Friday, July 18, 2014

Mint Julep Mysteries finally available on hard copy through Amazon and digitally through Kindle

I was never happy with the original cover for Mint Juleps and Murder, so I redesigned it. The ability to do so is one very good thing about Createspace. 

The Mint Julep Mystery series are all up on Amazon now. I have learned so much along the way. Createspace gives you a minimum recommended price for your novel. This price depends upon your choices for distribution. I opted for the Expanded Distribution which makes the books available to book stores and libraries and listing by Barnes and Noble, Ingram and NACSCORP, and Baker and Taylor. 

Kindle provided the jpeg for the covers and I also got a pdf of the book version to download and use wherever. Kindle suggested the price that produced the most sales for authors of books like mine. I took their advice and the books are listed on Kindle at $2.99. The Wakefield Plantation cookbook and history with a primer on Southern manners and etiquette is listed on Kindle at $4.99. They suggested other distribution ideas for making the most on the books and, once again, I took their advice so it is in their lending library as well. 

I am excited to see where this goes. They are bound to be far more lucrative being available somewhere than locked away in my computer. Thus far, publishing through Createspace and Kindle has cost me nothing but my time and all the sweat equity that went into writing these books. I look forward to whatever input folks choose to give me. I hope they think they are a fun read and they will take the time to write reviews so that others will also want to read them. 

Think Murder She Wrote but with two sisters who cannot cook and whom critics compare to Lucy and Ethel starring on a food show set on a plantation in Alabama. Spice it up with Rosemary and Thyme with an organic garden planted by the Cox County Master Gardeners around Waverly that inspires Victory Gardens around the country. Mix in romance with the Saks Fifth Avenue quality gentlemen who attend the Five O’clock Mint Julep Hour on the Waverly veranda. Season with Newhart appeal as Palmer, former ghost town, now attracts outdoorsman from around the world to the best deer hunting in the world. Add a dash of variety with a multicultural cast. Stir in the drug dealing serial killers upset with all that attention and a broad variety of heroes and villains and you have the Mint Julep Mysteries. Complicate everything with Dabney’s genetic memory, the result of the accident where the SpedEx truck killed her husband of 35 years and left Dabney in a coma from which she emerged in tune with past events that intrude into the present.

Those are the Mint Julep Mysteries. And now I will go on vacation to Key West and hope Catherine, the great white shark, has not decided to holiday there as well! We do plan to go snorkeling, but I'm not sure if she's become well-versed on manners and etiquette on her sojourn in the Gulf. 

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Casting Mint Juleps Mysteries

Mint Julep Mysteries Coming Soon!

Mint Julep Mysteries is the title of the series of books I am writing that includes the characters listed below. I write in scenes and it helps me to envision who I would have playing the parts. I know how arduous the Marketing part of writing can be; I have done a lot of that with my novels, Swimming with Serpents and In Pursuit. These are a totally different genre. Think Murder She Wrote meets Rosemary and Thyme and add in the Newhart show. Set the scene on an old plantation house in Alabama with two formerly estranged, newly widowed sisters (who cannot cook) who parlay their way onto the Dishing It Network with a cooking show they call Partying on the Plantation and you have the Mint Juleps Mysteries.

The Cover Creator on Create Space produced these covers. I am pleased with them. I'm now in the PROOFING process. I ordered a proof of the completed book and made the mistake of looking at the digital copy before receiving the hard copy. Somehow that copy had no page numbers or headers. So, I tried to correct it and sent the manuscript to the wrong book. That's what I get for working too late at night. So, this morning I had to send the right manuscripts back up to the right books. The physical proofs have been created and mailed so I should get them soon and will have to correct whatever errors I find combing through the physical copy.

This is the tedious part, but well worth it in the long run. I do want the best product possible.

This has definitely been an interesting adventure. These characters have taken on a life of their own. I cannot wait for you to meet them. I am also a writer of historical fiction, so when the adventure took on a past intruding on the present with genetic memory turn I guess that part of my brain stood up and told the creative part, don't forget about me!

Last night I found myself casting the major characters.
Dabney Palmer Rankin                  Delta Burke
Dr. Sophia Palmer Ransom            Susan Sarandon
Faye Lynne                                     Jessica Lange
Ruby T                                            Queen Latifah
Florence Newkirk                           Halle Berry
Kendrick Newkirk                          Shemar Moore
Police chief Carrow Dee Gunther   Melissa McCartney
Wilhelmina Mucklewrath Banks    Heather Locklear
Fredricka Pinkerton Amos              Heather Locklear
Dr. Gavin Crenshaw                        Richard Gere
Warren                                             Tom Selleck
Adam Rankin                                   Lucas Till
Reverend Roscoe T. Ledbetter         Forrest Whitaker
Hannibal Ledbetter                          Tequan Richmond
Harvey                                             Mark Harmon
Hartwell Banks                                Ed Harris
Bennett Chastain                              George Clooney
Estrellita Torres                                Maite Perronni
Pedro Torres                                      Benjamin Bratt
Julio Estavez                                     Diego Boneta
Ralph Stankey                                   Gary Busey
Elvis (a.k.a. Felix Forbes)                 Owen Wilson

In order to get attention to the series and their movie and TV series potential, I am looking at Amazon Story Builder at Amazon Studies to see if I can write a script they might find interesting. I would love to get input on others who have done so (

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

The Create Space Process

I recently made the decision to self-publish the novels I now call Mint Juleps Mysteries.  They have been through numerous edits and in the end I decided that others edited the life out of the novels. So, I went back as close as I could to the original and reread it. I decided I liked it. That's why the self-publishing concept appeals to me.

Soon the first three novels in the Mint Julep Mysteries (Creme de Cassis and MurderMint Juleps and Murder, and MayansMuscadine and Murder, as well as Wakefield Plantation: History and Cookbook of one Southern family) will be available. I know from experience the writing and the preparation for publishing seems soooo hard, but I know once this is completed, the hard part will be marketing. One step at the time.

I researched different self-publishing opportunities and decided upon Create Space. For about the past week, I have been preparing the books for publication. This has turned out to be more complicated than I imagined, mainly because each time I thought I had it prepared and submitted it, I found another error. But the wonderful thing is that you CAN see it and you CAN correct it--over and over again!

I made a mistake in the beginning that has made it harder than it should be. That lay in the very basic decision on what size the book should be. Create Space recommends 6 x 9 for the most distribution opportunities. I chose a different option. I downloaded a formatted template for the other size and spent a lot of time editing in that format and saving it as a pdf. I should have saved a Word format of every PDF so that I could correct whatever errors.

As I progressed through all the stages I decided that I wanted the Expanded Distribution opportunities that Create Space offers and I had to go back and go with the 6 x 9 size. That meant I had to figure out how to convert what I had already done to that size template. Not easy. You cannot just Select All, Copy and then Paste on the different template. I discovered that you can Copy and Paste small increments and then you paste it and can maintain the integrity of the formatted template. I learned to save each step as a Word document since you can't easily access a pdf format.

All of these steps are really not complicated, merely time consuming. These mechanical details may be helpful:
1. Check to make sure you have not double-spaced after a period or a comma. Use the Find and Replace to check that spacing. Just type a period with two spaces and go through the alphabet to replace with a period and one space. Include quotations.
2. Use the Spell and Grammar check. Do not automatically take the suggestion because the suggestions are not always correct. Sometimes the rewording they suggest is quite effective, however, making the sentence active rather than passive and therefore makes the writing more powerful.
3. Make sure you address headers and footers, including adding page numbers.
4. Double check the file borders, spacing, etc. Check with the formatted template to find the paragraph formatting, then if you lose it at any time, you can copy the section that got messed up and reformat it.
5. Use Find to make sure you use the same format for writing all Chapter headings and spacings. Use Page Break at the end of previous chapter to keep chapters separated.
6. Keep notes on spelling names and places. Use Find and Replace to make sure all words are spelled the same. I caught myself sometimes spelling verandah with an h and sometimes without it. I decided it should be without the h and used find and replace to correct that error. That is one very handy function!

All four books are now in the process of Review.

In the meantime, the Pricing issue presented itself. Create Space gives you a minimum price to work with. I'm talking hard copy here. I wanted it to be available, but I do expect that most who choose to read the books will read it through their Kindle. In my experience with my other novels, $20 and under with even number pricing made the books easier to sell. So, I decided on $20 for the Cookbook with all the color pictures and $15 for the other novels. I wish they could be less expensive, but with the price point suggested by Create Space that seems to work best. If possible, I will lower the price. I hope Kindle prices can be MUCH lower.

As soon as they are ready, I plan to order a physical proof and then upload to Kindle, unless I get too eager and just go straight to Kindle. I understand change is always possible and just a click away!

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

What is the Southern Voice?

My son and then fiancé Brittany on the steps of my grandparents home, Wakefield

What is the Southern voice?

Kathy Holtzfel (Cate Noble) and I spoke together recently when the topic of the Southern voice came up. Kathy read Creme de Cassis and Murder, the first novel in my Mint Juleps series. In reading the novel she commented that she quickly came to the conclusion that she did NOT have a southern voice implying that I did. So, I asked her, what makes a southern voice? 

It is hard to define, she answered, it's just something when you read it you recognize it.

She then did an internet search and added the information below that she found in the Goodreads discussion:

One of those participating in the discussion mentioned Dr. O. B. Emerson who taught English at the University of Alabama from 1946 to 1986. I took a course under him as did my husband, upon whom he had the greatest influence. Dr. Emerson was a great man and one of the best professors either of us had the privilege of studying under. 

When Kathy presented me with Dr. Emerson's criteria for what is involved in defining the Southern voice,I sat up and paid attention.  

Family, especially lineage and genealogy.
Time, especially the influence of the past on the present.
Place, as it relates to the connection of the people to the land. He specifically included the influence of the Fugitive Poets and the Agrarians here.
Dialect or Dialog--a distinct idiom or patois unique to the setting.
Social Status or the lack of it.
The Lost Cause--the fact that the South became an occupied nation and lived through a period of reconstruction.
Humor--beginning with what was considered Southwestern Humor. By that is not meant Texas, but at the time was considered Tennessee, Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana.
Race--embracing the dark history of slavery and the burden of guilt carried by white southerners. The changing relationships between black and white Americans."

I must admit to being comforted by the fact that these characteristics do comprise everything I write and I can proudly claim to being a writer with a southern voice. One of the reasons I have decided to self-publish my novels is that it seems to me that editors who edited the original novel tried to make it palatable to the mass market and in the process edited much of that voice out of the manuscript. We southerners are a unique breed. Our customs and mannerisms seem strange to those who come to the South from another part of the country. Dr. Emerson pointed out in his courses that we have a unique heritage with roots that run deep in our collective psyche. 

We are who we are. And proud of it.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Revolutionary Pedagogy: Or, so you thought reading, writing and calculating were why you sent your child to school?

Perhaps you think you send your child to school to learn to read, write and calculate. Think again.

The seeds of Common Core Curriculum have grown and flourished since they were sown in  Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965. Then Jimmy Carter  established the Department of Education and empowered an elite group bent on radical social change in America. Since then the edicts of those entities pretty much reflect the philosophies of Leftist revolutionaries who label themselves Progressives. Among their number is Paolo Freire, defrocked Jesuit priest, who led a movement called liberation pedagogy.  With their control of education academic excellence takes a back seat and patriotism is a dirty word. ( and on UTube)
"There is no such thing as a neutral education process. Education either functions as an instrument which is used to facilitate the integration of generations into the logic of the present system and bring about conformity to it, or it becomes the 'practice of freedom', the means by which men and women deal critically with reality and discover how to participate in the transformation of their world."
—Richard Shaull, drawing on Paulo Freire[7]

One need only read the Whole Language Catalog by Ken and Yetta Goodman and Human Capital edited by David Hornbeck to understand that what the Progressives want is a total restructuring of society -- and they are well on their way of achieving it.

Rich Gibson, Associate Professor of Education at San Diego State University writes in Paulo Freire and Revolutionary Pedagogy For Social Justice: 

"Could Freire's literacy for critical consciousness answer questions like: what must people know and, equally significant, how they must come to know it, in order to overcome exploitation and alienation? Can human creativity be unleashed in an increasingly undemocratic world? Can consciousness leap past exploitation--or repression? How do we spot lies? Can revolutionary pedagogy foment revolutionary social change, incorporating forms of consciousness that can also overturn the rise of new bosses, so we do not become what we set out to oppose? What might pedagogy have to do with overturning the subject-object split, the habitual subservience created both by capital and revolutionary organizations, that both Harvey and Freire, and the late George Lukacs, all said was central?
The rich are not forever, and will the crown last to every generation?
Proverbs 27:24

Freire insists, repeatedly, that no system of education is neutral. Bias is inherent in any selection and ordering of facts, the common project of social educators. One's understanding of how the democratic possibilities of citizenship might be achieved depends on a partisan assessment of current conditions, and where one wants to go: a political standpoint. Any appraisal of the prospects of democratic education through literacy, a literacy that reads both the word and the world, must be start from an articulated standpoint, on expressed terrain. Just what is the current situation? What should be done about it?" (

Having already written about my concerns regarding the change in Mathematics education, I found this statement in Wikipedia regarding Freire particularly interesting:

"Freire's work has also influenced the so-called "radical math" movement in the United States, which emphasizes social justice issues and critical pedagogy as components of mathematical curricula." 

Why did Jay Leno's Jay Walking segment ring true to all of us? Why are our children 34th in the world in Math when we once led the world in Math and Science and got our astronauts to the moon? Why do 60% of first time entering freshmen to our community colleges have to take remedial Reading and Math? 

Once a group of women approached a beautiful stream. One cried out, "Look!" There, caught in the current were children struggling. One woman grabbed another's hand and said, "Quickly, let's form a human chain and pull them from the current!" One by one they pulled children from the turbulent waters. But still they came. At last one woman broke away and headed upstream. The other women cried out, "Where are you going?" "There are children to be saved!" The woman responded, "I'm going to find out who is throwing them in."

Other articles you might want to read:

I did not know the hornets nest I was about to enter when I decided to become a teacher. I wish I could become a part of the circle the wagon mentality of fellow teachers. I want to join those who never question and blindly "support our schools." Naively, I really thought schools were to teach children to read, write and calculate. I thought cultural literacy meant honoring the traditions that have made our country great.

Apparently others have a different idea.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Advice on Southern Sisters Series or should it be Partying on the Plantation Series?

Advice on Southern Sisters Series or should it be Partying on the Plantation Series?

Your opinion requested!!! I need your help.

I have written a series of books based on two Southern sisters who to the untrained eye might possibly resemble my sister, Sylvia, and me. This series began as a short story inspired by my garden club. Our then president, I think it was Martha Nix, though it could have been Gayle McLeod Parsons or Abby Margolies, asked our group what they wanted to learn about in our programs. The usual answers came around until Mary Ann Earnest spoke up and said, "I want to know how to meet a man while gardening!" We all laughed. But her comment "took seed" so to speak and I wrote the short story, "The Man in a Muddle in the Middle of the Mums" with his Johnny Cash voice (that drew her closer), his Richard Gere buns (girls will be girls and do notice), and Mel Gibson eyes (almost as good as Paul Newman). Since I was in charge of the program on wildflowers, it fit right in! Other organizations asked for me to read it as well.

One day I was stopped at the intersection of the street on which I live and have traveled nearly every day of my life since I grew up just three blocks from where I now live in Dothan. I recalled the day the FedEx truck ran a stop light at that very spot and nearly hit Joe (my husband of then 35 years and me. Fortunately, he was distracted by another car and was not sitting on ready when the light turned green.  My mind began meandering and I thought to myself, what would I do if something happened to Joe? Immediately the thought popped into my mind, my sister Sylvia and I would live together. Of course, she's married to Tom and that could be a problem. So, the writer in me put the two incidents and short story together and suddenly in my imaginary world two sisters, much like us, get together in widowhood suddenly rudderless without the men who have dominated their lives and try to create a new life.

So, we have TWO SISTERS, Dabney Palmer Rankin and Dr. Sophia Palmer Ransom  (similar to Ann George's Southern Sisters) involved in MYSTERIES (like Murder She Wrote) only on a plantation (WAVERLY) in PALMER, COX COUNTY, ALABAMA, where using their grandfather's plantation as a gimmick they convince a bunch of tipsy Yankees in New Orleans looking for new shows to let them host a show on the DISHING IT NETWORK (amazingly similar to the food network) only THEY CANNOT COOK!!!!! Somehow awkward, fluffy Dabney Palmer Rankin acquires a bevy of beaus ...and an arch enemy, a serial killer.  She constantly finds her life in danger (kind of like the road runner and Wylie Coyote). In addition to all of this the two sisters discover the confusion of heing and sheing in the boomer years and the wonder of the bonds of friendship one acquires along the way. Oh, yes, in addition to everything else, Dabney Palmer Rankin discovers that the accident has triggered genetic memories where the past intrudes into the future. But, being considered crazy to begin with, this isn't something she is inclined to share.

Now, where do you come in? I have decided that with the book business the way it is, I am going to go through Createspace to publish these novels. Book 1 will be Creme de Cassis and Murder, Book 2 is Mint Juleps and Murder and Book 3 is Mayans, Muscadines and Murder. Eventually there will be a cookbook.

So my questions are:

1. What should I title the series?

Ann George has passed away and the series name SOUTHERN SISTERS is available. Or should I call it SOUTHERN BOOMER SISTERS? Or the PARTYING ON THE PLANTATION series? In marketing the books, which would catch the eye of the reader (consider yourself the target audience). The title in these situations would read Creme de Cassis and Murder: A Southern Sisters Mystery or Creme de Cassis and Murder: Book I of Partying on the Plantation or Creme de Cassis and Murder: A Southern Boomer Sisters novel.

2. Then comes pricing. What do you think is an enticing price for an e-book? In order to get the 70 percent royalty option, e books must satisfy the following set of requirements: The author or publisher-supplied list price must be between $2.99 and $9.99.

For a 184 page black and white book, you set your USD list price at $8.99. A customer purchases your book on and a book is printed to fulfill that order.
Sales Channel % = $3.60
Fixed Charge = $0.85
Per Page Charge = $2.20
Your Royalty = $2.34

3. In publishing through Create Space you can have an ISBN number that lists Create Space as the publisher, or you can set up your own publishing entity. I am thinking of forming a publishing entity, Southern Boomer Books, and purchasing a group of ISBN numbers. Does it matter to the purchaser of the novel if the novel is published by Createspace or a traditional publisher? (In other words would a different publisher name entice you into purchasing the novel?)

4. Would any of you, my writer friends, be interested in participating with  me in publishing under the Southern Boomer Book aegis. If so, message me and we can discuss this. (I think Deb Smith did this with Belle Books, but her leading ladies are much younger.)

Thanks for reading this far. And thanks ahead of time for any input you can share. I look forward to hearing your thoughts!

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Math Wars: Once Again Into the Fray

Math Wars: Once Again Into the Fray

 Having a granddaughter in the fifth grade has brought the Math Wars home to roost. Our three children learned Math in an ABEKA curriculum using Saxon Math. All three scored off the charts on standardized tests in Math and have gone on to careers where that proficiency was important (Engineering, Marketing, and Business).

I earned my degree in education in 1972 at a time of revolution in education. A world shift in education came about at that time to manipulate children for social engineering purposes de-emphasizing individualism and competition toward team/group learning and peer tutoring. (Read the Whole Language Catalog by Ken and Yetta Goodman) Individual excellence was headed for the chopping block.  In the early 1990s, I ran for the Dothan City School Board twice with a Back to Basics agenda. I thought the fact that 60% of first time entering freshmen at the local community college was a pretty telling indictment against OBE/Whole Language/Progressive Education agenda of the prevailing education establishment. Others thought that was important as well and we had lively discussions on the Ramsey/Moore Report, a talk show I co-hosted on a conservative radio station. The campaign against me was pretty much directed from the system's central office. They won. 

Before the Dothan City School Board paid someone to rewrite the Board bylaws, the bylaws stated that learning would be "sequential." That is important to note because the shift in the late 60s was to Progressive educators' preferred method of having learning be inferential and thematic. With the centralization of education in the Department of Education the words "drill and repetition" became dirty words not to be repeated in polite education society unless you wanted to be labeled an educational "flat earther." The Elementary and Secondary Education Act created the environment for Progressive educators to practice their experiments on America's school children under the guise of leveling the playing field for all children. Then in 1979 President Jimmy Carter established the Department of Education and local control of education became a thing of the past. Though we did not officially have a national curriculum, professional educators with a progressive agenda more focused on social engineering than academic excellence distributed funds for participation in special programs. Local boards got addicted to the funding and found themselves bound, gagged and disenfranchised by those dollars.

Twenty years later the disturbing numbers of those needing remediation have not improved but those administrators of the early 90s did go on to bigger and better jobs, salaries and lucrative retirement. I must admit to being shocked that something so basic as teaching children to read and do math was now political!

I threw my hands in the air, retreated to my garden and genealogy and started writing books. 

Then my smart, sweet, precocious fifth grade granddaughter who lives in Panama City started dreading Math. Though she reads several grades above her grade level (we made sure she got a phonics based education early on) the new, new Math gave her problems. When my daughter (her mother) and I began asking for the reason for the shift from traditional Math to this new Math (InVision by Pearson) we were informed that the answer to a problem was not so important as the thinking process. Ergo, the need for a new direction in Math education. Several steps had been added to the process and that made no sense to my daughter, her husband, her grandfather or me. My daughter, an electrical engineer, could not help her. Thus far we have not been able to get anyone to answer how we got to the moon with traditional mathematics instruction and plummeted to 34th in Math when we gave over Math instruction to this new batch of professors in colleges of education and their colleagues in curriculum and technology sales. 

When I first called the Dothan City Schools in the early 90s for information on curriculum (the ABEKA Christian School our children had been attending did not at that time go past the 8th grade), the Director of Instruction asked me, "Who are you? Just a parent?" This time my answer would be 
"I am not 'just a parent,' I am also the grandmother of five VIPs including four still 3 and under who will be in Dothan City Schools and Bay District Schools eventually. That makes me a very important person... to them at least. Plus, I have two degrees in education and experience dealing with administrators using our children as guinea pigs for fads. So, once more I am jumping into the fray.

I spoke to the principal of the school she attends who told me no one else had spoken to him about having problems with the new Math program. Yet, my daughter had already emailed him with her concerns, an email to which he did respond. A congenial, affable man, he promised to look into it. In the meantime, our daughter has hired a tutor, but the method still seems laborious. Our granddaughter is still having problems and I have not heard again from the principal. 

We have been told that if she scores well on the FCAT and gets admitted to the Advanced Placement program, she will get out of Pearson EnVision Math and will then take Singapore Math. But, from what I read, placement tests tell parents/teachers on what level a student performs and not having been exposed to this program may present other problems. One parent wrote, "Singapore Math is  sequential and doesn’t re-teach concepts or skills, using the program may set these students up for failure, whether they’re moving into a district using it or out of district using it." 

Read this blog post and perhaps you can understand our confusion with EnVision:
That child is beginning the program in the first grade. Imagine how confused our granddaughter is!

How much do you suppose all of these bells and whistles cost the school system? Watch this video and see the technology needed. Check out the "computer learning" assists at

In the New York Times article, October 8, 2011, "GRADING THE DIGITAL SCHOOL
"Inflating the Software Report Card," Trip Gabriel and Matt Richtel write: "School officials, confronted with a morass of complicated and sometimes conflicting research, often buy products based on personal impressions, marketing hype or faith in technology for its own sake."

“They want the shiny new one,” said Peter Cohen, chief executive of Pearson School, a leading publisher of classroom texts and software (including InVision). “They always want the latest, when other things have been proven the longest and demonstrated to get results.”
Twenty years ago when I pointed out according to studies conducted by Dr. Robert Slavin, the Computer Assisted Instruction program Writing To Read was totally ineffective, I was told they couldn't stop now because they had too much invested.  And now, Dothan City Schools has bought into Carnegie Learning. The New York Times addressed this program directly: THIS IS A MUST READ FOR DOTHAN CITY SCHOOL PARENTS.
Billions of education dollars spent and the result ... “there are no longitudinal, randomized trials linking eLearning to positive learning outcomes.” (Intel in a Web Document) “Decisions are made on marketing, on politics, on personal preference,” said Robert A. Slavin, director of the Center for Research and Reform in Education at Johns Hopkins University. “An intelligent, caring principal who’d never buy a car without looking at Consumer Reports, when they plunk down serious money to buy a curriculum, they don’t even look at the evidence.”