Rosie’s Book Review Team #RBRT Fran reviews A Different Place to Die by RR Gall


I review books now and then over on Rosie Amber’s blog. Pop over and check out what I had to say about R.R. Gall’s novel, A Different Place to Die. I encourage you to wander around Rosie’s blog. Lots of great book reviews and author information.

Originally posted on Rosie Amber:

Today we have a book review from Fran. She blogs at


Fran chose to read  “A different Place to Die” by RR Gall.


Here is the review.

4 star Amazon Review – A Different Place to Die by R.R. Gall

Quirky Glasgow Investigators in a Mystery that Twists and Turns

The first thing to hook me in R.R. Gall’s mystery/thriller, A Different Place to Die, was the characters. From the start, it is obvious Inspector Tom Quiss is struggling with his work. He thinks of just jacking his job in and taking up lawn bowling with dreams of playing on the Scottish National Team – even though he has never played on a team. The way he seeks escape makes him the type of character a reader can bond with.

The author’s descriptions of the man are fresh and catch the reader’s imagination. “Quiss has become slightly more…

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Should Indie Authors Pay for Promotional Services?

Lacy Hydrangea - Guenette photo

Everything I’ve experienced over the last two years has convinced me that Linda Gillard’s thoughts on how indie authors should self-promote is the best advice on the topic anywhere out in cyberspace.

Linda is featured today on The Alliance of Independent Author’s website. Please check out what she has to say.

What really stands out for me about Linda’s post is her focus on readers over sales. She is determined to win readers, one by one.

Over the weekend, Bruce and I attended a social event – a picnic with interesting people, stunning views and great food. Among this group were at least a half dozen people who had read my books, loved them and told me how much they were looking forward to the next in the series. I thanked one woman for her kind words and she said, “No, thank you. You’ve given us hours and hours of enjoyment.” Wow! You can imagine how those words made me feel.

If I took a poll among a number of struggling indie authors, asking the question – what would you rather do, interact with readers or check out your sale stats – the answer would be overwhelmingly for interacting with readers. It’s a no-brainer. One activity makes us feel good about being writers and the other makes us feel, most days, like failures.

I know I don’t speak for everyone. There are indie authors out there who chuckle gleefully every time they check their stats as the Amazon graphs peak up and up and the money rolls in. But I’m not as naïve as I was when I started out on the path of self-publishing. I fell for the claim that all I needed to do was shell out the money for the latest how-to book and I would see similar sales. The whole indie author advice industry is costly and most people dishing out the secrets to success have a stake in the dollars we might spend.

Then, along comes an author like Ms. Gillard who has been at the self-publishing game for years and she says don’t spend money on expensive promotions. Be in this for the long haul. Cultivate your readership. Give those readers a reason for sticking with you. Keep them interested in your books and yourself.

I’ve wasted money going down the wrong paths on this self-publishing journey. I’ve squandered more than a few opportunities to be with readers and do the type of promotion that matters. And I’ve allowed a lot of useless social media activities to eat up my writing time.

Older and wiser and turning over a new leaf – though I must be honest, here – this isn’t the first time I’ve heard Ms. Gillard’s advice or written about it. Third time’s the charm.

Get back to basics.

I’m writing the next book. Yippee for me! 65,000 words in, I’m dealing with a few first draft issues but going strong.

I have my stash of quality postcards, bookmarks and business cards – now all I have to do is remember to take them along with me and give them out.

I’ll keep this blog going because the writing I do here is a means of interacting with readers as well as creating a valuable dialogue among other writers – who, by the way, are also readers. 

Port McNeill Harbour - Guenette photo

Let’s get a dialogue going on this topic. What do you think of Ms. Gillard’s advice? What have you learned along the way about how to self-promote? What would you do differently now that you are older and wiser?

Gatekeeper or Gateway–What Kind of an Educator Are You?

Closed Gate - Google images

I read a blog post awhile back now on, Whisks & Words. The blogger is writing about her experience of two different types of educators – the gatekeepers and the gateways. This is a bit of what appeared in the post:

Gate-keepers make it hard for students to succeed . . . Their reasons are varied, but their mission is clear: none shall enter without my permission. Want my permission? A lot of people do. And a lot of people get disappointed. But gateways… they’re different. Gateways see success not so much as a fortress to be guarded but as a destination to be gotten to. And they can help you get there.

The idea of educators as gatekeepers or gateways resonated with me. If I was to come up with one word to describe my varied career endeavours, it would be the word educator.

When I taught undergrad courses I was required to define my philosophy of teaching for my CV. Doing this was an excellent exercise in getting down to the nuts and bolts of why I thought I could stand in front of a classroom full of students and imagine what I had to say mattered (on a good day), or that I even had any right to say anything at all (on an average day).

Here is a small excerpt from how I defined my philosophy of teaching

My approach to teaching is grounded in a strong emphasis on narrative. When students focus on story – their own and other’s – I believe the opportunity for depth learning is present. I have been influenced by the work of Paulo Freire and the stress he places on entering into a partnership with students. Students are not empty bank accounts into which I deposit my knowledge. It is only in partnership that we create meaning. I learn as much from students as they learn from me. Authentic thinking will take place in a climate of trust. I work hard to create this climate. I strongly believe in a model of ongoing and cascading mentorship across various levels of learning and expertise. I put this concept into practice in all my work with students. I also enact this philosophy in my openness to collaboration with other instructors and the sharing of teaching resources and ideas.

I’ve always tried to be a gateway teacher. It is the idea of acting as a gateway to learning that has made it possible for an introvert like myself to stand in front of a classroom of students for three hours. Believe me, it was going to be a collaborative, shared learning experience or it wasn’t going to be at all.

Where did this philosophy and commitment come from? I was fortunate, at an early stage in the formation of my educator identity, to be exposed to a certain model of teaching. We sat in a circle, we shared our own story, we listened to other people’s stories, we were helped to connect the concepts we were trying to grasp to our own life experience. This model was drawn from the basics of liberation theology. These experiences of learning were life altering.

Open Gate - Google images

Like so many of us, I’ve had both types of teachers – those who held me back and those who gave me wings. Last night I sent an email to a very dear friend. I explained the concept of gatekeeper and gateway educators. I told her how she had always been a gateway for me. I told her that I am surprised now, that after she had read earlier versions of Disappearing in Plain Sight, she hadn’t just thrown her hands up in hopelessness at my idea of ever being a published author. I’m amazed she didn’t say, “Look, Fran, don’t quit your day job.” Assuming of course I had a day job. But she didn’t do anything like that. She encouraged me through each draft and every attempt I made to improve and strengthen my writing. Through each round of edits, this dear friend found what could be complimented in my writing and gently pointed out what needed to be changed. In every way she sent the message – keep at it, don’t give up, you can do this. I am in awe of this woman and I hope she got that message when she read my meandering email.

Miranda Bailley - Google Images


So – each one, teach one – I got that line from Miranda Bailey in Gray’s Anatomy. If you’ve had a gateway teacher in your life then go out and emulate that experience. Together we’ll squeeze all the gatekeepers right out of education.


(This is another in my series of resurrected posts from the past. Still needed editing – oh woe is me – but not as much as the last one. We live and learn.)

Facebook: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly.

Clint Eastwood - Google images

I’ve been on Facebook for years and I must say, it’s definitely a mixed bag when it comes to enjoyment. Here are a few of the types of posts that get my proverbial goat:

Facebook adHow to write a book in a weekend and turn it into an Amazon bestseller – oh come on! Give me a break, Facebook Sponsored Ad. Why not just reach through my computer and slap me in the face.

Candy Crush logo

Invitations to play Candy Crush – leave me alone, please. I am not a fan of that deep, nightmare voice that says, “Yummy” all the time.

Diary with lock - Google imageAnything to do with anyone’s sexual desires – especially if it involves firefighters. People, people – think! Social media is not the same as that chunky diary you used to have with the little lock and key that you hid under your mattress.


Cheesecake photos of any guy without his shirt off – unless of course you know this guy personally and let’s face it, most of those guys we wouldn’t even ask to take their shirts off let alone put their pic up on Facebook.

Large happy face - google images     Large sad face - Google images

You’re on top of the moon happy one day and angrier, sadder, or madder than you’ve ever been in your life the next – and all over the same person or event. Unless of course you are newly fallen in love, planning a wedding or any other major event, pregnant, a new mom or dad, nursing, experiencing a major life transition, the partner of a recently retired person, on holidays, starting a new job, in school of any kind, decreasing your food intake for some reason, just starting an exercise regime, having to clean your room, house, car, motorhome, or clearly diagnosed with a mental illness of some sort.

I’ll take in stride all the pictures of your cat (or dog) doing cute (or at least you thought so at the time!) things, the monthly shots of your extending pregnant stomach, pictures of what you ate for lunch, endless inspirational quotes, links to so-so YouTube videos and a whole lot more of the minutia of everyday life.

And you know why? Because here are the things I love about Facebook:

Matt's birthday

Photos of you and your family or friends doing interesting things. (Oh, heck – even not so interesting things.) Happy Birthday, Matt! (Don’t get me wrong, I loved this one!)

Prairies - Bruce Witzel photo

Photos of beautiful places and things – I know, I know . . . beauty is in the eye of the beholder but still . . .

Updates that tell me something neat about you, your family, friends or events.

Announcements about cool things happening in your community.

Links to articles, blogs and videos that you found valuable for whatever reason.

Oh crap . . .

Funny cartoons.

Great recipes. I found one the other day for watermelon and feta cheese salad. Delicious.

Leonardo - Guenette photo

I’m off now to post a photo of our old cat, Leonardo. He’s gone now but was cute in the day. That counts, right? Please let me know how you define the good, the bad and the ugly of Facebook.

Summer Wedding Anyone?

Maranda & Jon's wedding - Bruce Witzel photo

Ah, summer. The living is easy and the wedding bells are ringing. Over the past weekend we were privileged to attend our niece’s wedding. The thing about a niece, as opposed to say a son or daughter, is that one gets to simply show up at the wedding and have all the fun without any of the stress or work. Sure can’t complain about that.

Maranda and Jon chose a British Columbia Provincial Park right on the Pacific Ocean as the place to exchange their vows. Couldn’t have been a better choice for the photographers in the crowd.

Bridesmaids & flower girls - Bruce Witzel photo

And lucky us – we got to see three other nieces all prettied up as part of the wedding party.

Maranda & Rick - Bruce Witzel photo

I distinctly heard the bride say to my brother, Rick – Okay, let’s do this!

Maranda & Jon - Bruce Witzel photo

Maranda and Jon wrote their own vows and I’m telling you, there was hardly a dry eye on the beach.

Maranda, Jon & Malakai - Bruce Witzel photo

Looks like this little guy wasn’t happy with the lengthy photo session. Hang in there, Malachi. Congratulations Jon and Maranda – we wish you many, many wonderful years ahead.

Jade & Alexis - Bruce Witzel photo

Two of the prettiest flower girls any wedding could boast of.

Now, to be sure, the pictures of the wedding are stunning. But this wouldn’t be much of a post if it weren’t about something more than my summer social calendar. I would like to share with you something special about our niece and highlight an important cause at the same time. Maranda is a strong, young woman with a social conscience that has made us very proud.

Butterflies in Spirit Dance Troupe

Maranda, is part of a dance troupe called Butterflies in Spirit. This troupe was originally formed for a one-time only performance on a downtown street in Vancouver. It was a way for several young women to raise awareness about the outrageous and systematic victimization of Aboriginal Women in Canada. Check out Amnesty International’s Report entitled – Stolen Sisters – for more information on the plight of Aboriginal women in Canada.

The founding member of the dance troupe, Lorelei Williams, spoke at Maranda’s wedding reception. She told us how she put out a call for others to join her as part of Butterflies in Spirit and Maranda showed up the first night. She praised our niece’s dedication to the group. She told of a performance in Edmonton where Maranda insisted on being part of the dance even though she was very pregnant with Malachi. Check out the YouTube video  Now, that’s dedication! 

Let us not forget the missing women, their families and friends. Let us always thirst for justice in this cause. Let us search and search for as long as it takes until the world knows what happened to each and every one of these missing women.

Ghost Dance

You don’t stand a chance

Against my prayers

You don’t stand a chance

Against my love

They outlawed the ghost dance

But we shall live again.

(Robbie Robertson/Jim Wilson)

Write Your Way into Writing

National Stenbeck Center - Guenette photo

We are lonesome animals. We spend all our life trying to be less lonesome.

One of our ancient methods is to tell a story

Begging the listener to say – and to feel –

“Yes, that’s the way it is, or at least the way I feel it.

You’re not as alone as you thought.”

(John Steinbeck)

Here’s a little story about the art of writing your way into the work of being a writer.

In 2010, Bruce and I took a three-week, driving trip around Northern California. A highlight of the trip was our visit to the city of Salinas, the stomping ground of John Steinbeck. I’ve always been a huge fan of Steinbeck’s writing – right, who hasn’t? We enjoyed several hours at the National Steinbeck Center gaining insight into the personality of the author who wrote such famous works as, Of Mice and Men and Grapes of Wrath.

Steinbeck - A Life in Letters coverLater, in the gift shop, I bought a book entitled Steinbeck: A Life in Letters edited by Elaine Steinbeck and Robert Wallsten (1975). This book is a compilation of personal letters written by Steinbeck over a forty-five year period of his life – the first letter when he was barely twenty-one and the last written just a few months before his death at age sixty-six. I’ve always found other peoples’ personal correspondence fascinating. Take note close friends and family – keep those personal papers under lock and key! People come alive in the letters they write. These Steinbeck letters are special because the editors decided the main criteria for inclusion should be that the letter in question was interesting.

I learned some valuable things about Steinbeck’s approach to writing while reading his letters. He started each writing day with personal correspondence and he sent out an average of five to six letters per day. It is within this letter writing that he explored who he was as a writer, he laid bare his pride and confidence in equal doses with his insecurities and his failures. His letters vibrate with life as lived in the moment and reflected on within moments of living.

National Steinbeck Center 2 - Guenette photo

In the early days of Steinbeck’s career he struggled financially and he handwrote most of his manuscripts on the blank back pages of used accounting ledgers he obtained from his father. He kept up the habit even when he could afford to drop it. He used a new accounting journal for each work. He handwrote the first draft of the novel on one side of the page and wrote his reflections and notes, as he went, on the other. He always wrote a novel with one particular reader in mind and often gifted the original draft, written in the accounting journal, to that person when the book was published. Can you imagine how it felt knowing that Steinbeck wrote a book thinking of you and then gave you the original, hand-written copy. Wow!

National Steinbeck Center 2 - Bruce Witzel photo

Steinbeck wrote his way into writing every day. He kept an ongoing, reflective dialogue right alongside of his fiction writing and he wrote always for a specific person. I think of John Steinbeck now every time I “warm-up” in front of the computer screen. What I used to call spinning my wheels is now writing my way into writing.

Write – do it first – do it every day – just do it. Let your fingers fly across the keys creating words. Let your thoughts be formed as you write. We learn that we have something of value to share through the process of writing it down. We write our way into being writers.

National Steinbeck Center 4 - Guenette photo

Personal disclaimer – this is one of the first posts I wrote for my blog. Busy with summer fun, I had hoped to simply reblog it. No such luck. I know I have honed my skills because writing done two years ago definitely needed a touch up or two or three for presentation today.

On the Road to Reinvention

Driveway - Bruce Witzel photo

I recently had the great pleasure of being invited to write a guest post for Joanne Guidoccio’s blog, On the Road to Reinvention.

Let me regale you with a bit of Joanne’s story, which I blatantly stole from her About page Smile

In high school, Joanne dreamed of writing the great Canadian novel. Instead, she gave in to her practical Italian side and got degrees in mathematics and education. She planned to teach during the day and spend her evenings, weekends and holidays churning out best-selling novels. That was the dream. Reality, as it often does, turned out to be different. Teaching is a demanding profession. In 2008, Joanne took advantage of early retirement. Slowly, a writing practice emerged and her articles and book reviews started appearing  in newspapers, magazines and online. She toyed with the idea of writing a fantasy novel for boomers. Her debut novel, BETWEEN LAND AND SEA, a paranormal romance about a middle-aged mermaid, was released in September 2013. She currently lives and writes in Guelph, Ontario.

Joanne runs an ongoing series called Second Acts, where women describe the ways in which they’ve gotten on with the next phases of their lives. If you follow the link, you’ll find dozens of these inspirational stories.

My guest post, entitled, Is There Life After Three Career Attempts and an Unfinished PhD, is the story of my second act as a writer. I can only hope this second act will be divided into as many sections as my first. Diversity has served me well.

North Island Morning - Bruce Witzel photo