Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Catch 22

It used to be so easy!

Publishing and selling books was a breeze back then, when I published my first book.
I didn't have to worry about marketing because the books sold themselves.

I published a book on the two selling sites that were available and the sales started popping up on my dashboard.
I posted the new release on social sites and on my website, and readers clicked to buy the book and if they liked it, shared the link with their friends.

Now the market is saturated and it's a no-win battle for authors to show their books to readers and sell a few copies.

What happened?

  • First of all, a lot of competitors happened. Everyone and their aunt started writing and publishing. Some of the books were great, but the majority... well, isn't. It's because the selling sites didn't check quality, only proper formatting and grammar. 
  • A lot of new selling sites formed and it was great at the beginning because it gave the authors and readers more choices.
  • But in a short time, so many books were published that aggressive marketing became a necessity. 
  • Then, the pirate sites started popping up. Ruthless people stole eBooks, stripped off the protection and converted the books to PDF to offer it free on their website. Some of them thought books should be free, others used the free downloads as baits to increase their website traffic.
  • Then the "book stuffers" came into light. They published "books" that were only a few chapters and filled hundreds of pages with repetitive garbage. They added a link at the beginning with a bait or promise that led the reader to the end of the book. The selling site algorithm then picked it up as hundreds of pages read and paid the cheaters for the pages read. Some of these so called "authors" had the nerve to boast about making thousands of dollars a month by cheating.
  • On social sites my book posts used to be shared by a lot of people and had hundreds of comments, but people burned out by the book advertisements and are tired of seeing book promo posts. When they see posts shared by their friends, they block the author pages.
  • Reader groups used to be great as well. Readers were happy to interact with authors and clicked on book links to buy the books. Now, mostly authors are tooting their own horns in groups and the posts rarely viewed and commented by readers.
  • Today there are thousands of book promo and marketing sites offering services for various prices. Some work, most doesn't because readers got used to getting books for free. Either from pirate sites or from authors competing with each other and giving their books away for free.
  • Marketing? It's harder than ever. A few years back when I did 99 cents promo days quarterly for my books, I had hundreds of sales. Now I have to pay and because authors who can afford high priced marketing keep raising the bids to be seen, those of us with limited budget stay behind. 

I touched only a few obstacles in the lives of authors today. It's not easy to bring the books to the attention of readers. Small publishers are struggling along with self-published authors because you know, the big fish eats the small ones.
~Erika M Szabo

Click on the link to visit my website and read about my books.
I write speculative alternate history fiction, romantic urban fantasy, historical suspense novels as well as fun, educational, and bilingual books for children ages 2-14 about acceptance, friendship, family, and moral values such as accepting people with disabilities, dealing with bullies, and not judging others before getting to know them. I also like to encourage children to use their imagination and daydream about fantasy worlds.

Saturday, July 27, 2019

Hometown Memories Part 2

The Seasons at Letchworth

Marti Hurlburt
Carol Groat
Jonathan Lee
Letchworth is a gorgeous park no matter what time of year it is.  In the spring, the water rushing from the thaw has the  tributaries displaying their seasonal waterfalls while the major ones are in their full glory. 

Jonathan Lee
Lori Naqpier
Sandy Sucher
Eli De'Enn
In the fall, nature outdoes herself.  The colors add so much to the experience of visiting the park.  It was my favorite time to go.  The colors seemed to make the entire area glow.  It felt more magical.  Each stop a new palette of color to stimulate your brain while the sounds from the rushing water cleansed your soul.

Joe Pecoraro
Carol Groat

Jeanne Mcnamara
Sandy Sucher

Fall in all its glory just sings of cosy fires and hot spicy apple cider.  It makes me think of friends.

Carol Groat

Claire Harrington

 Winter offers its own special touch to the scenery here.  Even in its icy grip, the power of the falls is evident.

John Wilber
Jonathan Lee

Katie Houseknecht

 Colleen Przybysz

I hope you have enjoyed these pictures which bring my memories of this beautiful place to mind.   

Find Cindy on her:
Twitter:  https://twitter.com/cindysvoices
FB:  https://www.facebook.com/CindysVoices/

Portfilio Links


365 narration by Karina Kantas https://drive.google.com/file/d/1d0UNM-QtpvOBS84qlAr9fiEK6by7QkwG/view

Friday, July 26, 2019

The ToiBox of Serials 1.2: Heart of the Golden Stag

Over on my personal blog, The ToiBox of Words, I’ve experimented with short fiction quite a bit. I’ve entered many blog writing contests and sometimes, just played around with it. In most cases, I’ve found myself expanding the stories I started on my blog and turning them into something more. All the stories in this series will be a product of what I started on my blog and then later added to in private. I will be sharing these stories in parts and encourage readers to leave positive or critical feedback (rude comments will be deleted). Perhaps, one day I’ll publish another personal anthology with these. Enjoy.

Side note: This story has never actually appeared on the ToiBox blog but was derived from a contest I entered and did not win. Still, the submission process was a good learning experience for me. This story is a retelling/reimagining with a twist. 

Heart of the Golden Stag, part 2
Read part 1 here.
The giggles and snaps of children playing in the alley below jolted Jamie’s body forward as dream and reality collided. Jamie rushed to the window, heart pounding and sweat dripping from her bushy unkempt brow. Below, little boys kicked a can back and forth between them as Jamie fought back tears. What a sad and stupid girl I can be sometimes. Shrugging her shoulders, she reached into the worn pockets of her men’s trousers to pull out a coin.
Tossing it down to the boys below, she called out in a gruff, “Bread and tea, young ones.”
The smaller of the two boys caught the coin, as usual, and then pulled the other along before replying, “Right away, Mr. Jaime. Be up soon.”
With the boys off to fetch her breakfast, Jamie quickly attended to her daily costuming. First, a few snips of hair along her forehead and at the nape of her neck. Then, a quick wash followed by fresh linen wraps to bind her breasts.
After chatting with the boys over tea, Jamie went to polishing her shoes with the intention of mulling over the day’s objectives. She’d lined up three marks the day before and was due for a good payday, yet her mind kept drifting back to her childhood. With her seventeenth birthday approaching, Jamie was plagued by nightmares and daydreams of the day she left home to become a boy.
She and her twin brother were turning twelve. Her older sister was a weeping doll, all dressed and made-up, in the corner sobbing through handkerchiefs as her stern and wrinkled betrothed pressed his hands upon her shoulder in mock-sympathy. Jamie watched the spectacle with dread, knowing that would be her fate upon her fifteenth birthday while her brother sniggered. He’d be heading off to the academy soon, to be educated and learn a trade.
Face warmed by the flickering candles, Jaime kept her eyes closed even after her brother blew out the flames as smoke wrapped around her head. She couldn’t bring herself to open her eyes and say goodbye to her childhood. From here on, her days would be filled with learning all the ways a wife should keep a husband happy. If that was love, Jamie wanted no part of it, yet she hoped there was more to it. She hoped to find an unconventional man not bound by Northern traditions.
With the snap of her father’s fingers, Jamie popped her eyes open to see him holding tightly onto the belt resting around his waist. Knowing he wouldn’t dare punish her in front of company, and on her birthday no less, Jamie seized the moment and ran into the woods, calling for a game of hide-and-seek. Only, she never hid.
Jamie grabbed the bundle she’d concealed days before and continued to run. She kept running until there was no chance of being able to turn back. 
To be continued...
Heart of the Golden Stag 2018 Copyright © Toinette J. Thomas 

Find out more about me, my work, and my inspiration at the following links:

Amazon | Goodreads The ToiBox of Words | YouTube | See a list of my other posts here.

Thursday, July 25, 2019

A travel that wasn't meant to be.

I  am a traveler, and generally, I am going to plan my trips very carefully.
This is because the places I visit are everything but easy.
They are either in conflict areas in Africa or other not tourist
My thirst for knowledge is the driving force that attracts me to those places, and I want to know all the aspects of different cultures in the first person.
I love to ask people that have been living a particular conflict, a critical political period, or other interesting events.
Nevertheless, this time, the situation seems to slip from our hands.
The journey I am going to undertake together with my husband will bring us on the road between Lagos, Nigeria and Accra, Ghana. We will be driving through Benin and Togo stopping for a few days in each country.

The problem was (and still is) obtaining the Visa for Nigeria.
We made the first application for a multiple-entry visa, but we received only a single entry one (for the unrefunded price of the multiple-entry. Oh well, T.I.A. This Is Africa).
Finland doesn't have a Nigerian embassy, so everything was handled by the one located in Sweden. When we explained on the phone that we also needed a re-entry visa, they told us that we could obtain it better at the Nigerian embassy in Ghana.
"You have nothing to worry about," were their final words.
I wish I didn't listen to them.
We waited, and a couple of weeks ago, we contacted the Nigerian embassy in Ghana, explaining our situation and asking to fix already an appointment to get the visa.
Surprise! their answer: "we do not release visas for people who are not Ghanan residents."
Now, we have sent back our passports to the Nigerian Embassy in Sweden, with the request for another visa. We are keeping our finger crossed to have our passports back before the 2nd of August.
If not, we will have two choices:
1) we give up our journey
2) we go to Sweden and get our passports back even without the re-entry visa, and we travel anyway trying to figure out a way to return to Helsinki.
Of course, you can imagine that for us there is no option. We are leaving at any cost.
Besides, this journey is essential for the next paranormal thriller, I am going to write, so  I will never give up a trip. Moreover, I start really to feel a sort of Africa blues, and I need to come back there.
Keep your finger crossed and let's hope for the best!
Hope to see you again...

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

Cursed Bloodline: Secrets and Lies

Cursed Bloodline

Romantic suspense with historical elements
Is it possible that an ancient curse cast by a powerful witch sixteen-hundred years ago could destroy families in every generation for centuries?
Dark family secrets separated Sofia and Daniel when they were children, but fate brought them together years later.
When Sofia’s brother finds a leather book in his grandmother's secret room that was written in 426 by a shaman, dark memories of their childhood start to surface.
Reading the ancient runes, they learn about their family's curse. If it remains unbroken, the curse will bring tragedy and ruin their lives as it destroyed many of their ancestors' lives. Could they find the way to break the ancient curse?

“This is the curse of an evil deed that incites and must bring forth more evil.” ~Johann Friedrich Von


Present day
“Wow!” Sofia blurted as they entered the secret room. “You were right, there are lots of treasures in here.”

“I looked only in this trunk but look at the shelves.”

Sofia walked to the shelves and touched the carved, wooden and stone statues one by one. “Look,” she said, “the Sacred Turul. This wood carving is a masterpiece!”

“Yes, I estimate it to be at least a thousand years old. Look at this horse.” He pointed at the black onyx statue.

“Magnificent!” Sofia marveled.

“We can look at those later,” Jayden mentioned to Sofia. “Let’s see if we can find more writing in the trunk.”

“Okay…” Sofia hesitantly replied. She was having a hard time averting her eyes from rows after rows of statues, jewelry, headdresses adorned with beads, gold chalices and bowls.

Jayden opened the wooden trunk and started taking out the items that were wrapped in leather. He pulled the coverings open which revealed swords, knives, handmade leather shoes, and carefully-wrapped scrolls.

“Jay, look!” Sofia pointed at the inside of the trunk lid. “There’s an envelope and it doesn’t seem old.”

Jayden grabbed the corner of the white envelope but couldn’t pull it away. “It seems to be glued to the top,” he stated as he carefully lifted the corner with a knife and pried it away from the wood without ripping the paper.

As he turned it he saw writing on the envelope. “For Sofia and Jayden,” he read out loud. “It’s Grandma’s handwriting and it’s for us.” He sat down on a box, opened the envelope and pulled out the folded letter. He started reading it out loud.

Dearest Sofia and Jayden,
You’re reading this letter, which means I’m gone. I swore to your mother that I would never tell you about the family curse, but I cannot take it to my grave. Although your mother always strongly believed that it is merely a stupid legend and refused to listen to me, I must let you know somehow. Jayden, your life in danger…

The year 426 in the Carpathian Basin
As they got close to the trees and peeked out, they saw disheveled men sitting on the ground around fires. Their savage laughs, as they were eating and drinking, cut through to their hearts. Elana gasped when she saw the lifeless bodies of her neighbors thrown to the ground. Zala turned to Elana and raised his eyebrow, silently asking if she was ready. Her eyes shone with anger. She nodded and placed an arrow on her bow and pulled the string, aiming at the head of the loudest bandit who seemed to be the horde’s leader.

Zala whispered, “You have lost the most. You have the right to revenge.”

Elana let the arrow fly, and it pierced the bandit’s forehead between his eyes, coming out at the back of his head halfway. His body fell backward, limp and lifeless.

Zala looked at the waiting wolves and motioned them to go forward. The bandits scrambled to their feet in horror as their leader fell, and the wolves attacked them. Zala and Elana started riding around them in circles, aiming and shooting as the men tried to flee. A few slumped to the ground pierced by arrows, others screamed as the wolves chomped at their hands.

Elana spotted the alpha as he clamped his powerful jaw over a man’s wrist and with a jerk of his head, bit the hand off. And then Elana froze when she saw her mirror image looking at her with crazed eyes.

“Tuana!” Elana yelled and urged her horse toward the disheveled young woman.

Tuana turned her horse and kicked its side, urging the horse to a gallop. Within seconds they collided. The horses neighed in terror as the women were thrown off their backs by the impact. Both women jumped to their feet and faced each other. Elana gave out the warriors’ battle cry, raised her sword, and thrust it toward Tuana. Elana’s move was swift, but Tuana was fast as well and leaned out of the way of the deadly blow. As Tuana jumped back, she looked down with terror in her eyes. A gray wolf standing next to her growled and dropped Tuana’s hand on the ground; it was still clutching the sword. The wolf shook the blood from his muzzle, turned, and ran toward the bushes. Tuana stared at her stump as it spurted blood on her legs.

Tuana howled like a wounded animal and then gave out an insane laugh as she held the stump of her arm close to her chest and started backing away. “I curse you and your descendants! Every woman in your bloodline will have a daughter like me who will be thrown away like garbage. The daughters will kill their brothers and leave their sister alive to carry the bloodline. All mothers for eternity will pay for what your mother did to me.” 

Monday, July 22, 2019

Why I Write for Children

Why I Write for Children 

Writing for children is important to me because I want children to develop the same love of books I had as a child. A love that doesn’t fade with time. Children’s books create lifelong readers; readers who eventually buy adult books.

I began my love affair with words many years ago. Some of my fondest memories are being read to as a child, visiting the library, and discovering the ability to read by myself. I still have worn copies of favourite childhood books, such as The Bobbsey Twins, Little Women, Black Beauty and Anne of Green Gables; and revisit these old friends from time to time. Books and children go together like toast and jam, in my opinion. Since I never show up without a book as a gift, my grandchildren call me, The Book Gramma.

It´s not surprising then, that I love to write for children.

While writing for children can be fun, it isn´t easy. It requires removing yourself from the adult world and think like a twenty-first century kid. Fortunately, I like to hang around kids, listen to the words they use, observe the gestures, the looks, the trends. I also enjoy reading current, children’s books to see what sparks the interest of today’s young people. Children notice things adults wouldn’t and could care less about things adults think are important. It’s necessary to get into their head space. And guess what? While I’m writing, I get to be a kid again - and I love it!

The main character in my first book, Amanda in Arabia-The Perfume Flask, is a Canadian girl who wishes for travel and adventure on her twelfth birthday. The next day she gets a ticket to fly to the United Arab Emirates to visit her aunt and uncle. There she has an adventure of a lifetime. One young reader said to me, “I want to know where Amanda will travel to next.”  That motivated me to write Amanda in Spain-The Girl in The Painting. 

I had so much fun writing about Amanda, her travels and escapades that I continued by writing Amanda in England-The Missing Novel.

While doing a presentation at a school, one student asked, “Why doesn´t Amanda stay in Alberta and have an adventure?”

I replied, “That´s a great idea,” and consequently wrote Amanda in Alberta – The Writing on the Stone. 

Kids are always giving me ideas. I often quote things I overhear them say in my stories. They can be so clever too. Often wise beyond their years.

I recall taking the ferry to Vancouver Island one summer weekend. It was packed, mostly with families. I was pleased to see many of the children, and some of the parents, reading books. I knew that those kids would grow up to be readers and most likely read to their children one day. Studies have proven that children who are read to at a very young age, even as babies, are more likely to be successful in school and in life.

I have written two more books in the series, Amanda on the Danube – The Sounds of Music and Amanda in New Mexico – Ghosts in the Wind.  Book seven, Amanda in Holland – Missing in Action is about to be released in September of 2019. I am currently working on book number eight and have ideas for others. I have to keep writing, as my  fans are expecting more of Amanda’s Travels.

Although it is a lot of work, it brings me much joy to write my books as I know these fans will grow up with a love of reading and buy adult books soon. Writers of children’s books help create readers for life. It’s an important occupation and one I am happy to be a small part of.

Children who read, become adults that think.

Darlene Foster has always been a dreamer of dreams and a teller of tales. Following her dreams, she’s a well-travelled author of the Amanda Travels series featuring a spunky young girl who finds mystery and adventure everywhere she visits. Darlene divides her time between the west coast of Canada and the Costa Blanca, in Spain where she lives with her husband and entertaining dog, Dot.

Friday, July 19, 2019

A few considerations about positivity

”Never let go of your dreams.”

We might have seen or heard this sentence thousands of times yet, either we are too busy with our everyday life, or we are literally bombed by similar good phrases that we don’t stop and think about the meaning of such a simple statement anymore.

When generally, I need to give my best wishes to someone I love, I generally say:

Shall your destiny fulfill all your dreams, except one.

You might say, why? Why would I ever want that person not to have all her/his dreams fulfilled?

Because dreams are the fuel of our life, the energy that makes up wanting to face the day. They are the light we aim at in our darkest moments, the sparkle in our eyes, the thought that makes us smile, the force that despite the tiredness makes us increase the pace of our run to reach the finish line.

Thinking about it, conceiving a dream is like receiving a pair of wings, and the strongest the desire that attracts us to it, the bigger are the wings we create.

Think about the happiness of grabbing that dream when you achieve it.

Yes, it might even last forever, but we will miss that force; that spark that ignites our run in its direction.

Once we have it, we are at peace, and whether this is absolutely fine, the feeling of aiming at something that seems to be just there, but we can’t reach it quite yet, is fairly addictive.

We are motivated to keep on going just for the sake of that dream.
Now, of course, I am not talking about those dreams of tranquility, stability, economical safety, health. Those are basic requirements for a happy life, not just dreams.

Those are the ones I wish to be fulfilled.

Yet, I wish that little devil of a dream, which is not a question of life or death, rather it’s something even superfluous, will ignite your will and make your life an endless journey where for once you don’t enjoy the end but every single minute of it.
Besides, happiness lies in the wait of an event to happen, rather than the event itself, and the same applies to dreams.

Therefore, if there is something you are aiming to, and it seems you are never reaching it; perhaps that is the dream you need to feel alive to make your morning brighter, and the food tastier, and your darkest moment less dark.

For this reason, I wish you to keep one dream in your drawer, always there at your availability when you need to smile or to be reminded about the prize.

Thursday, July 18, 2019

Dean Banks Adventures

Dean Banks Adventures

Lorraine Carey

Everyone has a To Do List—right 
But Dean Banks is just a normal teenager until he moves to Apace Junction in Arizona with his mother and sister to run a dilapidated inn that has a reputation as being haunted.

Take a peek at Dean’s To Do List:
·      Protect the legendary Lost Dutchman Mine in the Superstition Mountains
·      Keep his newfound powers in check as a shape shifter
·      Keep an eye on a mysterious red coyote
·      Catch a badass burglar who robs the family inn
·      Ward off some bullies who try to befriend him
·      Uncover and destroy a secret government laboratory underneath the Superstition Mountains
·      Keep his girlfriend safe from an evil spirit.

But all he really wants to do is ride his dirt bike in the desert.

Follow Dean’s adventures in Mysteries of the Red Coyote Inn and Out of the Ashes.

An excerpt from Out of the Ashes *book 2
Chapter 7- A Dark Discovery~

Dean followed the hawk deeper into the cave and flicked on his flashlight. He could still smell the lingering stench of the gila. As he shined his flashlight along the walls of the cave, he could see deep grooves where a gold vein had been extracted. Faint luminous glows were emitted from the walls, and the ground had some fragments that had been left behind.

Dean picked up one of them; he had never seen this type of gold before. It had a whitish cast to it and set off a weird neon glow. He stuck a piece of it in his pocket and carried it on the path with his hawk buddy flying ahead, signaling him to move on.

Dean entered another tunnel and walked for about half a mile. He felt overheated so he decided to sit down and drink some water. “Ah, I needed that!” His friend circled up ahead as if waiting for him.

Dean held his talisman in his hands as he felt it vibrate. He sensed he was getting a message from spirit as he was in for an unexpected encounter. As he followed the hawk, he found himself at a dead end with a strange doorway off to the left. It was a large iron door, medieval-style with heavy black bars and laden with black iron bolts.

“Okay, now what? I’m supposed to know some magic words to open them?” He noticed the hawk circle his head three times and with a whoosh, it was gone. Dean sat down to make some sense out of this. Let me think, I‘ve been cornered by a giant Gila monster, am aware of pillaging for gold, and have not shifted? What gives, Elders?

He sensed a cool breeze coming from behind him. He turned around and noticed a white glowing apparition, one that he was all too familiar with.

Soon the lady in white materialized. He knew who she was – Aponi; dressed in her usual white flowing dress, the sheer veil covering her face. The breeze again caused the beads and shells that dangled from her dress to click and tingle, like tiny bells.
“Hello, Dean,” she murmured. “I’ve come to warn you that evil is upon you. I’m sure you’ve sensed that yourself. Be on guard, as you will find your enemies are very close at hand now. Remember, all is not what it seems.” She faded out slowly, and then vanished.

“Wait! Don’t go!” Dean called out, but it was too late.
Dean stood up and felt his body overheating again. He could feel the blood course through his veins, making them bulge. He watched the ones in his arms become so defined he resembled the transparent human body models they used in his science class. Soon he could see the muscles in his arms triple in size as they inflated and ripped through his t-shirt. “What the hell? Now I’m the Hulk?”

Enjoy the book trailer~

 Both books can be found in eBook and print on Amazon.

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Partner or Inferior?

Where is the woman's place?

I still hear these opinions, not only from older men but from younger ones as well:

"Women are inferior to men because Eve was made from Adam's ribs, therefore, she belongs to him. Eve doomed humanity by committing a sin which by enticing Adam to eat the apple."

"A woman's brain is incapable of making rational decisions because she can't comprehend to the big picture."

"A woman should focus on raising kids, doing laundry, obey their husbands, and provide clean and comfortable homes for their families."

"We must keep women submissive because with equal rights comes chaos. They need constant reminders that their place is in the home."

"Women don't have the intelligence to make rational decisions because they're too emotional. Men must make decisions for women."

Right! My opinion?
These neanderthals need to hide under their comfy stones and be very, very quiet!
What say you?

We're getting there
Slowly, but with good parenting and setting good examples to our kids, we're getting there.

Example 1:
A salesman calls trying to sell windows. The woman say politely, "Thank you for your call but we're not planning to install new wind..."
​The aggressive salesman rudely cuts her off and says, "Is the man of the house home?"
The woman's blood instantly boils but because she's a gentle person, she doesn't reply and hands the phone to her husband,"This bozo is selling windows and wants to talk to you."
The husband takes the phone and says to the salesman, "Listen! My wife is the financial genius in this house. She said no. Good bye!"

Example 2:
​​​A man visits a couple for the first time and as soon as he's introduced to the attractive wife by the husband, he walks up to her attempting to pinch her face and says, "Aren't you a pretty thing!"
The couple's teenage kids watch the interaction.
The woman takes a step back and shouts, "Out! Don't you ever step into this house again!"
The man looks at the husband who opens the door and says to him, "My wife is my partner and you've disrespected her. get out, or I'll throw you out!"

Example 3:
Father and son sitting on a bench in the park. The boy is around twelve, happily licking his ice-cream.
A statuesque woman walks by and the father says to his son, "Nice piece of ass, huh?"
The boy looks at his father with a disgusted expression on his face and replies, "Dad, she's a person. You're an ass!"

Equal partners

It's about time to teach our sons and daughter that this is not a competition. Neither men or women need to prove who's better, smarter, or stronger.

Biologically and psychologically men and women have similarities and differences as well. The best thing about this is that we complement each other and able to form a great partnership by mutually accepting and respecting each other.

What is your opinion?

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Sir E. Robert Smythe and the Lost Detective

Sir E. Robert Smythe and the Lost Detective

Christina Weigand


Sir E. Robert Smythe and the Lost Detective

During summer vacation, while Anna and her brother Ben, along with Bridget and her brother, Sam, are participating in the Summer Reading Adventure at the local library, the town council announces they are building low-income housing for the homeless. While the housing is being constructed a tent community has been established on an old soccer field on the other side of a haunted swamp. Sam is upset by this turn of events, but his anger is only beginning.

In the meantime, unbeknownst to them, the girls befriend Zoe, one of the homeless people living in the tents. The girls spend time together tracking down clues supplied by the books they are borrowing from the library that will eventually lead to a prize at the end of the Summer Reading Adventure.

When Bridget and Sam’s grandfather dies in a tragic car accident Sam’s anger increases when it is discovered that Zoe’s father was the drunk driver in the truck that crashed into his grandfather’s car. The family lawyer reveals in the will that the farm and house have been left to the community to build low income housing for the homeless.

Sam’s anger reaches a boiling point and he directs it at Zoe, hatching a plan to get back at the people he thinks are taking away everything he holds dear.

Title Sir E. Robert Smythe and the Lost Detective
Author      Christina Weigand Created by Ricci Moore
Genre        Middle-Grade Fantasy
Release     November 2017
Designer  Charlotte Volnek
Length      95 pages
ISBN         ebook 978-1-77127-961-1 Paperback coming soon


Eleven-year-old Zoe Jones unzipped the 8’ X 10’ tent door that she, her mother and her Labrador puppy lived in, really just slept in. There wasn’t enough room to do anything more than that. She wished they hadn’t had to leave their house at all, but with Daddy gone, there had been no choice. At least they hadn’t moved until school was finished so there was a place to do her schoolwork.

After finishing her breakfast in the large dining tent set up by the town for the homeless people to get a hot meal Zoe walked back to their tent. It was time for her and mom to walk to the bakery where Zoe would spend the day while her mother went to work in the city. The sky was blue, with fluffy light clouds, so that meant no rain today while they walked to town. After entering the tent she kneeled and crawled to her cot to brush her hair and pet the dog in his kennel one more time before they left.

“Momma, how much longer do we have to stay here? It isn’t fun anymore, not like the camping trip we took with Daddy last year. I want to go home,” Zoe said.

The brown and white puppy whined. “Buster doesn’t like being in his kennel so much, and he misses his training sessions,” Zoe said.

“Zoe, you know we aren’t going back home. We can’t let Buster run around while we live here. Now hurry up and finish getting ready. We have to get to the park. I need to catch my bus,” Zoe’s mom said.

Zoe finished brushing her short, red hair. “Do I have to go today? Can’t I just stay here? Buster will watch out for me.”

“No, you can’t stay here by yourself. Mrs. Reilley, the lady at the bakery, will keep an eye on you while I go to work.”

Zoe picked up a bag with library books and gave Buster a dog biscuit. “Maybe I’ll meet someone at the park today.”

“That’s the spirit. Isn’t the Reading Club Kick-off carnival today?” Zoe’s mom asked as they exited their mid-size tent.

Zoe glanced around the homeless camp. It was terrible living here. There were only a couple of children in the fifty tent encampment and they weren’t her age. There was no one to play with. She wrinkled her nose, because in spite of the fact that they were able to use the restrooms and the limited kitchen facilities of the soccer field, the camp still smelled of unwashed bodies and human waste. A garbage dump was set up outside the camp, and the trash was picked up once a week, but that didn’t completely eliminate the smell from fifty families’ trash. Her mother had explained that there were very strict rules for keeping the camp clean, but Zoe didn’t think they were much help. “Yeah, I think so,” Zoe said, answering her mother’s question.

As they walked past Gullies Swamp, Zoe rummaged through her bag. “Oh no, I forgot one of my books. Can we run back and get it?”

“No. If we go back I’ll miss my bus. Can’t you just bring it tomorrow?”

“It’s due today. They’ll fine us. I’ll just run back and get it.”

“Okay, just be careful and don’t talk to anybody. I’ll see you after work. Meet me at the bus stop at 6:00 and we can walk home together. Now you behave yourself with Mrs. Reilley and enjoy the carnival. Don’t eat too many of the baked goods.”

“All right. Love you, mom.” Zoe kissed her mom on the cheek and ran back to the camp.

The book was on her cot in the tent. Picking it up quickly, she headed back to the park. Passing the swamp, she noticed Morton the Morph, the yellow toad-like creature and his small blue pear-shaped panngoes playing on the edge of the swamp. One of the panngoes bounced into the swamp.

“Hey, you guys shouldn’t go in there,” Zoe yelled.

“Oh, don’t worry about them. They’ll be fine. Just a bunch of panngoes,” Morton answered as more of the creatures bounced into the swamp.

Zoe heard some dogs barking and one of the panngoes squealing. “One of them might be hurt. Shouldn’t you go in there and check on them?” She heard another sound, children talking and laughing. “Oh no, someone’s coming. I have to hide. Mamma doesn’t want me to talk to any strangers.” She glanced around trying to find a spot to hide then looked at the panngoes. She immediately ran to them and straight into the swamp.

One of the bigger ones had fallen in a hole and was calling out for the others to help him. Zoe followed the sound of the crying.

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Friday, July 12, 2019

Hometown Memories



Jonathan Lee
Jesse Crowden

Peter Anuszkiewicz
Everyone has a favorite place they went to as a child.  For me, Letchworth State Park was paradise! My family only went there for day trips. I do not recall any sojourn that felt like a repeat, for nature always provided new beauty to behold. The light on the water, the colors of the foliage, or even wildlife making an appearance; something made each trip special.


Dan Rittenhouse
Eli De'Enn

So, what exactly is Letchworth that makes it stand out? It is a 14,427-acre park (about 17 miles long) located in Eastern Upstate New York. It follows the path of the Genesee River as it travels north to its outlet Lake Ontario near Rochester.  With canyon cliffs as high as 600 feet, it is often referred to as "The Grand Canyon Of The East".  The northern end is marked by Mount Morris Dam which helps thwart the chance of flooding. There are nearly 50 waterfalls located within the park with three major ones (Upper, Middle and Lower Falls) located in the southern end.

Marian Carloni
Phil Conroy
Many tributaries flow into the river and can be found along the various hiking trails. The numerous smaller falls can be found along these tributaries or by following the hiking trails or by kayak or rafting. One of the more well-known ones is Inspiration Falls, which is a ribbon falls with a drop of 350 ft. Unfortunately, its appearance is seasonal, like many of the other smaller ones.

Jeanne Mcnarmara
It has been a very long time, 26 years to be exact,  since I have been able to enjoy an outing there. My sister and I took my husband to NY so he could see where I grew up.  We also felt the need to prove to him that there was country in NY, since he was not convinced by my descriptions.  While there, we went to Letchworth.  Unfortunately, there was a drought at the time and he did not get to experience the full beauty of the falls. 

Jack Geising

I feel a connection to the river.  My troubles seem to fade away with the flow.  I can almost feel the gloom being purged from my heart as the water cascades over the falls, the spray on my skin refreshing my soul. 

From the thundering power of the three main falls, to the tinkling of those along the tributaries, the music of nature frees me.

Ryan Yo-nv Schmidt

Ryan Yo-nv Schmidt kindly shared this gorgeous shot and several other pictures of the falls.  I gathered them into a short slide show,  click on the link to enjoy some beautiful views.

I am thrilled to be able to share these many pictures with you.  They were all provided by members of the Facebook group Letchworth State Park Lovers (https://www.facebook.com/groups/2218333570/) If you like what you see here, be sure to visit them on Facebook, they have many more beautiful scenes to share.  I find the pictures take me back in time and I am able to relive, re-experience this wonderful paradise.

Remember to check out my next piece where I visit Lower and Middle Falls. 

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Thursday, July 11, 2019

Plants, Birds, and Beavers Grow and Change

Daddy, why is Fido getting old?

Mommy, why can’t I stay a kid forever?

Sometimes kids ask questions that can catch you off guard. Having a talk about the necessity of change and the circle of life can be difficult. That’s why I’ve written my Changes duet, to help open up little minds to understanding the nature of change.

Meant for educational purposes, but still, an enjoyable light and colorful read, Plants and Animals Change Over Time, explains the circle of life in the simplest terms. It follows the life of a seedling and an unhatched egg to full maturity and beyond. You may also want to check out, Land Changes Over Time, to learn how the world is reshaped around us.

Daddy, what is change anyway?

Mommy, does change have to happen to me?

Sometimes kids ask questions that can catch you off guard. Having a talk about the necessity and inevitability of change can be difficult. That’s why I’ve written my Changes duet, to help open up little minds to understanding the nature of change.

Meant for educational purposes, but still an enjoyable light and colorful read, Land Changes Over Time, explores how the world is reshaped around us. It chronicles the results of beavers, worms, and birds moving into an empty meadow. You may also want to check out, Plants and Animals Change Over Time, to learn about the circle of life. 

 Plants and Animals Change Over Time

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Land Changes Over Time
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