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.



1. Murder Over the Border


Murder Over the Border

THE BOOK: Murder Over the Border


THE AUTHOR: Richard Steinitz

THE PUBLISHER: Ravenswood Publishing

SUMMARY:  Yossi Abulafia, an Israeli policeman, is on reserve army duty, and is photographing antelopes instead of watching the border. His post collapses suddenly, injuring him seriously. After recovering, he discovers that during the collapse he has unwittingly taken a picture of what appears to be a murder – on the other side of the border.  As part of his duties he meets with the Palestinian delegation and discovers a connection to the shooter in Amsterdam, and to the murder in Jordan.  A series of incidents, shootings and diplomatic activity eventually lead to the unexpected solving of the crimes.

Richard Steinitz

THE BACK STORY:  I had the good fortune to do Reserve service one summer at a small outpost near the triangle border – the junction of Israel, Jordan and Syria, at the meeting of the Jordan and Yarmukh rivers. The physical location was beautiful, and nature stepped in with a band of gazelles that wandered around the base. They were small enough and light enough so that they didn’t set off the mines that were scattered outside the barbed-wire fencing, and so they could come very close to where we were. One of our jobs was to sit in a little bunker on the side of the hill, with a tin roof over our heads to keep the  sun off, and a huge telescope inside it. The job was to watch the movement of Jordanian  rmy vehicles, going up and down the road that parallels the border on the Jordanian side, and write down in a notebook every one that drove past. The job was boring, to say the least, since only half a dozen or so army vehicles drove down that road in a given day (and not many more civilian ones). The telescope was for us to be able to see whether they were military or civilian vehicles, and if possible, to identify the units they belonged to, by the flashes painted on them.

So I spent a bit more time watching the gazelles than I probably should have, and really regretted not having a camera with me to photograph them. This combination of gazelles, telescope and boredom rattled around in my mind for a long, long time – probably five years or more. It seemed to me to be a great idea for a story of some kind, even though I had no experience in story-writing and no intentions of doing any writing.

One day the seed germinated and I started to write – without any real plan or outline. It took me seven years to write what became Murder Over the Border, though I did do a few other things too.

WHY THIS TITLE: The story concerns a murder that is seen by the ‘hero’ from inside Israel, but occurs in Jordan

WHY SOMEONE WOULD WANT TO READ IT: Great murder mystery, with Middle Eastern flavor and full of surprises.

REVIEW COMMENTS: (can be found here:!latest-book-reviews/cslb)

  • Breathtaking suspense and mystery drive this overseas thriller. My complete concentration and attention got lost in this alternate realistic world, which most of us never get a chance to experience. The author sparked my imagination allowing me to dive into the elaborate and rich storyline to thoroughly enjoy. (S.K. Thomas)
  • This is an exciting novel of intrigue and terror. Murder over the Border by Richard Steinitz reflects the author’s knowledge of Israel and Palestine and a fine sense of what it takes to keep a reader turning the pages. (Tower Lowe)
  • There is only one thing I can find wrong with the book, `Murder Over the Border.’ What is that? It’s too good, I couldn’t lay it down. Normally I write most of the day, spend a few minutes each night reading and then go to sleep. Not so with this one. (James M. Copeland, Novelist)

AUTHOR PROFILE: Born in New York City of German-Jewish immigrant parents, Richard Steinitz studied at the State University of NY at Buffalo, and has been living in Israel since 1968. When not writing novels, he reads them in great quantities, and works for a multi-national educational publisher. He and his wife Naomi are the parents of two grown children and have two grandchildren. Though his own parents escaped the Holocaust, it has had an enduring effect on his life, and his writing. Researching the background for his books is his favorite activity, after reading mysteries!

AUTHOR COMMENT: “The one thing that helped me get started on this was my first portable computer. It was a local, Israeli invention – a development of an electronic dictionary, and had a tiny screen that held four lines of text! However, it was a computer, it could save files, and I could even transfer them to my main computer. For me, the big advantage of using this to write on, was that I could avoid the physical act and effort that is involved in writing by hand or by typewriter, and I could do it anywhere – on the train, on my balcony, while attending boring conferences, and so on. To this day, when I write anything by hand – be it a grocery list or a note to myself to do something, I write very fast (to get it over with as quickly as possible) and as a result, it is totally illegible – sometimes even to myself. I still have this little computer, and I keep it to remind me of where it all started, since without it, I would never have written the book. Digitally, I was now an author; mechanically, I would have remained a dreamer.”

SAMPLE CHAPTER: (Provide link).!my-books/cnec (scroll down to find the download)

WHERE TO BUY IT: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Book Depository

PRICE: $11.71 paperback, $4.99 Kindle



2. Insights From Inside

Insights From Inside

THE BOOK: Insights From Inside


THE AUTHOR:  Tom Gerdy and friends

THE PUBLISHER: Blackwell Press. Blackwell is a small firm in Lynchburg, VA. They were key to the effort because they recognized the potential for this book to make a difference and took a personal interest in the project.

SUMMARY: Insights From Inside is a collection of letters from inmates written to young people talking about the bad decisions they made that changed their lives. It is not along the lines of Scared Straight. The inmates are simply reaching out and having a conversation about their mistakes. Following each letter there are some questions to help spur discussion.

THE BACK STORY: The seed for this book was planted in 1967 in Little Falls, NJ. I was in a youth group that brought in two inmates to speak to us about their lives. The memory and images of that interaction are still as vivid in my head as if it happened minutes ago. In 2009 a friend shared a story about his high school buddy, BB, who was in prison for a long time on various drug charges. He was up for parole and my friend was trying to help him with that process. BB said that when he got out he wanted to help young people avoid the path he took by helping them make better decisions. That was the opening for the book idea I had in my “hip pocket”. We sent word back to BB telling him that he didn’t have to wait. He could start collecting letters from inmates now. BB started where he was incarcerated and then we networked around to three other prisons. We collected about 125 letters, many of which were from inmates who were still angry or still had a victim mentality. We eliminated those and ended up selecting 33 letters to include in the book.

WHY THIS TITLE?: Insights From Inside is not a book written by someone who observed what prison is like. The letters are from people who have lived it. We wanted young people to hear it from people who actually made the same mistakes many of our young people make. We wanted young people to understand the costs and the price of poor decisions.

WHY WOULD SOMEONE WANT TO READ IT: The bigger question here might be why you would want a young person you care about to read it. The book is based on two primary premises. The first is that every young person is at risk of making a bad decision that could change his or her life in horrible ways. The second premise is that if a young person is already making some bad decisions, he or she probably won’t listen to someone lecturing about changing their ways. However, the one voice they may hear is that of someone who has walked their path… been there and done that.
REVIEW COMMENTS: The best review of Insights From Inside I can offer comes from a wonderful source. We sent some books to a program in inner city Los Angeles. After a couple of weeks we got a card from a 16 year old young man in this program. Although his spelling, grammar, and sentence structure needed a bit of fine tuning, his message made us want to double our efforts. He wrote, “I would like to thank you very much. I read the book inside my class when I was trying to be bad and not do my work, but then one of the letters said something that really spoke out to me and I feel that it gave me a piece of courage and insight as to what life will be like if I quit. But I won’t because I want to change a life also but not through a letter.”

AUTHOR PROFILE: Author might not be the proper title here. Although I have contributed many pieces to Huffington Post over the years, I am not actually a writer. I am a husband, father, grandfather, community volunteer, and I spend some time in the for-profit world as a building contractor. As far as Insights From Inside is concerned, I gathered a group of people who want to make a difference. Together we compiled and published this book.

AUTHOR COMMENTS: “Our society is reactive in nature. We often wait until something goes wrong and then try to fix it. The group that gathered to create Insights From Inside, wanted to reach our youth in a proactive fashion. This book is an inexpensive way to reach many kids. It is a true grass roots effort that is gaining momentum. There is a great deal of work still to be done but we have already sent orders out to 21 states. It is being used in jr. high schools, high schools, college classes, youth groups, Boys and Girls Clubs, and churches. I hope as you read this you will give some thought to ways you can help us get this important book in more young people’s hands.”

SAMPLE CHAPTER: Instead of including an entire letter here, I want to share a couple of quotes from the book:

“There’s nothing in the street but a whole lot of broken dreams, a whole lot of lies. Yeah it look good when the monies coming, but it won’t last long. The one thing that’s promised in the streets is death and prison.”

“I have “I lost so much since I have been in here it hurts. I lost my self-respect, everything I owned, my family, and friends. Well, the friends I thought were my friends. Each day it gets lonelier.”

“I can still hear my mother and great grandma saying when I was younger ‘Boy, trouble easy to get into, but hard to get out of.’ Man, how true that is. Be careful who you ride with.”

“Destroying your life, dying in the street or in perison is not a bagde of honor. It’s stupid and a waste of what could be beautiful life.”

LOCAL OUTLETS: In Lynchburg, VA it can be found at Givens Books.
WHERE ELSE TO BUY IT: You can further check out “Insights From Inside” and purchase it on our website-

PRICE: Single book orders from our site are $10.00 including shipping. For multiple book purchases from our site the price can be as low as $4.00 a copy.

CONTACT THE AUTHOR: Please touch base with me if you have questions at our Facebook page or directly to my desk at

1. Sophia’s Web

The Halls


THE BOOK: Sophia’s Web: A Passionate Call to Heal Our Wounded Nature


THE AUTHOR: Burl Benson Hall with Merry Stetson Hall

THE EDITOR: Maureen Peat of Pari Publishing

THE FOREWORD: Carolyn Baker, Author of Collapsing Consciously: Transformative Truths for Turbulent Times.

THE PUBLISHER: Envision This! Media (Our own “in house” publishing with POD from CreateSpace)

SUMMARY: Sophia, the Spirit of Wisdom, has woven the multi-dimensional aspects of our lives—personal, relational, cultural, intellectual, scientific, philosophical, and spiritual—into a cosmic web. Burl Hall follows the thread within this web that connects his research in these fields to his personal mystical experience. In Sophia’s Web: A Passionate Call to Heal Our Wounded Nature, he takes the reader with him ever deeper into the heart of divine Wisdom. Sophia’s Web examines Burl’s individual dreams, visions, passions, and missions, in the light of Wisdom (Sophia) shared by great thinkers in all disciplines. It encourages readers to discover how they can co-create individual, planetary and universal health.

THE BACK STORY: Sophia (yet to be named) has been an envisioned friend of Burl’s since very early childhood. Later adult dreams and visions led Burl to research goddesses and to recognize Sophia, the spirit of Wisdom, as his childhood visionary companion. He self-published an earlier version, Sophia’s Web: Understanding the Unity and Diversity of Religion, Science and Ourselves, in the 1990s. Thereafter, he met and married Merry Hall who helped him edit, expand, and update his manuscript for a 21st Century audience that he hoped would be more ready for the paradigm shift this book puts forth.Sophia's Web cover

WHY THIS TITLE? Sophia’s Web refers to the cosmic web of life, light, and love into which all aspects of universal life are woven. The subtitle, A Passionate Call to Heal Our Wounded Nature, reaches out to the readers’ own vision, mission, and passion to heal the human psyche and the planetary nature that we have been destroying.

WHY WOULD SOMEONE WANT TO READ IT? Many people are awakening to the need to stop destroying the Earth and humanity and participate in healing and blessing them. This story of how one man experiences this conscious evolution can serve as an encouragement and guidepost for readers undertaking a similar transition.


Sophia’s Web is the saga of Hall’s journey from fleeting visions of Sophia in childhood to a mature, surrendered embrace of the Sacred Feminine which now underpins and informs his life, his work, and his connection with the earth community.

~ Carolyn Baker, author of Collapsing Consciously: Transformative Truths For Turbulent Times (From her Foreword to Sophia’s Web)

A most wonderful and inspiring book, incandescent with personal visionary experience and words that communicate in prose that is often poetry. It is offered to us by Burl and Merry Hall both as a revelation of Sophia as Divine Source and Container of all and, drawing on the work of outstanding scientists, the clear elucidation of a new paradigm of reality that supports this revelation. Knowing that we are all embraced by Sophia’s Web of Life could lift us out of our enslavement to the old dualistic patterns, old divisive beliefs and habits that are derived from fear and that now need to be transformed in a splendid affirmation of love for all creation. As they write: we need to awaken to the realization that “We are all a unity in the Godhead.”

~Anne Baring, author of The Dream of the Cosmos: A Quest for the Soul

I’ve long enjoyed the energy and heart that Burl Hall brings to his article postings at Sophia’s Web weaves together Burl’s unique, heartful vision, in the process, taking it to a new level. Though non-fiction, the book has been written so it draws the reader in and induces a story trance in a spiritual and artistic way. Hall weaves his words beautifully, while bringing in ideas from such luminaries as Jung and Rumi. Indeed, Hall seems to have taken Rumi so deeply into his heart and spirit that there were points in Sophia’s Web where I thought “That’s Rumi speaking!” This book pulls together the holistic Earth-Wisdom of many physicists, philosophers, psychologists, and myths. This book will inspire you, get you thinking in new, out of the box ways and give you hope for the future of humanity within us all.

~Rob Kall, Editor-in-Chief of OpEd Magazine

In Sophia’s Web, Burl Hall has masterfully articulated a long overdue vision of human evolutionary transformation found reflected within the inherent integrity of Creation itself. This is a book of deep scholarship and heart. It is a purposefully passionate proposal for humanity to once again ‘humanize’ itself by reclaiming Gaian consciousness as our birthright—a birthright inspired by the perennial wisdom of a planetary Goddess culture. It is a work of great merit–I highly recommend it!

~ Don Oscar Miro-Quesada, co-author, Lessons in Courage: Peruvian Shamanic Wisdom for Everyday Life and founder of The Heart of the Healer (THOTH) Foundation.

AUTHOR PROFILE: Burl Hall is an author, online radio co-host of Envision This, philosopher (lover-of-Sophia), mystic, and retired counselor. He writes with the editorial assistance of his muse and wife, Merry Hall, a retired teacher, author of Bringing Food Home: The Maine Example, and co-host of Envision This which connects listeners to visionaries of a more resilient, equitable, and Earth-friendly future. Together they enjoy grandparenting; permaculture gardening at their home in Sabattus, Maine; playing with their dogs, Sophie and Kali; and meeting and profiling the amazing visionaries they interview on their radio show.

AUTHOR COMMENTS: A passionate call to heal our wounded nature is vital at this critical evolutionary moment in human history. This call is currently going out in many forms, through many arts, from many visionaries; this book is our contribution to this urgent call. Our vision, passion, and mission is to help readers to discover how they, too, can co-create individual, planetary and universal health.



And the twain shall be one flesh: so then they are no more twain, but one flesh.

~ Mark 10:8

And on the 8th day (today!) God said, “Let there be hope!” Why do those words come forth? Because, we are on the brink of disaster, perhaps even extinction, due to a dualistic philosophy, a way of looking at life, that doesn’t work. We think only of ourselves–our wealth, our security, and our convenience– in this day and age. While we fret over our own personal future, we forget how our children and posterity will live. We destroy the wellbeing of our Mother Earth.

We are experiencing various religious and political groups warring with one another to the point of bloodshed, heartbreak, hatred, and death. Each political or religious group calls the other an “evil doer” while being blinded to seeing themselves in the eyes of those evildoers. While these groups are diverse, they suffer one illness, self-centeredness. Both sides of each conflict (coin) are blind to the unity of humanity.

In search of ever more resources and production, we rape and pillage our Mother Earth. We are destroying our environment because we have gotten ourselves into a competitive framework. We see winning as having more access to resources and goods than someone else. This competitive mindset results in a depletion of natural resources. Our ultimate goal is to win dominance over Nature, yet that war is exposed to be against ourselves.

Our relationship to Nature, after all, is the same as that of a child to its mother. We are dependent on her for survival. What shall we breathe when we destroy the atmosphere? Is it wise for us to take a dagger to the womb that supports us?

If you don’t agree with the reality of Global Warming, listen to the reports of increased dead zones in the oceans. Why, there is even the reemergence of poisonous algae that went extinct millions of years ago in these areas! This “devolution” proves that nothing is truly gone. Perhaps what we think is extinct is but in sleep, a potential waiting to unfold. It is only our human arrogance that thinks we are top of the line.

All that appears linear to us, including evolution, may well be cyclical, just as the Earth proved to be round, not flat. There is, furthermore, a widening gap worldwide between the rich and the poor who are becoming more and more like slaves. Yet, if we attend to history, we discover that slaves tend to rebel. Their fear of being beaten, starved and killed serves as the catalyst for anger and revolution. The fear of this happening also enslaves the slaveholder, who is consumed by the effort to thwart such “terrorism.” Oppression breeds rebellion; rebellion breeds more oppression. Round and round we go in a vicious cycle. When will it stop?


These issues reflect an underlying philosophy called dualism that pits one thing against the other. Two men holding guns out at each other are said to be in a duel. Either you live and I die, or I live and you die. Such duels are a metaphor for our dualistic philosophy of life. Insanely we pit our views against one another. Hence, in today’s world, we have multiple wars, neurotic and psychotic illnesses, the battle of the sexes and rape.

All of this turmoil results from a dualistic philosophy. We are so egocentric that we cannot see the various ways of perceiving the world as being akin to multiple spokes on the same wheel. Spokes apparently going in diametrically opposite directions are necessary to the whole wheel turning in its own holistic cycles towards a goal neither spoke can fathom. Many of the world’s wars (or glorified duels) would disappear if we could accept an overriding truth: what is diverse is unified.

For example, animals have different ways of perceiving from humans and hence live in a different world. There are some birds that have the visual capacity to see upwards of 500 miles. Meanwhile we often struggle to see 90 miles ahead as we sit atop a mountain on a clear, sunny day. However, in our self-centered world, neither bird nor human give much credence to the other’s point of view.

Even within our own species, we are egocentric in our views of the world. We fail to see that spokes, which begin on opposite sides of a circle nonetheless, lead to one hub. We each tend to see our specific way of viewing the world as the way; we really don’t get that our way is simply a way. We are now reaching the “dead end” of our “one way” streets.

Yet, each way of perceiving from every individual in every species reflects God, just as the multitudes of colors we see are all refractions of one source of light, our sun. Imagine how “reality” would seem different if we could see ultraviolet and infrared, for instance. What if we could hear the rumblings of the inner Earth and the music of the dancing stars? Alternatively, consider that perhaps we can! Perhaps we just don’tknow how to look and how to listen past what we believe to be real.

LOCAL OUTLETS: We are currently contacting locally owned bookstores, realizing that supporting local economies is a major part of the change needed.

Meanwhile, Sophia’s Web is available directly from us at



Barnes & Noble: PRICE: $18.

CONTACT THE AUTHOR: Visit Burl and Merry Hall on the web at Email contact: Facebook: Google+:

2. Two Ways To Sunday

Two Ways to Sunday

THE BOOK: Two Ways To Sunday


THE AUTHOR: Tom Starita., @tomstarita on twitter,

THE PUBLISHER: Infinity Publishing

THE EDITOR: Self-published

SUMMARY: Chris Marcum was a man who had everything. The perfect wife, the perfect job, and the perfect life. He was also sure his belief in God did not depend on those successes. So when an angel appeared to him on his deathbed with a challenge to prove the depths of his faith, Chris immediately accepted. Relive your life, with no recollection. This time however, without the breaks. What happens when instead of going right, you go left? What if there are no happy endings? How much can a man endure before he hits his breaking point? And what happens then?

THE BACK STORY: I was in the shower, lamenting the choices I had made over the previous two years (it’s always about a girl). I was angry at God, angry at myself, angry at everything and I wished that He had somehow stopped me from going down the path I chose. Then I thought that would be a great idea for a book! A couple of seconds later I was running out of the shower and instead of a Friday night at the bar I wrote five pages. The next day I decided I had to keep going to see what would happen.

WHY THIS TITLE: One of my best friends, Mike Saccenti came up with it during a brainstorming session and as soon as he said it I knew I found my title.

Tom Starita

WHY YOU WOULD WANT TO READ IT: If you’re looking for a religious/inspiration Mitch Albom/Nicholas Sparks book, you found it. At the same time I know several atheists who enjoyed the book because they could relate to the trials and tribulations that the main character goes through.

It’s a realistic look at life – drama, romance, comedy and tears – the whole gamut.

The book is set in Staten Island, NY – so obviously if you live in the great borough you should definitely pick it up just to pick up all the references.


Casey: 5 stars: What a story line! It’s about love, loss, a push to be at peace with yourself and the belief that there is a better place for us when we are gone. I laughed, I cried, I laughed again and cried again. It is a very thought provoking book that makes you wonder if the choice was yours how would you respond. I am looking forward to the next book, this new author writes. This would be a great book discussion book!

Shannon: 5 stars: You do not need to be a devout Catholic, or even Christian, to love this book. As a person not really aligned with any secular faith, I had apprehensions that this book might come off as preachy, but was proven wrong. It’s an inspiring book that leaves you feeling empowered to take control of your life. It also makes the reader think more about turning the pessimistic approach to life such as “why did this happen to me” into “what could have happened to me?’. It begs for self reflection and acceptance. It also speaks to faith, whether it be religious and spiritual, and its pertinence for guidance. But it reminds us that faith should not be depended on to fix our lives. This book serves as an enlightening reminder that you are responsible for your own life. As an avid reader, I can say the author’s debut is impressive. The structure and character development of the book is something you see with more established authors. The characters are well-fleshed and responsive. The protagonist, Chris Marcum, is an accessible and rounded character. The writing is smooth and crisp, allowing for the characters’ actions to dictate the story rather than an overuse of descriptors, which is a common pitfall for many writers. It’s obvious the author is seasoned in writing and is an ardent reader himself. The often-resonating question of “what if” is a main theme in this book, with the lead taking a choose-your-own-adventure approach with his life, given a second chance. This is the perfect book for a book club with the postulating plot giving way to a surprise ending and inciting thought-provoking questions. If you’re looking for a book that gives some inspiration with a kick of motivation, mixed with emotion and laughs, I would highly recommend Two Ways to Sunday. It’s rare that I am physically moved by books, but I can say that this had me in tears. It was more than I had anticipated and I was pleasantly surprised. This is certainly a book I will come back to.

Asics33: 5 stars: When I first sat down to read this, I could not put it down….. Two Ways to Sunday EASILY beats out any Nicholas Sparks (or anyone related to that genre) novel. This book had me laughing in one chapter and crying the next. Such an amazing story about the different twists and turns, as well as what could happen if you think about the “what ifs”. This was also very well written-very organized and you would not be confused if you set it down for a few days. Very emotional and powerful story that reaffirms my faith in a plan for each of us. I finished it in 2 days and was very pleased with the ending. One of the best books I have read in awhile. I strongly recommend this to all….It would be foolish NOT to add this to your library….

AUTHOR PROFILE: Tom Starita has two passions in life, writing and the New York Mets. Both have taken years off his life. He spent seven years teaching high school religion and is now realizing his goal as a published writer. His dream is to spend the rest of his life lounging in a pool with a book. Tom loves to laugh, loves to make people laugh and most importantly, hopes you enjoyed his first book. He is divorced and currently resides in Staten Island, NY.

AUTHOR COMMENTS: My only goal was to not write a cliché filled book. I wanted everything to be believable and every decision to make sense—even if you’re screaming at him to do the opposite.


LOCAL OUTLETS: Staten Island Advance, NY Daily News, NY Post


PRICE: $20.95 – print, $6.95 – ebook


Weather Report, Aug. 17



AUGUST 18-20:


Like Henry David Thoreau, another New Englander, Maine writer Burl Hall marches to the beat of his own drummer. Some of you may find yourselves tapping a foot in sync with that cadence,  others may consider it discordant.

Either way, the primary goal of this project is to highlight “under the radar” books that have something original to say. In the process, I welcome a variety of points of view — liberal and conservative, deeply religious and skeptical, optimistic and grim, traditional and adventurous. That’s how we learn. Edgy is OK, although I will bar the door to work that promotes overtly sociopathic, racist or misogynist views (sociopathic, racist or misogynist novel characters are, of course, fair game).

A radio talk show host, among other things, Burl Hall has combined a very personal spiritual philosophy with some strong beliefs about the environment, the economy, international relations, and other pressing societal issues. The result is an intriguing mix of mysticism and scientific research. Check it out. and if it prompts some sort of reaction, that’s what the “comments” section is for.


This novel also has a spiritual connection, but in a much more traditional manner.  As Tom summarizes his plot:

“Chris Marcum was a man who had everything — the perfect wife, the perfect job, and the perfect life. He was also sure his belief in God did not depend on those successes. So when an angel appeared to him on his deathbed with a challenge to prove the depths of his faith, Chris immediately accepted. Relive your life, with no recollection. This time however, without the breaks. What happens when instead of going right, you go left? What if there are no happy endings? How much can a man endure before he hits his breaking point? And what happens then?

Makes you curious, doesn’t it?

AUGUST 21-24



Richard grew up in the U.S. before moving to Israel in 1968. He is our first Israeli author, and “Murder Across the Border” is his first novel. It is unique within its genre because it shows interaction rather than conflict between two Middle Eastern cultures long at odds.

From the Amazon blurb:  “Yossi Abulafia, an Israeli policeman is on reserve army duty, and is photographing antelopes instead of watching the border. His post collapses suddenly, injuring him seriously. After recovering, he discovers that during the collapse he has unwittingly taken a picture of what appears to be a murder — on the other side of the border. As part of his duties he meets with the Palestinian delegation and discovers a connection to the shooter in Amsterdam, and to the murder in Jordan. A series of incidents, shootings and diplomatic activity eventually lead to the unexpected solving of the crimes.”


A disclaimer: I’ve known Tom Gerdy for years. However, that’s not why I approached him about perhaps widening the audience for “Insights From Inside.”

For this is not just a book, but a movement. A successful building contractor, Gerdy has worked with young people enough to know that some of them find the other side of the law intriguing. The letters published in this book are from inmates who have learned all too well what happens with the cell door slams shut.


Last Thursday, we had our first drawing among blog followers for three free books — two to the winner, one to a runnerup. Owner Debbie Swan of Willows Bistro in Warrensburg, NY pulled the names out of a box, and they will be announced next week,

Thanks to the following authors whose books made up a list for the winners to choose from. Others also agreed to pay for a book and postage, and they’ll be included next time around.

“The Skeleton Crew,” by Deborah Halber.
“Waiting for Westmoreland,” by John Maberry.
“Beneath the Stones,” by Susan Coryell.
“The River Caught Sunlight,” by Katie Andraski.
“The Solarbus Legacy,” by Nickie Brandon.
“Refuge,” by Melinda Inman.
“Clog!” by Dan Smith.
“Homecoming,” by Kate Hasbrouck.
“Island Dogs,” by B.M. Simpson.
“Turnstiles,” by Andrea Raine.
“What To Do About Mama?” by Barbara Trainin Blank.
“Things Unsaid,” Diana V. Paul.

1. Gap Year Girl

Gap Year Girl cover


BOOK: Gap Year Girl: A Baby Boomer Adventure Across 21 Countries


THE AUTHOR: Marianne C. Bohr

THE EDITOR: Annie Tucker

THE PUBLISHER: She Writes Press

SUMMARY: Baby Boomers married for more than 30 years dare more than the ordinary by walking away from their comfortable life to take a mid-life gap year abroad. Marianne and Joe Bohr jump off the proverbial cliff to follow a travel dream: they unload their house, sell the cars, quit their jobs and say goodbye to the US in search of adventure. They start and end their journey in France and travel through an additional 20 countries in-between.

THE BACK STORY: Gap Year Girl recounts details of their longing to get the trip underway during the year prior to departure and the experiences, epiphanies, highs, lows, struggles, surprises and lessons learned on their journey as independent travelers in an endearing, entertaining way. The memoir transcends the experience it recounts to tie into the universal human themes of escape, adventure, freedom, discovery and life reimagined.

WHY THIS TITLE: In addition to the standard travel destinations of European capitals, Gap Year Girl Goes to Europe includes visits to out of the way places such as Carcassonne, France; Andorra; Fez, Morocco; Agrigento, Sicily; Malta; the Greek islands of Rhodes and Kos; Split, Croatia; and Butrint, Albania. The reader cannot help but vicariously savor the food of southwestern France, sample the spices of Morocco, sip the wines of Italy and hike the Mont Blanc circuit from Chamonix, France through Courmayeur, Italy and Champex, Switzerland. But the book also gives a realistic look at the downside of extended independent travel in foreign lands by relating those periods when very real blues descend and loneliness and the longing for contact with family and friends weigh heavily.


WHY SOMEONE WOULD WANT TO READ IT: Millions harbor the fantasy but few follow it: kiss your jobs goodbye, pack your bags and take off on a quest for adventure. Gap Year Girl encourages those who have long yearned to follow their bliss for a year to do just that. Readers quickly find themselves immersed in a reality tale of leaving it all behind for medieval villages, the lights of European cities, unimaginable culinary pleasures, hikes in the Alps and along Mediterranean coasts and the wildly entertaining (and sometimes infuriating) characters they meet along the way as pleasures unfold on a peripatetic, past the-blush-of-youth journey.


“[In Gap Year Girl,] Bohr steps outside of her comfort zone and explores the world…and she vividly conveys her experiences, such as when she describes the chaotic streets of Morocco and the loneliness of the bucolic French village Saint-Cirq-Lapopie.”

— Publishers Weekly

“Bohr shines…provid[ing] glimpses of herself as a whole person, not simply a traveler. Gap Year Girl is an excellent choice…a travelogue filled with historic places, but its personal stories provide its highlights.”

—  Kirkus Reviews

Marianne Bohr has that rare knack of bringing the kaleidoscope of experience alive with a few well-crafted words; she seduces her reader away from black and white text into a reality where all the senses are teased.

–– Kev Reynolds, Bestselling author of The Tour of Mont Blanc, Cicerone Guides

AUTHOR PROFILE: Marianne Bohr, freelance writer and editor, married her high school sweetheart and travel partner. With their two grown children, she follows her own advice and travels at every opportunity. Marianne lives outside Washington, DC where after decades in publishing, followed her Francophile muse to teach middle school French. Her first book, Gap Year Girl: A Baby Boomer Adventure Across 21 Countries, was be published by She Writes Press in September 2015.

AUTHOR COMMENTS: I so enjoyed writing Gap Year Girl and recounting the events and emotions that led to the leap of taking a year off from regular life. I think this excerpt captures how I felt:

The moniker Gap Year Girl made its appearance about six years prior to our departure. One hazy summer afternoon, while sitting behind my office desk, gazing out the window at the suburban parking lot below, my mind wandering beyond the budgets and strategic plan in front of me, I had an existential moment. I needed the prospect of an escape, and I needed to give it a name. In my mind’s eye, I was no longer senior vice president of a book distribution company; I was Gap Year Girl, an expat living in Europe—my new alter ego. This paradigm shift of how I viewed myself changed everything. From that point forward, I focused on making our gap year a reality. And I decided then and there to leave the world of business I’d inhabited for a quarter of a century. I saw my future as clear as day: I was going to make a midlife, post–gap year change and follow my bliss. By the end of the week, I’d registered for a master’s degree program in secondary education and was on my way to becoming a middle school French teacher.

LOCAL OUTLETS: Available at all independent bookstores, B&N, and Amazon

WHERE ELSE TO BUY IT: Ingram Publishers Services

PRICE: $16.95

CONTACT THE AUTHOR:; 301-326-8336


Hibernation Time

It’s such a luxury to be awakened by the sun, not an alarm clock, knowing there’s absolutely nothing we must do. After thirty-three years of a baby’s cry, a child jumping in our bed, or a buzzer to start our mornings, we’ve finally gotten used to being reprobates with loose agendas. But we take our languid days to a new level in our relaxing apartment in Rome. We follow nature by hibernating in our warm refuge, where we take things slowly, resting up for exploits yet to come.

We spend many a day rising late; having a leisurely breakfast in our laid-back studio; listening at noon to what we’ve started calling Afternoon Edition on NPR; catching up on e-mails, blogging, and our journals; finishing the novels we resolved to read while abroad; and then sipping cups of hot afternoon tea. We also spend many hours of these days planning our itinerary and reserving trains and hotels for the peripatetic weeks in southern Italy that will follow Rome.

When we imagined our year away, we glossed over the winter months, knowing

we would be in Italy but not focusing on the reality of the cold. Now that we’re here under a reluctant sun and in the company of an unusual frigid snap, we decide simply to hunker down. Our most difficult daily decision is whether to eat in or go out. Interspersed with warm days inside are those when we don hats, scarves, and gloves to brave the chill and discover the nooks and crannies of sprawling Rome, those often overlooked by those with limited time. It’s a glorious insalata mista of a metropolis, since it’s been here for so long and offers sights from every century of the past three millennia.

Our apartment is conveniently located on Via Flavia, not far from the American embassy on Via Veneto and just inside the city’s walls. It’s a spacious studio on the top floor of a five-story building with a red-tiled terrace that provides plenty of natural light and a place to hang our laundry. In an unusual twist, we reach our apartment through the lobby of the Hotel Medici and take the elevator to the privately owned residences. Different, yes, but it’s nice to have twenty-four-hour security guarding the building and someone at the front desk to greet us with buon giorno and ciao as we pass by. Off the tourist track, our neighborhood is quiet and safe, since government buildings surround us. It’s also filled with family-run restaurants, and we diligently try every one. Part of why we’re so conscientious about marathon training is that we need to work off the hefty servings of pasta of all shapes and sizes we consume, some of which we’ve never had before: spaghettoni, bucatini, cavatappi, tagliatelle, pappardelle, and—my all-time favorite—strozzapreti. I’m certain just listing them broadens my hips. I satisfy any sweet cravings with an after-dinner digestif—not as luscious as the creamy tiramisu Joe enjoys, but with many fewer calories. Running in the classy Villa Borghese park nearby is a godsend for burning off all the extra carbs.

Our Roman pied-à-terre is indeed convenient and comfortable, and the Internet is rock solid, but what we actually love best about the place is Stefano, our amusingly charming landlord. Without him, the apartment would be just another worn-around-the-edges studio; with him it’s like inhabiting a season of I Love Lucy, Italian style.

Stefano is a fiftysomething composer of movie scores who spends most of his time with his girlfriend, who lives in the apartment above us. He’s tall and attractive in a rumpled kind of way, the lines of his face hiding a gentle handsomeness. He speaks quirky English with a lilting Italian accent and apologizes repeatedly for being a musician and not a very good businessman.

We got our first taste of what renting from Stefano would be like even before we checked in. He graciously agreed to store our large duffels while we traveled with our small bags to Norcia and Florence, but he needed to “request a piccolo favore.” He’d lost his wallet that morning and asked if we could pay the balance of our rent in cash when we dropped off our luggage. “No problem,” we agreed. “Happy to help.” (Little did we know that in the ensuing weeks, Stefano would lose not only his wallet but his phone, TV remote, computer power cord, and keys.)

When we arrived for our month’s stay, Stefano was contrite about the less-than-stellar condition of the television (it didn’t work), the clothes washer (it leaked), and the refrigerator (on its last legs and barely cool). He promised to replace them all within the week.

Now we make do with what’s provided, including kitchen drawers stuffed with faintly sticky cutlery. Ten days pass, and although we hear all about Stefano’s lost items (he borrows the portable phone from our apartment after losing his cell phone), he makes

no further mention of new appliances. When we finally break the news that the old fridge has collapsed, he apologizes profusely and comes right down to take measurements for its replacement.

We head out for a day of communing with ancient Romans among the ruins, and when we return, we find the freezer open and defrosting, along with a note that our food is in a fridge in a closet across the hall. Stefano hopes we don’t mind that he put a load of his clothes in the leaking washer and borrowed our laundry soap.

What can we do but laugh?

The next morning, Stefano stops by to pick up his laundry and informs us that he has ordered the new fridge. “I have chosen the quickest delivery—forty-eight hours,” he says, “but do not forget, this is Italy, so we really don’t know when it will arrive!”

Two more days pass, and each morning Stefano knocks on our door to express how embarrassed and discouraged he is about the appliance merchant he selected. When I tell him not to worry, he coos, “Marianne, you are so gentle; thank you for being so gentle with me” (the English false friend of the Italian gentile, meaning “kind”).

With each morning visit comes a new request. First, Stefano borrows one of our Mac power cords because, of course, he has lost his. The next morning, when we greet him, he asks to rifle through the bottom drawer of the apartment’s sideboard to find an extra TV remote; his girlfriend has misplaced hers (or perhaps it was he).

“You rented my apartment for your holiday in Rome, and all you see is my face,” he laments.

On the third morning, Stefano declares, “Definitely tomorrow—by then the new machines will definitely arrive.” But then it snows and all of Rome stops, including the delivery truck carrying our new appliances.

After yet a few more days, there’s a knock at our door late one afternoon. There stands an ebullient Stefano with a new fridge, TV, and washing machine in the hallway. We set aside our plan to eat in and leave Stefano and the long-awaited machinery by themselves while we set out to find dinner. When we return later that evening, the new television hangs on the wall and the refrigerator hums away, snugly in place. But the new washer is noisily dancing across the bathroom’s tile floor and, just as we arrive, bangs against the far wall as yet another load of Stefano’s laundry steadily spins in the machine.

Ah, Stefano, I think, thanks to you, Italy continues to be a funny place that always makes us laugh. What will your knock tomorrow bring?