July in Martha’s Vineyard Reveals Secrets

July is high season in Martha’s Vineyard. Tourists and summer folk are everywhere. Year round residents sigh, gripe, or enjoy the influx of people as their natures demand. They know the island looks nothing like it will in a few months, when winter comes. They know where the secrets are buried.

July’s book choice was an easy one: Mudge chose a thriller that is sure to give the summer folk a reason to check the shadows behind them as they walk about the island. Here’s why, in his own words:

When it is my turn, I like to pick something that will pull back the lace curtains and show a side of the island that we don’t usually talk about to the summer folk.

Pick it up at Amazon, B&N, iBooks, Google Play or Kobo.


Have you read The Caretaker yet? If so, proceed scrolling for some very real comments by the members of the BBG.

If not, download it (for free!) before you proceed.

There may be spoilers, otherwise!


Blythe (proprietress of Blythe Cove Manor): I always love it when Mudge tries to convince us that the world needs to be met with suspicion and wariness. I must admit, I will look at some of the caretakers here a little more closely, though..

Helen (director of the local library): Mudge, I will recommend this book to summer patrons. Maybe it will make them look both ways when they cross the road. Who knows, a little less complacence might prevent an accident or two.

Mudge (excursion boat owner/operator): People have secrets. If you think this piece of fiction was disturbing, you should know some of those secrets–

Aggie (owner, Sandpiper Restaurant): Okay, Mudge. Secrets are not always meant to be told. Or, if they are, they are best told in fiction. And that’s all I’ll say about this book other than it kept me up all night finishing it.

Fred (island taxi driver): I’m with you Mudge. A little more suspicion never hurt anyone. I almost missed picking up a guest because I was at the end of the book and couldn’t put it down until I finished it. She forgave me, though, when I gave her the book and turned her into a fan.

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Influenced by the Movies

by Shirley Hailstock

I loved my high school. And while my chemistry teacher was the most important influence in my life, it’s my English teachers that I have the most stories about. This blog is not about teachers, but about influences that some of my teachers instilled in me – mainly it was a need to read and learn, to research the people, places, and things that interested me.

Recently, I watched a movie about J.D. Salinger, author of Catcher in the Rye. I never read this book. Like most people, my high school had plenty of classics for us to read and I read all of them (being an avid reader, this is no surprise). I also exhausted the summer reading list every year. However, there were books that never made the lists I was given. Catcher in the Rye being one of them.

Anyway, the movie (Rebel in the Rye) is a biography of J.D. (Jerome David) Salinger’s life and specifically the writing of his only published novel. I watched the movie twice and then wanted to read the book. I read some reviews that don’t really tell me why this book became a classic. So hearing my Sophomore English teacher’s voice in my head telling me (before the age of the Internet) to “go look it up,” I got the book and I’m reading it. At the moment, I’m finding it hard to separate this first-person point of view from the man I envision. J.D. Salinger has said he and Holden Caulfield, his main character, are not the same. The book is a work of fiction. However, we writers and readers know there is a certain amount of the author in every story.

This is not the first time I’ve been intrigued by a version of Hollywood that had me rushing out to find the truth. Years ago, I watched Amadeus, the biography of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s life. After seeing that, I read three or four books on his life, and he’s not even my favorite composure (that would be Chopin & Rachmaninoff).

Since reading The Great Gatsby in high school (it made the list), I’ve been fascinated by both the story and the author, F. Scott Fitzgerald.



One year for Spring Break, I convinced my children to go north instead of to the place we went every year. We visited Newport, RI. I wanted to see the mansions built during the Gilded Age, but mainly I was interested in the house where they filmed the Robert Redford version of The Great Gatsby. Then I watched Beloved Infidel, the story of Fitzgerald and columnist Sheliah Graham.


Of course, I had to know more about Fitzgerald. First I re-read The Great Gatsby. I wanted to know if the book would hold up in today’s world. It’s always on the bestseller list when a new school year begins. My opinion, yes it works, even today. After that, I scoured bookstores and the library for stories about Fitzgerald.

This is a short list of movies that have influenced me enough to send me in search of sources to see what I could learn about a character or an author.  I could go on for several more pages.


For my own book, Promises to Keep, the idea also came from a television program, Route 66.  Since there were so many stories that the characters brought to the screen, I was always in the library looking for books to support those stories.

Am I alone in this? Have any of you ever gone in search of a book after seeing a movie? Tell me about it.

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May is for Moms

Welcome to the Mother’s Day edition 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.

May’s book choice was an easy one: Aggie chose one of her favorite authors, Kelly McClymer (yes, one of the Storytellers!). She chose Shop and Let Die, the first book of the Secret Shopper Mom mystery series. Here’s why, in her own words:

I’ve had to juggle work and raising a child, too. I love reading about Molly, who can solve a mystery, help her overly anxious daughter, and find solutions for her son with dyslexia. Best of all, Molly — like me — isn’t perfect at the juggling act. She forgets to plug in her phone, is often just barely in time to pick her children up from school, and — again like me — she’s learned to deal with situations where all the balls she’s juggling end up on the floor.

Pick it up at Amazon, B&N, iBooks, Google Play or Kobo.


Have you read Shop and Let Die yet? If so, proceed scrolling for some very real comments by the members of the BBG.

If not, download it (for free!) before you proceed.

There may be spoilers, otherwise!


Blythe (proprietress of Blythe Cove Manor): I thought this was an appropriate choice for Mother’s Day. I’ve had many mothers here, and they are all juggling so many balls I wonder how they manage. Having a sneak peek inside Molly’s head gives me a better idea — most moms feel like they’re about to drop all their balls, all the time. It makes me appreciate my mother, and grandmother, even more. I’m sure they’d say that cell phones don’t really help with the juggling as much as they ought, so they’d be glad they didn’t have to add their to the juggling pile.

Helen (director of the local library): Aggie, this was a great choice. My patrons are always looking for a good blend of humor, mystery, and insight into unusual occupations. Molly’s mystery shopping day job was well explained and I must admit a little daunting. I’ll never look at my trip to the coffee shop the same way again.

Mudge (excursion boat owner/operator): I sent my mom flowers and chocolate after I read this. Sounds like riding out a squall in the middle of the ocean would be easier than being a modern mom. Although, I bet Molly would be a better hand at sea that she might think. That mystery shopping needs the same attention to detail as a ship does.

Aggie (owner, Sandpiper Restaurant): Well, I recommended it, so I’ll just say, as soon as I read it, I had to go get the next books in the series to see what happened to Molly. Book 3, The Mall is Not Enough just came out, and it didn’t disappoint. Molly’s juggling is getting higher stakes with every book.

Fred (island taxi driver): I guess I’m the only one who was surprised the mystery took a back seat to Molly’s mother duties. I knew my mom would like it, so I loaded it onto her Kindle and happened to mention my reaction to her. Needless to say, I’m doing the same as Mudge. Flowers, chocolate, and a gift card for more books for my mom this years.



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The Accidental Psychic: Jeff Resnick in Murder on the Mind

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.

April’s book choice was an easy one: Blythe chose one of her favorite authors, L. L. Bartlett (yes, one of the Storytellers!). She chose Murder on the Mind, the first book of the Jeff Resnick mystery series. Here’s why, in her own words:

I was intrigued by the idea of a detective who is aided by a sudden psychic ability. As I hoped, Jeff’s sudden flashes of real crimes (brought on by a serious head injury) doesn’t always make the crime solving easier. In fact, it makes his detective work more challenging. Best of all, his relationships begin to change as he needs to balance his desire for justice with a very understandable wish not to be labeled crazy by his friends and family.

Pick it up at Amazon, B&N, iBooks, or Kobo.


Have you read Murder on the Mind yet? If so, proceed scrolling for some very real comments by the members of the BBG.

If not, purchase it here (Pick it up at Amazon, B&N, iBooks, or Kobo) before you proceed.

There may be spoilers, otherwise!


Blythe (proprietress of Blythe Cove Manor): Well, I chose this book, so obviously I connected with the psychic element. I know that there is no proof of psychic phenomena, according to scientists, but science doesn’t know everything…yet. They may discover something that allows for people to see into the future. I like to think that something would be quantum particles, or something equally cool. Psychic elements aside, there is a wonderful, elemental struggle in Jeff. He doesn’t want to believe what’s happening to him, never mind tell other people in his life. Just think how hard that must be. Remember when Dillie Bean told us she hated the smell of low tide? Some folks didn’t speak to her for months. Acted like she’d lost her mind.

Helen (director of the local library): I admit, I ordered a copy for our library. My patrons do love a tightly written murder mystery. I am relieved that the author did not let Jeff’s psychic visions do all the heavy detective work. In some ways, the visions actually made his job harder. And I have to agree with Blythe about the elemental human struggle to be who we are without losing a part of ourselves in the process.

Mudge (excursion boat owner/operator): Last year I proclaimed I’d never get used to reading on my phone. Well, I have. Darned useful on the boat. I can take a library with me. I was suspicious of the book, I admit it. I like my murder mystery less cozy and more official, as you all know. But Jeff worked for me. I don’t know about the elemental struggle that Aggie and Blythe talk about, but I like the way he keeps going and doesn’t let anything stop him from solving the crimes that flash into his mind.

Aggie (owner, Sandpiper Restaurant): I read it when the Sandpiper had down time. Do you know, I actually had a customer ask me for a drink three times before I heard them, I got so caught up in the story. This is really fast-paced. On the good side, the customer wanted to know what I was reading, so I recommended the book to her, too. I loved the tv show Medium, so Jeff’s psychic ability was easy for me to believe and I guessed the culprit before he did!

Fred (island taxi driver): I did not guess the culprit. It was a good surprise. I went back over the clues and I’m not sure how I missed it. Guessing who done it is one of my specialities.



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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.


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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.



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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. 
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