Monday, January 24, 2011

BOOK REVIEW: A Time to Dance by Karen Kingsbury

This is the story of Abby and John Reynolds and how they got to the brink of divorce after twenty-two years of being happily married, all while keeping their marriage problems secret from their three children and their friends.

While I enjoyed reading the book and got caught up with the characters, I never fully believed this could happen. Why? Because these were spiritual people who were supposedly brought together by God. When the story begins they weren't even going to church. Surely someone would have noticed that. They went to a marriage counselor, but not a Christian one as far as I could tell.

The children were not as blind to the marital problems as their parents thought and it was their prayers that may have helped more than the counseling. Nicole, their daughter, was especially aware of there being something wrong, all while wanting to pattern her upcoming marriage to that of her parents. I enjoyed the scenes told from Nicole's point of view.

All in all, it was worth reading. I just wish it could have been more believable.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Thomas Nelson Publishers as part of their book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.” After reading the book, I gave it to a church library.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Book Signing Fun

Saturday night was book signing night at BookPeople in Austin. What a thrill.

This was my fifth book signing, but it was special because of the location. Driving to the bookstore for the event I was reminded that much of the book takes place less than a mile from where the bookstore is located at 6th and Lamar, near where I lived from birth until I was about nine years old. That seems young, but I have many memories of the area, especially the time when we lived on West 9 1/2 Street. That's where our house backed up to the Clarksville area, which at the time was a Black neighborhood. In my novel, Where Love Once Lived, George McCullough, the 78-year old Black man, has my memories of the time when I lived there.

The book signing was also special because it was my first in Austin and I got to see some old friends. It was a rainy Saturday night so I didn't expect many people to venture out. I was surprised by the number who did. I only wish I had had more time to talk to some of the friends I hadn't seen in years.

I was paired with another local author, Jennifer Hritz, and we were given 15 to 20 minutes to talk about our book or read an excerpt. After that time, we met with the audience and signed books.

I spoke first and told about how the idea for the book first came to me while driving a bookmobile back in the 1960's, and how the story changed as I took writing classes. I then read the beginning of the book up to the point where Karen takes her class to the bookmobile for the first time. Next, I read the Great Chase scene. I was pleased the chase scene provoked some laughter because I meant it to be funny. Afterward, I told them the main reason for the chase scene was to knock some books to the floor, but I didn't tell them why.

BookPeople is the largest independent bookstore in Texas, and we had an audience of at least 30 people. Many well-known authors schedule stops there. Earlier in the day, Patton Oswalt had drawn a large crowd when he talked about his book, Zombie Spaceship. If you don't know who he is, perhaps you'll remember him as Spence in The King of Queens.

All in all it was a wonderful night.

Monday, January 17, 2011

An Interview with Diane Craver

Today, we will talk to Diane Craver about A Christmas Gift, her latest book published by Whimsical Publications.
She also wrote: Whitney in Charge (sweet contemporary) and Marrying Mallory (inspirational romance), both published by Desert Breeze. A Fiery Secret (chick-lit mystery), No Greater Loss (inspirational romance) and Never the Same (women’s fiction), published by Samhain Publishing.

I loved reading this book and reviewed it recently. See:

Q: You said the story is fictional but based on your own childhood experiences. Can you tell us specifically what led you to write the story?

A: I had thought of writing a story about my father, Horace Wilson, for a long time. His life was hard with his mother’s rejection at a young age, and he was raised by various relatives. Some homes were better than others, because he stayed at times with an alcoholic uncle. Even though both parents deserted him, he had a deep faith and was able to be a good father to me and my siblings. Although I wanted my book to have the emotional honesty of a memoir, I decided to fictionalize it. My goal was to capture a time and place in my childhood based on a true incident in my life that saddened and shocked me. An image of my father’s secret was burned into my mind forever, so the following sentences are the first ones in A Christmas Gift.  “It was 1957 when I saw something that I wasn’t meant to see. I have never forgotten this night because it had such an impact on me.”

Q: I worried about how well everyone accepted the cantankerous Grandma Fogle. Was she written that way to add more conflict?

A: I did want to add more conflict but I was also influenced by my own grandmother. She was self-centered, putting her own needs first. When my father was young, she decided that she had a better chance to get married without him around.

Q: Debra convinced herself she needed to love her Grandma regardless. Have you ever had to do that yourself?

A: Yes, I’ve had to force myself to love certain people who have been very hurtful. I’ve prayed to let go of the negative feelings towards certain relatives and others. All of us carry baggage and we need to rid ourselves of these feelings and do what the Lord wants.

Q: How did you decide whether or not to include an angel in the story?

A: Another good question, Sid. Originally I started the chapter with Elizabeth appearing to Debby. I thought it would be good to have James’s sister talk to Debby, but it just didn’t work for me. Then it occurred to me that an angel would be perfect for this scene. Including an angel in my story was important because I believe God sends angels to guide and protect us during dangerous situations. As the Bible says, “He will give his angels charge of you, to guard you in all your ways.” (Psalm 91:11). 

Q: The letter from Debra's father to her was perfect. Tell us about writing it.

A: Thank you, Sid. That means a lot to me. The letter flowed from my heart because I was already so invested in the characters of Justin Reeves and Debra. 

Q: In the epilogue we learn that Debra becomes a heart surgeon. How did you decide to do that?

A: I’ve always had a strong interest in medicine. I planned on becoming a registered nurse, but the high school guidance counselor discouraged me. He felt I wasn’t strong enough in science to go into nursing. Instead I majored in education and became a teacher.  In my mind, Debra was meant to be a doctor and nothing else. By the way, I loved researching how surgeons repair damaged hearts. That’s the fun part of being a writer. Researching different careers to use for my characters is an education in itself and lots of fun.

Thank you for interviewing me, Sid!

You're welcome, and thank you for giving us this special insight into writing A Christmas Gift.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Sun Screen and Wedding Rings

The beaches within walking distance of our resort were excellent. We could walk to Devil's Bay and Spring Bay, as well as enjoy the National Parks there. We didn't even rent a car until later in the week.

But, from the start, we searched for a snorkeling trip. We found one that included a sailboat ride from Bitter End to Dog Islands that sounded good, so we signed up for it. Since we were not guests of the Bitter End Yacht Club we were put on standby until guests there had an opportunity for the 22 slots. As it turned out, we were two of eight on the trip, with only one couple from Bitter End.

We had to drive to Gun Bay which meant climbing over a peak and take a ferry to Bitter End to get the sailboat to George Dog Island. Since I have tendency to burn, I covered my body with sun block during the start of the five-hour trip on the sailboat. What I didn't think about at the time was that I was also getting the cream on my ring finger.

We anchored a short distance from a small beach and donned our snorkeling gear. I was the last one in the water and Celeste was almost to the beach by that time. As soon as I had gone ten feet or so from the boat, I felt my ring slip off my finger. Some of you know this ring is less than a year old.

I called over to Celeste to tell her, hoping she could help me look for it. However, we both had on waist belts and couldn't dive. Adam, one of the crew heard me talking to Celeste about it and he dove it to help. The skipper told me to stay in position so they would know where to look, but I felt I was drifting back and forth because of the waves. I searched the area the best I could, but it seemed a long way to the bottom. Luckily, there were no rocks below me.

I gave up shortly after that and decided it was something impossible to find in such a large ocean. I told the skipper to tell Adam to forget it next time he came up for air and I swam toward shore looking at the fish now instead of the bottom.

Before I reached shore, I heard the skipper holler, "He found it! Adam found the ring."

And so he did.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Taking a Break in the Sun

My regular readers may have noticed the recent rerun of articles on the Christian Bookmobile. I didn't just post anything, though. I selected some of my favorites, ones that were published so long ago you may have missed them.

Why the repeats?

Celeste and I were in Virgin Gorda, British Virgin Islands, the first week of 2011 for a short vacation. Last year we went to Halifax, which I selected because of my desire to see snow. This year she suggested a place where we could enjoy the sun and warmth. With a range of 72 to 80 degrees, we did enjoy pleasant temperatures.

We left Austin January 1, and flew from Austin to Dallas to Miami to St. Thomas. In St. Thomas we took a Cessna 402C, along with five fighting roosters, to Tortola, BVI. From there we took a boat to Virgin Gorda in the dark.

I'm writing this the next morning after the trip before I forget how tortuous the 25 minute boat ride was for me. The boat was shaped like a 20-25 foot fishing boat with the skipper sitting high above the small cabin. The other seaman put us in the cabin and gave us the safety lecture. At the end of the safety talk, he'd warned us the water was unusually choppy tonight. There was one other passenger in the cabin with us, a young woman with a United States passport who told Celeste she couldn't speak English. She shrugged toward me after the safety announcement.

As we pulled away from the pier, we saw our first sunset in the Islands. It was one of those bright red ones that seem to linger forever. Soon, I was wondering if it was the last sunset I'd see. The next 25 minutes were pure hell. It was like I was stuck on an amusement ride gone amok. I'm still dizzy this morning.

There was nothing to hold onto as we bounced across the sea. I was amazed the bottom of the boat didn't break apart as it hit time after time after hanging in the air first. Up and slam. Up and slam. Where did that guy say we'd find the life preservers?

I sat next to Celeste on the only cushion while the young girl was holding her knee up against mine, probably to keep from bouncing off the fiberglass seat. I leaned one hand against the bulkhead for support, but soon it was so wet my hand slid off the wall.

There was a window above Celeste which we closed when the water first splashed in. But then it got so hot I opened it and welcomed the cold spray on my face. I was feeling queasy about this time and spied the sink across from us in case it was needed. I was reminded of my time in the marines aboard landing craft and always being the first one to throw up.

About the time I reached my limit, the engine speed cut and I knew the nightmare was coming to an end. We landed in Spanish Town and there was a taxi waiting for us. The distance to our resort was only about a mile from the place the boat landed.

Note: by the end of the week, I had been on five other boats of various sizes without incident. Our trip back to St. Thomas for the return flight was on a large ferry boat, which was quite comfortable.

Tomorrow I'll tell you about losing my wedding ring while snorkeling.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

State Confederate Home in Austin

In Where Love Once Lived, 78-year old George McCullough tells about a time when the parents of a white boy he'd been playing with told their son not to see him anymore.

“After that, we started meetin’ over at the ol’ Confed’rate Soldiers’ Home.” He turned to Brian. “Did Cindy show you where it use’ to be? Down at the end of Nine and a Half Street? We hunted birds and squirrels with our slingshots and sneaked around trying to find an old Confed’rate soldier. Never did.” He laughed. “That white family moved away, and I never saw that kid again. Bobby. That was his name. I’d forgotten that. Isn’t it funny how names can pop into your head after decades of not thinkin’ about them?”

George McCullough is a fictional character, but in real life, I lived on Nine and a Half Street and sneaked into the grounds of the old Confederate Soldier's Home with my big sister or next door neighbor. I remember a wooded pathway from the end of our street that led to facility. It was as if the denseness of the forest would protect those inside. As I remember it, we were afraid to get very close to where the old soldiers might be, but I do remember seeing a large brick building.

The Online Handbook of Texas says the Texas Confederate Home opened in 1886. The complex on twenty-six acres of land on West Sixth Street had several buildings, including a large administration building and living quarters, a brick hospital, and private cottages. The last Confederate veteran died in 1934 at the age of 108, before I was born. After that, the facility was home to Spanish American and World War I veterans and their spouses as well as "senile" mental patients. The area was razed in 1970 and is now used for University of Texas student housing.

The old Confederate Home made quite an impression on me as a child, and now it's gone. I think that's why I included it in the book. Do you have any places you think about? Are there places that have been torn down that you'd like to describe to someone?

Note: This is repeated from 4/12/10.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Trying to Ignore God's Nudges

The idea for writing a bookmobile story came to me while driving one back in the 1960's. I was a college student at the University of Texas assigned to drive for a feisty librarian who got us into trouble with the head librarian several times because of helping our patrons in ways unrelated to books. I wanted to write a humorous novel about her, but quickly learned I didn't know much about writing.

The writing urge hit me again a few years later, and I started a fictional account of my time in the Marines in the 1950's and my true-life experience of driving with a black friend from California to Texas. I had read enough books to know it was an interesting idea and would have made a great novel. But once again, I was reminded I didn't know how to craft a novel. After that I settled for non-fiction writing.

The nudge to write the bookmobile story came again in 2004, and this time I said no because I knew it was too hard. The very next Sunday, my pastor, Dr. Jeanie Stanley, said this: "Trust the Lord God with your dreams and He will help you achieve them." This gave me the idea to turn the whole project over to God. To remind myself I wasn't alone, I wrote a prayer which I printed and taped to the computer monitor.

Dear Lord, be my source of inspiration. Give me the words you want the world to hear. Help me create the story and the characters to convey your message in such a way as to be desirable to the business world of publishers. Guide my hands and stay in my mind and my heart while I write and while I edit. Amen

By then I was smart enough to know I needed help so I started taking online basic fiction writing classes. At the time I was in the Austin Lyric Opera Chorus and rehearsing three times a week for eight or nine months out of the year, and didn't want to take on a large writing project. But, God wouldn't let me use that as an excuse. I retired from the chorus, continued to study and started writing Where Love Once Lived. That's when I met my teacher, Bonnie Hearn Hill. More about her later.

I don't want this to come across as me believing my book is the word of God. Far from it. All I'm trying to say is that I had a strong urge to write and publish Where Love Once Lived. I hope it makes you laugh and cry, and if just one person should happen to move closer to God because of it, then all the effort was worthwhile.

How about you? Have you ever felt compelled to do something so strong you wondered if God was trying to tell you something?

Note: This is repeated from 4/5/10.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Austin, the Friendly City

Where Love Once Lived is set in the current time in Austin, Texas. However, the male protagonist has lived in California for the past thirty years and his memory of Austin is different than the way the city is today. It doesn't bother him that Austin's slogan has changed from Austin the Friendly City to Keep Austin Weird. He doesn't even notice. He finds the place on Dry Creek near Mt. Bonnell Road where he and his college buddies rented a cabin and he builds his house there, including a replica of the cabin that had fallen to the ground from decay. Brian is determined to recapture his youth, and marry his college sweetheart. He buys a bookmobile, because that was the last place where he had been with Karen, and makes a deal with the city to try it for year as long as he pays the expenses.

In addition to the cabin, scenes take place at an elementary school built in the 1950's, Mt. Bonnell, Clarksville, and the city library (the old one, not the new one), the University of Texas campus, and Manor.

It was fun revisiting the Austin of the past while writing the book, and I hope you'll enjoy reading about it. I was born in Austin and went through school there. I joined the Marines after learning I wasn't ready for college, and didn't get back to Austin for 20 plus years. It had changed so much by then I hardly knew where I was. But, it didn't matter. Everywhere I went I could see and feel the past, the place where the memories lived. Once, I told an old friend I'd meet him at the drug store. When we both got there, we noticed the corner we'd been thinking about was now a strip mall and there wasn't a drug store anywhere near there. Another fun thing is that we, my buddies and I, know routes through town that newcomers don't.

How about you? Have you experienced a change in your life or your surroundings that made you wish for the good old days? Were the good old days as good as you remember? How do you handle change? Do you embrace it or fight it? Place is not as important as who you are. You can take your beliefs and faith in God wherever you go. Likewise, you can't move to another place to get away from problems. They go with you, too.

In Where Love Once Lived, Brian never recaptures his youth, of course, because that's impossible. But he does learn that what he was searching for was the love of God.

Note: This is repeated from 4/2/10.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Racism is Alive and Well, Unfortunately

Shouts of racism are in the news every day now even though you'd think we'd be way past that here in 2011. The old saying, what would Jesus do, comes to mind.

In my book, Where Love Once Lived, the male protagonist is white and his best friend is black. I'm not sure how that happened, but it did make the story more interesting. I'm sure it has a lot to do with my personal beliefs. However, how does a writer who believes in equality, write about people of different races without sounding like he or she is emphasizing the differences? Ideally, race wouldn't be mentioned. This might work in a movie or TV show, but in the black and white of a book, how do you show the black and white of the characters?

I grew up in Austin, Texas during the segregation period, and use the father of one of the characters in the book to tell about some of my experiences of that time. I turned one story upside down, letting a black character tell about his experiences. As George McCullough, now in his seventies, describes his experience back in the 1930-40's with segregation, I'm the white boy he refers to. Well, as far as fiction allows.

"It's called historical, now," Mr. McCullough said holding a fork in the air. "It use' to be a ghetto, you know." He glanced at Brian. "I don't guess Cindy told you that. Most of the Negroes lived east of Austin, but there was a colony here in Clarksville."

Mr. McCullough continued. "When I was growin' up, there were boundaries, you see. We couldn't jus' live anywhere we wanted. Ever'one knew where the lines were. Our street here was as far south as we could live."

He shook his head. "Today, it doesn't matter. No one's shocked when black and white marry, even." He locked eyes with Brian, then moved his gaze to Cindy.

"When was this neighborhood a ghetto, Grandpa?" Cindy asked. "I've heard the story, but I think Brian would like to hear about it, too."

"Let's see." He touched a thumb to his fingers. "I'd say up until sometime in the 1950s." He pointed south. "Over at Mathews School, on 9 ½ Street, that was white. Our lot touched up to a white family's back yard." He laughed. "I'd forgotten about that. Fact is, back in the 1930's or 40's, I use' to play with the little kid who lived there. Well, not play, really. We mos'ly jus' talked through the chicken wire. My Mama and Daddy told me not to, but I did anyway."

As the author, I also worried about making Mr. McCullough sound different. To make up for using the speech pattern, which I felt gave a better view of the character, later in the book, his intelligence is clearly shown.

How do you write about race differences without emphasizing the differences? What do you prefer as a reader?

Note: This is repeated from 4/1/10.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

How Would You React to a Tragedy?

 In my book, Where Love Once Lived, the two main characters share a traumatic breakup. They were both Christians and both active in church at the time. However, after the event, one turned closer to God and the other turned away. Why? What do you do in dire circumstances? I think most of us turn to the church for support. I often wonder what people without a close church tie do when faced with major problems.

Here is an excerpt from Chapter 1:

She'd once loved a bookmobile driver. Memories of that time with him poured in so rapidly she caught her breath. It'd been long ago, but her heart remembered. At first she thought of the love she'd felt back then, but the good memories didn't last long. She'd gone to the bookmobile as usual that last day, but nothing was to be the same again. She went to Brian with love and exciting news. She left alone. Not just without him, but alone in the world and apart from God.

Now you know a little about why I've titled this blog the Christian Bookmobile. More about that later. The thoughts quoted above are from Karen, who is now 53 and is teaching in an elementary school. A bookmobile has just pulled up in the parking lot and she is flooded with memories. Some good, some bad. Something happened thirty years ago involving a bookmobile that made her feel apart from God. However, she eventually moved closer to God. It was the bookmobile driver Brian who turned away, and when the story opens he hadn't been to church in thirty years.

When I wrote the book, I didn't plan for the two people to react so differently to the same event. Even though it is fiction, I felt I was reporting could have happened knowing these two fictional characters the way I did. Is it a male/female thing? The man turned away from the support of the church and the woman embraced the love of her church friends. The woman lived a happy life. The man's life was empty.

How about you? Have you had a major event happen in your life that tested your faith? How did you react?

Note: This is repeated from 3/31/10.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

The Magnificent Ambersons – The DVD

I collect Pulitzer Prize winning books, mostly those that won the fiction category. My theory is that if the book is good enough to win the prize it is worth reading. The Magnificent Ambersons, by Booth Tarkington won in 1919. I purchased the book, but have not read it yet. While searching for it, I ran across this DVD that came out in 2002. It is a remake of the 1942 film directed by Orson Welles which was nominated for four Oscars. The 2002 remake is said to have followed Welles' original screenplay, much of which was cut out of the 1942 version. I also found there was an earlier movie that came out in 1925.

The Magnificent Ambersons is an excellent story about George Amberson, a rich brat who falls in love with Lucy Morgan, the daughter of Eugene Morgan, George's mother's former lover who returns to town after a twenty-year absence. Due to economic changes and poor investments, George is forced to move from rich brat to a man struggling to survive.

Because the story is set in the early 1900s, there are interesting subplots relating to automobiles and suburban growth.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Suds In Your Eye by Mary Lasswell

This is a humorous story by Mary Lasswell about three retired women, Mrs. Annie Feeley, Miss Agnes Tinkham, and Mrs. Erna Rasmussen, who live in Southern California, probably San Diego, during World War II. Mrs. Feeley is a widow who runs a junk yard called Noah's Ark (it has two of everything) with the help of Old-Timer (her working man) after her husband died. She is uneducated and can't read.

Miss Tinkham, a retired music teacher, relies on rent from a home back east and she is looking for a less expensive place to live when she meets Mrs. Feeley.

Mrs. Rasmussen, also a widow, is a nationalized citizen from Denmark living with her daughter and her daughter's family, paying rent, cooking and taking care of the grandchildren. They insist that she get home by 10:00 p.m. Worse yet, her son-in-law doesn't drink and is a vegetarian.

Mrs. Feeley has no children, but she has a nephew, Danny Malone, who is a Chief Yeoman stationed on a ship, who apparently has lost his parents.

Mrs. Feeley invites Miss Tinkham and Mrs. Rasmussen to move into her one-room house and they build walls to provide privacy between the beds. Mrs. Rasmussen does the grocery shopping and prepares the meals. Miss Tinkham plays the piano. The two things the three have in common are their love of beer (thus the title) and their ability to get things done.

While Danny is home briefly, Miss Tinkham invites them all to visit the Spanish class she is taking and Danny falls in love with the teacher, Kate Logan, and she is instantly attracted to him. We know this quickly because of the viewpoint. Books written today are most often written in one character's point of view for each scene. However, this book came out in 1942 when it was more popular to use limited omniscient viewpoint, which means you have a God-like perspective of the story and can switch viewpoint from one character to another as needed, even within a scene. In other words the reader can read the minds of all characters in a scene, not just one.

The three ladies are struggling financially and manage to get by only by pooling their resources. Danny offers to help and is turned down. Then his ship leaves for a military mission and he is unavailable to help even if his aunt would let him.

Mrs. Feeley learns her junk yard and home are being sold because she hasn't paid her taxes for several years. Turns out the lawyer she'd hired to take care of it has stolen the money. If Miss Tinkham hadn't been there to read the letter to Mrs. Feeley, it would have been too late.

The three ladies and Old-Timer go to work at the tuna cannery to raise the money for the taxes by the deadline, plus a little extra for the trip to Tijuana the Spanish class has planned.

This book contains a few profanities that you wouldn't find today in a humor book and the only mention of Christian was this: Mrs. Feeley was glad to see that Kate Logan was a Christian when it came to drinking beer. It would have been almost too much of a disappointment if she had turned out to be the kind that liked the sweet stuff.

They manage to pay off the taxes and penalties and end up with enough money for the trip to Mexico with the class. While there, they find the lawyer and help the police catch him. Later, back in the United States, they get a reward for catching him.

Danny comes home and marries and Kate Logan and they have a huge party at Noah's Ark.

Great story.

There was more of a plot to the book than I remembered from reading in back in the 1950s. Although we didn't learn about the possible loss of the property until half way through the book, it was a significant event that put tension on the ladies to find a solution within a fixed time frame, the recipe for a good novel.

I think the reason I thought about Suds In Your Eye when I started writing about Liz Siedo and the bookmobile was that Liz gets things done and has a positive attitude about life, just like the three women in Mary Lasswell's books. I don't know yet, but I suspect Liz might enjoy a taste of beer from time to time.

Monday, January 3, 2011


Have you ever thought what the Internet is doing to us by providing too much information too frequently?

My iPhone beeped yesterday and I started to read it, "Fox News Breaking News…"

"I don't want to hear it," Celeste said before I could get to the good part.

I was taken aback, as you might imagine. How could anyone resist hearing what follows the words "breaking news?" When I asked, she said she'd hear it sooner or later. Right now she wanted to enjoy what she was doing.

Actually, she was sitting with Storming Norman, the cat, on the swing on the screened-in porch reading a book as sounds from the water feature filled the air so I could understand why she didn't want to hear some news that turned out to be so unimportant I can't remember what it was now.

Her reaction made me think about how the instant availability of information is negatively affecting us daily. One example is the way I used my iPhone to look up information during discussions at social gatherings. Rather than help, it tends to be a downer to always be right. Instead of an interesting discussion about who was or wasn't in a particular movie, I can access the cast list with a few clicks. But, as I said, it wasn't as helpful as you might think. So, at the last two parties I went to, I left my phone in the car and had some better conversations because of it.

Another example. I've found myself going to the computer more than once a day to check book sales. I check CreateSpace for print edition sales, Amazon for Kindle sales, and for other eBook sales. I have to admit it is fun to see the numbers rise, but it is equally discouraging when they don't.

When my first book came out in 1983, I had to wait three months for a royalty report before learning how sales were going. Now, I'm lucky to wait three hours.

So, one of my resolutions for next year is to relax, enjoy free time, and check the news less.

How about you? Have you had problems adjusting to ease of access to information?