Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Dog Bone Soup - Doggone Good Book

Dear Readers, before I get into today's interview, let me just say, SPRING HAS COME AT LAST!  Halleluiah!
Having said that, now let me introduce you to my guest author, Bette A. Stevens, author of DOG BONE SOUP: A BOOMER'S JOURNEY. 


Bette, I read your book and was deeply moved by your portrayal of poverty and one child's attempt to rise above it. This is definitely a must read for everyone.

Tell me a little about yourself--where you live, your family, your likes and dislikes.
These days I’m retired and, contrary to popular belief, busier than ever. I enjoy writing and am definitely having lots of fun with my husband Dan renovating our 37-acre farmstead in Central Maine. We have two grown daughters, five grandkids (ages 5 through 27) and two darling great-grand toddlers.  I love reading, walking, gardening, and occasional day trips to the coast, summer theatre and visits with family and friends. Dislikes? Too busy enjoying the ‘likes’ to worry about any of those.

How long have you been writing?
I became an author in 1997, when a regional press published my first children’s book. Prior to that, I wrote regularly for the business world for the first two and a half decades in a work-a-day world, where I was also an editor and desktop publisher. I left my first profession to pursue a B.S. in education at University of Maine and set out on a new career—teaching in grades four through eight until retirement. While studying at UM, I took courses in journalism and creative writing. I was invited to become a mentor at the university’s Writing Center and was also fortunate to have two of my human interest stories published in ECHOES Magazine during that time. Through the years, I’ve never stopped writing. You can follow my blog at

Give us a brief synopsis of DOG BONE SOUP.
DOG BONE SOUP is a coming of age story that follows the life of a poor boy growing up in a New England college town. Shawn Daniels’s father is the town drunk. Shawn and his brother Willie are in charge of handling everything that needs to be done around the ramshackle place they call home—lugging in water for cooking and cleaning,  splitting and stacking firewood…but when chores are done, these resourceful kids strike out on boundless adventures that don’t cost a dime. DOG BONE SOUP is the poignant tale of a dysfunctional family struggling to survive in America in the 50s and 60s, when others were living The American Dream. 

What prompted you to write this book?
As a writer and a teacher, I have a deep concern for kids living in poverty—these children are often bullied and looked down upon by other kids and even by some adults, all because of the social status of their families. Poverty and prejudice seem to be linked through the generations. The bullying I’ve seen isn’t simply relegated to ‘kid stuff’.  In my opinion, adults can and should be making a difference for the better in the lives of these children—of all children. Many of these kids continue to suffer throughout their lives because they’ve been bullied or intimidated simply because they’re poor. DOG BONE SOUP is a story of the survival and the triumph of a boy who overcomes the odds.

How long did it take you to write it?
I wrote the first complete draft during NANOWRIMO (National Novel Writing Month) in November of 2013, although I had been working on a bare bones outline for several months before that. During the self-editing process I re-read and revised at least ten times before placing the manuscript into the ‘hands’ of two capable editor friends. Then more revisions. By early 2015, I was ready and confident that I would not be totally embarrassed. Writing and publishing is a humbling process. The writing process for DOG BONE SOUP took one year, two months and 13 days.

Do you have a favorite line from the book?
Here’s a snippet out of a scene from one of the boys’ adventures:

“What on God’s green earth do you two want?”
“Saw your trees out there with branches tippin’ to the ground. Wondered if we could pick some apples. If you like, we’ll pick some for you too.”

“Hell, no! Those apples are mine and they ain’t goin’ to some white trash that lives down the road. I’ll have ’em rot before the likes of you gets a one. Now, get the hell out of here and don’t come back. My shotgun’s standin’ in the corner and I’m not afraid to use it. Now, git!”
Is it published and, if so, when and by whom?
On January 13, 2015, I finally hit the publish button on CreateSpace, an independent publishing platform affiliated with Amazon, and DOG BONE SOUP was ready to ‘dish up.’

How can my readers get a copy of the book?
All of my books—AMAZING MATILDA, THE TANGRAM ZOO AND WORD PUZZLES TOO!, PURE TRASH and DOG BONE SOUP—are available on Amazon. Here is a universal link for readers around the globe:   They’re also available through all major book sellers in both paperback and eBook versions.

What do you like to do besides write?
I enjoy reading, drawing and painting, gardening, walking, photography, desktop design (publishing my own marketing materials), taking day trips to the coast and spending time with family.

What's next for you?
I’m always working on several projects bit-by-bit as the muse lights—poetry, sketching, outlining or gathering facts and ideas for future stories, poems and books.

Do you have any advice for would-be writers?  
Keep writing and do make friends with other writers. Join reader and writer groups online and in your local area and become an active participant. Lend your support and encouragement to other authors, for you’ll learn a lot from them and reap the gracious benefits of their friendship.

What do you wish you knew when you started your writing career?
Everything! Like a child learning to ride a bike, there are times when you fall. Remember those days? Those days when you didn’t give up because it was something you really wanted to do? You brushed yourself off, stood tall, got back on and kept pedaling. Writing is a life-long journey and I’m enjoying it one learning-adventure at a time.

Thank you, Bette, it's been a real pleasure having you here today.  Folks, I would suggest you order this book either in paperback or on Kindle. You won't regret it. 

 Quote of the Day:  The other America, the America of poverty, is hidden today in a way that it never was before.  Its millions are socially invisible to the rest of us. Michael Harrington




Friday, March 20, 2015

Worms Anyone?

Today I want to remind you of an oldie but a goodie.  By oldie, I mean the book is not terribly old, but the author sure is.  I'm talking about a book I wrote a few years ago about growing up in Vermont in the 1940s.  I would say in a small town in Vermont, but they’re all small towns.  This town happens to be Springfield, a quarter of the way up the state.  Population ten thousand during the war years because of all the machine shops, and eight thousand by the time we left Springfield to move to Connecticut, in 1954.

An odd title? Yes.  It refers to a trick my sister played on me when I was around ten and she was twelve.  We were walking down an enormous hill to get to Main Street (probably to go to the library) and she said to me, “Do you want to play a game?”

Well, to have my big sister want to do something with me was a big deal, so I said, “Yes!”

She said, “Close your eyes.”  I closed my eyes.  She said, “Open your mouth.” I opened my mouth.

Then I said, “Yuk!!”  I had a tree worm in my mouth.  She had seen it hanging from a tree ahead of us and decided it would be fun to “play a game” with me.

All that aside, it would appear that we lived a very abnormal life.  We were happy, well adjusted, had two parents that did fun things with us; we grew up with a good set of values and knowing we were loved. To hear people talk today, that is not the norm.  

I was born in 1940, during the Depression, but before World War II. I remember ration books and trucks pulling into town carrying sugar and flour and all the housewives rushing to get their allotment before the goods ran out.  I was brought up, for the first ten years, without television.  Horror of horrors!  The four of us sat around the living room at night and listened to radio shows.  Saturday morning, my sister and I curled up on the floor in front of the radio, our jammies on and a cup of hot chocolate in our hands, and listened to Let’s Pretend.  In the afternoon, she and I might walk down to the Ideal Theater to watch a Roy Rogers movie, or a musical, along with Movietone News, sports, and a serial. 

Did we have computers, cell phones, DVDs, Gameboys, iPhones or iPads?  No. We made our own fun and weren’t wired into anything.   We were free to let our imaginations go wild and take us anywhere we wanted to go, be it outer space, an underwater kingdom, or anywhere in between.  That my friends, is how childhood should be lived.  In my humble opinion.

This book is available at or

Quote of the Day:  This little world of childhood with its familiar surroundings is a model of the greater world.  Carl Gustav Jung

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

March Into Spring. Please.

Since I last wrote to you, we’ve had three snowstorms.  In North Carolina.  Where it never snows.  Two weeks ago we had snow.  All Monday night the news shows concentrated on the weather.  They asked us to stay home so they could lay salt brine on the roads.  For the next few days, the bottom of the TV screen continually ran the list of what schools, businesses, etc. would be closed due to the storm.  We didn’t get a lot of snow, but the temperature dropped and the snow froze on top.  I couldn’t open my front or side doors because of the snow/ice ridge that blocked them. 

By Wednesday, I took our handy dandy hoped-we-would-never-have-to-use-it snow shovel and chopped away at the snow on the front porch in order to get the door open.  Then I ventured, very carefully across the porch, down the steps, and over to my car to go get two days’ worth of mail that had been accumulating in my mailbox.  The temperature didn’t get above freezing for days.  Finally, on Friday, it got up to 36 degrees and I once again ventured out to get milk and another two days of mail.  That was one super cold week; space heaters were on in whatever room I was in.

Last week on Monday night the screens were again filled with schools and business closings and frantic newscasters.  I woke up Tuesday to just over two inches of light, fluffy snow on the porch, car, and everything else.  It was so light, I could sweep it off with a broom.  Wednesday got a little warmer and melting was in full force. Then, Wednesday night, we were advised to stay off the roads so the brine could be spread and we were to stock up for a possible four to five days of being snowbound.  I needed groceries anyway, so I joined what seemed like the whole town of Garner at the grocery store to assure my existence.

Thursday, I woke up to just over an inch of snow.  The snow had turned to rain, leaving the white stuff heavy and crusty.  I shoveled a path across the porches just so I could get to the steps and to the trash can.  I looked out the kitchen window and had to laugh when I saw icicles hanging off the roofs of my birdhouses. Talk about a flashback to growing up in Vermont.  We used to have huge icicles hanging from the roof to the ground all around the house as though we lived in a crystal prison.  Oh yeah, I LOVE snow.  Ha.

The only person I know of that enjoyed this lovely weather was the little two-year-old next door who was outside in snowsuit, boots, mittens, and scarf, playing in the snow. 

As I write this, yesterday was in the sixties and tomorrow is supposed to be in the seventies.  I say, “It’s about doggone time!”  This is the South, after all, and it’s not supposed to get this kind of weather.  I read that the average temp for Garner for February is fifty-eight degrees.  Ha!  We barely got above forty for the entire month of February.

Have I vented enough?  After thirty years of living in San Diego, putting on a coat EVERY time I walk outside is for the birds.  Spring, I'm ready for you!
Quote of the Day: When men were all asleep, the snow came flying/In large white flakes falling on the city brown. Robert Bridges