Venture Galleries http://venturegalleries.com Connecting Readers, Writers, and Books Fri, 05 Feb 2016 11:17:06 +0000 en-US hourly 1 FBA Friday XIII: Why is Amazon building bookstores? http://venturegalleries.com/blog/fba-friday-xiii-why-is-amazon-building-bookstores/ http://venturegalleries.com/blog/fba-friday-xiii-why-is-amazon-building-bookstores/#comments Fri, 05 Feb 2016 09:23:05 +0000 http://venturegalleries.com/?p=73177 You may have seen in the news this week some talk about the scope of Amazon's plans to open a chain of physical bookstores. Although that conversation was not based on any hard information from Amazon, the fact remains that Amazon is in fact... Read more

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Amazon book store

You may have seen in the news this week some talk about the scope of Amazon’s plans to open a chain of physical bookstores. Although that conversation was not based on any hard information from Amazon, the fact remains that Amazon is in fact opening brick and mortar bookstores. Its flagship store pictured above is already operating in Seattle.

Why?

The simple answer is: It’s not either/or.  It’s both/and.

We are far enough into the digital book age to be able to make a couple of educated guesses.  The first is that digital books and ereaders are here to stay. The second proposition is that physical books are here to stay.

Digital books and physical ones will coexist for a long time to come.

The next conclusion we draw from Amazon’s aggressive move into physical bookstores is that its stores won’t go the way of many other brick and mortar bookstores for one reason.

Amazon’s bookstores won’t have to compete with Amazon.

The final observation is that Amazon is making this move because it understands perhaps better than any other company the profitability of selling books. Books, both digital and physical, are selling like hotcakes.  There is no end in sight.

What does all this mean for an FBA used bookseller?

It means it is a fantastic time to be selling used books through the FBA program. Amazon dominates online book sales, and the FBA bookseller operates within the larger world of Amazon.  If we view Amazon as the world’s biggest mall, then the FBA bookseller is like a store owner within the mall.

And the rise of this new place to buy new books does nothing to dampen the desire for people to find copies of used books which can’t be located in the brick and mortar stores.

The irony in the situation is profound. Amazon creates a vast portal for the sale of used books and fuels the hunger for such books by opening brick and mortar stores full of new books.

And, lest we forget, Amazon began as a bookstore.  There is a certain symmetry to the whole deal.

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James Lee Burke: A writer of hope, injustice and redemption http://venturegalleries.com/blog/james-lee-burke-a-writer-of-hope-injustice-and-redemption/ http://venturegalleries.com/blog/james-lee-burke-a-writer-of-hope-injustice-and-redemption/#comments Fri, 05 Feb 2016 08:40:53 +0000 http://venturegalleries.com/?p=73146   Some of us believe James Lee Burke is one of the best pure writers in the literary world today. JAMES LEE BURKE is the reigning iconoclast of literature, and the critics can’t quite figure him out. He writes mysteries. But... Read more

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Some of us believe James Lee Burke is one of the best pure writers in the literary world today.

Some of us believe James Lee Burke is one of the best pure writers in the literary world today.

JAMES LEE BURKE is the reigning iconoclast of literature, and the critics can’t quite figure him out.

He writes mysteries.

But they aren’t really whodunits.

They are battles between good and evil.

He writes crime fiction.

But his stories are shadowed by the shifting boundaries between the powerful and the powerless.

Neither wins.

Both lose.

It’s just that one doesn’t quite suffer as much as the other.

The morals in his novels are dark.

Judgment is certain.

UnknownAnd Burke, as much as anyone in the writing game today, understands the human need for some form of redemption.

He does write mysteries.

But a poet lurks deep within his soul.

And no one writes better.

Consider this passage:

Then the sun broke above the crest of the hills, and the entire countryside looked soaked in blood, the arroyos deep in shadow, the cones of dead volcanoes stark and biscuit-colored against the sky. I could smell pinion trees, wet sage, woodsmoke, cattle in the pastures, and creek water that had melted from snow. I could smell the way the country probably was when it was only a dream in the mind of God.

Bring on the big boys.

Bring on the writers of classics.

Bring on the writers who make English teachers swoon.

I dare any of them to try and write as well.

Poet Robert Frost once said a poet must be committed to a lover’s quarrel with the world.

Burke has it.

Burke’s quarrel rages and is sometimes violent.

He lets his reader see the bad side of the streets and watch the miseries of life through the eyes of such characters as detective Dave Robicheaux, a man who grew up upon a tawdry Southern Louisiana landscape that was, he said, morally insane and full of abuse.

That’s why, James Lee Burke says, he writes about injustice. He writes to make the world a better place.

He can’t.

But he tries.

His mission has always been to give voice to the people who have none.

During his days in high school, Burke could not have never imagined himself as a writer, much less a writer of best sellers.

He feared he might never pass English.

Blame Miss Williams.

Day after day, week after week, she gave him a D minus on his essays. Burke recalls, “She used red ink and my work looked like a disemboweled animal. There was so much blood on the page.”

He asked why his grade was so bad.

She looked down at him and said, “Mister Burke, your penmanship is an abomination upon the eyeball, and your spelling makes me sorry for the Phoenicians who invented the alphabet. But you write with such heart that I couldn’t give you a F.”

Burke grinned.

He had a chance.

He went to her office every Saturday and re-wrote his essays.

In the end, Miss Williams gave him a B.

He says, “That teacher changed my life.”

As a writer, his talents were recognized early. Burke published his first short story at the age of nineteen, and a debut novel, a Western titled Half of Paradise, attracted national attention.

The critics all said the same thing.

That boy can write.

But is the novel really a Western?

It’s too good to be a Western.

A second novel, To the Bright and Shining Sun, explored the hard, savage lives of Appalachian miners. The New York Times called it a surging, bitter novel as authentic as moonshine.

Burke’s writing was magic.

The magic suddenly went away.

No.

The magic was still there.

The critics suddenly went away.

James Lee Burke sat down on top of the world and wrote his next novel.

It received a hundred and eleven rejections.

It would be thirteen years before he was published again.

But when James Lee Burke broke through at last, the break was wide and without end, and the critics who printed rejection slips would never become an obstacle for him again.

Burke believes: “A great artist finds his voice and then uses it in ways others do not. It’s the iconoclast who leads us away from ourselves. We address ourselves to what is best in people. I think that’s why George Orwell wrote so well. He believed the human spirit was unconquerable, and as a result the reader is immediately drawn to the humanity in all of Orwell’s essays.”

Burke has built a career writing about the humanity of mankind.

Its weaknesses.

Its corruption.

Its hope for redemption.

It’s not the humanity of others that worry him. It is his own.

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If you love books, you might as well write them. http://venturegalleries.com/blog/if-you-love-books-you-might-as-well-write-them/ http://venturegalleries.com/blog/if-you-love-books-you-might-as-well-write-them/#comments Fri, 05 Feb 2016 07:55:04 +0000 http://venturegalleries.com/?p=73142 TODAY I'M INTERVIEWING Vickie Phelps, a woman who has published over two hundred articles in both regional and national magazines.  She has also published five gift books with Barbour Publishing and is the co-author with Jo Huddleston of How... Read more

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TODAY I’M INTERVIEWING Vickie Phelps, a woman who has published over two hundred articles in both regional and national magazines.  She has also published five gift books with Barbour Publishing and is the co-author with Jo Huddleston of How to Write for the Christian Marketplace and Simply Christmas.  Her latest work is the novel Postmark from the Past.

Jim: Tell us a little bit about yourself.

Vickie:  I’m a native Texan who has never had a desire to live anywhere else. I love books and spent eighteen years working in bookselling. I live with my husband and one very spoiled schnauzer.

Jim:  How long have you been writing?

Vickie:  I started writing for publication in the 80s. I sold my first short magazine piece in 1989.

Jim:  What do you enjoy most about writing?

Vickie Phelps

Vickie Phelps

Vickie:  The chance to express my thoughts through words that will touch others where they live. Writing is hard work, but when someone tells you that your story or article met a need in their life, it’s all worth it.

Jim:  Do you have a set schedule for writing?

Vickie:  I do my best to show up at my desk every morning at least five days a week. I don’t have a certain word count to meet each day, but I do write and revise or work on marketing for at least three to four hours.

Jim:  Tell us about your novel, Postmark from the Past.

Vickie:  It’s the story of Emily Patterson, a thirty-nine-year old single woman who doesn’t believe in miracles. It’s the Christmas season and she’s lonely. But then a strange envelope shows up in her mailbox. She thinks it’s just her first Christmas card of the season, but it’s much more than that. A man named Mark expresses his love for her. The only problem is that she doesn’t know who Mark is. And the envelope has no return address. From that point on, life as Emily knows it, is changed forever.

Jim:  Wow.  I like the sound of that.  Where can readers (and I)  find your novel?

Vickie:  Postmark from the Past is available at  www.crossrivermedia.com,  or can be ordered from your favorite bookstore.

Jim:  Okay, I’m on it. Are you working on a new book?

Vickie:  I’m in the process of revising another novel about a man on a mission to find his uncle who disappeared without a word forty years earlier.

Jim:  I like the sound of that one, too.  But, right now, give us a site where we can learn even more about you.

Vickie: Visit http://www.vickiephelps.com to learn more about me as an author, writer, and booklover. You can also connect with me on social media at www.facebook.com/VickieSPhelps, on Twitter at www.twitter@VickieSPhelps, www.linkedin.com/in/VickieSPhelps andwww.pinterest.com/Vicphel

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The Curse of Canned Voices on the Phone http://venturegalleries.com/blog/the-curse-of-canned-voices-on-the-phone/ http://venturegalleries.com/blog/the-curse-of-canned-voices-on-the-phone/#comments Fri, 05 Feb 2016 07:50:09 +0000 http://venturegalleries.com/?p=73138   Hanging on to an old telephone in the thicket. Uncle Mort had one of the first telephones in the thicket, and, despite current removal of land lines left and right throughout the country, he gives “zero” thought to disconnecting... Read more

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Hanging on to an old telephone in the thicket.

Hanging on to an old telephone in the thicket.

Uncle Mort had one of the first telephones in the thicket, and, despite current removal of land lines left and right throughout the country, he gives “zero” thought to disconnecting his.

“People get lost in these parts, then learn their cell phones don’t work. They’re relieved to see the sign tacked on our front gate: ‘Yes, we’ve got a land line phone, and yes, you’re welcome to use it’.”

He said one visitor asked him if he planned to donate it to a museum at the end of its useful days. Actually, his “phone fondness” transcends benevolence. He loves to talk, but only to “live ones” on the other end. “I’ve got no use for those ‘canned’ voices telling me how important my call is to them,” he says. “When the calls are from real people, I interrupt their spiel to thank them for calling, then proceed to share riddles with them.”

*****

 

Uncle Mort

Uncle Mort

He claims his interruption “addles them” while he quickly thumbs through the little metal box Aunt Maude used to keep recipes in before deciding years ago to memorize the ones that matter. (Now it’s a pinch of this, a dab of that and a smidgen of something else.)

Mort has riddles, stories and jokes alphabetized, ready to spring on unsuspecting callers.

The other day, he asked a political pollster if he knows how to tell when male pick-up drivers are single. “Look at the mirrors on both sides of the truck,” he panned. “If there’s tobacco juice on both mirrors, the guy is single.”

*****

   Soon to be 104, Mort is a repository of history, much of it he’s seen first-hand. “If it’s true that the good die young, I may soon reach the point of being as bad as I can be,” he jokes.

He and his buddies who gather at the general store call their time there “sharing moments”–first cousins of “teaching moments.”

The latter–parents of today know all too well–are precious moments not to be squandered. “I take ‘em where I can find ‘em,” one dad said.

*****

 

Don Newbury

Don Newbury

After a recent holiday meal, Al Washington surveyed the bountiful remains. Turning to his second grade son, he asked, “What do you think we ought to do with all this food, Gabe?” Without hesitation, the youngster answered, “I think we should share it with pets.”

Seizing this “teaching moment,” Al countered, “What about the homeless?”

Gabe answered, “Dad, I don’t think the homeless have pets.”

*****

   When they have family reunions, big brother Brad Netterville and little sister Rachel Dabadie are always reminded of their childhood skirmishes, particularly the ones that began in the kitchen. Rachel, by age five, already hated milk, even the sight of it. “The thought of it could cause nausea, and it still does,” Rachel says.

At age seven, Brad–a couple of years older than Rachel–was ever on task to spring “milk pranks,” teases that always “got her goat.” He’d follow her, gulping down milk as he went. Invariably, Rachel screamed, “Momma, Brad’s drinking milk at me again!” Rachel, now 45, still looks away when milk comes into view.

She also dislikes tobacco smoke and hates being “smoked at.” Her brother, of course, thrived on pretense in her presence, “puffing away” on pencils, candy cigs and soda straws. Evelyn Netterville, their mother, has survived pranks both at home and at school. A retired teacher, she presses on.

*****

   “Pressing on” reminds Uncle Mort of the britches Carolina Panthers’ quarterback Cam Newton wore upon arrival in San Francisco. “To many people, those zebra-striped britches are the ‘cat’s meow’,” my uncle said.

Upon learning the pants cost $425–twice that if you want them to be two-legged–Mort figures they are 2016’s equivalent to the Rolex watch craze back in the 60s. $849 for a pair of britches? Yep, only in America, and the manufacture can’t keep pace.

There are more fake Rolexes than the real items, and before long, the same will be true of the Versace brand “zebra-striped britches.” You won’t catch me wearing the watch or the pants. I wouldn’t want anyone to think I’d ever wear knock-offs, or the “real things,” either.

*****

   Dr. Newbury is a speaker in the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex. Inquiries/comments to: newbury@speakerdoc.com. Phone: 817-447-3872. Web site: www.speakerdoc.com. Columns archived at venturegalleries.com, newbury blog.

Don Newbury is the author of the humorous and inspirational When The Porch Light’s On.

WhenThePorchLightsOn-3dLeft

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Friday Sampler: Earnest by Kristin Von Kreisler http://venturegalleries.com/blog/friday-sampler-earnest-by-kristin-von-kreisler/ http://venturegalleries.com/blog/friday-sampler-earnest-by-kristin-von-kreisler/#comments Fri, 05 Feb 2016 07:40:02 +0000 http://venturegalleries.com/?p=73133 In our mission to connect readers, writers, and books, Venture Galleries is showcasing some of the best authors in the marketplace today. Friday's  Sampler features an excerpt from Earnest, a heartwarming novel from Kristin Von Kreisler... Read more

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Moshe PR photo

In our mission to connect readers, writers, and books, Venture Galleries is showcasing some of the best authors in the marketplace today. Friday’s  Sampler features an excerpt from Earnesta heartwarming novel from Kristin Von Kreisler about the healing power of a special dog.

As one reviewer said: Author Kristin Von Kreisler brings readers a tale of love both human and canine in her latest novel, Earnest. This is a heartfelt story about two people at a crossroads in their relationship and how the love of their pet changes everything. Kreisler’s knowledge of human nature and canine antics is inspiring.

The Story

Earnest. It’s the perfect name for a sweet, eager-to-please yellow Labrador retriever. Anna and her boyfriend Jeff fall for him the minute they see those guileless eyes gazing up from behind his gate at Seattle’s Best Friends Shelter. In no time at all, they’re a pack of three, with Earnest happily romping in their condo on Gamble Island.

During the day, Earnest keeps Anna company in her flower shop, located in a historic gingerbread Victorian on the island’s main street. Anna hopes to buy and restore the house, once owned by her beloved grandmother.

But when that dream is threatened by Jeff’s actions, Anna’s trust is shattered. For so long, the house has encompassed all her ideals of security, home, and family. Yet Earnest’s devotion to his two people, and theirs to him, make it impossible for them to walk away from each other.

And when a crisis hits, it’s Earnest—honest, stubborn, and uncannily wise—who will help Anna reconcile her past and embrace what the future can bring…

The Sampler

Kristin Von Kreisler

Kristin Von Kreisler

Seattle’s Second Chance Shelter smelled of damp fur and dog breath. Frantic barks and whines pierced the air and assaulted Anna’s ears. She shrank back from the desperation that hung in the air like mist. All the sad eyes begging for a home. The furry foreheads rumpled with anxiety. Anna’s tender heart slid to her feet.

“We shouldn’t have come here,” she shouted to her boyfriend, Jeff.

“You wanted to check out the dogs,” he said.

Anna was clutching the Second Chance flyer she’d found that morning on Jeff ’s windshield. Coming here had seemed the best way to goad themselves into action after weeks of talk about adopting a dog. But now, engulfed by the dogs’ distress, Anna wasn’t so sure.

“We could have looked for a dog on Petfinder,” she said. In their rented condo, they could have studied photos on the computer screen.

“You can tell a lot more if you see a dog in person,” Jeff said.

“Yes, but I want to take all these dogs home.”

“We can only afford to care for one.”

“Why do you have to be so practical?” Anna smiled, revealing lovely teeth.

She was the pretty flower child, the impulsive one. If she had her way, by evening their condo would be an orphanage for these homeless dogs—somehow she and Jeff would manage their upkeep. But he was innately cautious and responsible.

He’d adopt only if he could provide the best vet care and premium kibble.

Not that being reliable was bad. Actually, Anna liked that quality in Jeff. After living with him the last two years, she’d concluded it would make him a good father—and that was partly why she’d suggested getting a dog. Jeff wanted a buddy, but Anna secretly wanted a trial run at parenting. Maybe a dog would nudge Jeff closer to marriage, which they’d discussed but always as something in their vague and rosy future. Now they were both almost thirty-five, and it was time.

In enclosures lined up along the aisle, most of the dogs were making their case for adoption. Some ran to their gate and pleaded their cause with eager yips. Others stood back, polite, and demonstrated good behavior. Or they looked adorable, as did two matching Chihuahuas, whose whimpers urged, clear as crystal, Take us home with you! See how lovable we are!

“I’d be afraid of stepping on them.” Jeff steered Anna to the next run, which housed a Great Dane mutt the size of an adolescent moose. On massive hind legs, he leapt up and pressed his huge paws on the gate. Jeff shook his head. “Not a condo dog.”

He and Anna looked at a dog of unknown lineage with a bald tail and fur the color of a napkin that had wiped one too many mouths. When she curled her lip, she informed them of her resentment at being confined.

“What if no one adopts her?” Anna asked.

“Don’t worry. It’s a no-kill shelter.” Jeff reached for Anna’s hand and pulled her to the last gate. “Look at him!”

A Labrador retriever bounded toward them, wagging his tail so hard that he wagged his whole back end. He weighed about eighty pounds, and his personal infinitive might have been “to galumph,” but he didn’t seem to be the type of dog who’d stomp through flower beds or knock over lamps with his tail. He looked up at Anna and Jeff with big brown eyes, which politely asked, Please, will you take me home and love me?

He pressed his side against the gate to get as close as he could to them, and his body begged, Pet me! Oh, please!

“Whatcha doing, boy?” When Jeff reached through the gate’s bars, the dog nuzzled his hand. He’d cornered the market on wholesome. He could have been a Cub Scout mascot or costarred in movies with a freckle-faced kid.

Anna’s eyes brightened. “He’s a love bug.”

“He’s a purebred Lab. The real deal. Why would someone give him up?”

A laminated sign on the dog’s gate explained that he’d been tied to the shelter’s doorknob with a note under his collar. He was a healthy three-year-old, and his name was Moonbeam, of all the preposterous things. His slightly wavy fur looked like it intended to curl but never got around to it, and it was the color of wheat in candlelight, though his ears had a touch of biscuit beige. His nose looked like a licorice gumdrop, his muzzle was softly rounded, and his ears were upside-down isosceles triangles. When Moonbeam blinked, any woman in her right mind would have envied his thick, dark lashes.

His confident eyes were what grabbed Anna. Anyone could see that behind them lived a wise old soul. At the same time, though, his eyes were tinged with sadness, probably because he’d just lost his home and family. Anna wanted to bake him gourmet peanut butter cookies, buy him squeaky toys, and mother him. “Let’s adopt him!” she said.

“He wouldn’t be too big for our condo?” It was only nine hundred square feet, and their barbecue grill and potted tomato plants crowded the small deck. A large dog could cross the backyard in ten steps.

“It’s not like he’d be locked up at home all the time. He could come to work with me every day.” Anna imagined him napping under her flower shop’s counter, surrounded by buckets of mums.

“What if he scares your customers?” Jeff asked.

“How could they not love him?”

Through the bars, Jeff held out his hand to Moonbeam.

“Can you shake?”

A wheat-colored paw plopped onto Jeff ’s palm.

“Sit?”

With impeccable cooperation, Moonbeam sank down on his haunches and gazed up at Jeff with adoring eyes that said as plainly as anyone ever said anything, I will be exemplary. I want to be your dog.

“He’s trying to do the right thing. He’s so earnest,” Jeff said.

“‘Earnest’ would be a good name. Far better than ‘Moonbeam.’”

Jeff squatted down, eye to eye with Earnest. “Maybe we should think about him for a day or two before we decide.”

“Someone else would adopt him,” Anna said.

Jeff stroked Earnest’s soft ears. “You’re too good to pass up, aren’t you?”

Absolutely! agreed Earnest’s tail wags.

Anna walked Earnest outside while Jeff filled out the adoption form. Owner: Jeff Egan. Occupation: Architect. Address: 1735-B Wood Avenue, Gamble Island, Washington. If you rent, name of landlord: David Gray. Who will be responsible for vet bills? I will. Jeff checked “yes” that Earnest would have a fenced yard and sleep inside at night. Finally, Jeff paid the fee with his credit card and hurried to find Anna and Earnest.

In the backseat of Jeff ’s Honda, Earnest stared out the window at Seattle’s skyline. He gazed at the Space Needle and seemed to note with interest Safeco and CenturyLink Fields.

Looking angelic, he did not smudge the window with his nose, and he did not paw or drool on the upholstery. On the halfhour ferry to his new home, he curled into a trusting ball and slept as if the Honda had been his bed forever.

Anna and Jeff joked that his glomming onto them might be a sign he was part barnacle, and they discussed people’s tendency to adopt dogs that looked like themselves. Jeff pointed out that Earnest’s fur wasn’t so different from Anna’s ash-blonde hair, which was cut between a shag and a pixie. She said that behind Jeff ’s horn-rimmed glasses, his expressive brown eyes were like Earnest’s, and Jeff ’s short hair, though dark and slightly thin on top, had Earnest’s hint of waves.

Anna pictured Earnest sprawled on their deck among the tomato plants, a paw over his eyes to shade them from the sun.

Or leaping into gold maple leaves piled along the sidewalk in the fall and crunching them with his paws. She and Jeff would take him on hikes in the Hoh Rain Forest and teach him to fetch a Frisbee. They’d bathe him in their tub and invite him to sleep on their bed.

“We’ll be a pack of three,” Anna said. A family.

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What’s the greatest mystery of all? http://venturegalleries.com/blog/whats-the-greatest-mystery-of-all/ http://venturegalleries.com/blog/whats-the-greatest-mystery-of-all/#comments Thu, 04 Feb 2016 08:40:38 +0000 http://venturegalleries.com/?p=73130 Book selling has always been a riddle that few have solved. I WRITE mysteries. I read mysteries. I want to know what was done, who did it, why someone did it, and how it was done. Good mystery writers can always solve the riddles, crack the... Read more

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Book selling has always been a riddle that few have solved.

Book selling has always been a riddle that few have solved.

I WRITE mysteries. I read mysteries.

I want to know what was done, who did it, why someone did it, and how it was done. Good mystery writers can always solve the riddles, crack the conspiracies, and wrap the whole story into a nice little package.

There is no mystery to writing a book.

But how do we sell the book?

That’s where today’s greatest mysteries lies.

I look over the publishing landscape daily, and the same questions keep popping up. So do the same answers.

What is good writing?

I don’t know.

What is a good book?

I have no idea.

What is a good story?

I don’t have a clue.

What makes a book sell?

I’m still in the dark.

The more I know, the less I know.

The less I know, the more I want to know.

And I guess that’s why I’m in the writing business.

I look around me, and all of life is a patchwork of riddles and enigmas and conundrums and scattered pieces that never quite fit together.

So why do I do it?

I love it.

And why do I love it?

I’ve always been fascinated by a good mystery.

And in today’s enigmatic world of digital publishing and social media marketing, the book business is the biggest mystery of all.

Do some writers solve it?

They do.

Do they know how they solved it?

No.

Some got lucky.

Some got a break.

Some got hot if only for a moment.

They would like to do it again.

But first, they have to know or figure out what they did right the first time.

And is the plan still workable?

Or did they have a plan?

Or, like a stargate, did book-selling success open abruptly and close just as suddenly?

And will it open again?

Or will it open for someone else?

And if so, who?

I don’t know.

I’d like to know.

But it’s all a mystery to me.

And the last page hasn’t yet been written.

Maybe I’ll find the elusive answer with Little Lies.

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Is life a do-it-yourself project? http://venturegalleries.com/blog/is-life-a-do-it-yourself-project/ http://venturegalleries.com/blog/is-life-a-do-it-yourself-project/#comments Thu, 04 Feb 2016 07:55:40 +0000 http://venturegalleries.com/?p=73116 Coping with winter when the snow starts falling, which is a yearly malady in Minnesota. Photo: MetLife. “It takes half your life before you discover life is a do-it-yourself project.” – Napoleon Hill “There are three ways to get something... Read more

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Coping with winter when the snow starts falling, which is a yearly malady in Minnesota. Photo: MetLife.

Coping with winter when the snow starts falling, which is a yearly malady in Minnesota. Photo: MetLife.

“It takes half your life before you discover life is a do-it-yourself project.” – Napoleon Hill

“There are three ways to get something done: do it yourself, hire someone, or forbid your kids to do it.” – Anonymous

“When you want a thing done, ‘Don’t do it yourself’ is a good motto for Scoutmasters.” – Sir Robert Baden-Powell

While I fully agree that life itself is a do-it-yourself (DIY) project, I have discovered during my tenure so far that virtually all other tasks are better off assigned to others.

My children, siblings, close friends and other recipients of my good-but-fractured intentions would stand in line to agree. Personal experience reinforces an observation that estimating completion time for DIY projects should use the equation of worst-case-scenario-for-anticipated-delays multiplied by four.

My dad accurately assessed my abilities early with the blunt observation, “Make a living with your head. You’ll starve to death using your hands.” Without dwelling on details of my failed attempts to prove him wrong, I shall only note that a bear cub extracting fly specks from black pepper demonstrated better dexterity.

Needless to say, I have not been, nor ever will be, a nominee for recognition by the Minnesota (or any other state/nation) Academy of Handypersons, as recognized by Howard Mohr in his book, “How to Talk Minnesotan.”

Stephen Lang

Stephen Lang

Even in the days – the 1980s, to be exact – when lack of funds and a heightened sense of urgency may have prompted a younger and more delusional me to risk long-term consequences from quick fixes, Mohr’s prized Golden Vise Grips hovered well above my abilities.

A decade later, son Zebulon used my aversion to DIYs and his mother’s subsequent overloaded schedule to earn at least one merit badge on his path to Eagle Scout.

“When I was in seventh or eighth grade, I thought about quitting (Scouts), because other stuff was taking up a lot of time, but then I saw I could earn the Star and Life awards before the end of middle school,” he recalled. “Once I did that, I decided to bust my butt to hit Eagle before I was too deep into high school.”

Zeb embarked on a “merit badge spree,” and when his parents learned that household tasks were on the list, he received ample parental encouragement.

“Yup, it was pretty much a gold mine for you and Mom,” he said. “The Scout manual listed about 100 common/uncommon tasks you could do without blowing up the house, and with Mom’s help, we circled 40 (required) things in no time.”

Every Saturday, several chores were completed, including replacing a leaky faucet, tightening door hinges, cleaning gutters, etc.

Although a devoted Scout, Zeb apparently acquired some of my not-so-efficient shortcuts, particularly in leaf raking.

“One of my jobs was raking leaves, a job I hated and subsequently put off until the last minute – that one remaining minute between the end of cross country season and the first snow,” he said.

Instead of raking, Zeb mowed, and amid the darkening skies, snow started falling. The mower had one loose wheel, poorly secured by yours truly to the axle by duct tape and wishful thinking.

“Then, I noticed I could reach down and tighten the wheel and still keep the mower running,” he said, but discovered a long reach does not always extend to the safety corridor of the brain’s central processing unit. Zeb’s fingers strayed too close to the blade.

“I felt a zip, heard a ‘whoof,’ looked down and saw that my glove was missing. Fortunately, the blade only nicked my fingers. I made a quick trip to the emergency room but was spared stitches, although I had to look at a green fingernail for a few weeks.”

Fortunate, indeed, as having all 10 fingers not only extends the limits of rudimentary counting, but enables double-thumbing the nose, truly useful during campaign seasons and legislative sessions.

In the midst of merit badge mania, my sister Mary paid us a visit, prompting an unexpected task that involved Scotch, replacing a window, and several jars of caulk.

“You woke me up that Saturday morning telling me that I needed to fix a broken window as the next step toward that merit badge,” Zeb laughed. “I said I had already finished the list, and you said, ‘Tough ****, let’s go to work.’”

Zeb recalled that directions emphasized that one jar of caulk was sufficient for one pane of glass. I argued that since the kitchen window pane had inexplicably fallen out of the frame and crashed into pieces, reinforced support – two more jars’ worth — was needed.

“You kept insisting that the window just fell out when you and Mary were sitting at the kitchen table, and Mom said, ‘Yeah, and I suppose that bottle of Scotch just emptied itself,’” he snorted. “I know everything in that house leaned a little at an angle, so anything was possible, but Mom didn’t buy it.”

Steve Lang quotes Red Green: “Be generous with the duct tape, you know; spare the duct tape, spoil the job.” (After all, it may have kept that Scotch bottle upright.)

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Story of the Praying Hands http://venturegalleries.com/blog/story-of-the-praying-hands/ http://venturegalleries.com/blog/story-of-the-praying-hands/#comments Thu, 04 Feb 2016 07:45:03 +0000 http://venturegalleries.com/?p=73111 BACK IN THE FIFTEENTH CFENTURY in a small village in Nuremberg, Germany, lived the Durer family with eighteen children. In order to provide for his large family, the father, a goldsmith, worked almost eighteen hours a day at his profession and... Read more

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praying_hands

BACK IN THE FIFTEENTH CFENTURY in a small village in Nuremberg, Germany, lived the Durer family with eighteen children. In order to provide for his large family, the father, a goldsmith, worked almost eighteen hours a day at his profession and even part-time at any other jobs he could find.

Despite the family’s seemingly hopeless condition, two of the sons – Albrect and Albert – had a dream: they wanted to pursue their talent for art. But they knew their father would never have the money to send them to the art academy in Nuremberg.

Bill Keith

Bill Keith

However, the two boys worked out a pact. They would toss a coin. The loser would go down into the nearby mines and, with his earnings, support his brother while he attended the academy. Then, when that brother who won the toss completed his studies, he could support the other brother at the academy, either with sales of his artwork or, if necessary, also by laboring in the mines.

They tossed the coin on a Sunday morning after church. Albrect won and went off to Nuremberg. Albert went down into the dangerous mines and worked to support his brother.

Albrect was almost an immediate sensation at school. His etchings, woodcuts and oils impressed his professors and, by the time he graduated, he was already earning considerable fees for his works.

When Albrect returned home, the Durer family celebrated his triumphant homecoming. During a festive meal, he stood and offered a toast to his beloved brother Albert for his years of sacrifice that enabled him to go to school. “And now, Albert, blessed brother of mine, now it is your turn. You can go to school and I will take care of you.”

However, everyone saw Albert weeping, tears streaming down his pale face. He shook his head and repeated over and over, “No, no, no.”

Finally, Albert rose and wiped tears from his cheeks. He glanced down the long table at the people he loved and, holding his hands close to his right cheek, said softly, “No brother. I cannot go to Nuremberg. It’s too late for me. Look at what four years in the mines have done to my hands. The bones in every finger have been broken at least once, and I have arthritis so badly in my right hand I cannot even hold a glass to return your toast, much less make delicate lines on parchment or canvas with a pen or brush. No brother, it’s too late for me.”

More than five hundred years have passed since the Durer family celebrated their son Albrect’s return home. And today, his hundreds of masterful portraits, pen and silver-point sketches, watercolors, and copper engravings hang in every great museum in the world. But you may be familiar with only one of his works and you may even have a reproduction hanging in your home or office.

One day, to pay homage to Albert for his great sacrifice, Albrect painstakingly drew his brother’s abused hands with palms together and thin fingers sketched skyward. He called his powerful drawing simply “Hands.” But the entire world almost immediately opened their hearts to this great masterpiece and renamed his tribute of love “The Praying Hands.”

The next time you see a copy of that touching creation, take a second look at it. Let it be your reminder that no one ever makes it alone!

Author Unknown

Bill Keith is the author of Whisper in the Wind.51CnAf+gNQL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_

 

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Thursday Sampler: Dizzy in Durango by D. R. Ransdell http://venturegalleries.com/blog/thursday-sampler-dizzy-in-durango-by-d-r-ransdell/ http://venturegalleries.com/blog/thursday-sampler-dizzy-in-durango-by-d-r-ransdell/#comments Thu, 04 Feb 2016 07:40:29 +0000 http://venturegalleries.com/?p=73105 In our mission to connect readers, writers, and books, Venture Galleries is showcasing some of the best authors in the marketplace today. Thursday’s Sampler features an excerpt from Dizzy in Durango, murder and mystery with a Latin beat from... Read more

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CF View 1 - Dizzy in Durango

In our mission to connect readers, writers, and books, Venture Galleries is showcasing some of the best authors in the marketplace today. Thursday’s Sampler features an excerpt from Dizzy in Durango, murder and mystery with a Latin beat from D. R. Ransdell.

As one reviewer said: With his personal and professional life in a mess, Andy Veracruz’s head is already spinning when he heads to Mexico and gets mixed up with a missing woman, missing children, and a mariachi fan who’s missing a few screws. Murder, mayhem, and mariachi music… how else would you expect to find Andy ‘Dizzy in Durango’?

The Story

In Andy Veracruz’s third adventure, the jobless musician travels to Durango, Mexico, to visit Rachel and her relatives. After a fellow traveler disappears, Andy can’t concentrate on vacationing.

When he tries to investigate, instead of finding one woman, he loses another! Before he can discover more about the women’s connection, he’s saddled with two children who aren’t his, an angry would-be girlfriend, and a self-appointed younger brother who is more reckless than he is.

No wonder he’s dizzy!

The Sampler

D. R. Ransdell

D. R. Ransdell

“A woman disappeared,” Rachel said. “So what?”

“I still have her bag.”

“Andy, you’re making a big deal out of nothing. Again.”

Rachel wasn’t even watching me. She was busy rolling tacos. We were sitting in the kitchen of her cousin’s taquería in Durango, Durango, Mexico, where everyone in town had decided to order crispy fried tacos at the same time. Since two of the employees had called in sick, Rachel was pitching in.

I wasn’t sure how to press my point. Maybe Rachel was right. Maybe it was nothing. But it didn’t feel like nothing. My stomach didn’t say it was nothing. My stomach was in knots.

It had been a rocky twenty-four hours since I’d headed south of the border to catch up with Rachel. She wasn’t exactly my girlfriend, but she was a fellow mariachi player and occasional lover. I hoped this would be one of those occasions, but she hadn’t appreciated my weeks of silence. By the time I’d shown up on her doorstep in Arizona, she was in Mexico visiting cousins.

I’d managed to get on a flight so that I could join her, but mechanical problems in Hermosillo delayed us so long that I’d missed my flight to Durango. Several other passengers were in the same predicament. Luckily Aeroméxico had comped us a decent hotel. I’d been lounging in the pool area anticipating a swim when a fellow passenger joined me on deck. Thanks to the woman’s spiky blond hair and dancing hazel eyes, I’d noticed her in the customer service line.

Claire was en route to Durango to visit a college friend who had taken a teaching job, but meanwhile we had time to flirt. We’d traded insinuations until her cell phone went off and she had to dig around in her bag for it. Before she answered, she nonchalantly asked if I’d watch her bag for a few minutes and strutted off wearing high heels, a red bikini made mostly of straps, and a towel. I watched every move.

She never came back. A day later, I was still trying to figure out what happened to her.

“Are you sure you heard that woman correctly?” Rachel asked.

“I’m a violinist. If there’s anything I trust, it’s my hearing.”

Rachel nodded, but she dismissed the story. The episode could have been featured on the cover of a gossip magazine: woman walks to a pool, leaves her bag, doesn’t return. Happens all the time.

Except that it didn’t happen all the time.

Rachel rolled another tortilla. “Why don’t you relax and forget the whole thing?”

On any other night, I could have done as Rachel suggested. Instead I couldn’t ignore my stomach. I had severe indigestion without having eaten.

“Three thousand dollars isn’t that much in the scheme of things,” Rachel said as she speared another set of tacos.

“Seems like a lot of money to me.”

“To me too. But not in the scheme of things.”

Rachel was referring to the contents of Claire’s bag. Inside I expected to find Claire’s boarding pass. The pass was there, but behind it was a stack of hundred-dollar bills.

She looked over and caught me staring into space. “When you travel, you’re bound to meet strange people who do things that don’t make sense. You should know that.”

“I’m just surprised that Claire never came back.”

I didn’t merely feel surprised; I felt edgy. Something was left unfinished, something I should have done or said. Or noticed.

“Andy, you have rotten luck with fellow travelers. I can’t figure out if you’re unlucky or nosy,” Rachel winked.

“I wouldn’t want Claire to think I stole the money,” I said. “Plus I have her driver’s license and a credit card.”

“You might as well keep them,” Meli said as she joined us. “She’s probably dead.”

“Dead?!”

“Don’t you read the newspapers? People disappear all the time these days.”

“You think she was kidnapped?”

Meli shrugged in a way that said “yes.”

“Wouldn’t kidnappers ask for a ransom?” I stammered.

“Around here they want attention,” Meli said. “Once in a while they go for the money.”

“They wouldn’t kidnap someone from an airport hotel, would they?”

Meli speared cabbage strips as if she were mad at them. “My ex-husband’s cousin-in-law got kidnapped from Home Depot in the middle of the afternoon. He was found dead a month later on the highway to the sierra. It’s hard to say.”

“I thought he was sleeping with the mayor’s wife,” Rachel said.

“Maybe. But it was never confirmed.”

“She can’t be dead,” I informed Meli. “Anyway, I can’t keep the money.”

“Give it to charity if you have a guilty conscience,” Meli laughed.

Rachel winked at me. “I know some good cat shelters in Tucson.”

“Charity?” asked a young man as he slid into the table’s extra chair. “I’m a good charity. No, a great one. You’ve got extra money? Donate it to me.” He was as dark as Meli but had more angular features. He wore glasses with a black frame and a frayed gray T-shirt that read “ardinals.” When he smiled all his teeth showed, which gave him a goofy look. I liked him immediately.

Meli playfully put her palm on the man’s forehead and pushed him away. “I never asked to have a younger brother!”

“Just trying to help.” He offered me his hand. “I’m Quique. You’re the guy that lost the woman?”

Quique, pronounced Key-Kay, was the usual Hispanic nickname for Enrique.

“Yes. Well, no. She wasn’t mine to lose.”

“Want to do me a favor? See, there’s this girl who thinks she’s my girlfriend, but she’s not. Think you could lose her for me?”

The man wouldn’t stop ribbing me until I promised to try. His mirth was contagious, and I needed every drop of it. I’d met a woman who vanished. Something was wrong with the whole scenario. I wouldn’t feel right again until I knew where she’d gone. And why.

 

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Where has love gone, and will it ever come back? http://venturegalleries.com/blog/where-has-love-gone-and-will-it-ever-come-back/ http://venturegalleries.com/blog/where-has-love-gone-and-will-it-ever-come-back/#comments Wed, 03 Feb 2016 08:40:47 +0000 http://venturegalleries.com/?p=73100 The old days of farming and solitude in Passaconaway Valley. I WAS A TRAVEL WRITER in those days and had wandered into the lovely and isolated Passaconaway Valley, almost hidden by the shadows of the always rugged and sometimes angry White... Read more

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The old days of farming and solitude in Passaconaway Valley.

The old days of farming and solitude in Passaconaway Valley.

I WAS A TRAVEL WRITER in those days and had wandered into the lovely and isolated Passaconaway Valley, almost hidden by the shadows of the always rugged and sometimes angry White Mountains of New Hampshire.

They rise above acres of farmland that cling to the shoreline of the Connecticut River. Up in the high country, the forests are thick, peaks make every effort to touch the sky, and more than a hundred waterfalls cascade over rocks and ledges toward the landscape far below.

Hovering above it all is Mount Washington, the highest peak in the Northeast. The summit is a feared and a dangerous place. The weather torments and batters the rock landscape without mercy. The land at the top of the world can be so cold in the dead of winter, and the winds attack it with the force of cyclones spun out of control.

Down below, it’s an emerald world.

Green.

And lush.

Peace resides in the valley.

Love wavered. It never left.

Davis was a child of the mountains. He had been raised amongst them and had never found a reason to drive away. He tried once. He didn’t go far. He looked at them in his rearview mirror. He sadly shook his head, turned the car around, and came back.

We drove into Passaconaway, and Davis parked in front of a little one-story home, weathered and scarred.

It was old. The years had not been kind.

“That’s where she lived,” he said.

“Who?”

“Ruth Colbath.”

I waited.

“They called her The Hermit Lady of Passaconaway Valley,” he said.

“When did she live here?” I wanted to know.

“Back in the late eighteen hundreds.”

“She live alone?”

“She did.”

Dave paused and stroked the stubble beard on his chin.”

“But she didn’t want to,” he said.

“What happened to her?”

“Bad times.”

He sadly shook his head. “A bad man.”

Dave shrugged. “Bad luck,” he said.

We walked toward the little house, and Dave continued his story. “Ruth’s daddy had a some money,” he said. “Amzi Russell was a lumberman, and he ran a little store. Traded mostly with the Indians. Ruth got herself a good education over at the Tiftonborough Academy. She could have gone anywhere and found a pretty decent job.”

“Did she?”

Dave shook his head.

“She came back to help daddy with the store,” he said.

He stopped in front of the door.

“Those were bad times,” he said.

He frowned. “She hooked up a bad man.”

Dave shrugged. “She had herself a run of bad luck.”

Here’s what he told me.

Ruth Colbath watched her neighbors all hitch up their wagon and ride out of the valley. They were tired of farming. The city was calling. Farmers were going broke. Most had already busted.

She looked up one day. And Ruth was the only one left, unless you count her husband, Thomas. She did. She was a woman in love. She was loyal. She would stay with Thomas through thick and thin.

Mostly it was thin.

Ruth Colbath's house always had a lantern burning in the window at night.

Ruth Colbath’s house always had a lantern burning in the window at night.

“One afternoon during the autumn of 1891,” Dave said, “Thomas stood up and looked out the window. He turned to Ruth and said, ‘I’m going out for a walk. I’ll be back in a little while.

“Ruth nodded. She cleared the table. She sat down and waited for Thomas to return. The day grew dark. The night grew late. Ruth walked over, lit a lantern, and placed it in the window. She smiled. It would make his journey home so much easier, much safer.”

A cloud blotted out the sun, but only for an instant.

Dave shrugged again. “Ruth never saw him again.”

“What happened to him?” I asked.

“Nobody knew,” Dave said. “If anybody did, no one said a thing.”

Dave pointed toward the end of the house.

“See that window?” he asked.

I did.

“Ruth placed a lantern in that window at night for the next thirty-nine years,” he said.

She waited.

She became a postmistress.

And she waited.

Her mother died.

She kept waiting.

The dark was never dark in Passaconaway Valley. A lantern kept the light shining.

As a reporter wrote: “No other woman leads such a lonely life during the bleak winter months as this dear old lady of solitude.”

He had crutches

And a cane.

Some nights she had to drag herself across the floor, but the lantern was always in the window. It was always burning.

“It was still burning the night she died,” Dave said.

“End of story?”

“Not quite.”

This time, I was the one who waited.

“Thomas came back three years later. No one expected him. Everybody thought he was dead. But he showed up looking for his wife.”

“Where had he gone?”

“Didn’t say.”

“What had he been doing?”

“Didn’t say anything about that either.”

Thomas came to say hello. Instead he said goodbye. Ruth was gone. So was Thomas. He had no reason to stay, Thomas said.

“He thought Ruth would wait for him,” Dave said.

“She did,” I said.

Dave shrugged. “Thomas saw it differently,” he said.

“How’s that?”

“She didn’t wait long enough.”

The winds were gentle in the valley. On top of Mount Washington, they were raging

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