Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Meet Nicodemus Dartmouth

I don't know who to blame: Blogger for not allowing me to post pictures, (although I've done it before) or my lack in keeping up with Blogspot's changes. Either way, this dull explanation is sitting in for the picture of author Phyliss Miranda and the hot cover of her latest book. You can see the pictures that I'm unable to copy at Phyliss Miranda's website: phylissmiranda.com. But first, learn what my guest blogger has to say about her character, Nicodemus Dartmouth.   --  Bernice Simpson

Meet Nicodemus Dartmouth
Phyliss Miranda

I’m honored to introduce you to Nicodemus Dartmouth, my hero, in my September 5th eKensington release The Tycoon and the Texan.

Before we begin with the interview, I’d like to give you the background on both how I selected the plot and Nick’s last name. I truly believe it was a gift from above.

My husband and I have friends who we've know for over forty years and vacationed with since their boys and our girls were young. 

In 2002, my DH and I were on our way to meet them in Florida when we received a call, thank goodness for cell phones, that Harry had emergency heart surgery. He was in a coma, and the future was uncertain.  We immediately turned our car north and headed for Dartmouth Medical Center where he laid critically ill for weeks.  We were determined not to leave until he and Pat were safely home under their own roof.  And, that we did. 

One day while sitting in the waiting room, my attention was drawn to a show on TV, you know the ones up in the corner of the room you have to crane your neck to see and can barely hear, that pertained to a foundation’s auction of bachelors for charity. That seeded the idea for a story about a strong, multi-millionaire who ends up buying an ugly duckling at his own foundation’s charity ball. Of course, she had to be from Texas, and his name had to be as strong and willful as my character, so Nicodemus Dartmouth was born.

Now nearly ten years and many vacations together later, my story The Tycoon and the Texan came out recently and needless to say, I dedicated it to our dearest friends.  

Let’s get on with learning more about Nicodamus Dartmouth. I’m gonna let him tell you about himself first, and then he’ll answer questions if you care to post them.

I don’t really like being referred to as a tycoon because I see myself as just another hardworking man in his 30’s. I have to admit being a product of a wealthy, widowed mother, who I don’t always see eye-to-eye with, did have its benefits. I worked my fingers to the bone to establish one of the largest construction firms on the west coast, while being CEO of Mother’s charity ... the Elliott-Dartmouth foundation.  I own a Double A baseball farm team and love to workout with my players.  Mother is pretty well appalled when I show up at the office with bloody road rash showing threw a tear in my baseball pants.  By the way, Josie, the Foundation Director and mother hen, thinks I belong in the dog pound. I have one supporter in the organization, well most of the time, and that’s McCall Johnson, who used to be my secretary at the construction company until I transferred her over to the foundation when I found myself crawling up twenty stores of red iron thinking about her.

Now back to the charity auction that Phyliss mentioned. Mother thought it was a grand idea to auction off bachelorettes, while I told her from the start is was a bad, really bad idea.  She called me into the office to go over the final arrangements, including the table decorations.  I need to be out at the construction company offices arranging for a shipment of material we don’t need to be shipped to Habitat for Humanity, but no I’m standing here looking at a bunch of flowers stuffed in a vase. I won’t even tell you what I think about them because Mother sure didn't approve of my description.

The auction was a nightmare, just as I had predicted, although it raised a lot of money for the foundation ... a good bit coming from me.

The jinks I apparently put on the event began when one of the bachelorettes called in sick and our resident Texan McCall Johnson was forced to step in. In an unexpected turn of events, and I have to admit a bit of jealousy on my part to boot, I ended up paying what McCall called “a vulgar” amount for a week long date with her.

That began our adventures ... seven days to Texas.

I wanted so badly to show her that our lives weren't that much different, but at every turn, I hit a roadblock.  From nearly cutting my finger off trying to prepare dinner on my private boat for her to seeing a ghost on Harris Grade coming out of Lompoc, California, something got in my way of showing her that I don’t get everything I want, although she thinks I do.

It took me the full seven days, plus some while visiting her Granny’s ranch in Texas, but I finally succeeded at showing the independent, spirited, uprooted Texan that our lives aren't as different as it might seem, only to find that we are more alike than I ever dreamed ... including our secrets.

I hope you’ll go buy The Tycoon and the Texan by native Texan, Phyliss Miranda, so you can learn more about me and Miss McCall Johnson.  By the way, if I have my way, she won’t be a Miss much longer.

New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Phyliss Miranda is the author of six historical western romance anthologies and her contemporary romance The Tycoon and the Texan is scheduled to be released on September 5, 2013, with her second eBook The Troubled Texan due out early 2014. Phyliss is the 2007 recipient of Panhandle Professional Writers’ Writer of the Year award. She enjoys sharing her love for the new frontier, particularly the Texas Panhandle, the Civil War, quilting, and antiques; and still believes in the Code of the Old West.
Visit her at phylissmiranda.com

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Reading recommendation:

River Town: Two Years on the Yangtze
Author: Peter Hessler
Harper Collins (2001)

An American’s Observations in China

                At first, artful prose, flowing like a river, draws readers in, and then it grips them with a sense of urgency. In River Town: Two Years on the Yangtze, Peter Hessler’s audience must experience the author’s unique take on Fuling’s local color--what he has seen and what he has felt. It’s almost as if Hessler’s words promise a firsthand account of the demise of the last specimen of an endangered species.
In fact, geographically, Fuling, in China’s Sichuan province, at the fork of the Yangtze and Wu Rivers, was an ill-fated city. Soon part of it, along with centuries of history, would suffocate under a lake created by the Three Gorges Dam. Hessler was one of a dozen or so foreigners allowed into the area in more than fifty years. As such, he would be among the few Westerners to gain a glimpse of it before the great rush of water would push the entire region into a new era.
“I had never any idealistic illusions about my Peace Corps ‘service’ in China,” said Hessler. “I wasn’t there to save anybody or leave an indelible mark on the town. If anything, I was glad that during my two years in Fuling I haven’t built anything, or organized anything, or made any great changes to the place. I had been a teacher, and in my spare time I tried to learn as much as possible about the city and its people. That was the extent of my work, and I was comfortable with those roles, and I recognized their limitations.”
Fortunately Hessler also recognized the importance of first preserving, and then sharing his impressions of the region. Perhaps he left no permanent marks on them, but they leave an indelible mark on those who vicariously join the author in his quest to understand the Chinese people, and especially residents near the fork of the Wu and Yangtze rivers.
Despite Fuling’s 200,000 population, it is a small city by Chinese standards, and the area considered rural. That is the least of the contradictions Hessler encountered.
Hessler’s students represented the region’s best, yet were not affected with self-pride. They spoke of admiration for rural culture, hard work, and the peasant’s life; yet they looked forward to a future different from their parents. “They were never suspicious of impossible tasks” writes Mr. Hessler. “The students would work at anything without complaint, probably because they knew that even the most difficult literature assignment was preferable to wading knee-deep in muck behind a water buffalo.”
A cultural plurality shows up in the writing of Hessler’s students. Aware of the suffering endured under Mao Zedong’s rule, students generally spoke well of him. One wrote, “One flaw cannot obscure the splendor of the jade.” Another defended him: “No gold is pure; no man is perfect.”
But that mindset also precluded honest teacher/student discussions if Hessler, their foreign teacher, moved to the slightest criticism of anything Chinese. As a group, his class, the region’s scholastic stars, would turn stoic. “Whenever that happened,” Hessler laments, “I realized that I was not teaching forty-five individual students with forty-five individual ideas. I was teaching a group, and these were moments when the group thought as one, and a group like that was a mob, even if it was silent and passive.”
During Hessler’s two years in Fuling, the British lease on Hong Kong expired, The Chinese government loosened its grip on the economy, encouraging a form of capitalism, and the Three Gorges Dam neared completion. Communities prepared for modernization to be made possible by reliable electric power and better control over the Yantze’s flood cycles.
But in China modernization does not mean Westernization, culturally or politically. “In the end,” said Hessler, “Fuling struck me as a sort of democracy—perhaps a Democracy with Chinese Characteristics—because the vast majority of the citizens quietly tolerated the government. And the longer I lived there, the more I was inclined to see this as the silent consent of people who had chosen not to exercise other options.”

Isn’t that an interesting perspective on what Americans call a Communist dictatorship? Read River Town to gain your own perspective of the book Kirkus Reviews described as “a vivid and touching tribute to a place and its people.”

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Carbon Dioxide

Call me a tree hugger--I don't mind. I like trees. I like the idea of not wasting our resources, and doing what I can to protect our planet for another generation to enjoy. 

I also like coal. A chunk of coal is really just a diamond that hasn't had a chance to mature, isn't it? Maybe not. I'm not a scientist. I do believe coal keeps our industries going, and I admire the miners who are brave enough to bring the stuff up out of the earth. 

My point is, to quote author Jodi Thomas, "there's a flip side to everything." So for those of us who sometimes tip-toe to avoid leaving  whole footprints on this earth, read this the article below (forwarded to me in an email by my cousin). If you disagree with Mr. Plimer's premise, you can add your voice to the many who fish for facts to prove their opinions.  -- Bernice W. Simpson

Where Does the Carbon Dioxide Really Come From?

author’s credentials:
Ian Rutherford Plimer is an Australian geologist, professor emeritus of earth sciences at the University of Melbourne , professor of mining geology at the University of Adelaide , and the director of multiple mineral exploration and mining companies. He has published 130 scientific papers, six books and edited the Encyclopedia of Geology.

12 February 1946 (age 67)
Notable awards
Eureka Prize (1995, 2002),Centenary Medal (2003), Clarke Medal (2004)

Where Does the Carbon Dioxide Really Come From?
Professor Ian Plimer could not have said it better!
If you've read his book you will agree, this is a good summary.

PLIMER: "Okay, here's the bombshell. The volcanic eruption in Iceland . Since its first spewing of volcanic ash has, in just FOUR DAYS, NEGATED EVERY SINGLE EFFORT you have made in the past five years to control CO2 emissions on our planet - all of you.

Of course, you know about this evil carbon dioxide that we are trying to suppress - it’s that vital chemical compound that every plant requires to live and grow and to synthesize into oxygen for us humans and all animal life.
I know....it's very disheartening to realize that all of the carbon emission savings you have accomplished while suffering the inconvenience and expense of driving Prius hybrids, buying fabric grocery bags, sitting up till midnight to finish your kids "The Green Revolution" science project, throwing out all of your non-green cleaning supplies, using only two squares of toilet paper, putting a brick in your toilet tank reservoir, selling your SUV and speedboat, vacationing at home instead of abroad, nearly getting hit every day on your bicycle, replacing all of your 50 cent light bulbs with $10.00 light bulbs.....well, all of those things you have done have all gone down the tubes in just four days

The volcanic ash emitted into the Earth's atmosphere in just four days - yes, FOUR DAYS - by that volcano in Iceland has totally erased every single effort you have made to reduce the evil beast, carbon. And there are around 200 active volcanoes on the planet spewing out this crud at any one time - EVERY DAY.

I don't really want to rain on your parade too much, but I should mention that when the volcano Mt Pinatubo erupted in the Philippines in 1991, it spewed out more greenhouse gases into the atmosphere than the entire human race had emitted in all its years on earth.

Yes, folks, Mt Pinatubo was active for over
One year - think about it.

Of course, I shouldn't spoil this 'touchy-feely tree-hugging' moment and mention the effect of solar and cosmic activity and the well-recognized 800-year global heating and cooling cycle, which keeps happening despite our completely insignificant efforts to affect climate change.
And I do wish I had a silver lining to this volcanic ash cloud, but the fact of the matter is that the bush fire season across the western USA and Australia this year alone will negate your efforts to reduce carbon in our world for the next two to three years. And it happens every year.

Just remember that your government just tried to impose a whopping carbon tax on you, on the basis of the bogus 'human-caused' climate-change scenario.
Hey, isn’t it interesting how they don’t mention 'Global Warming' anymore, but just 'Climate Change' - you know why? It’s because the planet has COOLED by 0.7 degrees in the past century and these global warming bull artists got caught with their pants down.

And, just keep in mind that you might yet have an Emissions Trading Scheme - that whopping new tax - imposed on you that will achieve absolutely nothing except make you poorer. It won’t stop any volcanoes from erupting, that’s for sure.

But, hey, relax......give the world a hug and have a nice day!"

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Superstores Versus Neighborhood Supermarkets

I've wanted to know how much grocery shoppers save at WalMart compared to their neighborhood supermarket. Or is there a difference?

Apples to Apples
I randomly picked and then made a list of a dozen grocery items to compare. Three were in the produce departments: apples, spring mixed salad greens, and slicing tomatoes. I was surprised to see two United Foods employees checking produce prices. “We do this every week,” one told me.

I'll come out ahead at WalMart I thought, especially when I noticed apples for 99¢ per pound. Wrong. Later at home, comparing pound for pound and package for package, United’s produce cost 3¢ less than Walmart’s.

Who has the crème de la crème?
United also undercut WalMart on Plains Dairy whipping cream by 9¢. But it wasn't easy to compare other whipping cream brands. WalMart handles Gandy’s, while United Foods stocks Red River Farm’s whipping cream at 2¢ more per 8-ounce carton.

Two cents makes little difference between products, but quality does. I recently bought a carton of Red River Farm’s whipping cream, and had to use scissors to open it. How annoying when trying to make supper in a hurry. It’s also potentially dangerous. A person using a knife to pry the spout open could slit a hand open instead. In reporting the defective packaging problem on United’s Website, a glitch prevented my sending the message. More time wasted. I phoned. United’s phone rep apologized, but 
didn't ask for product identification or batch numbers. Strange.

What is Service Worth?
On the other hand, United Food’s store employees make up for the unprofessional telephone worker. They excel in service. And what’s that worth? A panhandler approached me in WallMart’s parking lot today. With a strong employee presence at a United Foods facility, would that man have been so brazen?  

All in All
Differences between the two store’s grocery prices balanced. I purchased a number of generic products and plan taste tests. That may be the subject of another blog.

© 2013, Bernice Simpson

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Exactly What We Needed

Why do you write? For me it’s such fun to be curious about everything, and satisfy that curiosity while actually working. For example, I learned Chris Stewart, who spoke at the Panhandle Professional Writers’ (PPW) meeting yesterday, is a member of the Order of the Coif*. What’s that? The question nagged me until I looked it up.

Despite all the information offered by the World Wide Web, I've frequently had questions which remained unanswered although I typed query after query into internet search boxes. If you follow my blog, you know about one dilemma I faced when I wanted to share the humorous “A Jolly Good Dime” with you. I couldn't find the author.

Thanks to Chris Stewart, the roomful of writers who attended PPW’s meeting yesterday have guidelines for the attribution of “orphaned” work and a lot more.

Chris directed his message to those who post messages and pictures on the internet, writing hobbyists, and authors who write for financial gain. As always, he peppered his information (he’s a living glossary of publication terms) and cogent advice (“Read contracts carefully.” “Know your rights.”) with entertaining anecdotes. If you want a taste of his humor, read Tootsie Rolls and Cockroaches on his blog: www.christewartlaw.com/blog.

While you’re at his website, look over the list of presentations he’s made. If your organization or enterprise blogs, has a website, sends out a newsletter or e-zine  call Chris Stewart. He’s not a pep rally-type speaker full of enthusiasm, but void of substance. But your audience will have fun while they gain useful information.

 *The Order of the Coif is… Well, why don’t I avoid copyright infringement, and let you look it up.

©2013 Bernice W. Simpson

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Opinions Wanted

If you've been accused of being opinionated, writers want to hear from you. Tell us what you like, and/or what you don't like about our blogs or website content. If you find an error in our work, please let us know so that we can correct it.

But it's better to say nothing than to pan books in print. One reason--why waste your time reading a bad book? Cecil Murphey (of 90 Minutes in Heaven and many more) said once the book is bound, no matter who messed up--the writer, editor, or printer, it's too late to change it. 

If you enjoy a book, send the author a note. Better still, tell the world about it. Writing is a tough business, and writers truly appreciate your help. I found Dianne G. Sagan's "how to" advice on her blog, and have copied it with her permission. 

Dianne, known for her well-researched historical Christian fiction, writes on numerous subjects, and presents workshops on writing and other topics.


How to Write a Book Review

Do you ever wonder what the best way is to support your favorite authors? Of course, purchasing books, reading their books, and telling your friends about them is the best way of getting the word out.
Another way of showing your support is reviewing the books you read. When you purchase a book from Amazon or Barnes & Nobel online there is a place for you to write a short review. Goodreads.com also provides a place for reviews. Most readers don’t leave one because it intimidates them. People think that there are certain requirements you must have to be a book reviewer. Not true any more.                        animated woman typing
I’d like to give you some tips on how to write a simple, short review that is easy and only take a few minutes of your time. You can read the book in print form and put a review online whether you bought it online or not. Fear keeps us from doing a lot of things. Don’t be scared of writing a review.
Some suggestions:
  • The theme represents …
  • I enjoyed the story because …
  • The relationships between characters demonstrated …
  • It is well written …
  • My favorite character …
  • The story is well researched …
  • Read some of the reviews posted for examples and write one in your own words.
  • A review does not have to be only positive statements, but can include points that you feel are negative. Just be sure that you stick to the subject and the writing, do not get personal about the author.
  • If the writing is not professional, then it is alright to say that.
  • If the research in a historical novel is obviously well done, then mention it.
  • It can be a great story that isn’t told very well.
  • Tell whether you like the book or not.
  • Would you recommend it to others?
I hope this helps take some of the anxiety out of writing a review. I am sure your favorite authors will appreciate your support.


Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Animal Stories


Blue Mountain Lake in Arkansas is a place to relax, take long walks, and read. While my husband fished, I read three books last month—all relating to animals.

Orphan by Harry Haines, a fellow club member of Panhandle Professional Writers, has been on my reading list for five years. One aspect I found fascinating was how Harry intertwined local history and the business of quarterhorse racing into his novel’s plot. Author Diane Mowery, who homeschooled her youngsters, mentioned a fact not often included in book reviews: although the book is targeted to an adult audience, she can recommend it to teenagers. Here’s a suspense novel free of vulgarity and expressions that offend readers with religious values.

When our precious KittyCat died, my friend Suzi gave me and my husband Aubrey a copy of the book, Dewey: the Small Town Library Cat Who Touched the World. That same day I gave Aubrey Going Home: Finding Peace When Pets Die by Jon Katz.

I can’t say Going Home met expectations. It has not lifted the grief that has lingered for more than three months. But at least now I understand it.
You may have heard of Dewey, the library cat. Although he died in 2006, Dewey’s fame continues to flourish through his image on postcards, jigsaw puzzles, and especially sales and circulation of the book, Dewey: the Small Town Library Cat Who Touched the World. It’s a moving story about a bedraggled kitten, rescued by librarian, Vicki Myron, after being left in the book drop of her town’s library.

Spencer, Iowa, was in the throes of an economic downturn when Dewey, almost dead, arrived on its library scene. Beginning with newspaper coverage of the contest that gave the kitten his official name--Dewey Readmore Books—the orange tabby garnered publicity.

As Dewey’s popularity increased among library patrons, the library evolved from a book warehouse to a community’s gathering place. His entertaining personality helped to revive the spirits of area residents fighting for survival in hard times. Stories about Dewey spread, at first from library newsletters to newspapers to national and then international media.

As an international celebrity, Dewey proved to be an economic asset as well. “When Dewey died in 2006 at the age of 19, his obituary appeared in over 250 newspapers, including the New York Times, USA Today and the Des Moines Register, and was announced on the national television evening news.”—www.deweyreadmorebooks.com.

“We still have 3 people (Kim, Joy and Paula) that worked at the library when Dewey was here. I was actually here the day he came,” said Kim Peterson in an email.

The sale of bookbags and other “Dewey” merchandize helps support library programs. Spencer’s adorable library cat continues to draw interest—daily emails, said Ms. Peterson, and “a few phone calls a month.”

Beach reading season is almost here. You can purchase the books through most book sellers or borrow them from many public libraries. All three books are available for loan from Amarillo’s public library system. Dewey (I give it two thumbs up) is also on a CD. 

© 2013, Bernice W. Simpson