Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Shoo Fly Pie and Apple Pan Dowdy

It has been ages since I last posted here and a lot has happened... but the biggest news is that my "other half" and I have moved out of the motorhome and into a house (at last!). That happened on December 31, 2014, late in the afternoon and we were so pleased to be in a house that it didn't matter that we didn't have any furniture to put into it. We cleared out the motorhome over the next couple of days, despite the weather (which really wasn't all that bad considering it was the dead of winter in Alberta), and set up housekeeping as best we could. It took until today to get into our storage and move a load in our GMC Yukon (yes, we even got a new vehicle, although we do still have the old motorhome).

At any rate, that isn't what I wanted to talk about, although it does catch you up a bit with my life. What I really wanted to talk about is in the title of this post. :)

I was reading a book called "The Peach Cobbler Murder" by Joanne Fluke (there are recipes in these stories, folks!) and there is a reference to "Shoo Fly Pie and Apple Pan Dowdy" on page ... well never mind what page it's on because your book might be different from mine anyway, so there is no point. At any rate, the song was published in 1945 but the desserts have been around a lot longer than that. Once I couldn't get the words of the song out of my head, I just had to research the desserts and see what they are and where they originated and share it with you... 'Cause that's what I tend to do with useless bits of information. ;)

So, without further ado, here's what I found out...... 

Shoo-fly pie or Shoofly pie is a molasses pie considered tradition among Pennsylvania Amish and Mennonites and Pennsylvania Dutch. Surprisingly, Shoo-fly Pie is not as popular in non-Pennsylvania Amish and Mennonite communities. It is found in Ohio; but in Indiana, if you ask for a piece of Shoo-fly pie in an Amish restaurant, the person who serves it will rather disparagingly tell you 'it’s made only for the tourists'.

The pie supposedly got its name because the sweet molasses odour attracts flies that must be "shooed" away. The Shoo-fly pie's origins likely come from "Treacle tart", with the primary difference being the use of molasses instead of golden syrup. A Montgomery pie is similar to a Shoo-fly pie, except lemon juice is added to the bottom layer and buttermilk to the topping. A Chess pie is also similar, but it's not layered. 

Shoo-fly pie comes in two different versions, "wet bottom" and "dry bottom". The dry bottom version is baked until fully set, which results in a more cake-like consistency throughout. The wet bottom version sets like cake on the top where it has mixed in with the crumbs, but the bottom is a stickier, gooier, custard-like consistency.

Recipe for Shoo-fly Pie

Pastry for a 1-crust 9-inch pie - you can use a prepared crust, boxed mix, or make your own.

1 cup all-purpose flour
2/3 cup light brown sugar, packed
1 rounded tablespoon cold butter
1/4 teaspoon salt

1 egg
1 cup light molasses
3/4 cup cold water
1/4 cup hot water
1 teaspoon baking soda

1.     Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Roll out the pie pastry and line a 9-inch pie pan; set aside.
2.     In a food processor bowl, combine the flour, brown sugar, butter, and salt.
3.      Remove 1/2 cup of the mixture and set aside. Transfer the rest to a medium mixing bowl.
4.     In a small bowl, beat the egg lightly. Add the molasses and cold water, and blend but do not beat; you don’t want bubbles in the batter. Set aside.
5.     In a small bowl, mix the hot water with the baking soda and blend into the molasses mixture.
6.      Add to the flour mixture and mix well.
7.      Pour into the pie shell and top with the reserved crumbs.
8.      Bake for 35 minutes. The pie will appear quivery but will firm up as it cools.
9.      Transfer to a rack to cool completely before cutting.

So now you know. The "Apple Pan Dowdy" was a bit more involved once I found it. And the recipe I'm adding is actually for Peach Pan Dowdy instead, but you can use pretty much any fruit you want, or a mixture of fruit if you prefer.

Fruit Pan Desserts, including Pan Dowdy 

“Back in the day”, when women had to cook for large groups of people (whether family or thrashing crews), desserts were necessary and expected... and for ease in the kitchen, they were often simple to put together. A pan with fruit and some sort of topping was baked and could then be served directly from the pan, sometimes with cream or ice cream. How are the different fruit pan desserts the same and how are they different? Most of these desserts are baked with fruit under a topping, which can be biscuit-like, crumbled, or drops of dough. Various sweeteners differentiate one from the other in many cases. Here is a brief description of various fruit pan desserts so you know who's who with them. :)

1.     Betty: This baked dessert dates back to Colonial times. The most common Betty is the “Apple Brown Betty”, so named because it is made with brown sugar. A Betty uses buttered bread crumbs.
2.     Buckle: Blueberry Buckle is the most prevalent Buckle recipe found. Buckles are baked and are usually made in one of two ways.
a.      The first way is that the bottom layer is cake-like with the berries mixed in. Then the top layer is crumb-like.
b.     The second way is layered, where the cake layer is on the bottom of the pan, the berries are the next layer and the top is the crumble mixture.
3.     Clafouti: This is a dessert that originated in the French countryside. It is a dessert that the fruit is topped with either a cake or pudding topping. The Clafouti is often considered a baked pudding.
4.     Cobbler: Another baked fruit pan. The fruit filling is put in a deep baking dish and topped with a biscuit dough. The dough may completely cover the fruit or it may just be dropped in handfuls.
5.     Crumble: Similar to a Crisp, the topping is crumbled over the fruit filling in the pan. A Crumble is baked.
6.     Crisp: In this baked dessert, the fruit filling is covered with a crunchy topping which is crumbled over the top.
7.     Grunt: A Grunt is a stewed or baked fruit dish. Biscuit dough is rolled and put on top of the fruit. The name of Grunt may have come from the noise people made while eating it. Grunts are also known as Slumps.
8.     Pan Dowdy or Pandowdy: You'll find both spellings for this baked dish. The dough is on top of the fruit and it is rolled out, yet it ends up being “crumbly” when eaten.

Peach Pan Dowdy

6 cups thickly sliced peaches
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/2 cup white sugar
1 tablespoon cornstarch

1 cup all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons white sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1/2 cup heavy cream

1.     Preheat the oven to 3750 F (1900 C).
2.     Place the peaches in a medium bowl. Sprinkle lemon juice over them. Mix together 1/2 cup of sugar and cornstarch. Sprinkle over the peaches, and stir to coat. Spoon into a 2 to 2 1/2 quart casserole dish.
3.    In a medium bowl, stir together the flour, 2 tablespoons of sugar, baking powder and salt. Cut in butter with a fork or pastry cutter until it is in fine crumbs. Make a well in the center, and pour in the cream. Stir with a fork until the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl.
4.     Roll out dough on a floured surface until it is just big enough to cover the baking dish. Cut a 2 inch cross in the center. Place over the peaches, and tuck in the dough around the sides. Turn back the corners of the cross to reveal the filling.
5.     Bake for 40 to 45 minutes in the preheated oven, until filling is bubbly, and top is golden brown.

Well, that's it for this time. I do hope you enjoyed this little blurb. Try the recipes and let me know how yours turns out.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Thoughts for Today

My mate and I are in the process... and it's a long one!... of getting a new business going. He's out somewhere in the city as I sit here in McDonald's having a drink and charging my laptop and iPad. I'm not sure at this point if I've mentioned we live in a motorhome, so I'll mention that now. At any rate, we are now close to making sales (I'm hoping he gets that started this week!) and it's time to look for a building to work out of. We found one that is quite large but that can have several types of income in it. I'll be the one to look after those, which is fine with me. Since we'll be spending so much time in the building (while parking our motorhome on the lot and living there) I want to make it as comfortable as a home. The place has several offices already in it, which we will be using as office space... and will probably use some offices for other things too. Personally I can hardly wait to get into the place and get started! But that will likely not be until at least the beginning of November. In the meantime, I'm researching various things.

The business is an import company and we are importing "hydrogen fuel boosters" in various model sizes. So we'll need a bit of space for a showroom. But not much. I'm thinking one or two of the front offices might be utilized for that. We are also thinking we'll be having various types of meetings in the place, since the front end is huge and would be perfect for entertaining large groups of customers or potential customers who need to be shown the models and told about them.

I'm thinking we need a big kitchen, but I want the area to remain open and airy. I also want a good-sized place to store the various large serving things we'll need. Yes, I could just hire caterers, but I enjoy cooking and baking and entertaining. :) So I've been looking at kitchen designs. It's not easy to design a "perfect" kitchen when confronted with so many choices! I think I'll be consulting with some experts before it all gets dropped into place. Then we'll need a sitting down dining area for those times when we wine and dine someone "important".  And then we'll need a spot for the library... which could well be divided up and spread around the room, mixed in with other furniture. That other furniture will consist of comfortable seating areas... probably two or three. Yes, the room is that big! There are two very nice washrooms already in place and "the big boss's office" has a little kitchenette as well as a full three-piece bathroom (shower) so we will at least have some comforts even if sleeping in the motorhome. :) I'm planning on getting a nice big washer and dryer as well so we will have all the comforts of home once we get settled.

Our motorhome is only 21 feet in length. We have about 14 feet of living space, which includes the bed and tiny bathroom. Because we live in it full-time (as opposed to camping for a weekend), we have had to put a small dresser onto a sheet of plywood so that I have a place for my clothes. My sweetie's are above the driver's seat in a set of two 3-drawer plastic stands. The rest of that area is stuffed full of... well, truth be told, I'm not sure what all is up there anymore. We have another small plastic drawer thing on the bathroom sink and a few bags of other necessities on top of the dresser. The place is full and consequently never really tidy. We've lived this gypsy life for a little over a year and a half and I've worked with what we have, but now it's time to get into a more normal life again. I don't know if it's because of the tiny area we're living in now or just because that's what's come along that suits us, but the size of the new place is very pleasing to me. Although this city is currently going through a very low rental house vacancy, there are many commercial places available. That's good for us because it will (hopefully) enable us to get into the place we've chosen. As long as my mate gets the sales we need to do that, of course.

At any rate, I have had something to occupy myself with as I sit in restaurants charging my laptop. One thing that I'm really looking forward to having is a permanent place to be able to set up my computer and get writing again! I have so many projects that I need to get to soon so that you have something new to read! And if you haven't had the chance to check out my eBook novels, they're available through my website.


Thursday, August 29, 2013

The Song of Arda (copyright 2003 June Vollans)

She sat in her rocking chair, barely moving but for the slow tapping of one foot as it reached toward the fire and back again. Her eyes were closed and in her head she heard once more the eerie calling of the song of Arda, the elven music she had been privy to only once in her long ago childhood as she wandered lost through the deep green woods. She heard the music and stopped to listen, hearing the whole tune only once in her life and never forgetting a note of it. The fairies had found her and led her from the forest that very afternoon, setting her safely back on the path to home. She sang the song incessantly for a week after her return, until her father told her he never wanted to hear it again. After that, it had rung in her head, as it did now. When she grew and left home, she moved close to the edge of the forest, hoping to hear the song played by the fairy once more before she died.

Her fat, wrinkled body barely fit into the old rocker now, and her knees and arms ached with the chill of winter rains, but she could still move swiftly if she needed to. Her head swayed slightly with the music that ran through her head, eyes still closed against the sights of her small and dark cottage home.

The village people feared her, called her 'old hag' and only came to visit when they needed an herbal potion to still a disease or thought she should help them to harm another. They knew not what they asked of her at those times, that she would not comply. Instead she sent them hurrying off back to the village when she raised her broomstick in anger. They called her 'witch' and rumors spread of her powers. Those that she sent away, made up stories in anger, until quite a legend had grown. According to that legend she was now one hundred and fifty years old and was a great student of the black arts. In reality, she was neither.

Her head swayed gently to the music, her eyes closed, her foot barely moving toward the fire and back again. A smile perched gently on her aging lips and she felt the presence of Arda once again.

She'd seen him but once, on a clear night many full moons ago, as she sat on her stoop catching the cool breezes after a hot day. She was humming his song and he came to stand at the edge of the forest, head tilted, listening. She kept her eyes only slightly turned toward him, feigning ignorance of his presence as she continued to hum his song. He stood in the shadows, but the blue of his skin glistened in the darkness. He didn't speak until she was finished.

"Where did you learn that song?" His voice lilted across the yard on gossamer wings and landed gently on her aging ears.

"In the forest when I was very young," she answered shyly.

"You've lived here for many years. I've never heard you sing it before."

She was surprised that he knew she was here, surprised that he'd been listening. "I sing it in my head," she told him softly.

"You say you heard it only once?"

She nodded, somehow knowing that he would see her do so even in the dark of the night.

"Yet you know it without error." It was a statement, something almost mumbled to himself.

"It's a very beautiful tune," she had said, and then she had boldly asked, "What is it called?"

"It is my own song, the Song of Arda," he answered, then he added softly, "You should not sing it aloud again."

He disappeared into the forest then, melting into the shadows to become one of them. She never saw him again but there was always hope that he would play for her once more before she died.

She let the music take her away from the cabin then, far away into the forest, deep within the realm of Arda. The music played in her head and she smiled a gentle smile. The wind began to mutter against the creaky old hut and she paused for only a second to be sure she wasn't going to have to tie down the shutters. But the wind abated and stilled once more. And the music began to rise.

She stopped breathing and listened. This time it wasn't in her head. This time it was coming from the forest. She stiffly rose, and shuffled to the door, bringing it open as quietly as she could, pulling her tattered shawl around her to try to stop the cold.

Across the yard, over by the trees, he stood, shimmering blue in the night. He never wavered as the tune was played clear, bright, full of promise and mystery. His song. The Song of Arda.

Suddenly she realized he was singing. The words. She'd never heard the words before. Only the tune. She sank to the stoop and listened, her eyes never leaving him. His lute played softly, his voice sang clear, telling how he'd been forced to fight in a great battle, the death of his father and mother, and finally of his coming to the forest, leaving all behind him save this song. And she understood. She remembered the song because his story was her own. They were joined by the music in the stories of their lives. Tears rolled down her cheeks as she listened and remembered. Sorrow for times past rolled over her as the words told their story.

But the words began to tell more, how his life became peace in the forest, how life held new meaning and hope, how it was that he could sing the song without hate or pain because the memories could not harm him any longer. He had found peace in the forest as she had found it at its edge. Her sigh of joy was felt across the yard and into his heart and he paused his singing.

"Yes," he said softly, turning to look into her face. "Yes."

Then he melted back into the trees, becoming the shadows once again. She waited for a time, then stood and shuffled back into her hut, shutting out the cool night breezes.

She sat in her rocking chair, barely moving but for the slow tapping of one foot as it reached toward the fire and back again. Her eyes were closed and in her head she heard once more the eerie calling of the song of Arda. Only this time, she heard the words as well as the music.

Positive Thinking (written in October of 2006)

Positive thinking. You’ve heard of it, but what is it really? I'll tell you what it is not.
  1. It is not answering the question "how are you" with "I'm great", unless you actually feel great inside and out. 
  2. It is not mentally hanging on to every "wrong" that has ever happened in your life (perceived or otherwise) while telling people you are fine.
  3. It is not telling others that you are "wonderful" while thinking or feeling that you are not.
  4. It is not pointing fingers at others and saying "that one made me feel this way" or "that one made me do that".
In fact, positive thinking does not have a great deal to do with outside forces. It has to do with YOU, internally and externally. Positive thinkers are not necessarily the happiest people you meet, although most are content with their lives. They are not necessarily wealthy nor do they pat everyone on the back, although they do try to be supportive. Positive thinkers view their life and all of the experiences they have as completely their own. This means they take full responsibility for every thought, feeling, and activity in their lives. Here are my personal beliefs on this important topic.
Whatever you want to hang onto about other people, you're going to. No one can stop you from doing that. However, you must take responsibility for that action, which means, you must accept that whatever you feel, YOU are allowing. No one else can hurt you. You allow yourself to hurt. No one else can make you angry. You allow yourself to be angry. No one can give you fear. You are the one who takes on the fear. No one can make you feel bad. You allow yourself to feel bad. On the other hand, no one can make you feel good. You allow yourself to feel good. You cannot blame… or credit… anyone else for the way you feel.
There is nothing for it but to accept that, and then to ask yourself why you are forcing yourself to feel that way. Does allowing yourself to feel pain or hurt make you feel better? It usually makes people feel worse, but some people seem to rather enjoy the pain that they allow in their lives. Some people use it as an excuse to do things. Whatever your reasons, they are yours and yours alone… so if you want to stop hurting, then stop. It truly is that simple. I don't need (or really want) to know your reasons or hear your arguments about this. You must work it all out for yourself and then you must do whatever it is you decide is best for you. I have said this many times… "YOU CANNOT CHANGE ANYONE ELSE. YOU CAN ONLY CHANGE YOURSELF!" Change your thoughts and you can change your life. Once you change the way you react to people and their words or actions, people usually change the way they treat you. Right now, your reaction to negative actions or words is to take on negative feelings. Try to be positive (or at least neutral) instead and see what happens. You do not have to suck in the negative. You can exude positive reactions instead. Even if the other person is being a jerk!
Meditation is a good way to reach inside and make changes to yourself. If you have never meditated, it isn't difficult. It is simply relaxing into a state of near-sleep.
1.      Get yourself a nice soft, soothing CD or tape and listen to it. Music is good… but make it music without words so that you don't sit listening to the words instead of meditating. Sounds, like bubbling brooks or ocean waves, are good too, but make them "pure" sounds without any music in them.
2.      Find a comfortable place to sit or lay down.
3.      Now, as you listen to your soft music or sounds, imagine you're walking very slowly down a huge winding staircase. Your hand is on the banister and you pause on each step for several seconds. Look around and take note of the things you see. Count the number of steps. There are twelve of them. When you reach the bottom, you will find the prettiest garden you've ever seen. Go ahead and explore it for a few moments before you begin talking to yourself. You may meet one of your guardians here if you wish. Just ask one to show up and then look for him or her.
The first few times you meditate, you might fall asleep. Don't worry about it if you do. Try not to meditate just before you go to bed or you will never get to the point where you can talk to yourself. You want to relax to that “almost sleeping” stage, but not actually go to sleep. Then you can talk to yourself and see what's up.
Don’t ask me "why" this and "why" that. My only answer is… How should I know? I am not here to figure out the "whys" of this world or its people. I sincerely don't care what they are! Perhaps God, the universe, mother nature… whatever you want to call that "higher being"… knows. Perhaps he/she/it doesn't. Perhaps he/she/it cares. Perhaps he/she/it doesn't. What the universe or anyone else knows or thinks has little to do with me. The only opinions or thoughts that matter in my life are mine.
One thing that you need to accept in order to move on is… You are the most important person in your life. If you can't accept that, you will never move forward. This is your life. It is the only one you get. You, and you alone, are fully responsible for what happens, for what you feel, for what you do, for who you associate with, for everything that goes on in your life. You can have good experiences with others or you can have bad ones. The choice is completely yours. Most people will not accept this fact and most people go through life blaming everyone and everything they encounter… or giving them credit… for everything that happens in their own lives. It's really too bad they do this because they would be so much more free and happy if they took full responsibility for their lives.
There is something that I believe is helping to make most of your troubles appear. My belief is that we draw negative things to us because of negative thinking. Let me explain...
The universe is there, waiting to give us everything our souls desire to make our lives everything we want them to be. However, in order to give us everything we want, the universe watches to see what it is we concentrate on the most. After all, it is only logical that we would concentrate mostly on those things we truly desire… right?
So, when we constantly think about negative things, we are drawing more negative things to us. That's the way the universe works. It knows no other way of being and it does not hear our occasional little pleas and prayers for good things. It sees us concentrating most of our efforts on negativity… it assumes that this is what we truly desire… and it brings us our souls' desires (what we concentrate on the most) in as large quantities as it can without overloading us.
Can you see this happening in your life? It has likely been happening for many years now... and you are still concentrating on the negative. If you want to see big changes in your life, you must make big changes in your thinking. If you change, if you begin to concentrate and think about more positive things, then the universe will gift you with more positive things. This will take time, however, because, firstly, you will not change immediately and secondly, you have loaded your "wish list" with much negativity... and those "wishes" will be supplied before the universe will switch to your new "wishes" for positive gifts.
At this point most people lie to themselves and say "But I am a positive thinker". Be honest with yourself. Look deeply at what you say and think about the people, places, and things around you. Listen to what you say and think... truly hear yourself. You will see that you are probably not a positive person.
Another thing that you need to do in order to move forward in your life is to forgive, even if you cannot forget, and toss out all of your garbage. The only person you are hurting by hanging onto the garbage you drag around is you. All that garbage you're carrying around in the form of "dislike, hate, discomfort, bad memories, etc." is just that… garbage. Visually put it into a green garbage bag, take it out to the curb, and wave good-bye to it as the garbage men take it away. It's not worth hanging onto. No matter what, all that stuff only hurts one person… that would be YOU in your life! No one else cares and no one else is hurt by it... although constantly making it part of your conversations with others will make people want to stay away from you. Positive people attract others to them like flies to honey. Negative people are often lonely and alone. Ditch the garbage, think and speak more positively, forgive anyone who has "wronged" you in the past, and you will be a happier person. Hang onto it, and you will continue to be sad, sorry, and lonely.
Another thought on your whole situation is this… perhaps you are going through some of this sh*t because you still haven't "got it". It is my belief when I am experiencing the same sorts of things over and over, that I must change something about the way I am reacting to it. When I finally "get" whatever it is I'm supposed to be learning, my life begins to move again. Until that moment, the sh*t continues to happen in my life. So, the sooner you figure out what you need to learn, and "get it", the sooner your life can get back on track. Again, it is a matter of taking full responsibility for your life. It isn't where you live or who you meet or what others say or do that has any bearing on how you feel, unless you allow that to happen. It is only how you react to what or who you encounter that affects you. Learn the lessons quickly and your life will continue to flow smoothly. Learn them slowly, and you will continue to experience the same things until you understand and learn.
Yes, there are things that come into our lives that aren't pleasant. There are illnesses and there are people and experiences and all the unpleasant things that life can bring to us. Personally I believe that these are our lessons and tests. Some, just like tests in school, are more difficult than others. It isn't what they are that matters. It's what you do with them.
There is always a negative and a positive way to look at things. There is always a "bad" and a "good" in everything. Find the good and you will have a good experience, despite the circumstances. Find the bad and you will have a bad experience… again… despite the circumstances. The universe teaches and tests us all the time. These are the things that help our souls to grow. Without the lessons and tests, we can't grow spiritually. Since spiritual growth is the main reason we're here, it follows that the lessons and tests are going to be with us throughout our lives.
People who have few tests to endure, do not have less to learn spiritually… they might have more or they might be learning their lessons quickly. As individuals, our spirits can only endure so much, so we are given lessons and tests that we can handle. Remember that, when you are going through a particularly difficult test or series of tests. You can handle it spiritually. The trick is to figure out the lesson or answer as quick as you can and come out a winner with it. Once the lesson is learned, you move on to the next stage of your life... and the next series of lessons and tests.
That's about all I have to tell you for this time. Don't get mad at me for saying any of this. Don't get scared either. The sooner you take your life back from the outside world (and remember… you gave it up!) the better your life will be. Your life truly is what you make it. In my opinion, anyway.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Distracted Drivers

In the last couple of years or so, we had a law put into place in Alberta called the "distracted driver law". Once it was implemented, signs were put up to remind people about this law. The signs read: "Distracted Driver Law in Effect".

So I'm wondering... why do they want the drivers distracted? Because I've always been rather reluctant to distract the driver of any vehicle I'm in, especially when we're in heavy traffic. I guess I could do my part, but it just feels so unsafe! And what sorts of distractions does the government want? How far should I go to distract the driver? Should it be enough to distract other drivers as well as my own? Or should the distraction be kept within the vehicle? Is conversation enough or does it have to be something more drastic? How distracted does the driver have to be before the police are satisfied? It's quite a dilemma and I've been trying to sort it out since they began to put those signs up.

When I first heard about this new law, I thought it might be a good thing. But that was before the signs. Now I'm wondering how sane the governing bodies are. To want drivers to be distracted is just so... um... distracting! And whose job is it to distract the driver? The passenger's? What if there is no passenger to do that? If I see a vehicle with only a driver in it, is it my responsibility to distract that driver in some way? Can I be fined if I don't? Can the other driver take down my license plate number and report me? Will the cameras at street corners be taking photos? Will passengers be sought out who are not performing their 'distraction duty' and sent a ticket in the mail?

What about drivers in buses? Does every passenger have to take the responsibility of distracting the driver or should one passenger do it? Do we have to take a vote for who distracts the driver or will people be assigned that duty? What about taxis? I suppose in this case each passenger or group of passengers would be held accountable if the driver isn't distracted enough. But what is "enough"? How does one know when to start... and when to stop?

Or is it all up to the driver to figure out? Does the driver have to plan for distractions for each trip? That would certainly make it easier for the passengers but how would anyone know if the driver was distracted or if he or she was just in a thoughtful mood? Would the radio be enough of a distraction or does the driver have to be obviously distracted? I mean, with all the availability of cell phones, tablets, and computers you'd think that the drivers could figure something out for themselves. Does the driver doing her hair or putting on makeup constitute enough of a distraction or must there be something more going on? It's a valid question. After all, these sorts of actions have been taking place since cars first hit the roadways and yet it's taken this long to make up a law to force drivers to be distracted.

There isn't any information available about this, just the signs, which don't tell me anything at all really... except that there is an expectation for drivers to be distracted somehow. I do wish the signs were more clear on what is expected of me... if anything!

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

On Being a Large Woman

What is it about being a large woman that is so terrible? And why is it that when a manufacturer makes something for a large woman, they make it longer as well?

Take blood pressure monitors, for instance. I have developed high blood pressure since I turned 60. I have also been having problems with my feet swelling from the one medication I'm taking for it. My doctor wrote me a prescription to buy a blood pressure monitor because he wants me to keep track of my "numbers" for a couple of weeks to a month until we get some new meds sorted out. My medical doesn't cover that, so I had to pay for it myself. I'm on pension and I don't get very much money each month to live on... don't even get me started on the idea of "rich baby boomers"!... so I wasn't about to buy an expensive product to take my blood pressure for two weeks or so, but I figured I could afford a $50-$60 one. Doctor's don't like the wrist style, so I looked at several drug stores to finally find one I could afford that came with the "large" cuff. My upper arm measures 13", which is the cut-off for the medium cuff size... which means it won't take a proper blood pressure if I try to use it. So I finally found a monitor that came with both sizes of cuffs, which I thought was an awesome idea. It was $45 and was a decent make (HoMedics) so I bought one.

When I got back to the motorhome (we live in) I carefully unpacked the monitor and began to figure it out. I put in the batteries and set the date and time and then attached the large cuff hose-thingee. After all, I had been told by the pharmacist that it was the cuff I need to use. Then I attempted to get the cuff around my arm correctly. Of course, the pictures in the book aren't exactly clear on which end of the arm is up and the instructions are not written by someone who's first language is English, so I got confused and had the cuff on the wrong end of my arm. Okay... so my hubby noticed and pointed it out and I got it turned around. But then I began to try to take my blood pressure. No matter how hard I and hubby tried, we just could not get the lower part to tighten as much as the upper part was. And it bloody well HURT when it squeezed around my upper arm. I decided to try the smaller cuff, since the large one was almost up in my armpit! The smaller one is shorter by a good 2 to 3 inches! By shorter I mean the width from the elbow to the shoulder, not the length of the band.

Now what made the manufacturers of blood pressure monitors think that, because my arms got a bit flabby with age, they grew longer? My arms didn't grow there! Or on the lower part either! My arms are the same length they always were, maybe even a bit shorter... but they certainly didn't get any longer! So what's up with that?

It's the same with clothes. Once you have to buy "women's" or "plus" sizes, the proportions are all out of whack. The arms are miles too long and so are the legs. Great if you're 7 feet tall. Not so great when you're 2 feet shorter than that!! What is it that makes the manufacturers believe that we grow taller or longer in either the legs or the arms if we grow bigger around? I'm not that tall! My hands are delicate, my arms, although a bit flabby at the top, aren't big around. My belly is bigger than it used to be... mostly because I stopped strenuous exercise when I developed asthma.

So maybe someone in the manufacturing world will read this and truly THINK about how products for larger women are made... and maybe that person will even set in motion a change so that short women who have aged and gotten larger because of that can still buy decent clothing and can get a blood pressure monitor cuff that has the same width on the large cuff as the medium cuff has. Please!

Friday, June 21, 2013

Flooding in Alberta

This is a repeat of my personal blog for today.

It is the first day of summer... the longest day of the year. Happy Summer Solstice to YOU!

What a day for the folks of southern Alberta! This is Calgary, not Venice. That's the Centre Street bridge and downtown. 


I hear that the Saddledome is in structural difficulty. Two weeks until Stampede... I wonder what will happen.



I have a friend in High River... well she's in Calgary at the moment. In a safe neighbourhood... so far. She's lost pretty much everything. I feel so helpless. I can't even give her a hug at this time. I don't have a picture of her area... but it's as under water as the downtown area is. So Sad!



I have another friend in Deer Run. I tried to call her but there was no answer. That area was evacuated today and I have no idea how they are, where they are, or anything. I hope they are okay.

We aren't in Calgary right now... we've been staying in the Cross Iron Mills area for the last week or so. It's high enough and far away enough from the rivers to not be too bothered by flooding... but the rain is still coming. We've been talking and I think we're going to head past Red Deer in the next day or so. If that floods, we won't be able to make it to Edmonton and we do need to. So we're thinking that might be our best move. At least we can do that... travel out of the way of the flood waters. It's one big advantage to living in a motorhome.

Anyway, that't my blog for this time. Talk to you again soon.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Bridge Rehab

Bridge Rehabilitation - May 17, 2013

So I'm listening to the news on the radio tonight and the reporter guy says "such and such street needs to be avoided due to bridge rehabilitation". What?!?

What the hell is bridge rehabilitation? Do they do yoga or meditate with the bridge? Does the bridge have to attend anger management classes? Or maybe the bridge must attend bad habit group sessions? Do they have a 12-step program to follow? Is there an elastic band involved in their cure?

I wanted to ask what the bridge is being rehabilitated FROM. I mean, rehab is usually a means of getting rid of some bad habit or frequent bad action you do... isn't it? Bridges, as far as I've ever seen, don't have many bad habits. They just seem to sit there... sometimes nicely arched and sometimes more flat, but they don't seem to do much. Certainly they don't seem to do anything that might require rehabilitation. Are they leading clandestine lives?

I also wonder how the bridges get to the rehab place. Do they walk? They do have legs and footings. Although I've never seen a bridge on the move, I also haven't watched any bridges for any length of time. Perhaps I need to start. Or maybe rehab takes place "on-site", so to speak.

Another thing that strikes me... if the bridges need rehabilitation, who are the bridge counselors? Is it a specialization in the psych world or can any psychologist or psychiatrist handle bridge problems? I've checked the phone book and online and didn't find any listings for bridge counselors, but maybe they don't need to advertise. Maybe there are so many bridges that need rehab that the bridge counselors are so busy they don't need to put their name out there. Just how many bridges-in-crisis are there? And what is the name of their illness... because obviously if they need rehabilitating, there must be a name for their syndrome. Why haven't they been talked about on Oprah? Where's Dr. Oz when we need him? Perhaps there needs to be a walkathon for them or ribbons to make money for awareness. Would bumper stickers help?

I do have an idea of where this terminology came from. Years ago when I lived in Calgary, I was on the C-Train and happened to sit across from a nice older gentleman. He and I began to talk and he told me his daughter had just graduated from some college in California and gotten a job making a huge sum of money a year. Her specialty? I don't remember what it was called, but she specialized in making up new terminology for businesses and governments. Yes... four years of college and she learned to make up new words and phrases... or more correctly, to use words and phrases in new (and rather strange) ways. Why? So that when the general public catches on to what the business and government worlds are talking about, they can change their lingo and we'll be in the dark once again. 

Isn't that a rather paranoid way for them to act toward the people who pay their way?

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Time Travel

I just watched an episode of "Bones" in which the characters were asking each other "if you could travel in time to anywhere, where would you go?". Now several novelists and authors have broached this subject over the centuries with characters actually travelling backward or forward in time. One of the most famous television series (which has been on the air almost continually since the 1950s) is "Dr. Who" who is a Time Lord. He's always dancing from one place to another throughout the Universe changing this, saving that, and generally interfering with the bad guys in order to set things right again.

But what about you and me? If YOU could go to one place in time, would you go forward or back? Would you choose, as  Dr. Saroyan said, "to have tea with Jesus" or would you choose a place in your own life? If in your own life, would you be there to change something or would you just want to revisit someone you once knew? Would you let them know who you were? If you wanted to visit a particular event or time, what would you be there for? To change something? To learn? To experience life as it was? To prevent or cause something?

Conversely, would you head to the future? If you did, would you want to know what your own life was going to do or check out someone else's life... or would you rather have a look at things in general? Would you be there to scoop an idea or stock investment knowledge or would you just want to know what things are going to look like? How far would you go? A few years, a generation, a hundred years... or more? Where would you want to land?

It's an interesting question. Personally I don't think I'd want to go back to my own life. I've lived the way I was supposed to, learned the lessons I had to, met the ones I needed to, dealt with them in whatever manner was required... and have found my way to this place in life. I rather like who I've turned out to be and I care a great deal for the people I've gathered to me. So "back" is not something that really attracts me.

But given the opportunity to go ahead even just once, I'd be tempted. Not to see what my personal life was going to be, because that could change with my next decision in this time, but to see what the world is like, especially the technology. I'd love to see what technology does in ten years time, so that's where I'd head... although I'm not quite sure which location I'd choose. I'd want it to be some place where there was absolutely no chance of meeting myself. LOL Some place "exotic" maybe? I don't know. I'd just enjoy being in the future looking around. And if in checking things out I learned about some company or idea that today was just beginning and I happened to put a few dollars into it when I came back... we-e-ell that would probably be the change in this time that would make my life different there. :)

Now wait... that gives me an idea. What if I went back to the early 70s, before I got married but after I left home, and instead of buying a house when I was 22... what if I invested that $10,652.09 I got from the lawsuit for that car accident in that little company called "Intel" that was getting started. ($0.02 per share in mid 1972) I could have sold it again in 1999 ($40 per share in mid-September) and be quite well off today (over $22 million!). Hmmm.... now there's food for thought. Maybe I wouldn't go ahead after all. ;)

What would you do?

Monday, March 4, 2013

Review: Knight Progenitor

Knight Progenitor
Knight Progenitor by Sharon L. Reddy

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I am actually currently reading this book. You have to be a Dr. Who fan to read it. Sometimes it's very confusing... until you get further into the book. Sometimes it's delightful and sometimes sad. Sometimes it steams on faster than a jet and sometimes it slows right down. Contrary to what some others have said, I'm really enjoying the read. It's over 1500 pages (on my iPad) but because it is broken down into individual stories, it's manageable. As I said I'm really enjoying it. I loved the story on the U.S.S. Enterprise! It's amazing how the stories keep interlocking too, so I'm pretty sure that somewhere in the next half of the book the crew of the Enterprise will somehow be brought back into it. This happens to be mostly about the sixth Dr.... the one played by Colin Baker... although it does also include several others. At any rate, I highly recommend reading it if you're a Dr. Who fan. If not, you may not enjoy it and might find it quite confusing. :)

View all my reviews

Friday, February 15, 2013

Review: James Potter and the Curse of the Gate Keeper

James Potter and the Curse of the Gate Keeper
James Potter and the Curse of the Gate Keeper by G. Norman Lippert

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I am thoroughly enjoying this series. This book forces James to make choices and to come to grips with his own mortality at such a young age. It is James' second year at Hogwarts, making him 13 years old. On the lighter side of his life, he becomes involved in a school play. On the darker side of everyones' lives, he must save both the magical and the Muggle worlds. Lippert has a way of making James seem older than his years, like his father before him was made older acting in many ways. It must be a family trait... or perhaps it is a trait of magical beings, since the other students of the same age act older as well. Whatever causes this, it makes for interesting reading and I'm looking forward to the next installment in James' life adventures.

View all my reviews

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Writing Process

I've been thinking about this blog. I began it because it is one of the things that authors today need to have to help with marketing their books, whether they write fiction or non-fiction. I didn't really think about what I would put into this blog. I figured I'd mention my novels as I went along, but other than that, I had no real plan. I still don't. But I have realized that some people who come here will be writers and some will be new writers... writers who may have questions about being an author and all that that entails.

At this point I should probably tell you my personal meanings of "writer" and "author". To me, an author is a writer who is published. That can mean self-published or publisher published. It can be e-book published or physical book published. Published is published and once you are published you move from being a "writer" to being an "author". In my mind anyway.

I've decided that today I'm going to talk about what is called "the writing process". Off to the left is supposed to be a picture I found that shows what the five steps of the writing process are. However, I have to make the picture available before I can attach it to my blog. I'll get it there... but give me time.

Anywho.... these are the steps that are recommended for writers to follow when they write. It starts with "pre-writing" or planning out your book. Then comes writing it using the plan. Next you make all of your revisions. When that's finished, you edit, correcting grammar and spelling. Finally you publish.

Many authors follow these steps but many others do not. Most authors develop their own writing process as they go along. Every author's process includes at least some of these steps, however, so using this list is a good place to start if you're a beginning writer.

My own writing process consists of:
1. Figuring out where my newest novel will be published. In my case, I prefer to self-publish my e-novels at Smashwords.com.  They have a fantastically easy-to-understand manual for formatting your e-novels, they give you an ISPN, and if you get into their "premium catalogue" they send your e-books to many other places (like Barnes & Nobel and Apple's iBooks).

2. Set up my new document in my word processing program correctly so that the new novel is being written in the formatting style that the selling site requires. This is an extremely important step for me. E-books are not the same as physical books and require a special kind of formatting. Setting up the document correctly at this point will save a lot of time and energy when the book is finished.

3. Writing - editing and writing - editing and writing - until the novel is finished. To me, editing is an integral and ongoing step. Other than the first bout of writing, I always start a writing session by editing what I wrote last time (and sometimes a bit more). That does a few things for my books. It makes them cohesive. It keeps my characters "in character". It allows flow through the novel. It allows me to find grammar errors (I constantly have my spell checker turned on, so I catch spelling errors as I go).

4. After the writing and final editing is complete, I check my formatting carefully to ensure that it is absolutely perfect for the place I have planned to publish to.

5. Design the cover and make it the right size for the site you are publishing to. If you aren't artistic or don't want to do this step yourself, you will need to hire someone to do this for you. You need a terrific cover, so don't skimp on this step.

6. Publish. Publishing is a bit different on different sites, so be sure you read each and every line in each and every section and get the form(s) filled in properly. You'll be uploading your cover as well as your book, so make sure both are ready.

7. Market, market, market! This is a whole topic by itself. Let it just be said at this time that marketing is something essential and needs to be done right.

So those are the steps I take to get a novel ready and available for my fans . Notice I do not plan my novels in advance. I tend to let the novel tell me how it wants to be written and what it wants to say rather than my forcing it to do things my way. I find I have a much better novel in the end when I do things that way... and that makes my fans happy, which is what it's all about.

Friday, January 4, 2013

New Book

Today I began to write a new novel. Oh don't worry... I'm still continuing to work on the next Calida book, but this one insisted on being at least started. I generally have a dream and then write a novel and that's exactly how this newest one got its start. Last night I had a dream and today I began to put it to paper. I don't want to give away any of the plot, but it is certainly an interesting beginning. All I can tell you is that, mixed in with the story will be a good deal of my personal beliefs about life, death, and the hereafter.

In other news... my partner and I are house sitting for the next few months while the owner is away working. It's been quite an adjustment for us from motorhome to house, but I imagine the switch back will take even more adjustment. :) The dogs are settling in quite nicely. We got through Christmas mostly unscathed and are now ready to get back to a more normal life... whatever that might entail. Of course, our idea of normal and yours is probably quite different. ;) May the New Year bring you many adventures... all prosperous in their own way!

Friday, October 19, 2012

Review: Deakin Inheritance

Deakin Inheritance
Deakin Inheritance by June Vollans

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Review by: Isla Mae Cosuelo on Aug. 29, 2012 on Smashwords.com: 4 stars "It's a wonderful book June. The main characters seem to have rather confusing relationships though. Is there going to be a sequel to this? But all in all a brilliant fast paced book."

Review by: Kenneth Holmberg on Aug. 27, 2012 on Smashwords.com: 4 stars "I enjoyed this story. It was written in such a way as to having read on to find out where it was going to take me. Well done!"

Review by: Leslie on Aug. 18, 2012 on Smashwords.com: 4 stars "I enjoyed this, couple plot holes you could drive a bus through, but they are addressed as the story runs on, at a pretty hectic pace. Great paced page turner, no silly science to escape a trap, everyone thinks their way out, and I def. want to read the further adventures of Calida; there's folks we find out about as the book grows that decidedly need to be seen. Read it straight through, so def a page turner."

View all my reviews

Review: The Trouble with Dreams

The Trouble with Dreams
The Trouble with Dreams by June Vollans

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

As I am the author, I am a 'bit' biased about this book. Honestly, though, I think it's a wonderful story... full of characters you can truly love and an evil you can despise. Although the story may not be the "fastest" you've ever read, it does move along quickly enough. What the book has is great characters who unfold before you as they struggle with a situation that is both baffling and terrifying. The book is packed with fun as well. Who doesn't love Sandy and Gruffydd and the way they interact with others? Who isn't drawn in to the love between Phaon and Mariah? Who can't empathize with Aranor? The Trouble with Dreams is only the beginning of their story, however. I have five books in my head and am only just working on the third one. With twists and turns and surprises throughout the series, can you even begin to guess where this story will take you?

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A Couple of Announcements

I am currently waiting for a text message from Facebook so that they can confirm that I have a valid account with them  Yet again.  I am thoroughly disgusted with them! Every time I turn around I am being asked to supply more information to them, supposedly to verify my account. It feels more and more like a scam to get my information from me. I've already lost one account to this bull-ship of theirs. Now here goes another one. I have a notion to shut down everything and be done with them. But first I need to get back on to let everyone know. So watch for me telling everyone that I'm finished on Facebook... because it is going to happen as soon as I can get back on to have my account deleted.

As a result of Facebook's screw ups, all of my future announcements will be made here, on my blog, or on my website. If you want to keep up with me, please make sure to "Follow" my blog. Thanks! I am also on Twitter and will see if I can link my blog to there as well.

I have just finished putting all of my books exclusively onto Amazon for the next 90 days as part of their KDP program. It will take a day or so to get "Deakin Inheritance" up there, because it wasn't on their site before, but all the other books are available there now. You can reach my novels at Amazon through my website on the "Novels" page. I'm hoping to make some money there, so would appreciate anyone who has read my novels to write a review and those who haven't read them to go do that! Please and Thank you.

I have begun to write the second novel in the Calida Tomson series. I've only just started that story and don't have a title as yet, but watch here for further announcements about it.

Monday, September 10, 2012

September 10, 2012

I received some feedback about my book "Deakin Inheritance" and now I need to have another look through it to catch the errors I missed. This has to be done before I put it up on Amazon as part of their KDP program. So I've started that and expect to have "Deakin Inheritance" published on Amazon by September 15... if I can keep myself on track!

I did pretty good the first day of re-editing.... but then we got our iPads and I got distracted. I've been struggling with learning how to use mine, and pretty much set the editing aside while I concentrated on that. It's a pretty steep learning curve, even for me. Not only am I learning to use a new device, but it's a Mac/Apple device as well. I've always used PC things. Don't get me wrong... I love my iPad. But I have gotten frustrated several times over the week, especially when it takes me hours to finally figure something out. I am progressing though, which is good, and can do some things with ease now. Like email. At first I had all of my emails coming on to my iPad. Convenient. But then I had my iPad delete some emails that were extremely important and I decided that going to each email site was probably a better choice for me. I haven't lost an email since. *sigh* 

One thing I did get was "my Bones series" from the iTunes store. It's one of a very few television shows that I truly enjoy. I like the intelligence of the characters as well as their dynamics. I love the mystery each week. I'm not the kind of person to try to figure out the murderer in advance. I actually have no problem knowing "who done it" but I enjoy watching how the author sorts through it and brings about the conclusion. I've watched the whole Bones series through... the first six seasons, three times!... and am enjoying watching it from start to end of season 7 once more. I've nearly made my way through season one again. :) I know it has nothing to do with either learning to use my iPad or editing my book, but that's okay. Everyone needs relaxation and diversion... even authors.

Speaking of being an author... I have received two very awesome and encouraging reviews on "Deakin Inheritance". Both of them said the reviewer is looking forward to the next Calida book. Hm? I had always considered "Deakin" a stand-alone novel... not the first of a series. I guess I'd better get on that and get another Calida book written. :)

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Making Plans

I have been rather remiss in keeping up my blog these last few days. My "excuse", if you want to call it that, is pretty feeble, but what I was doing is also a necessity. You see, I have been contemplating. That is, I have been thinking about my next novel, what it will be and how it will connect to the last one.

For me this  is a new step in my process of writing. Normally, I awake from a dream, or half-dream, and begin to write what I just dreamed. Then the book continues and the series continues and the books seem to write themselves. This book is different, however. This book started as a single book, something that I considered a "stand alone" novel, something that was finished when it was published. I had left the ending so that it could be turned into a series, but I had never really thought that it would be one. Now I am rethinking that idea.

The book that I am speaking about is "Deakin Inheritance", which is currently being given away at Smashwords.com. It is a fast-paced science fiction novel with a female lead character who is strong, yet vulnerable. She allows the men she is thrown together with to make decisions for her until she becomes rather fed up with that situation. Then she takes over and tells them all what will be done. They are a bit shocked at her sudden attitude, but one is also pleased. “I wondered how long she’d wait to finally take back control of her life,” he said gleefully. He turned to Calida. “Good for you girl!

I have had one person review that book. That person mentioned that he/she "def. want to read the further adventures of Calida" and so the idea of a series was brought forth. At first I had to decide if I want to write another series, then I began to think about possibilities for that series. There are many directions these books could go. As that reviewer said "there's folks we find out about as the book grows that decidely need to be seen." So I've taken some time to think about it and begin to make plans, although I'm still uncertain which direction the series will take.

Thank you to "Leslie", whoever you might be, for pushing me into this new direction and giving me a new challenge. I enjoyed Calida, and I'm going to enjoy having her mature and grow as the series goes on. I hope the rest of you do as well.

If you haven't had the opportunity to download a copy of "Deakin Inheritance", it is being offered FREE until August 31. After that date, I will be removing that book from my Smashwords list and putting it exclusively onto Amazon for 90 days. There it will cost $3.99.

I wanted to give away 1,000 books by the end of August, but it seems that people are hesitant to download it for some reason. However, giving away 500 books wouldn't be so bad either.  This morning I had reached just over 300, which means that 500 is doable. So, if you haven't got your free copy, click on the name of the book to download it. Enjoy!

Sunday, August 19, 2012


I wonder how many people will help me accomplish something that is very important to me. I would love to give away, absolutely free and with not even one little string attached, 1,000 copies of my eBook "Deakin Inheritance" by August 31. Will YOU help me do this?

All you have to do is pass the information to your friends and other contacts, by email, Facebook, in person, or any other means, and allow this post to be carried forward from there. You can copy and paste this message or make one up of your own, or just tell people... but please help me get it out there. I started this a few days ago and have been able to give my book to 183 people so far. But that's not "close enough" to 1,000. So, help me if you can.

Send your friends, relatives, work mates, or anyone you want to tell about this phenomenal offer, to www.junevollans.ca. The link to the free book is right on the front page, so it's not hard to find.

After August 31 I have to raise the price of this book to it's regular retail $3.99. Until then, it is free. Thanks for helping me make 1,000 people happy by giving them something good for free. :)

BOOK DESCRIPTION: "Inheriting several million credits might be everyone's dream, but when the only other heir decides to hunt her down, Calida wonders if it's worth risking her life. How does one give back an inheritance?"

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Deakin Inheritance

I'm very excited because I have just finished publishing "Deakin Inheritance" on Smashwords.com

That's my fourth book published in about a month. Not bad for an old girl.

I am struggling a bit these days with my keyboard, so can't type quite as fast as I usually do. You see, my "shift" keycap on the right is missing. That slows me down when I need to make a capital from that side, but doesn't stop me entirely. Anyway, today's blog isn't about that. I just thought I'd toss it in so you know that I am one of those "starving artist" types. LOL

Deakin Inheritance has been a long time getting to this point. It started out in 1996 as a romance set in Thunder Bay, Canada. My sister Patti helped me with setting scenes right in my mind and we had a lot of laughs over playing with ideas. I had the whole romance novel finished and set it aside to work on other thngs. But I'm not a romance novelist and I was never really happy with the book. I'm a sci-fi/fantasy kinda girl. So after a few years, this book got a complete makeover. New character names, new location, and new slant to the story. I truly like how it's turned out and I hope you do as well.

"How does one give back an inheritance if keeping it means losing your life? Ever since she inherits several million credits, Calida has been on the run. She has no idea who is chasing her or why, but with the help of some new friends, she finds herself able to keep one step ahead of her pursuers. But when they finally do catch up, Calida discovers that no one she knows is who she thought they were. Her world is turned completely upside down until she forces a confrontation and finally uncovers the truth. "

I've decided to make this a free book for a very limited time (until August 31, 2012). If you follow the link it will take you to Smashwords and you can download the book in any format you like. Remember... it's only FREE for a very short time! After August 31 it will go to $3.99. Tell your friends and family about it as well so they can enjoy a free novel. And please leave me a review back at Smashwords so I know what YOU think of my story.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Constructively Reviewing A Fiction Author's Work

You've just read a fiction book and the author has asked for reviews, but you have no idea what to put down, so you either don't bother reviewing or you say something like "enjoyed the book" or "what a lot of trash", neither of which is helpful.

There are two main reasons for an author wanting a review:
  1. good reviews tend to get more buyers of the book; poor ones tend to send buyers away
  2. generally an author wants to improve his/her writing and constructive reviews can help promote the author's growth as a writer
Your review IS helpful, if it is done constructively. If it isn't, then it doesn't actually do anything. So here are some points to consider when you are reviewing an author's work. Calling the author or their book names or over-praising isn't helping the author one iota, so consider giving a good, constructive review if you decide to give one.


Characters are probably the most important thing in a story. Readers want to feel something about them. There are generally two main characters or groups of characters in fiction - good and bad. Readers want to love the good characters and hate the bad ones. As a reviewer, it is important to let the author know if that was accomplished. Characters also need to be believable, even if they have super powers or wings or some other trait that isn't normal in humans. By believable, I mean that what they do fits their personality and traits. Good characters also tend to have something that they are attempting to overcome within themselves. If this doesn't "fit" into the story or their personality then let the author know so they can improve characterization.


Surprisingly enough, the story is not the most important part of the book. Most ideas for stories are pretty good. It is in the way the story is told that succeeds or fails the story. Stories must be told in an interesting manner and it must have something in it to hold the reader's attention. If you're reading something and you are bored before you get passed page three, you should tell the author. Usually the problem isn't with the actual story itself, it is with the way the story is being told. Many authors use a lot of passive sentences instead of active ones. This can make a story very boring. As a reviewer, you need to let the author know this so that he/she can improve this aspect of their storytelling. On the other hand, if an author succeeds in holding your attention to the end of the book, that should also be conveyed so that the author knows that, at least in this area, he/she has succeeded.

Sentences and Description

Each sentence should be moving the story forward. Sometimes this is subtle, other times it is direct and obvious. Sentences shouldn't, however, be only descriptive. In other words, a well done story should have a variety of sentence types but should mostly be active. If the author is telling you how someone feels, for instance, it is better if he/she uses active language ( Her stomach lurched and she gagged) than to use something descriptive (She felt sick to her stomach). One evokes feeling, the other doesn't. So if the author drones on and on through the book, without utilizing active sentences, you should let him/her know. This is important, because the author won't improve if you don't help.

Spelling and Grammar

I'm not sure why so many authors, particularly new ones, believe that their spelling and grammar do not count in a story. It does. An odd typo or missed error is one thing. A whole book of spelling and grammar errors is quite another. They are distracting, to say the least, and downright foolish on the author's part. So if you read something that is full of these sorts of errors, let the author know. If enough reviews tell the author to smarten up, then perhaps the author will take the hint and learn to use a spell-checker as well as where his/her various grammatical problems lie.

Those are the four main areas that your review should concentrate on. How you put your review together is up to you, but this should give you an idea of what it should contain. Please DO review books. It helps the author, which in turn helps the readers.