Five Stars For Scout And Ant Farm

Okay, that title is con­fus­ing, right? Total­ly does not make sense.

6-22 Ant Farm coverLet’s start over. My five-star book today is Ant Farm, a mys­tery that was, only this past week, pub­lished by the Kin­dle Scout pro­gram. The Scout pro­gram is rather new to Ama­zon. It’s a win-win for both writ­ers and read­ers. The writer who enters his or her book sub­mits a com­plete man­u­script and a cov­er design. The books accept­ed into the pro­gram are then pre­sent­ed to the voting/reading pub­lic with the cov­er illus­tra­tion and the nov­el begin­ning. Both Ama­zon and the author then await the vot­ing, or, as they call it, the nom­i­na­tions.

Vot­ing, you ask? What is this? Who votes? Or, nom­i­na­tions? How and why?

That’s where the read­er comes in. You read the offer­ings in a vari­ety of cat­e­gories. Let’s say that you find one begin­ning that makes you say to your­self, “Oh, I’d love to read that book!” Just click the link to nom­i­nate the book. (That’s the vot­ing.) Then sit back and wait for the best part—the e-mail from Ama­zon telling you if the book has been cho­sen for pub­li­ca­tion. If it has? You get an advance copy of the e-book, all for free. Of course, they hope you’ll review it.

The win for the author? Pub­li­ca­tion with an advance, a con­tract, and more author­i­ty than self-pub­li­ca­tion. For, after all, Ama­zon hopes to come out ahead as well.

I’ve nom­i­nat­ed four books so far. The first didn’t make it. The sec­ond was Ant Farm. I received my copy long enough before the offi­cial pub­li­ca­tion to allow me to read the book. Loved it. This is what I had to say about it:

This is a Kin­dle Scout book, and, as one who vot­ed for it, I got a free copy before pub­li­ca­tion. And, I’m sooo glad. This is a thriller, but, I’d say, also a more tra­di­tion­al mys­tery, as it is a puz­zle as well. The puz­zle part is the plot, as nuanced and devi­ous as any read­er could hope for. The thriller part is the impend­ing dan­ger involved for the hero, his son, and assort­ed oth­er char­ac­ters (not to men­tion the vic­tims). The char­ac­ters are a mix of lik­able and some you real­ly hope see their come­up­pance. Of course, first impres­sions can be deceiv­ing. Anoth­er thing—the sur­pris­es nev­er stop! (Be warned.)”

I’ve nom­i­nat­ed two oth­er books as well. The third was accept­ed, so I’m wait­ing for that free book. The fourth is still await­ing the end of the 30-day nom­i­nat­ing peri­od. (A read­er is allowed a total of three books at a time, so I can go back to look for two more.) This is the link to the Kin­dle Scout pro­gram for both read­ers and writ­ers. And, in case you want to read this five-star book, here’s the link for Ant Farm.

 

The Writing Road

I meant to write about the road not tak­en today, to fret about missed oppor­tu­ni­ties in the past. I won­dered, what would have hap­pened had I tak­en anoth­er road? Some years ago I went, with a group of women, to vis­it our state house. We were greet­ed by our new state rep­re­sen­ta­tive, a neigh­bor. When my friend informed him I’d just had a children’s sto­ry accept­ed by a major mag­a­zine, he asked me if I’d like to work for him, cor­re­spond­ing with vot­ers. Although I knew he’d hired anoth­er neigh­bor whose spe­cial­ty was design­ing love­ly bou­quets to help him with pub­lic rela­tions, I remind­ed him it was a children’s mag­a­zine, hard­ly fare for adults. Some years lat­er, after I start­ed writ­ing mys­ter­ies, I’d think, what if I had tak­en him up. Just think, I then could have writ­ten mys­ter­ies about the ins and outs of polit­i­cal life, and point to my expe­ri­ence. Per­haps that would have inter­est­ed agents and pub­lish­ers. And, I might have closed this post with advice for the young—jump at every oppor­tu­ni­ty.

But, I don’t want to talk about that today. Instead, I like the road I’ve actu­al­ly tak­en. Today I real­ized it was only six years ago when, after a few hun­dred agent rejec­tions, despite a few nib­bles along the way, after writ­ing and rewrit­ing sev­er­al books, I almost decid­ed to start a blog and give way my old­est, most rewrit­ten man­u­script chap­ter by chap­ter. But first, in June, 2009, I decid­ed to give small pub­lish­ers a try. Final­ly, I suc­ceed­ed with the third pub­lish­er I con­tact­ed. And they worked fast. By August they asked to buy it. By Octo­ber 1, it was edit­ed, copy-edit­ed, cov­er designed with my input, and pub­lished. A few days lat­er, I turned 80. But, with that accep­tance, I felt val­i­dat­ed.

The book was love­ly. My friends bought it and loved it. How­ev­er, it didn’t make much of a splash. I’m grate­ful to that small pub­lish­er for actu­al­ly giv­ing me the belief that my writ­ing was of val­ue. But when my two-year con­tract ran out, I didn’t renew it, but took back my rights. With the new ease of self-pub­lish­ing, I could do just as well on my own. I had anoth­er mys­tery ready to pub­lish. Since then I’ve also pub­lished a YA mys­tery and a non-fic­tion nar­ra­tive of my father’s adven­tures as a young man. I’ve had short mys­ter­ies pub­lished as well. And, I have a sequel of that first mys­tery just about ready to meet its pub­lic.

So, per­haps I missed an oppor­tu­ni­ty years ago. No mat­ter. I don’t live in the past. I can remem­ber the past, think fond­ly of what has tran­spired, see my chil­dren and their chil­dren suc­ceed, enjoy life with my hus­band. I also look for­ward to the future and what will tran­spire.

My path took me down anoth­er road. I like this road just fine. How about you and your writ­ing path? Are you hap­py with the road you’ve tak­en?

5 Stars for An Error In Judgment

An Error In Judgment-coverThis is the third in the Thea Camp­bell Mys­tery series, but one I espe­cial­ly like.

As one review said, “OK, I was already a fan, so I bought An Error in Judg­ment expect­ing an enter­tain­ing read. I already knew and liked the char­ac­ters and I knew Schrey­er deliv­ered a well craft­ed, well plot­ted mys­tery with lots of twists and turns. No sur­prise that An Error in Judg­ment deliv­ers all of that. What blew me away and made this a must read book is that with this third offer­ing in the Thea Camp­bell series Schrey­er deft­ly moves from tra­di­tion­al mys­tery to roman­tic thriller and blows the doors off the genre while keep­ing her sto­ry real with gen­tly comedic and com­plete­ly real­isic moments between her lead char­ac­ters.”

I summed it up this way. “Mys­tery writ­ing and show­ing hors­es have a lot to do with pac­ing, and this mys­tery with Thea com­bines her busi­ness, her horse Black­ie, her boyfriend Paul, and mur­der with unmatched pac­ing. There are moments of ter­ror, moments of ten­der­ness, moments of doubt, and moments of fulfillment—all com­bined to keep the read­er eager­ly turn­ing the pages.”

Is it pos­si­ble to have a favorite book in a series? Yes, it is. And one reader’s favorite may not be everyone’s favorite, just as no one book or type of book appeals to every read­er. I say, “Thank good­ness for that!”

Missing Link-A Prairie Connection

6-11 Chestnut GroveA farm, owned by a waste man­age­ment author­i­ty can not be good, right?

Well, the obvi­ous is not always what hap­pens. The 170-acre Riv­er Hills farm, owned by the Lan­cast­er Coun­ty (PA) Sol­id Waste Man­age­ment Author­i­ty has become a prairie of sorts. After a three-year, $1.2 mil­lion makeover, native grass­es, wild flow­ers, shrubs, and trees have been plant­ed. Wet lands and walk­ing trails have been estab­lished. The area is now a pas­sive recre­ation area that con­nects exist­ing ones in case one wants to hike a con­tin­u­ous six and a half miles.

Our local LNP News­pa­per had the sto­ry ear­li­er this week. To read the full sto­ry and see a video with an overview of the area and a small lake check out their arti­cle. See what time and mon­ey can do to con­vert land that first pro­duced corn, then dirt (to cov­er land­fill), and final­ly became a nature pre­serve.

 

Five Stars for A SUMMER IN EUROPE

A Summer in Europe

A Sum­mer in Europe

It’s been three years since I read this book, but I remem­ber it fond­ly, so obvi­ous­ly, it was mem­o­rable. At the time I reviewed it this way:

This is a sim­ple sto­ry told in a won­der­ful and com­plex style. It’s long, but there isn’t an extra word any­where. The author, Mar­i­lyn Brant, leads the read­er in a jour­ney through Europe with Gwen­dolyn Reese and a group of Amer­i­can and British tourists. You know how you see descrip­tion of tourist spots and your eyes tend to jump, or glaze over? NOT in this book, because each descrip­tion is so ingrained with emo­tions that the very street (or canal) becomes an inte­gral piece of the sto­ry. Now, that’s writ­ing tal­ent! At the bot­tom, it’s a romance, but also a ‘com­ing-of-age’ (at thir­ty!). And def­i­nite­ly a sto­ry of adven­ture, mys­tery, every-day-life, age differences—but that’s what I brought to it. Maybe you will bring some­thing else.”

Okay, I loved this book. And so did almost all of those who reviewed it on Goodreads.

One of my favorite reviews starts this way: “Oh this book is like sit­ting in the sun in the mid­dle of a Roman piaz­za while eat­ing a big scoop of gela­to. It’s love­ly and some­thing to be savored. Just about the only thing I didn’t like about this book is that Gwen got to go to Europe for a month and I didn’t. Yeah, I’m pret­ty jeal­ous of this fic­tion­al char­ac­ter!”

I dis­cov­ered this review­er is Meg and she’s a book blog­ger. I had to look up her blog. It’s one I want to fol­low.

Anoth­er review by Mere­deth (anoth­er book blog­ger) starts this way: a”*yawns and stretch­es* Sor­ry, please excuse my sleepi­ness, I’ve just returned from a fan­tas­tic sojourn in Europe and I’m just a teen­sy bit jet-lagged…

“Dur­ing the sum­mer she turns thir­ty, Gwen­dolyn Reese – an unso­phis­ti­cat­ed and inhib­it­ed mid­dle school math teacher that pas­sion­ate­ly loves lis­ten­ing to musi­cal sound­tracks – expects to be try­ing on wed­ding dress­es, pick­ing out flow­ers, and plan­ning a wed­ding with her boyfriend of two years. But instead she is being shang­haied by her aunt’s S & M Club (S for Sudoku, M for Mahjongg – had you shocked there for a moment, didn’t I?) to trav­el on their five week tour of Europe.”
That’s two blogs I want to fol­low. Per­haps you will too.

Craney Island — Another War of 1812 Episode

Battle of Craney Island

Bat­tle of Craney Island

In June, 1813, the British were cocky. They had only encoun­tered inef­fec­tive local mili­tia. They had block­ad­ed Chesa­peake Bay and chased the frigate U.S.F. Con­stel­la­tion into Nor­folk, VA. At Craney Island, pro­tect­ing both Hamp­ton Roads and ship­yards at Portsmouth and Nor­folk, VA, was a small mil­i­tary con­tin­gent. In every land bat­tle so far, the Amer­i­cans had run rather than fight over­whelm­ing odds. The British did not expect much oppo­si­tion.

Instead, they planned to cap­ture the island, con­tin­ue on to the larg­er Vir­ginia cities, and cap­ture the strand­ed frigate. Accord­ing to a lieu­tenant from the Con­stel­la­tion who vis­it­ed the blockad­ing fleet under a flag of truce, the British offi­cers said they would strike at the ship soon, vow­ing that “they must & will have it!”

USS Constellation-1812

The British became the vic­tims of their own over­ween­ing arro­gance,” says Mary­land his­to­ri­an Christo­pher T. George, author of “Ter­ror on the Chesa­peake: The War of 1812 on the Bay” and edi­tor of the Jour­nal of the War of 1812.

They thought they were fac­ing ill-trained rus­tics. So they rowed in as if they were just wait­ing to be shot at. They were sit­ting ducks.”

General Robert Taylor

Gen­er­al Robert Tay­lor

As Gen­er­al Tay­lor wrote in his let­ter of July 4, 1813, to the Sec­re­tary of War: “The whole force on the island at the time of the attack, con­sist­ed of 50 rifle­men, 446 infantry of the line, 91 state artillery, and 150 sea­men and marines fur­nished by Capt. Tar­bell. Of these, 43 were on, the sick list.”

He added, “I can­not with­hold my grate­ful acknowl­edg­ments to Com. Cassin, Capt. Tar­bell, and the offi­cers and crew of the Con­stel­la­tion and gun­boats, who have in every instance aid­ed our oper­a­tions with a cor­dial­i­ty, zeal and abil­i­ty, not to be sur­passed.”

The ship’s crew helped, but as British Napi­er lament­ed in his jour­nal, “A sharp can­non­ade from the works on the island cost us 71 men, with­out return­ing a shot.”

The British did not cap­ture the Con­stel­la­tion, and they left the area with­out attack­ing Nor­folk.

The report­ed num­ber of British casu­al­ties var­ied by source. There were approx­i­mate­ly 80 killed, wound­ed and miss­ing. One barge was cap­tured and at least two more were severe­ly dam­aged. The defend­ers did not suf­fer any casu­al­ties in the first major War of 1812 vic­to­ry on Chesa­peake Bay.

The British had all the advan­tages. They had the num­bers. They had the fire­pow­er — and they should have won,” said for­mer Vir­ginia War Muse­um direc­tor John V. Quarstein.

You can’t go vis­it Craney Island today. It’s not immor­tal­ized by a song like the ‘Star-Span­gled Ban­ner,’” he adds.

But the bat­tle there was the first big Amer­i­can vic­to­ry in a long string of defeats on the Chesa­peake Bay — and it deserves to be bet­ter remem­bered.”

Five Star Read — THE ANTEATER OF DEATH

Anteater coverNow, you have to admit—The Anteater of Death is an unusu­al name for a mys­tery sto­ry. Okay—crazy! But I tru­ly like it. It’s got a lot going for it.

A. The name attracts atten­tion. (Always good.)

B. The sto­ry lives up to the title. (Also good.)

C. The anteater (in a zoo, thank­ful­ly) is not only a sus­pect in mur­der, but has a devot­ed advo­cate in the hero­ine of the story—Teddy, the ama­teur detec­tive.

This was how I put it a cou­ple of months ago when I read The Anteater of Death:

The plot is full of unex­pect­ed twists, the char­ac­ters are most­ly known to eah oth­er (for gen­er­a­tions) and quite indi­vid­ual. The sus­pense is right up there, along with enough humor to fit the title. But there is also sus­pense to keep the read­er on the edge of her (or his) seat. The book starts and ends with a chap­ter in the anteater’s viewpoint—quite a bit dif­fer­ent than a human view­point. In between it’s Teddy’s sto­ry. She’s relat­ed to the wealthy zoo donors and work­ing at the zoo. And yes, there is death. Great sto­ry for those look­ing for the unusu­al sub­ject. Spiced with zoo and ani­mal infor­ma­tion.

Right now the Kin­dle ebook is $.99. Bet­ty Webb is the author. She has two oth­er zoo books, and a desert series of mys­ter­ies.

War of 1812 — Kent Island

In August, 1813, Cap­tain Charles Gor­don, U.S.N. said, “MARYLAND INVADED…it appears the ene­my have tak­en pos­ses­sion of Kent Island, and that the inhab­i­tants of every descrip­tion have removed to the main land…From the cir­cum­stance of land­ing can­non on Kent Island, it appears to be the inten­tion of the ene­my to keep pos­ses­sion of it for some time; and cer­tain­ly a more eli­gi­ble sit­u­a­tion could not have been select­ed for their own safe­ty and con­ve­nience or from which to annoy us.”

Burning in Kent County

Burn­ing in Kent Coun­ty

Indeed, on August 5, the British, with two thou­sand men and sev­en­teen ships, took over the island. British Admi­ral John Bor­lase described Kent Island as a “valu­able & beau­ty Island which is half as large as the Isle of Wright…a cen­tral Point between Annapo­lis, Bal­ti­more, Wash­ing­ton and the East­ern Ports of the State of Mary­land.” After they pre­pared the island, they launched raids on St. Michaels and Queen­stown. How­ev­er, they left on August 27 to sail to their win­ter quar­ters.

One rea­son they left so soon was because of the heavy storms they had encoun­tered in the pre­vi­ous Sep­tem­ber.

This bit of his­to­ry and oth­ers that I’ve shared added to the reen­act­ment of the for­got­ten War of 1812 in my upcom­ing mys­tery—For­got­ten Body. In fact, some I’ve read today means I have to change a few things in that upcom­ing man­u­script. Saved me from a major his­tor­i­cal boo-boo. Of course, since all the char­ac­ters live in the twen­ty-first cen­tu­ry, any mis­state­ments they make could be blamed on igno­rance. But Jo (my amateur/reluctant sleuth) is smarter than that.

I just said that, didn’t I? My char­ac­ter is a person—not an exten­sion or imag­i­na­tion of my brain. As a writer, does that hap­pen to you too? As a read­er, do you think of the char­ac­ters as paper dolls or real peo­ple? As a read­er, when I enjoy a book, I’m firm­ly in the “real peo­ple” mind set.

 

New Writers’ New Book

5-25-5th grade coverI’m one of the retirees who have been help­ing ten fifth graders who want to write. (When oth­er kids see us pass­ing through the school halls, they ask, “Are you the grand­mas?” Yep, that would be us.) This week we will deliv­er their fin­ished book. They will each get two copies—one to keep and one to give away to a favorite per­son. (Or, two to keep—their choice.)

All of the chil­dren wrote one, or more sto­ries, we edit­ed them, made sug­ges­tions, they learned that writ­ing is also rewrit­ing. Some illus­trat­ed their sto­ries. One cre­at­ed the cov­er. One boy was def­i­nite­ly writ­ing a book, but he man­aged to make a sto­ry out of the first two chap­ters. One of the girls seems des­tined to take Steven King’s place, but since she was also pro­lif­ic, we encour­aged one of her sweet sto­ries.

They accom­plished quite a bit in a half hour a week, espe­cial­ly since 5-25 5th grade kidsthere were sev­er­al late days for snow that seemed to always hap­pen on our Tues­day morn­ing at the school. They did their writ­ing on a com­put­er eas­i­ly using a hunt-and-peck sys­tem they had each worked out for them­selves. (Although it was easy to trans­fer their work, I real­ly do think it might be bet­ter to teach typ­ing skills before using the key­board. But I’m def­i­nite­ly of the old school—learned how to type in high school on a man­u­al type­writer.)

But, enough of that. I enjoyed work­ing with the kids. I’ve got to say, at least one inner city school is giv­ing the chil­dren lots of choice in their edu­ca­tion, for we could not have done this with­out some coop­er­a­tion from the over­worked teach­ers.

A War of 1812 Prank

One of my favorite sou­venirs from our years sail­ing Chesa­peake Bay waters was a small book from St. Michaels, Mary­land, The Town That Fooled The British. Besides detail­ing day-to-day activ­i­ties and prepa­ra­tions for war and telling the sto­ry of sav­ing the ship-build­ing com­mu­ni­ty from British attack, it told about Jacob Gibson’s Prank.

In April 1813, Mr. Gib­son farmed Sharp’s Island (now most­ly sunken). The British sized the island, impris­oned Mr. Gib­son, and con­fis­cat­ed his cat­tle and sheep. How­ev­er, they short­ly released him and even paid him for the ani­mals.

A few days lat­er, Jacob Gib­son, who was well known for his prac­ti­cal jokes, must have been feel­ing his oats. He and some of his slaves rowed and sailed a barge up Broad Creek toward St. Michaels, about fif­teen miles away. He tied a red ban­dana to the mast, and when they neared St. Michaels, he ordered one of the sailors to beat on an emp­ty rain bar­rel. (It might have been on a bright, moon­lit night.) The videttes (mount­ed sen­tries) rode to alert the town. The res­i­dents grabbed their stores of food and ani­mals and vacat­ed the town while the St. Michaels Patri­ot­ic Blues (the local mili­tia) stood ready to fight the ene­my. For­tu­nate­ly, they rec­og­nized his boat, and since Jacob was a quick talk­er as well as a big jok­er, he escaped with­out bod­i­ly injury. How­ev­er, he did give the town two six-pounder can­nons as a peace offer­ing.

And, those can­nons may (or may not—let’s not for­get these sto­ries were passed down by word of mouth before they were writ­ten down) have been help­ful in the lat­er defense of St. Michaels.