Now That’s Scary!

Hello, Adult Readers and Scary Story Aficionados!

Withered leaves rattle in the chilly wind before their death-drop. October shuffles to its end. Darkness descends sooner now, encouraging owls and bats to fly about the countryside in search of earlier feasts. Jack-o’-lanterns glow and burn to ward off evil spirits. Some trick-or-treaters venture forth while others decide to huddle indoors with a bowl of popcorn, some candy, and a book or movie to elude banshees on the loose . . . out there.

All these signal that Spooky Season is upon us, culminating in Halloween!

What better time of year than now to share with you the THIRTEEN MOST TERRIFYING BOOKS AND SHORT STORIES OF ALL TIME?

Below is the frightful list according to Hewlett-Woodmere Public Library in Nassau County, New York. To read the books’ or stories’ synopses, please click HERE.

  1. Pet Sematary, by Stephen King
  2. The Island of Dr. Moreau, by H.G. Wells
  3. The Cask of Amontillado, by Edgar Allan Poe (Yay, Poe!)
  4. The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, by Robert Louis Stevenson
  5. The Turn of the Screw, by Henry James
  6. Frankenstein, by Mary Shelley
  7. The Exorcist, by William Peter Blatty
  8. Something Wicked This Way Comes, by Ray Bradbury
  9. Silence of the Lambs, by Thomas Harris
  10. Hell House, by Richard Matheson
  11. Rosemary’s Baby, by Ira Levin
  12. Dracula, by Bram Stoker
  13. House of Leaves, by Mark Z. Danielewski

What?! No Agatha Christie? Sheridan Le Fanu? Shirley Jackson? Robert Bloch? Ann Radcliffe?

So, get a clue, Readers. Were your favorites listed? If not, maybe they’re on BUZZFEED’S list. Or check at BOOKRIOT. Or try THEUNCORKEDLIBRARIAN. Whatever deliciously terrifying horror fiction you dare to open this spooky season, please remember: First, make sure all the doors and windows are locked. Happy, haunted reading!

(Photo Credits: Dracula–E.A. Holloway; Turn of the Screw–Eric Pape in Collier’s Weekly; Frankenstein–Karoly Grosz; The Cask of Amontillado–Harry Clarke. All images are Public Domain from

Champion in a Roadster

Dear Kids and All Readers,

She drives a roadster (first maroon, then blue), is a force for good, unafraid to speak up, and delivers the baddies to Chief Pete McGinnis with time left over to get to Ned Nickerson’s college football game without a hair out of place. And she’s been doing all that for 93 years! Who can this powerful woman be?

None other than my forever-eighteen-year-old mystery-book hero and fictional BFF, Nancy Drew!

I recently joined the Nancy Drew Fan Club. We members are called Nancy Drew Sleuths. No surprise that there is such a club, right? But joining begged the question, “Why do many of us still worship Nancy Drew after all these years?” I mean, her books have never been out of print and have sold over 80 million copies!

First a little history to put things in perspective. Since her creation in 1929 by Edward Stratemeyer, head of the children’s fiction literature syndicate, Nancy Drew made her appearance in her first three cases in 1930 (The Secret of the Old Clock, The Hidden Staircase, and The Bungalow Mystery). Would you believe that Mr. Stratemeyer considered naming Nancy Stella Strong or Diana Daring? Fortunately, her unostentatious but still forceful honorific, Nancy Drew, won out.

Nancy’s first twenty-three cases were written by a newspaperwoman named Mildred Augustine Wirt (later Benson) under the pseudonym Carolyn Keene. She used Mr. Stratemeyer’s chapter-by-chapter, detailed outlines to bring to the pages “an up-to-date girl, at her best, bright, clever, resourceful, and full of energy.” In the 1950s, Stratemeyer’s daughter, Harriet Stratemeyer Adams, mostly took over for Mildred Wirt Benson. It wasn’t until 1980 that Benson was revealed to be the original ghostwriter of the Nancy Drew mysteries.

Nancy Drew has inspired generations of readers including Sonia Sotomayor, R.B.G., Oprah Winfrey, Hillary Clinton, and yours truly. Maybe you as well. Legions of us.

So what accounts for Nancy Drew’s staying power and appeal? According to Alexis Soloski in her October 4, 2019, article for the New York Times, “Nancy Drew and the Mystery of Her Enduring Relevance,” [the girl sleuth’s] “appeal has always been that people relate to her in various ways: She is an archetype, just generic enough for readers to imagine themselves in her sensible heels,” imbued with her confidence, respect, and authority. We garner vicarious sparkle and elan when we become her in her adventures.

According to Melanie Rehak, author of Girl Sleuth: Nancy Drew and the Women Who Created Her, “[Nancy] will live on as long as we continue to crave heroic, fearless women, or women who face their fear and move past it.”

If like me, you’re a huge Nancy Drew fan, here’s where you can shop for Nancy Swag! Bags, jewelry, clothing, party favors, and more–all for love of Nancy Drew.

So, get a clue, Readers. Who is your fictional hero and why? What was and remains their appeal for you? Please let me know HERE!






First-Day Jitters

Hello, Kids, Teachers, Librarians, Families, and All Readers,

While on my usual early-morning walk today, I couldn’t help but think that it’s the First Day of School!

Kids were supposed to start school yesterday here in San Diego, but Hurricane Hilary blew through as a tropical storm on Sunday and granted students a Bonus Day of Summer. San Diego Unified is the second-largest school district in California, serving more than 121,000 students in 226 schools. The school board president wanted to make sure the schools and grounds were safe and ready to receive everyone; hence, the reprieve.

As I headed home, I encountered two little neighbor girls, all dressed up with First-Day-of-School tiaras proudly displayed. They were ready to skip up the street three blocks with their dad to the same school that I attended. The sisters had already met their first grade and TK (transitional kindergarten) teachers last week.

The girls looked thrilled. Dad looked a little anxious. I felt those old first-day jitters creeping in on their behalf!

Even though I retired ten years ago from a long teaching career, this time of year still churns up the butterflies–no! Make that Pterodactyls flapping around inside my stomach. I remember years ago as I stepped out of my car in the school parking lot, a senior teacher told me that she still got the jitters. We teachers want everything to go well so that our students feel welcome, relaxed, and ready to learn. And if the kids were happy, I was happy.

Perhaps your child needs help dealing with school anxiety. Try this ARTICLE with five tips from pediatricians at Cleveland Health; and/or this ARTICLE with tips to empower your child against anxiety from Psychology Today.

So, get a clue, Everyone. Some things never change! To whom this applies: I wish you a Happy New School Year! And may those pesky raptors within settle down quickly so we can crack open our books.


The Authors Guild Calls on AI Industry Leaders

Hello, Adult Readers,

You’ve probably noticed that in Hollywood, CA, many members of the Writers Guild and SAG-AFTRA are on strike, bringing focus to the emerging use (and abuse) of generative artificial intelligence (AI) in the movie, television, and radio industries.

Perhaps you aren’t aware that fiction and nonfiction authors are also demanding intellectual property rights and protections in the wake of unregulated use of AI impacting their craft and finances. Enter the Authors Guild.

The Authors Guild (AG), a national organization to which I belong along with about 13,000 other U.S. authors, is actively advocating for us, demanding that Generative AI leaders “obtain, consent, credit, and fairly compensate writers for the use of copyrighted materials in training AI.”

In mid-July, “AG submitted written testimony before the U.S. Senate Intellectual Property Subcommittee in connection with the government’s July 12 hearing on artificial intelligence. The Guild’s testimony underscored the threat to the writing profession from unregulated use of generative AI technologies that can produce stories, books, and other text-based works and displace the works of human authors in the marketplace. The testimony also called Congress’ attention to the inherent unfairness of AI companies’ use—without consent, credit, or compensation—of millions of books, articles, essays, and other written works to “train” generative AI systems and essentially making them a part of the AI’s fabric.

“AG emphasized that unless Congress intervenes to put guardrails around the development and use of generative AI technologies, the important copyright incentives that drive original expression and enrich our cultural discourse will be rendered meaningless.

“AG proposed detailed policy recommendations that would require AI companies to seek permission for using writers’ works, pay compensation to writers who allow their works to be used, disclose training data, and pay writers for use of their styles, names, likeness, and parts of their works in AI output.”

Last week, “AG delivered its AI open letter to the CEOs of OpenAI, Alphabet, Meta, Stability AI, IBM, and Microsoft, as well as all 535 members of Congress. Since then, the letter has been written about at NPR, The Wall Street Journal, the Los Angeles Times, the Associated Press, United Press International (UPI), CNN, BBC, CBC, Al Jazeera, the Daily MailForbes, Bloomberg Law, InsiderThe Economic Times, and more.

“As of now, more than 10,000 AG writers and their supporters have signed the letter. Signatures include luminaries such as Dan Brown, James Patterson, Jennifer Egan, David Baldacci, and others.” Signatures from the rest of us not-so-luminary authors are included.”

For more from AG about its advocacy, artificial intelligence, and AI’s impact on writers, please click HERE.

To read more about AG in the News, including info on 8,000 authors demanding that OpenAI leaders pay them for unauthorized use of their works, click HERE.

As an author, reader, and/or supporter of authors, you are invited to sign AG’s AI open letter by clicking HERE. Check out my name on page 11 of 124.

So, get a clue, Readers. AI is here to stay. And it owes its livelihood to creatives; therefore, I believe we need to seek positive, fair, common sense ways to integrate AI into creative endeavors with the fair and legal use of copyrighted works for writers’ compensation. What do you think?

(Photo Credit: Anna Shvets on




Why Adults Should Read Kids’ Books

Hello, dear Readers of all ages,

Kids, I know you read children’s books. But adults, do you?

Reading does not always have to be a progression to increasing difficulty for adults with a creeping fear that if they pause and glance back, they will lose ground and suddenly “de-mature.” Try pausing sometime. You will survive. And you just might retouch magic.

As a former kid, now grown-up kid, mom, grandmom, retired teacher, and children’s book author, I’ve been reading and rereading children’s books, my preferred genre, all my life. I don’t plan to stop–ever!

Why do I love children’s literature?

It transports me back to simpler times, where I am instantly bombarded with images, tastes, and aromas from my childhood. Like the corn chips and apples I used to eat while curled up with a Nancy Drew mystery book. The smell of dinner my grandmother was cooking in the kitchen. My grandfather’s cigar tobacco. My treks to the library, coming home with an armful of treasured mysteries. I’m back in my childhood house, happily surrounded by loved ones, most of whom are now long gone.

Children’s books are life rafts, inspiring me to beat the tall waves of this world that want to sweep me overboard. They assist me to revisit how I can be the best person I can be. Like sour Mary Lennox, who overcame obstacles that turned her frowns and pouts into smiles and acts of loving kindness in my favorite children’s book The Secret Garden

I encourage you to click HERE to read BBC Culture’s Katherine Rundell‘s fascinating article about the importance of adults continuing to read children’s books and a brief history of the evolution of children’s books. She said it best: “Children’s books say: the world is huge. They say: hope counts for something. They say: bravery will matter, wit will matter, empathy will matter, love will matter.” Refreshing reminders!

So, get a clue, all readers. The poet W.H. Auden wrote, “There are good books which are only for adults, because their comprehension presupposes adult experiences, but there are no good books which are only for children.” No matter your age, I hope you’ll pick up a children’s book soon and often and welcome golden sparks that ignite–or reignite–you. 

Photo by cottonbro on


Hi, Kids and All Readers,

As most of you know, today, June 19, is “Juneteenth”!

Juneteenth became a federal holiday in 2021, so some have the day off. The African-American community has been celebrating Juneteenth for generations.

I hope you celebrate Juneteenth as the United States’ other Independence Day!

So, what is Juneteenth? On June 19, 1865, the last slaves in the United States were finally freed, or emancipated, months after the Thirteenth Amendment passed that “abolished all slavery and involuntary servitude, except as punishment for a crime.”

Why did it take months for some slaves to find out that they had been freed? For the reason for that delay and a history of the Thirteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, including then President Abraham Lincoln’s involvement in the amendment’s creation and passage, and why his Emancipation Proclamation of 1863 did not free all slaves, please click HERE.

It would take three more years, until 1868, for the Fourteenth Amendment to be adopted that “granted citizenship and equal protection under the law to all people born or naturalized in the United States.

Juneteenth has a complicated history! You can read about it in a Time magazine article by clicking HERE.

“For “Celebrating Juneteenth with [Thirteen Valuable] Tools for Support, Understanding, and Solidarity,” that might move us forward to a better humanity, from the Greater Good Science Center, please click HERE.

Kids, here are some watchwords and phrases associated with Juneteenth: Black historyremember; honor; enjoy freedom; sense of community; pride; slavery abolished; cook plenty of greens; barbecue; potato salad; peach cobbler; Southern cuisine; a taste of Harlem; indulge; picnic; jubilee; music; dance. Do you want to add to this list? Please let me know by clicking HERE.

So, get a clue, Readers. What are some ways to celebrate Juneteenth as we also remember its painful history? Food can help! Click HERE for some menus and ideas to keep Jubilee Day going. And books are always appropriate! Click HERE for some Juneteenth books for kids. Click HERE for adults’ books.

Happy Juneteenth! Let freedom ring for all.

(Photo Credit:  Khena22 on