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Saturday
Sep202014

Don't arm teachers, for god's sake!

Recently the local news did a story on a bill in the Pennsylvania Senate that would allow local school districts to decide whether teachers and other staff should be allowed to carry a weapon for protection.

This is a dangerous and ill-conceived idea. Why so many people think that the answer to ending school shootings is to provide more guns absolutely confounds me.

I taught in private and public schools for 10 years. I experienced many joys during my teaching career, no doubt. But some of my most profound professional disappointments also occurred during the years I taught school as well. That includes moments when I became unhinged, if I am being completely honest.

For the love of everything sacred, don't arm teachers. More guns means more senseless shootings, not less.

For one thing, what does the teacher do with her gun all day. Go through the school day packing? Lock it in her desk drawer? Use it as a starting pistol at track practice?

Teaching middle schoolers can be uncommonly stressful, for another. Students can enrage you. Parents, sometimes stressed beyond their limits, can insult you and reproach you when you least expect it, storming into your classroom when their child doesn't get the lead in the school play. Colleagues can undermine you and make you angry.  

More guns make for a more dangerous working environment, not a safer one.

If you must have guns on school premises, leave them in the hands of trained law-enforcement professionals and keep them out of the hands of classroom teachers.

If this movement to have more guns on school premises isn't the greatest recruiting message for Mennonite-run schools such as Lancaster Mennonite (the Mennonites are a peace-loving faith), for whom guns and armed officers would be anathema, then I don't know what is.

Sunday
Sep072014

Tom's passage to India

Last July, a freelance reviewer and blogger from India contacted me through my website contact form:

Hope you are doing fine. I would love to read [WHO KILLED 'TOM JONES'?] and write a review for the same. If you could kindly send me a paper-back copy of your book, that would be so great. I don't have a Kindle unfortunately."--Aditi SahaThis is Aditi's profile picture on Goodreads


So, I did what any writer desperate for reviews on Amazon and Goodreads would do. I thanked Aditi profusely for looking me up, asked for her mailing address, packed up 'TOM JONES', and sent him off to India.

When Aditi told me part of her six-line mailing address included these parenthetical directions--Landmark: Near Committee's Big Pond--I just knew that 'TOM JONES' would end up floating aimlessly down the Ganges from the pit of a crocodile's belly.

Here is the valiant mailman, trying to keep the novel from the jaws of a crocodile
O me of little faith in the USPS and the Indian mail system. My novel reached Aditi ten days later. And not only did she read it, she reviewed it, very generously, on Goodreads, Amazon US, and Amazon India. (I am embarrassed to say that I didn't even know there was an Amazon India).

OMG! WHO KILLED 'TOM JONES' is terribly funny, I'm going "ROFL" over this book. Do read this book to catch the humor and hilarious moments and dialogues. The characters also add up to the wittiness of this book. And when the old residents get involved in footsteps of Sherlock Holmes, things get messy, chaotic and very, very funny. Ellie is sweet and witty and her chemistry with the residents of the retirement home is very interesting. The chemistry between the detective and Ellie is quite rocking and passionate and lights up the whole book!

Click here to read the complete review on Amazon India.

Wow. My first review for any book on Amazon India. By the way, the paperback version is a steal. Only 796 rupees!

Was this a fun exercise? Absolutely. I am so grateful for readers who take a passionate interest in my work. It's what writers like me live for. Would I do it again? Indubitably. Now that I know a crocodile isn't snacking on my literary masterpieces, I am sending Aditi a copy of GRACE UNEXPECTED.

Friday
Sep052014

'Grace' knocks one out of the park!

Now, an e-book to be published by Amazon!I am SO totally jazzed to share some truly exciting news with readers and loyal blog followers. This week my Seattle-based publisher Booktrope entered into a new business relationship with Amazon, beginning with a mutual licensing deal that deepens ties with Amazon to a significant degree.

This licensing deal directly impacts me because I was one of the ten authors whose novels the folks from Amazon selected for this opportunity. What this means is the digital version of Grace Unexpected, my second novel published by Booktrope, will be reissued under Amazon Publishing as an e-book and/or audio book under Amazon’s imprint while still crediting Booktrope. This agreement covers 15 of Booktrope’s nearly 300 titles.

Words cannot express how excited I am to have had this opportunity literally drop into my lap, and I wanted to share my very happy news with my treasured readers and fans first.

If you would like to learn more about this new relationship, here is the link to the official Booktrope announcement.

And my sincere thanks for your continued support of my writing. I will keep you posted as this new publishing arrangement unfolds.

In the meantime, if you are not familiar with the novel, you can read more about Grace Unexpected here.

Monday
Sep012014

WHO KILLED 'TOM JONES'? takes Bronze in Readers' Fave Award

This is the first year I entered the Readers' Favorite International Book Contest. Since I published WHO KILLED 'TOM JONES'? in 2014, I decided to enter that novel. First, it was named a finalist. And today I learned it won the Bronze Award.

I am so happy for this recognition and am grateful to my creative and editorial team--editor Toddie Downs, proofreader Evelyne Topfer, and cover designer Greg Simanson for their help.

And a special shout out to Ellen Sterling and the best Tom Jones impersonator working today Steve McCoy for their special contributions to the book's success.

Sunday
Aug312014

Here they are: Best popular songs of all time, per me!

Enough with the deliberation. Time to end the hand wringing. Without further adieu, here are my votes for the TEN best contemporary popular songs for WXPN-FM's Annual Countdown, in order of release date.

1. 1967 - RESPECT - Aretha Franklin
Nobody does R&B like Aretha--not then, not now. Aretha, you are the queen of my Motown-loving heart. Props to Otis Redding for the songwriting credits on this one, too.

2. 1968 - WITCHITA LINEMAN - Glen Campbell
Glen Campbell didn't write this tune--Jimmy Webb did--but Campbell made it a hit. He felt it, he breathed it, he owned it. It carved a place in my soul when I first heard it, and many decades later, it still moves me.

3. 1970 - LAYLA - Derek and the Dominoes
For a whole year after I heard this song written by Eric Clapton and Jim Gordon, I fervently wished I had been named Layla. Need I see any more than that about this mindblowing song?

4. 1972 - SUPERSTITION - Stevie Wonder
You can rock out to it; you can take a social lesson from it. It's a stunning piece of work, just like so many other songs Stevie recorded around that time. This song grabs me in the gut from the opening drum beat in anticipation of an exciting and incredible musical journey each time I hear this song. Can you believe this dates back to 1972? It's like I just heard it yesterday.

5. 1973- JOLENE - Dolly Parton
Other artists have recorded this tune, but Dolly wrote it, and gosh darn it, if she doesn't also sing it the best though she never got enough credit as a songwriter. I mean, her breasts were more heralded than her musical gifts. You rock, Dolly, even if you don't know it at the time of this taping.

6. 1977 - JUST THE WAY YOU ARE - Billy Joel
There are so many Billy Joel tunes I could have chosen ("Always a Woman," "New York State of Mind"), but this one is ubiquitous. It was a Grammy Song the Year. It's a Gale Martin Song of My Lifetime.

7. 1982 - BEAT IT - Michael Jackson
Michael wrote this song, Quincy Jones produced it, and the music world changed as a result of "Beat It." It offered a powerful West Side Story-esque vibe/message for the Big Hair generation, including me. The Michael Jackson who remade himself from child star was at his prime and simply an incredible performer.

8. 1982- ALWAYS ON MY MIND - Willie Nelson
It's not Willie's song, but every time I hear him sing this, it moves me to tears. Like Jackson, he had become a caricature of himself later in his career, he is authentic in this gifted rendition.

9. 1991- WALKING IN MEMPHIS - Marc Cohn
I never tire of hearing this song. Love the ambiguity of the key, the blue notes, the lyrics, the reflection combined with urgency, the back-up gospel choir, the plantive piano riffs. Perfection!

10. 2002- LOSE YOURSELF - Eminem
As an anthem for the downtrodden who are ambitious to do something, to be something the world will respect you for and remember you for, it just doesn't get any better than this. This is from the movie 8 Mile, which is a powerful and incredible film. Gritty but affirming just like this anthem.

It was interesting to me that recording artists today are expected to be the songwriters of their own hits whereas that wasn't the norm decades ago. Renditions or "covers" as they now call them can also be powerful, as Willie Nelson proved with his version of "Always On My Mind." 

There were so many others that I could have and should have mentioned on this list. Thankfully, my husband's list is less idiosyncratic and fills in my gaps (yes, he has the Beatles, Bob Dylan, the Rolling Stones, Ray Charles). If you disagree with my choices, why don't you make your own list and vote yourself?