Full Disclosure!!

I am behind in blogging, in finishing edits of The Rain Catcher, and in putting together the next issue of The Apple Core! My excuse? Blame it on the kids! With a busy husband, nearly 2-year-old, and daughter about to start kindergarten, I have been run off my feet these past few weeks. Luckily, Southern Bend Books is a labor of love and not, currently, a full-fledged corporation or other business entity relying on income for its existence!

What else have I been doing? Reading self-help books! Not to go into too much detail, but I’ve discovered two really good books I think everyone should read. The first, The Dance of Anger by Harriet Lerner, is directed toward women, but it’s really for men or women. And it’s not just about anger — it’s about improving relationships by noticing the patterns we keep repeating. Her best advice is to OBSERVE what’s going on and see where you and the other person need to make changes. It’s easy to read, non-intimidating, and very helpful!

The next book has a tough title that would scare anyone away: Running on Empty: Overcome Your Childhood Emotional Neglect. But, really, it could apply to anyone. Sure, there are some awful parents out there, but even well-meaning moms and dads slip up and are not always good at validating their kids’ feelings. This book is not judgmental; it offers clear examples and advice on how to overcome past neglect. Most importantly, it talks about self-care and how we all must value ourselves in order to pass that down to our children.

NOTE: Southern Bend Books is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com. This basically means, that if you choose to click on a link and buy a book from Amazon, Southern Bend Books could potentially earn a few pennies, which Louisa will then put back into the business of creating books!

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Taking Scotland by storm!

In honor of my upcoming novel, The Rain Catcher, which is set in Scotland, I’ve decided to share two Scottish books that I think are great! The first, Women Talking Dirty by Isla Dewar, my aunt sent me years ago. It’s one of the few books I’d label “irreverent,” and every time I read it I feel better about life!

The novel describes the eclectic friendship between polar opposites Cora and Ellen. Cora’s a Highlander, while Ellen grew up in the drab Edinburgh suburbs. Cora’s a single mum, struggling with two boys and a lifetime-worth of guilt over her misspent youth. Ellen’s a reclusive comic-strip artist, caught up in a dead-end relationship with Daniel, whom she recklessly marries. The two share laughs, buckets of tears, bottles of vodka, and the secret to a successful dinner party — the edible bloody Mary!


The second book, I actually never finished. When I was 10 and still living in Scotland, my teacher read The Hill of the Red Fox by Allan Campbell Mclean to the class. We were hooked! But before she finished the book, I moved with my mom to the States. I always wondered how the book ended! I don’t remember much about it, other than it’s kids’ thriller set in the Isle of Skye. The main character 13-year-old Alasdair takes a train ride through Scotland and on the way encounters a shady character who slips him a note before disappearing from the train. I honestly can’t remember what happens, but our whole class loved it and was hooked on our teacher’s every last word! All I remember is being enveloped in this mysterious Scottish landscape — it was really magical!

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The Writing Process with Rebecca Mascull


I am reblogging a really interesting interview by English writer Ruth Hunt. She has a whole series of author interviews on her blog, The Writer on Wheels. This particular post features Rebecca Mascull and her new book The Visitors — worth checking out!

Originally posted on The Writer on Wheels:

Visitors paperback cover hi res

It is with pleasure that today I welcome Rebecca Mascullto my blog to talk about her books and writing process in general.


I’ve been writing stories since I was a kid, including a western and a hospital drama! I wrote some short stories after university and then started taking it seriously around 2001 when I started my Masters. I decided then that if I was going to make it as an author, I’d need to give up full-time teaching and devote myself to writing. I went through two agents and two novels before I found my brilliant agent I have now, Jane Conway-Gordon. She believed in me and kept going despite the book she represented me for not finding a deal. So I got on with the next book for her and that was The Visitors –…

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Story cubes?

This is just a quick little post… I was at Cracker Barrel today, waiting in line, when I saw this package of “Story Cubes.” It reminded me of a little book my daughter has, where you flip the pages to get different nouns, verbs, and situations for story ideas. For example, a “bear” (on one page), “who hates” (on the next page) “peanut butter sandwiches” (on the third page). So, kids would use these prompts to create their own stories about a bear who hates peanut butter sandwiches or, say, a turtle who loves flying planes!

So, that’s why the story cubes caught my attention. When I looked online, I saw that many adults use the cubes, too, either with their kids or as a party game. I think anything that encourages storytelling can’t be bad! After all, telling stories might lead to writing stories, which can only help kids’ literacy skills. And telling (or writing) stories is an outlet for anyone to sort through their thoughts and feelings. And we all need more of that!

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What the Dog Knows

This isn’t a review because I haven’t read the book yet, but I am definitely planning to after hearing Cat Warren talk last night at May Memorial Library in Burlington about What the Dog Knows. And it’s not just because I used to be one of her journalism students at N.C. State University! She’s an excellent professor and a captivating speaker, so I know her new book has to be just as good!

The idea for the book came about from the unique hobby Warren picked up about seven years ago after buying an extremely hyper and unruly German shepherd named Solo. A dog trainer friend recommended that she turn Solo into a working dog — namely, a cadaver dog! Cadaver dogs, as the name suggests, help police search for the remains of the dead. Unlike search and rescue dogs, cadaver dogs are trained to seek out the smell of decaying human flesh. It’s a gruesome job, but these dogs are vital in cases where police need to find a body to prove a crime. Warren pointed out that cadaver dogs were also used in the awful landslide in Oso, Washington, to find the deceased and help bring closure to surviving loved ones. You can read more about this on Warren’s blog.

Two things struck me last night… The first was the emotional bond between Solo and Warren. She teared up when telling us how she recently retired 10-year-old Solo. They were a team, she explained, practically on auto pilot because they worked so well together. Now a full-time pet, Solo no longer conducts searches for the police or trains regularly. Warren has a different relationship with her new dog, Coda, and you can tell she misses the “old days” with Solo, who she described as “a natural.”

The other point that stood out to me last night was the contradiction between the type of work these dogs do and the fact that handlers must turn the search into a “game.” As a reward for doing a search, Solo gets to play with his favorite tug-toy, so he associates work as fun. Warren told of being bitten accidentally by Solo, as they were playing tug-of-war, and having to suppress a cry of agony. She didn’t want to make the situation stressful for Solo, she explained, so she held her tongue. This level of dedication is pretty overwhelming!

Here’s a book trailer that shows Warren and Solo at work, and gives more details about the book itself:

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Review: Valley of Thracians

Our first issue of The Apple Core talks about the elements of suspense writing: the reader knows something bad has happened, and the author delays the answer to the problem, making us crazy with anticipation! When you think of suspense, you probably think of Alfred Hitchcock and murder mysteries, and perhaps “Columbo,” who knows the identity of the murderer but makes us wonder if (and how) he’ll ever figure it out!

But as we’ve seen in my previous post, children’s books can be suspenseful, too. In fact, any kind of  book (including the classic The Secret Garden) can contain elements of suspense. Valley of Thracians: A Novel of Bulgaria by Ellis Shuman is a somewhat unconventional thriller. Set in Bulgaria, it’s also part travelogue, and the “hero” is an elderly gentleman with a limp. Not your typical “noir” setting or private “I”! But that doesn’t make it any less suspenseful. From page one, I was hooked!

Shuman describes the cities and culture of Bulgaria with vivid detail– I wish I could describe settings that well! His main characters are fascinating and believable — a grandfather in search of his grandson who went missing after joining the Peace Corps and is presumed dead, and a mysterious female friend the grandfather meets in Bulgaria, who seems to good-naturedly want to help him. But does she have something to hide? I loved that Shuman kept me waiting for the answers to all the questions that kept popping up — in perfect suspense fashion! And I enjoyed learning about Bulgaria and the ancient Thracian culture — it was never dry or dull, and the story pulled me along until the very end!

My advice — don’t read the book description on Amazon. I just saw it for the first time today and was so relieved that I didn’t read it before beginning Valley of Thracians. In my opinion, the book is much more suspenseful WITHOUT knowing some crucial details about what happened to the grandson. Personally, I love not knowing what’s going on in a book — that’s what keeps me reading, to solve the mystery! Anyway, check out Valley of Thracians — it’s written for adults, but it would be appropriate for teens, as well as voracious younger readers!

P.S. Full Disclosure: Southern Bend Books is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com. This basically means, that if you choose to click on a link and buy a book from Amazon, Southern Bend Books could potentially earn a few pennies, which Louisa will then put back into the business of creating books!

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Poetry unlocks the door…

To me, there are few things more inspiring that kids using words to tell their stories and help themselves break free — whether from social, mental, or physical boundaries. Even as an adult, writing for me (and many others) is about getting out all the stories and feelings that otherwise feel locked inside because we have a hard time saying the important things out loud. But on paper (or the screen), it feels safer.

Today, on NPR, I heard about a young man who won the Words Unlocked 2014 poetry contest for his poem “Meth.” Words Unlocked is a month-long program designed for kids who are being held in juvenile facilities; it provides their teachers resources to help these kids learn about poetry and ultimately enter the national contest. Here’s a link to the winning poems (these kids are really talented!). It’s a shame that so many of the poems are about addiction and death…

And if you are an educator, wherever and whoever you teach, you might want to use these same resources to help your students learn more about writing poetry. There’s a teacher’s guide, a 7-day unit, and a month-long unit. Give it a try!

A trailer from the amazing-looking documentary, Louder Than a Bomb! Gets me fired up about poetry!

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