Gail's Book Nook

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Looking Out the Window: Welcome Reverend Keith Boyer

Reverend Keith Boyer who grew up in New York City shares a little known story about his native town.

A Nearly Forgotten New York Story

In the 1950’s I lived on East 6th Street in New York City. While normally taking a bus to school, I occasionally walked following a route that took me through Tompkins Square Park. The park was home to a simple and what appeared to be long-neglected fountain. It was just something to walk by.

It wasn’t until 2004 that I learned the fountain had been built as a memorial to the 1,021 New Yorkers who lost their lives on June 15, 1904 in a fire on the excursion ship General Slocum. On that bright sunny day, over 1300 people, mostly women and children who had emigrated from Germany, crowded aboard the ship at the East River’s 3rd street pier in anticipation of a day of fun at the Locust Grove picnic grounds on Long Island. The excursion had become an annual congregational event of St. Mark’s Lutheran Church. Over 1500 tickets had been sold. The church, now long closed, was located on 6th street, my street.

The General Slocum was an attractive steam powered side-wheeler. In 1891 it was recognized as one of the finest recreational passenger vessels serving the New York area and was in great demand, but by 1904 it was past its prime. It was equipped with six lifeboats, but due to many coats of paint they were virtually glued to their davits. Over 2000 life jackets were available throughout the ship, but they were filled with cork that had over time turned to powder. When wet they became weights instead of providing buoyancy. The fire hoses on the ship had never been used and their fabric had begun to rot. The ship itself had kept its handsome appearance thanks to multiple coats of highly flammable paint. Nevertheless, the General Slocum passed a safety inspection in the spring of 1904. Following the fire, an investigation revealed that it was common for the inspectors to accept gifts in exchange for a good report.

The fire broke out in a small storage room containing jars of lamp oil, a container of oily rags and bales of straw. Within minutes the wooden ship was ablaze from head to stern. The rotting fire hoses burst under pressure. Those who put on life jackets and jumped overboard quickly sank and drowned. In desperation the captain attempted to ground his ship on an island in the East River. By the time he did so, it was too late. Fewer than 300 survived. Later that day husbands returned home from work to learn that they had lost their entire families. The tragedy marked the beginning of a major population shift in Manhattan’s lower east side as grieving husbands and fathers moved away, making room for a new influx of immigrants, most notably Jewish people from Eastern Europe.

As I see it, the General Slocum disaster has never received the attention such a tragedy deserves. While the sinking of the Titanic in 1912 has become legendary, the loss of life in the East River was quickly forgotten. Not until 9-11 had New Yorkers experienced an event involving comparable loss of life. The likely reason for the neglect of this tragedy was that the majority of those who died were working class immigrants who were not yet considered “Americans” or New Yorkers. While an investigation documented the failure of the Knickerbocker Steamship Company to provide and maintain the mandatory safety standards in place in 1904 the families of the victims received no compensation for their loss. The ship’s captain was held responsible, convicted and imprisoned for three years. In 1934, the film Manhattan Melodrama with Clark Gable, Myrna Loy, William Powel and Mickey Rooney began with a scene of the burning General Slocum but only to set the context for the remainder of the film. It seems to me the story itself is worthy of a screenplay and producer.

The photo of the sinking General Slocum is used by permission from "The Mariners Museum, Newport News, VA."

Reverend Keith's Bio: Keith is a "P-K" (preacher's kid) raised in New York City. He is a graduate of Union Theological Seminary in Richmond, Virginia and was ordained by New York Presbytery in 1966. Moving to Canada the same year, he has served four churches in New Brunswick, Manitoba, and Ontario. Keith left the position of Director of Membership Development at The Riverside Church in New York City for the position of Mission Consultant for the Synod of Central, Northeastern Ontario and Bermuda from which he recently retired. He has written curriculum, worked on numerous national and presbytery committees, and was convener of the Task Force on the Revision of the Book of Praise. Retirement from full-time ministry allows Keith to do part-time consulting and workshop leadership in the areas of congregational development and revitalization, stewardship education, and conflict management. He is registered as a coach in Natural Church Development. He describes himself as a pastor, a gadfly encouraging congregations to recognize the need for change, and a coach for churches committed to renewal. Keith is based in Barrie, Ontario. He and Carolyn have three adult daughters and six grandchildren. For relaxation, Keith enjoys model railroading, gardening, astronomy, and theatre.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Looking out the Window: WIN A PRIZE


On Tuesday, July 27th , join me for an interview at Long and Short Reviews,
I’ll talk about writing and reveal the secret ingredient in my pecan pie recipe. On Wednesday, July 28th, I’ll chat on the Long and Short Reviews yahoo site at
I was in Destin, Florida recently. I went tar ball hunting and found none! The beach is beautiful. I’d love to tell you about it. Also, I’ll be giving away a four-inch painted tile with a beach scene and a two-way metal rack. To find out how to win stop by for the interview and the chat. See you there!

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Looking Out the Window: Welcome Miss Mae

Today, I’m happy to have Miss Mae, the founder of The Sweetest Romance Authors. About them she says, “We enjoy the kinder, gentler romances our mothers and grandmothers grew up with.” But, she’s quick to point out that these are not boring stories. Be sure to stop by her Web site after the interview to pick up a free download of “Fated Destiny.” It’s

Hi Miss Mae. First, tell us a little about yourself.

So, can I blow my own horn here? LOL Okay, I’m awed to say that my books, “Said the Spider to the Fly”, “See No Evil, My Pretty Lady”, “Dove Island”, “When the Bough Breaks”, “It’s Elementary, My Dear Winifred” are all award winning best sellers. On the personal side, I’ve been happily married to the same Georgia country boy that I met 38 years ago. Our one daughter is married, so we replaced her absence with the company of four orphaned, very noisey canines!

Congratulations on your success. Were you an avid reader as a child? What did you read?

Yes, I loved to read. I devoured the books in my school’s library, borrowed books from friends, you name it. Even when I was in sixth grade, my high school brother was kind enough to search his library to give me “grown up” romantic mysteries. I especially remember one I read of a girl, Wendy, entering college. Its title was, “Mystery Walks the Campus”.

What a nice brother, and "Mystery Walks the Campus" sounds like a fun book to read. Sometimes people associate avid reading with those who write. Why do you write?

I always wanted to write. When I read Nancy Drew and Trixie Belden, I envisioned different stories with exciting adventures. I tried my hand at it, but of course, they were just awful. LOL

Tell us about your latest book.

Sure! My blurb for “Catch Me If You Can”:

Washed ashore on a South Carolina beach in the middle of a ferocious hurricane, Lois Steinberg regains consciousness in the bedroom of a historic plantation house. Her handsome rescuer, Victor Helm, informs her the resort was scheduled as the site for a convention of ‘Catch Me’ game enthusiasts.

Lois, together with the eight ‘Cathie’ attendees, has no choice except to wait out the storm. When the cook is found murdered, the already tense atmosphere explodes with accusations and suspicions. Who could have wanted the man dead? Everyone is a stranger with no connection to each other except for their love of the ‘Catch Me’ games -- right?

Inside the house, Lois, aided by Victor and his golden retriever, Mite, combat a deadly storm that rivals the strengthening hurricane. To find the killer, they must sort through a series of plots far more complicated than the ‘Catch Me’ creator could ever have devised.

It’s not a game they seek to solve - but the saving of their lives

The sound of thunder roaring and a murder already have me on the edge-of-my seat. What inspired you to write this particular book?

It’s not anything I can really pinpoint. But I feel, because I love the intricacies of a good “who-dun-it”, and I absolutely adore jigsaw puzzles, cryptograms, etc., that I’m partial to twists and turns. (Maybe I’m just weird! LOL) With the plot of “Catch Me If You Can”, I knew I wanted something that had to do with a video game. (I love those too, btw). I wanted the game to be unique, but I had to think of “why? Why would folks covet something like this?” The more I thought about it, the more it all shaped up.

I’ve read one of your books, and the twists and turns were a big part of it. BTW, I liked it a lot. What themes do you write about?

Mysteries, suspense, a touch of romance, triumph of good winning at the end.

What is your writing schedule and where do you write?

I write in my back bedroom, and I don’t really stick to a schedule. I’m at the computer every day, sometimes more hours than my hubby likes, but a lot of the time is spent with marketing/promoting/emails, etc. instead of plain old writing.

Do you put yourself in your books?

I believe I do. All my heroines will have some of my morals. For instance, none engage in pre-martial sex, they don’t swear, they love animals, and they get scared at the things I get scared at. They aren’t perfect, and I do give them flaws, but there are certain bounds I’ll never allow them to cross.

Now for a fun question. What is the most embarrassing thing that’s happened to you?

There’s so many! I have to pick one? LOL Okay, for starters, I’m hard of hearing. It can be embarrassing when I mishear, or don’t hear at all, something that’s been asked of me. But I’ll share one particular incident of when I was in the 8th grade. I, and two other girls, walked to a schoolroom, and the door was stuck. Arms full of books, I thumped against the door with my rear end to nudge it. I didn’t see the other girl raise her leg and kick the door. I fell, right in front of the kids already inside, hard on the floor. They roared with laughter, and I wanted to melt through the wood planks.

Ah, the perspective of youth. Today, the same people probably would simply say you made a grand entrance and rush to see if you were hurt. Is there anything else you’d like to tell us?

Yes! When my contract for “See No Evil, My Pretty Lady” expired with my publisher, I didn’t renew. I self-published it, and it’s now available as both ebook and print. (I designed the cover). I’m also pulling another book and will self-pub it as well. “Catch Me If You Can” is self-pubbed, already available as ebook at Smashwords, and will soon be in print at Amazon, B&N, and other online retailers.

I’m going to be doing more self-publishing, more in control of how my work is handled. And I’m having fun designing my own covers!

BTW, I also have a free read, “Fated Destiny” available for download at my site, if anyone would enjoy this short to just get a taste of my writing.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Looking in the Window: Oh, To Be Magnetic

My daughter and I love to bargain shop. But we browse more than we buy. Many times after we get inside a store and go to a particular display we’re the only two people there. We pick up items and discuss them. If we really get interested in something, whether it’s clothing, cosmetics, accessories or gifts and books, we study it. If it’s a book, we make sure the print, pages and binding are intact. If it’s jewelry, and it’s supposed to have a necklace and earrings, we look to see if it has both. But this isn’t a piece about how to bargain shop.

Usually after we’ve been at a station for a while people flock around us. Then it’s extremely difficult to get to the merchandise. My daughter always asks, “Why is no one interested in this stuff until we start looking at it?”

I say, “I don’t know. Let’s look somewhere else, and they’ll leave in a little bit.”

One day my daughter complained to one of her friends about people in the stores rooting us out of our territory. Her friend said, “You probably appear very intense, so they think you’re looking at something of value. They want to make sure they don’t miss out.”

“Hmmm,” my daughter said, “I’d never thought of it that way.”

Later when I talked to her on the phone she said, “Mom, now I know why people run us away from the merchandise we’re trying to look at when we’re shopping.” Then, she told me about the conversation she had with her friend.

After I hung up the phone I asked myself, what if we were that intense over our worship and role as Christians?

John 13: 35, “By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

Matthew 28: 19, "Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit."

Tuesday, July 6, 2010


The lucky winner of a copy of Beautiful Bandit
is Donna McDine.

Congratulations, Donna!