Stories of the Reader-Author Relationship

covers of autographed books
South of Justice reader

Before becoming an author, I was a reader.

Of course, I still read as often as humanly possible, but before publishing my first book, I’d stand in long lines to get authors’ autographs and thank them for writing.

In Hawaii, I shared a cab with screenwriter Jeffrey Arch. Ben Bova helped me locate an artifact for Mars. Laura Lippman taught a week-long workshop that was worth the whole conference. Dave Barry embarrassed me in front of my mother, which made her day. I embarrassed Ridley Pearson when I pointed out his father was in line for an autograph after Pearson gave a keynote speech on humilty.

I had the priviledge of being on a panel discussion at a writer’s conference with Linda Fairstein, whose books inspired the Law & Order SVU series. James W. Hall gave me priceless advice on writing description. David Morrell swapped flying stories with me because, being the consumate researcher, he got his pilot’s license to write a book that featured a pilot.

Steve Berry shared his exhaustive writing process with writers at a conference in Florida. Kristin Higgins is as hilarious in person as the characters in her books.

Each signed book has a story about meeting the author. I have a bookcase of stories.


As an author, I strive to connect with readers on the page and in person.

At a book club in Highlands, North Carolina, I was asked to sign a book for Ann. When I opened the book, it was already signed to Ann. The lady gasped and said she bought the book used and didn’t notice it had already been signed. What were the odds of that?

Readers have shared photos of themselves reading  my books at the beach, on a boat, on a plane, at a hunting camp, and at home.

book club group shot

Readers in Japan surprise me. Haven’t done any marketing in Japan. Sales are steady there thanks to someone who spread the word.

Last week a reader from Waynesville, NC wrote to tell me that someone up there was hosting a game of Cow Bingo. She thought I had made up the game in a book. I confess, I stole the idea from living in a rural small town.

Last week a friend told me that she knew a lady who mailed a copy of my book to her niece in New Zealand. It cost her $40 to mail it. I’d have autographed it, if I’d known. Wowza.

Book clubs are the most fun because they ask great questions. Since research is the best part of the writing process, I love to share insider knowledge that didn’t make it into the book. I’m a pilot, so the scenes about flying in South of Justice come from experience.

To all the readers who buy books from newbie authors like me, God bless you! To all the readers who leave reviews on Amazon, Goodreads, BookBub, LibraryThing, and social media, you are golden. Thank you for sharing your love of reading with others and for recommending books by lesser-known authors.

You make this lonely process worthwhile!


Have you met your favorite author? 

How Many Banned Books Have You Read?

The American Library Association tracks requests to ban books. Sure, I think we can all agree that the Kama Sutra would be inappropriate for a grade-school library even though it could be considered a picture book. But what if your local public library removed all copies of Brave New World, The Color Purple, Twilight, the Bible, and the Harry Potter Series?
The LA Times reported that in 2017 the Accomack County school district in Virginia considered removing copies of To Kill A Mockingbird and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn from their libraries because one parent objected to the use of the N-word in these books. Has this parent been in a school lately? Or listened to rap music? The casual use of the N-word among blacks makes me wonder–who is offended? Just for the record, I am offended by the word. But then, I was alive when the word was used as an insult and not as a greeting or term of endearment. In the historical stories above, the characters who use the N-word are portrayed as severely uneducated or hateful, so why not use these stories to teach children about why we shouldn’t use it now? Shall we let political correctness or the opinion of one person dictate which classics the rest of us should be allowed to read? Shall ladies return to wearing corsets and covering our ankles if a small segment of society decided to return to the good old Victorian era dictates of decency? Why not let the tail wag the dog and surrender to every segment of society’s whims and sensibilities? I am speaking up because even though a book might offend me to the core, I don’t expect the world to kneel to my feelings. I’m a grown up. I can survive being offended. I’m likely to grumble about things from time to time, but I don’t force my will on others or throw a tantrum when the world doesn’t comply with my demands. My favorite book has elements of the supernatural, erotic poetry, war, natural disasters, political intrigue, romance, adventure, and more. But it’s banned or heavily restricted in these countries: Afghanistan, Algeria, China (People’s Republic), Comoros, Djibouti, Iran, Iraq, Libya, Maldives, Mauritania, Morocco, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Tunisia, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Yemen. Apparently, the Bible threatens the culture or governments of these countries. I can’t recall extremist Christian-led riots, bombings, or other acts of terrorism endangering any governments, but hey, they run their countries their way. Making the Bible forbidden is their loss. In America, we enjoy the freedom to read whatever we want. If we don’t like a book, we don’t burn it or ban it. We don’t threaten the author and publisher. We just don’t buy it. We use the power of the free market to support the books we enjoy and treasure. We can, of course, post negative reviews or ignore books that offend us. We allow individuals to decide for themselves.
To celebrate Banned Books Week, I encourage you to look through the list of the top banned or challenged books from 2000 to 2009. The list was compiled by the American Library Association. How many of these books have you read?
What’s your rebel reader score? 1 to 25 books – Streak of rebellion reader 26 to 50 books – Proud rebel reader 51 to 75 books – Rockstar rebel reader 76 to 100 – full-fledged freedom fighter rebel reader
The Top 100 Banned Books:
  1. Harry Potter (series), by J.K. Rowling
  2. Alice series, by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor
  3. The Chocolate War, by Robert Cormier
  4. And Tango Makes Three, by Justin Richardson/Peter Parnell
  5. Of Mice and Men, by John Steinbeck
  6. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, by Maya Angelou
  7. Scary Stories (series), by Alvin Schwartz
  8. His Dark Materials (series), by Philip Pullman
  9. ttyl; ttfn; l8r g8r (series), by Lauren Myracle
  10. The Perks of Being a Wallflower, by Stephen Chbosky
  11. Fallen Angels, by Walter Dean Myers
  12. It’s Perfectly Normal, by Robie Harris
  13. Captain Underpants (series), by Dav Pilkey
  14. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, by Mark Twain
  15. The Bluest Eye, by Toni Morrison
  16. Forever, by Judy Blume
  17. The Color Purple, by Alice Walker
  18. Go Ask Alice, by Anonymous
  19. Catcher in the Rye, by J.D. Salinger
  20. King and King, by Linda de Haan
  21. To Kill A Mockingbird, by Harper Lee
  22. Gossip Girl (series), by Cecily von Ziegesar
  23. The Giver, by Lois Lowry
  24. In the Night Kitchen, by Maurice Sendak
  25. Killing Mr. Griffen, by Lois Duncan
  26. Beloved, by Toni Morrison
  27. My Brother Sam Is Dead, by James Lincoln Collier
  28. Bridge To Terabithia, by Katherine Paterson
  29. The Face on the Milk Carton, by Caroline B. Cooney
  30. We All Fall Down, by Robert Cormier
  31. What My Mother Doesn’t Know, by Sonya Sones
  32. Bless Me, Ultima, by Rudolfo Anaya
  33. Snow Falling on Cedars, by David Guterson
  34. The Earth, My Butt, and Other Big, Round Things, by Carolyn Mackler
  35. Angus, Thongs, and Full Frontal Snogging, by Louise Rennison
  36. Brave New World, by Aldous Huxley
  37. It’s So Amazing, by Robie Harris
  38. Arming America, by Michael Bellasiles
  39. Kaffir Boy, by Mark Mathabane
  40. Life is Funny, by E.R. Frank
  41. Whale Talk, by Chris Crutcher
  42. The Fighting Ground, by Avi
  43. Blubber, by Judy Blume
  44. Athletic Shorts, by Chris Crutcher
  45. Crazy Lady, by Jane Leslie Conly
  46. Slaughterhouse-Five, by Kurt Vonnegut
  47. The Adventures of Super Diaper Baby: The First Graphic Novel by George Beard and Harold Hutchins, the creators of Captain Underpants, by Dav Pilkey
  48. Rainbow Boys, by Alex Sanchez
  49. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, by Ken Kesey
  50. The Kite Runner, by Khaled Hosseini
  51. Daughters of Eve, by Lois Duncan
  52. The Great Gilly Hopkins, by Katherine Paterson
  53. You Hear Me?, by Betsy Franco
  54. The Facts Speak for Themselves, by Brock Cole
  55. Summer of My German Soldier, by Bette Green
  56. When Dad Killed Mom, by Julius Lester
  57. Blood and Chocolate, by Annette Curtis Klause
  58. Fat Kid Rules the World, by K.L. Going
  59. Olive’s Ocean, by Kevin Henkes
  60. Speak, by Laurie Halse Anderson
  61. Draw Me A Star, by Eric Carle
  62. The Stupids (series), by Harry Allard
  63. The Terrorist, by Caroline B. Cooney
  64. Mick Harte Was Here, by Barbara Park
  65. The Things They Carried, by Tim O’Brien
  66. Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry, by Mildred Taylor
  67. A Time to Kill, by John Grisham
  68. Always Running, by Luis Rodriguez
  69. Fahrenheit 451, by Ray Bradbury
  70. Harris and Me, by Gary Paulsen
  71. Junie B. Jones (series), by Barbara Park
  72. Song of Solomon, by Toni Morrison
  73. What’s Happening to My Body Book, by Lynda Madaras
  74. The Lovely Bones, by Alice Sebold
  75. Anastasia (series), by Lois Lowry
  76. A Prayer for Owen Meany, by John Irving
  77. Crazy: A Novel, by Benjamin Lebert
  78. The Joy of Gay Sex, by Dr. Charles Silverstein
  79. The Upstairs Room, by Johanna Reiss
  80. A Day No Pigs Would Die, by Robert Newton Peck
  81. Black Boy, by Richard Wright
  82. Deal With It!, by Esther Drill
  83. Detour for Emmy, by Marilyn Reynolds
  84. So Far From the Bamboo Grove, by Yoko Watkins
  85. Staying Fat for Sarah Byrnes, by Chris Crutcher
  86. Cut, by Patricia McCormick
  87. Tiger Eyes, by Judy Blume
  88. The Handmaid’s Tale, by Margaret Atwood
  89. Friday Night Lights, by H.G. Bissenger
  90. A Wrinkle in Time, by Madeline L’Engle
  91. Julie of the Wolves, by Jean Craighead George
  92. The Boy Who Lost His Face, by Louis Sachar
  93. Bumps in the Night, by Harry Allard
  94. Goosebumps (series), by R.L. Stine
  95. Shade’s Children, by Garth Nix
  96. Grendel, by John Gardner
  97. The House of the Spirits, by Isabel Allende
  98. I Saw Esau, by Iona Opte
  99. Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret, by Judy Blume
  100. America: A Novel, by E.R. Frank
Now imagine your life without access to any of these books because someone was offended and didn’t think you should be allowed to read them.

Mystery and Crime Fiction Giveaway

Sixty-five authors of mysteries and crime fiction are celebrating June with a giveaway. Choose any or all of the titles to download for your summer reading.

While all the books are mysteries and crime fiction, you’ll find some have a humorous bent, a few have supernatural elements. Do you prefer detective stories? Amateur sleuths?

Check out the list here: Notorious Crimes — A Mystery & Crime Fiction Giveaway.

When you’re done reading, please be kind and leave a brief review wherever you share reviews, Amazon, Goodreads, or your favorite social media sites. Your review is like a thank-you note to the author.

Oh, and if you like North of the Killing Hand in this giveaway, it is the beginning of a series called the Compass Crimes.

Name This Country If You Can 2

From these images, can you identify the country?

In this ancient country, there was once a potato famine that led to a mass migration. Many of these immigrants came to settle in the United States. They take their beer seriously and they mark sheep with paint.

Name This Country If You Can

Can you name the country from these photos?

Some hints…It is the safest country in the world to travel. In 2019, the country held a funeral for a glacier. If you lived there, you’d want to have the vehicle on the right to manage the interior roads.

The Speed of Parenting


Parenting is not for the faint of heart. Babies don’t arrive with a user manual. Everything you do as a parent requires on-the-job training. Those blessed with wonderful role models to follow will find themselves speaking words they didn’t like hearing when they were children. Those who didn’t have great role models live in fear of becoming their parents. As a parent on the mature end of the spectrum, I realize Each significant stage in her life accelerated her more.

Events I felt unprepared for kept me humble and alert.

As soon as she could crawl, she headed off to stick a wet finger in an electrical socket. As soon as she could walk, she took off and dared us to catch her. Then there came roller skating on four wheels. When she finally mastered her two-wheeler, she demanded the training wheels come off. Faster and faster. Once, she tried to outrace me on her two-wheeler and screamed in shock when I caught her. Back then, I could keep pace with her.

When my 1-year-old daughter Jessica reached that greet-the-world stage, she enjoyed a trip to the grocery where she could shout “HI” to everyone we passed. Through the aisles, we traveled while kind strangers returned her greeting. I could tell from their reactions that these mothers and grandmothers had been through this before. Jessica was my only child, so it was new territory for me. I gave her a bottle, and she drank for a while. In the aisle with the paper goods, I stopped to find paper towels.

Jessica sat up in the cart and shouted “Hi” to the back of a gray-haired man.

The man did not respond. Jessica repeated it louder. As I tossed the paper towels into the cart, the man turned around.

He had a high collar with a microphone device hanging around his neck. He raised the device to his throat near his tracheotomy tube, then a deep vibrating robotic voice said, “Hello, little girl.”

Jessica’s eyes widened, and she held out her bottle.

“Any little girl who would give her bottle to a stranger can’t be all bad,” he rasped in his mechanical voice.

She stared and blinked.

The dear gentleman smiled and said, “Bye-bye.”

He had walked to the far end of the aisle when Jessica rose in the cart, grabbed her throat and growled, “BYE-BYE.”

The man turned, laughing silently then disappeared around the end of the aisle.

In another incident, my daughter, then six, pointed to the tattooed forearm of the giant man in front of us in line at McDonald’s, addressing him in her usual loud voice.

“Does your mom know you draw on your arm?”

His leather clothing squeaked as he turned and looked down.

I held my breath.

He answered in a gravelly voice, “Yeah. And she was really mad.”

Then there came roller skating on four wheels. When she finally mastered her two-wheeler, she demanded the training wheels come off. Faster and faster. Once, she tried to outrace me on her two-wheeler and screamed in shock when I caught her. Back then, I could.

Then in-line skating. She learned how to ski on water and snow, faster and faster leaving me behind.

Then there was the hockey game. My husband was supposed to go. Our daughter, at age nine, was excited about going to a grown-up match with him. An hour before the game, he called to tell me he’d been summoned to the emergency room to treat a dear friend of ours. I was the stand-in, the second choice, but she agreed to go. Having never been to a hockey game before, we were enjoying the game with confused interest as the padded men skated from one side of the rink to the other. They often slammed one another against the high Plexi-glass walls in their fight for the puck. It was a lively crowd.

The couple behind us appeared to be season ticket holders who enjoyed their beer. They wore the team colors from head to toe. They shouted advice to the players. Then my daughter started asking questions I couldn’t answer, so I suggested she watch and listen.

Later, she elbowed me. “Hey, mom. I know what they call that guy at the net.”


“He’s the pucker,” she shouted.

Beer sprayed on my back and neck. “Um, I don’t think so.”

“He is too. That man at the end of our row called him that.”

So long ago she was my little girl. Then life sped in fast-forward mode until she was driving my 4Runner on suddenly narrow streets. She skidded up to her first stop sign.


“Let’s try it slower next time.”

Punctuated with eye-rolling, she said, “Yeah, okay.”

At 15, my daughter was driving for the first time with her learner’s permit. No longer on the vacant roads of new housing developments, we were on the real streets with real traffic. I was calm. We had wonderful auto insurance. Memories raced by, leaving me in awe of the changes in my little girl. We were on the way to pick up her friend to spend the night. She searched for a different radio station while she strayed over the yellow line. We were alone on the road, but I needed to alert her.

“Look up at the road.”

She did and swerved back into the right lane. “Whoops.”

“If another car had been coming, you would have known it by the loud crunching sound of metal on metal.”

A dramatic sigh blew from her clenched teeth. “You’re making me nervous.”

“You’re scaring me. Is this your best driving?”


“Show me your best.”

“Can’t I listen to the radio?”

“Nooooooowa,” I mocked.

She snorted.

New speeds. New dangers. I was imagining her accelerating out of my sight when we reached her friend’s house. My baby was in high school, and too soon, she’d go off to college.

She turned off the car and handed me the keys.

“Do you want to drive home and show your friend how well you’re doing?”

“Can I?”

“Sure. Just keep doing your best.”

“Thanks, mom.” She kissed me on the cheek and hopped out of the car. It was the first spontaneous act of kindness from her in weeks. I nearly cried.

Parenting isn’t for the faint of heart; that’s for sure. I could only hope my car and my heart would hold up for the next few years. That night I could hardly hear the roar of the engine over the pounding of my heart. Parenting is the most challenging job in the world because you have to teach your beloved child how to live without you.

Cherish the ride. Eventually you might get to watch when it’s your child’s turn to be a parent. It’s worth the wait.