Back To The Beach

Lantern ThumbAuthor’s note: Fellow author Lance Carney’s 5-star review of The Lost Lantern on both and came at just the right time. Less than 10 weeks after its release, reinforcing commentary goes a long way towards continuing momentum and spreading the good word.

Incidentally, Carney’s humorous first novel, Ripped Tide, is among just three other finalists for the 2017 McGrath House Indie Book Awards in the humor/comedy category. You can vote (by Oct. 31) for Lance’s book at:

This was “Lantern’s” 11th review (4.7-rating thus far). Thanks again to Lance and to those who took me from five to 10: Pat Paxton, Sandra Rohr, Sissy Offutt, Robert (unknown), and Carla VanWyck. I appreciate you all!
Back to the Beach for a Story of Racism, Greed, Betrayal, Bribery and Murder

     It’s “back to the beach” but not for a fun romp in the sand. This return to Sun Fun City and the Grand Strand of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, is a blend of racism, greed, betrayal, bribery and murder, including a connected, unsolved murder from years before. John Gates doesn’t see that in his future—he is just trying for a new start on life and to reunite with three friends, all who traveled there six years earlier to work the restaurants of Murrells Inlet during college summers. Along the way, John bumps into William McMillian, an African American he worked with at Captain Dan’s for a couple of summers. William has always wanted to start his own restaurant, The Lost Lantern, and thinks his boss, Danny Rivers and his brothers are helping him when they take his down payment on a property with a rundown restaurant. John Gates and his friends pull out all the stops to try and help William realize his dream while the Rivers’ brothers on the other side will stop at nothing to make sure that doesn’t happen.

The Lost Lantern takes readers back to the 1980s when Myrtle Beach was coming of age with second and third generation tourists. It’s also a sampling of the author’s personal experiences working the seafood hot spots of Murrells Inlet. As in his excellent first book, The Long Shadow of Hope, Andy Spradling once again serves up what he knows best. As a former restaurant owner, his insight into the restaurant business adds authenticity to the story. The restaurants, bars and businesses of Myrtle Beach at the time also lend a nostalgic backdrop to the tale (one scene takes place at the popular watering hole, The Afterdeck, long before it became a strip club). The characters are vivid, complex and flawed, even the good guys, so you can’t help but fall into the story, and there are enough twists and turns to keep you turning the pages. I highly recommend it!






The Grade Savior

Author’s note: Mr. Tom Morgan, center, and a former star-student Loretta (Franciose) Goolbsy last month at the Art Walk, in downtown Charleston, West Virginia. Mr. Morgan taught English Composition for the college bound at our high school, and I never learned more in a class. He was an inspiration and 35 years later I was proud to be able to hand him my second novel. Thanks for reading! A.S.


In a town that was booming from a chemical craze,

A time not forgotten, but most certainly changed,

The vitality caused by the brilliance of many,

Their children raised with expectations a’plenty.


Inside walls that held so many young minds,

Was a wizard of sorts, who gave sight to the blind.

The tool that he used was his Grade Saver Sheet,

From a standpoint of learning it couldn’t be beat.


Prepositions, slang, expressions deemed trite,

The comma, if questioned, must take a quick hike.

If you naively asked how to spell a tough word,

D-I-C-T-I-O-N-A-R-Y was what you heard.


Compositions completed was just half the fight,

Cause a pronoun misused dropped your “A” out of sight.

“Express, not impress,” his writing decree,

Two spliced indie clauses a comma fait accompli.


“A lot” was a place and if it made your paper,

A great deal of anguish was soon to come later.

If you shifted a tense, or let a sentence run on,

Used You and Your pronouns, you best just be gone.


You could take those themes on with you to college,

’Cause the 101-ers you met didn’t have your knowledge.

Just correct, re-write and turn them on in,

With the time that you saved you could go for a spin.


If you look back with less than a smile you ain’t tryin’,

And if you say you learned little I just ain’t a-buyin’,

And if “ain’t” was uttered, he would show no restraint,

Tom Morgan, by God, would express his complaint.


© 2017


For The Love Of Books

Since my last post, shamelessly, with tongue-in-cheek connecting my new novel, The Lost Lantern, with Jeannette Walls’ memoir, The Glass Castle (oops, I did it again), I played around with some numbers. If Jeannette’s sales were created in the 261 weeks it was on the NY Times Bestseller List, the per week amount of books sold is 10,344. If it were over the 12 years since the book’s release the number is 4,326 sold a week. Dan Brown sold 27 million copies of the Da Vinci Code. Over 14 years that’s 37,087 a week. Can you imagine the elation either must have been feeling?

Lantern Thumb I’ve been at this independent publishing for less than 16 months.  I get excited each and every time I sell a book. In one of the above scenarios I probably would stroke out from happiness.  But it’s an uphill battle. Even Amazon, which makes most of the money, chooses not to promote independents. The cost-free electronic version? We indies still get bumped by the Pattersons, Sparks, and Grishams. There’s a big ol’ bank of money each month from subscribers at Kindle Unlimited, but writers like me will never see any of it. I believe both my novels are entertaining departures, yet how does one get them in front of the masses?

Still, I’m feeling blessed and extremely grateful. Today marks one month since we released “The Lost Lantern,” and I can’t help but feel optimistic. Without the benefit of a big-budget publisher, pre-publicity, or industry reviews, we have sold 90 copies in 30 days, with five reviews, on I received great news from Terri Dingess Baloga, a fellow St. Albans (WV) High grad now residing in North Carolina, who chose “The Lost Lantern” for her book club to read next month! This is exactly what an independent writer like me needs – word of mouth among READERS in other states… in other countries. I need to offer thanks to Tom Hindman, Ray Epperly, Ross Harrison, (now deployed) Jeremy Ranson, and Becky Goodwin for their honest reviews, with expectations for more soon from Bob Carpenter, Lance Carney, and Carla Williamson. If reviews add the validity buyers need, I’ll scratch and claw for all I can get. Thanks for reading!  

Lessons Learned from Castle Walls

For me, Jeannette Walls’ blockbuster “The Glass Castle” provided inspiration both as a reader and as a writer. It confirmed to me that, even as a scribe of fiction, you must lay bare your soul. You must… leave a little blood on your pages.

As a coordinator of speakers’ events in my last position I was fortunate to meet Jeannette Walls behind the scenes. It was December of 2007, and as Director of University Relations I was the person responsible for getting Ms. Walls from one venue to the next, which included, after her speech, dinner in the President’s “tower of power” as I liked to call it. She even stayed in a campus guest apartment rather than across the river in a posh hotel.

Jennette Walls and AS cpd.jpg

Because I’d loved her book and because I was each day in the early a.m. before my commute pecking away at my first novel – a fact I did not disclose – I was especially stoked about her being on campus. She was, unlike some speakers who had preceded her with only dollar signs reflecting off their cold eyes, gracious, humble, enthusiastic, generous with her time, in great humor, and receptive to hospitality. After all, part of her now famous childhood was spent just two hours “down the road.” Despite her acquired Manhattan pedigree, she projected a down-home-girl-who’d-made-it-big image. She was beloved by her audience that evening.

Because of the movie’s release (I give it 4 out of 5 thumbs up), Jeannette Walls has been thrust into the spotlight again. I like what she wrote for a Los Angeles Times piece on August 10.

“Brie Larson captured so many of the other things that I did — and do — some of them not entirely appealing, most important, the way that I had tried so hard to cut myself off from my past, to feel nothing. The portrait isn’t always flattering, but it’s accurate. And to be understood is so much more important than being flattered.”

Jeannette Walls has sold over 2.7 million copies of her memoir and it spent 261 weeks on the New York Times Bestseller list. That’s over five years. The film rights – a writer’s true bonanza – have been sold at least twice.

She and I have two common traits: we’re both from West Virginia and our books both have 4.5 star ratings on The rub? The Glass Castle has 6,133 reviews, The Lost Lantern has (in three weeks) but three. My first novel, The Long Shadow of Hope, has a near 5-star rating, 23 reviews in a little over a year, though the second title has renewed interest in the first. John Milton may or may not have known the struggles of the Independent writer when he wrote, “Long is the way, and hard, that out of hell leads up to light…”

 Use this Lant-shadow.jpg

Both titles available in paperback and electronically on and

© 2017

Amos Lee – Feels Just Like a Shakedown

CINCINNATI – Let me preface this piece by saying that I love Amos Lee’s music. My wife, who discovered him for our household, more than loves him. Our children – a boy and two girls – 17, 15, 11 – love his music. He is an extraordinary songwriter. If labeled modern folk – a bio says that it was a John Prine album that inspired him to begin writing and playing – it certainly is gritty, urban folk that crosses into Rhythm and Blues, Soul, and Country.

In September of last year, my wife and I traveled nearly five hours to Asheville, N.C. to our first Amos Lee concert. It was held indoors at the quaint Thomas Wolfe Auditorium. He blew us away. His sultry voice recreated his studio sound, and his band’s instrumentals were brilliant. Even his slight changing of songs seemed acceptable and his humor and occasional storytelling made us love him even more. The show, over two hours of pure energy – 23 songs on the set list – was so great that my wife immediately began looking for future dates in which we could attend.

Fast forward to Tuesday, July 25, at Cincinnati’s PNC Pavilion at Riverbend Music Center. It had been a good long while since we’d made that three hour trek for a Jimmy Buffett concert. Those Parrothead events are hazy, but I do recall that Buffett shows – and I’ve seen him near twenty times from San Diego to North Carolina – always began in the daylight and ended in the dark. What I didn’t know at the time, and I believe is one of the most ridiculous mandates in modern history, is there is a noise ordinance which states that concerts at this multi-venue center near nothing visible, must cease at 11 p.m. or pay a $1,000 fine for each minute after the hour.

This is no secret to the local consumers, and perhaps that is why the place was half empty. BUT IT IS ALSO A MANAGEABLE PROBLEM FOR AN ARTIST WHO WANTS TO SATISFY HIS FANS. It certainly wasn’t available when we made the decision to take the whole family – five tickets at $57 per – but there was a 12-song set list on the web the day before the show. 12 songs!!

How could Amos Lee have fixed the problem? Obviously, started the show earlier. It began at 8 p.m., and, Lake Street Dive – which I’d seen before at Mountain Stage in Charleston W.Va., and was wonderfully entertaining – was allowed to play for an hour and fifteen minutes, longer than I’ve ever seen an opening act play. Another 35 to 40 minutes to change the stage, and Amos began. JUST BEFORE 10 P.M.

And though my wife mentioned immediately that this had a different vibe from Asheville, he was fantastic! But given the secret time restraints, I would have much rather heard more songs than five-minute instrumentals; more songs than lengthy stories; any of the gut-wrenching songs – Chill In The Air, Johnson Blvd., Dresser Drawer – from Mountains of Sorrow, Rivers of Song, than Hall and Oates’ Sara Smile. Why take three minutes to point out a fans’ sign for a song request, and tell a heart-felt story about an aunt, who is the subject of the requested May I Remind You – which you said you could not remember how to play (Bullshit!) – leading in to the beautifully-executed Arms of a Woman? Time management, man! When you played Sweet Pea, she knew it was over. No encore – bow with the band and bolt. Lights come up, roadies throw down.

Give me Violin – from where my title was pulled. I know, I’m bitching. It wasn’t like we paid for floor seats at Madison Square Garden. But 285 for tickets, 60 for two T-shirts, 25 for an album, 30 for beverages, 200 for a hotel room, another 250 for restaurant meals, 40 for gas, incidentals, that’s 900-plus bucks, Amos. You could have made it worth it, but you chose not to.


© 2017






Racial Harmony Steps To The Plate

Author’s note: Finally, the new novel. Thanks for all the support and for reading the short offerings put forth. A.S. 

Lantern Thumb

Lost soul John Gates returns to Myrtle Beach, SC, after six years and rejoins his three lifelong friends, all of whom worked the Murrells Inlet restaurants in the summers of their college years before moving on to other professions. Gates plans to put his past life of decadence and womanizing, for which he has a guilty secret, behind him. He seeks out William McMillian, a black friend and former co-worker and learns William hopes to follow his dream of purchasing his own restaurant. Gates vows to help William in any way he can. Their racist former boss, Danny Rivers, and his brothers have another idea – to extort William’s life savings to expand their own empire. What unfolds is an epic, two-generational saga that breaks down barriers and stereotypes as family greed and inhumanity clash with friendship, love, and the indomitable human spirit in the late 1980s.

Paperback, ebook, KDP Select, all available on at:






One crack of thunder, and it began to come down,

At the time of morning, when I start to make plans.

To visit my garden, combat the weeds,

Tie up some ‘maters, check the growth of green p’s.

To consider a ride versus family and needs,

Girls getting haircuts, there’s four boys to feed.

There’s anticipation, of a book to let go,

After numerous years of arranging just so.

There’s an Amos review, I’m fixin’ to write,

From a whirlwind trip, we took Tuesday night.

A reunion upcoming of classmates and peers,

It’s been in the making, for thirty-five years.

As quick as it started, the rain is now gone, but

after more than two weeks of travel, it’s good to be home.


© 2017