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)

JAMES GARNER AND THE GARNER FILES

Marilyn Armstrong:

I reviewed this a couple of times. Now, yet another great review by a great blogger. James Garner was an under-appreciated performer, but turned out a wonderful body of work. His autobiography is worth reading … rather better written and less self-promotion than you expect from a celebrity bio. And this is a fine review.

Also see: THE GARNER FILES: A MEMOIR – JAMES GARNER AND JON WINOKUR (2012) on Serendipity.

Originally posted on Eagle-Eyed Editor:

Oklahoma Sunset in Oklahoma. Image courtesy of zaccrain, Morguefile.

The movie “Support Your Local Sheriff” with James Garner playing sheriff Jason McCullough has to be one of the funniest Western spoofs ever made.  One of the best scenes has Garner walking out of the sheriff’s office during a gunfight, hollering “Hold it! Just hold it!” A bunch of puzzled gunfighters stop shooting as the sheriff makes his way across the street. As Garner reaches the other side, he shouts, “Okay, go ahead!” and dives behind a woodpile as the shooting resumes.

Humor seems to have played a large part of Garner’s career as an actor. With Jon Winokur, James Garner wrote a wonderful memoir called The Garner Files. (Hey, when a book has an introduction by singer/actress/legend Julie Andrews, can it fail to be good?) In the book, James Garner talks about growing up in Oklahoma, what it was like working on “Maverick”…

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MY BOOK LIVES – “THE 12-FOOT TEEPEE” IS THE BOOK

Marilyn Armstrong:

I always feel a little humbled when I realize someone is actually reading — and enjoying — The 12-Foot Teepee, by me. Thank you for this lovely review and for being lovely YOU!

In response to today’s Daily Prompt: Connect the Dots.

Originally posted on soul n spirit:

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Yesterday only I purchased this book on kindle which has been written by none other than Marilyn Armstrong, Serendipityfame and today this prompt came as a surprise. For old bloggers Marilyn Armstrong and her blog doesn’t need any introduction. As far as new folks out there……Few words about the author:

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ANGELIQUE – UNDAUNTED AFTER ALL THESE YEARS

“Nounou,” inquired Angelique, “Why did Giles de Retz kill so many children?”

With these words, one of the world’s greatest series of historical fiction begins. It is a translation from the French. I have been told by many people who’ve read the series in French, that much was lost in a not-very-good translation.

angelique book cover

Nothing will change the way I feel about these books. Most were written long years ago. I read the first of them when I was 13. I still have the book, though the binding is broken and the pages are beginning to turn to dust.

The first book was published in 1957 and I read it in 1960. In those days, I lived in books. I didn’t have friends. I was too different. I’ve always been out of step. Sometimes, a lot, occasionally almost catching up with my peers. But back then … I was downright weird.

Then I met Angelique.

Fifth child of an impoverished country nobleman, Angélique de Sancé grows up in the Poitou marshlands, a region known as the “Green Venice”, halfway between the ocean and the forests. She is a free child, as one with the forest and the marshes, discovering nature’s healing secrets with the help of the witch Mélusine. Her logical destiny would be to marry a poor country nobleman, have children and spend her life fighting for a meager subsistence.

Destiny has other plans in store for her. At 17, when she returns from the convent where she has been getting an education, she finds herself betrothed to the wealthy count of Toulouse, Joffrey de Peyrac. He is 12 years her senior, lame, scarred and rumored to be a wizard.

from the review by Harvey Adkins

Angélique’s life and adventures inspired me and gave me courage.

angelique pages book

Thus the story begins. In subsequent volumes, they will take you through most of the world of Louis XIV. Joffrey becomes the love of Angélique’s life. After he is burned at the stake for heresy (and for being too politically powerful), Angélique finds herself homeless, penniless, with babies to protect in the underworld of Paris. Yet she rises up from the gutters back to the glittering court of Louis XIV. Confronts him on the murder of her husband, rebels against him, leads a group of Huguenots to the New World. Builds a colony, fights emissaries of the church and King to retain her freedom. Along the way, she has children — from a variety of fathers, including one resulting from rape — and one is murdered.

With all the power of Crown and Church arrayed against her, Angélique finds a way through and emerges victorious. Bowed, but never beaten. Her defeats are temporary setbacks, her triumphs change the world.

She is deathlessly beautiful. If you are a women taking on the world, it’s never bad to have golden hair and hypnotic green eyes. But Angélique doesn’t win the day using sex. When she leads, she carries a gun and a sword. She will kill in defense of her own (and does). She will fight for her family, her home, her beliefs.

She became much more than a fictional character to me. At a time when female role models were few and far between, Angélique was fearless. Unstoppable. No simpering lady of fashion, she was tough. Smart. She suffered the worst life could dish out. She faced down unspeakable challenges. And there were casualties.

Back in the real world, author Anne Golan was fighting her publisher for the rights to her books.

Anne Golon was born 17 December 1921 as Simone Changeux in Toulon, France. She published her first novel at 18 as Joëlle Danterne. During World War II, she traveled by bicycle through France and Spain writing under various pen-names. She helped create France Magazine. Was sent to Africa as a journalist, where she met Vsevolod Sergeïvich Goloubinoff, her husband, Serge Golon.

angelique french editionThey collaborated on Angélique. Anne wrote. Serge did the considerable research required by these surprisingly accurate books. The first book in the series was an astounding success. The books were credited to Serge and Anne Golon, (Sergeanne Golon), the names having been merged by publishers who were reluctant to print books written by women.

In 1972, Anne and Serge Golon went to Canada to continue research. Anne wrote Angélique and the Ghosts. Serge died.

Anne continued writing and raising her 4 children. Between 1972 and 1985, she wrote four more books. While battling Hachette for unpaid royalties and rights, Anne Golon lived in extreme poverty. She finally won, leaving her sole owner of the works.

These are the books which were translated into English:

Angélique, The Marquise of the Angels
Angélique: The Road to Versailles (US and the UK with the 1st volume, Angélique)
Angélique and the King
Angélique and the Sultan (aka, Angélique in Barbary)
Angélique in Revolt
Angélique in Love
The Countess Angélique
The Temptation of Angélique (In Canada as: The Temptation of Angélique 1: The Jesuit Trap, The Temptation of Angélique 2: The Downfall of Goldbeard)
Angélique and the Demon
Angélique and the Ghosts.

The English translation of this series stopped abruptly with Angélique and the Ghosts. Anne Golon’s fans — like their fictional heroine — wanted to know what had happened to the author. We found her, in Paris, alive, well, and still writing. We learned — as of August, 2009 — there were three yet-untranslated books already in the series:

Angélique à Quebec
Angélique: Route de L’Espoir
Victoire d’Angélique

Ms. Golon also announced 2 more books: Royaume de France, (“Kingdom of France”) to follow Victoire, and a 15th and final volume, yet untitled. None of these has been translated. English-language readers — like me — have waited more than 35 years. An entire lifetime during which I have gone from adolescent to a senior citizen.

Anne-Golon

I’ve read thousands of books during these long years, but never lost hope for translations of the new Angélique book. Anne Golon is well into her 90s, but like Angélique herself, nothing short of Death himself can stop this remarkable woman.

The Angélique fan group to which I belonged fell apart some years back. There were deaths. Surviving members squabbled. You can still find information at Angélique Books. It’s not easy to find intact copies of the books, but if you are interest, don’t give up. Amazon has some. ABE Books often has copies. And there’s eBay.

Maybe there will be new copies eventually. I hope to see them republished. Soon would be good, because none of us are getting any younger.

I also wrote about Angelique in A HAPPY SLAVE TO BOOKS and HAPPILY READING MYSELF TO DEATH. At least I am consistent!


CALL ME ISHMAEL – The Daily Prompt

THE TEEPEE – I REMEMBER

Once upon a time, I built a teepee. I painted the door and filled it with things I loved. I made the poles, sanded each by hand, peeling the bark from the 16-foot saplings we had cut in our own woods.

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Then I wrote a book about building it, and about life, transformation, and other things, some funny, some sad, some just whatever. The manuscript for The 12-Foot Teepee took me about 7 months to write, about as much time to edit, then a few more months to design the cover and book. Getting it published, well … that’s another story.

This was my teepee.

It stood, through all seasons, for five years. Through snow and ice, drenching rain, hurricanes and hale, it stayed solidly anchored. This past summer, we realized the poles had rotted through. They could no longer support the canvas. And the canvas itself was mildewed and tears had appeared in various places. Its time was done. We took it down.

You can find the book on Amazon, both as a paperback and in Kindle format. It is The 12-Foot Teepee,  by Marilyn Armstrong.  My life has moved on considerably since then but writing it was a turning point in my life.

And for the years the teepee was mine, it was the one place in the world in which I always felt safe and at peace. I will always miss it. It was also the only space I’ve ever known which was entirely, completely, absolutely mine.


Oasis — A sanctuary is a place you can escape to, to catch your breath and remember who you are. Write about the place you go to when everything is a bit too much.

THE MOST INTERESTING MAN IN THE WORLD

Robert Langdon, the hero of Dan Brown‘s thrillers was intriguing in The Da Vinci Code, Angels & Demons and The Lost Symbol. Now he is almost unbearably suave, debonair, and fascinating in Inferno .

Inferno is a page turner. The author has created a formula for best sellers. Each is, in its own way, entertaining and fast-paced. Inferno is no exception. In this adventure set in Italy, loosely following stuff drawn from Dante Alighieri’s Inferno, Brown offers readers a sense of inclusion, as if we are all reading something that contains Truth and Meaning, but without requiring we perform any real mental exercise.

The formula works. Inferno — all 560 pages — whisks you along while feeding you tantalizing tidbits of apparently arcane knowledge. You feel you’ve been let into an exclusive club and taught the secret handshake.

As with all of Brown’s novels, Robert Langdon — my pick for The Most Interesting Man in the World — is hired (hijacked?) to unravel a mystery wrapped in an enigma, to follow a trail, find and stop a catastrophe on which the fate of humankind hinges. Which is what he always does in every book Dan Brown writes.

There is, of course, a beautiful woman of mystery … in this case, two. There are dangerous men of questionable loyalties, dreams and visions of death and plague. There is the inevitable evil genius who has constructed a terrible mechanism of ultimate destruction.The clock is ticking.

Only Robert Langdon, of all the professors in all the universities in all the world could possibly unravel the knot. This is made more difficult because, for much of the book, Dr. Langdon is suffering from amnesia and doesn’t remember several critical days and events. Not that this can stop the intrepid professor.

It’s almost as good as a trip to Italy, without the expense and stress of physical travel. Whatever Dan Brown may lack as an author, he has a remarkable gift for description. He brings his locations alive. You see them through his eyes in all their glory and it is, in my opinion, what raises his books above the ordinary and makes them memorable. You probably only remember the outline of the plots, but you remember the places because he describes them so vividly.

It’s something of a scavenger hunt. Langdon and his companion(s) follow the bread crumbs (clues) to the ultimate destination. Will he get there in time? Can he stop it from doing the evil thing the madman who set it in motion planned?

Titans and other giants are imprisoned in Hell...

There’s a bit of a surprise ending to the book. A few extra plot twists leave the story wide open for a sequel. Of course.

Inferno is a better story than The Lost Symbol because Florence trumps Washington DC as a vacation venue, though he has not yet topped The DaVinci Code.

As far as stories, got, Angels and Demons (the book, not the movie) was as silly as Harrison Ford surviving a nuclear explosion by locking himself in an old refrigerator. Nothing will ever top the nuke vs. the refrigerator for the “surely you don’t expect me to believe that” … but Langdon’s parachute jump using his jacket — and landing without even a sprained ankle — comes close. What a guy!

If you pay attention, you may notice more than a few parts don’t make sense. It is, after all, fiction. Read it for fun. Don’t take it seriously.

Dan Brown is the master of non sequitur. He has his hero making leaps of logic that go way beyond impressive. Downright psychic. The cherry on top is that Langdon accomplishes all of this while suffering from amnesia! What a guy!

It’s not great literature, but it is great recreation. It held my attention and if you’re looking for a fun book, give this one a read. It’s all action and manages to be sexy without anyone having sex, no small achievement. If there’s a trip to Florence in your future, it’s a must-read. It’s better than any guide-book.

And the end is … interesting. Oddly thought-provoking.

Inferno is available in hardcover, including a large print edition, Kindle, paperback, audio CD and as a download from Audible.com. You can find it in bookstores pretty much everywhere.