Essays, general essay

Best Cover Contest – Time to Pick a Book Cover

Update: We have a new contender… Anne Fine, a long-time friend of mine, did some noodling around on her own and submitted a whole new cover. Would love your thoughts on it, as well. See below.

One thing every author wants for his or her new book is the best cover possible. One that customers will see and decide they must buy this wonderful new story, because people really do judge a book by its cover.

So I’m doing a little crowdsourcing here. The sequel to my mystery novel Fascinating Rhythm is getting close to being ready for release. I’m hoping all the ducks will be in a row for this summer. But part of that is getting the best cover for the book.

It’s called Bring Into Bondage, and my heroes Freddie and Kathy rush out to Hays, Kansas, and the farm belonging to Kathy’s parents during the summer of 1925. The farm is under attack by mysterious vandals, so Freddie and Kathy decide to stay and find out what’s going on. Trying to stay ahead of vandals who don’t seem worried about killing Kathy and her family is scary enough. But Freddie and Kathy may be in more trouble when Pa Briscow gets the shotgun out.

I’ve got three mock ups below and I’d like you to pick the best cover and tell me why you like it. To make things even more sporting, if you reply in the comments, you’ll be entered in a contest to win a small, but reasonably cool prize: a t-shirt with the winning cover emblazoned on the front, some lovely Robin Goodfellow handcrafted soap, and copies of Fascinating Rhythm and Bring Into Bondage (well, the Advance Review Copy). The final cover will be fixed up (with the help of somebody who actually knows what she’s doing), so it may not actually look like what you picked, but it should be in the ballpark.

Best Cover Contest Rules

Well, such as they are. One entry per person, because I don’t need you to pick all three covers. Relatives are okay, mostly because you’re the ones I can count on to actually enter. The winner will be drawn at random and gets to pick style and size of said t-shirt from the options I’ll provide. Please make sure you’re putting the right number on the cover, since they aren’t shown in numerical order.

BIB_Cover1, best cover, book cover

Cover #1

BIB_Cover2, best cover, book cover

Cover #2



BIB_Cover3, best cover, book cover

Cover #3

Cover #4

Cover #4

Essays, general essay

I’m Prolife and I’m Voting for Hillary Clinton in 2016

I usually hate associating myself with the Prolife Movement, mostly because the people in it largely seem to be a bunch of self-righteous jerks. Not everyone, mind you, but the most vocal folks certainly are. The problem is, I do have a little issue with abortion – mostly the part about when life begins. I recognize that not everybody shares my belief about life beginning at conception, nor am I interested in judging anybody who has had an abortion. (If you have had and abortion, I’d love to talk to you about it just so I can better my understanding and hopefully build some bridges instead of walls.) But my stand on abortion is exactly why I’m voting for Hillary Clinton this year – she will do more to end the practice than all of the so-called Prolife candidates together.

You see, the problem with the Prolife movement is that they focus on trying to make abortion illegal, which is completely counter-productive to their stated aim of ending the practice. Making abortion illegal isn’t going to stop squat. It may even encourage the practice, with the added fallout of countless young women dying from botched procedures.

What will end abortion is education, child care services, birth control and increased government spending on those things to both prevent crisis pregnancies and make it easier for a woman to keep her baby. Yet the very same politicians who are so rabidly insistent that we make abortion illegal are the very ones who refuse to vote in spending on those things that will help the babies they’re so insistent they’re saving. Where does any of that make sense?

The real Prolife candidate

On the other hand, Hillary Clinton does support all those things. Yes, she supports abortion rights. So what? Her policies make it easier to prevent crisis pregnancies and will make it easier for women to keep their babies. Will some women still choose to terminate their pregnancies? Probably. But making abortion illegal isn’t going to change that. Providing services to both prevent crisis pregnancies and make it easier for women to keep their babies will certainly stop more abortions than not.

And, yes, I’m aware that Bernie Sanders also supports those things, but he does not have the breadth of experience Clinton does. Nor does he have her special link to the issue.

If you really want to vote prolife, do you want to vote for a man who will insist on burdening a woman with an unwanted child, then refuse to lift a finger to help her? Or do you want to vote for the person who will do the most to prevent the problem, then will help with the result should prevention fail? I know who is really the prolife candidate and it’s Hillary Clinton.


Essays, general essay

Stray Thoughts: New Year Thoughts

New Year thoughts

Clyde is so over last year.

We’re not exactly feeling the pumped up rush of a New Year at the moment. Maybe a trickle of excitement, but that’s it. For a lot of folks, it’s all about a fresh start, getting your goals in line, figuring out how you’re going to get to where you want to be.

I’ve got my goals set. In fact, they’ve been set for at least six months (actually, even longer), since I’m still working on projects that I started around this time last year. It’s not like I didn’t get stuff done last year – I launched two books, sold a fair amount of soap, and pretty much built a mini-recording studio. Well, that last part isn’t completely done, but this is new to me work. I’ve also got a final draft (minus edits) on another book. I’m trying to refine my social media strategy to compensate for the fact that I’d rather just sit around and comment on other folks on Facebook. When I’m not playing solitaire on my computer.

And I have to confess, much of my current grumpiness has to do with almost an entire month lost to some nasty back pain, which is much better, thank you. Still lingering and waiting to pop out and wreak havoc again, but much better than it was.

So instead of a fresh start, I’m keeping on keeping on. I’m doing the work that I need, even want, to be doing. Which is what I was doing last year. And the year before that. Just because I haven’t reached my goal of becoming a best-selling author and in-demand speaker doesn’t mean it’s not a worthy goal.

I am having a slight problem, though, with the blogging. Now, I understand that it’s important to reach out and connect with my readers (all three of you). But there are times when I’d really rather be learning how to edit voice recordings. Or finalizing edits on my next novel. Or doing the layout. Or figuring out what update next needs doing on my website.

And here we come to the rub on this blog, specifically. There are some changes that are going to be made. I just don’t know what they are yet. I think I will continue my Tuesday rotation of Thoughts, cooking, sewing and living as green as possible, but I’m not sure I want to be tied to those themes, either. I also want to start posting more serialized fiction here. I do have, a sweet romance about a president and his aide trying not to fall in love with each other. That, I think, will eventually land on this site, perhaps on Wednesdays. I have a series of cozy spy novels that I wrote back in the 1980s, and I think I’m going to post them as a serial one day a week here. And there’s also the time travel epic that I’d like to do the same with.

Another thing I want to do is focus more on, the wine site I do with my husband, because, well, I like writing about wine and interviewing winemakers.

I know, I know. It’s a lot and I really should be focusing on getting more novels out and building my speaking gigs. But that’s who I am. I am all over the place. Focus is not going to happen, no matter how hard I try. I might as well try to make being scattered work for me.

So here’s to the new year. Rah. I’ve got work to do.

Essays, general essay

Stray Thoughts: How to Write a Review

If you liked any of these, please go to and write a review for it.

If you liked any of these, please go to and write a review for it.

This is a re-post from last summer. Hope you enjoy it!

I saw a meme on Facebook the other day, pointing out that when someone reads a book they like, the nice thing to do is to go to Amazon (or Goodreads or Nook) and write a review. And, let’s be real, most of us won’t. Mostly, it’s because there aren’t enough hours in a day as it is. But I suspect it’s also because many of us simply do not know how to write a review.

I can’t do anything about the time problem. But I can show you how to write a simple review that will be reasonably helpful to others thinking about buying a book and keep the bots happy at

As to why you should, well, the simple truth is that we authors live and die by reviews. Statistically, books don’t really start selling until they have around 35 reviews. For some reason, buyers think that if a book doesn’t have a lot of reviews, it must not be that good. Either that, or the bots on Amazon figure not enough people are interested for the book to show up in their recommendations, which makes it harder to find. Nor is Amazon making it any easier to get those 35 reviews. I’ve heard from several sources that Amazon is taking down reviews made by people it has determined are friends of the author. Which is really annoying, since the first bit of advice you get when marketing your book is to ask all your friends to write a review. That being said, what Amazon is trying to prevent is authors getting their friends to post a stack of five-star reviews for an otherwise only okay book. It has happened.

So, if you want to do good and build up your Karma, in general, here’s an easy way to write a review for that last potboiler you liked. And remember, this isn’t about being graded or writing great literature. All you’re trying to do is help someone else decide whether they want to buy the book or not, and the best way to do that is to just put down your basic impressions. In fact, it helps if you don’t spend a lot of time thinking about what you’re writing. Just write.

Pick your star rating. I’ll usually post three or four stars, seldom five, unless the book was genuinely life-changing.

Then, in the box, what you want to write are three to five sentences about what you did and didn’t like about the book. Basically, answer these three questions:

1.) What did I like about the book? Was it funny? Did it make me cry? Did I like a character? Was it really interesting? Did I learn something new? Even if all the book did was make you feel good, then that’s what you write. It was a fun, relaxing read. It really brought an issue to life. Things like that. You can write about two sentences. If you’re having a hard time thinking of something specific, close your eyes and think of the book. The scenes that leap to mind are probably what you liked best about it. And unless they’re the end, you can describe those scenes. If you really liked how the book ended, just say that because we all know spoilers are no fun.

2.) What didn’t I like about the book? Was it hard to read? Did a character really get on your nerves? We’re none of us perfect, so if there’s a small flaw, you may want to note it.

3.) How did the book make me feel overall? Was I satisfied? Did I want more? Did something feel left out? Was the book relaxing? Intellectually stimulating? Just plain silly? So wonderfully sad, I can’t stop crying?

Answer those three questions and the next thing you know, you’ve written a review.

Essays, general essay

Stray Thoughts – Coming Soon


UPDATE – Looks like this past month has been a bad one for blog productivity. Mostly I’ve been focusing on chasing dollars and getting the final edits done on my next novel Bring Into Bondage, the exciting sequel to Fascinating Rhythm. Next month is looking pretty crazy on the commitment front, but, hopefully, I’ll get back on board with the blog schedule. At least, Bring Into Bondage will be ready for beta reading. I’m taking applications now. Either use the contact form at the right or sign up for my monthly missive, The Robin Goodfellow Newsletter for more details. Thanks so much!

It’s one of those things they always say when it comes to marketing your writing – make sure you post about coming projects.

Frankly, I’ve been too busy trying to make enough money to pay for the production of said coming projects to do much about producing them. However, I did put up a couple notices on my Fiction page – you’ll have to scroll down to see them.

One is for the audio book of my novel Fascinating Rhythm. I even have the first Chapter (without music or anything, just me) posted. I also have a quick advertisement for the sequel to Fascinating Rhythm that I put together a couple, three weeks ago for what reason I cannot now remember. The book is Bring Into Bondage, in which Freddie and Kathy hurry out to Kathy’s parents’ farm and try to figure out who’s been vandalizing the place before someone gets killed. I expect to have Bring Into Bondage ready for beta reading by the end of September. Send me a note via the contact form if you’re interested in being a beta reader.

And that’s all I’ve got for today. Thinking about (and cleaning up) my website has pretty much wrung out my brain for the nonce. And I really should be doing final edits. I’ll be back next week with Salad Basics II on the cooking part of the blog.

Essays, general essay

Stray Thoughts: Born on July 4

fireworksI’m a Yankee Doodle Dandy,

A Yankee Doodle, do or die;

A real live nephew niece of my Uncle Sam,

Born on the Fourth of July.

(George M. Cohan)

Yeah – that’s my theme song, at least this time of year. I actually hesitated to even mention my birthday because, frankly, I’ve already gotten my share of good wishes from the Facebook crowd. But then my mother said I needed to write about it.

Well, it is both a blessing and a curse to have a birthday on a major holiday. It can be kind of cool and distinctive to be born on July 4. I have never worked or gone to school on my birthday. People always grin when they hear what day my birthday is.

But there are also some significant downsides. Like, birthday parties. Ever try to do a princess party in red, white and blue? I did get the Cinderella cake when I turned 6 (or was if 5?), but the majority of the cakes and decorations were fireworks, flags and buntings. Mom said there wasn’t much else available.

Worse yet, while my school mates and friends could have their birthday parties on their actual birthdays, I never got to. Everyone was celebrating with their families. Even now, when most adults have to wait for the weekend to celebrate their birthdays, I seldom get a birthday party. When am I going to have it? Folks still celebrate holidays with their families. And if I do get invited to a party, it’s about the holiday. Which is fine. It just makes the few parties I’ve had that much more special.

I think the jokes are the worst, though. Any idea how many times I’ve been called a firecracker? By my parents? (Thanks for dropping that one this year, Mom.) One wise-ass even suggested my pigtails looked like fuses – so should have blown up on him. And, yes, it is true that I briefly thought the fireworks were for me, but I was four. That’s four years old, barely old enough to understand the concept of a birthday, let alone a whole nation. It’s been a few years. I’ve figured it out.

It could be a lot worse. I have a friend whose birthday is on December 25. Now that one seriously sucks, with all the two-for-one presents, and talk about your birthday getting lost in all the celebrating. She turned 50 before she got her own birthday party. Blech!

So, I’m not complaining. Just pointing out that having a distinctive birthday is not all sunshine and lollipops. Ultimately, being born on July 4 is more fun than not.

In fact, I’ve got a song about my birthday. Cool, huh? This is from the movie they made about composer and songwriter George M. Cohan, Yankee Doodle Dandy, starring James Cagney as Cohan. And I’ll leave you with the YouTube clip from the film:

Essays, general essay

Stray Thoughts: Dog Pictures

It’s a fifth Tuesday and I thought for fun, I’d throw up a few dog pictures featuring our own WunderHund Clyde!


Or should I say Clyde in his natural state – sleeping. Clyde’s a basset hound, basically a speed bump with legs. He’s a lot of fun and very expressive.


Yes, Clyde, we’re talking about you. Plaintive seems to be his best look. Oh, and here’s a very short video of Clyde running.

My husband is the one out-running Clyde. We were at our local dog park. Scary thing is, not 10 minutes later – after I’d put my phone away, of course – Clyde took off running after a whippet, of all things. You know, one of those smaller versions of a grayhound? Go figure.

And because Dorothy Parker always gets the last word, here’s one of her.


If you enjoyed these shots, I send similar pics of the critters out every month in The Robin Goodfellow Newsletter. Won’t you please sign up in the box at the top of the column on the right? Not only will you get fun pet pictures of Clyde and Parker, you’ll get quick updates on the blogs and where I’m selling soap and other fun stuff. I promise to keep it short and entertaining.









Essays, general essay

Stray Thoughts: Why You Should Care about Women in Hollywood

From the surface, it looks like the kind of “inside baseball,” only relevant to those immediately involved kinds of stories. But when I saw this Los Angeles Times story last May, about gender discrimination in Hollywood, I realized it’s a much bigger story.

The gist of the story is that the American Civil Liberties Union has decided to goose the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, along with the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing and the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs to start investigating Hollywood’s woeful track record regarding hiring women and people of color for directing jobs.

You may think this is about a bunch of rich White kids whining. It’s anything but. What folks don’t get is that the directors are the ones who are telling our stories in the two most influential media around: films and television. And over 80 percent of the folks directing our TV shows are White men. Almost 98 percent of the people directing the top 100 money-making films from the last two years were White men.

I’ve got nothing against White men, nor am I saying that they can’t tell a woman’s story without some sensitivity and understanding. What I’m objecting to is that they have the majority voice on the telling of my experience – which seems a little out of proportion to me. Okay, a lot out of proportion. And that’s not even considering the problems faced by women of color in The Industry.

I and a lot of other women complain quite a bit (and quite appropriately) about the sexist images of women in the media – about how we’re portrayed as little more than sex objects or kick-ass types who ape male characteristics, but still have big boobs. And women are justifiably frustrated by how entrenched these attitudes are. But if the people largely responsible for telling the stories are all guys, how’s that going to change?

As the LA Times story pointed out, it’s going to be hard to bring that kind of change about via the courts. Hiring in Hollywood involves too many different entities.

But what we have forgotten is that Hollywood responds to only one voice – the box office (or the virtual one involving advertising dollars). We’re the ones buying the tickets, so ultimately, we’re the ones with the power. We’re the ones watching the shows, buying the products. Individually, maybe we’re not so loud. But collectively, we are invincible.

So I say it’s time to start raising hell. You can start by sharing this post or writing another like it. You can start by avoiding films directed by men. You can start by commenting every time someone complains about how women and minorities are portrayed in films and on TV and reminding folks that Hollywood is a closed, exclusive community that will only hire White guys. When we make noise, we get noticed. Trust me, the nice folks making your movies and TV shows do not want to look insensitive or sexist – never mind that they are. If we, the ordinary people out there, start complaining loudly enough and the dollars follow, we can and will change things.

Essays, general essay

Stray Thoughts: The Modern Version of Laudanum?

PrescriptionI almost wished I hadn’t brought it up.

I have sleep problems. I fall asleep perfectly easily. I just can’t stay asleep.  So while researching some foot problems (because the condescending SOB of a podiatrist wasn’t any real help), I saw that sleep problems are part of fibromyalgia, and I thought let’s ask the G.P.

No, she says. Fibromyalgia is one of those things that’s only diagnosed by observation and when everything else is ruled out. I braced myself for what came next. “It could be depression. Have you considered antidepressants?”

Face plant time. It’s beginning to feel like a conspiracy to get me on antidepressants. Even the condescending SOB of a podiatrist suggested them at one point. My OB/GYN suggested them for my menopause symptoms. I tried HRT instead, which did make me depressed. But when my very nice young GP suggested it, it started to sound like the modern version of laudanum.

Laudanum, a tincture of opiates including morphine and codeine, was prescribed to a lot of women in the 19th Century for female problems and hysteria. Later critics suggested that it was a way of keeping women shut up. I suspect that most doctors meant well – given how effective it was for coughs and pain, it was pretty popular. But there was probably a certain amount of unconscious sexism going on. She’s emotional, she needs calming down, give her laudanum.

I had read that the majority of patients taking antidepressants were women, so I did the research. Interestingly enough, I searched on what percentage of antidepressants are prescribed for women and pulled up multiple articles on how depression is being over-treated. According to a 2011 report from the CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics, one-tenth of all Americans over the age of 12 are taking antidepressants and 23 percent of all women between the ages of 40 and 59. That’s one in four women my age. I mean, I knew there were a lot and at the rate the drugs have been pushed at me, it didn’t entirely surprise me. Still, one quarter of women my age are taking antidepressants. That seems like an awful lot, especially when you consider that according to the World Health Organization, only 5 percent of the population actually has depression. (Note – this particular study focused on Nordic countries, but the stat was cited in several of the articles I read and is footnoted in the study.)

Even more interesting was this article from the Canadian Journal of Psychiatry, by Dr. Joel Paris, MD, which suggests that not only is depression grossly over-diagnosed, so is the prescription of antidepressants, which haven’t really been shown to be effective in patients with mild to moderate depression, although the drugs are very effective for patients with severe depression. Which is exactly what I’ve come to believe. I mean, I know folks for whom the drugs have been literal life-savers. And I want to be crystal clear here – if you need antidepressants, for heaven’s sake take them.

I just question whether I need them. I saw a proposal for a study that suggests that the current screening tests are neither that accurate nor that accurately used. I couldn’t find the conclusion, but the concerns the doctors brought up were pretty unnerving and certainly echo my experience. You see, I’ve been depressed – that little experiment with HRT I noted above. My husband was getting pretty worried about me and, frankly, I was too. And, by the way, I was sleeping better. Now, I will get punchy, whiny and okay, depressed after two to three nights without decent sleep. But I know how I felt when I was depressed and I am not even close to feeling that. Even after this last seven-night jag I was on.

I know women will report depressive symptoms more readily than men. But still I can’t help but wonder if doctors, in an effort to treat something that often does go unreported when it should be, are going overboard. I can’t help but wonder if the medical mind-set is to look at a middle-aged woman who can’t sleep and immediately assume depression instead of trying to find out whether there might be something else. The sleep doctor I consulted with certainly didn’t. He just said that the CPAP I use was helping me not to snore and when I asked if the results showed any other issues, he said I was probably depressed. Not that the results showed it – just that I was acting that way. In fact, nobody has really considered any other potential source for my sleep problems. They’ve all assumed (or have appeared to) that it’s depression and do not seem interested in looking further.

Not unlike the doctors of the 19th Century, they’re reaching for the easy answer.

There is a reason I find this insanely annoying. I tend to get side effects a lot (again, see the HRT). I am not willing to give up two to six months or longer to let doctors play games with my brain chemistry in the hopes that something will work. I am a creative. The deadening effects of antidepressants would be deadly to my creativity at a time when I really need it. In short, antidepressants are a really bad idea for me and I’ll have to be in a really, really bad place before the potential negatives would be outweighed by the benefits.

Depression is a serious disorder and if you are chronically miserable, don’t want to do anything, especially stuff you used to love doing, if you’re spending all day in bed because you just can’t face the world, then, yes, you need to get help and antidepressants may be exactly what you need. For the rest of us, I’m not so sure.

Essays, general essay

Stray Thoughts – Always a Good Reason

Over the years, as I’ve been involved in various clubs, churches, and other groups, periodically something odd would happen. All of a sudden, I was no longer greeted with interest. I’d volunteer and no one would take me up on the offer. In a couple cases, I got dis-invited to some event or other. I suspect the people involved weren’t trying to be mean. I suspect they thought they were saving my feelings. And the first few times, I even bought it.

There was always a Good Reason for this rejection – just not the real one. The real reason was that I made somebody uncomfortable somehow. But the excuses I heard. Someone once said that I used too many big words. And the end result was always the same: I felt hurt and as if I was being marginalized -which, in fact, I was. These people were behaving badly and justifying it by having a Good Reason.

What got me thinking about this was something that happened to my friend and neighbor Roni last week. She woke up one morning and there was a SWAT team in her backyard. I’m not sure exactly how it all happened, but the officers had a warrant to search for some stolen computers on the premises. They didn’t find them, but still impounded my friend’s iPad until she could prove she owned it. At least she wasn’t arrested. Roni, by the way, is a hairdresser and this happened at her mother’s house. Her mother is a retired elementary school music teacher.

A SWAT team to recover some stolen goods? Yeah, that seemed more than a little heavy-handed to me, too. Roni’s Facebook feed lit up with that very sentiment. Although, the interesting thing was that few of Roni’s friends seemed surprised. Oh, wait. I forgot to add one critical detail. Roni and her mom are Black and we all live in the same mixed-race neighborhood, where we Whites are the minority.

I’m reasonably certain they wouldn’t have sent the SWAT team to recover some stolen goods in my old, White neighborhood. I know they didn’t several years ago, when someone had a warrant served on him. They sent out a couple detectives and maybe a squad car. And that wasn’t the only time cops were called out for various and sundry crimes, including drug sales and use.

It’s a different story in my current neighborhood – where traffic stops routinely result in the drivers in cuffs sitting on the sidewalk. Where a hair-dresser gets guns pointed at her and her iPad impounded. Oh, yes, there’s a Good Reason for the way these things are handled, but I find it very hard to believe that it’s the real reason. The real reason is that the people involved are Blacks and Hispanics. But in each individual case of this kind of injustice, someone is hiding behind a really Good Reason.

Now, I get that my experiences with a bunch of rampaging neurotics are a far cry from the very real harm of racism. But it’s the same behavior that perpetuates that same racism. People don’t want me around, but they don’t want to be mean, so they come up with a Good Reason for getting rid of me. We don’t want to be racist, so we assume police officers have a Good Reason for harassing innocent people, for kicking the bejeebers of perhaps not-so-innocent drunk drivers, for shooting or otherwise killing unarmed Black males. But the end result is the same – Black men are 19 times more likely to be killed by cops than White men. And that’s not even counting all the harassment and the SWAT teams being sent out needlessly. When we justify the inexcusable because there’s a Good Reason, we’re participating in that same injustice.

I’m not advocating that we assume the worst of all cops – that’s just as unjust. We just have to look at the results, and in this case, there’s a whole lot of injustice going on.

Maybe if more of us faced up to the reality that law enforcement treats people of color far differently than they do White people, maybe if more of us said this is bullshit, then maybe we could expect and demand law enforcement that treats all people fairly. Because when the end result is the same, there is never a Good Reason.