St. Patrick’s Day will be here in a few days. Blythe’s Book Group has been reading books about leprechauns, the Emerald Isle, and all things Irish. This month the group of hardy Martha’s Vineyard year round residents are discussing a Callahan Garrity Mystery by Mary Kay Andrews. You are invited to join them.

The Storytellers-Unlimited book for March is on sale for 40% off at KOBO. The book group decided to read it along with the St. Patrick’s day choice. Grab your copy and enjoy. If you don’t have a KOBO reader, get the app and read along.



Dangerous Secrets will grip you to your chair with the three full-length novels. SECRETS…become lies…become novels by three stellar writers. Find out what SECRETS they can tell.

In this Callahan series novel, Irish Eyes, find out what the Irish fraternal police organization might be brewing up that’s far more lethally potent than green beer.


SHARE THIS Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedintumblrmail

You Are Invited to Join Blythe’s Book Group — January Reading

Welcome to your first meeting of Blythe’s Book Group. Every month a group of hardy Martha’s Vineyard year round residents get together to discuss a book. You are invited to join them.

January’s book choice was closely contended. The snow lovers wanted something snowy and cold to read by the fire. The snow haters wanted something warm and summery to counteract the winter cold.

They decided to read two books for January (it is a slow month, after all).

For the snow haters, the pick is Summer Magic, a collection of tales from Blythe Cove Manor by the three Storytellers Unlimited authors Shirley Hailstock, Lorraine Bartlett (aka Lorna Barrett), and Kelly McClymer. They are on Blythe’s favorite author list, and she has all their books on her shelves at Blythe Cove Manor.

For the snow lovers, the pick is Let it Snow, another collection of stories, these by John Green, Maureen Johnson, and Lauren Myracle.

Whether you’re a snow lover, or a snow hater, you’re bound to love one — or both — of these choices.



SHARE THIS Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedintumblrmail

Selling a Book with its Cover

by Shirley Hailstock

We all do it. We judge a book by its cover. Since most of the bookstores closed where we used to browse the shelves of life-size images, we now see cover after cover online and choose what we want to click on and read.

So I was playing around with Photoshop CC (Creative Cloud). I should be writing, reading a book I promised to provide a quote for, or icing those cupcakes that I have to take to school tomorrow. Instead I’m creating book covers.

I thought I’d share some of my fun with you. Many readers ask authors about the covers that appear on their releases. I’m not a professional and the process will be the basics, but you’ll get the gist.

It’s a good thing if you have an idea of what you want the cover to look like. I have books set in Washington, DC, so I began there. And additionally, I thought of the color I wanted the background to be. I experimented with several covers. 
And decided on this one.

In the foreground, you can see that the grass is very dark. What you can’t see is the reflection of the Capitol in the water that’s in the front of the building. So through the magic of Photoshop, I added it.

Notice the color changed a little. That’s because I have a background behind the entire scene that is not visible.  It’s white and changes the color a little. I liked the change, so I kept it. The reflection is also clearly visible.

Now, I have to add people, mainly because I like to see the people who are in the story. The couple I chose are clearly on a beach.

 There’s no beach in my story, so I cut it away and only left them.
Now it’s a matter of combining the two images. Each image is its own story, so I needed to blend them. 
Initially, when you put the two images together, you can’t see through them. Using a blending technique, I expose part of the couple in the background.
The photo comes out looking like this.

Now, it’s time for the text. The fonts for the author’s name remains constant on all their books if the publisher chooses to do that. On self-published books, the author generally chooses a font she likes and uses it as part of her brand.  I chose the font Anastasia for my name.
The font used for the title presents another area that needs to be addressed. Not only the font itself, but the color(s) needs to blend with the other colors and the words need to be clear enough to see, especially as a thumbnail (very small image). Notice that my name is huge on the cover. That’s a branding technique. The author’s name will remain the same (exceptions are not addressed here) while book titles will change. And we want readers to remember our names.
That’s just about it. Since this is a December blog, I hung a candy cane on the title. Using another method I painted out (not the technical term) part of the candy cane image so it appears to hang from the letter T in The.
As I said, this is very rudimentary. The process can take many more images. I used 8 here, including the text which is also an image. Each word is separate, allowing me to place them where I want them or move them around to see if it looks better.
Finally, we get to the point where the cover is done. It relays the story at a glance. This cover would say the book is a contemporary romance, set in Washington, DC with a light plot. You wouldn’t expect to find a dark paranormal or a dark suspense from the makeup and title of the cover.
As a note, I do not have a book called The Promise.  I used it to demonstrate the color and fonts that complement the total artwork. All the images used were either free for use or I purchased the intellectual property.
So next time, you browse or look at an author’s cover, you can see that there’s branding and communications through the images and fonts.
Happy reading…
P.S. Check out some of the covers on the Storytellers Unlimited pages and let us know if you’re intrigued enough to read the cover copy and see if you want to read the book. Click here for the book page. 
SHARE THIS Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedintumblrmail

Things You Didn’t Know About Martha’s Vineyard

Books that the Storytellers write are set in the fictional world of Blythe Cove Manor on Martha’s Vineyard.  During this past summer, I visited the island and while there, I noticed things that were new to me, unexpected, and interesting.

22 Points about Marth’s Vineyard

  1. The Island is made up of six cities (Oak Bluffs, Edgartown, Chilmark, Tisbury, Vineyard Haven, Aquinnah). Each has its own mayor, fire department, police, etc. and its own character.
  2. The island is referred to as either up island or down island.
  3. The city buses are white – #13 runs through Oak Bluffs.
  4. The decorative houses on oak Bluffs are called Painted Ladies.
  5. Annually in August, there is a Grand Illumination celebration. All the lights in the historic Oak Bluffs area are turned off and only Japanese Lanterns light the area.
  6. The Inkwell on maps is known as Ocean Beach.
  7. Edgartown is where all the action is. Day life and night life.
  8. There are wild grapes growing on much of the land, but the land is too expensive for vineyards.
  9. As to whom the island is named after, there are still two versions. Either the captain who discovered (Bartholomew Gosnold) the island’s infant daughter or his mother in law. Both were named Martha.  At the Martha’s Vineyard Museum, there was a card stating it was name for his mother in law, yet the guide who told us the island’s history, said it was the infant daughter.
  10. Edgartown is name for a Captain named Mayhew who wanted to be Mayor for life of part of Martha’s Vineyard. He thought the king (of England) wouldn’t allow it, so he offered to name the area after the king’s nephew and future heir to the throne, Edgar, who was a 4-year old child at the time. The king allowed it and Mayhew proclaimed himself Mayor for life. Edgar died shortly after this and was never king.
  11. The houses are practically all done in cedar shakes. The size of the shakes vary from 6 to 12 inches wide and 3 to 4 inches tall.
  12. There are some very large and expensive homes on the island, but you can’t see them. They are behind large amounts of foliage, fences and have dirt driveways. We asked about rainfall and were told it rained a normal amount. In fact, it rained while we were there, but during the night. I think the driveways are to deter people.
  13. There are no paparazzi on the island.
  14. There are no chain stores or fast food places on the island (no McDonalds, Starbucks, Burger King, Wendy’s, Pizza Hut, etc.). We did see a sign for a Clarion Hotel, but never saw the building. They have three Stop & Shop Grocery stores on the island. They are very small inside.  Food in the grocery stores was not that much more expensive than in NJ — maybe a dollar or so more than usual.
  15. Everyone was so friendly. There was no blowing of car horns, or anger at people who aren’t paying attention. There are also NO TRAFFIC LIGHTS. There are lots of four-way stop signs (and they need them for traffic control).
  16. The streets are very narrow, so you have to turn slowly, even for a right turn.
  17. A lot of the homes have fences around them, some are short picket fences, others are tall wooden fences or tall hedges. The Painted Ladies are rarely fenced. There are some houses you can see with beautiful landscaping.
  18. The soil is very sandy.
  19. The vegetation looks like most trees I see in my area, except for the wild grapes growing up island.
  20. If you’re going to the island and taking a car, make a reservation in January or earlier. The ferry fills up fast.
  21. One area of the island (up island) was concerned about all the rich people coming in and building huge homes. The city of Chilmark enacted a law that homes could be 3,500 square feet or less. The other areas of Martha’s Vineyard don’t have that rule, so you can build 18,000 square feet homes if you want.
  22. In 1694, Jonathan Lambert came to the island as a deaf man. Through years of intermarriages, 25% of the population was born deaf (most lived in Chilmark). The American Sign Language was begun on Martha’s Vineyard.

If you get the opportunity, visit this wonderful place, but you have to plan it if you want to take a car. The island is not HUGE, but you can’t walk it. Bicycles are prevalent, but if you’re not experienced cyclist, you’re limited to buses.

I loved being there, and would love to have a house on the island. Just as soon as I win the lottery jackpot, it’ll be high on my list.

SHARE THIS Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedintumblrmail

Comfort Reads

I write contemporary novels, but back in the day, I was and am still a history buff. I could answer the entire column of history questions on the old Jeopardy program.

I’m also good with numbers and dates, (math minor in college). This came in handy with the timeline question on exams. I even remember the date of the Friendship 7. (That was spaceship that took John Glenn up in 1962.)

So you would think that all this looking backwards would endear me to comfort reads– going back and revisiting ole haunts, plots, characters and stories.
Nope, not me.

Comfort Reads is a concept I don’t subscribe to. There are so many books and so little time as the saying goes. 


I’d rather read a new book than re-read a past one. This doesn’t mean I don’t understand the need for familiarity, for knowing what the outcome will be in a novel. I read romances and I expect a happily-ever-after. So I know the hero and heroine will overcome all obstacles in their way and find love.

This also doesn’t mean I have a TBR (to be read) pile and no keeper shelf. Like all readers, I have both. And both could fill their own room.

The keeper shelf gives me comfort without re-reading. As I look over the titles and remember the characters I befriended and who allowed me to share their world and their adventures, I feel the same warmth as my friends who pull down a story to re-read. I can participate in discussions on the Bridgertons, the Madaris’s, the billionaires and their babies.

My TBR pile hides gems that I only need to open a cover to find. 

I suppose the point of all this is we love to read and books hold wonders for us from visiting other worlds to finding a kindred spirit. And on that note, on my keeper shelf is Morning Glory by LaVryle Spencer. I love this book so much I won’t read the last page, because I never want this story to end.

What’s on your keeper shelf? What special book do you re-read year in and year out?

As always, keep reading…

Shirley Hailstock
SHARE THIS Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedintumblrmail

Coming to Paperback: TITLE WAVE

Counting the days until TITLE WAVE, by Lorna Barrett (aka Lorraine Bartlett) comes out in paperback on June 6th. Have you ordered your copy of #11 in the Booktown Mystery series?

Tricia and Angelica leave Booktown behind for some much needed R&R. Naturally they choose a Mystery Lovers cruise, where they can ponder whodunnit in deck chairs while sipping colorful drinks and soaking up some rays. But the fun is cut short when a fellow passenger is murdered for real. Is the killer a famous mystery author, one of her fans, or a member of the ship’s crew? As Tricia tries to find the killer before they reach port, she may be cruising for a bruising…

Barnes & Noble
Books A Million
Book Depository
Chapters Indigo

Check the website for more information

SHARE THIS Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedintumblrmail

Magic is the Key to Blythe Cove Manor

Blythe Cove has a new addition!

When Lorraine Bartlett, Shirley Hailstock, and I formed Storytellers Unlimited, we wanted a place where we could hang out with our readers and have a little fun.
Not that writing novels isn’t fun — it can be. But novels are long, and readers need to be patient. Patience is hard.

We created our website, started our email list, did the social media thing, and then thought — what can we do to entertain our readers in between our novel releases?

Since we all love everything summer and beach, we naturally thought of a B&B on Martha’s Vineyard. Blythe Cove Manor was born, with our first anthology, Summer Magic. Weekend Magic followed. And now — ta da — Blythe Cove Magic is available.

Our email readers will be familiar with two of the stories in the third anthology — “The Obsidian Cat” and “Ten Little Librarians” were both serialized in the Storytellers Unlimited newsletter. These serials have been edited and polished and a new story from Lorraine has been added to create our third anthology.

Can I tell you that these stories have become a little addictive to the three of us? They have. We have to squeeze them in among the other books we are writing, but we do because Blythe Cove Manor is a great place to hang out. It has a little mystery, a little romance, and — best of all — a little magic.

Do you see the objects on our covers? Each of those objects has just a little bit of magic to them. The kind of magic that can bring people together, heal heartache, or even show someone her new home is only a few steps away.

The other thing our covers always feature is Martha. Martha is the Blythe Cove Manor cat. Rumor has it she may have a bit of magic in her, as well.

If you love mystery with a touch of romance, we invite you to give Blythe Cove Magic a try: Amazon, iBooks, Nook, Kobo.

SHARE THIS Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedintumblrmail