Friday, May 15, 2015

True confessions: Do you turn down the corners of pages?

I used to think it was vaguely heretical to turn down corners of pages in books. Still worse was defacing the paper with words of my own. Reading with a pencil in hand? No way! Then my husband bought me a kindle.

E-readers have this nice little feature that lets you turn down corners without damaging pages. They encourage you highlight text, without ever defacing the (non-existent) clean white paper. You can even take notes and don't have to carry a pen.

Reviewing books by kindle became so much easier than reviewing them in print. I could scribble my notes (typing one-fingered on that keyboard of tiny raised lumps--my kindle's kind of old). I could highlight useful information like protagonist's names, where and when the story takes place, favorite phrases, whole paragraphs that illustrate a point. Then I could "view notes and marks" at the end, to compile them into a readable book review. Easy!

All this is especially important to me as I read too fast and forget too easily. But I still enjoy the feel of paper books, so much more satisfying than mechanical. I still read and review lots of paper books (reading too fast and forgetting too easily, again). So..., heresy of heresies, I now turn down corners of pagers with cruel abandon, highlight text with evil pencil marks lurking in the margin, draw bubbles around my favorite passages, and even scribble my own notes along the sides. The scribbling my own notes bit is a bit of a problem though, as I struggle to read my writing and try to remember what on earth I wanted to say.

Anyway, that's how I set about to write a book review. How about you?

And while you think about it, grab a coffee to match your favorite read, and enjoy this introduction to the books I've read recently, with matching coffee recommendations:

First, in print, was Tiffany Girl by Deeanne Gist (lots of turned down corners). I posted a review of this a few days ago, to help the author celebrate its release. Like a Jane Austen novel set around the Chicago World Fair, it tells of an enterprising young woman in the days when women and unions were just beginning to change the world. There's a pleasing romance, a convincing sense of history, and a wealth of great characters. Enjoy with some well-balanced, full-flavored three-star coffee.

Telling a tale of slightly more recent history, The People Under the House, by Dene Hellman, combines the story of a sixties housewife (e-highlight all those details of time and place) with the horrors of Nazi Germany, weaving together two characters who really did fall in love and marry. But there are no fairytale endings in this memoir, just vividly depicted real life. I'd recommend this one just for its first two parts - drink some bold, dark, intense five-star coffee while you read.

Grendel's Game, by Erik Mauritzson, was the next print book in my review pile. Imagine Girl with the Dragon Tattoo crossed with Hannibal Lecter, and give the protagonist an almost perfect home and family, then you'll get the picture. It's an odd blend of noir and light--will the light or dark win? Enjoy with some bold, dark, intense five-star coffee. (Comments written in the margins.)

Betrayer of Kings, by Sam Powers, (e-highlighted paragraphs) fits more closely into its genre, but it's only the beginning of a three-part tale, and might leave some readers frustrated at its conclusion. That said, it's an intricately detailed tale of spies, counter-spies, terrorists, politics and betrayal. I will read volumes 2 and 3 soon-ish. Meanwhile, enjoy part one with some dark intense five-star coffee.

Returning to print, the next book I read was a Christmas present, One Good Turn by Kate Atkinson. (Just a few turned down corners this time - my husband might want to read it too!) I read the first Jackson Bodie novel last year, and I'm thoroughly addicted to the TV series (Case Histories - so is my husband). So this book is one I'd looked forward to for ages (a few months at least). Kate Atkinson has an amazing way with chapters, turning and polishing each into a short story in its own right. Meanwhile the lives of her characters twist and intertwine in a complex dance. Enjoy with a richly elegant complex four-star coffee.

Devil's Creek by Aaron Paul Lazar will come out in print soon, I expect, but I had the pleasure of reading a pre-release e-copy (comments in margins again). I really enjoyed it. The storyline is dark and difficult, involving sexual addiction and more; but the writing lifts it beautifully, offering just the right combination of seen and unseen terror in matching tales of a man taking a risk on love and seemingly doomed to lose. Enjoy with some more richly elegant complex four-star coffee.

Back to print, I had to write this review without bending any pages because the book belongs to a friend. But I loved the story and it was really no hardship to read without taking notes. The Solitude of Prime Numbers, by Paolo Giordano appeals to me just for its title. But the story is more than its symbolism, as two young people grow together, grow apart, and never quite fit. Some relationships have different edges than others, and this tale draws the lines between its characters beautifully. A touch of life, a touch of romance, great locations, and gritty reality all combine in an absorbing book best read with well-balanced, full-flavored three-star coffee.

And finally, one last ebook, though it always surprises me to find picture e-books for kids (no need for comments or bookmarks when the book's so short). Maybe when I have grandkids I'll buy e-picture-books by the dozen. Willa the Wolf gets New Shoes by Leela Hope is a nice positive tale about not letting the mean kids get you down, written and illustrated for preschool and kindergarten kids. A wise fun bedtime story perhaps, to enjoy with some bright lively easy-drinking coffee.

And that's my list. Now back to the television to see if we've recorded any more Case Histories to watch over dinner. But first I'll put the coffee on.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Agent, Publisher, or Contest? Which would you choose?

Do you love to write? Do you write for publication? Do you dream of publication?

If the answer to any of the above is yes, I guess my next question is which would you rather do,

  • send a query letter to an agent, 
  • send a query letter to a publisher, 
  • or enter a contest?
My first dream was to find an agent. Surely that had to be best - someone else who would do all the hard work of researching places my writing my fit, advertising it so the publisher knows it will fit, and making me sound good. After all, which writer really wants to blow her own horn? But then I learned that researching agents is just as hard as researching publishers, and feels just as much like applying for a job.

Have you applied for a job recently? Then you probably know that feeling of applications disappearing into black holes with no reply. I began to suspect query letters go into the same black holes. So I gave up on option one and option two.

But what about contests? No query letter. Just writing to the prompt. Just doing what I dearly love to do. Except only one person can win, and why should I imagine I'm best of all. I'm good enough, I reckon, but am I that good? Then I found that contests often either cost money or are more like America's Got Talent than the Booker Prize. At least query letters are private and free. I gave up on option three.

Then I started writing book reviews, accidentally researching publishers while noting who published the books, finding places where I might fit while accidentally maybe getting my name know to them, and then my novels and my Bible stories found a home (with Second Wind Publishing and Cape Arago Press respectively). So perhaps that should have been option four. Would you rather:
  • write short stories
  • write your great American novel, or
  • write book reviews?
The bit I've missed out here is that I actually found my first publisher, Gypsy Shadow, through a contest. And I found my latest publisher, Linkville Press, through another. So don't give up. Even if you feel like it. Even if you read blogposts like mine. Even if you're sick of rejections and feel like you'll never succeed...

So... I got an email last week about a contest you might try, if you fancy writing online: A free writing platform called Inkitt is running a contest called Epic Worlds: A New Adventure. According to Inkitt, the site lets you interact with readers, collaborate, trade feedback and ideas, and generally get exposure. I suspect being willing to try to be popular will probably help as well, but hey, anything's worth trying once isn't it - well, as long as it's not actually bad for you.

The contest began on May 6th and closes on June 3rd. It's free, and you can submit any fantasy story up to 15,000 words. There are cash prizes and cover designs on offer, and if you've not tried an online contest, or you need some incentive to write, it just might work for you. If not, you could always write book reviews.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Get Fluffy meets Fifty Shades of Greyhound ! Writers and Other Animals...

Today I'm delighted to welcome authors Mary Lee Woods and Anita Carter to my blog. They write books with such pet-themed titles as: Desperate Housedogs, Get Fluffy, Kitty Kitty Bang Bang, Yip/Tuck, Fifty Shades of Greyhound, and The Girl with the Dachshund Tattoo ! Irresistable!   And they've brought with their wonderful pets here with them today, to help tell us about...

Writers and Other Animals
We write a pet-themed mystery series and we belong to a Facebook group of authors who write books with animals in them. All the stories are different, but what we have in common is our love of animals. We can’t speak to why the others chose to include animals in their stories, but we will share our own story of how we came to write mysteries with names like: Desperate Housedogs and Yip/Tuck. Or our latest, Downton Tabby.

1. Pet Love When we were told our cozy mystery needed to have a “theme” we realized that if we were going to do a series, it should be around something we felt passionate about. Cooking? No. Crafts? No. Our families? Yes, but we didn’t think we should kill them - even if was just in a book. Though, there are days… Then, it hit us. We are crazy about our rescue pets! So, we decided to incorporate people and their love for their pets into our mysteries.

2. Character Insights You’ve heard the quote that says, “We can judge the heart of man by his treatment of animals.” Well, it’s very true. How someone interacts with an animal reveals a lot about that person and we love to use that to give readers insights into the characters in our stories.   

3.  Comic Relief Part of what keeps us turning the pages of a book, whether a cozy, a thriller, or other types of fiction, is the pacing and tension. Having a misbehaving pooch or cuddly cat to break the tension can be great, but what’s even more fun is how we all behave when it comes to our furry family members.

4. Amateur Sleuthing In a mystery that features an amateur sleuth, there must be plenty of opportunity for sleuthing. We’ve chosen to use cousins who, through their professions (pet therapist & pet boutique owner), not only come in contact with a lot of pets, but also have a view into the lives of the people they come in contact with.

5. Common Ground. We’ve found that readers who have a love for our furry friends also enjoy the types of stories we write. This shared passion has brought us in contact with a wonderful group of readers and friends who love their pets and enjoy a light-hearted mystery.

Sparkle Abbey is the pseudonym of mystery authors Mary Lee Woods and Anita Carter. They’ve chosen to use Sparkle Abbey as their pen name on this series because they liked the idea of combining the names of their two rescue pets – Sparkle (ML’s cat) and Abbey (Anita’s dog). The authors co-write the bestselling Pampered Pets Mystery Series which focuses on the wacky world of precious pedigrees, pampered pooches, and secrets in posh Laguna Beach, California. The main characters and amateur sleuths are Texas cousins, Carolina Lamont, a pet therapist, and Melinda Langston, a pet boutique owner. The first books in the series, Desperate Housedogs, Get Fluffy, Kitty Kitty Bang Bang, Yip/Tuck, Fifty Shades of Greyhound, and The Girl with the Dachshund Tattoo have received rave reviews. Midwest Book Review calls the series “A sassy and fun mystery!”

They love to hear from readers so stop by their website or visit them on Facebook at: to check out all their latest news.

Currently the Kindle versions of Sparkle Abbey’s backlist titles: Get Fluffy, Kitty Kitty Bang Bang, and Yip/Tuck are on sale at the discounted price of $1.99. And the most recent titles, Fifty Shades of Greyhound and The Girl with the Dachshund Tattoo are on sale for $2.99.

The next installment, coming in June, is: Downton Tabby

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Tiffany Girl, stained glass, and romance

Deeanne Gist's Tiffany Girl releases today, and I've been lucky enough to enjoy reading a pre-release copy, so I thought I'd post a picture, and my review. It's a fun historical romance - all the flavor of Jane Austen, all the excitement of Tiffany stained glass at the Chicago World Fair, pleasantly blending modern writing with a believable historical feel, and sensuously romantic without those intrusive why-are-you-telling-me-this details.

Imagine a Jane Austen novel, transposed to the US, and set around Chicago’s World Fair. The dashing wounded hero seems like he might never fall in love. The independent adventurous heroine will surely never realize he loves her. The wise older women sees everything and keeps it to herself. Meanwhile there’s a convincing backdrop of streetcars, bad behavior, bustle-pinchers, strike-breakers, awkward parents, and a young girl who dearly wants to paint. Plus Tiffany glass.

Fascinating details weave very naturally into the story – unlocked rooms in a boarding house; dinner-time parlor games; and even the details of how stained glass windows are made. Meanwhile there’s the pleasing progression of a girl’s self-knowledge, from assumptions of greatness to that quiet acceptance which turns the ordinary into something wonderful.

Some beautiful scenes will remain with me now I’ve finished reading the novel – a skating scene where Reese’s first step into the fun zone almost turns into disaster; a moment of unexpected release when a kindness is reported; a wonderful meeting on a street-car where the tables are turned on an unruly bustle-pincher; and, of course, the long awaited scene where romance wins the day. Author Deeanne Gist does a very pleasing job with romance, carefully avoiding cringe-worthy soap-box sensuality while still teasing the senses delightfully. Suddenly it’s clear why layers upon layers of discreetness combined with a button-hook might be erotic, and it’s beautifully told.

I enjoyed watching the protagonists change in this novel. I enjoyed the details of history, life, and social change. And I particularly enjoyed the sense that life and love aren’t just defined by success. The pictures between chapters are delightful too. And the cover entices with an image that’s not quite real, but waits for semi-fulfilment, just as the character learns her fulfilment is more. Tiffany Girl is a lovely historical romance – highly recommended.

Disclosure: I was lucky enough to be given an advance proof copy, and I really enjoyed it.

Find Deeanne Gist at and enjoy wandering through the site to look for books, news, great pictures, and other exciting information. And find Tiffany Girl at:

amazon print:
Amazon kindle:
Barnes and Noble:
Simon and Schuster:

Monday, May 4, 2015

Self-publishing, editing, body language, and a deathly Initiate.

Today I'm delighted to welcome author Sharlene Almond to my blog. Her latest novel, Initiated to Kill, came out recently, and she has just finished writing her fourth, which looks at, among other things, the bubonic plague and conspiracy theories. If that intrigues you, find some virtual coffee and cookies (gluten free - I want to share) and enjoy our conversation. 

Hi Sharlene. I read that you self-published first, then found a publisher, which is something I did too with some of my books. Can you tell us why you self-published? And what do you like about having a real publisher?

I self-published to enable me to contact reviewers to review my books, while at the same time contacting publishers. Quick-starting the process meant I could get a fair idea of what readers wanted through reviews, and publishers could get a look to see what readers liked etc.

The best thing about having a publisher is that they cover all the editing, book cover work etc, without me having to pay out for things to get done. I have also noticed that quite a few book reviewers won’t review self-published authors, or some think because a person self-published that the book won’t be very good.

Admittedly, I do think my novel is much better done by a professional editor.

I review quite a lot of self-published books, as well as ones released by publishers, so I guess I'm not one of those who would have said no. But I'm interested in your comment about professional editors. I read that you're trained in editing and proofreading, so I'd assumed you wouldn't need to pay someone to edit your work. 

Although I have been trained in that, because I have read my manuscripts so much, it’s easy to miss the small things. As the saying goes ‘two eyes make better than one’. The more eyes on it, the more likely things will get picked up.

Do you have any advice for people who might feel they have to self-edit? What do you think is the most important thing to remember?

While working on my second book, I thought I had picked up as much as I could. But coming back to it a year later to make sure I’ve covered everything, I have picked up heaps of things that I previously missed.

Of course, with working with a traditional publisher, thankfully I don’t have to pay for the editing.

That's certainly an advantage, and one I've really enjoyed now I have a publisher. So, moving on to a  different sort of language, I know you've studied body-language; how do you think that feeds into your writing? Can you offer other writers any tips?

My main character, Annabella Cordova is deaf, so the main way she communicates is through body language and facial expressions. Although I did plenty of research about this, actually studying this topic enabled me to give the character a more authentic feel to what she does.

Personally, in any good thriller/mystery book, adding an element of interpreting body language makes it a great read. Everyone can benefit from understanding body language.

And because I go into detail about this aspect, it makes it a bit different than other thrillers that might just skim over the topic.

Do you think body language changes with time and place, or is it truly a universal language?  You write a blend of historical and present day plots, set in different locations, so I'm guessing that's something you'd have thought about.

Body language is completely universal. Humans are incapable of not communicating. Whether it be someone displaying obvious signs of anxiety or anger, to someone just sitting completely still and not speaking.

Everything we do communicates to others, and because a lot of our body language is subconscious, we also cannot control some of what we put across. In that millisecond, our true feelings are exposed, and even the most accomplished liar cannot control that.

So, whether it be historical or present day, our unconscious brain sends signals that cause an automatic reaction, before the conscious kicks in.

The only thing I would say, is that people are becoming more accomplished liars; whether it be through psychopathic tendencies or pathological liars, people are learning more to mask their inner feelings. But if someone is trained and observant, no one can truly hide everything…

That's comforting, I guess. So, finally, I have to ask you the obvious question. Please can you tell us where you and your books can be found on the internet.

I’m on a variety of social media platforms, which I am happy to connect with people that want to learn more about me and my books:

Thank you so much Sharlene. It's been lovely to host you. I hope you enjoyed the virtual coffee, and I'll look forward to reading Initiated to Kill and posting my reviews.

MORE ABOUT THE BOOK: Two men from two different generations, both initiated into a powerful organization that throughout history has sought control and uses their power for destruction. They leave behind a wake of murder, manipulation and ancient secrets. 

The first man wreaks havoc in and around the Whitechapel district of London, England in the 19th century. While the other stalks his victims in the cosmopolitan city of Seville, Spain in the 21st century; knowing that only he could uncover the true motives of one of the world’s most infamous serial killers—Jack the Ripper. 

Friday, May 1, 2015

The mystery of a week with no writing

We're going to read from our self-published Writers' Mill Journal soon. Our local library hosts monthly meetings for us, and they're hosting the reading too. So this week has spun by in a haze of emails, schedules, practices, meetings, more meetings, more emails, more schedules and more, more, more. There was I, with plans to read and write (and post reviews). But listening to other people read, and reading aloud what I've written, they're valuable too. This busy week's been filled with practical lessons and learning and fun - plus the odd cup of coffee at a local church that kindly allowed us to fill their lobby with words. I hope the reading will go well - it certainly feels like it should, and we have some great speakers. I'll add a report when it's over on our website:

Meanwhile, here are the books whose reviews didn't get posted last week, with apologies for the delay and all the books yet unread (and unreviewed), and with coffee, of course!

First are two children's books, the Oliver and Jumpy stories 1-3 and stories 4-6, by Werner Stejskal. I've read some of the later books, and these start the series well with bright pictures and text that reads like listening at a favorite uncle's knee. Enjoy some bright, lively two-star coffee as you read.

Thereby Hangs a Tail, by Spencer Quinn, takes animal stories into the realm of adult mystery, and I'm so glad I wrote my animal stories (Tails of Mystery, coming soon from Linkville Press) before reading this, as I would hate my Fred and Joe to become confused with the wonderful Chet. I'd been meaning to read some Chet and Bernie novels for quite a while, and this did not disappoint. It's a fast, fun, furious romp through desert and town as dogs and humans struggle through flawed lives and fast-flowing crimes. Imagine a cross between Mr Ed and LA Noir and you'll get the picture. Enjoy this lively tale with some lively, easy-drinking two-star coffee.

Mysteries continue in Gunfight at Grace Gulch, by Darlene Franklin, when a historical land run re-enactment ends in murder and romance. There's a pleasing thread of very natural Christian faith running through the tale, together with well-researched history and a fascinating mystery to be solved in both past and present. Enjoy this nicely balanced tale with some well-balanced three-star coffee.

Continuing the theme, Killer Date by Kathy Clark, is a young-adult novel of romance, suspense and mystery. It's second in a series, but stands alone well, and introduces readers to a wonderful collection of characters who will easily support the rest of the series. It also introduces Vegas magician Reno, commitment-phobic, and soon to fall in love as a young woman's sister disappears. Their first date ends with a scary knock at the door... A fast, fun tale, balanced with real truths to tell, best enjoyed with a well-balanced three-star coffee.

Then there's The Hoard, by Neil Grimmett, a dark tale of dark places, set in a Royal Ordnance factory where explosives darkly brew. Ghosts of past murder, monsters that may or may not be human, and the walking wounded combine in a tale with some serious evil at its core. Enjoy with some bold, dark, intense five-star coffee.

Finally, here's one that's not a mystery, but offers the same satisfaction to the reader of putting clues together as the pages turn. Polite Conversation about the Weather, by D.A. MacQuin, offers a fascinating mirror on a generation as character weave in an out through their ordinary lives, bracketed by the extraordinarily genuine ties that bind them. Think Olive Kitteridge, with a touch a Dune, some serious pot, and the death penalty, and enjoy this elegant, complex collection with some elegant, complex four-star coffee.

And now, the remaining mystery is how will I ever catch up with my reading and writing schedule. I've only got ten books on my list to review by the end of next week. HELP !!!!! Wish me luck, with that and with the Writers' Mill reading at the library.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Claws of Affection

It's time to post more book reviews and I've had a busy week, both reading and writing. Subtraction has grown to 65,000 words and I'm fairly sure I know how to put it all together now, with interlaced past and present chapters until Andrew starts the journey to his future. All I need is to complete the writing and the interlacing. Then I'll get those final "future" chapters out of my head onto the page. Since there's a very active, somewhat mystical cat involved in them, I feel rather like its metaphorical claws keep kneading the back of my brain demanding release. Yes, yes; I will write your final chapter soon. And yes, yes; I do hope I'll do your subject justice 'cause I really don't want you kneading the back of my brain forever. I love cats - don't get me wrong - but those claws of affection really can hurt sometimes.

Anyway, here are some book reviews, starting with one starring some wonderful cats. Grab a coffee, and remember the ratings are for flavor, not quality; I'm really not equipped to judge the quality of what I drink or what I read.

Per-bast: A Tale of Cats in Ancient Egype, by Lara-Dawn Stiegler, blends mythology, history, sociology and cats into a convincing and enthralling mix. There's plenty of drama, humor, and scares, just the right amount of mysticism and magic, and lots of wonderful down-to-earth cats. Enjoy their mysterious tale with some rich, elegant and complex four-star coffee.

I rather enjoyed reading The Pharaoh’s Daughter, by Mesu Andrews, at the same time as Per-Bast. Both novels are set in Egypt. Both refer to godlike Pharaohs and complex societies. But Mesu Andrew's novel has a Christian flavor and looks at the plight, not of cats, but of Hebrew slaves, from the point of view of the Pharaoh's older sister. Societies of warriors, slaves, rich and poor are all convincingly portrayed, giving a feel for very real people living in a dangerous time. Faith plays an important part, but is never intrusive, being an integral part of different characters' lives. All in all, it's a thoroughly good read and my favorite Mesu Andrews book to date. Enjoy with some well-balanced, smooth, full-flavored three-star coffee.

The Good Servant, by Doug Lucas, is a Christian novel of much more recent history, telling the tale of a small-town American man from childhood, through service with the Marines in Vietnam, to marriage and to approaching death. It's beautifully, convincingly told with great voice, unflinching honesty, blunt humor, and some incredibly wonderful scenes. Enjoy a bold dark intense cup of coffee as your read. Then reach for The Good Servant's wife, which gives the other half of the story and the "missing pieces" pieced together from the protagonist's notes.

Ghost of Death, by Chrys Fey, is a much shorter modern-day tale of a woman who finds herself dead and doesn't know why. A short story of small errors and large consequences, it's oddly alluring and surprisingly upbeat, given the topic. Enjoy over lunch with a lively easy-drinking two-star coffee, and find my review on Nights and Weekends soon.

And now for something completely different... Olde School, by Selah Janel, is a wonderful blend of fairytale, horror, and thoroughly modern-day fun. Think Shrek for grownups maybe, with a touch of romance, a touch of horror, plenty of touches of humor, action, imagination and fun. Enjoy with some bright lively easy-drinking two-star coffee.

Then, for the kids, there are more Oliver and Jumpy stories, starring cat and kangaroo (and a cuddly bear) in Oliver and Jumpy 13-15, by Werner Stejskal A really well-told middle tale in the set introduces sorrow and depression in a pleasingly non-threatening way. Enjoy with some mild, light, crisp one-star coffee.

Friday, April 17, 2015

What books would make you want to write - beyond the black sea?

beyond tour button 2

Today I'm delighted to host author M. Joseph Murphy on my blog. He's touring the internet with his latest novel, Beyond the Black Sea, and he's offering a great giveaway, so don't forget to read to the end of this post and enter for your chance to win. But first, grab a coffee and a cookie, then sit down to enjoy the author's views on how we are what we eat... or what we read...

4/6 Books That Made Me Want to Be A Writer, 
by M Joseph Murphy

They say you are what you eat. Perhaps that true for the mind, especially for writers, it is more correct to say "you are what you read." I am the person I am today specifically because I developed a love for reading at a young age. Before I graduated high school, I knew I wanted to be a writer. So here's a quick list of 6 books that made me want to be a writer.

1. The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley

Like many, I'm fascinated by Arthurian legends. What is less common, especially for men, is that I proudly call myself a feminist. So back in 1983 when I first heard of an Arthurian book from the points of view of women, I was hooked. I expected drama and sorcery which are abundant. What I didn't expect is the book would completely change the way I look at religion. Like Morgaine, I was an angry youth. I raged against the injustices committed in the name of the Church. The Mists of Avalon quieted my rage and turned it into something else. By the time I closed the book, I had learned two things. Firstly, the goddess, or whatever you choose to call the feminine divine energy, can never be destroyed or eliminated. Secondly, reading the right book at the right time can completely change your life.

2. The Black Cauldron by Lloyd Alexander

The story of a simple assistant pig-keeper who, though only a teenager, helps save the world inspired me to be better person. I did not grow up in abject poverty but no one really expected much from me. We lived in a not-so-good part of town. No one in my family had ever been to college or university. In fact, no one had ever really accomplished much of anything. So why should I expect to accomplish anything? Taran, the assistant pig-keeper, is at turns arrogant and foolish, brave and self-less. It is truly his courage and his willingness to do the right thing that turn him into a hero. I've lost track of how many times I've read The Black Cauldron but it truly helped shape my character. It also taught me that even in the midst of a "fluffy" story, a great writer can influence and tutor.

3. The Mutant Massacre by Chris Claremont, Walter Simonson and Louise Simonson

This is probably cheating because it's not a traditional book. Instead, The Fall of the Mutant was a crossover that ran through several Marvel comic books in late 1986. It involved a gang of people with super powers killing a group of mutants who lived underground to escape persecution. This is back before death in comics meant nothing and every character's life was on the line. It was also during a time without the internet. There was no "spoilers". The month between issues was agonizing. I would lie awake at night thinking of scenarios. Which lead to be creating fan fiction before I knew that was even a thing. It also taught me that a good story can be the most addictive substance on the planet.

4. The Fionavar Tapestry by Guy Gavriel Kay

This is one of the finest pieces of fantasy written in the 20th century. Again: cheating. This is a series, not a single book. However, I bought the three books as part of a boxed set so it almost counts. At the time, Kay was a relative unknown but I gave the books a chance when I learned Kay had worked closely with Christopher Tolkein on a little book called the Simillarion. It was rare back them to have a fantasy story set partially in our modern real world. It was the first book I read that could be classified as urban fantasy. Even though it quickly moved to another purely fantastical world, the characters were remained modern every-day people that were easy to relate to. When I first read the series, I was slightly young than the main characters, still in high school. Also like the characters, I was an avid player of D&D, occasionally a dungeon master. Something in me was triggered. I started wondering what it would be like finding myself, Joseph Murphy, in a fantasy world. I started rolling characters just to daydream about them, to put them through adventures outside normal game play. I loved Kay's magic system that was intricate and very different than D&D's system. So I created my own. Then I was drawing maps. And before you knew it, I had created the land of Maghe Sihre, currently the setting of my own epic fantasy series. Without realizing what I was doing, after reading this book, I became a writer. It's impossible for me to overstate how much the Fionavar tapestry affected me as a writer. The books I've written would never have popped into my head if it wasn't for Kay.


Here's the good news. The world is filled with millions of books. And here's the bad news. The world is filled with millions of books and you'll never have time to read them all. But, just like with food, it's not the quantity that matters, it's the quality. We live in a fast-paced world. I often find myself rushing to get to the end of a book so I can leave a review or critique it for another author. But this is not how books are meant to be enjoyed. Savor each moment you spend reading because the book you read today could affect you for years to come.

M Joseph Murphy

April 13, 2015

Thank you Joseph. I'd have to agree about Mists of Avalon and the Black Cauldron, both favorites of mine, and both novels which made me think, I want to write like that. The Silmarillion would come high on my list too--in fact, it might be the one book that most influenced me. So maybe I should look out for the Finoavar Tapestry.

Anyway, thank you for visiting my blog, and for introducing me and my readers to your list. And now for some information about YOUR book...


Beyond the black Sea

Beyond seaShe’s dead because of me. 

Josh Wilkinson is haunted by two words written in still-warm blood: Your fault. Wisdom, an immortal raised by the djinn, has gathered a band of super-powered teenagers to stop the Council of Peacocks, a group of evil sorcerers. After the battle in Thessaloniki, the Council is on the run. Just when final victory appears imminent, Josh’s mother is murdered and the prime suspect is his father.

Once Josh was integral to the Council’s plans for world domination. Now Josh learns his cousin, Travis, is the one set to activate the Verdenstab. If he does, the Orpheans, demonic allies to the Council, will escape the Black Sea, a pocket dimension that serves as their prison.

In a last-ditch effort to prevent the invasion, Wisdom and Josh use an ancient portal hidden beneath Gobekli Tepe to enter the Black Sea. The rest of the team – a pyrokinetic, a telepath, and a mercenary – head to stop Travis from activating a device.

The end is closer than anyone suspects. The Activation is set to happen tomorrow.

Buy it on Amazon

M Joseph Murphy

Joe MurphyM Joseph Murphy was born and raised in Ontario, Canada. He earned his geekdom at an early age. He read X-Men comics from the age of 8 and it only went downhill from there.

As a teenager he wrote short stories and wanted to be the next Stephen King. Instead of horror, however, he kept writing fantasy stories. After surviving high school as a goth with a purple mohawk, he studied English and Creative Writing at the University of Windsor.

When not writing, Joseph works as Lead Accounting instructor at a local college. He lives in Windsor, ON (right across the stream from Detroit, Michigan) with his husband, two cats, and a shy-but-friendly ghost.

You can find Joseph at these links:

Website     |     Facebook     |     Twitter 



 This Giveaway is open internationally. Must be 15+ to enter. 
2 Winners - eCopy of Council of Peacocks
2 Winners - $5 Amazon Gift card
This tour is brought to you by

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Thursday, April 16, 2015

After School History Club might be fun!

I'm delighted to be one of the host's on I-Am-A-Reader's blog tour for Gianna the Great, by Becky Villareal, today. I was given a free ecopy of the book, so I'm offering my review, below, together with introductions to the story, the author, and a great giveaway, so please read on...

About the Book:

Gianna just wants to know about her ancestors, but she has to join an after school history club (yuck!) to do it. Now, she’s about to embark on a journey that will change everything she thinks she knows about her family.

So says the blurb for this short children's story. I was lucky enough to get a pre-release copy when I volunteered to join the I-Am-A-Reader blogtour, so... here's my review, with a coffee recommendation of course. Try some bright, lively, easy drinking 2-star coffee, and offer juice or water to your second through fourth grade listeners.

Gianna the Great is narrated by a pleasing fourth grade girl who isn’t quite sure where she belongs. Maybe history club will help. But the mystery starts when history turns into genealogy. Now Gianna will learn of her mother’s Mexican heritage through computer records and photographs. Meanwhile readers are given a very natural introduction to Mexican phrases and foods.

My only complaint is that the book is far too short. I want to know more, and I’m sure Gianna does too. In fact I’m sure she will, but “that’s for another day...”

Short chapters lead to small revelations, and parents or teachers might find the book invaluable in encouraging young children to value the past. Readers, young and old, might want more story though, and I hope there’ll be plenty more to come on that “another day...”

Disclosure: I was given a free ecopy and I offer my honest review.

Find out more: Follow the Tour

Find Gianna the Great on Amazon
add to goodreads
Copy of GIANNA THE GREAT - author bio picAuthor the Author

Becky Villareal As a missionary’s kid Becky grew up all over the state of Texas learning that each person is special in the Lord’s eyes. As a twenty year veteran teacher she learned how to bring out those gifts in children. As a ten year genealogist she learned how wonderful finding out about the family background can be especially when the knowledge is shared with others.

About the Giveaway

$25 Blog Tour giveaway

  $25 Blog Tour Giveaway Enter to win an Amazon Gift Card or Paypal Cash Ends 4/30/15 Open only to those who can legally enter, receive and use an Gift Code or Paypal Cash. Winning Entry will be verified prior to prize being awarded. No purchase necessary. You must be 18 or older to enter or have your parent enter for you. The winner will be chosen by rafflecopter and announced here as well as emailed and will have 48 hours to respond or a new winner will be chosen. This giveaway is in no way associated with Facebook, Twitter, Rafflecopter or any other entity unless otherwise specified. The number of eligible entries received determines the odds of winning. Giveaway was organized by Kathy from I Am A Reader and sponsored by VOID WHERE PROHIBITED BY LAW. a Rafflecopter giveaway

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Excerpt from a Tale of Never Giving Up

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Today I'm delighted to welcome author Sabrina Rawson to my blog. Her contemporary romantic suspense, Blood Oath, has just been released. It's recommended for age 17+, and includes scenes of violence, rape, kidnapping, PTSD, and human trafficking - a tale of not giving up, whatever has happened in the past. I've got a cool excerpt below for your reading pleasure, and a giveaway, so don't forget to read to the bottom of the page.


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Collin was prepared for anything, until he met her…

Collin spent fifteen years leading a team of operatives renowned for their zero failure rate of disrupting the horrors of human trafficking. Struggling with PTSD, he was ready to retire after one last mission. He had to stick to the mission and any distractions could lead to lives lost. His attraction to Madeline was instantaneous, a future filled with warm nights now possible. Meeting Madeline made him want to let life happen and she was the woman he wanted to share it with.

Madeline couldn’t believe her luck meeting Collin on her first vacation ever. She knew she was a workaholic, but she had to in order to be a successful business owner and overcome the stigma her parents had left behind. The more time spent with Collin, the more she wanted him to keep on looking at her for the rest of her life. Kidnapped, Madeline has trouble believing she can survive the abuse of her captors. Remembering who she used to be, Madeline retains hope the one man she loves will rescue her.

Neither will stop at anything until they can hold each other in their arms again.

Real life situations from human trafficking to PTSD. This story is about not giving up on life. Doing all things impossible to survive one more day.

Amazon | GoodReads


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Sabrina is a cancer survivor who recently published works with Survivor’s Review and Titan InKorp Online eMag. She has published two novels within a New Adult Urban Fantasy series called A Novel of four Realms and a new Contemporary Romance Suspense Novel series called An Eagle Operatives Novel.  She enjoys life happily married to a supportive husband. You can always find her reading a book or cooking a meal for her multitude of children.


The landing didn’t prove to be too difficult and they had a two hour layover before getting on their flight to Mexico. Madeline grabbed something to eat then checked with the gate representative to make sure their luggage would make it to the correct flight on time.

With everything settled they both proceeded to sip their coffee and wait for their boarding call. Several people began to congregate in their boarding area, but both she and Shelly were content with reading from their Kindles to take much notice. There was still a half hour left before they were to board.

Shelly nudged her arm making her lose her place with reading, “What?” she hissed, not wanting to stop what she was reading.

“Check out the men at one o’clock,” Shelly whispered.

She carefully lifted her eyes and gasped audibly. In front of her were seven men. Each man was above six feet in height and extremely muscular. They were dressed in jeans, polo shirts, and casual walking shoes. She was impressed with how they looked. They appeared as if they were body builders all settled on a little vacation time like they were.

Looks like their vacation finally perked up.

Several of the men were sporting full sleeve tattoos and despite misconceptions about men with tattoos she had always found herself partial to both men who had them and those who did not.

“Guy in the dark blue shirt to the left is hot. Like fucking hot,” Shelly hissed, louder than she felt comfortable with.

“Keep it down or else someone will notice our drooling,” she hissed back, more irritated her friend had interrupted her gawking.

“I call dib’s on the man in dark blue. You touch and you break our girl code,” she said matter of fact.

“What are you twelve,” she shouted, sitting up in her seat glaring at her girlfriend. “What girl code and what the hell. It isn’t like anything has even happened yet!”

She knew she was stressed about the vacation despite their mutual pep talk earlier. She more than anything, wanted to have the romance relationship of a lifetime, but more than that just wanted to by loved and to love in return. That wasn’t too much to ask for.

Shelly just stared at her folding her arms across her chest.

“What?” she asked, feeling the headache from earlier reminding her it had not disappeared.

Gesturing with her hand Shelly waved in the direction of the men. Seven pair of eyes stared back at them for a few seconds before turning back to their private conversations.

Shelly poked her in the arm settling back to read her Kindle. Pretend to read it, she guessed.

“You screeched at me like a banshee,” she gritted out.

She picked up her tablet, heat filling her cheeks in embarrassment, “I did no such thing. You interrupted me from what I was doing and it was pretty serious,” she hissed in return. “I didn’t realize I spoke so loud.”

Placing her hand on Shelly’s arm in a gesture of peace she noticed Shelly frowned while looking down at the hand on her arm. She needed to make amends for her actions, “I’m sorry I poked you. That was completely immature of me.”

Rubbing her head with her free hand she gave up reading and closed her Kindle. “I think this headache has me acting out of character. I’m sorry for getting upset with you.”

“Hey, we’re going to have fun, men or no men. Just two women on an adventure, right?” Shelly said, leaning over to dig through her bag.

“Right,” she replied, frustrated she had acted so poorly when what Shelly had said was exactly what she had said to her earlier.

She chanced a glance back to the where the men stood and her heart stopped. The most beautiful man stared back at her. A half a foot or taller than her six foot height, his frame was completely muscular. It appeared he was pushed the limit on the polo shirt he was wearing or his muscles in his arms were going to split the seams if he moved too quickly. His stony expression hadn’t concealed his initial reaction when she first glanced up, nor did it distract her from his beauty.

His hair was sandy blonde almost a warm caramel color. She wanted to walk up to him just so she could get closer and find out if she had imagined the color or not. She could tell from where she was his eyes were bright green. He wasn’t standing more than thirty feet away, but she could tell he was very aware of his surroundings. He seemed like he was taking her in as much as she was of him except he was cataloguing everything around them simultaneously. His visual appraisal made her lick her lips in anticipation. What would he say if he knew how bad she wanted him to keep on looking at only her?

Shaking her head she dispelled their staring contest, burying her wicked thoughts. Oh, she looked at the rest of his face while they had studied each other, but it was his eyes that had held her attention. They were the same color she had imagined all her book boyfriends’ eyes looked like. She called them dream eyes. He was her dream man in the flesh.

She chuckled at her inner thoughts and began to pack up the stuff she had settled around her in preparation for the flight. What had come over her? One minute she was snapping at her best friend and the next she was mesmerized by one of the very men she had snapped at Shelly about. Maybe it was his crooked nose that had caught her attention?

The scar that ran from the side of his nose across his cheek down his throat hadn’t distracted her focus neither did his full lips. Lips she wanted to taste and feel all over her body. A body her hands itched to explore. She hadn’t seen any tattoos on his arms, but did that mean his weren’t hidden.

Flustered at where her thoughts had carried her she fidgeted with the zipper of her carryon too frustrated to pull it smoothly across its seam.

“If you pull that thing any harder the first thing we will purchase when we get there will be a new bag for you. What’s with you?” Shelly quipped, reaching over to take the bag from her before she broke the zipper. “You usually treat your luggage with delicate fingers.”

Wiping her forehead with her hand she felt like she was about to break a sweat. She knew her hot flash was because she couldn’t get rid of the images of what she wanted to happen with the man a few feet away. Naked things. Sexual things. Things she had never felt from her body before. For the first time in her life she felt desired with such intensity the feeling shocked her.

“I’m fine. A little shaken, but fine,” she admitted.

Shelly stopped what she was doing and looked at her. She tilted her head and scrutinized her with an expression she recognized as the analytical Shelly. She knew she was about to get a lecture about living in the moment, but thank God first class seats were called to board.

They rose grabbing their bags and heading embarrassingly past the men to hand the flight attendant their boarding passes. Before they walked into the Jetway, one of the men said, “The red is one classy babe, but the brunette is hot. I don’t know which one is better. They both look hot to me.”

She and Shelly gasped, but neither one of them had enough nerve to turn around. Leaving the waiting area, the last thing she heard before hurrying to their seats was an unmistakable growl followed by the possessive words that sent chills straight to her core.

“The brunette is mine.”


There is a tour wide giveaway. Prizes include the following:

  • 2 x $15 Amazon Gift Cards (Int)
  • 1 Book Bag with swag (US) 
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