Please visit our new site at:
for a special interview and book review today on a book that is a must-read for everyone with a special needs child!
Hi Everyone!!! I am officially out of space here, but have moved house and invite you all to please visit Books and Author's new home at:
I have a wonderful guest (okay-two actually) today and they would love to have you stop by, leave a comment, get a chance at wining a prize--oh, and I'd love to hear your thoughts on the new blog (Please be kind-it isn't finished yet!!)
Format: Paperback 288 pages
Date of publication: 11/16/2007
Publisher: Pentagon Books
"It" is an invention that is highly valued by everyone and his brother and the race is on to see who will be victorious in finding the invention. David Snowdon has written an espionage novel that takes the reader on an international trip to locate a secret invention that was created by a genius and disappeared when he died. Will Special Agent, Jason Clay be able to get the formula before it falls into the wrong hands?
David Snowdon has created a storyline and cast of characters that will have you guessing about what comes next throughout the entire book. The plot takes so many unexpected twists and turns, the reader remains intrigued to the very end of the book.
I personally found myself slightly annoyed at the amount of detail used, as I enjoy creating a lot of the visuals in my own mind. Others may find the descriptions of clothing, background music and meal details an enhancing aspect of the book. In spite of this, however, I found myself intrigued by what was happening and was able to overlook much of the detail and concentrate on the story.
Snowdon has the ability to create believable characters and has most certainly taken time to research the settings within his book. I felt as though I was listening in from a corner table as I read. I would not hesitate to recommend this book to anyone seeking an international spy thriller to fill a couple afternoons. Be prepared for surprises at every turn of the page.
On the Rainbow Scale of Excellence, The Mind of a Genius by David Snowdon rates four colors.
Last month, we visited with British author, David Snowdon. Today, I am giving you a taste of his book, The Mind of a Genius :-) Enjoy
For more information visit www.the-mind-of-a-genius.com
The phone began to ring and freelance MI4 agent, Jason Clay reluctantly disengaged himself from the girl he was kissing and reached for the phone.
“Hello,” he said, grabbing the receiver.
“Is that Clay?” said the voice at the other end.
It was a posh, home county voice and Clay thought it sounded vaguely familiar. But at that very moment, he couldn’t place it.
“It is,” he said frowning. “You sound familiar, who’s that?” Clay spoke with a mildly posh London accent.
“You’ve got a poor memory. It’s Colin Shooter.” Clay smiled.
Shooter was the assistant head of the MI4 and he knew that Shooter never called him just to say hello. Whenever Shooter called, there was always a reason, and a very good reason at that.
“Hello you,” said Clay cheerfully.
He was grinning now, and the girl sitting beside him on the sofa, a tall, slim blonde with lovely blue eyes, and who was about 24-years of age, was staring at him, a curious expression in her eyes.
“Long time, no see.”
“Listen, Clay,” said Shooter, “I’ve got something that might wet your appetite. “You haven’t got anything on, have you?”
“Only the shirt on me back,” said Clay smiling. “And that’s coming off very soon.” The girl chuckled.
Just like the girl sitting beside him on the sofa, Clay was tall, slim and Handsome with blonde hair, and lovely blue eyes. He was 34-years-old and had a smile that made the girls go wild. All he had to do was smile and within minutes, they’d be telling him the story of their life.
Tonight, he was wearing a white silk shirt and a pair of white cotton trousers.
“I’ve got something that’s right up your alley,” said Shooter. “This one’s irresistible. You’ll love it.”
“Will I?” said Clay jokingly, wondering what it was, and what was in it for him.
“I know you will,” said Shooter, at the other end of the line.
“You know my terms, don’t you?” said Clay, smiling. “I won’t even contemplate getting out of bed for anything less than ten thousand a day.”
“You’d be lucky to get half of that for this one,” said Shooter. “But come and see me tomorrow morning in my office at ten, and we’ll talk business, okay?”
Clay continued to smile. “Ten thousand a day plus expenses or no deal.”
“I’ll see you in my office at ten sharp tomorrow,” said Shooter. “And don’t be late.” And the line went dead.
“That guy,” said Clay, dropping the receiver, shaking his head and turning sideways to stare at the girl sitting beside him. “He drives a hard bargain, but he’s all right.” The girl smiled invitingly, but didn’t say anything.
“Now where were we?” said Clay smiling, as they started to kiss passionately, again.
The time was now 20.47 and they were sitting on a beige leather sofa in Clay’s spacious, luxurious living-room. The TV was on, but the volume had been turned down low. As they continued to kiss, they could hear it raining hard outside, and there was the occasional rumble of thunder. But that didn’t bother them, as they were now in paradise.
At 10.00am the following day, Colin Shooter sat in a conference room, at a conference table, in the MI4 head office in Vauxhall, overlooking the River Thames and worked on his laptop.
At 56, Shooter was tall, well-built, and had light brown hair. He was an ex-banker.
Today, he wore a brown suit, a yellow shirt and a brown tie.
Also in the room, sitting around the conference table was Special Agent, Paul Hudson and Special Agent, Janet Bond.
Hudson was 38, tall, dark and lean with handsome features and dark brown curly hair.
He wore a well-cut, navy blue Italian Suit, a white shirt and a black and blue stripped tie. He was an ex-solicitor, and a very good one, and it was his track record more than anything else that had impressed the M14 into employing him.
Janet Bond was 32, 5-foot-7, slim with a nice curvy figure, and blonde with blue eyes, and Scandinavian features.
She was a beauty, but she was also very intelligent. And it was the combination of beauty and brains that had attracted Shooter to her.
The phone started to ring, and Shooter snatched the receiver.
“Colin Shooter,” he said, speaking into the receiver.
“Mr Shooter, I have Mr Jason Clay here to see you.” The receptionist’s voice came clearly through the receiver.
“Give him a cup of tea,” said Shooter. “I’ll let you know when we’re ready to see him.”
“No worries,” said the receptionist.
And Shooter put the phone down. As he put the phone down, he continued to work on his laptop, and both Hudson and Bond sat in silence, with a blank expressions on their faces. They knew that whatever Shooter was doing on his laptop had to be vital, as Shooter was always very punctual.
Ten minutes later, Shooter finished working on his laptop and reached for the receiver.
“Send him in,” he said, when he got through to the receptionist. And he put the receiver down.
Three minutes later, there came a knock on the door.
“Come in,” said Shooter.
The door slid open and Clay wandered into the room. He wore a beige coloured suit, a beige coloured shirt and a red tie. He was looking very smart and there was a cheeky smile on his face, as he wandered into the room, and walked towards the conference table.
“Morning, all,” he said, aware that everyone was watching him.
The others returned his greeting.
“Take a seat,” said Shooter, waving him to a chair.
Clay moved towards the chair and sat on it.
“Thanks for coming,” said Shooter. “This one’s a beauty and you’re gonna love it.”
“That remains to be seen,” said Clay, smiling at him. “Let’s have the details and we’ll take it from there.”
Shooter stared at Clay.
He didn’t like Clay’s cocky attitude. Come to think of it, he wasn’t too fond of Clay. But Clay had his uses.
“Malcolm Prince, the scientist, remember him?”
Clay thought for a moment, then he remembered.
“He died a few months ago, didn’t he?”
Shooter nodded. “And that’s why you’re here.”
“Come off it,” said Clay, his smile turning into a grin as he looked from Shooter to Hudson, from Hudson to Bond and from Bond back to Shooter.
“I didn’t kill him. You’ve got the wrong guy.”
“I wouldn’t put it past you,” said Shooter, smiling at Clay. “You’d do anything for money, wouldn’t you? But if you’ve got your facts right, you’ll know that Prince died of a heart attack.”
“I could have told you that,” said Clay, smiling at him.
Shooter continued to talk. “Malcolm Prince was one of the finest scientist in the world. And at the time of his death, he had just completed a major project; a project that could change the world; a project that could benefit the world.” There was a pause, then Shooter continued to talk.
“We don’t know what the project was about. It was a well-kept secret, but we do know that the project was completed shortly before he died. Shortly before he died, he was on the verge of revealing the project to the world. But now he’s dead, and nobody really knows what that project was based on.”
“That’s sad,” said Clay.
Shooter continued to talk. “We’d like you to try and find out what that project was about.”
“And how do you expect me to do that?” said Clay, changing his position on his chair. Shooter smiled at him.
“Prince has a very lovely wife, and rumour has it that he was very fond of her. We have a feeling that she might have some vital information. Your task is to seduce her and to find out what that project was about.”
Clay gaped at him. “I thought you said I was gonna to love it.”
“You’re a very impatient man,” said Shooter, smiling at Clay.
He was thoroughly enjoying himself. “Patience is a virtue, Clay. Agent Bond has a present for you.”
Special Agent, Janet Bond produce an envelope and slid it across the table towards Clay. Clay opened the envelope, removed a glossy photograph and stared at it.
A beautiful, middle-aged, blonde woman with blue, friendly eyes, wearing a navy blue shirt stared at him.
Clay studied the woman in the picture and a wave of excitement swept through him.
The woman in the photograph looked classy, exciting and sexy. A combination that Clay considered to be irresistible. Shooter was right. He had a feeling that he was going to love this assignment. Here was an opportunity to have a good time, and at the same time, to make some decent money.
Clay smiled as he studied the photograph. It was a passport photo that had been enlarged into a 6 x 4 photograph.
Shooter and the others watched him, as he studied the photograph, and Shooter had a feeling that Clay was hooked.
“Nice girl,” said Clay, dropping the photograph on the table in front of him and smiling at Shooter.
“Laura Prince,” said Janet Bond. “45-years-old, 36-26-36 and an ex-secretary. She has a penchant for handsome toy boys. Had a few lovers when Prince was alive, but isn’t seeing anyone at present.”
“Very nice,” said Clay smiling and looking around the table.
“I told you,” said Shooter. “I wouldn’t lie to you.”
“But what makes you think she gonna fall for me?” said Clay.
“You fit the bill perfectly,” said Hudson, in his posh accent “You have a way with women. You can charm the birds out a tree. We’re sure you can swing it.”
“I can try,” said Clay. “But I can’t guarantee success.”
“That’s good enough for me,” said Shooter. “We don’t know for sure if she knows anything. She may be none the wiser, but all we can do is try.”
“That’s fine,” said Clay. “Ten thousand a day plus expenses, and I’ll see what I can do.”
“I don’t think so,” said Shooter, shaking his head. There was a crafty, little smile on his face. “Five thousand a day plus expenses, and you can take it or leave.”
Clay smiled at him.
“I’ve got a feeling we’re wasting each others time. Ten thousand a day plus expenses, or you can get someone else to do it.”
Shooter stared at him.
There were other agents that he could use, and who would work out a lot cheaper than Clay. But he realized that if anyone could pull this one off, it was Clay. And this assignment was far too vital to be bungled.
“Seven thousand a day plus expenses. Not a penny more, not a penny less. And that’s my final offer.”
“Done,” said Clay.
“Money, that’s all you ever think about, isn’t it?” said Shooter.
“What else is there to think about?” said Clay, smiling at him. “Moneymakes the world go round. And where would we be without it.”
“Sometimes I wonder why we pay you so much money,” said Shooter resentfully. We’re wasting hard-earned taxpayers money on you.”
“I’m value for money and you know it,” said Clay with his cheekysmile.
“I can get three good agents for what I’m paying you,” said Shooter.
“That’s three for the price of one. But you’re one of my best guys, and I’ve got a soft spot for you.”
“Come off it,” said Clay jokingly. “You haven’t got a soft spot for yourown mother, let alone a guy like me.”
Shooter smiled at him, but this time the smile didn’t reach his eyes.
“Watch what you say, Clay. You shouldn’t speak about anyone’s mother like that.”
They regarded each other for a moment, then Shooter continued to talk.
“An advance payment of £70,000 will be paid into you’re account. Spendit wisely. Agent Bond will give you all the necessary details.”
“Cool,” said Clay, grinning at Shooter.
Money was very essential to him and he never got tired of talking about it. The more money he could lay his hands on, the better.
“Has Prince got any other relatives that you know of?”
“He’s got a grown up daughter and a grown up son from a previous marriage,” said Hudson.
“I hope so,” said Clay, looking down at Laura Prince’s photograph. “Hewas old enough to be this chick’s father.”
“She was his second wife,” said Hudson.
Clay regarded Hudson.
He had been so busy concentrating on Shooter that there had been times when he had forgotten that Hudson was also in the room.
“Can’t Pretty boy, Hudson handle this job?”
“I haven’t got your knack with women,” said Hudson, smiling at Clay.
“You’re tailor-made for the job.”
Agent Janet Bond smiled.
“And why is Agent Bond smiling?” said Clay teasingly.
Janet Bond lost her smile and stared at him. There was something about Clay that she didn’t like.
“I wasn’t smiling at you.”
What a chick, thought Clay giving her his dazzling smile. She reminded him of the girl that he had spent the night with. They both had blonde hair and blue eyes, but Bond was undoubtedly the better looking of the two.
“One of these days, we’ll go for a curry.”
“I don’t like curries and I don’t like you,” said Janet Bond.
“One of these days, you’re gonna love me,” said Clay teasingly.
Bond’s eyes flashed angrily.
“One of these days, Clay, I’m gonna…”
She suddenly stopped without finishing her sentence, aware that Shooter was watching her with interest. She would have loved to have given Claya piece of her mind. She would have loved to have told him exactly what she thought of him. But she didn’t want to lose her composure in front of her boss.
“Enough of that,” said Shooter, sensing it was time that he intervened.
“Now Agent Bond will give you the details.”
Special Agent, Janet Bond regained her composure and started to talk in her posh accent.
Ruth Hartman the person:
What three words do you think describe you as a human being?
Kind, funny, empathetic
How do you think others would describe you?
Sweet, funny, a good listener
Please tell us what you are most passionate about outside of writing.
My husband, Garry. We've been married over 26 years, and he's my best friend.
Do you have any pets? If so, introduce us to them.
We have two cats. Both are rescued strays. Maxwell, a grey, chubby male, is almost three years old. Roxy, a jet-black female, is nearly two years old. They love each other, and (usually) play well together. When they start grooming each other, we tell them to "get a room!"
What is your most precious memory?
My wedding. It was perfect. Not only did I get to marry the love of my life, Garry, but my dad is a minister, so he performed the ceremony.
What is your most embarrassing memory?
When Garry and I were dating, we were playing Frisbee at a picnic. He threw the Frisbee, I ran after it, backwards, and plowed into a picnic table full of people. I flew over the table, landed on a chair, broke the chair, and broke my toe. (I'm sure you wouldn't be surprised to know that my nickname is "Grace.")
If you weren't a writer, what would you be doing with your life?
Actually, I'm also a dental hygienist two days a week. If it weren't for that and writing, I'd probably be a veterinarian.
In two paragraphs or less write your obituary.
Ruth Hartman loved her family, friends, and God. She loved to laugh. She loved to make others laugh. We will miss her loving spirit terribly, but she is now at peace with her heavenly Father.
Ruth Hartman the writer:
Can you describe the time you realized you were indeed a "real" writer?
That happened last November, when "My Life in Mental Chains" was published. That's when I knew. It still hasn't completely sunk in yet, though. When someone tells me they've read it, it hits me again that I'm actually a writer.
What is going on with your writing these days?
I'm waiting on my complimentary copy of a short story I had published in I Love Cats magazine. A couple of days ago, I had an article accepted to You & Me magazine. I'm thrilled about those! It's funny, though, my first writing love is fiction, and I haven't had any of that accepted anywhere yet;
What are your future goals for your writing?
I've written several children's stories. I'd love to get some of them published. Also, I've completed a 25,000 word novelette, that I've submitted to a publisher. I'm still waiting to hear back from that.
Can you describe a typical writing day for you?
Since I work part -time in a dental office, I usually don't have entire days to write. If I'm off work, I'll write in between errands, laundry, and cleaning the house. If I'm really into something, though, my OCD kicks in and I can sit at my laptop for an entire evening at a time.
Why do you write?
I find that if I go too long without being creative, I get a little cranky. I need that self-expression. Sometimes, I like to paint, but I'm finding I get so much more satisfaction from writing.
What writer most inspires you? Why?
I love Mary Higgins Clark. I love her mysteries. I've never tried writing a mystery. I'm not sure my mind works that way. But I love to read them!
How do you define your writing?
My writing so far, is a mix of memoir, humor, and romance. In all of these forms, my favorite thing to do is write short, quirky conversations between two people who know each other very well.
In one sentence-what do you want people to say about your writing in fifty years?
Ruth's writing made me laugh, and feel good about myself.
Ruth Hartman the details:
Can you tell us where to find more information on you? Website? Blog?
I have a website at www.ruthjhartman.blogspot.com
Is there a place where readers can reach you?
My e-mail is RGHartman@aol.com
Can you list all your book titles so people can look for them?
My only book so far is "My Life in Mental Chains". The short story in I Love Cats is titled "A Tale of No Tail." The article in You & Me magazine, which should be on their e-zine in early summer, is "Help From Unexpected Places."
For new readers-what can they expect when they read your book(s)?
"My Life in Mental Chains" is my true-life story about my daily struggle with severe OCD. Readers will take the journey with me, as I take them through my thoughts and actions during OCD episodes. Also, I talk quite a bit about how I was treated, and my reactions to the ones who treated me cruelly.
Take as much space as necessary to speak to our readers-what would you like them to know about you and your writing?
I feel so blessed to have had this book, my first, published so quickly. I also owe a debt of gratitude to the ladies on our Premium Green (through WOW! Women on Writing) discussion board. Their support and advice is so valuable to me.
"My Life in Mental Chains" has been cathartic for me. During the writing of my story, I've come to realize just how amazing life can be. When I look back to how I was then, I never dreamed that I would ever be able to live a normal life again, much less write a book about it.
But even more meaningful than how it makes me feel, is how humbled I am to know that what I've written helps others with similar problems. That's what makes writing real for me. That's what keeps it alive. As long as I can help someone, or make them laugh at something humorous I've written, then my dream as a writer has come true.
A Review of My Life in Mental Chains
Many of us have obsessions or compulsions in our lives, little quirks that, while not "normal" , don't interfere with our daily lives. These "quirks" can be simply that, or signs of minor OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder). This is a disorder that comes in degrees--from minor one area obsession, to debilitating thoughts and actions that make daily life impossible.
What would happen, if one day you woke up and one of your little "quirks" had suddenly taken on a life of its own-occupying every moment and making it impossible to think of anything else? What happens when you physically can't stop your thoughts and actions-even though you know somewhere inside it makes no sense?
This is what happened to Ruth Hartman. One day she started cleaning and couldn't stop--nothing seemed clean enough. She worried constantly about germs. Her daily life became one constant worry about catching something harmful or being the cause of someone else catching something.
Ruth Hartman describes the thoughts and feelings she experienced. She draws you in so that you can gain a rare glimpse into the thought process involved in OCD. As you follow her journey to find answers and learn to live a life, while not free of the disorder, at least to where her life was not totally consumed by it. You will cry with Ruth-and celebrate her victories. This book is a true inspiration to anyone who has ever experienced OCD--and to anyone who has loved someone who suffers from the disorder.
On the Rainbow Scale of Excellence, My Life in Mental Chains earns a perfect rainbow of seven colors.
Today and tomorrow, I am honored to be sharing with you information (and a fabulous interview with) author, Ruth Hartman. Today, let's take a look at who Ruth is and what she's written-tomorrow, please return for the interview and my review of her book, My Life in Mental Chains. (**Please also see note after the post**)
Ruth J. Hartman was once "normal." She perceived the world around her as any other person would-until she turned 27. That's when Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) dug in its claws and refused to let her go. Her world (and her family's) was turned inside out.
Working as a dental hygienist was difficult enough, but trying to balance her work life with the challenges of OCD was overwhelming. Ruth's family, friends, and co-workers didn't understand why she suddenly acted so bizarre. She wanted to help them understand, but she couldn't. She didn't understand it herself.
My Life in Mental Chains is moving and tragic, yet in the end, it's an uplifting story of personal faith and inner strength. Ruth's insight will be a great comfort to OCD sufferers, their families, and their friends.
Ruth graduated from the Indiana University School of Dentistry with a degree in Science/Dental Hygiene. Her interest in writing, which began in high school, led her to earn her diploma from the Institute of Children's Literature in "Writing for Children and Teenagers."
She lives in rural Indiana with her husband and two cats.
My Life in Mental Chains by Ruth J. Hartman
Published by Pipers' Ash Ltd., $13.00
Publication Date: November 1, 2008
Non-Fiction, True-Life Story Chapbook
Note: For those looking for the second part of the feature with Vivian Zabel, I have not forgotten--She is to return on February 20th, and I have been working on a very special surprise contest for everyone--so please mark your calendars! I guarantee you won't want o miss this one!
Today and Tuesday, I will be introducing you to a wonderful author and sharing information on two of her most recent books. I hope you find her as interestin as I do :-)
Vivian Gilbert was born to Raymond and Dolly Gilbert, July 28, 1943, on Randolph Air Force Base, Texas. The base for years was outside the city of San Antonio, but now the city surrounds the base.
With a military father who was transferred around the world, Vivian often changed schools, in fact when she graduated from high school in Limestone, Maine, she had changed schools twenty-two times.
After graduating from high school in 1961, Vivian returned to Oklahoma where she enrolled in Bethany Nazarene College (now Southern Nazarene University, in Bethany, Oklahoma). During the one semester she could afford to attend, Robert Zabel visited his sister, and Vivian and Robert met. They married February 18, 1962 and are still together.
During the next few years, Robert and Vivian had four children, three of whom lived. A story that shows the love and closeness between the couple is found in the short story "Romance Midst Tragedy," published in Hidden Lies and Other Stories (http://tinyurl.com/8xrz2p ).
As she reared her children and was a stay-at-home-mother, with spells of working in the business world, Vivian wrote short stories, poetry, and articles, which were published. Once her children were in school, Vivian returned to college and, in two and a half years, earned her BA with two majors (English and speech).
Vivian attended workshops, clinics, conferences, and classes about writing during her twenty-seven years of teaching. The further education helped her better teach her students and helped her hone her own writing skills. Finally in 2001 she was able to write full time and write longer works, after she retired from teaching.
At present, Vivian has six books to her credit, two co-authored. Her latest books are Prairie Dog Cowboy (written under the name V. Gilbert Zabel) and Midnight Hours (written under the name Vivian Gilbert Zabel).
Her interests besides writing include her family (husband, children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren), reading, helping other people publish their books (through 4RV Publishing), and traveling (which she can't do much any more).
Description of Midnight Hours by Vivian Gilbert Zabel
Publisher: 4RV Publishing LLC
Starting Price: $27.99
2nd place in the OWFI unpublished manuscript competition, May 2008
Martin Rogers, a homicide lieutenant, positions his power chair at the end of the parallel bars in the therapy room. Over the past months, those bars have become an enemy that cannot be conquered, but which creates agony and despair. He glares at his enemy as they silently wait to conquer him again. An orderly in white stands beside the left side of the bars. Martin fights to overcome the damage caused by a bullet in his back.
After Martin returns from another “wasted” therapy session, the whish of the power chair’s wheels on the carpet and the low hum of the computer create the only sounds in the room as he positions himself at the desk. He closes his eyes before laying his fingers on the keys to type in the code which would connect him to the refuge he so needed. The Internet and the game room give him an escape from constant pain. The woman he met and visits nightly adds to the ability to flee.
Midnight always appears around midnight each night. She tantalizes him, giving him little information about herself; although, she finally tells him her name, Norma Fields. After Martin threatens to cut off the months-long cyber relationship, she offers to send him a picture of herself. She sends an email attachment: a picture of a beautiful woman.
Martin’s interest changes to one that’s professional. An identical copy had been found, folded in the pocket of a paraplegic who had gone over the rail of a hotel room balcony. As soon as he sees the picture, he calls his friends and fellow detectives, Kyle Stone and Frank Thomas.
The three men meet at Martin’s for breakfast and discuss the photo. Kyle mentions that the woman looks familiar. The men decide to find what information they can about the case and about Midnight, Norma Fields.
After Kyle and Frank return to Martin’s house after their shift, the doorbell rings. Kyle answers the door and invites a young woman to join them. Martin gasps as Midnight walks into the room. Kyle introduces Assistant District Attorney Lisa Harris, telling the others, “I told you the picture reminded me of someone.”
Lisa studies the photo and agrees the head and face are hers but not the rest of the body. She joins the investigation.
In the days that follow, the “Midnight team” discover that several men with large accidental death insurance policies, all with Norma Fields as the beneficiary, have “accidentally” died. The search for Midnight intensifies.
Description of Prairie Dog Cowboy by V. Gilbert Zabel
Genre: middle grade/ young adult / historical fiction
Publisher: 4RV Publishing
Hardback, 180 pagesISBN-13: 978-0-9797513-5-6ISBN-10: 0-9797513-5-7
Time passes so quickly and history is getting rewritten all the time. So much of our heritage is lost with those changes. It is refreshing to see a slice of reality portraying the daily life of 1899 Oklahoma in V. Gilbert Zabel's latest literary work, "Prairie Dog Cowboy".
Buddy Roberts is but a small boy at the start of the story. It isn’t clear right away why his mother is set against the child. Although he has an older brother, he's tending to the cattle at the age of five, all alone with only his dog to keep him company. Buddy is a mindful child, doing what needs to be done, even at such a young age, hoping some day to grow up to be a cowboy. Instead of him and Patch doing the work on foot, he dreams of herding cattle on horseback someday.
Neighbor rancher Caleb Hyman is impressed with Buddy. He wonders, too, why the child works hard while his older brother, Jake, is doted on and spoiled. But, Caleb can see the man that Buddy will become, encourages him, and teaches him to rope. Once Buddy can rope a prairie dog, Caleb promises he'll give the boy a job on his ranch. Not an easy thing to do, but Buddy works hard to reach his appointed goal.
Through the years, Buddy becomes a part of Caleb's family, a friend of Caleb's twin sons, and the unknowing object of affection for their younger sister, Katie. Life begins to take a turn for the better as he approaches manhood. An ironic twist at the end brings the cycle of life in full circle.Links to order books:
Plus local book stores and Barnes & Noble.com
Visiting Vivian Zabel
Blogs: http://VivianZabel.blogspot.com Brain Cells & Bubble Wraphttp://vzabel.multiply.com Vivian’s Site
http://viviansmystery.blogspot.com Vivian’s Mysteries
I would like to thank Phyllis Scheiber, author of The Sinner's Guide to Confesion, for taking the time to visit with us the past few days! Phyllis has kindly agreed to share with us her thoughts on motherhood and writing. Sit back and enjoy (and remember to leave your comment for a chance to win--details below the post!).
As I was considering topics for this post, it occurred to me that one of the subjects I have neglected to address is how motherhood figures into the subtext of The Sinner's Guide to Confession. As a preface to that discussion, I must first address how motherhood has shaped my life. I am the mother of a twenty-four-year-old son. One of my dear friends, the mother of five daughters, once told me that, "It doesn't matter how many children you have. Once you're a mother, you're a mother." I believe that is true. Motherhood has empowered and defined me as nothing else in my life ever has, not even writing.
Many years ago I read "One Child of One's Own," an essay by Alice Walker. In the essay, Walker discusses her decision to have a child, but "only one" because more would make it difficult for her to move about with ease. She also points out that it is unlikely that the question of whether or not to have children is even asked of men who are artists, but that is a whole other discussion. Nevertheless, when I was pregnant, I worried about how I would balance my need to write with my responsibilities for my child.
Needless to say, I was not prepared for the emotional impact of motherhood. I don't know how anyone can be. Nothing can prepare someone for the intensity of such love. In truth, I did not feel that immediately, and I worried that perhaps something was wrong with me. When the nurse handed me my baby boy, he looked rather perplexed and not at all certain that he liked me. But that first night alone with him in the hospital room, I was enraptured. I pulled the curtain around my bed and peered down into the bassinet He stared at me as I unwrapped his blanket and removed his diaper. I smiled at his naked little body and ran my hands all over him. He relaxed under my touch and wriggled about a bit. As I changed his diaper, I introduced myself and presented my plans for our future. He listened with interest before he began to wail. He was hungry. After a rocky start and the help of another new mother in the bed next to mine (by some miracle, she also happened to be a maternity nurse), I nursed him. I was in love. I knew by then that from henceforth, he would tell me what my plans would be. I acquiesced without complaint. Once we were home and eventually settled into a routine, my life was defined by his needs. His father left early and came home late most every day, and I spent long, mostly happy days with my baby. I learned how to strap him to my chest and write. He slept to the sound of me banging away at the typewriter keys. If I stopped, he opened one eye and looked up at me, questioningly, but with understanding. I often rested my chin on his downy head, inhaled his unique scent, and rubbed my cheek against his soft hair. I had never been as in love with anyone as I was with him, and that love persists.
It is true that I am not a real baby-person. Some women just adore infants. I am not one of them. Give me a two-year-old, and I am there for the duration. The emergence of language thrills me. I am intrigued by the surfacing of thought processes; I am captivated by their play, and by their creativity. I invented games to play with my son that involved little more than our imaginations. I grew as a writer because he challenged my vision and my originality as nothing else ever had. As he got older, I enjoyed the time I had with him even more because I knew it was short-lived. I welcomed school holidays and snow days because it gave us more time to be together. I stashed away little art kits that we could do on these days. We baked and cooked. We painted. I introduced him to mishmash. From time to time, I would allow him to empty the kitchen cabinets and pour a little of everything into a huge bowl. He delighted in this game as only a child could. With his sleeves rolled up and a big wooden spoon clutched in his hand, he stirred the ingredients as he explained what he was making. Each time, it was something else. Years later, when he told that he had chosen to write about mishmash as one of the topics for his memory piece during his six-week Language and Thinking orientation at Bard College, I was moved to tears. He remembered. My time with him had been well spent.
When I write about motherhood, as I often do, it comes from a place that is still a source of wonder to me. How is it possible to love someone so much? In The Sinner's Guide to Confession, each of the main characters is a mother. Barbara, the mother of three grown children, recognizes the strengths and weaknesses of each of her children. She deftly navigates those relationships, trying not to play favorites and working hard to be what each of her children needs while still retaining her independence and her privacy. When she eventually decides to reveal her secret, she is most worried about how it will affect her children. Kaye has two children and though they are adults, she is unable to disregard how her decision to leave their father might affect them. Even Kaye's relationship with her own mother, Gertie, explores the push and pull of mother and child. However, Ellen's loss of her infant daughter and the inability to conceive again play the most significant role in the novel. Ellen's need is so profound and so palpable that I cried as I wrote the section where she imagines what it would have been like to raise her daughter. Ellen's situation is heartbreakingly sad. Her loss defines her forever. I loved writing the scene where Ellen and Joy meet for the first time. They are each so full of expectations. Joy, already a mother herself, can really understand what Ellen must have felt and continues to feel. Both women have suffered unimaginable losses, and this brings them closer.
My role as a mother has enriched me as a writer. I can go to a place inside myself that understands what it means to split yourself between your own needs and dreams and your role as a mother. Of course, after so many years, I have a better grip on how to balance the two. Clearly, I have written consistently throughout these last twenty-four years. Still, when my son is home, I turn my days over to him whenever he wants me because now there are weeks and months that go by without seeing him. Although I cherish the time I now have to myself, I often miss those endless days of being wrapped in a cocoon with my baby. And like the women in my novels, I continue to create a life for myself that is separate from my child's life because that is natural and best. Sometimes, however, I long for just one more chance to experience another day of the chaos and fatigue that defined those early months. I want just one more day of the newness and the thrill of such never-ending love.
We all hold secrets. Sometimes they sit inside us and cause no harm, but often they eat away at us, causing fear and pain. We long to confess, but doing so seems completely out of the question--even to our best friends.
Phyllis Schieber examines these types of secrets in her novel The Sinner's Guide to Confession. Three friends who believe they know everything about the other, yet years go by and each woman holds within her a secret she finds impossible to share-or to let go of.
What happens when you hold a secret that refuses to let you go? Phyllis Schieber weaves a story that will make you stop and think of your own secrets and the consequences that might arise from keeping them hidden inside. Her grasp of human emotion and interaction is excellent. Each of these women handle things differently, but secrets tend to be the same no matter who holds them.
I would like to have seen more action in this book, but Phyllis Schieber tells a good story that will bring hours of leisurely pleasure to readers. You will find yourself looking deep inside and wondering about the secrets you hold. The ending will both surprise you and yet make you feel like you should have seen it coming.
On the Rainbow Scale of Excellence, The Sinner's Guide to Confession earns five colors.
In this excerpt, Ellen offers to help teach English to Marisol, the young Dominican woman who cleans for her weekly. Far from home and alone, Marisol welcomes Ellen's kindnesses and the two women soon find themselves in a mutually beneficial arrangement. Mostly, however, Ellen maternal instincts are fueled by her relationship with Marisol. When Marisol leaves, Ellen is bereft.
Marisol was recommended to Ellen by one of the buyers in her office. Although quite young, Marisol was reliable and hardworking. She had been cleaning since she left home in the Dominican Republic two years earlier at seventeen, often working seven days a week to save enough money to go to school. She wanted to learn to read and write English fluently since she was practically illiterate in Spanish. Her father had denied all his daughters any formal education, claiming that learning to read and write would only enable them to exchange love notes with boys. And everyone knew that boys were only interested in one thing. Marisol giggled behind her hand when she told this to Ellen, and Ellen surprised herself by giggling along. It was hard to resist Marisol's expansive nature. Every Monday she came to clean the apartment, and every Monday Ellen was newly struck by Marisol's beauty. She braided her curls into a single plait that hung down her narrow back almost to her waist. Her only jewelry was a pair of small gold hoop earrings and a gold cross on a gold chain that nestled in the hollow at the base of her throat. A starched white blouse and ironed jeans were her unofficial uniform. Her sneakers were always clean, and her unpolished nails noticeably manicured. What really struck Ellen, however, was that Marisol always wore makeup. It seemed odd at first that she would wear lipstick, eye shadow and a light touch of mascara. At first, this meticulous grooming effort to clean for six hours worried Ellen, and she expected to be disappointed in Marisol's performance. However, not only did Marisol's work surpass Ellen's expectations, but Marisol won Ellen's heart. The gentle grace of this young girl was humbling. Soon Ellen understood that Marisol's preparations gave her work dignity. She might have been illiterate, but she had a job and was sought after because of her efficiency. Several months after Marisol had been working for them, Ellen offered to give her English lessons. For a moment, Ellen thought she might have offended Marisol. She hung her head and stared, motionless, at the floor. Concerned, Ellen touched her arm and said her name very softly. In excruciating slow motion, Marisol lifted her head. The perfectly smooth dark skin on her cheeks was streaked with tears. She clasped her folded hands to her chest and mumbled in Spanish, a prayer it seemed. With her usual dignity, she offered to pay Ellen who thanked her but refused, saying that it would be good for her own soul to do something for someone other than herself. Marisol shook her head vehemently, adding that Miss Ellen was a wonderful and kind person. Pleased, Ellen impulsively hugged Marisol who seemed desperate to be held. It was a telling moment. Marisol so clearly longed for her mother, any mother really at that moment, and Ellen so clearly longed to offer a mother's comfort.
Bill, of course, disapproved. He maintained that Ellen would be crossing a line that would have dire consequences. Ellen regarded him with cool disdain. Dire consequences? She thought good deeds brought spiritual reward, not the wrath of the Almighty. They sparred in this manner for weeks until Bill finally withdrew. It was evident that Ellen's mind was made up. She searched the Internet for appropriate materials, pored over educational catalogues, and visited several bookstores until she was satisfied that she had enough to begin Marisol's lessons. Ellen planned for the first lesson as though she were planning a party. She bought marble composition books, pencils and index cards. Although it was prematurely optimistic, Ellen bought several easy readers to tempt Marisol once her confidence was firmly established. Their first lessons went extremely well; so well, in fact, that Ellen found she had underestimated Marisol's determination and ability. In no time at all, Marisol was combining sounds and forming words, moving from basic primers to more complex exercises. She grappled with grammatical constructions, wondered over how little phonetics governed the rules of English spelling and was elated when she met success. Ellen matched Marisol's excitement and pleasure with heady enthusiasm. There was something about the sight of Marisol poring over a blank page in her composition book and filling it with words and then full sentences that made Ellen feel she had finally accomplished something worthwhile.
Every Monday Ellen timed her arrival home to coincide with the end of Marisol's workday. Ellen quickly changed out of her business clothes, and fixed them sandwiches. Marisol especially liked it when Ellen placed a few potato chips alongside the sandwich. The first time Ellen did this Marisol clapped her hands and said it was fancy, just like in the diner. The flush of pleasure that this gave Ellen was even more touching than Marisol's delight. Such a small gesture, and yet it was one of the countless niceties that Ellen had imagined she would have performed as a mother. A note in a lunch box, a book of poetry with favorites checked in the index, homemade marshmallows on a wintry afternoon, tiny foil hearts spread over a red tablecloth on Valentine's Day. Ellen knew they were silly fantasies, but she could not escape them. The idea of her own little girl, doing homework at the kitchen table, chattering about her day while Ellen prepared their dinner was an image that she had permanently etched into her consciousness. The evenings Ellen spent with Marisol did not make up for what had been lost, but they allowed Ellen to practice the maternal feelings she so longed to share.
The day that Ellen had been alternately working toward and dreading finally came. She knew it would. Marisol shyly announced that she had started taking a class at the local community college. "Oh?" Ellen said in her best surprised voice. Marisol wanted to learn to read and write in Spanish, and Ellen spoke only enough Spanish to say hello, goodbye and thank you. The boy's name was Carlos. He was twenty-two, and he had a Green Card and a job. He planned to go to college and become an accountant. Marisol said he was very smart. And handsome. When Marisol said that her father had been right after all, she giggled. She and Carlos passed each other notes in class, and now they were in love. Ellen said how wonderful that was, and gave Marisol a congratulatory hug. Wonderful. Ellen wished her all the best. Really. Marisol and Carlos were getting married next month and moving to New Jersey. He had family there. She was so grateful to Miss Ellen. Really. The next time Marisol came would be the last. There was so much to do before the wedding. Ellen gave her an envelope with an extra one hundred dollar bill and pretended that she was really, really happy though once again, she felt that terrible emptiness that comes with an irreplaceable loss. Bill could not believe what he heard. Irreplaceable? There were millions of young illegal girls out there looking to clean for cash. And Ellen said that, of course, that was true. How foolish of her. Later that night, after Bill's snores signaled a deep sleep, she got up and sat at the dining room table, arranging and rearranging the pencils, pens, index cards and miscellaneous school supplies she had kept in a blue plastic box marked Marisol.