THE AUTHOR: Deirdre Thurston

THE EDITOR: Joe Coccaro

THE PUBLISHER: Koehler Books

SUMMARY: CAUGHT is a collection of stories that explore the deeper human themes: expectation, desire, loss, hope, fear, joy, redemption. While the collection as a whole is relentlessly empathic, each retelling is colourful and sharp; here acidic and humorous, there bittersweet with pathos. In this era of increasing social disconnection – in which technology is replacing intimacy and life occurs at a pace that challenges our ability to stop, observe and interpret our own existence and its relationship with those around us – CAUGHT’S celebration of the everyday experience offers nourishment for the harried soul.

Deridre ThurstonTHE BACK STORY: I decided to write a collection of stories/essays/vignettes because I had always dreamed of writing a book from an early age. The book took around twelve months to write. My only research was observation of life and the people I saw everyday and listened to myself.

WHY THIS TITLE?: The title was chosen from the first story in the book. I liked, as did the publisher, the connotations of the reader being “caught” by the stories.

WHY SOMEONE WOULD WANT TO READ IT:  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.


It Catches You!

ByDeb Drewon June 16, 2014

Format: PaperbackVerified Purchase

A delightful book that inspires the reader to reflect on their own memories, author Deirdre Thurston has chosen to uncover and display facets of life in a somewhat whimsical manner that is at once engaging. The reader is able to easily recognise similar feelings and thoughts of ones own life evoked by the descriptive manner utilised by the author. Indeed this skill almost overwhelms as the reader experiences amusement, happiness, sadness, sometimes disconcertingly all at once!

Beautifully written and enticing

ByRNMcon June 3, 2014

Format: Kindle Edition

In Caught, author Deirdre Thurston has written a collection of short stories or vignettes, splashing her words onto the page like an artist brushing oil paint onto the canvas, both creating something evocative and memorable. Thurston brings all five senses to bear as she immerses you into a moment in someone’s life. You smell the baking hams, taste the crustless cucumber-and-cress sandwich, hear the breeze ruffling the coconut palms, see the celebration of the whitebait catch, and feel Marjery’s soft cloud of black hair.

“Each story draws you in like the enticing first chapter of an impossible-to-put-down book. You turn the page, eager to know more about the characters she has so skillfully brought to life. Caught is a book, I wasn’t certain I wanted to read but to have missed Thurston’s beautiful voice, her insight into the human experience, and her amazing way of drawing the reader into the story would have been my loss. Caught is Thurston’s first published work, and I, for one, hope it is not her last.”

Beautiful, Moving, Funny

ByRebekah Tyleron June 18, 2014

Format: Paperback

Deirdre has the ability to describe the ups and downs of life in a witty and humorous way. This is a book that you will not be able to put down. Each story holds its own poetic tone that will take the reader on a ride into the lives of others – my favorite is The New House!

AUTHOR PROFILE:  I’ve been an observer of people my whole life, always intrigued by the unfolding of everyday events and what those events take on in the eyes and lives of ordinary people. As well as seeing — and feeling — the angst and the pain, the fragile hopes and dreams, the joys and the frustrations that make up the human condition, I’ve also always been able to see the funny side.  My vantage points have been from the perspective of a daughter, a sister, a wife and a mother, an aunt, a friend and a confidante — I’ve looked at life through many lenses, yet always my own observations have been enriched by the points of view of the other players in those unfolding dramas. And always inside of me, from the time I was five years old, has lurked a writer — framing my observations and cataloguing them. Storing them up until I was ready to capture them on paper. At 57 I began crafting my lifetime of observations into sketches and vignettes. Two years later I knew it was time to start sharing my stories with the world.

AUTHOR COMMENTS:  In writing this book I discovered many things about myself and life in general. My hope is that the readers will be able to have a good laugh, maybe shed a tear and know they are not alone in the ups and downs of life.



WHERE ELSE TO BUY IT: Amazon, Barnes & noble, etc. B&N, Book Depository, Amazon, Koehler Books.

PRICE:   Paperback $11.98   Kindle $6.00.

CONTACT THE AUTHOR: I think it’s very important to open the door to writer/reader interaction. You could post your e-mail address, Facebook page, or Twitter handle, or all of the above.

Weather Report for June 22



June 23: “CAUGHT,” by Deirdre Thurston

This book breaks new ground with us on two counts — it’s our first book of short fiction, and the first by a writer from New Zealand.

Perhaps because I published my own first novel at a rather well-seasoned age, I have a soft spot for late blooming writers like Deirdre.

“I’ve been an observer of people my whole life,” she says, “always intrigued by the unfolding of everyday events in the lives of ordinary people. My vantage points have been from the perspective of a daughter, a sister, a wife, a mother, an aunt, a friend and a confidante. And always inside of me, from the time I was five years old,  has lurked a writer — framing my observations and cataloging them.

“At 57, I began crafting my lifetime of observations into sketches and vignettes. Two years later, I knew it was time to begin sharing my stories with the world.”

And the world is better off for it.

June 26: “30 Perfect Days: Finding Abundance in Ordinary Life.” By Claudia Taller.

Here, Claudia Taller has provided the perfect complement to CAUGHT. Both deal with ordinary life and the opportunities and disappointments it can present, but while Thurston functions as an unseen narrator, Taller’s “30 Days” is intensely personal.

Have you ever awakened one morning and declared to yourself: “From now on, starting today, my life is going to be perfect”?

Most of us say that a lot, only to be reminded over and over of the elusiveness of perfection. The message that Taller tries to impart is that even days that are flawed are important pieces in the mosaic of human existence.

The book is presented in journal form, and it is Taller’s unblinking honesty that keeps it from slipping into self indulgence. Every day during her 30-day quest, she takes dead aim at achieving an exquisitely ordered and useful life, only to see that aim often frustrated by her human failings or unforeseen circumstances. Yet those days aren’t presented as failures, just a lessons.

A prolific contributor to regional publications in Northeast Ohio (she is, among other things, an expert on Ohio wineries), Taller often holds weekend retreats that encourage writers to explore the inner workings of their own creativity.

Other things:

1. This will be the last week when only two books will be offered. Starting on June 30, we will begin to double up.

This was done out of necessity, because otherwise I would now be asking newcomers to wait until December before being featured. Still, I see far more advantages than disadvantages here. Theoretically, this will draw twice as many potential readers to the site each week, and a person stopping by because of one book may also become intrigued with the other. I don’t see how it can hurt.

2. For the Snowflakes participants who are reading this, don’t forget to tell everyone you know (and even some people you don’t know) that your book is being featured. Otherwise, we would be replicating the very problem this blog is designed to overcome — relying on random visits to draw attention to our work.

People come here because they’ve been invited, either by me or by you. And the more followers we can attract, the more credibility we’ll have, so please ask your writer friends to do that.

3. These “nutshells” belong to you as well as to the Snowflakes site, so feel free to copy and use them in any way you like — to post on your Website, to use in publicizing your book, however. I think they provide a nice little summary.

How Not to Avoid Jet Lag

Joshua Brown

AUTHOR:  Joshua Samuel Brown, Portland, OR.

CONTACT:  josambro AT gmail DOT com

ABOUT THE BOOK: There 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.

BACK STORY: Writes Brown: “When people find out that I spent nearly a decade as a travel writer and gave it up (to lead a vaguely normal life,) they sometimes react with disbelief. ‘But that’s the world’s greatest job,’ some folks tell me, imagining lobster on the beach, first class tickets to everywhere and endless exotic entertainment.

“After being driven slightly mad by too many years on the road I decided to compile some of my bizarre stories from my years as a travel writer (for Lonely Planet and others) into one book. Several of my test readers found the stories quite visual, and suggested I illustrate some of them. But I can’t draw, so I hired my friend David Lee Ingersoll – a professional cartoonist who’s worked for, among others, Dark Horse Comics, to do the illustrations for me.”

Jet Lag

WHY SOMEONE WOULD WANT TO READ IT: 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-radqar 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.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:  “I was a teenage bike messenger. For three years I rode through Manhattan’s artificial canyons of steel and stone, dodging cars and pedestrians with fanatical diligence, lungs full of marijuana and exhaust fumes. By sixteen I’d developed a knack for getting between points A and B with speed and precision. At eighteen I was burnt out and sick of New York, so I enrolled in an upstate university, graduating four years later with a degree in creative writing and a powerful desire to see the world.

“Taiwan seemed like a good place to begin an expatriate life. After a few dips into various vocations (including teaching kindergarten and busting sweatshops) I started taking writing more seriously, becoming first an Asia-based journalist and then a guidebook writer. Travel writing provided an ideal way to force-mate my compulsive fetish for escape and logistical skill. My knack for uttering pleasantries in many languages didn’t hurt. For a decade-plus I lived an obsessive logistic-junkie’s dream, earning my way around the world reporting from exotic lands while connecting points from A to Z.  Though I’ve written for tons of magazines, websites & literary publications, the stories in this collection, a mixture of new journalism, non-fiction and pure fiction, share a common denominator outside of belonging to the travel genre: None of them offer anything in the way of useful information.

EDITED BY: Two of my amazing Lonely Planet colleagues, Celeste Brash and Zora O’Neil, helped with editing and proofing.

PUBLISHED BY: I self-published through Amazon. The Kindle version is available here, and I’m working on getting the print version out.


HAVE A TASTE: Amazon lets the author set their own sample length, so I set mine so that anyone can read the first two stories and illustrations as part of the sample. After that, I’m hoping folks’ll buy the book. That’s also here:


THE BOOK: Betrayal.


THE ABetrayalUTHOR: Sharon Brownlie.

SUMMARY: Helen King’s childhood was thwarted by abuse and rejection. At the age of fourteen she runs away to Gloucester. Unfortunately she is found by the local pimp, Addie Davies, who lures her into a life of drugs and prostitution. Helen uses the drug addiction as way to blank out the memories and enable her to hide the psychological scarring caused by those that had hurt and betrayed her. She knows that her life has to change it had become a never ending vicious circle, a circle that had no beginning and no end. Helen’s decision to quit her addiction comes at a time when she has a chance encounter with an old school teacher. This opens up old wounds that had remained hidden and festering deep within her. It also leads to her decision that it is time for payback for all those that she felt had betrayed her.

Bitter and twisted, Helen heads to Edinburgh to begin her killing spree. She wants her victims to suffer for their betrayal. Helen makes sure that they know why they are about to be killed. Even as she kills her first victim, Helen’s mind is racing ahead to the next one on her list.

THE BACK STORY: I read a non- fiction book called Never a Hero to Me by Tracy Black. I was moved by her story and wanted to get revenge back for her. So you could say the book was the research. I used Edinburgh as I know the location very well so no need for research there, just knowledge of the locale. I did use the Scottish tongue for some characters but kept it so readers can understand it.

WHY THIS TITLE: Because Helen felt all the people she needed had turned their backs on her.

WHY SOMEONE WOULD WANT TO READ IT: 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.


5 Stars. “I love murder/crime/thriller stories, so grabbing this on Kindle Unlimited took no thought. From the very first pages I got sucked in. The writing was not filled with flowery drivel explaining every last detail. It was a hard-hitting, intense yet realistic read. Helen suffered from childhood and continued in a downward spiral, blaming everyone who did not intervene–including her teacher, her mother and a social worker. She goes on a rampage taking control of her life and pain with revenge. The back and forth banter of the characters and the down and dirty topics made this a riveting read. I loved the writing style that used a lot of dialogue without pages and pages of boring narrative — Rhoda D’Ettoreon, ByFiction.

5 Stars. “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. The author gives us a character, Helen, who is entirely who and what she seems to be. Her struggles, limitations and decisions are not ones that involve some improbable skills or resources. Helen is entirely consistent with her reality and follows an evolution that for the reader is compelling. For the Girl With the Dragon Tattoo fans this will be a good choice, but be aware you are shifting gears and this story takes a more personal turn that explores the characters in depth. — View From Inside, by Valon.

5 Stars. “Helen has hit rock bottom. She’s addicted to drugs, and she makes the money she needs for heroin through prostitution. It’s an endless and destructive cycle. At age twenty, after six years in the life, she decides to make definitive changes. Helen is waiting for her dealer when she recognizes a voice from her past. It’s Miss Gloria Bryson, Helen’s former English teacher. Helen dwells on her past treatment. Her father and his friends, a social worker, and of course Miss Bryson fill her thoughts. She’s ready to make various other people pay for their role in her predicament. Detective Inspector Belinda Brennan is a woman trying to advance in a male-dominated profession. When she’s assigned a murder by garrote to investigate, she has no idea where the investigation will take her. Sharon Brownlie takes the reader into a shadowy, gritty world. Her writing style brings that world to life. Betrayal makes a mark on the reader, leading him or her to think about the story and characters long after finishing the boojk. — Jada Rykerson.

4 Stars. Helen’s drama is depressing but, sadly, all too realistic. She was abused and overlooked by those who could have helped. Still, she makes an honest effort to regain her life and self-respect. Her move begins with hope, and I found myself cheering for Helen. Previously a victim, she’s finally taken control of her life and made an attempt to improve it. Helen is an awesome character, somebody I truly felt sorry for and cheered throughout the novel. This novel is great for readers who want a story of trial and hope. — Maria.

AUTHOR PROFILE: I am currently residing on the Costa Del Sol of Spain. I left the UK some years ago. There really wasn’t a reason for the move… I guess I just get itchy feet every so often. Probably because my father was in the army and we traveled a lot, never really putting roots down anywhere. I returned to education, as all the travelling had an adverse effect on my schooling. My chosen degree was History. Eventually I graduated in 2006 with History MA Hons and went on to do a PGCE. My work history is so diverse and ranges from cleaning offices to tutoring and teaching adults. Life here in Spain is slow paced and relaxed, an ideal place to do what I love best… write. I do, however, miss family and friends back in the UK. I am a proud grandmother to twins, James and Rebecca, and their older sister Melissa.

AUTHOR COMMENTS: “Some people may feel uncomfortable with reading/dealing with child abuse but I feel it was handled well in Betrayal, and there is nothing graphic portraying it (the abuse itself). I didn’t set out to make people feel uncomfortable, and I want readers to enjoy the story.”



PRICE: Paperback $9.63 £6.46, Kindle $3.03 £1.99. However, there is a promo set for the 19th of June @ 0.99c and 0.99p.



Weather Report, June 15



June 16: “Betrayal,” by Sharon Brownlie.
What I found fascinating about this undeniably gritty and intense novel is that it is built around something of a role reversal. Those unfortunate souls on the receiving end of sexual abuse are often dismissed by novelists, their victimhood forcing them into subservient roles in the plot as well as their lives. Helen King, on the other hand, brings to Brownlie’s book what Dexter Morgan brought to popular television. Rather than being helplessly tortured by her bad memories, she sets out to do battle with them, and everyone associated with them. It’s hard to imagine a drug-addicted prostitute who ruthlessly murders people as a sympathetic character, but Brownlie’s Helen comes close. At the very least, you come to understand what drives her rage, and you have to acknowledge it.
June 23: “How Not to Avoid Jet Lag,” by Joshua Samuel Brown.

There 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. He eats Asian dog meat so you won’t have to.


1. In order to make room for various musings about writing and publishing, guest posts, and the like, I’ve started a new complementary blog called More Snowflakes ( Guest posts are always welcome.

When you get a chance, check it out.

2. I want to publicly thank Linda Goin and John Maberry for their enormous assistance in the technical aspects of this project. Because I’m something of an anti-geek, I couldn’t have put this together without them, and they continue to be receptive to my frequent (and no doubt annoying) pleas for help.

John’s “Waiting for Westmoreland” was our second featured book. He lives in New Mexico and is a self-taught computer troubleshooter.

Linda, from Louisville, KY, has done just about everything in the writing business. She’s a copy editor and copywriter, a former newspaper editor, and a social media whiz who has chaired several workshops on the latter subject.

Bless both of you!

3. Claudia Taller, wdaffodilshose “Thirty Perfect Days” will be featured on Snowflakes in a Blizzard later this month, has already come out with a new novel — “Daffodils and Fireflies.” Its coming out party was held on June 13.

A resident of the Cleveland, OH area, Claudia has written over 300 magazine articles and several books, and her organization “Igniting Possibilities” specializes in holding weekend workshops on creativity. She is also something of an expert on Ohio wineries.

4. I’ve decided to post a short list in this space from time to time, kind of like a Letterman list (but not nearly as funny).  
This time around, let’s look at some books in our “catalogue” that might appeal to Dads on Father’s Day, Call them “guy books.”

1. “Jacks or Better,” by Michael Billington.
Three dead men, all named Jack, are found in a boat in the middle of a small southern Ohio lake. Why were their bodies dumped in a boat and set adrift? The answer to those questions will take reporters Mel Palazzo and Mick Church on the ride of their lives.
2. “Collision Course,” by Joe Broadmeadow.
The novel is set in the background of the strained relationship between the police and the minority community, arising from racial prejudices embedded within police departments. When his encounter with a troubled Marine Corps war veteran ends tragically, police sergeant Josh Williams finds himself a victim of politics and the quest for power. Written by a longtime Providence, RI cop, this has the ring of authenticity.
3. “Waiting for Westmoreland,” by John Maberry. Click on John’s name on the “Author” page of this blog.
Surviving poverty and the deaths of loved ones, the author remains hopeful as he exits childhood. then comes the draft that sends him to Vietnam. With innocence lost and illusions shattered, he seeks answers. College courses are intriguing but offer no solutions. Eventually, hope returns in the form of a life philosophy that comes from a chance encounter at a party.
4. “Island Dogs,” by B.M. Simpson. Click on the name on our “Author” page.
A ragtag group of expatriates find each other — and all sorts of trouble — in a congenial bar on the Caribbean island of Angilla.
5. “Hustle Henry and the Cueball Kid,” by Jack Strandburg.
A clever semi-spoof on “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid” that has two itinerant pool hustlers terrorizing the Old West with cue sticks instead of pistols.
6. The Secret Corps,” by Peter Telep.
When a small town home invasion results in a tragic death, Marine Corps veteran Johnny Johansen and his three buddies get swept up in a conspiracy that threatens the entire nation. Lots of five-star reviews on Amazon.
7. “Road Gang,” by H.V. Traywick Jr. 
A lively memoir about U.S. Army engineers building roads in Vietnam during the war.



THE BOOK: Turnstiles.


THE AUTHOR: Andrea McKenzie Raine. I’ve also published a book of poetry titled A Mother’s String through Ekstasis Editions. My author website is and my facebook fan page is

THE PUBLISHER: Turnstiles was published by Inkwater Press – a small independent publisher based in Portland, Oregon. I was impressed with their services in the design, editing and marketing departments. The team at Inkwater Press are a friendly and professional bunch who care deeply about their book products and the authors.

THE EDITOR: See “The Publisher’ above.

SUMMARY: Martin Sourdough is a homeless person who has chosen to turn his back on the corporate, material world; Willis Hancocks Jr. is a barrister, an alcoholic philanderer, and a misogynist; and Evelyn (aka Yvonne) is a prostitute. Turnstiles speaks to these social problems through the smaller scope of each character’s individual trials. There is a struggle that exists between the need to serve one’s own needs and the expectation to participate in the larger social scheme. Martin and Willis are both trying to fit into the world, but on their own terms. They are naïve, searching for an Eden-like state of being. Through a broader experience of personal fortune, misfortune, travel, and social interactions, they each learn to accept their path and take control of their own destinies.

THE BACK STORY: I always knew there was a novel in me, but I wasn’t sure where the story idea would come from. 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.

WHY THIS TITLE: The title Turnstiles came to me early on in the writing process and it happened to stick. I thought of how Turnstiles allow a person to move in one direction through a gate, and then there was also the idea of switching tracks on a railway turnstile. Turnstiles worked as a strong metaphor for crossing physical, geographical and internal boundaries; either making a decision to go forward or being forced to make a life-altering change. The characters in Turnstiles are each put on a certain path, and then given the opportunity to take a risk and change their path.

WHY SOMEONE WOULD WANT TO READ IT:  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.


5 Stars – I thoroughly enjoyed reading Turnstiles by Andrea McKenzie Raine. I thought she did a very good job of weaving several different compelling characters together across different temporal and geographical realms. This book s a rarity among books that I encounter. It is difficult to say the book belongs to a specific genre, but that is what makes it work so well for me. It introduces us to several memorable characters, focuses on each of them throughout the book, and uses them to address numerous important social issues, including homelessness, prostitution, and misogyny. It also left me on the edge of my seat at times during the book, as Evelyn seeks to escape the life as a prostitute into which she was forced. Though written in the third person, the use of the characters’ diary entries throughout the book gave them their own unadulterated voice at critical moments for the characters. The characters, including the heroes, are significantly flawed, but that is fine because I like my heroes flawed. the character development is splendid. Part psychological fiction, part social commentary, and part thriller, I cannot recommend this book highly enough. I’m certainly looking forward to the prequel. – Stephen Karr

5 Stars – I enjoyed reading Turnstiles by Andrea McKenzie Raine. I saw the read now option and thought, why not? I didn’t have to be at work until the evening and decided to spend a couple of hours reading a book by a promising author. I could not stop reading. It was all I could do to tear myself away long enough to get ready for work, and then I was back at my computer to finish the story. The plot is complex and draws you in from the very start. Her characters are deep and honest and are woven together intricately. I especially like the vivid descriptions and the way the story came together. I highly recommend this book. – Beth Hale

5 Stars – Since Andrea McKenzie Raine is also a poet, I expected the writing in this novel to be beautiful, and I wasn’t disappointed. What I didn’t expect was how much of a page-turner Turnstiles would be. I found myself staying up late into the night, trying to keep my eyes open just so I could find out what happens to these intriguing characters. I also found myself caring about what happened to them, and thinking about them when I wasn’t reading the book. In addition to the compelling characters and the compassionate way they are drawn, the plot is both clever and fast-paced and keeps you guessing. This is a confident and insightful first novel and I look forward to reading more from Andrea McKenzie Raine in the future. – Stacey

5 Stars – Andrea McKenize Raine has written a wonderful novel based on finding oneself. The characters are deep and well thought out. Her style lust and colorful. The plot is complicated but not so much as to drag down the story. Andrea keeps the story moving with the right mix of emotion and cynicism. A great story to fill warm summer evenings with. I’m looking forward to future work by this author. – Cliff Roberts.

AUTHAndrea RaineOR PROFILE: I live in my head most of the time, and I am ruled by emotion and intuition. I am a daydreamer who has  conjured up stories and poems since childhood, and prefer to have an invisible cushion of creative space to work and dream within whenever possible. These days, my creativity cushion is much thinner, as I am now a mommy of two beautiful boys aged 5 and 2. I also juggle a full-time day job as a government correspondence writer.  I’ve been publishing my poems in literary journals and anthologies over the past 20 years. Since publishing my debut novel, I am now working on a prequel novel and I’ve also started writing a sequel to Turnstiles. I have many more books in me – some books are continuing the story of Turnstiles, and other story ideas are completely separate. I am also working on publishing more books of poetry.

AUTHOR COMMENTS: When people ask me “W hat is your book about?” My stock answer, in a nutshell, is usually ‘rich man and poor man swap fates’ – it is a simple, well-worn premise, but the unravelling plot of Turnstiles goes much deeper. The reader is able to examine the individual lives of the three main characters through a scope, which are set on the stage of society as a whole and examined through a much larger scope. The changes or decisions made by the characters create a domino effect on all the lives they touch, for better or worse; and then there is karma, redemption and new beginnings. A homeless person isn’t necessarily condemned to stay homeless, and a rich person may not stay on top of the world. Everything in life is fluid and changing.


LOCAL OUTLETS: Turnstiles is available in local bookstores in Victoria at Munro Books, Bolen Books, Ivy’s Bookshop, and also in Tanner’s Books (Sidney, BC), The Mulberry Bush Bookstore (Parksville, BC) and Mosaic Books (Kelowna, BC).

WHERE ELSE TO BUY IT: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Powell’s.

EVENTS: None at the moment.

PRICE: Paperback $18.95 (CDN); kindle $6.99 (CDN).

CONTACT THE AUTHOR: Readers can connect with me through my email at, on Facebook at, my author blog at, My Google+ page at, and Twitter at @ARainewriter.

What to Do About Mama?


THE BOOK: “What to Do About Mama?”


THE AUTHOR:  Barbara Trainin Blank (with Barbara Matthews).

THE EDITOR:  Edited through Sunbury Press.

THE PUBLISHER: Sunbury Press, Mechanicsburg, PA. A publisher of trade paperback, hard cover and digital books in both fiction and non-fiction. Publishes around 70 titles a year.

SUMMARY: “Fifty-four million Americans already serve as unpaid caregivers to family members, and that number is likely to grow as the population continues to age. Two-thirds of these caregivers are women — many of them in the ‘sandwich generation,’ simultaneously caring for both children and older family members. This book is based on the real-life experiences of the authors and other caregivers who have openly and honestly shared their joys and heartaches. It isn’t a book by ‘experts,’ but by people in the trenches.”

Barbara Training BlankTHE BACK STORY: “My focus has always been on journalism, nonprofit PR and grant writing, as well as editing. I’ve also written several plays, but never a book — until now. In 2011 I interviewed Barbara Matthews for a newspaper article, and she presented the idea of collaborating on a book. She was a non-writer with a work background in aging and experience taking care of her mother-in-law. At the time, I had completed three years of long-distance caregiving for my mother. My prospective author had kept a journal during the caregiving experience. Ironically, I, the writer, had not.”Barbara Matthews

WHY THIS TITLE: Self evident.

WHY SOMEONE WANT TO READ IT: What makes this book unique is that it reflects a diversity of experiences, from heart-warming to sobering to blood-curdling. Caring for an elderly parent or spouse, especially when dementia enters the picture, is a classic example of “You had to be there.” And so the voices in “What to Do About Mama” come not from physicians or social scientists, but people who were, indeed, there — at a time when someone had to be.

“This book contains information and resources that will not only be invaluable to families but also to professional social workers. Barb Matthews and Barbara Trainin Blank have identified the everyday practical issues caregivers must confront. These include the stress and emotional demands of being a caregiver, the impact this role will have on the remainder of the caregivers family, the financial implications and many other issues that we may not immediately think about when we think of what it means to be a caregiver. If you are a caregiver or are preparing to become one, or if you are a professional who works with caregivers, this book will give you valuable insights that will help you to better appreciate not only the difficulties caregivers encounter but also the many rewards which far outweigh the burden.” — Robert Burns.

“What to Do about Mama” provides a poignant and powerful look into the life of primary caregivers. It delivers a detailed look at the trials and tribulations they, the care receiver, and all others involved (or not involved) deal with each day and beyond, even after the death of the care receiver. This is a must read for all present, future caregivers, and for those who understand that “everyone is a potential caregiver”. It shares a number of perspectives and situations filled with great anecdotes, advice, and affirmation. I will recommend this at all my caregiver presentations and workshops! Thank-you Barb and Barb for your candor, dedication and your compassionate hearts.” — M. Gallardo.

“The best book I’ve seen on the challenge of eldercare, a book for caregivers by caregivers. I wish I’d had this book years ago. I would not have felt so alone and overwhelmed. Barbara Matthews and Barbara Trainin Blank include their own caregiving stories as well as stories from a wide range of caregivers, offering a wealth of honest insight, helpful advice, useful strategies, and a wealth of information. I recommend this book highly as a valuable resource to help deal with a challenge that most of us will face some day.” — Diane Dreher, PhD.

AUTHOR PROFILE:  An independent writer in many different media, Barbara Trainin Blank brings sensitivity, intellectual curiosity, a clear and lively writing style, and love of words to every project. She has won praise for presenting complex ideas lucidly and for her conscientiousness, as well as for establishing easy rapport with her diverse interview subjects and clients. A graduate of Barnard College in her native New York City, Trainin Blank began her journalism career with Cosmopolitan. Since then, she has been a regular contributor to regional publications such as Business2Business, Harrisburg and Business Woman magazines; newspapers like the Patriot-News and the Carlisle Sentinel, both dailies; and national publications such as Hadassah, Naamat Woman, and the web site: . She was a longtime theater critic for the Patriot and writes an arts column for ShowcasePA and theater previews for the Sentinel. Last year, she and her husband moved from the Harrisburg area to Silver Spring, MD. The couple has two children.

AUTHOR COMMENTS: “When I was a child I entertained myself while walking home from school by making up stories in my head. One of my heroes was Nelly Bly, the investigative reporter. I always listened to snippets of conversation and expanded them. Yet, my goal, far as I could tell, was to become a social worker. After starting and leaving graduate school, I felt lost–and went to an employment agency. There an astute counselor asked me what I wanted to do. Even before the question was out of her mouth, I said, “Write.” She responded, “Then why not go into publishing?” When I replied, “You can’t make a living as a writer,” she had the perfect retort: “Do you want to make money, or do you want to be happy?” Shortly after I accepted a job at Cosmopolitan magazine, which launched a career that has made me happy.”


WHERE TO BUY IT: Amazon, Barnes & Noble.

PRICE: $17.96 on Amazon, $9.99 on Kindle.


Weather Report, June 9



JUNE 9: “What to do About Mama,” by Barbara Trainin Blank (with Barbara Matthews).

I’m always looking for a change of pace in our mix, and this book is definitely timely. Advances in medicine have led to much longer lives, which should be a good thing. The downside, however, is that many people now outlive the point of being able to take care of themselves, leaving their families to pick up the often considerable slack. In a worse case scenario, that “family” is reduced to a single caregiver, often someone already edging into early old age. Then there’s the “sandwich generation” phenomenon, where younger caregivers are forced to juggle the needs of older parents and their own children — or grandchildren.

This is no revelation, of course. Hundreds of thousands of people not only know about it, but are living it. What makes this book different is that its wisdom is delivered not from a lofty medical perspective or a college professor’s lectern, but from the trenches. The stories you’ll read from caregivers about their experiences are honest portrayals of the joys and the heartaches of becoming and remaining the lifeline for another person.

Moreover, both lead writer Barbara Trainin Blank and co-author Barbara Matthews have been in those “trenches” themselves.

June 12: Turnstiles, by Andrea Raine.

Our first Canadian author, Victoria’s Andrea Raine, shares something in common with Katie Andraski, whose book is currently featured. Both were prolific and widely published poets before turning to fiction.

But while Andraski stayed close to home with a book that was part fiction and part memoir, Raine lets her imagination wander.

Her main characters in “Turnstiles” are a prostitute, a homeless man and a misogynist.  Her gift is that she presents these individuals not as aberrations on the far outskirts of society, but people who despite their flaws are ultimately quite human.

Says Raine: “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.”

“Turnstiles” makes you care about those people. And as a bonus, the prose is as lyrical and imaginative as you might expect from a poet.


Melinda Inman, whose novel “Fallen” will be a Snowflakes feature later this summer, is the first of our writers — as far as I know — to plunge into the brave new world of crowd-sourcing.

And quite successfully, at least so far. Melinda has set a goal of roughly $5,750 to help defray the cost of publishing her book, and in just a week has raised almost one-fifth of that.

We’re always looking for different takes on old subjects, and “Fallen” takes perhaps the oldest story of all — Adam and Eve — and turns it into a novel.

If you visit Melinda’s Website at, you can read more about “Fallen” and how her Kickstarter campaign works. She is offering various incentives to encourage donations, and this would probably be of interest to any writer contemplating that path.

However, to flipflop a current cliche, Kickstarter campaigns are sprints, not marathons. Melinda has only until June 30th to raise her money.

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Upcoming for June 2nd and 5th


JUNE 2: Death of a Cabman, by Nina Boyd.

One of the goals of this project was to introduce American readers to international writers, so we might as well get started. Nina Boyd has sunk deep historical roots into Huddersfield, England, and that is reflected in her current novel, “Death of a Cabman.”

For most of her life, Boyd resisted occasional urges to become a writer on the grounds that “other people could do it a lot better than I could.”But she was creative tinder, just waiting for a spark, and that came during a trip to a local law enforcement museum.

“None of the exhibits interested me,” she recalls. “Who knew there were so many different helmets and police whistles? Then I saw her. Behind the bars of a postcard rack was a photograph of a hard-faced woman in police uniform. She had eyes that drew me in. Clearly a woman to be reckoned with! I bought the postcard, and looked up Mary Sophia Allen on the internet. There was very little about her: certainly no biography. So I decided to write my own.”

That first effort found a publisher, and Boyd followed it with another biography, this one of Lizzy Lind, a “famous Edwardian vivisectionist.” These were niche books with a relatively small readership, but they were the perfect setup for Boyd’s subsequent journey into fiction writing

. “Death of a Cabman” is an excellent example. A murder occurs in this novel, and the identity of the perpetrator remains a mystery until the next-to-last page, but this is much more than a simple “murder mystery.” The research skills that Boyd honed in her non-fiction writing have enabled her to create a vivid early-20th century sense of time and place, focusing on the suffragette movement, and her main characters are not only likable but fully drawn.

As for the arc of the murder plot, “Death of a Cabman” is reminiscent of Erle Stanley Gardner’s Perry Mason series —  the victim is a rather unpleasant character with a long list of people with reasons to want him dead. But as a reader, you may find yourself more interested in whether police constable Fred Clough will marry amateur detective Ethel than how he finds the killer.

JUNE 5: The River Caught Sunlight, by Katie Andraski.

This gracefully written, multi-layered book is actually a literary hybrid — part memoir, part novel. The elegant prose comes from Katie Andraski’s previous work as a poet, while the story is a fictionalized version of her own. Andraski summarizes: “Sometimes a person has to leave home, even if that home is the most marvelous place she’s ever lived, even if her mother will be diagnosed with terminal cancer, and her beloved farmer, a man she’s loved for years, asks her to marry him. Janice Westfahl feels called to publicize Godspeed Books, a small evangelical publisher outside Chicago, a good thousand miles away from upstate New York. The job fits her, a woman who loves God and books. But Janice finds herself working with Jeremiah Sackfield, a radical right wing activist, who toys with revolution.

“Even though she is a brilliant publicist, Janice feels like she is betraying herself by promoting a cause she doesn’t believe in. Like the elder brother in the Prodigal Son story, her brother has stayed home, furious that his sister has dodged the painful months of his mother’s dying, while earning their father’s favor. When her father dies, they must settle the estate with this jealousy flickering between them.”

There’s a lot going on here, and it’s even more poignant when you realize that it isn’t just made up. Moreover, the conflicts that assail Janet Westfahl about her job mirror those of many committed Christians who worry about how their beliefs are sometimes interpreted and applied in a real world setting by those whose motives are suspect.

Andraski probes this dilemma with the dexterity of a brain surgeon lancing a tumor, and one of the book’s reviews says a lot about how well she succeeds: “Like all good writers, Katie has plucked her story from her life. This book has a piercing insight at its heart as humane as it is damning of religion gone off the rails.”

That quote comes from Frank Schaefer, the real-life evangelist for whom Andraski handled publicity. The flesh-and-blood Jeremiah Sackfield.

Waiting for Westmoreland

THE BOOK:  “Waiting for Westmoreland.”

PUBLISHED IN: 2007 by Eagle Peak Press,

THE AUTHOR:  John Maberry.

John Maberry II

THE EDITOR: Largely self-edited but also had a developmental edit by Valerie Jean.

BOOK SUMMARY:  Those seeking happiness amidst the suffering or disillusionment of day to day life will find hope in reading Waiting for Westmoreland. Those seeking redemption for past mistakes, will also find a means to achieve it. The book is the true story of a 20th century Candide — an innocent growing up in America in the fifties. As a boy, the author suffers the death of loved ones. Spending a year in Vietnam corrupts him. Then the political realities of the war and Watergate shatter his idealistic illusions about America. He searches for tools to reform the country that failed him. His quest becomes a frustrating pursuit. Finally, he meets a person who tells him about the life philosophy of Buddhism. He learns that the credit or blame for all of life’s events lies within-not from others. Looking for happiness outside oneself is fruitless. Only by taking personal responsibility for one’s own life can one be truly happy.

THE BACK STORY: For years I intended to write an antiwar screed, with the Vietnam War debacle as the focal point. By the time I got around to writing the book, it had become much more. Without spoiling the reading of the book, as I began organizing it I came to realize the connections between the circumstances of my childhood, events surrounding my prospective marriage to my third wife and the experiences of Vietnam. So it became a memoir instead, with Vietnam still playing a major part of the book and still including much discussion about the mistakes that were made before, during and after that war as well as all the fallout from it in America. I began working on it a year after retiring with the determination to publish it no later than December 31, 2007; it came out in print September 2007.

WHY THIS TITLE?: An allusion to the mistake of waiting for Godot. For more on what that has to do with the General, see Chapter 8.

WHY YOU WOULD WANT TO READ IT: Maberry’s book comes along at a time of close examination and myriad reflections on the Vietnam War — 50 years since the first insertion of U.S. combat troops into the conflict, 40 years since the American exit. At such benchmark anniversaries, long-buried memories tend to percolate back to the surface. As “Waiting for Westmoreland” reminds us, these memories are different for every participant. Some were devastated by the Vietnam experience, others made wiser. Those years in Southeast Asia spit out patriots and cynics alike, leaving some crippled in body and others crippled in spirit.  Still, this is not just a book about surviving Vietnam, but surviving life. In the process, Maberry melds his tumultuous outer life with his inner journey, concluding at the end that reforming oneself, rather than changing others, leads to a better world.

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REVIEW COMMENTS: “I’m apparently about the same age as the author and am always curious to hear someone else’s experience of the times I’ve lived in. In this case, Mr. Maberry and I couldn’t have lived more disparate lives if we’d tried. I don’t think I could have survived Mr. Maberry’s life and I appreciate his sharing the way his inner life as well as his circumstances have unfolded to this point. He survived things that have only scared me from a distance and he has achieved things I’ve only dreamt about from a distance. I’m so impressed with the way he has developed his life. I’m especially delighted to have read his account of his experience of the ’60s and ’70s, two decades I didn’t fit into very well. Like Forrest Gump, Mr. Maberry made me re-evaluate that era in a more favorable light. In fact, this book made me re-evaluate a lot of things. Even if this were a big book, I would highly recommend it. It would be worth your time. But it’s a small book and reads very fast. No matter what your own experience in life, I think you will find this book interesting and impressive, and it may just lead to a whole new life for you, a new awakening.” — A, Sansbury.

“This is a good book to read if you are facing challenges and you need inspiration based in hard reality. This book is not only good reading and not only filled with guts and determination, it is a book that rings true in a way that could cause readers to easily find applications to their own very real circumstances. — W. Langan.

AUTHOR PROFILE: John survived a hard childhood, war, drugs and failed marriages. Graduating with top honors from college, he went on to earn a JD at Georgetown. Overcoming a death threat from his bride’s father, he finally found a happy marriage the third time around. After spending many years writing consumer education materials and government reports, he moved on to fulfilling a childhood dream of writing, beginning with the memoir, Waiting for Westmoreland. He and his wife relocated from Northern Virginia to New Mexico in 2011. They settled into their dream house high atop a hill near Silver City, in 2013. There they pursue their own third age pursuits–quilting for her and writing for him. John says of himself, “I’m a lapsed lawyer, a former government employee, a father of two and a 30+ year Bodhisattva of the Earth.  I’m also a happy man and a funny guy (strange/weird my wife says).”

AUTHOR COMMENTS: “Waiting for Westmoreland covers more time than the typical memoir. That’s because childhood behavior set up a response to events in Vietnam, which in turn led to further effects many years later. The web of causality woven through my life weren’t so obvious until I got well into writing the book. Death and disillusionment are powerful; I chose to show the suffering, the survival and the triumphs in detail. ”

SAMPLE CHAPTER: More than a chapter but less—an extended sample from more than one chapter to get a fuller flavor of the book.

LOCAL OUTLETS: Available at the Silver City (New Mexico) Library and the Fairfax County (Virginia) Library

WHERE ELSE TO BUY IT: Almost any online bookseller will have it and most brick and mortar stores will order it for store pickup. The lowest prices in America are at Lulu.

·         Amazon author page for the US shows print and Kindle as well as more about the author

·         Amazon in most other countries it sells at least Kindle books and some have the print version as well.

·         Barnes and Noble

·         iTunes

·         Kobo

·         Lulu

PRICE: $3.99 at most outlets for eBooks; print edition cover price is $16.95 but varies with discounts offered at the sites.