First review for Grandpa and Me and the Park in the City

“Grandpa and Me and the Park in the City,” written and illustrated by Carren Strock, celebrates the bond between a child and his grandfather and the rewards that effort and persistence can bring. Braden is a seven-year-old who spends time with his grandfather during the summer months. Although he lives in the country, Braden discovers that city-life has its attractions. He especially enjoys the park, with its swings, slides, and monkey bars. However, the day comes when Braden outgrows childish things, and he is disconsolate. Fortunately, Grandpa has some pleasant activities in mind that anyone can enjoy, such as Tai-Chi.

The author celebrates diversity, showing people of different ages, ethnicities, shapes, and sizes enjoying city life together. In addition, she uses rhyme effectively, making this a good choice for a read-aloud. The illustrations are awash with eye-catching pastel colors. However, Strock’s drawings of facial expressions and the human body in motion are not as strong as those depicting apartment houses, stores, and the park.

“Grandpa and Me and the Park in the City” leaves us with a warm feeling. The connection between a growing boy and his devoted grandparent can be precious and lasting, and it is heartening to watch Braden mature and learn practical skills and values from his wise and loving grandfather.

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How time flies

Grandpa and Me and the Park in the City, my first rhyming picture book for children just came out. It had me, once again, stepping out of my comfort zone as I wrote and illustrated  it. This project began fifteen years ago. I woke very early one morning and went for a walk. As I passed the park,  I saw a large group of people doing Tai Chi. They invited me to join them and I was reminded of the fun I used to have in the park with my dad when I was little. I used my cousin and his small grandson as models for my book. Then my project was replaced by several other books I was working on and only recently went back to it. Mathew is now in college. I tell this story to remind myself that when the right time comes, I do get my work done.

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Announcing my latest book, Tangled Ribbons

tangledribbonsfront copyTangled Ribbons, a paranormal romance, and my latest book, has a publication date of April 7, 2015.

Back cover:
Unexplained sexual longings, and fragments of unidentified images, consume Jenna’s Earth-life, and she dies with those haunting questions unanswered—but for her, death is not the end.

Although Jenna finds herself on the Celestial Tableland—a land of Spirits—her existence is interwoven with Bev’s, a woman in her last Earth incarnation. Bev helped Jenna to die, and now Jenna must help Bev to meet Anne, her soul mate, as the two women are destined to become a Perfect Pairing. But Cornelia, a vengeful Spirit, will stop at nothing to destroy this pairing.

Unless she can discover the cause of Cornelia’s rage, Jenna will be unable to help Bev. But Jenna’s investigation only leads to more questions: Why is Cornelia out to destroy this Perfect Pairing? Why is Cornelia’s past hidden from her? Why do no other Spirits see Cornelia’s destructive behavior? And what do the other souls who call out to Jenna have to do with Cornelia?

Eventually, Jenna’s search leads her to some surprising answers—and to a forgotten past of her own.

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More on Stepping Out of My Comfort Zone

IMG_5920 There has been so much interest in my stepping off the grid and spending some time in an Earthship near El Pardo, NM that I thought I’d talk about one of my concerns while deciding on this adventure. There was no indoor plumbing — only an outhouse. I imagined a cold seat in a tiny box-like space with a half moon cut in the door. It turned out to be nothing like that at all. The room was spacious, the seat warm, and the view from the open door breathtaking. About 20 or 30 feet from where I sat six beautiful wild horses walked across the land one morning.IMG_5898IMG_6000 (The photo is of the horses in an open coral. My host puts out salt licks for the horses.)

During the night, however, I did use a commode, and like the pioneers, emptied it each morning.

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Stepping Out of Your Comfort Zone

When was the last time you stepped out of your comfort zone?
For me it was early November. I was invited to visit a woman I’d only met once. I can hear you saying “so?”. Well, this woman lives in an Earthship in New Mexico. (Earthships are made from natural and recycled materials such as tires, aluminum cans, and bottles over a dirt floor; and are considered off-the-grid homes.) In her 3/4 ton truck It takes about a half hour to navigate the 8-mile rutted rocky dirt road that leads to her place from the nearest main road. Her water comes from a cistern on the roof, her electricity comes from solar energy — if the sun is out long enough to charge the batteries, Not enough to qualify? How about no indoor plumbing? Can’t remember the last time I used an outhouse before my visit. Oh, I remember. Never. And how about no cell phone service, actually no phone service at all. She did, however, have a computer with internet service via satellite.

I’d sought a travel companion but when I explained where my friend lived, everyone had another excuse to stay away. I’d show them, I thought, and — although extremely nervous — I texted her that I was coming.

I am still processing the amazing time I had. I’ll be forever grateful to the amazing woman who opened her doors to me, showed me an entirely different world, and became a good friend.IMG_3511IMG_6005IMG_5933IMG_5998

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Do Books Really Write Themselves

On Saturday, November 2, 2013  I’ll be speaking at Boston Mensa’s Wicked Good Regional Gathering. My topic will be “Do Books Really Write Themselves?”. It will give an insight into the way writing truly happens – how much is us and how much may be from the characters/situations we’ve created.
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A Trip into the City

I’d gone into Manhattan to have the second shot in my knee. Which incidentally, hasn’t begun to work its magic yet but I’m still hopeful.
On the bus, a man sitting next to me asked for directions. I wasn’t certain what to tell him but the woman behind us offered her assistance. I could tell that she was familiar with our public transportation system so when she finished I asked if she knew a shorter way I could get to my destination. While she was giving me directions the man said “You’re confusing me.” She explained that these directions weren’t meant for him  at which point he said, “shut up. You talk too much,” and got off the bus.
The woman became upset. Knowing that it’s all in the way you choose to look at things, I smiled at her and whispered, “that wasn’t about you.”
“You’re right,” she said brightening up. “It didn’t have anything to do with me, The poor  man has his own problems.”
Then another woman got on the bus and sat next to me. She kept touching her neck. “I’m always losing things,” she said. “Today I lost a beautiful pendent. I know I’ll never find it.”
“No expectations, no disappointments,” I said.  “Just think how happy the person who does find it will be.”
“You’re right,” she brightened up. “I never thought of losing something in just those terms. I must make a great many people happy.”
One of my observations has been that people who ride the buses in Manhattan are more likely to start a conversation with a stranger than those who ride the subway. I was trying to read on the subway on my way home but a man sitting across from me was playing a game on his iphone. The game included a loud dinging noise and I couldn’t concentrate. I glanced up to see that all of the other passengers were becoming annoyed. “Excuse me sir,” I said, and I could feel the collective intake of breath among them but I continued, “Would it be possible for you to turn down the sound on your game?”
“Of course,” he said, “I didn’t realize,”  and he shut off the sound.
The other passengers relaxed and suddenly they were talking to one another like old friends.
I have three simple a-has that I live my life by. In no particular order they are: no expectations= no disappointments, no one knows what you’re thinking unless you say the words, and, the way people react to what we say has more to do with who they are and where they are on their own journey than it does with us. On this particular day they all came into play and thinking that my few words could effect people in such positive ways made me feel very good.

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