First Tuesday Replay, Sept. 1


BAndrea RaineOOK NO 6: “Turnstiles,”by Andrea Raine. Friday, June 12.

From Andrea, our first Canadian author: “Turnstiles is a literary fiction novel that focuses on family drama and social issues. The book addresses how much our social environment and people in our lives shape us. I am very interested in human relationships and social dynamics, and how people can be influenced by other people and being in different places or social situations. I also love to travel and experience new places. I enjoy stories that are character-driven where the reader can witness an internal change happening, and then everything else changes. These characters are transient and, either by choice or by force, they each leave their comfort zone at some point in their journey.

“In the summer of 1998, I embarked on a two-month solo backpacking trip through Western Europe. While I was roaming around London, I went through a tunnel under the street at Hyde Park and saw a young man in a sleeping bag. I thought maybe he was another backpacker and not necessarily a homeless person. When I returned home from the trip, I decided to start writing about him. He became a springboard for other characters to jump on the pages and for the story to unfold. Nearly sixteen years later I was holding a paperback copy of Turnstiles in my hands. My research was based on my travel experiences, some personal experiences and insights, social observations, literary knowledge, and basically being on this earth for a number of years and paying attention. The rest sprung from my imagination.”

BOOK NO 7: “Betrayal,” by Sharon Brownlie. Tuesday, June 16.

Betrayal “Betrayal is a dark, gritty, thought provoking and hard hitting novel. It addresses problems of how sexual abuse can be neglected or shelved away. The main character, Helen, looks at herself as a survivor of abuse but a victim of others’ betrayal. Sexual abuse is always a difficult subject and rightly or wrongly, Helen addresses the issue. If you liked Stieg Larson’s The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, Betrayal might be a good choice.

Writes one reviewer: “In a dark and unrelentingly bleak portrait of violence, abuse, struggle and vengeance we are given a picture of a cycle that continues to feed the machinery of human trafficking. While authors such as Stieg Larson in his trilogy The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo gave us a painful, and in many ways over-the-top view of this, Sharon Brownlie puts us on a collision course with reality.”

BOOK NO. 8:  “How Not to Avoid Jet Lag,” by Joshua Brown. Friday, June 19.

ThJoshua Brownere is a little of Hunter S. Thompson in Joshua Samuel Brown’s writing, a pinch of P.J. O’Rourke, maybe even a dash of “Gulliver’s Travels.” For unlike many travel writers who draw back and write about exotic places from a safe and contemplative distance, Brown plunges right in, experiencing the good, the bad and the inedible. Ever wonder how you can tell the difference between good and not-so-good dog meat soup in Korea? Did you know that Beijing has a ghetto inhabited primarily by Muslims? Brown is counterculture savvy, technologically wired and, to some degree, able to converse in Mandarin. Yet through all 19 of these traveler’s tales, he never forgets who he is — a bewildered outsider.

None of us can, in the relatively short life span which we are allotted, go everywhere. So travel writers like Joshua do that for us — and in this case, visits some of the off-the-beaten-track and under-the-radar places we probably wouldn’t see even if we did go to that country. He eats dog meat stew so we won’t have to.

BOOK NO 9.  “Caught,” by Deirdre Thurston. Tuesday, June 23.

CAUGHT is a collection of short stories, literary sketches and vignettes, each capturing a moment in the life of someone a lot like each of us. Each story delves into human themes: expectation, desire, hope, loss, fear, joy, peace, suffering, redemption. The narrative is filled with subtle irony, humour and touching observations.  The overriding message in CAUGHT is: that any moment in every life can be viewed as worthy of treasuring. Whether that moment is filled with despair or joy; they provide entertaining relief and nourishing benefits. The stories are real and everyone will relate in some way.

BOOK NO. 10:  “Thirty Perfect Days” by Claudia Taller. Friday, June 26.

In her book 30 Perfect Days, Finding Abundance in Ordinary Life, a spiritual memoir, author Claudia Taller allows the reader to go into her personal world to find the perfect moments that ultimately define our lives. 30 Perfect Days, Finding Abun30 Perfect Daysdance in Ordinary Life is a quest to live in the moment, make connections, and pay attention to what life has to offer. Through daily reflection, Taller deals with life’s surface obstacles with honesty and authenticity to gain insight into the patterns behind the problems. By the end of her journey, Taller is more accepting and forgiving of herself and others and knows first-hand that a change of approach can lead any seeker to a more fulfilling and meaningful life. The reader comes to a deeper understanding that once we embrace our lives as they are and turn inward to seek guidance, stress, judgment, expectations, and disappointments become small obstacles along the way. In the end, Taller infers, it is up to us to nurture our souls.

Weather Report, August 31





The idea behind this monthly feature is to allow newer followers to the blog to check out previous books they might have missed. This month, we will revisit “Turnstiles,”by Andrea Raine;  “Betrayal,” by Sharon Brownlie; “How Not to Avoid Jet Lag,” by Joshua Brown;  “Caught,” by Deirdre Thurston and “Thirty Perfect Days” by Claudia Taller.

Time coverSEPTEMBER 4-7:


Anthony Motavato’s life was shattered forever on the morning of April 19, 1995 when he lost his beautiful daughter. Unable to cope with his new reality, Anthony left town and has drifted on the lonely fringes of alcoholism in the years since the tragedy. Realizing his time is short, Anthony finally returns home to face the family he left behind. As he tries to regain his faith and make peace with the people that still love him, he is pulled into the tapestry of lies surrounding the deadliest act of domestic terrorism on United States soil. The only way he can find the forgiveness he seeks is by reliving it all over again. Oklahoma Ghost Dance takes you into the darkest places of imagination. From a plot born within the ashes of the Waco massacre, it slowly untangles historic events surrounding the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building bombing. Jeff Wilson, author of the highly acclaimed novel, Queen Anne’s Revenge, weaves a haunting story of love, heartbreak and redemption.


And who doesn’t love a good ghost story? Writes Cheryl, a writer from Pittsburgh: “Most people, whether they believe in ghosts or not, are curious about them. Whispers in the Attic poses the questions and offers the answers to anyone who has ever wondered what  happens when the spirit world and the natural world collide.”

A lifelong student of the paranormal, Cheryl put 15 years of research into this novel.


Last week, I decided to try an experiment. I contacted all the writers who have been – or will soon be – featured on the Snowflakes in a Blizzard blog and asked them the last three or four books they’ve read (almost everyone provided four).

I did this not because those of you out there are necessarily interested in our literary tastes, but more to make a point.

For what intrigued me was that the 22 writers who responded came up with 85 books, and only one duplication — Betsy Ashton’s “Mad Max: Unintended Consequences.” Both writers who read that have the same publisher as Betsy, Koehler Books.

As a further disclaimer, Kate Sebeny and I are reading each other’s novels.

Beyond those instances, the reading material was all over the map (and, in the case of Charlotte Harris Rees, all over map literature).

Except for a few other books done by Snowflakes writers that showed up on the list, I found only six authors with whom I was familiar and just five books I’d read. And I’m someone who has already been through 95 books this year (I keep track, which probably means I need a life).

Here’s the thing – I guarantee if you asked a similar group of people about the last four movies they’ve seen, TV shows they’ve watched or songs they’ve listened to, there would be a lot more duplication.

This further convinces me that most people buy books for the book itself, not the author. Sure, there are a handful of writers, the John Grishams and Danielle Steeles and Stephen Kings of the world – who have huge followings. Others develop their own niche.

Still, this poll tells me that the public taste in books is much more omnivorous than in any of the other creative areas. At Snowflakes in a Blizzard, that’s what we’re trying to get across – an author might be unknown and his or her book far down the Amazon sales rankings, but it can still be a great book.

Here were the responses:

Tom Bentley, author of “Think Like a Writer”: “Across a Hundred Mountains,” by Reyna Grande; “The Round House,” by Louise Erdrich; “Let’s Get Digital,” by David Gaughran and “Letters from Hawaii,” by Mark Twain.

Barbara Trainin Blank, author of “What To Do About Mama?”  “The English Girl,” by Daniel Silva; “In the Middle of Ally,” by Michael Oren; “The Anne Boleyn Collection,” by Claire Ridgway,” amd “Round Up the Usual Suspects: The Making of Casablanca,” by Aljean Harmatz.

Marianne Bohr, author of “Gap Year Girl”:  “The Nightingale,”  by Kristen Hannah; “Me Before You,”  by JoJo Moyes; 3. “This is Where I Leave Yopu,” by Jonathan Tropper, and “A Cup of Redemption,” by Carole Bumpus.

Nicki Brandon, author of “The Solarbus Legacy”: “The Big Picture,” by Douglas Kennedy; “The Girl on the Train,” by Paula Hawkins; “Island Dogs: A Caribbean Tale,” by BM Simpson and “Turnstiles,” by Andrea McKenzie Raine.

Joe Broadmeadow, author of “Collision Course.”: “Passport to the Cosmos,” by John E. Mack; “A Scourge of Vipers,” by Bruce DeSilva; “The Starlight Club: Goodfellas, Mob Guys and Hitmen,” by Joe Corso,” and “A Lion Among Men,” by Gregory Maguire.

Andrea Brunais, author of “Mercedes Wore Black”: “Moloka’i” by Alan Brennert;  “Blue Horses” by Mary Oliver; “The Island” by Victoria Hislop and “Thank You for Being Such a Pain” by Mark I. Rosen.

Susan Coryell, author of “Beneath the Stones”: “All the Light We Cannot See,” by Anthony Doerr; “Hannah’s Dream,” by Diane Hammond; “Loving Frank,” by Nancy Horan, and “This is the Story of a Happy Marriasge,” by Ann Patchett.

Diane Fanning, author of “Scandal in the Secret City”:  “Fear of Dying,” by Erica Jong; “Atomic Lobster,” by Tom Dorsey; “Gathering Prey,” by John Sanford and “Mother Tongue,” by Bill Bryson.

Holland Haiis, author of “Consciously Connecting” “The Devil in the White City,” by Erik Larson; “The Heart is a Lonely Hunter,” by Carson McCullers, and “The Four Agreements,” by Don Miguel Ruiz.

Melinda Inman, author of “Refuge”: “The Salvation of Jeffrey Lapin,” by Summer Kinard; 2. “The Day of Atonement,” by David DeSilva; 3. “Max Max: Unintended Consequences,” by Betsy Ashton.

Darrell Laurant, author of “The Kudzu Kid.” “Daring,” by Gail Sheehy, “The Black Ice,” by Michael Connelly,” “Sailor’s Delight,” by Malcom Torres and “the Last Best Thing,” by Kate Sebeny.

Liz Long, author of “A Reaper Made”: “Enchanted Heart,”by Mindy Ruiz; “The Demon Trapper’s Daughter,” by Jana Oliver, “Taste,” by Cambria Herbert and “Free to Fall,” by Lauren Miller.

John Maberry, author of “Waiting for Westmoreland”: “Blood Run, by Leah Ruth Robinson; “Pearseus Bundle (Pearseus 1-3)” by Nicholas C Rossis; “Waking the Buddha,” by Clark Strand and “Snow Falling on Cedars” by David Guterson

Diana Paul, author of “Things Unsaid“:  “Mr. Bridge” (Evan S. Connell), “Mrs. Bridge” (also E.S. Connell), “Everything I Never Told You” (Celeste Ng), and “Hysterical: Anna Freud’s Story.” (Rebecca Coffey).

Andrea McKenzie Raine, author of “Turnstiles.”  “The Girl on the Train,” by Paul Hawkins; “Amatore’s Restaurant,” by James Sillwood; “Poems,” by Emily Dickinson and “Whispers in the Attic,” by Cheryl Alsippi.

Charlotte Harris Rees, author of “Did Ancient Chinese Explore America?”: “Mapping the Chinese and Islamic Worlds,” by Hyunhee Park; “Mysteries of the Marco Polo Maps,” by Benjamin Olshin; “A History of the World in 12 Maps,” by Jerry Brotton and “A book of Old Maps,” by Fite and Freeman.

Karen Rivello, author of “The Other Side of Midnight“: “Plain Jane: Brunettes Beware,” by Cristyn West; “She’s Not There,” by Maria Madison; “Dead Wood,” by Dani Amore and Dan Ames and “Shunned no More,” by Christina McKnight.

Dean Robertson, author of “Looking for Lydia, Looking for God”: “Buried Giant,” by Kazuo Ishiquro; “Revelations: Visions, Prophecy and Politics in the book of Revelations,” by Elaine Pagels; “For the Time Being,” by Annie Dillard and “Max Max: Unintendent Consequences,” by Betsy Ashton.

Kate Sebeny, author of “The Last Best Thing”: “The Poor Man’s Guide to Suicide,” by Andrew Armacost; 2. “Knitting,” by Anne Bartlett; “A Flatland Fable,” by Joe Coomer and “The Kudzu Kid,” by Darrell Laurant.

Tara Shields, author of “Into Shadow”:Ethan’s Secret,” by Patrick Hodges; “Ellie Jordan, Ghost Trapper,” by J.L. Bryan; “Unseen,” by Stephanie Erickson and “Zodiac Lives,” by Rhode D’Ettore.

Brian Simpson, author of “Island Dogs”: “The Stone Cutter,” by Camilla Läckberg; “Killing Patton,” by Bill O’Reilly; “Dharma Bums,” by Jack Kerrouac, and “A Thousand Splendid Suns,” by Kahled Hosseini.

Ryan Jo Summers, author of “When Clouds Gather”: “One of the Few,” by Jason B. Ladd; “A Heart Mended,” by Jesse Salisbury; “Arms of an Angel,” by Patricia Bond and “Turkmen Captives,” by Susan Williamson.

Deirdre Thurston, author of “Caught”:  “The Turning,” by Tim Winton; “The Children Act,” by Ian McEwan; “The Snow Child,” by Eowyn LeMay, and “If One Speaks Not of Remarkable Things,” by Jon McGregor.

1. Looking for Lydia, Looking for God

Looking for Lydia


THE BOOK:  “Looking for Lydia; Looking for God: From 2014 to the Civil War, the Journey of Thirteen Women.”


THE AUTHOR: Dean robertson-,,,,,

THE PUBLISHER: Koehler Books, a small publisher in Virginia that is definitely on the move. They combine the professionalism of the large firms with a small press’s personal attention to their authors.

THE EDITOR: Joe Coccaro, Executive Editor, Koehler Books

SUMMARY: “This is the story of a miracle, although not one of those miracles where statues weep and holy faces appear in tacos” (Prologue).Dean Robertson

Looking for Lydia; Looking for God is a memoir. It is also a family saga and a cameo of life in a southern city after the Civil War. It is the mystery of a nineteenth-century woman, come from Philadelphia to Norfolk, Virginia, the year the War ended. It is a sometimes unconventional interpretation of some very familiar Bible stories.

It is, throughout, the story of the transformation of a group of women in their eighties and nineties who have come to live in an assisted living facility. They have not come there for a new lease on life, but that is exactly what they get.

As you read, you will fall in love with a small group of women as they discover the Bible, each other, and themselves. This is their story.

They show up one winter morning for a new “devotion” at their assisted living facility, and there I am, depressed, angry, bruised from a severe fall, hanging on by a thread, proposing to talk about women in the Old Testament, assuring them that Eve was a hero and Adam was a fool. This is my story.

In Chapter Two, I confess:

“I don’t think I could have told you the name of one member of that pioneer crew; now I see their faces when I close my eyes. I came to the Lydia Roper Home sick and I left well. I arrived with no hope; I left with a sense that I still had ‘promises to keep.’ The ladies with whom I spend my Wednesdays have pushed open their minds and hearts to an old text, to each other, and to new ideas; they don’t stop asking questions. We look

for answers together. The mystery of how all that happened is really what I’m after here.”

THE BACK STORY: At the end of 2013 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.

Sometime in March of 2013 we started with Genesis. There were five of us, and those four women were my pioneers. Today, in February of 2015, one of our original number has died, another has moved to a nursing home. Two of those pioneers are still there.

I left the Lydia Roper Home on the last day of October 2013 and moved into a wonderful co-op, in a building erected in 1928, in the Ghent neighborhood of Norfolk. The ladies at the Roper Home asked me if I would come back to teach the New Testament. I said that of course I would.

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.

Doors opened; writer’s blocks cleared up in fewer than twenty-four hours; people appeared out of nowhere; my energy was unlimited. I wrote all day; I woke up at night and wrote. Friends worried. Family members called more often than usual. Nothing existed outside the book. I didn’t want to talk to anyone who didn’t want to talk about the book.

WHY THIS TITLE?: “When I first started writing, the Baptist preacher suggested that I call this story about a group of women studying the Bible, ‘Looking for Lydia.’ I thought he was joking. Now that seems the only possible title (159)”

“The preacher told me that, ‘Looking for Lydia is like looking for God, and you’re doing both. We are all looking for Lydia. We are all looking for that something we may or may not find, but the search for which defines our lives. In the course of that search we find frustration, disappointment, loss, and grief, but we also find much that we didn’t expect—work and love and relationships and joy’ (164).”

WHY WOULD SOMEONE WANT TO READ IT?: After the encouraging responses from several readers, all of whom have told me some version of “I just couldn’t stop reading! I wanted to know what happened; I wanted to know more about those women and the Bible and whether you found Lydia,” I’d say the first reason someone would want to read it is that it’s a darned good read. Even my cousin who is completely uninterested in “God stuff,” was hooked by the elderly women, the story of Lydia, the cameo of a southern city in the years following the Civil War, and the founding of a lumber empire by a genuine “carpetbagger” from Philadelphia.

Anyone at any point in the “getting older” spectrum, who is either aging, afraid of aging, or with parents who are aging, and is facing the possibility of no longer living independently, would want to read this very unusual and hopeful glimpse of life in an assisted living facility.

Anyone who is interested in the Bible, in genealogy, or in women’s history would definitely want to read it.

I think everyone would want to read it just because they’ll like it a lot!!


“As a writer, an elder care giver, and a seeker of family stories, sharing this quest with Dean has been a glorious multi-faceted adventure. Readers will find that, whether they seek a lost relative or answers to Life’s biggest questions, Looking for Lydia may lead them to find that exploring the questions can be as satisfying as finding the answers.”

—Molly Roper Jenkins, Great-granddaughter of Lydia Bowen Roper

“Part biography, part biblical criticism, and part spiritual confession, Looking for Lydia; Looking for God is both an intensely personal narrative and an invitation to re-examine our collective soul. Humorous yet insightful, in this book, Robertson raises important questions of faith and meaning with her characteristic warmth and integrity. Perhaps, most importantly of all, it is a good read.”

—Aaron Brittain, Rector, Talbot Park Baptist Church,

Norfolk, VA

“A group of old ladies living together on the poorer side of health and finances, a few of whom aren’t sure why it’s Wednesday; a Bible study that encourages all the questions you thought you weren’t allowed to ask, complete with compelling answers as dynamic as, well, Wednesday; and a grand old, southern house named for somebody called, of course, “Lydia.” Does this sound exciting, yet? Ah, but it is! Dean rubs these unlikely things together with heart and depth and art and brings us to glorious life.”

—The Rev. Gary Barker, Rector, Kingston Parish, Mathews, VA

AUTHOR PROFILE: Dean Robertson is retired from over thirty years as an English teacher in independent secondary schools and small colleges. She was born in Alabama, grew up on 200 acres of North Georgia woods, and has lived in California, Kentucky, and Michigan. In the woods, she dreamed of being Mowgli, watched foxes in their dens, and learned not to step on copperheads; in Kentucky, she kept bees; in Michigan, she shared her back yard with five llamas. At nearly 70, she is still the idealist she was in 1963 when she went away to college and waded into the Civil Rights Movement. At nearly 70, she is a first-time author and a first-time grandmother; her grandson was born on Shakespeare’s birthday 2015. From 1980-2014, her passion was in the classroom. One morning in March of 2014, she woke up and started keeping a journal. With a lot of support from her friends, that journal became Looking for Lydia; Looking for God. She is now “paying it forward” by editing manuscripts for two unpublished writers. She is blogging once a week on her website. She is looking for guest bloggers. And she is learning new skills every day in two areas that never interested her one bit: the computer and marketing. Finally, she would like to refer you to Betsy Ashton’s recently published novel, Mad Max: Uncharted Territory and, particularly, to Ms. Ashton’s Author Profile on her recent Snowflakes page. You will not need to guess whether or where Ms. Robertson has tattoos.

AUTHOR COMMENTS: I had no plan for Looking for Lydia; Looking for God. A friend asked me recently when I got the idea to write a book; I said I didn’t. The book’s final chapter, “Thoughts After the Last Curtain,” tells a story-of course-and proposes a sequel to Lydia. I read once a line by the poet, Kenneth Patchen, that has stuck with me: “If you look at my hands, you will see that if I knew where to go, I could build a road that would take me there.” I am beginning to know where to go. I haven’t yet built the road or outlined the plan. But the next book is waiting to be written; I don’t expect it to wait for long. I know one thing today—I will always be writing.



PRICE: hardback=$26.95; paperback=$14.95; ebook=$7.99

CONTACT THE AUTHOR: Please feel free to use this email address to contact me directly. It is the surest way to reach me and to get a response. And I will love hearing from you!

Tales From a Mad Man’s Wife

Mad Men 3THE BOOK:  “Tales From A  Mad  Man’s Wife”

THE AUTHOR: Marilyn Miller Skylar.

PUBLISHED: 2014, by DogEar.

Mad MenSUMMARY: This memoir is primarily about the advertising and publishing career of my husband David Skylar. It also depicts the exciting prosperous years of the 50’s and 60’s and later, when new ideas and projects were developed following World War 2.

THE BACK STORY: “I decided to write this book after I found a paragraph that my husband had written many years ago to give some biographical material to a group where he was to make a major talk. I realized then that he would probably write about his life at some point. Of course, this was not to be.A massive stroke got in the way of any creative renderings. Once I  began recreating his business career, I realized I stood beside him in many ways, and would therefore have to personalize his store more. It  took me a couple of years to complete.”

Marilyn Miller SkylarWHY THIS TITLE? The title was an off shoot of the popular TV show Mad Men. I wanted to show how the real  ad guys really lived in that era.

WHY WOULD SOMEONE WANT TO READ IT.  I imagine the people who knew my husband would be most curious about reading the book. However, I have heard from many others that they never knew that certain events took place and they felt the book was historically interesting in many ways.  Also, young advertising types might want to know what was “cool” back in the olden days…or better yet, the Golden days of advertising.


“The author has written a book in modest terms about a man bigger than life. The thing I enjoyed about the book was its crisp, concise, fast paced style and ease read. If you have an hour, run the book up the flag pole. See if you don’t salute David Skylar, a gentleman, husband, father, community leader, ad-man, journalist, my Chief Executive Officer, professor, consultant and dear friend.
Tales from A Mad Man’s Wife is the life story and legacy of the man I consider my mentor. He opened eyes to life style, communichaos, and making people feel important. He shared with me three simple rules: Never be indiscreet. If ever indiscreet, be indiscreet, discreetly. Never having your picture taken with a cigarette and/or drink in your hand.
Never let anyone work your side of the street.” — Robert W. Chism.
“Reading Tales from A Mad Man’s Wife was like reliving the advertising and PR world of the 1960s and 1970s (the period I knew Dave Skylar). It’s a candid, funny and perceptive recounting of how business worked, or didn’t work, in those days. Marilyn has an encyclopedic memory, and tells stories with details I had forgotten even though I was a part of them. Dave took a big chance in 1960 and hired me — a neophyte straight out of the Marine Corps and looking for his first job in a town where he knew nobody. The portait Marilyn paints is not larger than life; Dave actually IS that formidable. I have never known a more self-confident man — and I don’t mean big ego. Oh, and did I mention demanding, fair, creative and often very funny? Having him as a mentor was the best thing that could have happened to my career. Even if you never met Dave, this book is worth a read.” — Robert F. Miller.

“Marilyn Skylar’s breezy tale of life during the heyday of big-time advertising is a real life “Mad Men, with her husband, David, in the role of Don Draper (minus the icky side). Tales of business highs and lows are intertwined with depictions of family life in the 50s and 60s. Anyone from that era who married an “up-and-comer” like David will readily identify with the critical, but often overlooked role a wife played in those pre-women’s lib days. Marilyn’s keen observations about business, career and family reveal the complexity of life for a so-called housewife back then. Besides the stories, the book is full of wonderful photos of David with many famous and influential people, and also with friends and family. Old-time Clevelanders will enjoy the trip down memory lane. Marilyn also included full texts of some of David’s most noted and quoted articles and speeches, which should be required reading for any marketing practitioner, for his insights into clients, politics, women and communities are as amazingly relevant today as they were when first written 40 or 50 years ago. Soon to celebrate their 65th anniversary, Marilyn could not have given David a better gift to celebrate the occasion, or commemorate their remarkable journey. Hat’s off to “MJ” for being able to bring this great story to life!” — Martin Gould.

AUTHOR COMMENTS: “As the author of this epistle, I can only say that I am pleased that I accomplished this feat. Although I was trained as a reporter and writer, I was mostly happy to bask in the limelight of my husband. I was basically a golf and tennis bum who only created  newsletters and special poetic treatises for charitable organizations or friends. I once spent 5 months writing a musical play for  a local organization, only to have the whole project aborted after the president of the group had a heart attack. Someday I would like to update the piece, as the subject matter is still current today. I have also written a poetry book called “Love is a Hot Fudge Sundae” which I have not yet published.”

WHERE TO BUY IT: The book can be ordered from any bookstore, or on line at Amazon and Barnes and Noble. It is also available on Kindle, Nook and Google Play. The paperback price changes all the time but the ebooks and Kindle price is 7.99 the last time I looked.

CONTACT THE AUTHOR: I would love to hear from any readers on my Facebook page, Marilyn Miller Skylar, or through my email



Karen Swallow PriorTHE  BOOK: Booked: Literature in the Soul of Me.


THE AUTHOR: Karen Swallow Prior.

THE EDITOR: David K. Wheeler.

THE PUBLISHER: T.S. Poetry Press: an award-winning independent publisher of poetry, fiction, and non-fiction.

SUMMARY: A life of books. A life of soul. Booked poignantly and humorously weaves the two, until you can’t tell one life from the other. Booked draws on classics like Great Expectations, delights such as Charlotte’s Web, the poetry of Hopkins and Donne, and more. This thoughtful, straight-up memoir will be pure pleasure for book-lovers, teachers, and anyone who has struggled to find a way to articulate the inexpressible through a love of story. This is a book about how books shaped one person’s heart, mind, and soul.

THE BACK STORY: I have loved books since I first learned to read. Books were not merely an escape, but shaped my way of thinking and being. Once I became an English professor and tried to impart to my students this life-changing power of books, I realized it was something I wanted to write about.

WHY THIS BookedTITLE?: My working title was “How Literature Helped Save my Soul.” I think the publisher’s choice of a title is much more poetic and evocative. Much like the pear on the cover.

WHY SOMEONE WOULD WANT TO READ IT: 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.


“Prior loves stories because she understands well their incarnational authority to teach us, to guide us into wisdom. She knows this power so well that she’s devoted her life to sharing her love of stories by teaching them to innumerable students. Booked is effective—moving—precisely because it is written by a teacher who is purposed with love for both her subject and the readers with whom she feels compelled to share it. Yet, Prior’s teacherly voice is also supplemented—sharpened—by a loving observance of the world around her, communicated in passages so literary that they are worthy of the literature that has formed her life and book.” —  Books and Culture

“Ever wished you’d had a teacher who made you want to read the classics? Your wish has come true in this beautifully-told book. Karen Swallow Prior movingly and honestly tells a compelling story of self-discovery and coming to faith through some of the greatest books ever written. Eric Metaxas, New York Times bestselling author of Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy.

In a time when 140-character sound bytes rule the day, great works of literature often go undiscovered. We need to journey back through these works and mine their wisdom, and Karen Swallow Prior is the perfect tour guide. — Jonathan Merritt, columnist, Religion News Service

AUTHOR PROFILE: Karen Swallow Prior, Ph. D., is an award-winning Professor of English at Liberty University. She is the author of Booked: Literature in the Soul of Me (T. S. Poetry Press, 2012) and Fierce Convictions: The Extraordinary Life of Hannah More—Poet, Reformer, Abolitionist (Thomas Nelson, 2014). Prior is a contributing writer for Christianity Today, Think Christian, and The Atlantic. She is a Research Fellow with the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, a Distinguished Senior Fellow with Liberty University’s Center for Apologetics and Cultural Engagement, and a member of the Faith Advisory Council of the Humane Society of the United States. She and her husband live in rural Virginia with sundry dogs, horses, and chickens.

AUTHOR COMMENTS: “I wrote this book with different readers in mind. I wrote for those who already know and love the kinds of works I write about in Booked. But I also wrote for those who, perhaps, have never warmed up to classic literature or, perhaps, never had teachers to help cultivate their understanding and appreciation of these works. In other words, both novice and expert readers are welcomed in these pages!”


LOCAL OUTLETS: Barnes and Noble Campus Bookstore, Liberty University; Hearts and Minds Books, Dallastown, PA

WHERE ELSE TO BUY IT: Amazon, Barnes & Noble PRICE: $15.00

CONTACT THE AUTHOR: Twitter: @LoveLifeLitGod or Facebook:

2. Scandal in the Secret City

Scandal in the Secret CityTHE BOOK: “Scandal in the Secret City.”


THE AUTHOR: Diane Fanning


SUMMARY: Libby Clark, a gutsy Bryn Mawr graduate, is determined to find her place as a scientist in a world where women are thought better suited to housework and marriage. As the only female scientist in the top secret facility, Libby is excited to begin what she believes is important government research.

She soon begins to suspect, however, that not all is as it seems. And to make matters worse, one frosty night she discovers the dead body of her roommate’s sister sprawled behind the bleachers. No one else seems to think finding the killer is important and it’s up to Libby to make sense of the situation. Aided by a band of like-minded scientists, Libby follows every possible lead until she comes to a shocking and unexpected conclusion.

THE BACK STORY: 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 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 ing 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.

WHY THIS TITLE?: Oak Ridge, Tennessee, otherwise known as the Secret City, rose seemingly overnight in 1942, built by the US Government. No one was quite sure what its purpose was or where it came from, but from the presence of 70,000 employees and the non-stop delivery of train deliveries, there was certainly something going on. Since the people living there were not allowed to tell anyone the name of the place where they lived and worked, they called it The Secret City.

WHY SOMEONE WOULD WANT TO READ IT: While television shows like Manhattan and The Bomb and many fiction and non-fiction books focus on what was happening in Los Alamos, Oak Ridge, Tennessee, has gone relatively unnoticed. Yet, without the sacrifice and hard work of the people in the Secret City, the scientists at Los Alamos would have had nothing to test and the outcome of the war the subject of debate.


“Thought-provoking details of the obstacles women faced in the wartime workforce.” Kirkus Reviews

“Fanning’s intricate and smart new novel. Libby herself is a brave and admirable career woman, and seeing her in action, carefully hunting the truth while refusing to play down her expertise, makes for a very satisfying story.” — Historical Novel Society

“A fascinating new historical series that also offers an almost sociological study of women’s issues during World War II. Her refreshingly original amateur sleuth is smart, strong-willed, and independent in an era when marriage was usually the only career option for women.” — Library Journal

“Fanning re-creates the atmosphere at Oak Ridge effectively, and her exploration of the ethical issues surrounding security are timely today. A promising new series.” — Booklist

AUTHODiane FanningR PROFILE: I suppose you could describe me as restless. I’ve jumped around geographically from Baltimore to Virginia and then to Texas—and now I’m back in Virginia again. My writing life also reflects my nomadic nature. My first published book was non-fiction in the true crime genre. I then wrote a stand-alone novel, followed by seven police procedurals in the Lieutenant Lucinda Pierce series and most recently historical fiction with this book and this summer’s completion of its sequel, TREASON IN THE SECRET CITY. Along the way, I’ve been nominated for an Edgar, received the Defender of the Innocent award from the Innocence Project and appeared on more television shows than I can remember. I now live in Bedford, Virginia, with my husband, Wayne, and a crazy young sheltie named Emmitt Otter. To find out more about my true crime books, visit:; The Lucinda Pierce series:; and the Secret City novels:

AUTHOR COMMENTS: “My books have always been entangled with social issues and SCANDAL IN THE SECRET CITY is no exception. There is an exploration of women’s struggles in the workplace in the 1940’s, the ethical dilemmas raised by scientific development and the sacrifice of freedoms in exchange for security.”


LOCAL OUTLETS: Murder by the Book, Powell’s Books.

WHERE ELSE TO BUY IT: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Books-A-Million

PRICE: Hardcover: $28.95/Trade Paperback $17.95/ eBook $9.99

CONTACT THE AUTHOR: Email: Website: Facebook: Facebook page for this series: Twitter: @dianefanning

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.