Wednesday, October 31, 2012

WSJ Wednesday: Penguin Random House Merger

Exciting news in the publishing world this week over the announcement of the creation of Penguin Random House. In this Tuesday, October 30, 2012 article by Jeffrey A. Trachtenberg, it mentions the hope that this merger will help these two companies deal better with the digital transformation of the book industry.

The antitrust suit brought against Apple, Inc. and five major publishers by the U.S. Justice Department alleging a price-fixing conspiracy on e-books is cited in the article. Three publishers settled and two continue to fight. The settlement forced publishers to resume discounted pricing of e-books, which Amazon has been in favor of since it introduced its Kindle.

This merger could, as the article states, provide publishers with more "heft in negotiating terms with retailers, including Amazon." Pending regulatory approvals, the hope is that the merger would be completed by the second half of 2013.

Penguin CEO John Makinson is quoted in the article as saying the merger would allow the companies to invest more heavily in social media and other technologies. Since there are fewer traditional bookstores around, Makinson says it's harder and riskier to take on new writers because of the difficulty of finding an audience. Social media could help that situation.

As a reader and writer, this is exciting to me. In the past I've been discouraged from purchasing e-books because of the cost, which is sometimes within a dollar or two of the printed version, or can even cost more than the printed version. Cheaper e-books means I can afford to purchase more of what I want in a format I enjoy. It also means I might be willing to take more of a chance on an unknown author.

While I'm not certain anyone knows how this will play out, if an industry insider believes the merger could encourage publishers to take a chance on new writers, then it gives hopes to those of us seeking representation. Granted, you still have to get an agent, but if the publishers are taking more chances, it stands to reason that agents will too.

This is definitely a story I'll be keeping my eye on.

How do you feel about the merger? Do you think it's a good thing for readers and/or writers?

Monday, October 29, 2012

You've Got Mail Monday

Well, we made it through the storm mostly unscathed.  Seeing photos of the destruction Hurricane Sandy left behind in other areas makes us count our blessings even more. The families of those impacted by the storm remain in our prayers.

Last week, the mailman brought some nice presents. Several catalogs arrived from Land's End. I'm done with my shopping for now, so they made it right into the recycle bin. I also received a catalog from Oriental Trading. I haven't ordered from them in a while, but I might find some cheap stocking stuffers there.

As for books, three great ones arrived that I am excited about reviewing:

Unexpected Christmas Hero by Kathi Macias,

American Patriots: Answering the Call to Freedom by Rick Santorum,

Deadly Plunge by Greg Messel.

To read the powerful story behind the cover of Unexpected Christmas Hero, please visit the author's blog.
Hope and pray you have a nice week.

Passages to the Past: Blog Tour Giveaway: The Lincoln Conspiracy by Timothy L. O'Brien

Title: The Lincoln Conspiracy

Author: Timothy L. O'Brien

Blog: Passages to the Past

Giveaway Link:

Genre: Historical fiction

Giveaway Dates: October 29th - November 8th

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Preparing for Hurricane Sandy

We are in the process of preparing for the arrival of Hurricane Sandy tonight and tomorrow. We are currently under a High Wind Warning and Flood Watch Advisory. Schools across Massachusetts are closed tomorrow and utility crews from across the country are arriving in the Northeast to help us deal with any potential problems that arise. Several local businesses have already reported they will be closed tomorrow.

I hope to be able to blog this week, but it will depend upon our situation. Praying for all those who might be impacted by Hurricane Sandy.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

WSJ Wednesday - Do We Need More Teachers?

This edition of WSJ Wednesday comes to you thanks to an opinion article by Jay P. Greene, a professor of education reform at the University of Arkansas, from the Tuesday, October 9, 2012 issue.

Greene opens his article, "The Imaginary Teacher Shortage," by stating that President Barack Obama and Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney have one thing in common:  they believe, "We need more teachers." Greene believes, however, the teacher labor force should shrink. Here's the logic behind his opinion:

  • In 1970, public schools employed 2.06 million teachers, or one for every 22.3 students.
  • In 2012, there are 3.27 million teachers, or one for every 15.2 students.
  • Math and reading scores for 17 year olds remain virtually unchanged since 1970.
  • Estimates of high school graduation rates show no progress--about 75% of students complete high school then and now.*
According to Greene, while the teacher labor force has grown by almost 50% over the past 40 years, the average salary has only grown 11%. He believes we would be better off hiring fewer better-paid teachers, which would also reduce the amount spent on pension and health benefits. These costs have risen much higher than salaries in cost per teacher over the past four decades, he states. 

Greene also believes the money spent on additional teachers could be used to develop and purchase innovative educational technology. He admits educational technology is still young, but mentions free classes from Coursera offered for those in higher education and taught by the best professors in the world. Some K-12 charter schools in California and Arizona have the computers doing most of the teaching, while the teachers act as "tutors, problem-solvers, and behavior managers." While this is occurring outside of the public school model, Greene believes this could offer much more individualized instruction with fewer teachers. 

What are your thoughts on this issue? Have the stats mentioned in this article changed your mind about the need for more teachers?

* Stats provided by the U.S. Department of Education's Digest of Education Statistics, National Assessment of Educational Progress, and D.O.E. reports. 

Wordless Wednesday

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Teaser Tuesdays - October 23rd

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:
Grab your current read
Open to a random page
Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

"Just answer one thing for me, please. How long have you known?"

~ page 117, Mama's Comfort Food by Rhett DeVane

Monday, October 22, 2012

You've Got Mail Monday

So many things arrived this week that I can't even begin to list them all. The girls jackets from The North Face® arrived, and despite the slightly warmer temperatures last week, they insisted upon wearing them to school Thursday and Friday. The warmer temps will continue through the middle of this week, but in the mornings it's down in the 40s, so the girls will still need them.

All the clothes I ordered for myself also came in. I ended up wearing this lovely metallic tweed jacket to the WriteAngles conference on Saturday. I received so many compliments on it, I'm sure I'll be wearing it often. I might wear it to my job interview today.

I was disappointed that the flats I bought from Famous Footwear® need to be returned. I bought them in size 6 because often a 5 1/2 doesn't fit right, but these are slightly too big. I hope I'll be able to exchange them. One of the reviews said they run big. Too bad I didn't notice that before I ordered them.

In the book department, I received Beside Two Rivers by Rita Gerlach and A Texan's Choice by Shelley Gray. I'll be reviewing these at The Book Connection next month.

That's it for now. Hope you have a great week.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

The Shadow Man by Mark Murphy Giveaway Winner!

Congratulations goes out to Patti, winner of a copy of The Shadow Man by Mark Murphy. The winner has been contacted. She has 72 hours to respond before a new winner is selected.

Thanks to all who participated. Look for more giveaways coming soon!

Another WriteAngles Conference Come and Gone!

It's hard to believe, but after months of hard work, this year's WriteAngles Conference is over. We had a ton of fun, and there were so many interesting panels to choose from, it was hard to decide what to do.

As registrar, I didn't get a chance to attend too many panels, but I did manage to take in the entire Writing Young Adult and Middle Grade Fiction one. D. Dina Friedman moderated this panel that included writers Jeannine Atkins and Lisa Papademetriou. I was so impressed with what these ladies had to say that I bought one of each of their books. If I were richer, I would have picked up more.

Add in two great keynote speakers and four fabulous agents and it was a wonderful day. The staff from the Willits-Hallowell Center at Mount Holyoke College did a superb job of creating a relaxing, pleasant setting for the conference, and once again, the food was phenomenal. After a short rest, I'm ready to do it all again.

Have you attended any writers conferences this year? What was your favorite part?

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

WSJ Wednesday - Not Enough Apple Pickers

After a hiatus that lasted way too long, I hope to bring back WSJ Wednesday on a regular basis. It was a popular column, and even I miss it.

A big topic in this election cycle has been lack of jobs. Unemployment levels are high. It seems businesses are laying off or closing every time you turn around. My experience as a homeowner, however, and a recent article from The Wall Street Journal makes me wonder if that's the entire picture.

In "Many Apples, Few Pickers" by Joel Millman, the topic is the lack of workers to pick bumper apple crops in Washington state. Washington is enjoying the second biggest apple crop in its history, but some farmers are stating that up to one-quarter of their bounty will rot because there aren't enough pickers. Featured in the Wednesday, October 10, 2012 edition of the paper, the article is accompanied by three photographs: one of a farm worker, another of help wanted signs in eastern Washington, and a graph from the U.S. Department of Agriculture on fresh apple production in Washington between 2000 and 2011.

Why in such a tight economy are farmers having a difficult time finding workers? A crackdown on illegal immigration, in addition to a modest economic rebound that has provided immigrants more opportunities in construction, landscaping and restaurants is said to have shrunk the pool of potential workers.

According to the Department of Numbers, the unemployment rate in Washington state in August 2012 was 8.6%, slightly higher than the national average of 8.1%. Farmers are increasing their pay rates in Washington to attract workers, but if what is reported is true, they aren't getting bites. Why? Are the unemployed not interested in such labor? I know I'm more picky about the job opportunities I'm looking for at this stage in my life. While retail is an area I spent over 10 years in, I haven't exactly pursued opportunities in this area during my current job search. My fear is that they wouldn't offer me the flexibility I need as a working mom. Perhaps I'm wrong and should expand my search.

One other thing I'm noticing is that contractors seem to be begging for business, but are still particular about the business they want or lack proper customer service. I received a flyer in our local paper about a special promotion for lawn aeration. I've been putting it off for years, so I figured I would call up this company and see what they could do for me. As expected, they were out of the office when I called, but no one has gotten back to me in the two weeks since. If this is how they treat a potential new customer, what must their current clientele have to deal with for response time? Our church has attempted to hire four different electricians to fix an issue over at the pastor's house since early this year. No one has ever followed up and the repair remains undone.

While this is a simplistic way to look at the tight job market, it remains an important topic in the election. How do illegal immigrants influence unemployment numbers? What should be done about that situation? Do some unemployed people prefer to collect than work certain types of jobs? What can realistically be done about getting people back to work?

Wordless Wednesday #2

Wordless Wednesday #1

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

The Treasure of Isian Giveaway at A Family Friendly Blog

Title: The Treasure of Isian
Author: Serena Clarke
Blog: Linda Weaver Clarke’s A Family Friendly Blog
Genre: Fantasy
Giveaway Dates: Oct 15 - 22
Open to: International

Teaser Tuesdays - October 16th

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:

• Grab your current read
• Open to a random page
• Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
• BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
• Share the title and author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

There are two dozen truly great museums in the world. Maybe two dozen and one if you don't mind the crowds at the Louvre, Kat's father always said.

~ page 121, Heist Society by Ally Carter

Special Offer from Mabel's Labels

HappyHalloween! Don't let this fabulous offer from Mabel's Labels scare you! 

From now until 10/19, or while supplies last, Mabel'sLabels is offering a $3 off coupon for Allergy Alert labels, with all HalloweenLoot Bag Combo purchases. The Loot Bag Combo was inspired by celebrities who love to include the Mabel's Labels waterproof Sticky Labels and Bag Tags in their children's birthday party loot bags. These sweet combos make great party favours and add a personalized touch to gifts! Best of all, you save $3 off Allergy Alert labels. Perfect, for keeping your child safe this Halloween. Don't miss your chance to shop this great offer! 

This post sponsored by Mabel's Labels.

Monday, October 15, 2012

You've Got Mail Monday

After so much going on the last two weeks with the mail, I find myself waiting for items I've ordered to come in. I have a job interview coming up on the 22nd. I realized I don't have a lot of work clothes anymore, and I need new shoes desperately. I broke down and bought a few things for myself, plus two jackets from The North Face for the girls that they've wanted since last year.

Only two things appeared in my mailbox last week that are worth talking about. That cold climate cover crop mix, which I planted in the garden on Saturday, and a book I'm reviewing in January--at least I think it's January. Ask me once this writers conference is over. I'll have more of a brain then.

Union Hypocrisy: Organized Labors Double Standard in Business and Politics by R.M. Smith. The author is a former member of the Teamsters Union. Smith uses her history with the Teamsters to share personal information and history on the recent status of unions and their latest hypocrisy. Information includes how unions react when their own employees want union representation, unions that sell out their own employees, and the history of the ties between unions and the Democratic Party. A major focus of the book is how unions have transformed from a movement that fought for workers’ rights into an association that now puts other objectives in front of union workers. It also examines the relationship between organized labor and political parties.

That's it for now. Hope you have a great week.

Friday, October 12, 2012

500 Follower Giveaway

On Free for All Friday, we're hoping we can count on you to bring us up to that 500 follower mark. Once we reach 500 followers, we'll giveaway FIVE prize packages!

Here is what's up for grabs:

Prize Package #1

Prize Package #2

Prize Package #3

Prize Package # 4

Prize #5 - $25 Amazon Gift Card (International)

Our contest will begin once we have reached 500 followers between GFC and Linky Follower. We're at 436 now. If you would like to keep up to date on our progress, please do the following:
  • Follow us on Twitter.
  • Like our Facebook page.
  • Feel free to help us spread the word by tweeting about this post. 500 Follower #Giveaway @BusyMomsDaily #win

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Interview with Mark Murphy, Author of The Shadow Man (Giveaway)


I’m a gastroenterologist. That’s my day job, and it’s a busy one. But I have an alternative life as a writer. That alternative life is a reflection of what I see every day. It is seen in the beautiful and ancient city that I live in, filled with ghosts and intrigue, drawing its very lifeblood from the sea to its east and the marshland that gave the city its name. It is in the practice of medicine, a veritable parade of characters who waltz through my exam rooms every day. It is in the love of my wife and children—the driving forces behind everything that I do in my life. And it most certainly in my love of the written word—the subtle nuances of spoken diction, the deft use of description the place a reader in a certain contextual location—that makes me revel in what I do in my writing life.

Those are the things I derive my writing from. I’m simply a reflection of what I have been given to describe.

And what a wonderful gift that is.

Please tell us about your current release.

My current release is a thriller called The Shadow Man. It is the story of a Savannah surgeon, Dr. Malcolm King, who is accused of being a serial killer. He suspects he is being framed for these crimes by another surgeon, but does not know who that person is. Dr. King must race to determine the identity of the killer before anyone else, including his family, can be harmed—and before the police capture Dr. King for these same crimes.

Can you tell us about the journey that led you to write your book?

I’ve always been a writer. I edited my high school newspaper, winning several writing awards in the process, and actually enrolled in undergraduate school as a journalism major before switching to a pre-med track. As a clinician, I wrote several book chapters and medical journal articles, but it was the death of my wife’s close friend Lisa Erickson that catalyzed a renewed interest on creative writing. I spent a couple of summers at the Iowa Summer Writing Festival, wrote a short story about Lisa’s death called "The Funeral" that saw publication in a short story collection in 2004, and began writing a regular column for the Savannah Morning News, my hometown newspaper, two years ago. A little over a year ago, my car was nearly struck by a dark-tinted black SUV on my way home. I thought about honking at him, but deferred this gut response. The car just looked ominous. And then I thought, “What if you honked at a car like that and the driver was a psychopath who then hunted you down?” That was the initial premise for the novel—being targeted by a serial killer. The rest just took off from there.

Can you tell us about the story behind your book cover?

The cover of the book is a black-and-white nighttime photo of the Forsyth Park fountain, an iconic structure in my hometown of Savannah, which is the setting of the novel. It was taken by a local Savannah photographer named Tim Nealon. I found it online and obtained permission from Mr. Nealon to use it. It’s a creepy, shadow-draped image, with Spanish moss draping the surrounding trees and a starry night sky overhead. You could almost see a killer lurking in the edges of the photograph, if you look hard enough. It’s also an image that is instantly recognizable as Savannah to anyone who has ever visited our city. I thought it was beautiful and provocative, and the perfect image for the cover of this novel.

What approaches have you taken to marketing your book?

Marketing will be done through traditional print media (reviews via various media outlets, etc.), web-based media (social websites, blog tours, and my personal website) and personal appearances (book launch party, book signings, etc).

What book on the market does yours compare to? How is your book different?

Probably the closest similar recent work was the John Hart novel called The Last Child, which won the Edgar Award a few years back. Hart’s work is a well-written thriller set in the south with a twist-filled plot that kept me guessing the entire time I was reading it. I could not put that book down while I was reading it. That’s the effect I was striving for with my book. However, I’m a big Stephen King fan—the protagonist’s last name is a tip of the cap to him—and there are a few Stephen King touches in my story. Also, the Savannah setting is unique. In fact, I think Savannah is an integral part of the fabric of the story—a mysterious character woven throughout every facet of the story.

What would you say is your most interesting writing quirk?

In writing a novel, I outline the entire plot before I begin the first line of the work. I then flesh out that skeleton by writing a chapter or so every weekend until I am finished. Since I am a practicing physician, this requires a great deal of discipline. I’m up every Saturday and Sunday at 4 A.M. so that I can get in four or five writing hours each weekend day.

Open your book to a random page and tell us what’s happening.

Page 43: Detective Sam Baker is interviewing Malcolm King about the murders, and—to his horror— it becomes clear to Malcolm that he is the prime suspect. Moreover, he realizes that Detective Baker has physical evidence linking him to the case—and enough physical evidence to convict him.

Do you plan any subsequent books?

Yes, there will likely be a sequel to The Shadow Man. And I am currently writing a young adult sword-and-sorcery series called The Bloodsword Trilogy.

Tell us what you’re reading at the moment and what you think of it.

I’m currently reading the Song of Ice and Fire series by George R.R. Martin (currently on book 3 in that series, A Storm of Swords), which I really love for the complex plot structure and in-depth characterization. I’m also reading Wiley Cash’s A Land More Kind Than Home, a well-written Southern gothic tale reminiscent of Flannery O’Connor. I love O’Connor’s writing; she’s a Savannah native, and arguably the most talented Georgia writer of all time. Anything that echoes her writing is an attraction to me.

Formats/Prices: $14.95 paperback, $5.99 ebook
Publisher: Langdon Street Press
ISBN: 9781938296031
Pages: 348
Release: July 20, 2012

Amazon paperback buy link ($14.95): paperback buy link ($14.95):

Kindle buy link ($5.99):

Nook buy link ($5.99): ebook buy link ($5.99):

Mark Murphy's Web Site:

Mark Murphy's Facebook:

Mark Murphy's Twitter:!/Heeldawg

Mark Murphy's Blog:

Savannah Book Festival:

Tribute Books Blog Tours Facebook:

The Shadow Man blog tour site:

Use the Rafflecopter form below to enter for your chance to win a FREE paperback copy of The Shadow Man! Winner must be 18 years of age or older and reside in the U.S.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Giveaway Winners!

Congratulations goes out to Jake for winning a copy of Bears With Us by Marilyn Meredith. We would also like to congratulate Michelle H. She is the winner of a $25 Amazon gift card.

Thank to all who entered. We hope you visit again soon!

Wordless Wednesday

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Teaser Tuesday - October 9th

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:

• Grab your current read
• Open to a random page
• Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
• BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
• Share the title and author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

"You should have called. Don't do stuff like that alone right now."

~page 155, Last of the Seals by Greg Messel

You've Got Mail Monday

Yes, it's Tuesday, but with this week's Muse Online Writers Conference and next weekend's conference coming up, I'm slower about blogging lately.

The mailman has been bringing all kinds of presents to me lately. Catalogs from Land's End, Gardener's Supply Company, and Oriental Trading have arrived over the past two weeks. My AAA Times newspaper came in. There is an article about taking an autumn visit to Sturbridge. I don't feel I have to go that far for some great fall pictures. Just driving up the mountain or walking through the woods behind our house is fun for me. The article on ghost tours, however, made me want to discover some history and heritage. My Fall 2012 issue of Gardening How-to also arrived last week.

I ordered some cold climate cover crop mix from Burpee recently. I figure instead of taking the raised beds apart, I would grow this over the winter. It should help improve the soil, so I'm all for it. It will also, however, probably attract deer and all sorts of critters I don't want in the garden. Anyone know?

As for books, I've received several. I'll be reviewing:

A Catholic Mother's Companion to Pregnancy: Walking with Mary from Conception to Baptism by Sarah A. Reinhard

What Did Jesus Say: The Seven Messages from the Master by Rev. Terry Allan Christian

Last of the Seals by Greg Messel

I won American Dervish by Ayad Akhtar, which sounds fabulous. Bloomsbury sent me a copy of Dark Lord: The Early Years by Jamie Thomson. The girls thought it sounded hilarious, so we'll be reading this one at some point.

What else has been keeping me busy these days? Performing a little bit more research for the elementary historical I am ghostwriting. The first draft is already done. I'm in the middle of edits and adding in some historical details to make it more interesting.

Soccer and cheerleading continue. The Lil Diva (11) attended a cheerleading exhibition at Quabbin Regional High School in Barre, MA on Saturday. Tons of fun, but very loud.

Both girls' seasons end around the first week of November, so things will calm down here for a bit before the holidays arrive.

Hope you're having a great week.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Test Kitchen Thursday: Slow Cooker Beef Stew

As soon as the weather cools down around here, I began thinking about what soups and stews I can make. The girls aren't thrilled with too much. They like Lemon and Egg Soup that my mother-in-law makes and Chicken Noodle, but other than that it is hit or miss.

I had bought two large pieces of beef to grill up over the summer, but my brother-in-law told me I bought the wrong kind of cut for grilling. He suggested I make a stew with them. While the hubby doesn't care for stew very often, he said he loved this recipe. I grew up with beef stew once a week, and I loved it too.

I started out with this recipe for Slow Cooker Beef Stew I found on®.

2 pounds of beef stew meat, cut into 1 inch cubes.
1/4 cup all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon of salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 clove garlic, minced
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 onion chopped
1 1/2 cups beef broth
3 potatoes, diced
4 carrots, sliced
1 stalk celery, chopped

I added in some fresh oregano, fresh basil, and fresh green beans. All of these were from our garden.

1. Place meat in slow cooker. In a small bowl mix together the flour salt, and pepper; pour over the meat, and stir to coat meat with flour mixture. Stir in the garlic bay leaf, paprika, Worcestershire sauce, onion, beef broth, potatoes, carrots, and celery. Add in oregano, basil, and green beans.

2. Cover, and cook on Low setting for 10 to 12 hours, or on High setting for 4 to 6 hours.

I've made this stew twice. It came out fabulous each time. The second time, I actually forgot to add the potatoes until it was almost done. I just chopped them and cooked them partially in the microwave, and then added them in for the last hour. It still tasted great.