Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Would You Read On? hosted by Diana Flegal

Today we have the first page of another Middle Reader title. Let us know by your comments if you would read on.


Porter Booth’s heart answered with a thump of its own and then stopped. He was sure of it. No way could it beat stuck up in his throat.

“What was that?” his cousin whispered.

“Shh!” Porter switched off his flashlight and squatted in the dark.

“What are you doing?”

“Shut up! Get down over here next to me.” Porter reached for James and got a wad of sweaty t-shirt. He held his breath and tried to figure out what was scuffling. “Hear that?” he whispered. “Someone’s coming.”

Sounds must be louder underground when you can’t see, he reasoned. He knew it was people noise, but who and how many? Friendly or dangerous? Kids like himself and James, or a gang down here to take care of business. Whatever business that was.

Dad was right. He shouldn’t have come back to the slough.

His dad hadn’t forbidden the entire length of the Hendricksville slough that carried storm runoff to the Tule River. Just the tunnel part under Main Street. Just this exact spot where he and James were squatting, listening to someone shuffle through a mine-like shaft a few feet away.

He blinked and tried to focus, but it didn’t make any difference in the dark. The artery to the outside was all the way across a cavernous clearing littered with old furniture and wooden barrels. They couldn’t make it through all that junk and out in time.

Porter pulled James toward what he hoped was an old bar front they’d seen against the wall. “Come on, we can hide behind the bar.”

James whistled as he sucked in a mouthful of dusty air. “I can’t breathe.”

“Be quiet!” James’s damp t-shirt stuck to Porter’s fingers. And he could smell it. Is that what would give them away—the sweat? Or would it be the squeaky breathing?

Last weeks submission was offered for comments by the brave writer Lauren Claire. You can find her on Face Book and at her blog titled, Cascading Thoughts. Stop by and offer this young writer an encouraging word.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Finding and Hiding Easter Eggs by Andy Scheer

Yes, Easter eggs—but not the kind in pastel colors.

I first encountered the metaphoric term from my son, who majored in college in “electronic game design and development.” It seems that creators of computer games often include surprise bonus material, hidden messages, or insider jokes—“Easter eggs.”

A couple weeks ago, driving across Kansas and listening to the audio version of the adventure novel “Arctic Drift” by Clive Cussler and Dirk Cussler, a couple such eggs distracted my driving.

As they tried to find the Maguffin, the story's characters encountered a century-old journal by arctic explorer Stuart Leuthner. Easter egg! As a member of a group that collects Cussler's books, I recognized Leuthner as the art director of a lifestyle magazine for people who appreciate high-end wristwatches. In the pages of the magazine he occasionally writes about Clive Cussler's rare autos.

Several chapters later another Easter egg surfaced. The commander of a submarine traveling under the ice was none other than Barry Campbell—another member of the collector's group. In real life he's a former arctic submariner and now a voice actor for audio books.

Belonging to the collector's group gives me insider information. So in the book “Corsair” I recognized that the name of the U.S. Undersecretary of State for Mideast Affairs was the same as the wife of the group's founder.

Occasionally all that's needed to find Easter eggs is just careful reading. In Cussler's “Dirk Pitt” series, almost every book includes a character named Leigh Hunt who gets killed off in the prologue. Turns out there really was a Leigh Hunt—a longtime friend and former neighbor of the author.

If you've ever visited the website of author Ace Collins, you can't miss the photos of him with his two classic autos: a 1936 Cord and a 1934 Auburn. But if readers bypass his website and jump directly into his suspense novels “Farraday Road” and “Swope's Ridge,” they may not realize the antique cars the protagonist drives are vehicles the author actually owns.

I suspect most fictional Easter eggs remain hidden, known only to the author or a close circle of associates. Too obvious and they're counterproductive—distracting readers from the storyworld.

But every novel demands dozens of characters and locations, most of which need a name. If ordinary readers won't get distracted—and your family members, friends, and neighbors will still speak to you after the book is published—why not?

In the case of “Farraday Road, ” Collins had to give his crime scene a name. In a series of emails we exchanged about his books and his cars, he mentioned he was a big fan of the old time radio detective series “Boston Blackie.” And in that program a recurring antagonist just happened to be a policeman named Inspector Farraday. Eggs-actly!

Monday, November 28, 2011


Check out this link for a SPECIAL FUNDRAISER for my client Sandi Rog who is battling cancer among other things. There are some great packages over here, so do yourself a favor and check it out before they open it up soon,

Bittersweet by Linda S. Glaz

Well, I’ve just read, for at least the hundredth time, the Christmas stories from the Little House series. My heart melts each year as I read about the sacrifice of family from this delightful Ingalls clan. They had so little, but were all about their family.

Another tearjerker was a very old episode of Fury. Ask any baby boomer if you don’t know what this fifties series is about. In this particular one, Joey befriends two little boys who are very poor, and at Christmas, they exchange the same gifts they had the last few years, crayons and I think, a pocketknife. But each year, they exchange them again. It’s a great lesson for children about being grateful in all circumstances for what you have.

Most of my favorite book/shows are from the forties through the sixties. Each had a lesson, and each one was based on a strong story, not a bunch of cheap holiday laughs with sex at the center of the joke. Okay, okay, I’m really old-fashioned(as well as really old), and Christmas brings this out in me, but it also brings out the longing for family to be together.

I have one kiddo who lives close to home, but the other two are thousands of miles away. So Christmas, while my favorite time of year, holds bittersweet nostalgia as well as looking to the holidays’ joys and to the future.

As the days of eggnog and Christmas stockings approach, I read my favorites, watch my old standbys and on occasion, am known to shed a tear or twenty.

Take this opportunity to read or share some of your most cherished memories with those you love. What is your favorite book/show from your childhood?

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Christmas Campfire Companion


Have a reader on your list that likes Christmas? Or likes westerns?

Or Both?

Fourteen of America's top western writers publishing today have contributed delightful Christmas stories to this collection, fourteen saddle-hardened writers who reached down to give a glimpse of  their sensitive side. Each story is a gift, and each a take on Christmas . . . a western Christmas.

Livia Reasoner (Livia J. Washburn) has been writing award-winning, critically acclaimed Western, mystery, romance, and historical novels for more than twenty-five years.

Troy D. Smith  has published eight books and more than fifty short stories and magazine articles and was a 2001 winner of the Spur Award, the western writer's equivalent of the academy award.

Frank Roderus is a well-published author of over 300 books, twice received the most prestigious award
a western writer can receive, the Spur Award.

Tim Champlin (pseudonym of John Michael Champlin) is the author of 30 historical novels over the past 30 years as well as 35 short stories and non-fiction articles.

Larry D. Sweazy won the WWA Spur award for Best Short Fiction in 2005, and was nominated for a Derringer award in 2007 and has published over 50 non-fiction articles and short stories. 

Robert Vaughan sold his first book when he was 19 years old, and, under his own name and several pseudonyms, he has sold more than 400 books, including approximately 200 Westerns. He has hit the NY Times, Publishers’ Weekly, and USA Today bestseller lists numerous times, and is the recipient of the
Spur Award (SURVIVAL, writing as K.C. McKenna).

Douglas Hirt won the Colorado Authors’ League Top Hand Award. His 1998 book, BRANDISH,
and 1999 DEADWOOD, were finalists for the SPUR award given by the Western Writers of America.He is short story writer, and the author of thirty-two novels and one book of nonfiction.

Dusty Richards is the author of a hundred western novels under his name and pseudonyms. He’s won two Spur Awards, one for a novel called “The Horse Creek Incident” and the other a short story on, “The Comanche Moon.” He also received the Cowboy Hall of Fame and Western Heritage Center’s Wrangler award for his book, “The Sundown Chaser.”

Kerry Newcomb was born in Connecticut but had the good fortune to be raised in Texas. Newcomb is a New York Times bestselling author with over forty novels to his credit. He has been published in several countries.

Matthew P. Mayo’s short stories appear in a variety of anthologies, and have been finalists in both Western Writers of America Spur Awards and Western Fictioneers Peacemaker Awards.  He also contributes to several popular series of Western and adventure novels and has a number of non-fiction books.

Robert J. Randisi is the author of more than 540 books in the Western, Private Eye, Men’s Adventure, and Horror genres under a number of pen names. As J.R. Roberts he is the creator and author of the long
running series “The Gunsmith.” He also wrote and created the Tracker, Angel Eyes, Bounty Hunter, Mountain Jack Pike.

Rod Miller is author of Things a Cowboy Sees and Other Poems, published by Port Yonder Press. Other recent work includes a historical novel, The Assassination of Governor Boggs as besides poetry and
fiction, he writes nonfiction, magazine articles, book reviews, and essays.

James Reasoner has been a professional writer for more than thirty years. In that time, he has authored several hundred novels and short stories in numerous genres. Best known for his Westerns, historical novels, and war novels, he is also the author of two mystery novels that have achieved cult followings, TEXAS WIND and DUST DEVILS. Writing under his own name and various pseudonyms, his novels have garnered praise from Publishers Weekly, Booklist, and the Los Angeles Times, as well as appearing on the New York Times and USA Today bestseller lists.

They even allowed me to hang out with them in this collection:

Terry Burns writes Christian fiction with a western theme and  has over 40 books in print, including 10 novels. He has a two-book set from Port Yonder Press, included in The Sagebrush Collection. These contain the best of his short stories and a Young Adult book, Beyond the Smoke,  won the Will Rogers Medallion in 2009.

How long has it been since you read stories from such well know authors? Well, that's too long.

It is now available for order at

Thursday, November 24, 2011

It's Thanksgiving! by Terry Burns

Oh yeah, turkey and dressing, side dishes, deserts and good friends to share the meal, then there is the football game coming up and . . .

and . . .

what am I thinking? Thanksgiving is not about food and football.

The name says it all. Thanksgiving is about stopping to count our blessings and to give thanks to our creator for all He has given us, and I don't know about you but Saundra and I have been blessed far beyond what we have any right to expect.

The greatest blessing, that I'm afraid we Christians too often take for granted, is the gift of our salvation. We didn't earn that and there is nothing we could do to deserve it. It is an unthinkable gift from a loving father, one we don't stop to give thanks for often enough.

Then there is our health, we are indeed blessed there. Sure, at our age we have some small issues, but overall we have been blessed in that department our entire lives.

We're blessed with family, five kids, ten grandkids, one great-grandson and yet another great grandkid on the way. What a huge blessing, and they are all happy and healthy and we are immensely grateful.

We have a nice home that is paid for and fits our needs very well. We don't have a lot of money but our finances are stable and we have what we need. Oh sure, there are things that we want, we wouldn't be human if there weren't things we'd like to have, but I can't think of a thing that we REALLY NEED that we don't have.

We really miss mom, particularly on holidays, but we console ourselves knowing how wonderfully happy she is and who she is with. Today of all days I remember a statement she made to me once, "I've never been hurt, never been mistreated, never been hungry. I've walked with the Lord all my life and it has been a wonderful life." She said something like that just months before she passed on, and thinking back on it that would pretty much go for me as well. I've had some hard times, but overall have been blessed my entire life and like mom have walked with the Lord for all of it.

I'm going to cut me off a big slice of gratitude and completely cover it with praise gravy because that is going to be my main focus today, giving thanks. And maybe having a little dressing on the side.

What have YOU got to be thankful for?

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Would You Read On? hosted by Diana Flegal

This week's First Page is for a Middle Reader title. Please keep that in mind as you make your comments. Thank you in advance for your critique.

Chapter One

Nothing would be alright, not this new house, not this day, and especially not Caleb’s smirking face, until Adrianna rescued her violin from the pits of the U-haul truck. She glared at the orange demon vehicle through the window. “It better be alright,” she mumbled. Of course, when it came down to it, the truck itself wasn’t responsible for the hairpin turns that put the seatbelts to the test. No, that would be Steven’s fault.

Her hands clenched into fists. “Steven!”

Tall and scraggly, with an ugly beard and yellowed teeth, an image of her stepfather appeared in her mind. She pictured a speech bubble above his head, filled with all the different little symbols to censor his natural speech. This man drove the U-Haul. If her violin was hurt, it would be his fault. Anyways, it was because of him that they even had to move in the first place!

She whirled around from the window. She hated this place, this soon-to-be living room, and this awful smell of new carpet. Soon they would have entirely new furniture, and her old life would be completely erased except for one thing. “I want my violin.”

To hold it in her hands would be to hold something familiar. To play it, despite having hands much too large for it now, would be even more wonderful. “Mom!” she hollered, as she stepped into the hallway, “Where is Daddy’s violin?”

Would you read on?

The Reveal: Last weeks contributing author was Timothy Fish. Timothy is a frequent commenter on this column We appreciate Timothy's insightful comments and helpful edits. Be sure to stop by his website and say hello.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Between Now and Thanksgiving by Andy Scheer

Despite the declared purpose of this coming Thursday, the next few days can easily slip into a hang-on-tight week. Already the newspaper ads are shouting to draw my attention to the Friday sales and away from thankfulness.

So before it gets past Tuesday, I'm pausing to reflect.

Somewhere this past week—likely in the book I'm editing—I again ran across Ephesians 2:10: “For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. ”

I thought of that verse as I read a thank-you card from someone whose manuscript I'd just critiqued at a writers conference. I'd taken maybe an hour to mark up the opening pages of her work in progress, then sat with her for twenty minutes and offered my comments. I was just doing my job.

But according to her note, her novel will be far better because of it.

For her part, the thank-you note she sent truly brightened my week. Because I'd taken significant time away from my office, I found my work piled higher than usual. And when that happens, discouragement lurks close by.

Then her thank-you note came. And a friend—someone I'd not seen in nearly ten years—called out of the blue. He'd be in town on a business trip. Would my wife and I like to join him for dinner? Across the table we reviewed nearly a decade's worth of opportunities, challenges, and God's faithfulness.

I'm not sure what kind of week my Minnesota friend is facing, but I hope it goes a little better when he gets the note I mailed him—just before I sat down to write this.