STAY WITH ME romance by Carolyn Astfalk

Welcome, Tomato Pie Fans! I’m taking a hiatus from blogging to finish the sequel to DON’T YOU FORGET ABOUT ME. Meanwhile, I have a series of guest bloggers taking care of the place. Let’s hear from today’s guest, Carolyn Astfalk, whose novel Stay With Me is hot off the presses–and when I say, “hot” I do mean “HOT!” A hot Catholic romance?!? Read on for more….

As I make the rounds on my virtual blog tour promoting my brand-new novel Stay With Me, Erin has graciously offered me a spot here in her absence. Since she’ll be sharing another post of mine later in the month, I’m teetering on squatter status at this site. And I intend to take full advantage before an eviction attempt is made.

STAY WITH ME, spicy but clean romance from Carolyn AstfalkStay With Me is my first published novel, and I’d like to share a little about its genesis. It all began with the perfect meet-cute. Wikipedia defines the meet cute as: “a scene in film, television, etc. in which a future romantic couple meets for the first time in a way that is considered adorable, entertaining, or amusing.”

The opening scene in Stay With Me is the meet cute between Chris Reynolds and Rebecca Rhodes. It  takes place in a grocery store where Rebecca’s attempts to pacify her young niece while Chris restocks dairy products.

While grocery shopping myself, I’d encountered an extremely helpful, handsome young employee who inspired this scene. Being that I’m married and this man was likely almost young enough to be my son, there was no meet cute here, only a springboard for a fictional romance.

In many ways, writing a novel is like designing and fitting together the pieces of a jigsaw puzzle. Another part of the Stay With Me puzzle was a column about abstinence education written by Catholic blogger Simcha Fisher in which she highlights the destructive messages about marital love that can be conveyed through well-intentioned but misguided sexual abstinence programs.

At the same time, in an effort to read more in the genre I’d been writing, I’d been consuming a heavy dose of Christian romances. While I enjoyed many of the books, overall, I’d found that most glossed over the realities of sexual temptation. Despite developing love relationships that relied heavily on physical attraction, there seemed to be little temptation to move beyond a heated kisses before the starry-eyed couple made it to the altar.

The only authors I discovered who did more than hint at the real struggle that maintaining pre-marital chastity presented for young, healthy, loving couples in a secularized society were Tammy L. Gray and Julie Lessman. I knew I wanted Stay With Me to tackle the issue head-on in as realistic (but non-pornographic) a manner as possible.

Over many months, as I developed Chris and Rebecca’s characters, their back stories, and the arc of their relationship, I added a smattering of decadent-sounding desserts and an ongoing thread about the Dave Matthews Band. My jigsaw pieces firmly interlocked, a novel was born.

I hope I’ve piqued your interest about Stay With Me. It’s available from Full Quiver Publishing through  Thank you, Erin, for hosting me.  I hope I’ve left the blog in as good a shape as I’ve found it.

Carolyn Astfalk, author of spicy clean romanceCarolyn Astfalk resides with her husband and four children in Hershey, Pennsylvania. She blogs at My Scribbler’s Heart, and her debut novel, Stay With Me, is available from Full Quiver Publishing.

The Librarian Who Writes: A Guest Post from Sherrie Palmer

Welcome, Tomato Pie Fans! I’m taking a hiatus from blogging to finish the sequel to DON’T YOU FORGET ABOUT ME. Meanwhile, I have a series of guest bloggers taking care of the place. Let’s meet today’s guest, Sherrie Palmer of Sherrie’s Scriptorium.

How Does Being a Librarian Inform My Writing?

Sherrie at the library putting DYFAM in its library suit.

Sherrie at the library putting DYFAM in its library suit.

I’ve been giving it some thought and I’ve come up with a few things.

First I have to disclose that I am not a certified librarian; I’m a library assistant. Working in a library influences me the same way working as a bookseller did. It can be good and bad.

I’ll start with the cons which aren’t many.

The main one is looking at all those books and wondering why the world would ever need another one. Also, while reading great writing by amazing authors I can lose confidence about ever coming close to the talent that is already in print. I mean who do I think I am? Battling paralyzing fear and lack of confidence are probably the biggest negatives.

Then there are the pros.

Having access to unlimited writing in every possible style and genre is awesome. As they say, knowledge is power, and what better place to become informed than the material available through libraries? I’m pretty sure that I can learn about anything by using a library. No matter what I’m writing, I know how to find the answers to the many questions that may come up, and if I can’t, I know there is a reference librarian who can.

Another benefit to working in a library is reading. A lot. Reading everything and anything. We never stop learning, and that helps our writing.

Reading something that isn’t very well written is a great ego booster and motivates my writing like crazy! We’ve all read something and thought we can do better, right? Few things make me feel better than realizing that if something that bad got published so can I! (I know it’s a little catty and I’m not proud of feeling that way, but I do. I’m being honest.)

I love being surrounded by all those books, words and writing. It makes me feel like I’m absorbing knowledge just by spending so much time in a library. That is motivating.

If I’m having a dry spell all I have to do is find an interesting topic and start reading. The next thing I know I’m filling a page with notes for a story and I’m off and running.

I think the best thing that influences my writing is the people. Each of the patrons that use my little library are entire stories themselves. It would be easy to judge people but instead I am absolutely fascinated by them.

I’m basically a curious creature, so each person I meet pings my interest. Everything from the books, movies and music they check out to the stories about their lives that they share with me are gold to store away in my imagination vault. And just when I think I’ve seen and heard it all, something new comes up.

I don’t think I will ever run out of things to write about while working in a library. Many days I stop, take a deep breath, look around at all the books and people and think how lucky I am. Then I say ‘What if’ and I write.

I’m Sherrie Palmer and I love to write and share ideas. I facilitated the Wordwrights Writing Group for ten years. Check out theWordwright’s Blog for more information about the group and writing.  I have been a member of the SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators) and worked as a bookseller for nine years. Now I work as a library assistant. I write mostly fiction, leaning towards fantasy and science fiction but I dabble with essays and very bad poetry. I have written a YA fantasy novel called Two Worlds, a middle grade chapter book called The Vegetarian Vulture.I’ve been focusing on short stories and hoped to be published soon. When I’m not writing I love reading and discussing books. I love RVing, playing Wii, gardening and going to Renaissance Faires. I have a lot of interests, so you never know what will show up here!

Word Addiction! A Guest Post from Rebecca Willen

Welcome, Tomato Pie Fans! I’m taking a hiatus from blogging to finish the sequel to DON’T YOU FORGET ABOUT ME. Meanwhile, I have a series of guest bloggers taking care of the place. Let’s meet today’s guest, Rebecca Willen.

I Admit It! I Have a Word Addiction.

RebeccaWillenDo you ever feel a shiver up your spine when a particular phrase of prose or poetry hits you just right?  Do you visualize conversations in your head in Times New Roman, 12 point?  Do you enjoy Bananagrams, Scrabble, and crosswords?  Do you get absurdly excited about new bookshelves?

If so, you might just be a word addict like me.  Welcome to the club!

Whenever I get the dreaded interview question “Tell me about yourself,” my answer usually involves the fact that I really like words and people.  My two loves work in tandem – words have little purpose without someone to listen or read them but find their end in the communication of truth to a receptive mind.  Likewise, communication, counsel, teaching, and so many other forms of written or spoken words help people to bond and grow.

The challenge with technology and social media is that the value of words can be lost.  Popular vocabulary is dwindling, and the beauty of a word is reduced to an arbitrary number of characters, or an attempt to catch a short attention span.  On the other hand, the myriad methods of communication, and the speed at which words can be transmitted from one person to another, allow words to gain new impact and power.

For a word addict like me, the challenge is to reinforce in my friends, my readers, and all those with whom I communicate, the truth that words are important.  Every word you use, down to its order in a sentence and the inflection of your voice, carries with it a vast array of connotations and connections.  A good writer knows how to use words to draw a reader into their story, to wring the heart and spark thoughts in the mind.  A good speaker knows how to grab the audience’s attention and keep it, while communicating important information in a way that interests and encourages retention.

As a Catholic, I have a great responsibility for the words I use.  I can, and must, try to communicate God Himself, infinite Truth, through words.  A single word misspoken can ruin another person’s image of the Church; in an apologetic conversation, a badly-used term can muddy the waters; in counsel, a wrong word can ruin a friendship.  But think of what can be done positively through words!  Look at the great saints and writers of the Church.  They took their responsibility seriously and gave words their greatest possible power for good.

I like to help words achieve that power, in my own little way.  Right now, that means working as a freelance proofreader and getting experience so that someday I can be an editor.  (Consider this a commercial break—I’m looking for proofreading jobs starting in September!)  And honestly, you’d be surprised how a misplaced comma or badly chosen word can mess up the message of a sentence or work.  Writing is also fun and valuable, something in which I’m trying to grow.

If you’re a word addict, writer, speaker, blogger, bibliophile, or use social media, be encouraged!  The Word has given Himself to be our aid and support.  May the Lord bless and keep you in all that you do with the words He has given.

Rebecca is a confirmed bibliophile, a word addict, and if you haven’t guessed, a bit of a nerd.  Having recently graduated from Christendom College, she’s starting out in the world as an anachronistic millennial, and retains her sanity by never leaving the apartment without a book.  She writes at Our Hearts are Restless, and works as a database analyst and freelance proofreader. Contact Rebecca.


In honor of the World Meeting of Families and the visit of Pope Francis to my hometown of Philadelphia, “Working Mother” is free through Monday.  Working Mother short fiction by Erin McCole Cupp FREE through Sep 28 2015

With her husband disabled and out of work and her child in mortal danger,

a mother must leave her family and find work so they can all survive.

The husband’s name is Joseph. The child’s name is Jesus.

The working mother is Mary.

“When I contemplate the Holy Family, I often wonder about those ‘hidden years’ — the decades left biblically undescribed that laid the foundation for Jesus Christ’s public ministry. In ‘Working Mother,’ Erin McCole Cupp offers us one possible scenario in a story that is emotionally gripping and filled with heart. Based on known biblical precepts, Working Mother contemplates the depths of Mary and Joseph’s ‘yes’ to God’s will for their lives.”  Lisa M. Hendey, author of The Grace of Yes and Founder of

“It’s not often that we’re given a look at the Virgin Mary as a real person without somehow finding her diminished. And yet, that’s exactly what McCole Cupp does… It’s not only a delightful read, but one that will increase your appreciation for the Mother of God.”  Sarah Reinhard, Author and Blogger,

“Erin McCole Cupp’s ‘Working Mother’ pulls us into the daily life of the Holy Family.  The story portrays how the Lord creates miracles from the mundane, answering prayers and weaving the tapestry of our lives in the most unpredictable of ways.  I thoroughly enjoyed this novella.  The writing was excellent and the tone was reflective. Prayerfully read, Cupp’s story is edifying.”  AnnMarie Creedon, author of Angela’s Song

“As a working mother, it’s hard to find time to read for enjoyment. …[R]ich with imagery and pulsing with palpable faith, ‘Working Mother’ is not to be missed. You will find yourself seeing through the eyes of Mary only to look back at yourself. If you struggle coming to terms with working outside of the home and living out your vocation as wife and mother, this is a must read.”  Cristina Trinidad,

“Working Mother is an intimate and compelling glimpse into the lives of the Holy Family during their exile in Egypt. Reading WM helped me to understand a bit of the physical and emotional struggles that the Holy Family might have faced in their daily lives. I came away with a greater respect for their strength and a greater empathy for their humanity. Well done!”  Laura Nelson,

“’Working Mother’ sounds like a modern-day phenomenon… a woman having to step up from family and home to provide for her family and maintain her home. But it was a reality, even in the days of Christ, when it was even harder for a woman to step up to these responsibilities… Erin McCole Cupp weaves a remarkable tale of heroic love that puts a new light on how Mary, the mother of Jesus, is a role-model for women of all ages… not just the mother who toils at home to raise her children, but also the mother who must leave her home to toil in order to provide for her children and her husband. ‘Working Mother’ is a shot of strength and encouragement to many women who take on a responsibility thrust upon them by changing life’s circumstances and fulfill it wholeheartedly. It’s another beautiful example of how Our Blessed Mother does understand us, no matter where we are, and can help us shoulder the burden.” Amy M. Bennett, author of The Black Horse Campground Mysteries

“The Holy Family’s time of exile in Egypt is left to the imaginations of the faithful. Author Erin McCole-Cupp explores the possibility that the Blessed Mother supported her family. This novella is a well-researched depiction of family life at the time of Christ’s birth.”  Barb Szyszkiewicz,

“Erin McCole Cupp gives the term “working mother” an unexpected twist in this thought-provoking story. Imagine a different time, a different place, and a familiar figure thrust into a role never imagined. Then stir in sacrificial giving with no guarantees and without a roadmap…” —Leslie Lynch, author of The Appalachian Foothills novels

“Imagine the Holy Family’s journey to Egypt from an inside perspective.  How might Mary have been called upon to be faithful in the details of supporting her family?  How might Joseph have grown in his relationship with God as his son?  Enjoy a refreshing perspective of an ancient journey through vivid details, drawing us closer to God.”  A. K. Frailey, author of The Deliverance Trilogy

“Working Mother” is free through Monday 9/28/15!

Nostalgia: A Guest Post from John Paul Wohlschied

Welcome, Tomato Pie Fans! I’m taking a hiatus from blogging to finish the sequel to DON’T YOU FORGET ABOUT ME. Meanwhile, I have a series of guest bloggers taking care of the place. Let’s hear from today’s guest, John Paul Wohlschied.

Nostalgia for the Good Old Days  

BendixMicrophoneMost of the time, when people say they feel nostalgic about a certain time period, it means that they lived during that period and miss it. Well, I’m a little different. I am very nostalgic for the period between the 30s and 50s. For a guy born in the middle 80s, this might seem strange to you. Before you call for the butterfly net and straitjacket, let me explain.

In the 30s to 50s, life was much simpler. (Except for World War II, of course.) You didn’t have to worry about keeping up-to-date with your friends’ updates on social media. You weren’t inundated with noise and entertainment everywhere you went. Phones were only capable of receiving calls. Anyone could open the hood of their car to fix or tinker with it. You were content to have four channels on your TV with real content, instead of 25 channels dedicated to the intricacies of basket weaving.

I write detective stories, and my main inspiration for those stories are the detective radio and TV shows of that era. Radio shows (such as Sam Spade, Philip Marlowe, Let George Do It, Barry Craig Investigator, Your Truly Johnny Dollar, Mr. Keen Tracer of Lost Persons, Nero Wolfe, and others) were fun to listen to and told great stories. Dragnet was another favorite detective show, both on radio and TV, and was responsible for the creation of realistic police procedural shows (such as CSI and Law and Order).

(Everyone from a certain age knows what this sounds means.)

If detective shows aren’t your thing, you can listen to cowboy shows (Frontier Gentleman, Lone Ranger, Have Gun Will Travel, Hopalong Cassidy, Gunsmoke, and others), or comedy (Our Miss Brooks, Amos and Andy, My Favorite Husband, Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis, Abbott and Costello and more).

If radio programs are not your cup of tea and you are more visual, the 30s to 50s produced some great films and TV shows, most are cleaner than today’s films thanks to the Motion Picture Production Code or Hays Code. This Code prohibited the use of profanity, drug use, sex, and willful offense to any nation, race or creed. In other words, think of Going My Way versus Kill Bill.

So, let me know if I inspired you to join me in my nostalgia or to reach for the butterfly net.

P.S. I would like to thank Erin for allowing me to write for her blog and I apologize in advance of any drop in readership I might cause.

HeadshotCloseJPWJohn Paul was born and raised in West Michigan. He attends daily Mass with his parents and brother, Michael. John Paul and his brother have served English, Latin and Polish Masses for over 17 years. John Paul has always loved to read about the saints and about the Roman Catholic Faith in general. He hopes someday to become a priest. He discovered detective stories at an early age through the magic of Old Time Radio. Since then he has devoured hundreds of hours of radio shows (such as Sam Spade, Philip Marlowe, Boston Blackie, Richard Diamond and Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar) and mystery stories. With all this knowledge, he decided to take a crack at recreating those hard-boiled stories of yesteryear. Someday he plans to expand into scifi and westerns.

{SQT} We interrupt this blogging hiatus to bring you information about POPEADELPHIA! 


This Ain’t The Lyceum does the 7QT thing.  Make with the clicky.

I wasn’t sure I had much to say about the World Meeting of Families. First of all, we didn’t decide until rather recently to attend WMOF (that’s the convention next week, at which we will NOT see the pope).  Then, even after we decided to go, that decision was made in the midst of starting our homeschooling year—my first year schooling kindergarten and middle school simultaneously.  On top of that, have I mentioned that I’m trying to finish drafting a sequel here?  And lastly… I didn’t think I had anything to say.  Nothing helpful to others.  Nothing that would be anything but navel-gazing.  Seriously, have you seen my navel?  No?  Then give the good Lord a nice, big “Thank You.”

Then this morning, someone on Facebook asked a friend, “What’s so great about Wawa?”

Hold the popephone. I may live on the border of Sheetz country these days, but I spent the bulk of my first thirty years under the warm glow of that golden rectangle emblazoned with the sleek silhouette of a Canada goose. You mean to tell me there are people who don’t know what’s so great about Wawa? 

That is when I realized that I have something to say about next week’s events, something important, even something unique.  I may have left Philly and its suburbs, but Philly and its suburbs certainly never left me.  I, dear reader, have been called.  I have a mission.

I have, my friends, found my WMOF blogging voice.  And thus I bring you…

Visiting Philadelphia during the World Meeting of Families? This post will help you blend in like a local. As long as you take off your nametag, that is.


Wawa I may not have fresh insights to share about Catholic teaching on family life or why the feminine priesthood is different from the masculine priesthood, but by all the saints in heaven, I do know my Wawa.  For those of you not in the know, Wawa is a convenience store, but such a term does little to convey the glory that is Wawa. Their coffee is good.  Really good.  Most agree better than Sbux. They have all the coffee fixins out for you to work up yourself, so you can doctor yours up just the way you like it.  They also usually have about ten different roasts available at any time, and they’re always fresh, because everyone in the five-county area is always stopping in to pick up a coffee.


Even better is their automated, made-to-order hoagie ordering system, and that’s not just limited to hoagies, either.  You could get three square meals a day plus cheap drinks (hot or cold), plus dessert, all at your Wawa.  I believe the closest to the convention center is their fancy-shmancy new location with tables and seats and everything, so you don’t have to eat your hoagie on the street.  Seriously.  Wawa.


Reading Terminal Market is really close to the convention center.  As a result, it’s also really crowded whenever there’s a convention in town.  Forewarned is forearmed, but if you can brave the crowds, it will be worth your while.  Whatever kind of food you like, they are pretty much guaranteed to have it.  Known for:  Famous 4th Street Cookie Company (not on 4th street, but their parent, Famous 4th Street Deli is—worth the long walk if you’re up for it), Bassets Ice Cream, and Termini Brothers Bakery (I have waited in line for nearly an hour for one of their cannoli, and I regret nothing).  Our family tradition is to stop for smoothies at Kamal’s.  Second Shift of Kid may be big enough to get her own this year, which means I have nobody to share mine with.  Hmm…


Chinatown, which is almost as close to the convention center as Reading Terminal, in the blocks just north. Last I’d heard, Philly’s Chinatown is the second largest Asian neighborhood in the US, bigger even than New York’s.  In addition to rubbing elbows with the greatest evangelists of Catholic family life next week, we also are planning a stop for dim sum at Joy Tsin Lau. Back when I was a little less adventurous, my high school friends’ tradition was to stop for roast pork lo mein at Imperial Inn on our way to South Street.  I have been to Imperial Inn in more recent years, but I don’t think they’ve changed their décor since the first day I set foot within its plywood-paneled walls; thankfully, they haven’t changed their recipes, either.  I’ve never been, but Sang Kee comes highly recommended as well. Need something to keep the kids’ mouths busy between the WMOF and your hotel/homestay?  Pick up a little bag of White Rabbit taffy at any of our Chinatown’s ubiquitous grocery stores. You won’t hear from them again until the bag runs out.  And your dentist will love you.


Our Cathedral, the Cathedral Basilica of Sts Peter and Paul, is probably a good fifteen minute walk from the convention center.  Those of you from other places without Philadelphia’s history may think the place feels like, frankly, a dark tomb when the lights are down.  Take a moment, then, and reflect: the Cathedral was built during a rather dark time in our city’s history.  The Nativist Riots of 1844 were a very real problem, leaving dozens dead and wounded, churches destroyed and peace uneasy.   Catholic churches all over the city (and one convent) were going up in flames after bricks tied with burning rags were thrown through their windows.  Legend has it that St. John Nepomoucene Neumann hired the biggest, toughest Irish stevedores he could find and gave them bricks. He told them to throw the bricks as high as they could.  Then he told the architect to build the windows of the new cathedral just a bit higher than the bricks were thrown.

So if you feel entombed when you visit our cathedral, say a prayer for the souls on either side of the Nativist Riot who lost their lives during those dark days.


Getting lost in translation: The older I get, the thicker my accent gets, even though I haven’t lived in Philly for nearly a decade.  When I met my husband, I didn’t ask for a bottle of “wooder,” but now I do.  I recently realized that, the older I get, the more tired I am, and speaking with nice, General American Dialect takes more energy than I have to spare.

Sorry. Navel gazing.  Here are a few linguistic tricks to help you when you visit the neighborhood where the WMOF will take place:

  • Market East Station Anyone who says this means Jefferson Station.  If somebody tells you to go to Market East, they mean Jefferson Station.  Nothing against Thomas Jefferson University and Hospital—I used to work there and all—but no amount of money will get us to accept your branding in our everyday speech. Too bad so sad.
  • R-5, R-3, R-1, etc. Those are old names for different SEPTA rail lines.  If you ask someone where to get on a certain train, and they start talking about how the R-3 will take you to West Trenton but not Trenton… just nod, say “Thank you,” and check the SEPTA website.
  • Center City is what most of you people would call the City Center. Philly used to be broken down into a bunch of smaller cities, like New York and its boroughs.  Again, old habits die hard.  The convention center is in Center City.  The Festival of Families and Papal Mass will take place on The Parkway, technically the western end of Center City but considered a neighborhood of its own.
  • The El

Oh you can’t get to heaven

On the Frankford El

‘Cause the Frankford El

Only goes to Frankford.

It’s not just Chicago that has an el. Chicago, however, doesn’t have an el that looks and acts like a subway for 1/3 of its route.  If you’re looking for a faster, less-walking way to get from the convention center to Independence Hall and the touristy stuff in Olde City, somebody might tell you to take the el.  They mean get on the Market Frankford line (which you’ll pick up in the basement of Market East Jefferson Station), head east, and get off at 5th Street.  Head south from there and, voila! History at your feet. Lots of food trucks,too.

As a side note on the language barrier, I present to you the declension of “you.”

The Declension of You: English-to-Philadelphian Translation


The whole cheesesteak thing: People will tell you not to go to Pat’s or Geno’s or even Jim’s, because that’s tourist food.  Honestly–and nobody I grew up with smack me for saying so–they’re all good.  Tony Luke’s seems to be the hands-down favorite of the natives, but plenty of little hole-in-the-wall neighborhood places have very good cheesesteaks.  If you’re pressed for time, then whachagonnado, unh? Not have a once-in-a-lifetime cheesesteak?  If you only have time to go to Pat’s/Geno’s or Jim’s, don’t hold out for Tony Luke’s and miss out on your only opportunity.

Anyway, wherever you go, the basic rules are as follows:

  • If they’re calling it a “Philly Cheese Steak,” it’s not. You’re liable to get a wad of tough, unscraped beef with a folded, unmelted (::shudder::) piece of swiss cheese on top and something ungodly on the side, like, I dunno, ketchup or sliced pickles. You might even get sesame seeds on your roll.
    The name is a dead giveaway. THIS WILL NOT BE A STEAK SANDWICH!

    That name is a dead giveaway. THIS WILL NOT BE A STEAK SANDWICH!

    Don’t say I didn’t warn you. Back away slowly and eat somewhere else.

  • Find somewhere that has “Steaks” on the menu. You’re in the 215 now, where “steak” and “steaks” are no longer the same thing. The former is best rare and with béarnaise.  The latter is best with Cheez Whiz and mushrooms.
  • Go up to the counter. Tell them you want a steak. As long as you entered a dining establishment that has paper napkins instead of tablecloths, you’ll get the non-bearnaise kind.  Then tell them what kind of cheese you want, the choices usually being “Whiz,” “provolone,” “American,” but check the menu for their options.  Then mention whether or not you want mushrooms.  If the menu offers peppers or other non-onion add-ins, you can ask for those now, too. Finally, tell them if you want it with or without onions by saying either “wit” or “without.”

Example: If you want to order a cheesesteak with provolone and mushrooms but no onions, you say, “Can I have a steak, provolone mushroom without?” “Steak, Whiz wit” is a cheesesteak with onions and Cheez Whiz.  If this is a place that only sells steaks (and not hoagies, pizzas and cheese fries as well), you don’t have to say the word “steak.”   Because, obviously.  “Provolone mushroom without.” “Whiz wit.” “American green peppers and sauce wit.”  And so and so.

  • Pass through the line, get your food, pay when they tell you to, sit down, and enjoy this little preview of the beatific vision. You’re welcome.

Oh, and don’t try ordering anything called a “Philadelphia Steak Sandwich” from your hotel.  That can only go badly.


Actual Sacred Sites You know how if you grow up somewhere, you don’t do the whole tourist thing?  There are a number of shrines in Philadelphia, all within easy public transportation or cheap cab ride of the convention center, that I’ve just never seen.  The best source I can think of for a better guide to those places than I could ever be would be The Faithful Traveler.  She came to our fair city as a grown-up, and her fresh eyes took in and bring to light all those things that I took for granted and never bothered to go see.  Check out her page if you are getting ready for your trip. If you can’t make it next week, watch the videos and made a virtual pilgrimage. Then, with your fresh eyes, tell me what you see in Philadelphia so I can wonder along with you.

While drinking my Wawa coffee.

Do you have any questions about getting around Philadelphia and enjoying the local culture?  Want to hear more about the WMOF from a native local’s perspective? Ask questions in the comments below! Guaranteed, if I can’t answer you, I know someone who can.  

Small Press Author, Big Store Event! A Guest Post from Amy M. Bennett

Welcome, Tomato Pie Fans! I’m taking a hiatus from blogging to finish the sequel to DON’T YOU FORGET ABOUT ME. Meanwhile, I have a series of guest bloggers taking care of the place. Let’s hear from today’s guest, Amy M. Bennett.

Dream a Big Dream: On Doing an Author Event at Barnes & Noble

IMG_6271It’s every author’s dream: a book signing at the local Barnes & Noble with local TV crews and radio stations on hand and throngs of fans waiting in line since the wee hours of the morning to get their hands on your latest novel and your coveted signature inside the flyleaf.

If you think this post is on how to achieve that dream, then my personal experience only qualifies me to give this bit of advice—go back to sleep.

Yes, I’ve had success in having a book signing event at a Barnes & Noble, but having a signing event and selling your books are two separate accomplishments. Still, not many fledgling authors are able to achieve that goal of having a book signing at a major book retailer and I have to say that I am very humbled at the idea that, somehow, I managed to do so. But it was not easy, and there were, admittedly, many factors that were outside of my control. Nevertheless, I’ll try to give some advice on how a new author can approach a “big box” store about having a book event.

First, it’s a sad fact of life that if your book is self-published, it is highly unlikely that Barnes & Noble or any other national chain bookstore (Hastings is another) will carry it. The reason is that they only work with traditional publishers. That is, they must be able to return the books if, for whatever reason, they don’t sell. That’s the most insidious thing about the publishing industry. No other retailers, as far as I know, can return stock to their suppliers on the condition that it simply didn’t sell. Therefore, if your book has not been published by a company that offers not only standard industry discounts but also accepts returns, you won’t be considered to have the book listed on their website, much less carried in stores.

But even if your book has been published by a small press that is a genuine, royalty-paying, yes-we’ll-take-’em-back, publishing house, then the battle is still far from over. Your publisher must be listed as an approved vendor to that particular store or its distributor (this is how Walmart operates) and this isn’t an easy club to join. My publisher had an easier time getting me into Barnes & Noble than Walmart… and I’ve worked for Walmart for seventeen years! Usually it requires that your publisher fill out a sheaf of forms that describe their business practices and, especially, marketing. If your publisher, like mine, expects the authors to do a lot of their own promotion, this could cause the retailer to shy away. Still, there is a chance that this obstacle can be overcome as well.

Now let’s talk about what an author CAN do to improve their chances of seeing their books on the “big boy’s” shelves… and the strategy isn’t much different from what an author needs to do to get their book on an indie bookseller’s shelves.

First, you’re selling more than your book. It’s a package deal. Presenting your book with its professional and compelling cover and an engaging and intriguing story isn’t enough. The bookseller sees the author long before they see the book. And while we’ve all been admonished not to make snap judgments based on appearances, the fact that THEY decide who gets on the shelves and who doesn’t means that rule doesn’t apply to them. So remember the old dandruff shampoo commercial and take that advice: You never get a second chance to make a first impression. Be professional, know what you’re talking about, and don’t be shy! Remember, it’s all about promotion and the bookseller’s first priority is sales. If you don’t look like you believe in your products—you and your book—how will you get potential readers to believe in it enough to pull out their wallets?

Second, do your homework. Scope out the store prior to approaching the manager. See where they carry your type of book and if they have a special section for local authors and see what else is out there. Be able to speak knowledgeably about other books similar to yours and how the publishing industry works. You don’t have to know it all, but you should know some things. The bookseller doesn’t want to have to explain every detail; he or she just doesn’t have that kind of time. So if they ask, “What’s your publisher’s discount for stores?” it reflects favorably on you if you know what it is. It’s also a good idea to have a “sell sheet” printed out and ready to hand to the person asking. It should contain your cover art, author photo, book blurb, ISBN, suggested retail price, and contact and ordering information. If the bookseller has to take the time to look up all that information… well, many just won’t. Sadly, many booksellers, like many agents, editors, and publishers are primed to say “no”. Don’t make it easier for them.

The most important thing is to be enthusiastic. Approach the manager or book buyer in person. Don’t be one of several calls that they don’t have time to answer or return. Present your book in an appealing manner. Smile! Be excited about your book, even if you’re terrified. Excitement can be infectious. And it gives the bookseller an idea of how you would present your book at a signing event. Trying to get a book by an unknown author on the shelf isn’t enough; you must arrange for an event, a signing and maybe even a book talk. And have a promotional plan. Bring bookmarks, pens, whatever promo items you may have, or set a dish of candy on your table (of course it’s bribery… don’t judge!) Assure the bookseller that you will use your social media and you’ll also personally contact whatever groups of people you might know who would be interested. And definitely be prepared to pound the pavement with flyers. The bookseller wants to know that you’re not expecting them to do all the legwork and that you’re committed to making the event a success as well.

Persistence is the key. Remember that you’re not the only author who wants shelf space in Barnes & Noble or any other bookstore. Understand that you might be competing with other, better known authors. Be flexible, work with the bookseller, and always be courteous and thankful.

You might not sell out your books at an event—you might not even sell any—but for every person you spoke to, every bookmark or business card you handed out, there is an ever-widening chance of your book finding its readership.

And when you have a reader approach you and ask you to sign their book, just for a few moments, you can live the dream!

bookmark-2inx8in-h-frontAmy Bennett’s debut mystery novel, End of the Road, started as a National Novel Writing Month project in 2009.  It went on to win the 2012 Dark Oak Mystery Contest and launched the Black Horse Campground mystery series, followed by No Lifeguard on Duty. No Vacancy is the third book in the series. When not sitting at the laptop actively writing, she works full-time at Walmart of Alamogordo (not too far down the road from fictional Bonney County) as a cake decorator and part-time at Noisy Water Winery in Ruidoso (where you can find some of the best wines in the state of New Mexico, including Jo Mamma’s White!)  She lives with her husband and son in a small town halfway between Alamogordo and Ruidoso.  Visit her website at and The Back Deck Blog at