit the conclusion of my mysterious climax.

3.) What was the most difficult part about writing a book? 
I didn’t seem to have any trouble actually writing the story; words just seemed to keep pouring out of me from within.  But since I chose to make this historical fiction, and to have a little mystery and magic going on at the same time to keep my readers’ attention span (ages 9-13), I had to do a great deal of research and planning so that clues were placed at just the right time so as not to give away the surprise ending, but also so that they would all fit in properly to be tied up in a neat little package at the end.  I wanted to show a connection between African-American slavery and prejudice to that of what happened during WWII and the Holocaust.  Those two subjects required a massive amount of data gathering.  Also, my main character and heroine of the story, Nettie, is from the small sea island of St. Helena off the coast of South Carolina.  The Gullah heritage she claims has always intrigued me, and thus I decided to have Nettie come from this culture.  Of course, this meant my investigation into the Gullah language, foods, island life, etc.

4.) Do you have a favorite character in the book and if so why? 
Nettie, of course, is my favorite character because all of her attributes are so noble:  she’s kind, loving, caring, a real ‘team player’, always trying to help others and thinking of others before she thinks about herself.  She’s the kind of person we all strive to be, and one who has so many friends, she can’t count them!  She, herself, has experienced the bitter taste of prejudice and hatred, and has become all the better a person because of it.  She has a great heart, and even though her little ‘supernatural’ signs point her in the right direction, she always does the right thing in every situation.

5.) What do you like the most about writing? 
Writing is a great cathartic exercise.  I find that if I’m upset or concerned about something, writing about it serves the same purpose as if I were to verbally consult a friend with my problem.  Most of us need to be creative in some way; since I can’t sing, dance, paint or sculpt, this is what I do.

6.)  Where do your new story ideas come from? 
Unfortunately, I never seem to be able to come up with great new story lines.  I’ll see a wonderful movie and wonder why I hadn’t thought of writing it first!  That’s why my dream was such an unusual and unexpected happening, and why I knew I had to record it on paper!  I often say that the book came to me, not the other way around.

7.) What advice has helped the most in your writing? 
The best advice came from my son who, himself, is very adept at writing.  He told me never to accept anything I had written until at least 24 hours had passed; that way, you can review what you have written previously with an honest and true assessment of your work.

8.) This seems to be your first book, do you have something new in the works? 
Actually, as I have been an educator for over 30 years in middle school, I have witnessed and taken part in many intervention sessions for ‘kids in crisis’.  I have written an anthology of rap, poetry and prose for these children.  It’s not quite ready for publication yet, but I cover a multitude of topics that deeply concern adolescents such as drugs, gangs, prejudice, hatred and death.

9.) Who is your favorite author and why? 
I have 2 favorite authors: the first is Barbara Kingsolver, author of The Poisonwood Bible.  She must feel as I do about adjectives: they are the only way an author can paint a picture of what he/she wants their reader to see.  Her careful and deliberate use of specific adjectives is so magnificent to me, that I feel as though I am right there in Africa along with her characters.  My other favorite author is Arundhati Roy, author of The God of Small Things.  The book begins with what seems to be scores of unrelated points of light, but they are far from being unrelated, as the reader finds out in the end when they are all tied up very conveniently into a magnificent package.  This is what I similarly tried to do in Nettie Parker’s Backyard.  I’m not sure I did it as eloquently as she did, but my ending does solve the little mystery running throughout the plot, and ties up all the loose ends that the ‘supernatural’ clues leave behind.

10.) What advice would you give for the want to be writer? 
Make yourself well-read by reading many different authors and many different types of writing.  Through osmosis, you will learn what is good and what is not, and your own style will emerge.  Let your writing rest for 24 hours and then assess, correct and improve upon it if you can.  Lastly, keep at it!  You must have tons of discipline!  Sometimes a break is necessary and may actually be the best thing that could occur, as you may get a new idea in the interim and be much happier than having continued on with your former line of thought.

All Treat and No Tricks! 
Five Books Will Be Given Away, One Hard Copy and Four E-Books
Entries will be accepted October 31 to November 6, 2011