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Wednesday, July 31, 2013

"Crystal, Why are ALL Your Book Reviews SO Nice?"

Yes, it's book reviews are more lemonade than lemons. For every 5 star review, trust me...there's a pile of books that didn't keep my interest, were poorly edited, or were just plain awful. The hard part is I was raised hearing my father say

"If you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all"

So - how exactly do I write a book review for a book that was awful? I guess I just sit down and do it and try to be as tactful and sensitive as possible. The problem is, I know these authors have poured their heart and soul into their would be like telling someone they have an ugly do you do that?

I've decided that I'm not going to write lengthy reviews that are negative and I am not going to attack the author personally (no brainer, right?) but I did grab a stack of books from my library and review them on Amazon and Goodreads tonight. Out of the fourteen books I reviewed, some were 5 stars but not worthy of a lengthy review, and then there were a few 1 stars in the have to believe me when I say it was painful to give "those bad grades"...

Thank you to the friend who reminded me that by only reviewing 5 star books I was ruining my own credibility - I hope that same friend is around when these authors start sending me hate

May your paths be abundantly filled with lemons, sugar, sunshine, and plenty of 5 star books to fill your bookshelves!

Friday, July 26, 2013

Book Review: Cracks in the Sidewalk by Bette Lee Crosby (review by Crystal J. Casavant-Otto)

Book Review: Cracks in the Sidewalk by Bette Lee Crosby

By Crystal J. Casavant-Otto

Cracks in the Sidewalk peaked my curiosity from the word go. As Claire explained her desire for a large family I found myself immediately drawn to her. As an only child myself, I completely understand the desire to surround one’s self with children and dreams of grandchildren. My heart broke when she received the news that she would only have one child. I could only imagine Claire’s incredible joy when she was blessed with three lovely grandchildren.
I actually stopped reading Cracks in the Sidewalk when Claire’s daughter began having troubles with her pregnancy. I am 31 weeks pregnant myself and the details of Crosby’s writing and how the characters feel so real just hit too close to home. I was able to put the book down but I still couldn’t put the characters out of my mind. It reminded me of a close friendship, you can go quite a long time without talking to someone but they are so embedded in your heart you can’t let them go. That’s how I felt about Claire and her family. I worked through the tears and went back to reading.

I feel like Claire is more than a character in a book; she feels more like a close friend or neighbor. I would describe her as one of the strongest women I know. I can’t imagine slowly losing your daughter and then losing your grandchildren as well. Her resilience is remarkable and her spirit is something that will stick in my mind forever.
Cracks in the Sidewalk is the third book I’ve read by Bette Lee Crosby and I must say she does a great job bringing out the spirit of each character. I finished the last chapter sobbing and I wasn’t sure if I was crying for joy or because my heart was broken. I do know I hold each character in my heart as if I had been part of the story. What a touching work by Crosby and I recommend this book to anyone who has ever loved or longed for a child.
Cracks in the Sidewalk can be found on Amazon

Product Details

  • File Size: 544 KB
  • Print Length: 333 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0983887926
  • Publisher: Bent Pine Publishing (August 21, 2011)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English

More About Bette Lee Crosby

Award-winning novelist Bette Lee Crosby brings the wit and wisdom of her Southern Mama to 
works of fiction—the result is a delightful blend of humor, mystery and romance along with a 
cast of quirky charters who will steal your heart away.

Crosby’s work was first recognized in 2006 when she received The National League of American 
Pen Women Award for a then unpublished manuscript. Since then, she has gone on to win 
several more awards, including another NLAPW award, three Royal Palm Literary Awards, and 
the FPA President’s Book Award Gold Medal.

Her published novels to date are: Cracks in the Sidewalk (2009), Spare Change (2011), The 
Twelfth Child (2012), Cupid’s Christmas (2012) and What Matters Most (2013). She has also 
authored “Life in the Land of IS” a memoir of Lani Deauville, a woman the Guinness Book of 
Records lists as the world’s longest living quadriplegic. 

Crosby originally studied art and began her career as a packaging designer. When asked to write 
a few lines of copy for the back of a pantyhose package, she discovered a love for words that 
was irrepressible. After years of writing for business, she turned to works of fiction and never 
looked back. “Storytelling is in my blood,” Crosby laughingly admits, “My mom was not a writer, 
but she was a captivating storyteller, so I find myself using bits and pieces of her voice in most 
everything I write.”

To learn more about Bette and her books, check out her website:

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Would You Like to Promote Another Author? Learn About Upcoming WOW! Blog Tours...

As you know - Crystal (that's me) is a Blog Tour Manager for WOW! Women on Writing. Here's what's going on with the tours this summer:

Want to host one of the WOW! touring authors?

WOW! Women On Writing Blog Excellence AwardUpcoming Author Tours: If you have a blog or website and would like to host one of our authors below, we are still accepting a few choice blogs to participate in our Partnership Program. 

Come and join the fun! Please e-mail us at and put "Blog Tour Partnership" in the subject line. Please tell us the author you are interested in and your available dates. We'll get back to you with the details if you are accepted. We look forward to hearing from you!

Content for your blog: All of our touring authors are available for interviews, or they will provide a guest post on a topic related to the writing process or their book.


A Southern Place 
Tour Dates: August 19, 2013 - September 18, 2013

Title: A Southern Place

Author: Elaine Drennon Little
Publisher: WiDo Publishing
Genre: Southern Fiction 
Synopsis: Mary Jane Hatcher--everyone calls her Mojo--is beat up bad. She's in the ICU of Phoebe Putney, the largest hospital in South Georgia, barely able to talk. How Mojo goes from being that skinny little girl in Nolan, a small forgotten town along the Flint River, to the young woman now fighting for her life, is where this story begins and ends.Mojo, her mama Delores and her Uncle Calvin Mullinax, like most folks in Nolan, have just tried to make the best of it. Of course, people aren't always what they seem, and Phil Foster--the handsome, spoiled son of the richest man in the county--is no exception.

As the story of the Mullinax family unfolds, Mojo discovers a family's legacy can be many things: a piece of earth, a familiar dwelling, a shared bond. And although she doesn't know why she feels such a bond with Phil Foster, it is there all the same, family or not. And she likes to think we all have us a fresh start. Like her mama always said, the past is all just water under the bridge. Mojo, after going to hell and back, finally comes to understand what that means.
Participate! Please e-mail Crystal at with your blog's URL and your available dates. We schedule 2-3 stops per week. You will receive a copy of the book! We look forward to hearing from you!

Beyond Belief
Tour Dates: August 26, 2013 - September 25, 2013

Title: Beyond Belief: The Secret Lives of Women in Extreme Religions

Authors: Susan Tive & Cami Ostman
Publisher: Seal Press
Genre: Anthology
Synopsis: Beyond Belief addresses what happens when women of extreme religions decide to walk away. Editors Susan Tive (a former Orthodox Jew) and Cami Ostman (a de-converted fundamentalist born-again Christian) have compiled a collection of powerful personal stories written by women of varying ages, races, and religious backgrounds who share one commonality: they've all experienced and rejected extreme religions.

Covering a wide range of religious communities--including Evangelical, Catholic, Jewish, Mormon, Muslim, Calvinist, Moonie, and Jehovah's Witness--and containing contributions from authors like Julia Scheeres (Jesus Land), the stories in Beyond Belief reveal how these women became involved, what their lives were like, and why they came to the decision to eventually abandon their faiths. The authors shed a bright light on the rigid expectations and misogyny so often built into religious orthodoxy, yet they also explain the lure--why so many women are attracted to these lifestyles, what they find that's beautiful about living a religious life, and why leaving can be not only very difficult but also bittersweet.
Participate! Please email Crystal at with your blog's URL and your available dates. We schedule 2-3 stops per week. You will receive a copy of the book! We look forward to hearing from you!

Loving the Missing Link 
Tour Dates: September 9, 2013 - October 10, 2013

Title: Loving the Missing Link

Author: Julia Asel Thomas
Genre: Romance/Coming of Age
Synopsis: Loving the Missing Link is a fabulous tale about love, success, hope and music. 

During the 1970s, young Cheryl Simpson feels trapped in her small Missouri town. As her mother tries to help her find a way up and out, Cheryl begins to feel that it is all an impossible dream. She sees herself living a boring and dismal life for the rest of her days. Just at the moment when she is about to give up on happiness, she gets the opportunity to join her high school band. The band promises a connection with the world outside her town, but Cheryl does not see any future for herself in music. It is just a tool to get where she wants to go. However, Cheryl's mother arranges for Cheryl to take private lessons with an accomplished musician, who helps her realize the beauty and awesome power of music. 

Still, Cheryl feels that small-town inferiority and finds it too hard to believe that she could ever be anyone special out in the "real" world. On the eve of a music contest that could help her earn a music scholarship, Cheryl begins to panic. Scared and feeling alone, Cheryl runs off with her high school sweetheart and gets married, leaving the band behind. 

During the next years, Cheryl and her husband make a life for themselves. Cheryl meets friends along the way who help guide her to becoming the woman she wants to be. She becomes interested in the arts again. All the while, Cheryl and husband Jerry face the challenges of homelessness, miscarriage and an extra-marital affair before an unexpected disaster brings Cheryl's life crashing to the ground. Cheryl survives with the help of her extraordinary friends and her life-long love for music.
Participate! Please e-mail Crystal at with your blog's URL and your available dates. We schedule 2-3 stops per week. You will receive a copy of the book!  We look forward to hearing from you!

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Life is Precious

The picture on the left was taken the day I brought my daughter home from the hospital. This picture hangs in our living room (and has for the last 6+ years) as a reminder of how small and precious she still is. It's our job as parents to point her in the right direction, remind her that she is beautiful smart and funny, and surround her with love.

Sometimes I wonder if I'm too hard on the children. Am I too hard on them? Too hard on myself? Do I expect too much from others? I have plenty of these sorts of questions and not many answers. What I do know is this: once someone is gone it's too late to handle them with care and lavish them with love. Tonight I'm reeling from a phone call I received telling me someone had hung themselves but I'm not necessarily talking about absence by death. Once my children are in college, it's a little difficult to hold them on my lap and baking them some banana bread doesn't have quite the same effect as making it together while laughing and doubling the amount of chocolate chips we add to the recipe.

There are days I chase the children up to bed and sigh thinking "finally a few moments to myself" but you know what? In a few short years I am going to have so many moments to myself that I'm going to cry myself to sleep wishing my house was filled with laughter, arguing, and the sound of children running up and down the stairs. I'm not going to give anyone advice on how to parent or what kind of friend to be. All I can say is tonight I'm left asking myself "why didn't I offer my friend a hug last time I saw him? had I known it was the last time I'd see him, I would have..." and "why didn't he feel loved enough to stick around to see how this life played out?" and "what can I do to make sure I'm never in the position his mother is in right now?"

Lots of questions and not many answers - lots of admiration for those who have gone through heartache, lived in abusive homes, overcome difficult childhoods, fought through depression, and are still around to go out for coffee with their friends. On that note - if you know of someone who is at risk for suicide, please know there is a resource - someone with more answers than questions:

I'm headed to bed and on the way I'm going to hug my babies a little tighter, pull those blankets up and tuck them under their chins, and then tell my husband how much I love him and that I am thankful God brought us together.

I'm thankful for each of you too - thanks for reading, leaving notes, and letting me know that you care. I hope you know I care about you too. May your paths be abundantly filled with lemons, sugar, sunshine, and phone calls filled with laughter instead of tears.

Love and Hugs,

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Guest Blogger Donald Dempsey Writes: "HOMECOMING"

Before we begin, I want to introduce you to my friend Donald Dempsey. Don is an inspirational individual who is a lemonade maker in my book. Life has thrown more lemons at Don than you and I can even imagine and yet he has taken each one and added some sugar and laughter and turned those bitter lemons into the biggest, sweetest, most refreshing pitcher of lemonade! It has been my honor and privilege to work with Don as he releases his memoir, Betty's Child. There were chapters that were downright painful to read and I cannot believe that someone lived through such abuse and neglect and has become a funny, caring, and wonderful person. Since today is my birthday and this is my blog - I get to do anything I like, and I have a special treat for YOU (in this order):

Guest Post by Donald Dempsey Titled "Homecoming"

Rafflecopter Giveaway of Betty's Child (#BCDempsey) by Donald Dempsey -

Photo of Donald and His Biography Information

Summary of Betty's Child and Book Cover

Book Review of Betty's Child by Crystal J. Casavant-Otto

ENJOY!!!!! (and please comment with your thoughts and ideas)

Guest Post by Donald Dempsey

Homecomings really suck when you’re prone to bouts of melancholy.  Some of my fellow Marines had family waiting for them in Pearl Harbor, but most of those had been officers, or a few enlisted guys willing to break the bank just to get their eager paws on wives or girlfriends.  Many more had loved ones waiting for them at the docks in San Diego.  I tried to feel good for them as they rushed to embrace, attempting to ignore the gnawing in my gut.  I was ashamed of my jealousy and went back below decks for a few hours, allowing the crowd time to disperse before disembarking. 
But just about everyone had friends and family waiting for them when our C-130’s dumped us on the runways back home at Cherry Point, NC.  There were tears and hugs.  Guys swooped up their wives and spun them around.  Sobs were barely choked back as gruff Jarheads melted and scooped up toddlers and scampering young children.  A screaming wife jolted a Corporal near me right off his feet.  They just kept kissing one another atop his duffel bag as if they were alone in a hotel room instead of sprawled out on a crowded runway. 
There were more people here than I’d expected.  I noticed a lot of parents.  The larger crowd was probably due to the unexpected suicide barracks bombing.  We’d just returned from Beirut, Lebanon.  It was 1983.  The deaths of so many of our fellow Marines had affected us profoundly.  Some guy’s mother wrapped him in a bear hug, sobbing and shaking as she held him.  I could see that we hadn’t been the only ones affected as I stepped around the relieved parents.      
By the time I was back in the barracks my depression was hanging over me like a shroud.  I felt so alone.  I threw the bags I’d been lugging into my empty wall locker and contemplated my evening.  Sleep was out of the question.  Retrieving the rest of my gear meant crossing the tarmac and runway again, negotiating the laughter and smiles and happiness.  I decided to go pick up my mail instead, since my post office box was in the opposite direction of the revelers. 
Once outside I wished I’d dug out a jacket.  November wasn’t November in Hawaii or California.  I decided I could stand it for such a short distance and pushed on.  There wasn’t as much mail waiting for me as I’d thought there would be.  Seven months was a long time.  I’d had any letters forwarded, and paid my few bills in advance, so most of what I dug through was junk mail.  But one bill was repeated five times, and two of them were stamped final notice before sale.  These caught my immediate attention.
Two hours later I was driving a borrowed jeep well over the speed limit as I raced toward Columbus, Ohio.  I drove on through the night, stopping only for gas and junk food, my thoughts racing, contemplating what could have gone wrong.  That my mother would be involved in my undoing was a surety.  I just couldn’t figure out how she’d stuck it to me this time.  I’d paid for everything in advance just to make sure nothing could go wrong.  And still, something had.      
Memories bombarded me as I parted the night.  Try as I might I couldn’t ward them off.  My mother was nothing like the woman I’d just witnessed shedding tears for the safe return of her child.  She had left us with relatives and strangers so often my brothers and I had actually spent more time not with her than with her, especially when she was incarcerated.  But she’d managed to do a lot of damage when she did have us, dragging in sordid men, most of them drunks and substance abusers, some outright pedophiles.  My childhood had been tougher than my current stint overseas.  For some reason that just left me even more depressed.
As the sun broke I roused myself.  I’d been parked near the gate to the storage facility.  I watched an older man in overalls and a thick jacket roll back the iron bars of the gate as I stepped out of the jeep, my mouth full of chalk as I yawned.  Pulling my field jacket closed, I trotted across the street and followed him into the office as he unlocked the door.  Inside, he stepped behind a small counter and tilted his frayed John Deere hat back as he eyed me.
“You in a hurry, young fella?” he asked frankly.
I smiled slightly and nodded.  “Yes, sir, I guess I am.”  I held out the most recent bill I had.  “I’m hoping you haven’t sold anything out of this yet.  I’d like to settle up and get my stuff out.”
“You Army or Marine?” he asked as he took my bill and pulled some reading glasses out of his pocket.
He nodded and handed me back the piece of paper.  “Sorry, son, I can’t help you.”  He shook his head.  “That lot’s been sold.  We had an auction week before last.”
I didn’t understand.  “What do you mean?  I was here in May.  I helped my mother store some stuff and paid eight months in advance.  There was a nice lady here.  She had a Shepard with her and she was surprised he let me pet him.  I think the Dog’s name was Zeus.”
He peered at me over his glasses and then pulled a thick book out from behind his counter.  “My wife,” he mumbled as he rifled through the pages.  “And my dog,” he added.  He finally found what he was looking for.  He jabbed a page accusingly and said, “I remember her.  Your mother came in last July.  Some fella with her hauled away some furniture and she wanted a smaller unit for what was left.  She also demanded all the extra deposit money.  Said she would make the payments instead.”
There was a plastic chair behind me.  I collapsed into it.  “She didn’t make any payments, did she?” I asked needlessly.
“Not a one,” he admitted.  “We’re allowed to auction after 90 days.  That’s right in the contract.  We actually waited over 120 this time.”
I put my head in my hands and rubbed at my eyes.  “I was overseas,” I mumbled.
After a long pause he finally said, “I’m sorry, son.  Her name was on the contract.  We had to give her the money.”
I looked up at him.  “Is there anything left?  Maybe we could check and I could pay the balance?”
He actually looked ashamed.  “Son, the people who buy our stuff operate flea markets all over the Midwest.  They’ll buy old underwear and paint over the skid marks.  I remember this lot.  There were crates of baseball cards and a bunch of art work.”
I felt sick.  “Someone actually bought my art work?”  He just nodded.  “You wouldn’t remember who?”
He shook his head.  “I’m sorry, son,” he repeated.  “I remember it though.  A lot of animal stuff.”  He swallowed and removed his glasses.  “You’re real good.”
I tried to give him a smile as I rose, but there wasn’t one inside me.  All the old pain was roiling around, threatening to explode.  I had to get out of here.  I just nodded and left.  He said something as I opened the door but the deafening roar in my ears drowned out his words.  I don’t remember getting behind the wheel of the jeep.  Don’t remember driving.  I didn’t plan anything.  I couldn’t think rationally.
But somehow I wound up on a track.  I ran cross country in high school.  I liked to go to the track late at night.  I would start in lane one and run a lap, then switch to lane two.  I’d keep switching lanes all the way to six, run six again and work my way back down to one.  I normally stopped after completing twelve laps in such a fashion.  I dropped my field jacket and began running without really thinking about it, just trying to concentrate on the next lap, telling myself to keep going and I’d be okay.
All I could think of were the hours I’d spent laboring over my art.  I’d won competitions in high school.  My stuff had been on exhibit at the gallery over in Philly more than once.  How many nights had I stayed up working on that stuff to keep my mind off the darker thoughts?  All the pen and inks, the charcoal works, pad after pad of pencil sketches, gone.  It was as if someone had reached inside me and torn out some organ I had to have in order to live. 
I realized how ragged my breathing was.  The plumes of steam were erratic and irregular.  I felt like I was staggering more than running.  My grunts sounded like choked back sobs.  I didn’t want to cry.  Concentrating on the next lap, I did my best to control my surging lungs and pushed on.  As cold as it was, I wasn’t sweating much, but my jeans swished and weighed me down a bit.  I tried to quiet my feet and keep moving forward.
I’d collected those baseball cards all my childhood.  Swapped them with friends in the many various places I’d lived.  I’d had few constants in my life.  But those cards and the players I’d idolized had always been there for me.  How many hours?  I’d traded so many good cards to put together complete sets of 1975 and 1976 Cincinnati Reds.  I’d even gotten many of them signed during YMCA trips to games they scheduled for us underprivileged kids.  While my idiot friends had ran the bases I’d wrangled signatures out of Bench, Morgan, and even Rose.  Losing the possessions you prize above all else was proving too much to bear.
I don’t think I finished that set.  I remember sitting in the jeep, my face shoved into my field jacket as I screamed and growled and cried.  Thinking back, I’m not exactly sure what those tears were shed for.  The art work?  The baseball cards?  The torment of a childhood I couldn’t seem to escape?  The stress of Beirut and the guys we’d left behind?  I’m not sure.  Maybe it was nothing more than my mother had won again.  I was hurting and she was off doing what she did best, taking care of herself. 
By the time I was back at Cherry Point I’d put myself back together, at least as together as I ever was back then.  I would never talk about the art work or the cards.  Marines can be a might insensitive when it comes to crying, or admitting pain.  It wasn’t the first time my mother or some man she was running with had knocked me to my knees.  It also wouldn’t be the last time.  And my younger brothers were still with her.  I had to do something to help them.  I promised myself I would.
Now, so many years later, I’ve come to terms with most of those old emotions.  I’ve learned what I can dwell on and what I can’t.  My mother doesn’t win anymore.  I still think about those baseball cards.  I still wish I had all my old art work.  They’re pieces of myself I lost and can never get back, but they were only things.  Learning to cope with pain and loss made me who I am today.  It was necessary.
And you can find me at the track a few times a week, running one to six, and six back to one.     

About the Author:
Don Dempsey with son, Gavin
Don Dempsey experienced childhood abuse and neglect first hand, but went on to have a fulfilling family life as an adult and to own his own business. "If you're lucky, you make it to adulthood in one piece," says Don. "But there's no guarantee the rest of your life is going to be any better. Abused kids are often plagued by fear and insecurity. They battle depression and have trouble with relationships. In the worst cases, abused children perpetuate the cycle." But Don is living proof that you can overcome a childhood of abuse and neglect. "You start by letting go of as much of the guilt (yes, abused kids feel guilty) and as many of the bad memories as possible. At the same time, you hold on to the things that helped you survive. For me, it was the belief that you can make life better by working at it and earning it. It helps to have a sense of humor, too."

Find out more about the author by visiting him online:

Betty's Child website:

Donald Dempsey

About the Memoir:

In the tradition of Frank McCourt and Angela's Ashes, Don Dempsey uses Betty's Child to tell the story of life with a cruel and neglectful mother, his mother's abusive boyfriends, a dangerous local thug who wants twelve-year-old Donny to burglarize homes and deal drugs, and hypocritical church leaders who want to save young Donny's soul but ignore threats to his physical well-being. In a world where it’s "fight or flight" at every turn, Donny uses his street smarts and sense of humor to guide him. He usually makes the right choice, but whenever he makes a wrong move, he pays the price. Some of his experiences will make you recoil in horror, but you'll want to keep reading because Dempsey manages to maintain a sense of humor while sharing the gritty details of his story. In the end, Donny does everything he can to take care of himself and his younger brothers, but with each new development, the present becomes more fraught with peril—and the future more uncertain.

"Heartrending and humorous. In scene after vivid scene, Dempsey presents his inspiring true story with accomplished style. Dempsey's discipline as a writer lends the real-life tale the feel of a fictional page-turner." ~ Kirkus

Paperback: 438 pages

Publisher: Dream of Things (March 26, 2013)

ISBN: 0988439018

ISBN-13: 978-0988439016

Twitter hashtag: #BCDempsey

Betty's Child is available at Amazon.

Crystal's Book Review:
I feel strongly that even someone with a difficult background can change their path. Often times it's difficult and takes the help of someone who cares, but I've just never bought into the victim mentality of "I was abused so I'm going to be an abuser when I grow up". Maybe that's what drew me to Donald Dempsey's memoir Betty's Child. I'm not going to lie; some parts were difficult to read. As a parent I hug my children tighter after reading Dempsey's story of a neglectful childhood with a cruel mother. I became so absorbed in his story that I would have crawled right into the book if I could have; I just wanted to hold that little boy and tell him that I loved him.

Dempsey's sense of humor really pushed me through the tough chapters. I'm sure that same sense of humor is what got him through those tough years. I would recommend this book to others because it really is a testament to where you can go in life if you put your mind to it and put a little laughter into things. Dempsey has a good family life and a successful career. Things could very easily have turned out much differently for him. It's great that he can share his story with others. Betty's Child is very inspirational and a book I will keep on my shelf to read again and share with others.

May your paths be abundantly filled with lemons, sugar, sunshine, and so much laughter that your sides hurt!

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Family Dynamics and My Promise to Myself

My mom makes me crazy! The only thing we've agreed on in my 36 years on this planet is we will never agree. As a child I would imagine that I had been adopted ... but I was so in love with my dad that I would dream up a scenario where he had an affair and I was only sort of adopted. I hoped my dad was my dad but that my mom had been some sandal wearing musician. Alas, my mom is my mom. She definitely drives me crazy, but I also love her in a way only a daughter can. I am protective of her, I am proud of her, and don't tell her this ... but I think she's one of the toughest ladies I know. She's the reason I'm stubborn, but she's also the reason I'm confident, musical, and positive.

Family dynamics such as this are hard to wrap our heads around. How can you love someone and yet being in the same room raises your blood pressure to near dangerous levels? Why is it that my best friend in second grade could beat up on her brother but when I kicked him in the shin she stopped talking to me for weeks? It hardly seems fair and quite frankly, it's not. Families love one another in ways that are indescribable. We forgive, we love, we laugh, we fight, and just when we think we've got it all figured out there's that curve ball that throws us completely off course.

Just yesterday evening my mom was involved in a car accident. She is at home healing and though her vehicle is totaled, her body will heal. This reminder was just what I needed. Life is fragile, relationships are fragile, and instead of focusing on what she does that makes me crazy, I should focus on the many many many things she does right. She will drop everything to help out with her grandchildren, she is a good friend and neighbor, and I know she loves me in the way only a mother can.

I make this promise to myself right here and now:

When I feel like throwing my hands in the air or rolling my eyes I will take a deep breath and remember that each frustrating moment is a gift.

now for you dear reader, I leave you with this:

May your paths be abundantly filled with lemons, sugar, sunshine, and family!

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Book Review & Give Away - Trisha Slay's Not So Long Ago, Not So Far Away #NSLASlay

Not So Long Ago, Not So Far Away
Book by Trisha Slay
Review by Crystal J. Casavant-Otto

I don’t remember watching Star Wars and I was born two months after it was released in theaters, but novelist Trisha Slay made me feel as if I had been there in the theater taking in each frame of the film. Slay’s novelNot So Long Ago, Not So FarAway was so well written that I imagined myself a troubled teenager, coming of age and being transformed during the summer months of 1977.

Erika (the lead character) is the reason I loved this book, because she is every teenager girl; awkward in her own skin and unsure of herself. Not only does she struggle for acceptance, but struggles will self-doubt. Erika doesn’t see what the rest of the town sees which makes her character so real.

Erika had been the chunky side-kick to her teen beauty queen best friend, Cassie. When Cassandra disappeared, all the attention moved to Erika who had been plotting Cassie’s escape. Each question made Erika question whether she had really known Cassie at all. Erika even had her own doubts; she wondered if Cassie had arrived safely in Hollywood to live out her dream.

The summer was dragging on for Erika, with no word from Cassie. Erika would write letters to her friend. Letters she never intended to mail, but letters that helped her feel less alone, less like an outcast. Erika felt totally misunderstood and completely alone – that was until Star Wars was released. The movie and her summer cleaning at the Bixby Theater made all the difference in the world to Erika.

Not So Long Ago, Not So Far Away is filled with interesting characters and even though the majority of the novel takes place at the Bixby Theater, Slay paints a lovely picture of the world surrounding Erika. The Bixby may be crumbling, but it is a lovely historical theater filled with plenty of rooms to explore.

Sonny and Jeff are fascinating characters, but the most intriguing character in the book may be the missing teenage beauty queen Cassie. I couldn’t decide if I loved her, felt sorry for her, or hated the way she seemed to leave her supposed best friend in her shadow.
Even though the story took place before I was born, you get the idea that parts of it happen every day in schools across the nation.

If you want to find out how Erika’s life was transformed, you’ll have to read Not So Long Ago, Not So Far Away for yourself. I’m hoping Slay is working on a sequel because I can’t get enough of these characters and I want to know what happens next. I would definitely recommend this book to others; I give it two thumbs up!

To order your copy (or pre-order if you are reading this before May 21st), click here:

Thank you to Trisha Slay who I have had the pleasure of working with. I love the opportunity to work with fabulous authors and it's so exciting to read great novels before they are released for the world to fall in love with. 

To win a copy of Not So Long Ago, Not So Far Away, complete the Rafflecopter information below! Good luck!!

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About the Author:

Trisha Slay is a writer with a passion for storytelling. She has studied at the Institute of Children's Literature as well as furthering her skills through online workshops. She is a member of the Society of Children's Book Writers & Illustrators and the Atlanta Writer's Club. She enjoys participating in writing groups and spends a great deal of time improving her craft. Not So Long Ago, Not So Far Away is her first novel.

Tricia hopes Not So Long Ago, Not So Far Away would be compared to Looking for Alaska by John Green and The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky. She has said that "If those two books had a Star Wars-obsessed little sister, I'd like to think she would be my novel."

Tricia lives between the Atlanta metro area and the North Georgia Mountains, but hails originally from the way of the San Francisco Bay area. When she is not working on her next book (tentatively titled Sometimes We Strike Back), her interests include: 70s pop culture; unsolved mysteries; Star Wars (original trilogy); historic movie theaters; haunted history; reading (especially YA novels); nutrition/weight watchers/healthy vegetarian cuisine; hiking (exploring the National Forest trails with her guy); yoga/meditation; miscellaneous crafting projects (that rarely turn out as envisioned); and writing letters she never intends to mail.

Find out more about the author by visiting her online:

Trisha’s website:


Twitter: @SlaytheWriter

When Erika helps her best friend, teen beauty queen Cassie Abbott, escape their “Nowhere, Ohio” town, she promises to keep all of their secrets safe, but then the days stretch into weeks with no word from Cassie. Worse, the sheriff’s investigation into Cassie’s disappearance is making Erika doubt she ever really knew Cassie at all. Under the weight of scrutiny and confusion, Erika struggles just to breathe . . . until a new movie called Star Wars transforms her summer with a new hope.

For Erika, Star Wars changes everything! She volunteers to do chores for a local theater owner just to gain unlimited access to a galaxy far, far away from her current reality. At the Bixby Theater—a beautiful but crumbling movie palace from a more civilized era—Erika discovers new friendships, feels the crush of first love and starts an exciting new romance with Super 8 film making. But she can’t hide in a darkened movie theater forever.

Eventually, Erika must step out of the shadows and, armed with her Super 8 camera and the lessons she’s learned from Star Wars, she’ll have to fight to save herself and the theater that has become her home.

Paperback: 316 pages

Publisher: Deeds Publishing (May 21, 2013)

ISBN-13: 978-1-937565-58-9

Twitter hashtag: #NSLASlay

Not So Long Ago, Not So Far Away is available as a print and e-book at Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

Friday, July 12, 2013

It's All About The Party - Virtual Book Launch Party That Is

If you know me at all, you know I love a good party! Now - virtual parties aren't quite as much fun as the real deal because hugging is so...well...awkward and impossible? right?

I have had the recent pleasure of meeting the acquaintance of a lovely woman name Julia. Julia has quickly become my friend as we are kindred spirits with our love of music, reading, and writing. We also have come to find out that both of us are bassoon players (although one of us was awful and I refuse to say which that was).

If you are interested in meeting Julia for yourself, I'd encourage you to "like" her on Facebook where she will soon be inviting you to a virtual book launch party for her very first book: Loving the Missing Link. But wait, I'm getting ahead of myself.

Let me start at the beginning by telling you about Julia:

About Julia Asel Thomas:
Julia Asel Thomas writes stories with vivid descriptions, authentic dialogue and revealing narration. Her debut book, Loving the Missing Link, presents the engrossing and moving story of a young, small town girl who grows up, lives and loves while trying to find a balance between despair and hope.

Like the protagonist in her debut book, Loving the Missing Link, Julia Asel Thomas knows small town life. However, Julia’s experiences were quite different than Cheryl’s. Julia is the middle child of seven children and the daughter of a church organist and a business manager. Growing up in the small town of Hamilton, Missouri, Julia’s family enjoyed a reputation as a bright and interesting family. Julia thrived on the quiet and carefree life she lived in that gentle place.
When Julia was in high school, she earned a scholarship for a trip to Cali, Colombia as a foreign exchange student. The experience, although it only lasted a few brief months, had a profound influence on the rest of her life. After her time abroad, Julia realized in a very real way that, although customs may differ from culture to culture, the substance of human emotions is constant. We all need love. We all need to feel secure. We all have happy moments and sad moments. Back from Colombia, Julia become ever more interested in capturing these human emotions through music and writing.

After high school, Julia took a break before going on to college. During this time, she married her husband, Will. Will joined the Air Force, and Julia accompanied him to bases around the country, taking college classes in each town where they resided. Their two children were born in Las Vegas, Nevada, while Will was stationed at Nellis Air Force Base. Married in 1976, Julia and Will are thrilled to celebrate each new anniversary and look forward to staying together for life.
Julia began writing fiction at the age of ten, when her 5th grade teacher gave her the assignment to write about “My Worst Day.” Julia took the opportunity to concoct every possible disaster a young child could face during the course of a normal day. The teacher loved her work and asked her to read it to the class. From then on, Julia wanted nothing more than to be a writer.

In 2007, Julia began earning her living by writing articles, press releases and website content for a number of clients. As she settled into a routine of working every day on her writing, the old urge to write fiction resurfaced. In 2012, Julia started with a story she had written in 1985 and continued it to create the story in Loving the Missing Link.

Find out more about Julia by visiting her online:

and now...drum roll please...the information we've all been waiting for - Julia's very first published book:

Loving the Missing Link is a fabulous tale about love, success, hope and music. During the 1970's. Young Cheryl Simpson feels trapped in her small Missouri town. As her mother tries to help her find a way up and out, Cheryl begins to feel that it is all an impossible dream. She sees herself living a boring and dismal life for the rest of her days. Just at the moment when she is about to give up on happiness, she gets the opportunity to join her high school band. The band promises a connection with the world outside her town, but Cheryl does not see any future for herself in music. It is just a tool to get where she wants to go. However, Cheryl’s mother arranges for Cheryl to take private lessons with an accomplished musician, who helps her realize the beauty and awesome power of music.
Still, Cheryl feels that small-town inferiority and finds it too hard to believe that she could ever be anyone special out in the “real” world. On the eve of a music contest that could help her earn a music scholarship, Cheryl begins to panic. Scared and feeling alone, Cheryl runs off with her high school sweetheart and gets married, leaving the band behind.
During the next years, Cheryl and her husband make a life for themselves. Cheryl meets friends along the way who help guide her to becoming the woman she wants to be. She becomes interested in the arts again. All the while, Cheryl and husband Jerry face the challenges of homelessness, miscarriage and an extra-marital affair before an unexpected disaster brings Cheryl’s life crashing to the ground. Cheryl survives, with the help of her extraordinary friends and her life-long love for music.

Paperback:  190 Pages

Publisher:    CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform (self-published)         Publishing (August 6, 2013)

ISBN-10:  ISBN10: 1480106240

Twitter hashtag: #LMLThomas

Loving the Missing Link is available as a print and e- book at 

The plan is to host a virtual book launch party via Facebook right after my birthday!!! (this means in a few weeks folks - we are thinking July 26th ish?) So please take a moment to 'like' Julia's Author page  ( be sure you receive your invite. This invite will ensure you deals, insider information, insight, and likely the chance at a book giveaway or two! And here's the link to the event:

May your paths be abundantly filled with lemons, sugar, sunshine, and lots of parties (virtual and physical)!!