Favorite Quotes on Books and Reading

"A book is a gift you can open again and again." Garrison Keillor

Literature is a textually transmitted disease, normally contracted in childhood.” Jane Yolen

"It is what you read when you don't have to that determines what you will be when you can't help it." Oscar Wilde

"Books have furnished, burnished, and enabled my life." Julia Keller

Tuesday, April 28, 2020

Book Showcase: THE SECRETS OF LOVE STORY BRIDGE by Phaedra Patrick


The Secrets of Love Story Bridge by Phaedra Patrick ISBN: 9780778309789 (hardcover) ISBN: 9780778310211 (trade paperback) ISBN: 9781488056345 (ebook) ISBN: 9781488208188 (digital audiobook) ASIN: B082YDJ187 (Audible audiobook) ASIN: B07QZ3SLPR (Kindle edition) Publisher: Park Row Books Publication Date: April 28, 2020



A single father gets an unexpected second chance at love in the heartwarming new novel from the author of The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper It's summer in the city and passions are soaring along with the temperature—for everyone but Mitchell Fisher, who hates all things romance. He relishes his job cutting off the padlocks that couples fasten to the famous "love story" bridge. Only his young daughter, Poppy, knows that behind his prickly veneer, Mitchell still grieves the loss of her mother. Then one hot day, everything changes when Mitchell courageously rescues a woman who falls from the bridge into the river. He's surprised to feel an unexpected connection to her, but she disappears before he can ask her name. Desperate to find out her identity, Mitchell is shocked to learn she’s been missing for almost a year. He teams up with her spirited sister, Liza, on a quest to find her again. However, she's left only one clue behind—a message on the padlock she hung on the bridge. Brimming with Phaedra Patrick's signature charm and a sparkling cast of characters, The Secrets of Love Story Bridge follows one man's journey to unlock his heart and discover new beginnings in the unlikeliest places.







Read an Excerpt

The Lilac Envelope

The night before

As he did often, over the past three years, Mitchell Fisher wrote a letter he would never send. 

He sat up in bed at midnight and kicked off his sheets. Even though all the internal doors in his apartment were open, the sticky July heat still felt like a shroud clinging to his body. His nine-year-old daughter Poppy thrashed restlessly in her sleep, in the bedroom opposite. 

Mitchell turned on his bedside lamp, squinting against the yellow light, and took out a pad of Basildon Bond notepaper from underneath his bed. He always used a fountain pen to write—old-fashioned he supposed, but he was a man who valued things that were well-constructed and long-lasting. 

Mitchell tapped the pen against his bottom lip. He knew what he wanted to say, but by the time his words of sorrow and regret travelled from his brain to his fingertips, they were only fragments of what he longed to express. 

As he started to write, the sound of the metal nib scratching against paper helped him block out the city street noise that hummed below his apartment.
Dearest Anita
Another letter from me. Everything here is fine, ticking along. Poppy is doing well. The school holidays start soon and I thought she’d be more excited. It’s probably because you’re not here to enjoy them with us. 
I’ve taken two weeks off work to spend with her, and have a full itinerary planned for us—badminton, tennis, library visits, cooking, walking, the park, swimming, museums, cooking, a tour of the city bridges, and more. It will keep us busy. Keep our minds off you. 
You’ll be amazed how much she’s grown, must be almost your height by now. I tell her how proud I am of her, but it always means more coming from you.

Mitchell paused, resting his hand against the pad of paper. He had to tell her how he felt.

Every time I look at our daughter, I think of you. I wish I could hold you again, and tell you I’m truly sorry.
Yours, always
Mitchell x

He read his words, always dissatisfied with them, never able to convey the magnitude of grief and guilt he felt. After folding the piece of paper once, he sealed it into a crisp, cream envelope, then squeezed it into the almost-full drawer of his nightstand, amongst all the other letters he’d written. His eyes fell upon the slim lilac envelope he kept on top, the one addressed to him from Anita, that he’d not yet been able to bring himself to open. 

Taking that envelope out, he held it under his nose and inhaled. There was still a slight scent of her on the paper, he thought, of violet soap. His finger followed the angle of the gummed flap and then stopped. He closed his eyes and willed himself to open the letter, but his fingernails dented crescents into the paper.

Once more, he placed it back into his drawer. 

Mitchell lay down and hugged himself, imagining Anita’s arms were wrapped around him. But, when he closed his eyes, the words from all the letters weighed down upon him like a bulldozer. As he turned and tried to sleep, he pulled the pillow over his head to force them away.


1. A Locked Heart

The lovers who attached their padlocks to the bridges of Upchester might see it as a fun or romantic gesture but, to Mitchell, it was an act of vandalism.

It was the hottest year on record in the city and the morning sun was already beating down on the back of his neck. His biceps flexed as he methodically opened and squeezed his bolt cutters shut, cutting the padlocks off the cast-iron filigree panels of the old Victorian bridge, one by one.  

Since local boyband Word Up filmed the video for their international smash hit “Lock Me Up with Your Love” on this bridge, thousands of people were flocking to the small city in the North West of England. They brought and attached locks marked with initials, names, messages, to demonstrate their love for the band and each other, on the city’s five bridges.  

Large red and white signs that read no padlocks studded the pavement. But as far as Mitchell could see, the locks still hung on the railings like bees swarming across frames of honeycomb. The constant reminder of love surrounding him, other people’s, made him feel like he was fighting for breath. 

As he cut off the locks, he wanted to yell, ‘Why can’t you just keep your feelings to yourselves?’ 

After several hours of hard work, Mitchell’s trail of broken locks glinted on the pavement like a metal snake. He stopped for a moment and narrowed his eyes as a young couple strolled toward him. The woman glided in a white floaty dress and tan cowboy boots. The man wore shorts and had the physique of an American football player. With his experience of carrying out maintenance across the city’s public areas, Mitchell instinctively knew they were up to something. 

After breaking away from his girlfriend, the man walked to the side of the bridge while nonchalantly pulling out a large silver padlock from his pocket.

Mitchell tightened his grip on his cutters. He was once so easy and in love with Anita, but rules were rules. ‘Excuse me,’ he called out. ‘You can’t hang that lock.’

The man frowned and crossed his bulging arms. ‘Oh yeah? And who’s going to stop me?’

Mitchell had the sinewy physique of a sprinter. He was angular all over with dark hair and eyes, and a handsome dorsal hump on his nose. ‘I am,’ he said and put his cutters down on the pavement. He held out his hand for the lock. ‘It’s my job to clear the bridges. You could get a fine.’ 

Anger flashed across the blond man’s face and he batted Mitchell’s hand away, swiping off his work glove. Mitchell watched as it tumbled down into the river below. Sometimes the water flowed prettily, but today it gushed and gurgled, a bruise-grey hue. A young man had drowned here in a strong current last summer. 

The man’s girlfriend wrapped her arms around her boyfriend’s waist and tugged him away. ‘Come on. Leave him alone.’ She cast Mitchell an apologetic smile. ‘Sorry, but we’re so in love. It took us two hours and three buses to get here. We’ll be working miles away from each other soon.  Please let us do this.’

The man looked into her eyes and softened. ‘Yeah, um, sorry, mate,’ he said sheepishly. ‘The heat got the better of me. All we want to do is fasten our lock.’

Mitchell gestured at the sign again. ‘Just think about what you’re doing, guys,’ he said with a weary sigh. ‘Padlocks are just cheap chunks of metal and they’re weighing down the bridges. Can’t you get a nice ring or tattoo instead? Or write letters to each other? There are better ways to say I lov– Well, you know. . .’

The man and the woman shared an incredulous look.

‘Whatever,’ the man glowered, and he shoved his padlock back into the pocket of his shorts. ‘We’ll go to another bridge instead.’ 
‘I work on those too . . .’ 

The couple laughed at him and sauntered away.

Mitchell rubbed his nose. He knew his job wasn’t a glamorous one. It wasn’t the one in architecture he’d studied hard and trained for. However, it meant he could pay the rent on his apartment and buy Poppy hot lunch at school each day. Whatever daily hassle he put up with, he needed the work.

His workmate Barry had watched the incident from the other side of the road. Sweat circled under his arms and his forehead shone like a mirror as he crossed over. ‘The padlocks keep multiplying,’ he groaned. 

‘We need to keep on going.’

‘But it’s too damn hot.’ Barry undid a button on his polo shirt, showing off unruly chest curls that matched the ones on his head. ‘It’s a violation of our human rights, and no one can tell if we cut off twenty or two hundred.’

Mitchell held his hand up against the glare of the sun. ‘We can tell, and Russ wants the bridges cleared in time for the city centenary celebrations.’

Barry rolled his eyes. ‘There’s only three weeks to go until then. Our boss should come down here and get his hands dirty, too. At least join me for a pint after work.’

Mitchell’s mouth felt parched, and he suddenly longed for an ice-cold beer. A vision of peeling off his polo-shirt and socks and relaxing in a beer garden appeared like a dreamy mirage in his head. 

However, he had to pick Poppy up from the after-school club to take her for a guitar lesson, an additional one to her music class in school. Her headteacher, Miss Heathcliff, was a stickler for the school closing promptly at 5.30pm, and it was a rush to get there on time. He lowered his eyes and said, ‘I’d love to, but I have to dash.’

Then he selected his next padlock to attack. 


Excerpt from The Secrets of Love Story Bridge by Phaedra Patrick. 
Copyright © 2020 by Phaedra Patrick. Published by Park Row Books. 
All Rights Reserved. Reprinted with permission.




Meet The Author


Photo by Sam Ralph

Phaedra Patrick is the author of The Library of Lost and Found, Rise and Shine, Benedict Stone and The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper, which has been published in over twenty countries around the world. She studied art and marketing, and has worked as a stained-glass artist, film festival organizer and communications manager. An award-winning short story writer, she now writes full-time. She lives in Saddleworth, UK, with her husband and son.


Connect to the author via her website, Facebook, Goodreads, Instagram, or Twitter.





This excerpt brought to you by Park Row Books

Friday, April 24, 2020

2020 Book 143: SIMON THE FIDDLER by Paulette Jiles

Simon The Fiddler by Paulette Jiles
ISBN: 9780062966742 (hardcover)
ISBN: 9780062966766 (ebook)
ISBN: 9780062966773 (digital audiobook)
ASIN: B07VCVLNB9   (Audible audiobook)
ASIN: B07V9HHT9H   (Kindle edition)
Publisher: William Morrow
Publication Date: April 14, 2020



The critically acclaimed, bestselling author of News of the World and Enemy Women returns to Texas in this atmospheric story, set at the end of the Civil War, about an itinerant fiddle player, a ragtag band of musicians with whom he travels trying to make a living, and the charming young Irish lass who steals his heart.


This story is set at the end of the Civil War, about an itinerant fiddle player, a ragtag band of musicians with whom he travels trying to make a living, and the charming young Irish lass who steals his heart.

In March 1865, the long and bitter War between the States is winding down. Till now, twenty-three-year-old Simon Boudlin has evaded military duty but following a barroom brawl in Victoria, Texas, Simon finds himself conscripted into the Confederate Army. Luckily his talent with a fiddle gets him a comparatively easy position in a regimental band.

Weeks later, on the eve of the Confederate surrender, Simon and his bandmates are called to play for officers and their families from both sides of the conflict. There the fiddler can't help but notice Doris Mary Aherne, an indentured girl from Ireland, who is governess to a Union colonel's daughter.

After the surrender, Simon and Doris go their separate ways. But Simon cannot forget the fair Irish maiden and vows that someday he will find her again.

Incandescent in its beauty, told in Paulette Jiles's trademark spare yet lilting style, Simon the Fiddler is a captivating, bittersweet tale of the chances a devoted man will take, and the lengths he will go to fulfill his heart's yearning.







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Simon Boudlin knows how to play the fiddle and he knows horses. He was raised by his maternal great-uncle, David Anderson, in Paducah, Kentucky, and was set to inherit a well-known horse business until the onset of the Civil War. Sadly, another one of his uncles decided to burn the horse business down rather than sell to the Union Army. With no business to fall back on and not wanting to be conscripted into the army, Simon heads South and West thinking to move far enough away from the fighting. He made it through early 1865 without being caught by either side but is then conscripted into the Confederate Army to play for a military band. Thankfully, his "military duty" isn't long and he is fortunate enough to meet up with several other musicians. He even meets the woman of his dreams, Doris Dillon. Simon's brief military duty sets him off on a journey that will take him and his musician friends traveling across Texas. He will search for a place to build his perfect home. And despite all obstacles placed not only in his path but also in Doris's path, he will do everything possible to court her via mail initially and then in person. As the country struggles to right itself and rebuilt after a war that turned neighbor-against-neighbor and sometimes brother-against-brother, Simon must find a way to restructure and rebuild his life into that matching his dreams.

For those of you that have been following me for some time now, you may remember that I read and reviewed News of the World back in 2017. I was so enamored with that book that I talked every local book group I was involved with into reading that book. So when I heard that Paulette Jiles was coming out with a new book, I jumped at the opportunity to read it before I even knew what it was about and I'm incredibly pleased I did. Although there are similarities between Simon the Fiddler and News of the World, namely both take place after the Civil War and are set in Texas, the primary characters and action are completely different. I can say that Captain Jefferson Kidd from News of the World does make a minor reappearance in Simon the Fiddler and it is as he is beginning his journey as a newsreader. I found Simon the Fiddler to be a riveting read about Simon's coming-of-age ordeals, from his Kentucky memories to his fist fights and attempts to keep his band of music makers going. Ms. Jiles provided considerable drama with the Yellow fever epidemics, to the sexual harassment of Doris, and more. There's enough in this historical saga to keep any reader fully engrossed and turning pages. I enjoyed the multiple storylines, the action, the settings, and the characters even the bad guys (and yes, there are bad guys!). For those of you that read News of the World, I strongly encourage you to grab a copy of Simon the Fiddler to read. For those of you that enjoy historical fiction, I also encourage you to grab yourself a copy of Simon the Fiddler to read. For those of you that have neither read News of the World nor are into historical fiction, I beg of you to rethink your position and start with Simon the Fiddler and then go grab a copy of News of the World to read. You can thank me later. For now, I'll be ordering a copy of Simon the Fiddler to be shipped to my mother since we're still in quarantine and I can't take her my copy (bonus, I get to keep my copy). Seriously, go grab a copy of Simon the Fiddler to read. This one is going on my #mustreadfiction list for 2020! 

Happy Reading, y'all! 

Disclaimer: I received a free digital review copy of this book from the publisher via Edelweiss+ as well as a print copy via TLC Book Tours. I was not paid, required, or otherwise obligated to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

Meet the Author

Photo by Jill Gann


Paulette Jiles is a novelist, poet, and memoirist. She is the author of Cousins, a memoir, and the novels Enemy Women, Stormy Weather, The Color of Lightning, Lighthouse Island, and News of the World, which was a finalist for the 2016 National Book Award.  She lives on a ranch near San Antonio, Texas.



Find out more about Paulette at her website.




Follow the Blog Tour


Tuesday, April 14th: Into the Hall of Books
Wednesday, April 15th: Lit and Life
Thursday, April 16th: Lesa's Book Critiques
Friday, April 17th: A Bookish Affair
Saturday, April 18th: BookNAround
Wednesday, April 22nd: A Bookish Way of Life
Thursday, April 23rd: Broken Teepee
Thursday, April 23rd: No More Grumpy Bookseller
Friday, April 24th: The Book Diva's Reads
Friday, April 24th: View from the Birdhouse
Tuesday, April 28th: Diary of a Stay at Home Mom
Wednesday, April 29th: Books and Bindings
Thursday, April 30th: Instagram: @shelovesthepages
Friday, May 1st: Staircase Wit
Monday, May 4th: Book by Book
Tuesday, May 5th: Laura's Reviews
Thursday, May 7th: Jathan & Heather
Friday, May 8th: Kahakai Kitchen




This review and tour brought to you by TLC Book Tours

Tuesday, April 21, 2020

Book Blast: WHEN IT'S TIME FOR LEAVING by Ang Pompano




Book Blast - When It's Time for Leaving

by Ang Pompano



About When It's Time For Leaving




When It's Time for Leaving
Traditional Mystery
1st in Series
Encircle Publications, LLC (October 1, 2019)
Paperback: 274 pages
ISBN-10: 1948338920
ISBN-13: 978-1948338929
Digital ASIN: B07TYQ8PDL


When his girlfriend dumps him and a dealer nearly rams him off a bridge, Al DeSantis quits the New Haven Police Department. Just as he plans to head for LA, he finds out the father who left when he was a kid has deeded him the Blue PalmettoDetective Agency in Georgia.

Al goes down to Savannah intending to sell fast and go west, but before he can, he discovers a strong, attractive detective named Maxine, a dead body on the dock—and his father, alive, suffering from dementia, and determined to help his "new partner Al" solve the crime. Al has a lot of adjusting to do when his traditional ideas are challenged as he has to act as his father's caretaker, and finds that Maxine is his superior in the agency that he "owns." When his father goes missing, Al and Max must team up to save his father—and capture the murderer.


Purchase Links
     
  • Amazon Print

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  • Encircle Publications




  • Praise



    Ang Pompano's debut novel, WHEN IT'S TIME FOR LEAVING, is a corker. Thoroughly likable former cop, Al DeSantis, wants to get out of the crime business but inherits one that, fortunately for readers, won't let him go. — Hallie Ephron, New York Times bestselling author CAREFUL WHAT YOU WISH FOR


    In When It's Time for Leaving, debut mystery author Ang Pompano has created the most unusual and appealing duo of detectives since Holmes and Watson. —Lucy Burdette, national bestselling author of A DEADLY FEAST


    Author Ang Pompano serves up the PI for the double 20s. Al DeSantis is a classic, damaged gumshoe but with a youthful energy that pulls you through the pages. —Barbara Ross, author of the Maine Clambake Mysteries and winner 2019 Maine Literary Award for Crime Fiction


    Crime fiction has boasted some famous fathers and sons, from Inspector Richard Queen and his son Ellery to Jim Rockford and his dad Rocky. Add to that list the unforgettable duo of Al DeSantis and Big Al—building on that tradition but with some provocative twists. Ang Pompano's first novel proves tough-minded and warm-hearted in equal measure. A fine, multi-layered debut.—Art Taylor 2019 Edgar, Anthony, Agatha, Macavity, and Derringer Award winner


    When it's Time for Leaving is a crime thriller that delivers an atmospheric tale packed with action, suspense and some surprising twists. Pompano is a skilled storyteller who offers readers a complex mystery of chases, confrontation, and introspection. The tale he weaves is, indeed a well-crafted murder mystery, set in a turbulent sea of emotions and populated with multifaceted characters. ­­­ —James Terry reviewer The Paladin Project


    I like mystery/thrillers.  This one is heavy on the mystery and very little thriller aspect. It is an enjoyable sometimes snarky read that made me smile. The main characters were so well written I felt like I knew them. The mystery itself was wrapped in mystery as we got to know the individuals and the hidden nuances of small towns. It was almost like watching (albeit reading) a 50/60 movie. I personally wanted the ending to share with everyone who was guilty. Have to leave it there, no spoilers. Thank you for the arc!  All thoughts and opinions are my own and were unsolicited. —Cheryl M, Net Galley Reviewer


    A really good and surprising mystery. The characters are great and feel like friends. I loved the snarky humor. I will definitely read more by this author. —Leah H, Net Galley Reviewer


    Great Escapes Virtual Book Tours Praise
    . . . a compelling detective mystery, with a bit of romance and lots of action and suspense. It is very well written, the plot is well intertwined and the pace is flowing.
    ~LibriAmoriMiei


    This was a good mystery, with rough around edges characters . . . I really enjoyed this mystery . . .  
    ~eBook Addicts

    Pompano's flawed detective is fun to watch. He's tough with the bad guys, but when dealing with his father and the gal next store, he's totally lost. There are moments of humor; others of sadness.  
    ~Here's How It Happened

    When It's Time for Leaving by Ang Pompano is a traditional PI mystery that had me intrigued from the first page . . . I enjoyed the mystery and thought it was a good debut novel.  
    ~Brooke Blogs


    About Ang Pompano



    Ang Pompano has been writing mysteries for more than twenty years. His mystery novel, WHEN IT'S TIME FOR LEAVING will be published on October 1, 2019, by Encircle Publications. His short stories have been published in many award-winning anthologies, including the 2019 Malice Domestic Anthology, PARNELL HALL PRESENTS MALICE DOMESTIC: MURDER MOST EDIBLE. His newest story, "Stringer" will appear in SEASCAPE: THE BEST NEW ENGLAND CRIME STORIES 2019. In addition, he has written many academic pieces including one on teaching detective fiction. A member of Mystery Writers of America, he is a past recipient of the Helen McCloy/Mystery Writers of America Scholarship for a novel in progress. He has been on the New England Crime Bake Planning Committee for fourteen years and is a long-time board member of Sisters in Crime New England. He lives in Connecticut with his wife, Annette, an artist, and his two rescue dogs, Quincy and Dexter.

    Author Links:

    Website - http://angpompano.com
    Facebook - https://www.facebook.com/A.J.Pompano/
    Twitter - https://twitter.com/AngPompano
    Instagram - https://www.instagram.com/angpompano/


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    Guest Post: Abby Vandiver - A DEADLY INSIDE SCOOP




    Happy Tuesday, book people! It's another rainy day here in Charleston, West Virginia and I don't relish the thought of having to get up, dressed in outside clothing, and go out to pick up my meds and other items, but I must. I love seeing nature rebound in the Spring but my seasonal allergies and asthma aren't big fans! On the plus side, I can go out early, run my errands, and then get back home so I can spend the rest of the day reading!

    Well, back to more bookish discussions. Today, I'm pleased to welcome Abby Vandiver (also known as Abby Collette), author of A Deadly Inside Scoop scheduled for release next month. Like many of you readers, I'm passionate about books as well as learning about new books. As a result, it's always a pleasure to welcome a new-to-me author to The Book Diva's Reads. Thank you, Ms. Vandiver for taking the time to stop by today. I hope that all of you will enjoy learning about Ms. Vandiver's writing journey and add A Deadly Inside Scoop to your TBR list. Is it too early for ice cream because I'm beginning to crave some just looking at that cover?! 🍨




    My Writing Journey
    By Abby L. Vandiver

    Having the life of your dreams, including having a job that excites you, is probably not a dream you can hope to come true. Sure some people are lucky, but many don't get to do it. They just don't get to follow their passion and do the things that satisfy them. Passionate people are happy people. There are moments, I'm sure you'd agree, when you slip away and do the things you love—read, bake, travel.  Moments we look forward to. Moments we cherish. But many aren't able to find that same satisfaction in our jobs.

    Like many people in search of doing something they enjoyed, I've done a lot of things in my life—work-wise. When I was young I had dreams of being an actor, a teacher, and a pediatrician, while I did teach for a few years, I never did realize those dreams. It seemed that I was never satisfied with the path my life was going and kept switching up. Finally, I decided I wouldn't ever be passionate about what I did for a living. That is until now. 

    It took me getting sick—nearly bedridden for more than four years—to realize what it was I enjoyed doing. Writing. Sometimes I guess, you just have to stand still instead of chasing things down to find out where you belong in life. Although, in hindsight, I realized that in all of my endeavors throughout my life, I have always been drawn to jobs where writing was a big part of the position. And I see that I was always good at it. (It would have been nice to have realized that about myself long ago, I could have been on my writing journey so much earlier!)

    When I first started writing I was ill and it took my mind off of how sick I was. It took my mind off of all the tests and hospital stays and the worry of what was wrong with me (it took doctors four years to figure it out). I don't talk much about it or share my illness, other than to say that's when I started writing, but it was a turning point in my life that I'm sure I will always remember.

    Writing came easy for me. At first, I did it just for something to do but then I wanted to share my work with others. Online retailers like Amazon made it super easy to upload a manuscript and get my book out into the world. And after my first book was published, I found I enjoyed sharing my work with readers and learning from the feedback  I was received. 

    As a self-published author, I penned more than fifteen books (and hope to write more). Transitioning to a traditionally published author took no talent of mine. Many authors have to query (and query and query) but thank the lucky stars I didn't. Henery Press, a small cozy mystery publisher, saw my independently published book, Bed & Breakfast Bedlam, and asked would I do a three-book deal with them. I didn't hesitate (well, maybe for a moment while I was jumping around with excitement). Next, before my first traditionally published book was released, a literary agent contacted me for representation.

    It seems that my passion found me. 

    It's been a fun ride and now I have a new cozy out published by Penguin called A Deadly Inside Scoop. Hope you'll check it out. It's a cozy with ice cream and of course murder!


    Monday, April 20, 2020

    Guest Post: Gabriel Valjan - DIRTY OLD TOWN

    Dirty Old Town by Gabriel Valjan Banner



    Hello, book people. If you're anything like me, then the first thing you do when you wake up is to check your phone to see what day it is. I no longer care about the time, but I need to know what day it is and I still seem to forget. I'm reading more but sleeping less. I'm not necessarily stressed, anxious, or depressed, although I do worry about all of my family and friends that are deemed "essential" and are out working every day during this pandemic. My prayers go out to all that have been touched by COVID-19. 

    Sorry, went off on a tangent there...that's the other thing, my brain seems to be going off in multiple directions all at once. I can't imagine how authors, musicians, and artists are maintaining their creativity during these trying times. And today's guest, Gabriel Valjan, author of the recently released Dirty Old Town, will be discussing just that. Thank you, Mr. Valjan for stopping by today.


    Creativity in the Time of COVID-19

    We're living in difficult times. Anxiety, uncertainty, and fear have become real demons in our lives. All of us are experiencing an uncomfortable vulnerability and yet compassion and kindness abound. Thousands are making personal protective equipment for the courageous doctors and nurses in hospitals and nursing homes. Millions of Americans are learning anew how to spend time alone, together and rethink how we relate to each other, as Nature has created an unnatural pause to our daily rhythms of school, work, and other stressors.

    We've learned simplicity is not so simple. We've learned the interdependency we have with each other and the poignancy of what we have forgotten but should remember. Teachers are important. We may thank them, if at all. Cashiers at the local market are important. We thank them, as we take the receipt, if at all. The delivery person, whom we've thought as a provider of convenience because we didn't want to cook tonight, is now yet another person our lives depend upon to bring us food and supplies. And our elders, who have been mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters, veterans and workers, who had laid down the metaphorical pavement for the next generation, are now our most vulnerable. We learn, we forget, we learn what we've forgotten. Everyone matters. Common decency matters. Contact matters.

    All of us have been asked to sacrifice our routines and our daily freedoms. Some of us are not responding to it well. Most of us are experiencing and living all those questions posed and pondered by philosophers, whom we dismissed. What matters? What is important? How am I living my life, and how will I live my life after this?

    I'm a writer. Most of my writer friends have had to cancel appearances, readings at other venues. Most of the conferences where I meet readers and get to raise the glass and congratulate my friends on their successes in the past year have been canceled. Bouchercon, Malice Domestic, and Thriller Fest have all yielded to the times. I fear other writer conferences will succumb. These literary occasions are not just about awards, just another opportunity to sell books and sign them, or just an excuse to party. Writers value readers. We love meeting them. A kind word of appreciation validates and makes up for the hours of the anguish of self-doubt, and the despair of feeling like a cork bobbing on the relentless sea of anonymity.

    Writing matters. 

    Creativity matters.

    Writers too numerous to name here have written, under the threat of death, imprisonment, and torture. We have read them. The reality of their creative efforts was artificial. Conquest. Politics. War.

    Writers have also crafted masterpieces during times of contagion. Boccaccio. Defoe. Porter. Far more writers have looked to the past or to the future to convey the human condition under duress. Camus. P.D. James. le Carré. London. Mandel. Manzoni. Mary Shelley. Saramago.

    Technology avails us of means unheard of in the past. Crowd. Zoom. Writers around the world have done readings online, often to aid the very bookstores that have hosted them for readings. Libraries have made available virtual books, and streaming movies and music. Musicians have given concerts or performed solo. 

    Contact matters. Art matters because it is not an escape from life, but a means to confront the most difficult moments in all our lives, and a way to document all our emotions for posterity, near and far. In these troubled times, as we are reminded of our mortality, we must remember what defines us is how we respond to adversity, conflict, and other difficulties. 

    We exist. We endure. We recover. We remember. 

    We create.