News and Gifts and a Word from Our Sponsors


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I can easily fill pages with words about fictional characters, perfect strangers, friends, relatives, associates, anyone other than myself. And my guess is readers of this and other blogs would prefer to read about anyone but the blogger behind the blog.

But I’m allowing myself this luxury and begging your indulgence because I have news and I bring gifts.

First the news (and a brief note from our sponsors):

My latest novel, The Martyr’s Brother, will be available next week.  That’s the official date, but (yes, here it comes) it’s already available on Amazon and on a pre-order basis through my website (

Okay, phew, that’s out of the way.

Here’s where you ask, what’s the book about and why should you fork over a few hard earned dollars to buy a copy then devote an afternoon or day of your time to reading the book?

At the most basic page-turning level The Martyr’s Brother is a cat and mouse story of a young man from the Middle East intent on committing an act of terror in the US and the woman who must stop him. But if you peel back the layers, the book is also the story of the impact an act of terror has on the people it touches.

And then there’s your retort. You ask, what do I know about terror? To best answer that, I’ll use the words of my protagonist, Alicia Blake.  In the book, she says, “people had forgotten there was a day in the not too distant past when they’d not seen or heard of bombings, and suicide vests, and snipers.”

I am fortunate to have lived in a time and place where terrorism didn’t happen in our backyards. I hope people don’t forget, and I pray that terrorism does not define our future.

Do you prefer to watch a video or what’s known as a “book trailer” to convince you? Check out the video I created on YouTube (Book Trailer: The Martyr’s Brother) or perhaps the podcast of me reading the first page.  (Reading from The Martyr’s Brother)

And now the gifts:

I’m taking a different tack in releasing the book. Trying to be “social” and tech-savvy, I’m holding a virtual book launch party on Facebook. The party will feature all the trappings of a real world book launch: music, libations, hors d’oeuvres, special guests, lots of chatter, and yes contests, prizes, and gifts.

To join the party, go to my Facebook event (Launch Party ) on October 26 from 4 pm to 7 pm (Eastern). Say hello and congratulations by commenting on the page, join the conversation, and stay as long or as little as you like. Everyone wins something. And a few will take away gift certificates and copies of The Martyr’s Brother.

Thank you. And, for the next post, we’ll be back to our regular programming!

Mary Burry – A Bucket List Life


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When I met Mary Burry, I knew her story would inspire.

Deciding what to do with your life is not simple.  Not for most of us. Some face the daunting task in high school when they have to decide whether and where to go to college, or perhaps in college, when they have to elect a major.  Or when they graduate and have to apply for a job. Few people have a clear view of what they will do for the rest of their lives even at these points.

But Mary Burry, a friend I interviewed a few weeks ago, is not like most people. She had a plan and she lived it. When we sat down to talk, I knew her story and perspective would inspire people, perhaps even cause a few to confront their own future.  As a child, Mary was so moved by a documentary on Albert Schweitzer that she decided then and there to one day practice medicine in a foreign country—not foreign in the sense of France or Italy, but rather in places tourists rarely visit, even the adventurous ones.  She would practice medicine in desperately poor and strife-ridden countries facing disasters of epic proportions. Countries where whole populations’ lives were at risk and where resources to deal with the challenges were lacking.

Nobel Peace Prize winner Albert Schweitzer was a French-German theologian and founder of Lambaréné, a leper colony and safe haven for Africans suffering from disease and injury.  He practiced medicine there, in the Republic of Gabon, while following his philosophy embodied by the expression “reverence for life.”

Years would pass before Mary took her first step toward her goal. First she had to get a medical degree, and after she married for the second time—to a like-minded and equally courageous doctor—they agreed to see their children through school, pay off their debits, and arrange their lives to allow for time off from their own busy medical practices.

Mary broke ground (or the glass ceiling in today’s parlance) when she entered medical school–she was one of only a handful of women in her class.  That alone was enough for some individuals. But to Mary, it was just the next step in her life. She never spent a moment thinking about discrimination, looking for a “safe space,” or worrying about being the oddball in class.  Mary was busy pursuing her goal, and she had complete confidence that she could do anything.

Anything except choose a specialty.

In medical school in the 60s, the accepted path for females was women’s health or pediatrics.  But Mary had a problem. She liked everything and didn’t want to be pigeon-holed.  It took a rotation through the radiology department for Mary to find her calling.  Radiology presented a unique opportunity at the time, before scientific advances and technology  changed medicine.  Radiology provided a high degree of patient contact, the compelling part of women’s health and pediatrics, but it also took a holistic view of the patient, which was the more interesting and challenging part. Unfortunately that changed over time.  Today, Mary says, “I spend most of my day staring at a computer screen in a darkened room, rather than with patients.”

But the pieces of Mary Burry’s life puzzle fell in place.

The kids were grown and graduated from school.  The house was paid off. And both Mary and her husband Tom Hoggard’s medical practices were humming along.  That’s when, Mary remembered her childhood ambition. And that’s when the call came.  Medical Teams International, a faith-based organization, operating out of Portland was on the phone.  They had a desperate need for medical help in Somalia.

That night, Mary and Tom watched the television news coverage of Somalia. Forget that Somalia is on the other side of the world. Forget that Somalia and the US were not exactly on friendly terms.  Think 1993, the year of Black Hawk Down. Think conflict, poverty, starvation, and disease.

And then, say yes.  Mary had to go.  Albert Schweitzer was calling, too.

About as close as Mary had come to the conditions she anticipated was her honeymoon in Peru where she “roughed” it on an adventure tourist excursion.  But tourism is tourism, a vacation is a vacation; Somalia was the real deal. Instead of hospitals, the volunteer team of doctors practiced in whatever facility, makeshift or permanent was available. Instead of hotels, Mary and Tom and their fellow medical volunteers sheltered and slept  in a former brothel. Running water was a luxury that no amount of money could buy. And instead of people going about their business or frolicking at the beach, people were dying. Masses of people were dying, injured in local fighting, starving, or sick from exposure to infectious diseases after drinking unclean water.

There was no time to think about personal danger. There was medicine to practice.


Mary Burry, a radiologist, had to wear many hats while abroad. Here she assists by administering anesthesia to a patient in Papua New Guinea. Photo Credit: Tom Hoggard. 

Several exhausting weeks later, when Mary and her husband left Somalia, they had mixed emotions.  So many people needed so much more than two people could give.  But, Mary felt she had made a difference. She had reached a hand out to help someone in need, as Albert Schweitzer would have done. She would go back.

In the subsequent years, whenever there was an earthquake, a flood, an epidemic or any other natural or man-made disaster, Medical Teams called. And Mary and Tom went. They always had a bag packed– one tiny carry on, ready for anything they’d need in Afghanistan, Albania, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Iraq, Kosovo, Mozambique, Nicaragua, Pakistan, Panama, the Philippines, and Turkey. They had a bucket list unlike any other.

Given the place of women in many of the cultures where Mary worked, I was curious how Mary, as a female doctor, was received.  Mary started by saying, she and her female counterparts had made a decision to practice as they would anywhere–without headscarves or other locally accepted covering,  treating men, women, and children alike, taking charge, or following the lead of a local doctor, whatever the situation demanded.  Their approach had much to do with their treatment.  “We were seen as doctors first and women second. It was almost as if we were a ‘third sex,’” Mary says.


Mary Burry, surrounded by local villagers, reviews a patient X-Ray inside the Iraqi village’s mosque. Photo Credit: Tom Hoggard


Mary never lost sight of the fact she and her counterparts were invited guests in the countries where she worked.  Both she and Tom were careful to work with the local authorities and to treat the local doctors, nurses, and technicians with respect.  They made a practice of requesting the local staff’s counsel before taking a course of action.  This approach, she learned, was not at all what the local group had expected.  One technician told her he had expected the American doctors to tell everyone what to do and how to do it, but that was not the case.

At the end of more than one of her tours of duty, Mary was humbled by the expressions of gratitude she received and pleased to have earned the respect of the local staff.  One Iraqi doctor confessed “he was ashamed.” As a doctor, he thought he was better than the rest of the staff of technicians, nurses, and aides, but Mary and the other American doctors treated everyone as equally important and deserving of respect. In another case, a Pakistani doctor told Mary how before the Medical Teams personnel arrived, he had thought ill of the Americans, expecting them to be arrogant and proud. He credited Mary and her team with changing their views. As she described the experience, Mary wiped away a tear. She said, the Pakistanis didn’t know that she also had the opportunity to see these often puzzling and desperate but proud people as people first. It went both ways.

In the years after she left, Mary has kept in contact with a handful of the doctors she worked beside. They say, her legacy endures.

How gratifying is it to sit on this side of life and look back to see you did what you had set out to do and made a difference in the lives of so many other people in a way that so few people could.

If you have the better part of your life ahead of you, perhaps it’s time to add a few meaningful things to your own bucket list.

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This post first appeared on The Huffington Post.  Click here to connect to read other posts on my Huffington Post Blog Page.


Page Cash – Mom’s Lives Matter



Deputy Page Cash of the local Sheriff’s Office hijacked my story. I’d approached my local Sheriff’s Office asking to interview one of the Office’s Deputies. With the recent turmoil between law enforcement and civilians in the headlines, I wanted to dig into the issues and meet the people in whose hands we’ve put our trust and our lives. We met at a local restaurant, Deputy Cash with her badge-laden uniform, multi-radio communications systems squawking, and bullet proof vest, insisting on facing the door, and me with my list of interview questions.

Two minutes in to our discussion, I put the questionnaire aside.

In a way, I found the story I was looking for—the story of how one person (in this case a woman) followed a call to serve her community and made a difference in untold numbers of lives along the way. She’s someone who gets up every morning, puts on her uniform and goes back out on the streets, because she can help and it’s what she does.

With sunny blond hair and clear blue eyes, Page looks nothing like what I expected a Sheriff’s Deputy to look, though beneath her Deputy’s paraphernalia, I had the distinct impression Page could hold her own with most people she comes across. Page later told me she was one of the first girls to play on the boys’ football team, though she preferred basketball and softball to football. She has a tough exterior and admits to having been a wild child, at which point I picture a ten-year-old girl in a schoolyard brawl, and Page emerging on top. But, Page turned her life around. She held a corporate job in the insurance industry for fourteen years before she decided she could do more.

She entered the ministry and visited China and the Philippines as a missionary from her church then returned to Atlanta in the early 2000s. Penniless but determined to continue ministering to others; she worked tirelessly, on call 24-hours-a-day. Page was drawn to the most desperate populations, the homeless, addicted, and at risk, many of whom she’d meet, feed, and clothe where they lived. Often, as a result, she found herself under highway bridges in some of Atlanta’s most crime-ridden areas. Her natural affinity for the work and the trust she developed among those she helped earned her the nickname “Momma Page.”

Somewhere along the way, Page says, God told her to fulfill her childhood ambition to be a cop. Then, once she joined the Sheriff’s Office, he planted the seed of an idea in her head: Teen Interception. Page mulled the concept over and eventually approached the Sheriff’s Office requesting to launch a program to help at risk teens; teens she said were destined for life “under a bridge, in jail, or at the morgue.” Today, Page coordinates the Sheriff’s Office Teen Interception Program a seven-week program held two to three times each year. The program’s goal is to help teens avoid destructive behaviors and point them in a new direction. One of the keys to making a difference in these young lives is their parents’ participation. And though, Page encourages parents to attend the program, she confesses, many don’t or won’t get involved. That’s when Deputy Page Cash becomes “Momma Page” again.

The Teen Interception Program is just one part of Page Cash’s job. Though she wishes she could devote all her time to the program, Page has a hundred other things to do, just like the rest of the Deputies in the Office.


Our short visit ended–though I suspect it’s not our last–we rose from the table and Page gave me a big hug, a genuine heart-felt and comforting hug. Yes, there are “bad apples” out there among society’s authority figures, whether in law enforcement, the ministry, education, or the military. There are people who have done irreparable damage to those who trusted them, but they are the exception. Rarely do we celebrate the good ones like Deputy Page Cash.

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For more information about the Teen Interception Program, visit the Forsyth County Sheriff’s Office website at or email Deputy Cash at, or keep your eyes peeled for a Deputy with a wavy blond hair at the wheel of a Sheriff’s Office vehicle.

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This post first appeared on The Huffington Post.  Click here to connect to read other posts on my Huffington Post Blog Page.




Miss Jane Marple – A Role Model


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Last month I profiled Nancy Drew and Carolyn Keene, the pseudonym for the group of authors of the series of detective novels featuring the ingénue detective extraordinaire.  This month, I’ve journeyed to the other end of the spectrum to spotlight Miss Jane Marple, Dame Agatha Christie’s much loved cozy mystery sleuth.

A “cozy” mystery as I had to learn is distinguished from other mysteries and thrillers by an amateur sleuth who solves mostly domestic crimes. The crimes often occur in rural settings and violence and sex are left to the imagination, well, well off stage. Dame Christie is credited with inventing the genre and perfecting it in the character of Miss Marple. The aging crime solver appears in twelve of Ms Christie’s novels that span the period from 1927 to 1976.

While I didn’t use Miss Marple as inspiration for Alicia Blake, the amateur detective and soon to be professional police woman in my upcoming thriller, there are similarities between the two characters. For the most part the two share a reliance on intuition.  Feminine intuition to be exact. The decidedly feminine trait was much used by Christie. In Murder at the Vicarage (1930), Christie compared the skill of intuition to “reading a word without having to spell it out.”

Christie had forty years to hone Miss Marple’s skills, but even at the outset, Miss Marple demonstrated the uncanny ability to take an idle comment from casual conversation and connect the dots, solving crimes that eluded her professional male counterparts. Often, Miss Marple put two and two together while relaxing in a comfortable chair, knitting, or in her garden with a pair of gardening shears in hand. Other times, she stayed in the background and listened while those around her chattered away. From everywhere clues dropped like rain, but only she noticed. And, as every Miss Jane Marple reader knows, if a male character thought he had the crime solved and explained how he believed the impossible unfolded, watch for a roll of Miss Marple’s eyes or a shake of her head. He is inevitably not even close.

In Nemesis (1971), the last Marple novel, Jane had aged. Nevertheless, she was just as much at work as she was in her earlier days. Christie described her as “old fashioned,” prone to taking naps, and with a rheumatic back that prevented her from working in her garden, but she still knits and she still solves a crime. All it took was a glance at the obituaries in her favorite newspaper to spark a memory and, by page two, Miss Marple was off and running, or perhaps, ambling down a lane in St. Mary Mead.

She had “a scent for evil, in the evening of her days, her peculiar gift,” Christie said.

Agatha Christie

More than 125 years after Miss Christie’s birth, the literary world is re-examining the prolific writer, casting her in a more modern light as a feminist, an identity others claim she would have resist.  Though Christie brought women characters out of the shadows and gave them center stage, they remain in their decidedly female roles, chock full of feminine intuition.

That’s not a bad role model for my own protagonist. Watch for more news about my upcoming thriller, scheduled for release this fall.


Nancy Drew – My First Girl Detective


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Can you remember the first “real” novel you read—or at least an early, early one—a book that launched you down the reading path? In my case, it was a hand me down. I had an older sister who loved to read (and still loves to read, devouring a book or two each week) and so, when she discarded a book it found its way to me.

If memory serves me correctly, my first was a Nancy Drew mystery. With over forty titles in the series by the early 1960s, I can’t say now whether I started with “The Secret of the Old Clock,” or “The Hidden Staircase,” or the “Clue in the Diary,” or “The Message in the Hollow Oak,” or “The Haunted Bridge”… There seemed to be an unending supply of the books for girls, written as I later discovered by a syndicate under the pseudonym Carolyn Keene.

In retrospect, I suppose they were perfect novels for girls who would become women in the 1970s. Nancy triumphed where others failed. She even went on to be “Nancy Drew, Girl Detective” in the series that continued into this century. Somehow, I think Nancy changed with the times; and I shudder to think of her texting or playing pokemango. For me she’ll forever be climbing dark staircases, running through dark forests, or exploring attics, on her own or with an occasional sidekick. And, of course, she’ll always find the clue and solve the mystery.

The books are definitely for the young reader. Consider the opening words of “The Hidden Staircase.”

Nancy Drew began peeling off her garden gloves as she ran up the porch steps and into the hall to answer the ringing telephone. She picked it up and said, “Hello!”

“Hi, Nancy! This is Helen.” Although Helen Corning was nearly three years older than Nancy, the two girls were close friends.

“Are you tied up on a case?” Helen asked.

“No. What’s up? A mystery?”

“Yes–a haunted house.”

Nancy sat down on the chair by the telephone. “Tell me more!” the eighteen-year old detective begged, excitedly.

There you have it, in less than one hundred words: three exclamation points, a mystery, a haunted house, and a sidekick. Oh yes, and long garden gloves that have to be peeled off.

Seriously, maybe there is a reason to go back and read a few books from the series. In this very short passage there’s drama, tension, suspense, and the beginnings of character description.  With chapters titled “Strange Music,” “Frightening Eyes,” and “An Elusive Ghost,” to come, what’s not to love?

With my own new novel, a thriller, coming to market this fall, maybe I can call my publisher and ask them to hold the presses while I inject a bit of Nancy into my own heroine.

Marine One – Helen Wilbur


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Montezuma Red. Elizabeth Arden created the color for a line of cosmetics on request of the US Marine Corps for the women’s reserve unit during World War II. After all, if women were going to be in the Marines and wear the Marine uniform with red piping on the cap and red chevrons on their sleeves, the color on their lips and nails had better match.

Helen Roderick Wilbur occasionally wears the same deep red today. She is in her nineties—yes, I think she’ll forgive me for disclosing her age. She has every reason to be proud of her age and her life. We met five years ago, when my father singled her out from the table of six women who lived in the same senior living facility as he did.

You couldn’t miss Helen, there’s something about the way she sits or stands or walks, or perhaps just her carries herself. You know instantly she has a story to tell. Helen was once a Marine, in fact, she was one of the first women to join the Women’s Marine Corps. She served in the new Corps’ first platoon at Camp Elliot and Camp Pendleton in California until November 1945.

Helen “answered the call,” perhaps not as heroically as you might imagine, but in her own inimitable way. The way she tells the story, she and a friend were celebrating her birthday at a popular lunch spot in San Francisco. The two ladies had enjoyed a couple of glasses of wine and were feeling a bit light-headed as they sauntered out the door after lunch. Across the street, they spied the recruiting office, glanced at the poster of the handsome man in full Marine dress and, without a second thought, walked in and signed their names. The rest, as they say, is history.

Helen never regretted her decision, quite the contrary, she was as convinced of what she wanted to do and what the right thing to do was in those days in the 1940s as she is today. She has no regrets.


Helen Roderick Wilbur is one of ten individuals I met and interviewed for my book Into the Light of Day, a collection of short stories. I invite you to read more about her and the other fascinating people whose stories I wanted to bring to light. The book is available through Amazon online in paperback or ebook format at: Into the Light of Day



A Woman of Her Day (and Ours) – Else Lasker-Schuler


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Perhaps it is appropriate that as our country descends into the absurdity of discussions and worse, legislation, surrounding transgender bathrooms, I profile Else Lasker-Schuler, an extraordinary and enigmatic figure from literary history. Else believed passionately in living as she chose without regard to society’s norms and taking a stand against what she saw as an unjust politic. She became notorious in the circles she traveled, dressing often as boy and filling her drawings with a figure, the Prince of Thebes, whose persona she adopted, signing her letters with the man’s name Yusuf.

I discovered Else as the woman Mamah Borthwick befriends in Nancy Horan’s novel Loving Frank during Mamah’s time abroad translating the works of Ellen Key a Swedish feminist of the era. Else was born in 1869 in Elberfeld, Germany to an affluent German Jewish family. She became a poet, playwright, artist, and avant-gardist who moved among the literati that frequented Berlin cafes during the 1930s. Labeled the Queen of Expressionism, she has been recognized as one of the most important poets of twentieth century German literature.

Else led a troubled life, stuck in customs as we might say today. Her life straddled multiple cultures and was a constant battle, ending in near poverty. She wrote in German while living in Israel and became enthralled with all things oriental, a fashionable obsession of the times.

She gained renown as a poet, received the prestigious Kleist Prize for literature and did poetry readings across the German-speaking world. When the Nazi’s came to power in the 1930s, she fled the country after suffering a beating by a rod-wielding group of Nazis, according to one source. Else emigrated to Switzerland but was visiting Israel when war broke out. She was not allowed to return to Switzerland and lived out her life in Israel. Unfortunately, though Else wrote of her hopes for the destruction of Nazism, she died in 1945 before the end of the war and the collapse of the Nazi government.

Today, Else Lasker-Schuler is best known for her poetry, though some criticize her poems as being overly romantic.

At night I used to steal
The rose of your mouth,
So that no other woman could drink there.

Else’s words could also be sharp in their attack on the status quo of religion or politics.

My motherland is souless.
No rose blooms
in the tepid air.


As an artist, Else painted in a striking, hard to define style. Her characters often face left or are in profile as in ancient Egyptian tomb paintings, a popular style of the day.  They are also often of an indeterminate gender.


Else Lasker-Schuler was a woman of her times, influenced as some claim by the “gender-bending” stage performances of Sarah Berhardt, the controversial writer George Sand, and the emergence of Freud’s sexually-infused psychoanalysis and, of course WWI, the depression, and WWII.

If you find the woman as fascinating as I do, read more at the National Library of Israel’s site ( or the Jewish Womens Archive (  My Blue Piano is the title of a collection of her poetry. On a Triangle Reflected Between Here and the Moon written by Dani Dothan is a historical novel that covers Else’s years in Jerusalem, though I could not find an English-language version.

A Woman After My Own Heart



As I am taking a breather of sorts — a few days away — instead of writing a new post myself I am “cheating” and leveraging an article Marta Bausells, social and community editor for The Guardian, recently wrote.

Ms. Bausells was responding to the furor that rose from Gay Talese’s failure to cite one woman author as someone that had inspired him.  It’s not an argument I need to rehash or add to here.  Instead, I simply list the reporter’s “10 Inspiring Female Writers You Need to Read” and provide a link to the article in the Guardian.

The list contains more writers I haven’t read than ones I have.  So, for me, it’s an inspiration to go back to my very long to-be-read list and add a few more names and titles.  I hope you too find a new work among those listed.

  1. Doris Lessing
  2. Toni Morrison
  3. Ursula K. Le Guin
  4. Virginia Woolf
  5. Clarice Lispector
  6. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
  7. Margaret Atwood
  8. Zadie Smith
  9. Elena Ferrante
  10. Angela Carter

Read the Guardian article: 10 Inspiring Female Writers You Need to Read

It Takes a Bookstore …


Photo credit: Stan Kaady (

There’s a saying “it takes a village” popularized some years ago, but for Powder Springs, Georgia, the refrain should be “it takes a book store.” One book store in particular, The Book Worm.

For over a decade Susan Smelser’s independent book store has occupied a prominent spot in the heart of the community. It’s a popular place, drawing locals and visitors alike, some from as far away as Cumming, Newnan, and Conyers.

Take one step inside and you’ll know why. Books line the floor-to-ceiling shelves on every wall and here and there a cozy overstuffed chair waits for anyone who wants to linger. “But, there’s a method to the madness,” Susan says. She and a tireless staff keep everything where it should be, whether it’s new or old, a novel or nonfiction, a children’s book, a book of true crime, science fiction, inspiration, or mystery. And if by chance the Book Worm doesn’t have exactly what you are looking for among its 30,000 titles, Susan will find a copy for you.

Finding long sought books for customers has been Susan’s trademark. That along with her dedication to serving her customers. It’s not just lip service. Everyone gives the store high marks for friendliness and helpfulness.

In 2005, Susan’s online book business had outgrown her garage. She drew on her years of retail business experience to create a solid business plan and then bought the building housing the former Main Street Antiques at 4451 Marietta Street. Soon, she discovered she had a knack for “hand selling” books and making people happy and the business turned a profit in its first quarter of operation.

Ten years later, she still treasures the squeals of delight as a young reader visits the store for the first time. And seeing the smile on the face of a customer finding a favorite, rare, or out-of-print book. And then, there’s the smile she can’t see on the face of a soldier far from home who just received one of the many books the store donated.

Even as society embraced ebooks and ereaders and some traditional “big box” book stores across the country closed, the Book Worm thrived. “What’s more,” Susan says, citing statistics from a recent industry conference,  “there’s good news. Independent book stores like the Book Worm are making a comeback.”  People are flocking to these inviting nooks where they find friendly faces and people who share their love of reading.

To this happy story, however, we add a footnote. After Susan and her husband Steven lost 280 pounds, she is embarking on a new direction.  She’s now working as a health coach, where she says she’ll be able to make an even bigger difference by changing people’s lives.

(Note: You can read more about Susan and Steven’s new business at, an article about the Smelsers in the January’s Half Their Size issue of People Magazine, or last month’s Powder Springs Messenger.)  

It’s a calling she can’t refuse but another full time job.

And so, Susan put the Book Worm’s charming building up for sale. But while the realtor works to sell the building, Susan is searching for another book lover who wants to continue the book business. When asked what type of person she’s looking for Susan says “Above all, someone who has their heart in the community. Merchants in Powder Springs are close a knit group. We’re all just two doors down.” She hopes too, that whoever takes on the Book Worm will continue helping customers track what they’ve read, offering credit for trading books in, and donating books to community groups.

While I wish Susan well in her new endeavors, I suspect she’ll be spotted from time reading a book or two in the comfy red chair in the back room.

If you have ever wanted to own your own bookstore, contact Susan Smelser to hear more.  She can be reached at

The Book Worm Bookstore
4451 Marietta Street
Powder Springs, Georgia 30127

A Woman of Letters – Abigail Adams


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David McCullough’s biography of John Adams holds an honored spot among my favorite books and is the only biography on my list.  I found the work enlightening for author McCullough’s very readable insights into the second president’s life, the historical events in the early years of the United States,  and John Adams’ courtship and marriage to Abigail Adams.  What haunted me long after reading the last page, however, were the many letters between John and Abigail the author incorporated into the biography that added so much to the narrative.  In fact, I can’t imagine the work without the letters. McCullough is not the only one to have delved into the correspondence between the two. Numerous writers, biographers, and filmmakers readily acknowledge the debt they owe to the correspondence for information about the couple and their times.

The letters are incredibly intimate and as I read them I as if I were trespassing.  But they also revealed the beauty of both writers’ writing (even when some of the letters are mere notes dashed off as someone waited to carry the letter between the two) and they reminded me of the degree to which we have lost the art of correspondence.   Of course, the two had no other means to communicate their state of mind during their many and long separations as John Adams traveled the country.

“Alas! How many snow banks divide thee and me and my warmest wishes to see thee will not melt one of them.” (1)

Letters were very precious to both as Abigail noted in a letter from 1764:

“Received the packet you so generously bestowed upon me. To say I fasted after such an entertainment, would be wronging my conscience and wounding truth. How kind is it in you, thus by frequent tokens of remembrance to alleviate the pangs of absence, by this I am convinced that I am often in your thoughts, which is a satisfaction to me… The nest of letters which you so undervalue, were to me a much more welcome present than a nest of baskets, though every strand of those had been gold and silver.” (2)

In much of their early correspondence, especially during courtship, John and Abigail used pen names in their writing. In Abigail’s case, though she signed her letters A. Smith (her maiden name), she used the Roman goddess of the moon’s name Diana when referring to herself; and John used the name Lysander after a Spartan warrior.  This reads quaintly today but adds a touch of whimsy to the letters.

The references are preserved in a letter, also from 1764, where Abigail openly professes her love for John:

“For all those pleasurable sensations, which you were pleased to say, a letter from your Diana gave you, are enjoyed by her when Lysander favors her with an epistle, and in as much greater a degree, as his are more worthy than hers. Yet though he exceeds her there, he cannot in a tenderer affection than that which is borne him by his.”  (signed) A. Smith. (3)

I shudder to think of what two young lovers or BFFs might write to each other today, whether email or twitter, perhaps the only “written” communication left.  I wonder if the Adams’ were prescient, referring to each other as “Dearest of Friends” (DOFs?) throughout their lives even after marriage.

In 1767, Abigail wrote:

“Tomorrow I return home, where I hope soon to receive the dearest of friends and the tenderest of husbands, with that unabated affection which has for years past, and will whilst the vital spark lasts, burn in the bosom of your affectionate. (4)

Even in her dying words in 1818 Abigail Adams, nearly 74, exhibited a gift of language and the art of communication.  “Do not grieve, my friend, my dearest friend. I am ready to go. And John, it will not be long.”

It is in reading words like these, I’m reminded to pause and think before dashing off a note, whether typed or handwritten.  And I’m challenged to elevate my own writing. Thank you David McCullough.  Thank you Abigail Adams.

Photo: United States Public domain
Excerpts: Letter from Abigail Adams to John Adams [electronic edition]. Adams Family Papers: An Electronic Archive. Massachusetts Historical Society.
(1) 30 December 1773
(2) 12 – 13 April 1764
(3) 4 May 1764
(4) 14 September 1767

Note: In some instances spelling was corrected and capitals eliminated for readability.