What’s On Your Reading List?

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Our topic for the week: An unusual way you found books or authors that you would not have chosen.

It’s been a long time since I’ve spent time in a bookstore or library browsing titles and then selecting one. Since I started writing for publication, I’ve met so many other authors, and when I hear about their books I want to read them, partly to help support them, and partly because (like in any profession) it’s important to know what people are currently doing in the industry. There is absolutely no shortage of reading material in this house!

But to return to the original question, I’m not sure any of these are unusual, but I suppose I have a hierarchy of resources where I find my reading material. Here they are, in approximate order of frequency:

  1. Books written by authors I know and have met. I belong to two “in person” writing groups – The Mid-Michigan chapter of the Romance Writers of America, and the Grand Rapids Region Writers Group. Since I see these people face-to-face on a fairly regular basis, this is where I find the majority of my books, especially if they are genres I enjoy or if the subject or premise intrigues me.
  2. Books by those who share a publisher with me. I’m willing to help my fellow authors promote their books, but I always feel better if I’ve actually read them before recommending them.
  3. Books by people I’ve met only online and on Facebook. I’ve joined several online groups looking for (and receiving) marketing advice as well as opportunities to promote via their blogs and social media outlets, and when I return the favor I try to sample their writing as well.
  4. Free books. Every time I come home from a writers conference such as the Spring Fling in Chicago or the Retreat from Harsh Reality by my own RWA chapter, I have at least one large shopping bag full of books, because each speaker gives away at least one book to each attendee and there are often door prizes that include books. I’ve also won books at various online events. And some self-published authors have found that giving away books free encourages people to purchase their other books, so I’ve downloaded several of those.
  5. Books recommended to me by others.

You’ll notice I don’t mention finding books on best-seller lists or book clubs. I don’t imagine I’ll get to those unless one of my author friends really makes it big!

How do you select your reading material?

Posted in reading, reading preferences | Tagged , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Guest: Author Sandy James

Today I’d like to welcome author Sandy James, with whom I have become Facebook Friends through mutual friends. Glad to finally have you here, Sandy!

Thanks so much for having me!!

Sandy is a prolific, award-winning writer of romances. She has stand-alone and several series to her credit, and continually manages to pull more out of her hat, all while being a teacher of psychology, a doting grandmother of two little ones and the ‘mom’ of a precocious pooch!

Let’s start with the obvious, Sandy. It would seem that knowledge of psychology would be a natural help in writing about relationships, but can too much knowledge get in your way? Do you find it harder or easier with your background to keep your characters from being overly (accurately) analytical of themselves or others?

I always say that a little psychology is a dangerous thing.  Actually, I’ve felt that knowing the subject helps my character development significantly. Yes, I might want to layer the backstory a bit heavy, but my editors are happy to cut anything too extraneous. I love knowing what drives people, and by having such a strong base of psychology knowledge, I feel I make my characters more realistic.

Have you ever co-written a book? I have never co-written. Do you find it easier to write alone?

Nope. No co-authors. I do, however, write sci-fi under the name S.J. James instead of Sandy James. I can’t imagine how difficult it would be to write with a partner! I do have a few great critique partners who are more than willing to call BS when they read it. They’ve saved my hide more times than I can remember!

Although most of your books seem to feature modern-day life, several have been set in the past, particularly the Old West. Why there? How do you do your research on the times past?

I love that era! My in-laws used to own a ranch in Montana, and I fell in love with the place. Whenever I write my Safe Havens stories, I picture that ranch. The Old West was so full of interesting people, and life was harder! The simplicity was enchanting—no tv, internet, smartphones. People had to connect in different ways. The setting itself becomes a character. I research by reading journals of people who lived in the time as well as nonfiction books, plus I’ve been a history teacher, so I have a good base of knowledge from which to pull.


Sandy, please tell our readers about your horses and how they enter into your works.

My late husband Jeff and I lived in Chicago when we were first married. My cousin was the only person I knew there, and we spent a lot of time with her and her husband, who was a harness race driver. We fell in love with the sport. Jeff was always fascinated with the idea of owning a racehorse, so once the kids were older and we had a little more money, we invested in one. We’ve owned as many as twelve at any one time. To this day, I own at least one racehorse as sort of a way for me to honor Jeff. I love writing about horses and the harness racing world since there aren’t a lot of people familiar with the sport. “Murphy’s Law” was my way of sharing my love of that world with my readers.

You also have a number of supernatural stories/series published. Can you tell us what inspired those?

When my son Kevin was still living at home, we shared a love of movies. We’d sit there before the shows started and talk about book ideas. After watching a movie about a superhero (can’t even remember which one!), I decided to write a story where ladies were the superheroes. Kevin and I talked and talked, and the Alliance of the Amazons was born in those shared ideas. I love writing urban fantasy! I get to create my own world that operates under my rules. How fun that series was to write! I’m so thrilled that all four books are now available in paperback. (Thanks, Harlequin!)

Do you have a coterie like the group in your “Ladies Who Lunch” series?

I do! I based the idea of that shared lunch period on my friends at school. Two of them are breast cancer survivors, so that’s where Mallory’s story came from—it was a way for me to show how brave they were in the face of that disease.

The couple of your books that I have read are, um, ‘spicy’! Quite descriptive! Are all of your works of ‘bodice-ripper’ variety?

Spicy? In comparison to other books out there, I think they’re rather middle-of-the-road.  All of my books contain love scenes, because what better way to show a connection between characters falling in love than in their physical affection? I try to keep them tasteful and appropriate. No gratuitous sex in my stories, just expressions of the couple’s love.

You have quite a following. What do you hear as feed-back from your fans?
How about your students, fellow teachers and others?

My fans are amazing! I love their reviews, posts, and emails! When my husband was battling cancer, their love and support were so helpful! What they tell me often, and what I’m most proud of, is that they feel as though my characters are “real.” Quite a compliment!
My students are so funny when they find out I’m a published author. They seem so impressed, which makes me laugh. I tell them there’s nothing impressive about it. I’m just tenacious and refused to give up until I met that goal, and then I always tell them that they can do the same with any goal they set for themselves. My fellow teachers are so supportive! From the time I started writing, they’ve been my biggest cheerleaders.
I don’t know that I would ever have finished that first book without my family backing me up. Jeff gave me the courage to try to publish, and I will always be grateful that he encouraged me. My children are amazingly loyal. Without their love, I wouldn’t have survived the last two years.
Losing Jeff derailed my life. He was my everything. It’s taken so long to write again, and I thank everyone who has offered kind words or a pat on the back as we faced the battle with colon cancer and I faced losing the love of my life.

Does writing under your real name cause any conflict with your teaching life?

When I received my first book contract, I went to my principal and told him that I was writing romance and that I’d use a pen name if he thought it was best. He couldn’t have been more supportive and told me to publish under whatever name I preferred. I’ve had two other principals since that time, and they have both been there supporting me. I also don’t write anything I’d be embarrassed about. Otherwise, I wouldn’t published under my own name. I even have parents who are fans. 

What has been your most personally fulfilling of your work(s) so far?

Depending on what day you ask, I might give you a different answer. lol
“Murphy’s Law” will always have a special place in my heart, because I was able to share my love for harness racing. I also admire the heroine, Katie Murphy, so much, and I love the character arc—redemption—of the hero, Seth Remington.
“Turning Thirty-Twelve” is fulfilling since Jackie Delgado is essentially me! There’s no heroine I’ve ever written who come closer to my personality—part snark, part insecurity, and part loving so many people in her life.
I’m also incredibly proud of the four books in the Alliance of the Amazon series. There was so much research on mythology, and the way the four women are linked builds as each story progresses. I hope that by the time the readers hit “The Volatile Amazon,” they will see the growth in all the characters. It was a wonderful series to write.James_CantWalkAway_Ebook

Thanks so much for being with us, Sandy! Please tell our readers how they can learn more about you and your works?

I have a website (http://sandyjames.com ), and I’ve active on Twitter (@sandyjamesbooks) and on Facebook (sandyjamesauthor). My next series—Nashville Dreams—began on October 10th when “Can’t Walk Away” released! The series is set in Nashville, Tennessee and revolves around the country music world.

Here’s the blurb:
In Nashville the stars shine a little brighter, songs sound a little sweeter, and love lasts a lifetime.

Young, rich, and better looking than a man has a right to be, successful songwriter Brad “Hitman” Maxwell was once Nashville’s biggest celebrity. Then a heartbreaking loss and a shocking betrayal caused his light to go out. Now, instead of pouring his soul into song, he pours beers at Words & Music. His bar is the perfect escape–a place to forget his past–until the night she takes the stage…

Savannah Wolf used to dream of becoming Nashville’s hottest star. Now, as a young single mom, she dreams of a steady income and being home to tuck her daughter into bed. So when Brad Maxwell offers her the gig of a lifetime–playing as the headliner at Words & Music–Savannah discovers the best of both worlds. And she refuses to ruin this opportunity by falling for her sexy boss. Except that Brad suddenly starts writing music again… music inspired by her.

Links for “Can’t Walk Away”:

Posted in author interview, author's life, authors, book covers, Books, careers, characters, experiences, Family, Friendship, Guest, Guest author, Harlequin, history, hobbies, inspiration, Life, memories, publishing, The Author Life, Tonette Joyce, Uncategorized, writing, Writing and other professions | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 12 Comments

Guest Hound, Ted Talley

Welcome to my long-time Covington friend

By Jeff Salter

Delighted to have as my Guest Hound, a friend from my school days in Covington LA — Ted Talley. I’ve known Ted since we were both in second grade… plus we grew up in the same church. In high school, we were both active in the various activities of the speech club, Thespians, and school productions. Additionally, Ted appeared in numerous stage productions of the noted local “little” theater called Playmakers — which has a long and storied history. In fact, I believe I’m correct that Ted once played the son of my father, who was a character in the same play!

Like me, Ted was already writing at a young age. Unlike me, however, he already had his own column in the local weekly newspaper… while still a high school senior.

After Ted was back in Covington after college and I was home again after the Air Force, he and I were even neighbors. Don’t recall how long – but it was likely a year or more – his home was catty-cornered from the house (my grandmother’s) where I resided on 25th and Tyler.

I’ve asked Ted several questions, which we’ll get to in a moment, but first I wanted you to read the story I asked him to share again because I found it quite humorous.


Ted Talley

Dad and His Neon Step-Ins

By Ted Talley

Being the father of four girls in my 30s through early 50s, I learned early on that the Daddy was last in line in family fashion investment (even after the two boys in the family who came later). My late wife kept me dressed well enough thanks to sales she’d find and with Father’s Day, birthday and Christmas gifts. And while living in Houston I found a high-end resale shop for men in River Oaks, the old neighborhood with old oil money southwest of downtown. Good resale garments are a rarity for men (as opposed to women’s fashions) because men tend to wear things until they wear out. I sometimes snagged some designer business suits put on the racks at this place by River Oaks matrons clearing out their recently deceased (or divorced and kicked out) husbands’ closets.

It was not an obsession with me, but I did keep an eye out for clothing sales and bargains.

One summer in the mid-1980s, my daughters were with their Mom shopping. This was before the sons were born. We were in Dallas for a business trip and the family tagged along, staying over for the weekend. This was common back in the days when I was a national account manager selling swimming pool chemicals to chain stores.

We were at a Sears store in a mall off the LBJ Freeway early one Saturday afternoon. The girls and their mother were busy in the pre-teen section. The latest fashion craze for juniors and pre-teens at the time were these knit mix-and-match things that you could customize — solids, stripes prints and so forth. There was even one mall specialty store chain in those days that sold nothing but that sort of stuff. It was called “Units.” It was one of those typical uber-current retail spaces of the day — all white Formica and track lighting with loud music and sparse, faceless and handless mannequins. The cubicles were organized like open filing cabinets, with a particular color or stripe in each hole.

Over at Sears, they were doing their best to keep up with the times with their own private label in this genre. It was called “Mixables,” or something of that order, and there was a promotion underway with an audience participation fashion show getting ramped up while we were in the store. My girls were asked to model some of the apparel. Store personnel took them aside with their mother and prepped them for the in-store demonstration. The young ones were, of course, excited.

So while the girls prepared for their runway moment, I wandered over to the Sears men’s department. There on the main aisle was a large table filled with Sears’ private label Oakton men’s briefs. Now Oakton, in that day, was Sears’ top of the lines private label. Then, I thought, this stuff is comparable to Jockey. And they were marked down to 25 cents each! The apparent reason for such a bargain was that they were in outrageous solid colors: Peacock blue, bright emerald green, purple cherry red (no pink, thank goodness). All the white-colored merchandise was back in the regular cubbies at full price. Anyway, my tighty-whitey inventory back in Houston was getting frayed, so I bought a bunch. A whole bunch. What the heck. Only one to see them would be me and the late wife, right? I must have snagged two dozen of those kaleidoscope-colored briefs for two-bits a piece. I asked the salesman to double bag them, as if I were buying cheap wine or porn magazines. I certainly didn’t want them to spill out.

A few weeks later we went on a family trip to Hawaii. Upon returning to Houston, Continental Airlines lost my suitcase. The scene of my describing the lost suitcase to the baggage person at Terminal C, the busiest of all terminals at Houston Intercontinental, was (according to wife Linda) like an excerpt from a Bob Newhart routine. I had to file a claim in the little office cubicle.

Things were okay as I described the color of the hardshell luggage and picked the generic design off a laminated card she showed me. But then she asked that specific question I was dreading, but I knew was coming: “Mr. Talley, were there any particular contents in your suitcase that might make it easy for our employees to identify?”

“Well, you see, ma’am, yes there is. There are these really brightly colored men’s briefs.”

“What colors sir?” she asked. She just couldn’t let it go.

“Uh, peacock, purple, sapphire… uh, cherry maybe. But you see, they were on sale at Sears in Dallas… and were really cheap, and I don’t normally wear something like that…”

The woman looked over her glasses at me, then over to Linda. Both women rolled eyes. Linda burst out laughing. The airline employee stifled herself, attempting to maintain the carrier’s prescribed customer service composure.

In the meantime, the damned suitcase showed up anyway, delayed from some conveyor belt problem. But it was badly damaged.

So, yet another female Continental employee came out of nowhere with two brand new similar suitcases, my choice, to replace damaged one. Oh, good. It was like choosing a prize on The Price is Right — do you want the suitcase from Door #1 or the one from Door #2? Frankly, my damaged suitcase had seen better days even before the airline damage. I thought this was great. I’d politely choose the large brown Samsonite with the built-in wheels and take it over in the corner with the old suitcase and transfer my rainbow underwear unnoticed.

Not quite so. The airline had to keep the old damaged suitcase for insurance reasons. Not only had I just bared myself to the woman in the little glass office, now all of Houston’s traveling public that afternoon got to see me repack my flashy step-ins with this uniformed woman looking over my shoulder. I think my face was redder, more brightly colored than anything in my suitcase — underwear or that souvenir Hawaiian print shirt.

I still have that brown hard-shell suitcase. Each time I see it when I open the basement closet I chuckle.



[JLS] — What was your favorite aspect of high school? Your LEAST favorite?
*** Talley *** — My favorite part of high school was equally between marching band and speech/drama class. We had great times with a band director who planned creative half-time shows and a dedicated speech teacher who brought the best out of us in some plays and musicals.
Least favorite was the principal. Really. He was a standout in a negative way. God rest his soul, he was a control freak before the term was invented and had to be involved in decisions of all levels in the school activities. Even my father (who was not a liberal, hands-off parent), couldn’t understand why the man couldn’t just let go of things and let the students and teachers do things that were normally done without specific involvement of the principal typically. This eventually drove our wonderful speech teacher to leave the school for another, private school in town. Fortunately for me, that took place after I had finished high school.

[JLS] — What was the primary reason you selected Baylor U.? Which school had been your second choice?
*** Talley *** — I never thought about any other school but Baylor since visiting the school while I was in junior high as my older sister attended. There was something about the size and friendliness of the student body. And it was an old school — the oldest in Texas — with many Ivy League type traditions. My second choice may have been LSU, but I never thought about it as I was accepted by Baylor in my junior high school year. All I had to do was to graduate in the top 25 percent of my class.

[JLS] — Why did you select your college major? Did it turn out to prepare you (for your career) as you had assumed and hoped?
*** Talley *** — My initial college major was business. The assumption was that I would return to the hometown and take over the family business, a feed store. My sophomore year, though, I took introductory journalism as an elective, and that began the change. I took a second journalism class and that did it. I changed majors.
I still spent most of my working life in business anyway. Journalism and the second major, broadcasting, were great preps for a life of sales and marketing.

[JLS] — Your father had a thriving business in Covington LA — and I recall you worked there briefly after college. Were you ever tempted to remain there and “take over” the running of that business?
*** Talley *** — As I stated (about my college major), the feed store was there. Always there until my parents retired and sold it. [By the way, it is still operating as a feed store — a successful one — in the same historic building that my father bought in 1953 to convert to a feed store.] I did return to the family business. Twice actually. But it didn’t work out. It was great fun, especially when we expanded into western wear during the height of “Urban Cowboy,” but also it was tense sometimes. My father was a great man, but the business was always going to be his, at least until he finally decided to retire. And that was long after I had moved on to the corporate world that eventually brought me to Arkansas.

[JLS] — Having lived in LA, TX, and AR (and possibly other states) — do you have a favorite place? What was the view from your favorite part of your house (in whichever state you liked best)?
*** Talley *** — I have also lived in CT for two years. It was a good, educational experience for we southerners to be in New England. At least for a while. I even wrote a column about it — a memory of sweet summers and Christmases in Connecticut but also a terrible personal lament about Newtown. Because that’s the town we lived in.
I have to say Arkansas is my favorite, especially NW Arkansas. I have lived up here in the hills and also, for two years, down “in the valley” in Little Rock (which, by the way is a great mid-size city). In the northwest corner of the state, there are the smallish Ozark Mountains, which are somewhat like the Smokeys — four real seasons, including fall color, summers that aren’t terrible hot and winters that often bring enough snow for the kids to sled. But the cold goes away, like a polite house guest, just before you tire of it. And the state, in spite of its cartoonish image (in some circles), is really rather worldly and sophisticated, because of big business here: Walmart, Tyson Foods, J.B. Hunt Trucking in the northwest, and data giant Acxiom and the largest private brokerage in the country, Stephens, down in Little Rock.

[JLS] — I gather you’ve travelled much of the world – certainly a lot of this hemisphere – in part because of your jobs. Is travel something you really enjoy for its own reasons? Or just something you had to do because your job took you there?
*** Talley *** — I feel at home in a Marriott hotel (any of their brands from basic to fancy). I get a sense of entering refuge and there’s a feeling of familiarity. That’s funny, considering you’re supposed to travel to engage in DIFFERENT things. Well, I have. But that’s outside the hotel with both work and leisure travel. I guess I’ve always had a certain wanderlust. That is what partially led me away from the hometown business. I have seen and experienced many wonderful things because of business and personal travel. Nice to have done them with most of the expense covered on an expense report or paid by points accumulated through business and used for personal flights or stays. Because of such, my family got to go on a Maui whale-watching cruise out of Lahaina Harbor with Jean-Michelle Cousteau as host. Afterwards, he had a hands-on experience with the few kids who were on board (three of them my children) under the big banyan tree in Lahaina where they held sea critters of various types while he described their habitats.
I’ve been in all but two of the 50 states. Mexico several times, all for business in one way or another. Guatemala (to climb the great pyramids of Tikal). Three or four times to Hawaii and one grand trip to Hong Kong and Macau with a brief day-trip into China back in the 80s when entering China was something of a big deal. And my late wife and I bought some red china in Red China! In recent years I checked one off the bucket list: Mt. Rushmore. And on the same trip had a serendipity, stopping by the Devil’s Tower (the monolithic peak featured in Close Encounters of the Third Kind).
My one wish, though, is to visit across the Atlantic! I’ve been halfway around the world, literally, to China, but never have taken a hop from say NY to London. Italy and Great Britain are on the list.

[JLS] — Any particular place you’ve visited (on these travels) that really stands out? Why?
*** Talley *** — That’s a tough one. It’s been a long time ago (1977), but I guess my favorite or at least most memorable was the trip to Guatemala. We had a city experience staying at a fancy hotel in the Guatemala City embassy district, but spent one night in the jungle in a small city in the Yucatan. The hotel was something like a small dude ranch without horses. But to get there, we first landed on a dirt strip actually in the Tikal ruins. A male traveling companion (a cousin-in-law) and I climbed the tallest Mayan tower as our wives watched from below. It’s the same pyramid sticking out of the jungle in the last scene of the ORIGINAL (whatever number the kids call it today) Star Wars. My kids got tired of me saying “Hey I climbed that” when they played that DVD. The most exciting part may have been the actual plane rides. We two couples were the only ones in the tourist trip to stay over. So, when the ruins part was finished, we watched the old propeller passenger plane take off with the rest of the party. Amid the flying dust we looked at one another as if to say “What have we just done — we’ve been abandoned in the jungle.” A guide appeared and allowed us some more time in the ruins before taking us on a bumpy ride through the jungle to the town, Flores, with the little hotel. The airport there was also a dirt strip. Taking off from there, after some engine problems, was exciting, banking over the dense green jungle. I felt like a white man in a Tarzan movie.
A few experiences have taken place actually in aircraft. I used to get a lot of first class upgrades due to business travel frequency. My late wife and I got to fly first class to Hawaii once in the small room with only six other passengers upstairs in the hump of a 747. And once on a mainland flight I picked up the in-flight Continental magazine and the man on the magazine cover was directly across the aisle from me. That opened up an interesting conversation, for sure. And one of the Pan Am 747s my late wife, young daughter and I flew to Hong Kong was the very same plane that (later) was bombed and crashed over Scotland. “The Maid of the Seas” was the name of the plane (it was a marketing practice Pan Am used for its long-distance “clipper” ships — the planes were each uniquely named). I have a photo of the wife and daughter with that plane behind them in the Tokyo airport as we waited to board for Hong Kong. A few years later the crumbled cockpit was on the cover of Time. Makes you think of mortality and that “there but for the grace of God” feeling.

[JLS] — In previous years, you often wrote about being widowed. Looking back on it from the distance of a few years, what do you wish you’d known then (as you were going through the initial grief and adjustment) that you’ve since learned?
*** Talley *** — I guess I wish I’d known in advance how much the community I live in would come to my family’s support during my late wife’s illness and death. The love we felt and the sweet things done for us were special. I had no idea in advance that this adopted hometown, Bentonville, where we had only lived for three years at the time, would gather round us in our loss the same as if I had never left my hometown in Louisiana with all the family roots there.

[JLS] — When you were a kid growing up, did you ever imagine that you’d have so many children of your own?
*** Talley *** — Actually, I can’t say that I ever thought about it. It just happened. Sort of like Frank Sinatra just opening his mouth and hitting that high A flat so easily. We found we were good at making babies and we surely had the infrastructure in place after the third. And no, we were not Catholic nor Mormon. Just passionate Methodists, as my late wife put it.

[JLS] — Having read several of your newspaper columns and other writings, I’m quite impressed by your skill as a writer. Are there any particular inspirations for the things you write?
*** Talley *** — You are kind in that comment. Inspirations come from things I see in everyday life that may often tie-in to something in my experience when I was younger. Example: My most recent column took on those robo-calls where “Rachel” and others pester you about credit card debt and so forth. The conventional wisdom, or excuse, coming from our government is that it’s hard, technologically-speaking, to track down these telephone criminal operations. I say B.S. (but nicely), and cite the crude technology, by today’s standards, we had in the 1960s that put a man on the moon! So now you can’t stop “Rachel” from calling? Oh, please!

[JLS] — Have you ever considered writing plays or novels?
*** Talley *** — I have considered it. I have an idea for a novel about two people who meet in a small-town restaurant coming from two different, distant directions for some purpose. Maybe initially to exchange a child for visits because they are divorced. (I’d use Covington as the template as did Walker Percy in some of his writing). They don’t live in the town and aren’t known there but become involved in solving a crime in the town and no one notices them because they are somewhat invisible. Just people passing through who notice and overhear things. A certain Hitchcockian flavor maybe? Like “Strangers on a Train,” but in this case the strangers solve the murder mystery instead of committing the crime. The thought of writing a play scares me. I’ve been in many plays and musicals, but the idea of writing something, with stage directions (even minimal ones), is daunting. I guess in that area I can take direction, but not give it. I never had the desire to direct a play, even with all my high school, some college, and little theater experience.
I think my forte is the essay. I focus on one idea (one selling point, if you will, based on my decades in sales and marketing) and build a story or op-ed around it. Perhaps if I ever publish anything beyond newspaper columns it will be a compilation: My Life, 700 Words at a Time.

[JLS] — Of the numerous publication credits you’ve accumulated, does any one stand out as really special to you?
*** Talley *** — Two of them. First, a year back I wrote a column about supporting my Lesbian married daughter, who lives on the West Coast, after the terrible gay club shooting in Florida — as a Dad living in arguably the most middle of Middle America. I shared it, as I have other pieces, with my mentor and former Baylor journalism professor. He pegged this one as my best ever. He wrote to me that writers prepare for years in hopes of that “one column”. This one was “it” for me, he said. Coming from a man who was once voted the best college journalism professor in the whole country — that means a lot.

[ Link to this column: https://www.facebook.com/tedtalley/posts/10153911583018380 ]

Secondly, late this summer The Advocate in Louisiana published a remembrance of mine about the first time (50 years ago) my buddies and I ever heard “Ode to Billy Joe” on the radio when we were teens sitting in my little convertible. The newspaper supplied original artwork to go with the column with an impressionistic watercolor drawing of the convertible among pine trees. They gave me the original artwork which I have framed in my study along with the column. It’s special. The first time I can recall specific artwork ordered for anything I wrote.


[JLS] — In numerous contexts, I have noted you seem to possess an encyclopedic memory. Does this just come naturally? Or do you invoke some special mojo to train your memory?
*** Talley *** — I think it is hereditary. I got it from my mother, who died this summer at 93. She remembered everything. Once she told me there are some things she wishes she could forget. I’ve had a few thoughts like that, too. On the one hand, I can remember exactly the experience of when I first heard that Bobbie Gentry song in 1967 or a specific kind lady offering punch and cookies during Vacation Bible School at the country church when I was only four or five, but on the other can’t recall where I left my checkbook!

— — —
Now folks, aren’t these terrific responses to my questions? Don’t you love the way Ted can turn a phrase and bring an experience to life?

Talley Bio

Born in Bogalusa, LA. Reared in Covington, LA (north of Lake Pontchartrain from New Orleans). Graduated: Covington High School (1968) /// Baylor University – B.A., Journalism/Radio-TV (1972). Widowed. Six grown children (four girls, two boys).

Work experience:

* Staff writer Baylor campus newspaper

* Public relations coordinator for the Waco Mental Health/Mental Retardation Center

* Temporary stint in the Louisiana governor’s office.

* Family feed and western wear store.

* Sales representative and national accounts manager for two outdoor living company products (pool chemicals and backyard storage sheds). This brought me to retail headquarters work with companies such as Home Depot, Walmart, and Menards (a regional DIY chain in the Midwest).

* Freelance: Recently newspaper op-eds. Further back, business trade journal assignments.


Things you may be surprised to know about me:

* I can refinish a cello. In a manner, I am then, a luthier. Years ago, a fire blistered the finish on my son’s cello. I got some tips on how to do it, and we refinished it together.

* I’ve flown in a hot-air balloon over Tulsa and I’ve ridden in the Goodyear Blimp — over my house in Texas!

Some interesting people I’ve met along the way:

* Sam Walton — his wife and children (multiple times)

* Yo-Yo Ma — backstage (twice) with my sons who are cellists

* John Denver — also backstage while I was in college

* Walker Percy — (of course, he lived down the road from my family home)

* Bill Moyers — multiple times when he spoke on the Baylor campus (and was also a guest in his NY home)

Well, here is Ted’s question for YOU:
Have you ever had a hard time keeping a straight face while your husband [or wife] was in a funny and bumbling situation?

[JLS # 354]




Posted in Uncategorized | 19 Comments

Guest Author: Pamela S. Thibodeaux

Pamela S Thibodeaux publicity photoPromoting our books takes up a lot of time, when most of us would much rather just write. Fortunately, there support groups like Authors Helping Authors makes the job much easier. AHA is made up of authors who gladly share each others’ work through social media. Inspirational Romance author Pamela S. Thibodeaux is one of the most supportive authors in the group, so when she asked for help promoting her re-release of an earlier book I asked her a few questions about her project:



New Cover

PK: Why did you feel you needed to revise The Inheritance?

PT: The original novel was published in 2007 under the White Rose imprint of The Wild Rose Press. When White Rose became a publishing company on its own and then an imprint of Pelican Book Group, the book was part of the transitions. I was talking with PBG’s Sr. Editor about another project and she told me she’d thought about editing it and re-publishing under PBG. I loved the idea and quickly signed a new contract.

PK: Did you encounter any problems?

PT: We had a few minor tweaks to work out. I write inspirational “with an edge” and some of the edits didn’t feel like this was my book at all. But as I was working with one of the most generous and understanding editors I’ve ever dealt with, she allowed a lot of the scenes she originally wanted to cut, to remain.


Original Cover

PK: What kinds of changes were made?

PT: Most of the changes were minor updates to bring the story more into the new millennium and of course a great new cover. Here’s an example:

Original Version:

“What’s this?” Rebecca asked, removing the sheets of paper off the passenger seat so she could sit in it.

“I jumped on the Internet and printed us up a map. Look, it even has written directions,” Ray answered.

Rebecca giggled. “Jumped on the Internet and printed up a map? You sound like a fifteen-year-old with a new toy instead of a grown man that’s well educated.”

Ray chuckled. “Let me see if I can rephrase that then. I utilized my PC, accessed the Internet and printed out directions and a map. Better?”

New Release:

“What’s this?” Ray asked when Rebecca handed him some papers before climbing into the front seat of his SUV.

“I went online and printed out a map and directions for our trip.”

He chuckled. “That’s what the GPS on my phone is for.”

She flushed. “Oh, I didn’t think of that. Besides, wouldn’t this be much easier than trying to read directions on your phone?”

“Probably so, but its voice activated, too.”

She shook her head, laughed. “Men and their toys.”

“Hey, women use technology.”

“Not me. I’d rather have written directions.”

Author bio: Award-winning author, Pamela S. Thibodeaux is the Co-Founder and a lifetime member of Bayou Writers Group in Lake Charles, Louisiana. Multi-published in romantic fiction as well as creative non-fiction, her writing has been tagged as, “Inspirational with an Edge!” ™ and reviewed as “steamier and grittier than the typical Christian novel without decreasing the message.”


Pamela can be found at her Website, Blog, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Amazon, and BookBub. Readers are encouraged to sign up for her Newsletter.

Keywords: The Inheritance, Pamela S Thibodeaux, @psthib, Pelican Book Group, Christian Fiction, Christian Romance, Inspirational with an Edge! Rafflecopter giveaway, book giveaway, PBG

Tagline: After her husband’s death she discovers a future she never expected and a family she never imagined.

Blurb: Widowed at age thirty-nine and suffering from empty nest syndrome, Rebecca Sinclair is overshadowed by grief and loneliness. Her husband has been deceased for a year, her oldest child has moved to New York in pursuit of an acting career and her youngest child is attending college in France. Having spent over half of her life as a wife and mother, she has no idea what God has in store for her now. Will an unexpected inheritance in the wine country of New York bring meaning and purpose to her life and give her the courage to love again?

US Postal worker Raymond Jacobey has been in love with the little widow since he first set eyes on her. A wanderer searching for the ever-illusive soul mate, Ray has never stayed in one place too long. Raised by self-centered, high-power executives, he’s longed for the idyllic life of residing in a cozy house in a small town with the love of his life. Will he gain the heart of the lovely widow or will he lose her to the wine country of New York?

The Inheritance is available at Amazon.

Be sure to enter her giveaway by entering the Rafflecopter at this link!

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Fly Me From the Moon

This week’s topic is:
Space exploration – would you travel to the Moon or Mars, (assuming you could return)?
See, there’s the problem…ASSUMING” you could return.

That better be an airtight guarantee!
(But how would you collect if it failed?)

The fear of not being able to return is why I panic whenever I hear the question, “What time in history would you like to visit?”, which comes up so often in writer-circles. There is no way I would travel anywhere in history, for fear of being stuck there.

But, we’re supposed to be returning, so…

When I was a kid, I subscribed to the Dr. Seuss book club. Some of the books were not by Theodore Geisel, such as “Put Me in the Zoo”, (remember that one?). One such book was “You Will Go to the Moon”, and showed a boy about 8-ish traveling with a grown man to the Moon. (Moon with a capital ‘M’; it’s OUR moon, Earth’s moon. Earth also needs to be capitalized if you are talking about the planet, whereas “earth” mean “dirt/soil”, but I digress.)

In this trip, the ‘rocket’ had to stop at a space station halfway to the Moon to refuel. My goodness, how far we have come in our thinking or in our capabilities. You have to realize that the first Moon-landing was only about eight years after I received that book.

I’d like to take a look at Earth from space, even more so from the Moon. I am fairly certain that I have mentioned that I heard it was possible to stand at the tip of Spain on a clear day, look across the Strait of Gibraltar and see Africa. I have no idea why the idea of doing that has real appeal to me, but I would truly love to do that. How much more exciting would it be to take a look at our World from our Moon ?

I’d feel fairly safe being able to get back now that they know more about what they are doing, but gee, even though I lived through the almost constant coverage of the drama surrounding Apollo 13, I was still at the edge of my seat watching the movie of it all!

Maybe I’m not very secure about it after all.

[ “Cough, Challenger), Cough, cough,(Columbia)”.]

Michael Collins piloted the command module around the Moon while Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin traipsed around on the ground in the first Moon-landing. Do you know what he said when they asked him if he felt cheated to get so close, but not get on the Moon himself? No, he didn’t want to go. He was afraid that there was a chance he was not going to be able to pick the other men up again and he knew that he, at least, could get home in the command module.

As for Mars, heck no! I think everyone is nuts to consider it. Such an incredible distance, (without Star-Trek warp capabilities), and to such a hostile environment, with no possibility of anyone calling the space equivalent of an ‘auto club’ if anything goes wrong? I shudder to even consider it!

A few months ago I saw “Passengers” . A fellow asleep for a long journey across space awakens alone. Last week I heard a reading of Stephen King’s “The Jaunt”, where things can go wrong with a ‘worm-hole’ type transport to Mars. Holy cow!
I have not had the nerve to see “Interplanetary”.

So, tempting as getting a full look at the Big Blue Marble is, the answer to the original question is a resounding “No way”.

I always was a homebody.

Posted in Books, childhood, history, horror stories, Tonette Joyce, Travel, Uncategorized, What if | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

Lost in Space

The Extent of My Extra-Terrestrial Travel

By Jeff Salter

This week we’re asked whether we’d travel in space (assuming we could safely return). The question focused on Mars and the Moon, though I don’t think they’re necessarily the most charming of the possible destinations. I mean, according to many of the 1950s Sci-Fic movies (I saw as a kid), the place with all the hot chicks was Venus!

Anyway… as I said in reply to one of the columns by a colleague Fox this week, I wouldn’t so much dislike VISITING another planet… but I’d hate the tediously long voyage to get there.

But before we leave the topic of Mars, let me say that one of my very first stories – written at some point during elementary school years – was titled “Trip to Mars.” It was terribly lame, terribly juvenile, and terribly derivative of those goofy 1950s Sci-Fic films mentioned above. But apparently it represented some innate desire of mine to SEE something other-worldly.

Starbase 03

Uh, I don’t believe they’ve actually BUILT this one yet, but this is the Space Station I’d want to visit. Sorta like Nashville’s Opry Mills Mall in Space.

Actually, however, if I had the money, health, and inclination to do any Extra-Terrestrial Travel, I think my first choice would be to visit the orbiting space station. [Is there more than one?] I won’t want the one with all the Russians, because I can’t be bothered to learn a new language. And I wouldn’t want a lot of oppressive rules (or tasks) while on-board. I’d just want to wander about the station, peer out the windows, visit the snack bar, see what the earth and moon look like from those distances. And then, when my time is up – let’s call it a long weekend – I’d like to come back home and write about my experience.

The launches to and from the space station have been reasonably successful and predictable – other than two major catastrophes of the Space Shuttle program. I’d definitely feel a lot safer with this type of Extra-Terrestrial Travel than I would with some endless voyage through the cold darkness of outer space… to some distant planet that would take years to reach.

There and back — get the t-shirt, take a few selfies, gaze out the portholes, and then come back home. Terra Firma.


What about YOU? Would you like to travel in space? To where? For how long?

[JLS # 353]

Posted in author's life, Fantasy vs Reality, Jeff Salter, Travel, Uncategorized, writing | Tagged , , , , | 15 Comments

No Space for Me

I have always yearned for wide open spaces. Craved to be away from buildings, neighbors, cars, and all the noise that comes with all of that. However, I have never wanted to travel in outer space. You can’t even get me on an airplane!

There is just too much that can go wrong. Maybe when I was a kid I may have thought it would be interesting to go to Mars but then my oldest brother had me watch Total Recall with him. That sceneim the movie where the air generator was turned off freaked me out. Seeing everyone there struggle to breath and slowly die made me realize that I never want to travel to space. I wouldn’t want to have to rely on machines to provide a proper atmosphere for me to live in. Machines break, not only that but what if someone decided that he/she no longer wanted to live and was going to take everyone out with them. All they had to do was break the generator.

It’s all too vast. There’s nothing there, just endless space. No thank you. I’d rather keep my feet on the ground and gaze up at the stars instead of visiting them.

I’ll explore space through movies and books.

Posted in Uncategorized | 5 Comments