GRETCHEN ARCHER – DOUBLE STRIKE – DAVIS WAY CAPER #3

It took me almost a week to read Double Strike. I could easily have read it in one marathon night, but I was enjoying it so much, I intentionally slowed down to make it last longer. I didn’t want to eat it in one bite, as it were.

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I didn’t think it was possible, but Gretchen Archer and her cast of characters have gotten even better — and they were already wonderful. Ms. Archer’s writing is crisp, sure-footed, smart. You can clearly hear the author’s voice, something that was a bit muffled in earlier books.

I have it on good authority the editors — this time — let her “have at it.” There are sections in Double Strike, descriptive, opinionated, and hilarious. So good I stopped and read them aloud to my husband. I don’t usually do that, but I was having a “wow” reading moment and had to share.

Davis Way and her associates are becoming more 3-dimensional. No more cartoons. Everyone is a person with motivation, a back story, and a unique personality. Even the “bad guys” are complicated. The interpersonal relationships are also filling out and filling up. Bradley Cole works with Davis, at the same casino. Ms. Archer could easily create an entire other series — the same events from Bradley’s point of view.

I loved the book. The complexity and depth of old and new characters. The intricacies of a plot which the author handles perfectly, never dropping a stitch. I have read a lot of mysteries over the years. Thousands of mysteries — and I have never seen a plot of this complexity handled better or more elegantly.  Gretchen Archer is a champ and a pro. Each book is better than the last.

Bradley’s growth as a character is particularly satisfying. He always had potential, but he was never around enough to become real. Now he’s in the middle of the action. All of the “regulars” get flushed out in this third book. Fantasy, No-Hair … even Bianca Sanders are growing new layers, developing depth.

Ms. Archer’s descriptions of southern culture are mind-blowing. I doubt they will make her popular in Alabama, but it’s some of the best, snarky, sharp, intelligent descriptive writing of a place and its culture I’ve ever read. Astute, witty. Highly quotable.

Double Strike Gretchen Archer

I am so impressed with Double Strike.  I hate to gush, but it was a privilege and a pleasure to read this, especially because I’ve been a fan of Gretchen Archer since Double Whammy. And I was sure  — knew for sure — that this author has “it,” the special something which separates an author from the herd, makes her unique, memorable. And I’m betting “best seller.”

I didn’t want Double Strike to end, but when I got to the final few chapters, I knew I could not put it down until I finished it. It was 2:30 in the morning when I finished the book … and I read the last chapter three times, just to make sure I hadn’t missed anything. A fantastic, climactic finish to this story! Our intrepid Davis Way has plenty of bread crumbs to follow into her next adventure. A satisfying conclusion for readers with enough dangly bits to make us come back and read the next installment.

Author, author!!

From the publisher:

Bellissimo Resort and Casino Super Spy Davis Way has three problems: She’s desperate to change her marital status, she has a new boss who speaks in hashtags, and Bianca Sanders has confiscated her clothes. All of which bring on a headache hot enough to spark a fire. Solving her problems means stealing a car. From a dingbat lawyer.

Bellissimo Resort and Casino Super Spy Davis Way has three goals: Keep the Sanders family out of prison, regain her footing in her relationship, and find the genius who wrote the software for Future Gaming. One of which, the manhunt part, is iffy. Because when Alabama hides someone, they hide them good.

DOUBLE STRIKE. A VIP invitation to an extraordinary high-stakes gaming event, as thieves, feds, dance instructors, shady bankers, kidnappers, and gold waiters go all in. #Don’tMissIt

Double Strike is available from Amazon in paperback, hardcover, and Kindle. Do not miss it! This is a great read. Fast, funny, witty, intelligent … and fun. You will like it. That’s a promise.

And you will love Walter, wherever he may be.

BETTE A. STEVENS, AUTHOR – PURE TRASH AND DOG BONE SOUP

dog bone soupAnd now, there’s the rest of the story. DOGBONE SOUP is the long-awaited “rest of the story”of Shawn Daniels and his brother. Bette Stevens novel is now available for your reading pleasure. And it is a pleasure.

Bette has the purest, freshest writing style I’ve read in many a long year. Reading her prose is like peering into an exceptionally clear, deep pool. It looks like the bottom is close enough to touch, but watch out. Those waters run deep.

This author knows how to tell a story. Her style and the story are a perfect blend. Like the clear water, this author runs deep.

If I hadn’t come down with the flu, I’d be writing my review. In the meantime, here’s a good one from Barbara Ann Mojica’s Blog, GROWING UP MUCH TOO SOON.

DOG BONE SOUP is a wonderful story. It’s a coming of in a hardscrabble world, armed only with courage, determination, intelligence, and grit. Sometimes, that’s enough.


PURE TRASH: BETTE STEVENS – The Prequel

There are so many television shows and movies, not to mention sappy posts on Facebook and other social media sites about “the good old days” … kind of makes me a trifle queasy. As someone who grew up in those good old days, I can attest to their not being all that great. There were good things about them, but it was by no means all roses.

Good is a relative term, after all. If you were white, Christian and middle class … preferably male and not (for example) a woman with professional ambitions … the world was something resembling your oyster. A family could live on one salary. If you were “regular folk” and didn’t stand out in any particular way, life could be gentle and sweet.

The thing is, an awful lot of people aren’t and weren’t people who could blend in. If you were poor, anything but white or Christian, or a woman who wanted to be more than a mother and homemaker, the world was a far rougher place.

Bette Stevens
Bette Stevens

Pure Trash: The Story: Shawn Daniels in a Poor Boy’s Adventure: 1950s Rural New England is set in rural New England in the mid 1950s. It’s a sharp reminder how brutal our society could be to those deemed different or inferior. Not only was bullying common, it wasn’t considered wrong.

I remember how badly the poor kids in my class were treated when I was going through elementary school. How the teachers took every opportunity to humiliate kids whose clothing was tattered and whose shoes were worn. I remember feeling awful for those little girls and boys.

Not merely bullied by their classmates (who oddly, didn’t much notice the differences until the teachers pointed them out), but tormented by those who were supposed to care for and protect them. Bad enough for me and the handful of Jewish kids as Christmas rolled around. For them, it was the wrong time of year all year round.

In this short story, Shawn and Willie Daniels set off one Saturday in search of whatever they can find that they can turn into money. One man’s trash can be a poor child’s treasure. Bottles that people throw away could be collected and turned into ice cream and soda pop. Shawn is excited. It’s going to be a terrific day. Until the real world intrudes and Shawn is sharply and painfully reminded that he’s different … and not in a good way.

The story is about bullying, but more important, it’s about being different and being judged without compassion, without understanding or love.

It’s a very fast read. Only 21 pages, the story flies by. I was left wanting more. I want to know how the boys grow up. I want them to become CEOs of big corporations so they can thumb their noses at their whole miserable society. An excellent short story leaving plenty of room for thought.

Though set in 1955, the story is entirely relevant today. Despite much-touted progress, we still judge each other harshly based on appearance and assumptions. Everything changes … but maybe not so much.

For lots more information about the book and its author, stop by the authors’ website: 4 Writers and Readers. Pure Trash is available on Kindle and as a paperback from Amazon.

Crime and Redemption – From a Dead Sleep, John A. Daly

FROM A DEAD SLEEP
John A. Daley

Publisher: BQB Publishing — June 25, 2013
Category: Thriller/Suspense

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Growing up in the secluded mountain town of Winston, Colorado – the middle of nowhere – carries its own burdens. Especially when you aren’t the kind of guy who gets much respect from anyone. Not that Sean Coleman has earned much respect. He’s always been a bully, even when he was in high school. His manners and personal habits are distasteful and he’s a drunk, the kind of drunk who gets mean then falls face down and lays there until morning.

The only thing that’s kept him going is his work as a security guard at his uncle’s company. It’s not much of a job, but Sean takes the responsibility seriously. Not far below his bad mannered alcoholic exterior, he wants to be a hero. He’s addicted to crime shows and he has an active — many would say overactive — imagination.

Whatever else is wrong with him, he’s no dummy. Sean is a keen observer of his surroundings, a man who notices small things, details others miss or dismiss. It’s gotten him into trouble in the past and it’s about to do it again. Early in the morning following a particularly unfortunate night of bad choices and heavy drinking, Sean is the sole witness to a bizarre suicide. The man is a mystery, a total  stranger — rare in a tiny rural town. Slowed by difficult terrain and his own sluggish, hung-over reflexes, his attempt to prevent the death are unsuccessful. Equally unsuccessful but much more embarrassing are his attempts to convince local law enforcement something really happened.

There’s not a shred of solid evidence. The body is gone, flushed away by the powerful current of the river into which it fell. Most people think Sean’s account is his imagination or an outright lie. Yet a there are some folks who know him well and harbor a nagging suspicion there might be something to his strange story.

Lacking a body or hard evidence, Sean finds he has become — again — the town’s biggest joke. But this time, he knows what he saw. He can’t let it go. When he finds a few scraps of evidence, he determines to follow the trail wherever it leads. He’s going to see this through to a conclusion. For good or ill. Because he’s been living a life he no longer wants. He needs a win, something to restore his credibility with the town, his family, and above all, himself.

Sean Coleman needs redemption.

With no money or even a cell phone, a credit card or a plan … armed with a fierce determination to prove himself and his father’s old 45 revolver, Sean embarks on a quest. It takes him cross-country to uncover a network of evil uglier and more dangerous than he imagined possible.

Sean Coleman is complex. An unlikely protagonist, a gray man in a black and white world. The theme reminded me of Clint Eastwood’s “Gran Torino” – the gruff, anti-social protagonist looking for salvation in a most unlikely way.

FROM A DEAD SLEEP is a page turner, an exciting, well-written thriller with a solid back story and more than enough plot twists to keep you guessing. Most interesting is the slow discovery of Sean as his personality is peeled back, layer by layer. Sean Coleman is not easy to like, yet you quickly find yourself paying him grudging respect, even admiration.

Enigmas are nested inside mysteries. It’s a lot of book and nothing is as it seems. The journey is well worth taking.

About the Author:

“Some writers are thoughtful. Some have style. John Daly has both. When I read his work, it’s time well spent.” – Bernard Goldberg, New York Times bestselling author of ‘Bias‘.

A lifelong Coloradoan, John Daly graduated from the University of Northern Colorado with a degree in business administration and computer information systems. He spent the next fifteen years developing accounting software and Internet-based work-flow collaboration solutions.Daly-John

With a thirst for creative expression that went beyond the logic and absolutes of computer programming, John developed an interest in writing. His early work included newspaper editorials and film and television reviews for entertainment websites. He later became drawn toward more substantive commentary on world events. He currently writes political, cultural, and media analysis columns for the website of Bernard Goldberg, former CBS News journalist and The New York Times bestselling author.

John felt compelled to take his writing to the next level after watching a television interview with former NFL football player, Tim Green. Inspired by Green’s career transition from a professional athlete to an accomplished author, John found the motivation to begin work on his first novel, FROM A DEAD SLEEP.

FROM A DEAD SLEEP is the story of a profoundly flawed man who witnesses a tragic event that no one else believes, and that man’s quest for the truth and redemption. The mystery novel unfolds in the dense mountain ranges of Colorado where John has spent much time camping, hiking, and enjoying the outdoors.
John lives in Greeley, Colorado, with his wife and two children.

You can visit John at these websites:

 johndalybooks.com or fromadeadsleep.com

John on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/JohnDalyAuthor

John on Twitter: https://twitter.com/JohnDalyBooks

COME BACK DOUGLAS ADAMS! WE NEED YOU!

douglas adams inspired "Hitch hikers guide to the galaxy" H2G2If ever our world has needed the gentle, hilarious madness of Douglas Adams, now would be the time. He was born on my birthday, but five years later than me … and he died in 2001, which seems to have been a good year for endings and a bad one for beginnings.

I love Douglas Adams — in case you didn’t already guess. Although he has been gone from our world for 14 years I miss him as much as ever. Maybe more. The world has become such a grim place and he could always make me laugh — not only because he was funny, but because he made fun of the universe. Such good times we had together. And since he recorded some of his books, I can actually still hear him speak.

I needed a short audiobook to listen to. I needed short, and I need funny. So I returned, again, to “Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency.” It’s just over three and a half hours — precisely the right length and correct degree of lunacy to lighten my spirits.

Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detection Agency and The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul were published in 1987 and 1988. They were originally going to be a trilogy (The Salmon of Doubt was to be the third part) but the Douglas Adams up and died before completing it. The only unforgivable thing he did was to die. It was May of 2001 and worse was to follow later that year.

I first read these when they were published in the late 1980s. I have no idea how many times I’ve read them since, but I keep spare copies on my Kindle in case I need a fix. I have owned many copies in paperback and hard cover, and have had the audio versions on cassette, CD, and now as Audible downloads. I have listened to the recordings so many times you might think I’d grow tired of them. I never do. Of the books Douglas Adams wrote — I love all of them — these two are my favorites.

Unlike the Hitchhiker series, the Dirk Gently books have plots. They follow a linear timeline. Bizarre, outlandish, hilarious, but are real detective stories, albeit full of ghosts, gods, and other weirdness.

Long dark tea time of the soulI love the character of Dirk Gently and have always wondered how much of Douglas Adams he embodies. Certainly his description is that of Douglas himself. Dirk is strange. He doesn’t understand his strangeness, but has accepted it and learned to use it for good. He is the “holistic detective.” His purposeful yet random behavior produces results and he is especially good at finding lost objects. And people. Both alive and dead.

The Long Dark Tea Time of the Soul was the book in which Adams introduced the idea that gods without worshipers fade away, that their powers spring from having followers. The idea was new when the books were published in 1987 and 1988. Since then, the concept has been widely adopted by many authors and is now a staple in the fantasy genre.

The title of the book is taken from Adams’ novel Life, the Universe and Everything (my favorite of the Hitchhiker series) to describe the wretched boredom of immortal being Wowbagger, the Infinitely Prolonged. It’s also a play on Dark Night of the Soul by Saint John of the Cross.

Douglas Adams left his fingerprints all over the fantasy genre. Although Dirk was not a magician, he had magic. Descended from him is a legion of magic-wielding detectives solving crimes around the world. Douglas’ proclamation that “The Gods live!” has become the backbone of more than a few well-known authors. An entire sub-genre of literature is peopled by immortals and gods from various Pantheons.

Douglas Adams got there first and got there laughing.

If you haven’t read “Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency” and “The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul” you should correct that omission as soon as possible. You don’t have to read them in order, but I think they are better that way although each book stands on its own. You’ll love the gods … gods of rain, gods of thunder, gods of every little thing … as they roam the earth, wondering what happened to all their worshipers.

REMINDING ME THERE’S HOPE

You’ve got to hand it to Amazon. They know how to treat a customer. The other day, the DVD I ordered showed as “delivered” to my mailbox, but it wasn’t there. I have no doubt that the post office delivered it. Somewhere. They always deliver mail. Somewhere. Sometimes, we get the mail for everyone on the street. The mail deliverer apparently feels one house or another — we are all the same, aren’t we? Initially, when it was one or two items, we whatever it was to the recipient and they were glad to see it.

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After a while, the volume increased and we became more selective. We didn’t bother to deliver obvious junk mail. Who needs more junk mail? Eventually we began getting mail for everyone on the street, plus stuff from people whose names and addresses no one could not possibly mistake for us. We gave up. Now, we take it all back to the post office. It is their job to sort and deliver mail.

Packages are not their strong suit. Actually, delivering mail isn’t their strong suit, in any form. Considering mail is their entire purpose on earth, it’s a sad commentary of how low USPS has fallen. Nowadays, many small packages disappear. Most of the things I order come from Amazon, so the vanishing stuff are DVDs, books, and other small items. Amazon never makes a fuss about it. They just give me my money back, though today I would have preferred the DVD. They didn’t have another. I hope whoever kept it likes classic movies. Harvey is a good one, and hard to come by.

Today’s notification from Amazon was a welcome reminder that I wrote a book, and that sometimes, someone buys a copy. I have set the price as low as Amazon allows, so a single sale isn’t big bucks. This time, after alerting me earlier in the month that I was going to receive a direct deposit (but they wouldn’t tell me how much), today they actually deposited the money.

amazon payment Jan 2015

Yes, your eyes do not deceive you. It’s a royalty payment. I sold a book. Kindle version.

Someone, somewhere (in this case, I actually know who because she told me) is reading my book. It won’t make me rich, but it does make me happy. And if someone would return the DVD of Harvey, that would renew my faith in humankind.

DOG BONE SOUP — BETTE STEVENS

DOG BONE SOUP Launch Banner

THE REALITY OF RURAL POVERTY 
A RIPPING GREAT TALE OF GROWING UP AND TRIUMPH OF THE SPIRIT!

DOG BONE SOUP is not only the title of Bette A. Stevens’s debut novel; it ranks high among the paltry meals that the book’s protagonist, Shawn Daniels, wants to forget. Plodding through mounting snow and battling howling winds, Shawn is ready to leave it all behind — living in poverty, Dad’s drinking, life in foster care, the divorce, the bullies….

Travel with Shawn Daniels through the guts and the glory of life. It’s all in DOG BONE SOUP, a Boomer’s coming-of-age saga. Available now at AMAZON.

From the Reviewers

“Dog Bone Soup is the poignant tale of a dysfunctional family struggling to survive in America in the 50s and 60s, when most others were on the crest of a wave. It will make you laugh, it will make you cry. But most of all it will make you glad you read it.” ~ Charlie Bray, founder of the Indietribe

“In Dog Bone Soup, Bette Stevens captures the feeling and images of growing up in hardscrabble times perfectly.” ~ John Clark, librarian and author

DOG BONE SOUP

READ the opening Excerpt from Chapter One right here…

DOG BONE SOUP BW Border 2015The postcard arrived four days before my eighteenth birthday. All I had to do now was sign the final papers and light out for basic training. I could hardly wait to leave this place behind.

There were six of us ready to become soldiers. The other five guys were headed to Fort Dix. Soon as we were inducted, the sergeant who swore us in started calling us a bunch of lily-assed bastards and worse. When the jerk marched the other five guys off, I was happy as hell I wasn’t one of them.

Lieutenant Richards called me into his office. “You’ll be heading out tomorrow, Private Daniels. Here are your tickets.”

We sat in his office and talked about my future with the U.S. Army. Then he handed me a schedule for the next day’s journey and we went over every detail.

“Now let’s get you home so you can get a good night’s sleep before you fly off to serve Uncle Sam, soldier.”

“Good luck Private,” the lieutenant said when he dropped me off at the house. We saluted and I stood there watching until his car disappeared over the hill.

I’d always liked army people. They called me Mr. Daniels and even sir sometimes. Now I was officially a private in the U.S. Army and I was ready to start a new life. I pictured myself in an officer’s uniform one day—a lieutenant, a captain, maybe even a general.

Mum and I didn’t get much more than a few winks of sleep that night. I don’t know how many pots of coffee she perked while we sat at the kitchen table and talked the night away. Of course, it was Mum did most of the talking. Once she opened her picture books, I felt like I was drinking in the life I wanted to leave.

Mum took all of those pictures with her Brownie—that camera was her pride and joy. None of us kids was allowed to touch it unless she supervised a picture-taking every now and then. If Dad wasn’t around, it was me peeking through the lens. Mum was fussy about taking pictures just so.

Five books were piled on the table and we went through them one page at a time. Mum had a story for every snap shot. Some made me laugh so hard that I doubled over.

It was two minutes shy of three when she closed the last album.

“Thanks for staying up. I’ve got the alarm set for six and I know that won’t give us much sleep.” Mum pulled out her hanky, sniffled and hugged me before we turned in. My leaving would to be hard on her.

Willie was snoring away, likely dreaming about cars. I slipped in next to him and pulled away some puffs and huddled under them.

The minute I closed my eyes I started dreaming about my new life. No more freezing to death up north. I was headed for southern sunshine and I saw myself soaking it all in.

Bzzzzzzz. I jumped out of bed, threw on my clothes, grabbed the suitcase and headed for the kitchen. Mum already had breakfast on the stove, so I ran outside to do my business and came back in to grab a hot biscuit and down it with a cup of steaming coffee.

I was half-frozen and snow was whipping around me in circles when I headed out on the three-mile walk into town to catch that bus.

I shook flakes big as quarters from my jacket when I climbed the steps of the Greyhound. Two hours and I’d be boarding a plane headed to Fort Jackson. South Carolina was sure the place to be, especially in February.

### end of excerpt

About the author

BAS Author logo stamp 2015Inspired by nature and human nature, author Bette A. Stevens is a retired elementary and middle school teacher, a wife, mother of two and grandmother of five. Stevens lives in Central Maine with her husband on their 37-acre farmstead where she enjoys writing, gardening, walking and reveling in the beauty of nature. She advocates for children and families, for childhood literacy and for the conservation of monarch butterflies (milkweed is the only plant that monarch caterpillars will eat).

Bette A. Stevens is the author of award-winning picture book AMAZING MATILDA; home/school resource, The Tangram Zoo and Word Puzzles Too!; and PURE TRASH, the short story prequel to DOG BONE SOUP.

Find out more about the author and her books right here on “YOUR AMAZON”

VISITING WITH BETTE — AN AFTERNOON IN SKOWHEGAN

Bette’s new novel, DOG BONE SOUP has just been released. I’m about half way through it and I can hardly wait to finish it so I can review it. It is wonderful. She has a writing style so pure, it’s as if the story tells itself. It’s a story of coming of age in a hardscrabble world. Trials and triumph in northern New England.

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This seemed a perfect time to remember the wonderful afternoon we all spend last October in Skowhegan. We were staying at an inn in Jackman, Maine. It’s just up the mountain — about 85 miles via route 201, from Skowhegan. In rural New England, that’s “just around the corner.”

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Down the mountain we drove. Around 85 miles down, same mileage back.

We met Bette Stevens, of 4 Writers and Readers. She was in the middle of a round of editing her next book, but she took a bit of time off to spend the afternoon with me and Garry.

Bette Stevens
Bette Stevens

A great lunch and Ken’s Family Restaurant, a trip to the Magaret Chase Smith Library, and a brief sojourn to see the world’s tallest Indian (statue), created by Bernard Langlais (1921-1977), a sculptor from Old Town who attended the local art school.

Marilyn and Bette
Marilyn and Bette

Garry and I were wearing our matched pair of Serendipity sweat shirts. You could hardly tell us apart!

Garry and Bette
Garry and Bette

We had great conversation at lunch, then spent some time taking picture of each other, visiting the library and admiring the statue, which is oddly located next to a Cumberland Farms.

View from the Margaret Chase Smith Library
View from the Margaret Chase Smith Library

We know each other on the Internet, yet there’s always some nervousness when finally, we meet in person. Will we really like one another?

The Margaret Chase Smith Library
The Margaret Chase Smith Library

No problem. It was love at first sight. I think we are officially best-friends-forever. I don’t know when we will be back this way, but I’m sure we will come again. Maybe next year or the year after that. But we will come back. How could we not return to so much natural beauty and great people?

World's Tallest Indian (Statue)
World’s Tallest Indian (Statue)