Weather Report for August 24


LaWillows Bistrost week, we held our first drawing in what will be a monthly contest for Snowflakes followers. The site was Willows Bistro in downtown Warrensburg, NY, and two names were selected by owner Debbie Swan.

Besides providing an incentive for potential followers, the idea behind this is to feature a writer-friendly bookstore each month. Despite the explosion of on-line options for readers, book stores remain one of life’s treasures.  I have nothing against clicking through the Amazon or Barnes & Noble sites (I do it nearly every day), but there is still something wonderfully serendipitous about roaming the shelves of a truly eclectic bookstore and holding a unexpected discovery in your hands.

Therefore, I decided to have such a bookstore owner do the drawing each month, the winners receiving free books from the Snowflakes in a Blizzard “catalogue.”  And since I know a lot of the blog’s followers, it also makes the selection more objective.

Willows is a tiny place, with only a few local books arranged near the entrance and sold on consignment. But Debbie goes beyond that in her service to writers, offering her store twice a month as the venue for a reading by local authors and a place to gather for a writer’s group.

Steve BargdillThe first name drawn was that of Steve Bargdill, a novelist himself whose “Banana Sandwich” will be featured on the Snowflakes site in September. For his free books, he chose “Turnstiles,” by Andrea Raine, and “The Skeleton Crew,” by Deborah Halber.

The runnerup (second name drawn) was Anne Wayman, who is herself quite writer-friendly  She writes on her Linked-In page: “Life has been good to me and given me an incredibly wide variety of experiences from sailing in the South Pacific to raising children who are truly contributing members of society. I am adept at bringing my grounded approach to your dream and getting that into words that work. I love contributing part of the realization of someone’s dream.”

As the face and the imagination behind the popular “Freelance Writing” site on, Anne dished out advice to  thousands of writers. Her choice for her “freebie” was “Things Unsaid,” by Diana V. Paul.

“Turnstiles,” “The Skeleton Crew,” and “Things Unsaid” will now be pulled off the list of free books for the next six months. If you haven’t signed up as a “donor” yet, I would love to add your book to the list (the deal is, you send the winner a free book, which means also paying the postage).  I also welcome suggestions for bookstores to feature. I can either mail you an envelope with the slips of names, or send it directly to the store.



AUGUST 25-27:


An English professor at Liberty University and frequent contributor to Christianity Today, Karen Swallow Prior makes the point that there is more soul-affirming wisdom available in libraries and bookstores than just books about the Bible or Christianity.

She writes: “When I was looking for a publisher for Booked, I had a hard time finding one because it didn’t fit into an existing category. Now there is a growing category of such books—the “shelfie.” In this increasingly digital age, one of short sound bites and even shorter attention spans, there is a growing recognition of how immersion in a book is formative in ways both personal and universal. I think that is the draw to this book for anyone who loves books. It’s also a kind of spiritual memoir, so I would encourage any fans of that genre to give Booked a try, too.”

And yes, she examines C.S. Lewis. But the book also includes such varied references as “Pippi Longstocking,” “Harry Potter,” Don McLean’s classic rock anthem “American Pie,” and even that randy ’70s memoir by Erica Jong, “Fear of Flying.”


Dianne Fanning made her mark as a prolific true crime reporter, but in recent years she has also transferred the same story-telling skill to novels. In “Scandal in the Secret City,” one passion led to another.

According to Fanning: “While working on a true crime book, HER DEADLY WEB, about Raynella Dossett Leath, who was convicted of murdering one husband and suspected of killing another, I learned that Raynella spent many of her formative years in Oak Ridge, TN and her father was one of the founders of the museum there. I was drawn into the history of this unique town, learning more than I could use in that book. It sparked my interest in doing more research about that town’s role in our nation’s history and ultimately in writing fiction set in that installation during World War II.”

Fanning is Julie Rae Harperwell-known for the dedication to research that has shaped 12 true crime books (including one on the notorious Casey Anthony case). In 2003, she even stepped outside the pages of one of those books to become part of the story. In one of her prison interviews with Texas serial killer Tommy Lynn Sells — a deranged random predator out of everyone’s nightmares — Sells talked about climbing through a bedroom window in a small Illinois town and stabbing a child to death because the child’s mother, Julie Rae Harper, had been rude to him in a convenience store. Upon investigation, Fanning found that Harper had actually been convicted of the crime, albeit on rather flimsy evidence, She then came up with witnesses who corroborated Sells’ presence in Lawrenceville, IL on the date of the murder and details from Sells that only. the killer could have known. Rae was ultimately acquitted — based in large part on Fanning’s testimony in the re-trial.

You can read more about this at  htttp://

AUGUST 28-31


In this book, her first, Dean Robertson has found a voice for an often silent group of people — women of a certain age (over 90) whose final address is an assisted living facility. A longtime English teacher, Robertson used Biblical scripture as the key to unlock stored memories and reengage some of these women at the Lydia Roper home in dialogue and in life. The parallel story is Robertson’s efforts to find out more about Lydia Roper herself.

“At the end of 2013,” says Robertson, ” I had a terrible fall. I spent eight very long months in an assisted living facility in Norfolk, Virginia. The name of that facility is The Lydia Roper Home. It is housed in a 1921 building that was commissioned by Union Army Captain John L. Roper. He named the building after his wife, Lydia.

“I arrived at the Roper Home in bad shape. In addition to undiagnosed neurological problems, I was in the grip of a paralyzing depression, and I was definitely not cheered up by offers of bingo or arts and crafts. I don’t ‘do’ activities. In an effort to preserve my last shreds of sanity, I asked permission to lead my own activity, a Bible Study. I had taught the Hebrew Bible as Literature for nearly thirty years so I knew I could do it.

“At some moment early in 2014, as I worked on the New Testament and rode to the Lydia Roper Home every Wednesday morning to talk about it, Looking for Lydia; Looking for God simply began to happen to me. I woke up one morning and started writing. I am not a writer; I’m a teacher. I never aspired to be a writer; my passion has always been in the classroom. If I’ve ever been in what young people call ‘the zone,’ it has happened among a roomful of students. During the writing of the first four chapters of the book, I was on another planet.”

Dean will celebrate the publication of her book with a reading and signing at the Slover Library in Norfolk, VA on Sept. 12.


On her Amazon page, Marilyn Skylar puts her book in perfect perspective: “I am a fiesty old gal who wrote a memoir about her husband’s career in advertising and publishing. He would still be working today if he hadn’t had a huge stroke a decade ago that severely diminished his total being. By writing “Tales From A Mad Man’s Wife” I tried to bring back some of his memory. It worked a little, but not to the extent I had hoped. At this point in time I would like to share all the tales of post WW2 advertising with everybody who is in the media world today;with those who think ‘Mad Men’ on TV is the way it was back in the day.”

Reading “Tales From a Madman’s Wife” is very much like sitting down on the couch with Marilyn and listening to the memories pour out. Since you probably will never be able to do that, this is the next best thing.



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Recently retired after 35 years with the News & Advance newspaper in Lynchburg, VA, now re-inventing myself as a novelist/nonfiction writer and writing coach in Lake George, NY.

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