Welcome to my blog Upstate Girl, (a.k.a Follow Your Bliss Part II), I am an independently published author. This blog is all about writing and the stuff that inspires me to write, the joys and obstacles that come along with the writer's life, and my fascination with the psychology of people and what makes them tick...the human condition, as is...and my love for words, playing with them and making sense of them...and I throw in a few photos from my acre of the world just to make things pretty...sometimes there are things I have no words for, only pictures will do.

*Copyright notice* All photos, writing, and artwork are mine (
© Laura J. Wellner), unless otherwise noted, please be a peach, if you'd like to use my work for a project or you just love it and must have it, message me and we'll work out the details...it's simple...JUST ASK, please.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Expectations, the readers reviews of Dusty Waters: A Ghost Story

It’s been two years since I published Dusty Waters: A Ghost Story, being an independently published author is a lot like being a stray cat out looking for a home or going about their independentness scrounging for what they can get, usually very little... some people don't want you around and throw shit at you to scare you off, some come at you, cautiously cuz you might be overzealous with rabies, while some welcome you with open arms, give lap time, food, and warmth. I’ve been quite pleased with the result of my experiment as an independently published author—my little ghost story is finding homes, being read—most of them like it (even better, some say they love it!) Some tell me that it made them laugh and cry, some start reading it again because they loved it so much. Some say they will tell everyone they know about it. Some have felt a little middle of the road about it, it was good, but there was something that didn’t sit well, and a few downright hated it. Throughout this process I’ve experienced the highs and lows emotionally, have taken care to develop a thick skin, and a c’est la vie attitude, I can’t please them all, and above all, it’s business -  a subjective business.With that said, here are the reviews, thirteen of them…

Reader #1***** (5 stars) What a story!
This is a darn good book, gifted to us by an accomplished storyteller. We're treated to an extremely satisfying array of characters, from the quiet, marred Asher, to raucous, sequined Dede; and guided by the quirky, gravel-voiced, 6 feet, 3 inch creator of Dusty Boots Records.

I read fiction to be absorbed, to move into a house with people I don't know yet, to sit in the chairs in the parlor, or disappear into the library behind the secret panel and see the dust on the book jackets and smell the air from the open window. I want to hear the creek bubbling past the broken down willow, and taste the heat from the Taos desert. I want to smile, laugh, fear, suffer, love with the people on the page.

Dusty Waters delivers.

This is a memorable book. The plot devices are adroit, and there are admirably adept methods Ms. Ryan uses; how does a writer convey to the reader that it's hard to get a single message separated from a litany of ghostly memories? The way Laura does it.

There are words and phrases that delight - "suchthings," and "nonstop raspberry."

I'll read Dusty Waters again. Happily.

Reader #2 ***** (5 stars) Not at all what I expected...Wow!
Dusty Waters is a 5 star read. We meet Dusty in her 40s (I think?) and she is somewhat of a hippie in that she stands up against the government through her songs and her unashamed preaching. She is smart and has lived a life. Her childhood friend, Katharine, is writing a book about Dusty (now that Dusty is a famous folk singer) and "Dusty Waters: a ghost story" is a mixture of the interviews that Dusty and Katharine share, and the back stories that Dusty tells in first person narrative. Always intense, realistic conversations, fully-body characters and I loved every one of them.

Dusty sees dead people. No, not in a "Sixth Sense" sorta way, but just in that she can see the ghosts of people who have yet to move on with their "lives". Many of the dead will live the same last moments over and over again, dying over and over. Or some will wait in a certain place where they felt most comfortable in their living "life"... for someone, or something. Dusty sees these spirits- ever since she was a child (of about 4 years) and her father suddenly died of an aneurism at the breakfast table. After he died, she could still see her father sitting at the breakfast table for 3 years, until they moved back to a family heirloom of a house that got passed down from generation to generation.

At the "new" house where Dusty's mother grew up, Dusty can see all of her ancestors trapped inside the house. But, it's not in a scary way. Some of them died brutal, mis-informed deaths, but none wished ill-will to Dusty. The ghosts were so trapped inside their own misery or solitude, that most didn't even notice that Dusty could see them.

Dusty Waters is about self-discovery, trusting one's instincts, true love, growing up in war, losing family members, growing up, and being true to oneself.

The only issue I had with the book was it seems to be marketed as a Ghost Story- as in a horror book. Even the cover art looks a little creepy. "Dusty Waters" has ghosts in it, sure, but it's not ABOUT the ghosts. It's so much more than that. If I could change anything about this book, it would be the cover and the marketing strategy. Because "Dusty Waters" is not scary... it's beautiful.

Reader #3 **** (4 stars)
This is a story about the life and loves of Dusty Waters. She is a folksinger with an attitude, but if you had lived through what she has I guess you would be the same! Dusty can see and communicate with ghosts. This gift is found out when her dad tragically died one morning and never really left. After this the family moved into Tanglewood (a mysterious mansion-like place) and with even more ghosts to keep Dusty busy. This biography of Dusty and her life living at Tanglewood is an interesting one. Reading this book you feel like the nosey neighbor peeking into her life...not a lot of books can make you feel like you there and observing.

Reader #4 **** (4 stars)
I loved this book! I was going into it expecting something really supernatural, focused on spirits/ghosts. Instead I read a beautiful story about living life. Dusty's ability to see ghosts is just a part of her, like being tall, or having curly hair.

Dusty's voice carried me along on a gentle pace through the story of her life. I laughed, I cried, and I put the book down feeling better for having read it. I can't wait to pick it back up and read it again!

Reader #5 **** (4 Stars)
I totally enjoyed this one and for so many different reasons. Laura's writing style is just really awesome and has a unique flow to it. She really managed to make the story feel intimate.

'Dusty Waters: A Ghost Story' was certainly a unique book. I initially got interested in this one because it was a "ghost" story, but it turned out to be so much more than that. Yes, there are ghosts in the book, but I think this one really dug deeper. It really hits on the "ghosts" of our past and how they shape the person we are today. I loved the sometimes nutty main character, Dusty, and the stories she told. They were each unique and again, I think it showed how the ghosts of our past affect the person today.

I have to mention the format of the book because I really thought it was great. Each chapter starts out with a transcript of an interview done with Dusty while working on a biography...it then switches in to what I would call a flashback.

Overall, I thought this one was enjoyable. No matter what kind of ghost story you're looking for you may just find it here. I'd call it a relaxed and easy-going book.

Reader #6    **(2 Stars) Note: added to reviewer’s personal “losers” list
Dusty Waters, A Ghost Story, is not a ghost story. It's a people story with ghosts on the sidelines. Dusty is a folksinger, who just happens to be able to see and communicate with ghosts. The book is about Dusty having her memoirs written by an old friend. That was interesting enough to make me immediately want to read this book. Sadly, for me, the result was rather boring. Imagine if Forrest Gump was female, and could see ghosts. Not that Dusty was challenged in any way other than her second sight, but she was, like Forrest, overly calm and accepting of the ghosts around her. Kind of like "Ohhhh-Kaaay". A very ordinary story about an ordinary family. The settings and historical events that provided the backdrop for this growing girl and her family could have provided enough interest to save the book, but it simply failed. The historical family mansion, for example, complete with ghosts and hidden rooms should have provided lots of entertainment in itself, but because the ghosts were as ordinary as the living, and Dusty's reaction and interaction with them bordered on deadpan (no pun intended), there was no "hook". The characters were likeable enough, but once the book was closed, I did not feel drawn back to it. Pretty mediocre.

Reader #7 **** (4 Stars)
This was about the life story of a fictional character named Dusty Waters, a folksinger. When her father died one morning at breakfast she saw and conversed with him at the breakfast table for the next three years. No one in her family believed she could see his ghost and called her crazy. When they moved into her Mother's ancestral home, she saw and heard family spirits. I liked the way the author wrote the story. Sprinkled throughout the book, it was written as though Dusty was being interviewed by the writer, Katherine, a friend. There was funny parts and sad parts like all stories, and she did a good job with the ending. An unexpected ending.

Reader #8 * (1 star)
Oh my goodness. This was a terrible book. I thought it was going to be a ghost story (based on the title - duh!), but it turns out it was just an opportunity to rant about politics and "those crazy religious nuts". I didn't realize what I was getting myself into. If you are solidly on the left, you might enjoy this book. Otherwise, steer clear from this one. It was so irritating because there were times that the story encouraged me to continue reading, and then I would get hit in the face with the political rant all over again. Blech...

Reader #9 **** (4 Stars)
I went into this book expecting spooks and transparent figures that go bump in the night. Instead it's a nice book about a normal life and all the little things that go into a life. There were parts that had me not liking Dusty, but as a whole she was likable. There were a few times when spirits were involved that I cried. I like the evolution of Dusty as a person. It is a good book.

Reader #10 *** (3 Stars)
This was an interesting book...the language is not my preference and there is a lot of it...but it has a good storyline.

Reader #11 **** (4 Stars) Note: added to reviewer’s “to keep in personal library” list
Probably because I believe that our loved ones are always around us, I really liked this one. It will be one I keep in my library forever.

Reader #12 ***** (5 stars) Definitely not your average ghost story
Dusty Waters is a different take on the traditional ghost story, dealing more with the lives of people through the eyes of the person who can see them while, simultaneously, trying to grow into her own life. Definitely a good read for those wanting entertainment and some brain food to munch on.

Reader #13 ***** (5 Stars) Excellent story, I loved every page!
The sub-title "A Ghost Story" caught my attention so I bought this book. I enjoyed it so much and am recommending it to all my friends. I don't want to give away the story, but it is definitely a "ghost" story which you find out very early in the book, with numerous plots of mysterious questions...actually I just talked myself into reading it again! ENJOY!!

And so that’s them...the words of wisdom/gut reactions from thirteen readers who have loved, liked, found so-so, or disliked my little ghost story. As you can see, much of what is written here says more about the reader and how they experience books, and going a step further, there are some readers who are open minded and willing to enjoy a book without expectation, while others lose the joy of reading by having strict expectations and have no wiggle room to engage in a writer’s story if it fails to fall within their set parameters. These parameters I find very interesting, especially regarding how every reader has their expectations about what a ghost story is supposed to be...or not be. Is it a ghost story? The majority accept it as a ghost story. It is a ghost story, a ghost story told the way I wanted to write it. The ghosts aren’t the “BOO!” bump in the night kind of ghosts—that’s been done, I wanted to do something different, something better. It is a book about the life of Dusty Waters, the ghost story is the part of her life that will not be included in her biography, only the reader is becoming privy to this secret—this I believe is part of the beauty of the book, it is more than a ghost story.

Two years later, yes, the stray cat has gained a thicker skin, but that doesn't mean I still don't feel a little queasy and bummed out when I see a one star reaction with a review to match relaying all that I did wrong (I know it won't be the last one) or do a little happy dance when I get four stars set up along with a thoughtful review...I'm not yet a fat tabby, but it's been a worth while experiment. I feel good about what I've done, real good (shh, listen to the purr.)
I couldn't resist posting a pic of the little old man (who was once a stray long long time ago) he is very content sleeping on his head like that

Dusty Waters: A Ghost Story is available in paperback through Amazon.com and as an E-book at Barnes and Noble for the Nook.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

From the Garden...

Peony Abstraction
 I've been busy editing Fishbowl and painting up a storm in preparation for an art show at Szozda Gallery, I'm reading a lot too...between the ever growing stack of 'to be read' books that I've found recently and visits to Red Lemonade for quick dips in some extraordinary new work. I'm feeling full to the brim with words...and of course, my garden takes up my spare time, the blooms are coming and going faster than I can enjoy them! I think I go through this bit of despair every year...the peony's are almost all done, and they were giant blooms, but of course, no sooner do they open, the rain comes and beats the snot out of the poor things...and once you pick one, they drop their petals by the next day...all done for another year, already.

Peony portrait
Fragment, Moth Wing


Collage of debris

Thursday, June 2, 2011


Arrangement on stone 5/22/2011

Scars, found field stone, 5/31/2011

Hosta, 5/31/2011

Lace and Spikes, leaf and burrs, 5/31/2011

Old Paint, 5/31/2011

The Red Stripe, field stone, 5/31/2011
I've been on a long vacation, one of the benefits for working at one place for over 25 years is having an accumulation of days off to use or lose by the end of the fiscal year...I always have too many left over (not that I'm complaining)...this has been the perfect time to be off, the weather has been summer-like...well, until today, it's zipped back to spring so we're dipped into the 50's and breezy, actually feels like fall...weird.

My camera has been busy with finding things, I've uploaded hundreds of photos and have yet to go through all of them so I thought I'd post what I have found so far...

The Old Grind Stone, 6/1/2011

Abstraction, Field Stone, 6/1/2011

I've been spending lots of quiet time these days, much of it writing, my editing of Drinking From the Fishbowl is coming along, I'm passing through Part III, doing more tweaking to places here and there that felt a little bit at loose ends...I'm on that self-doubt see-saw again, you see. I do know it's a good story, but there's that uncertainty that goes along with that...it's a tug o' war. It is chock full of dreams and realities, all of it tightly linked within itself, and also bound with the other two novels that I've published so far and the one's that are not yet finished...it's  been a long journey writing these books of mine, and I've loved every minute of it...it has felt good these last few days, sitting on my porch, enjoying the breeze on a hot day, working on words, being immersed in that other place where I go to write, I've been having a hard time getting there this past year since I finished The Fractured Hues of White Light, I have felt quite wrung out and needed to take it easy, but every visit to Fishbowl bolsters my confidence, it's coming into its own, I'm nearly finished...I expect that I will continue working on it throughout the summer months, making sure it's right. (It's what I do.)