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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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.

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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
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