Friday, March 29, 2013

Spin the Plate, by Donna Anastasi


Today I'm taking part in Donna Anastasi's book tour for her new novel, Spin the Plate, with thanks to Walker Author tours.

Brief Synopsis: 

Jo is a survivor of a bleak and abusive childhood who roams the city streets at night as a powerful vigilante. Francis is a mysterious man she meets on the subway train. In this story, the average-guy hero battles to win the battered heart of the wary, edgy, less-than-perfect heroine. "A fast-paced, edgy, darkly comic tale of resilience, romance, and redemption that breaks over you in waves." -  Holly Robinson, author

Author’s Bio:
Donna Anastasi is the author of two non-fiction small animal books published by Bowtie press: The Complete Guide to Gerbil Care (2005) a popular how to breed, raise, and care for gerbils book and The Complete Guide to Chinchilla Care (2008) a chinchilla handbook promoting these exotic and intelligent creatures as companions, not coats. She lives in the woods of Southern New, Hampshire with her husband, two teen-aged daughters and an ever-changing menagerie. 

Spin the Plate is Anastasi's debut novel. The 2013 printing of Spin the Plate is a completely revised and expanded version of her 2010 indie-award winning novel: Living Now Book Awards (Gold Medal), Reader’s Favorite Awards (Silver Medal, Contemporary Romance), International Book Awards (Finalist, Women’s Literature), Best Book Awards (Finalist, Cross-Genre Fiction).

My Review:
Jo’s not like everyone else. She’s big and wears baggy clothes, so stranger’s think she’s lazy and fat. Then she stands up to them, sumo-wrestler strong and perfectly balanced, and strangers flee. It makes her feel good. It’s what she wishes she’d done to her abuser when she was a child.

Francis is not like everyone else either. “Jesus love you, you know,” are his first words to Jo, which probably confuse the both of them. But Francis' secrets are different, and he hides them very well.
An odd mix of shy determination, wounded sincerity, and genuine love brings these two characters together, and the reader learns slowly who both of them are, through separate chapters on their separate lives. The tattoos Jo designs for her customers beautifully symbolize their lives, but her own life is a black hole spinning off to infinity—nicely illustrated in the novel’s cover image. Still, from another point of view, that spinning hole might be something beautiful.

Slowly Jo’s viewpoint changes as she stands up to her past, recognizes her present, and moves toward the future. A heartwarming love story of woman denied the touch of human affection, a man of mystery and mission, and a faith that might spin plates even if it doesn’t seem to move mountains, Spin the Plate is genuinely different and unconventionally pleasing.

Dark situations may turn some readers off and an ill-guided reference to chess might annoy chess-players. But the writing’s smooth, the different points of view make sense and build the characters perfectly, and the Christian themes are well-blended into thoughtful conversation rather than altar calls.

Disclosure: I was given a free copy and asked for an honest review.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Pulling weeds from flowers and words from a novel

After enjoying a talk on research at our local writers' group and various guest posts on research, I decided it was time to do... some research. So the bed in our spare room (Mum's bed during her Christmas visits here) is covered with Bibles, commentaries, atlases, picture books, history books and more. And I've written the first eight stories of my next Five Minute Bible Stories book! It's going well, I think. I'm learning lots of "stuff." And I'm preparing a Bible study to go with it since my friends at our church's Coffee Break group have very kindly decided to keep me to task by letting me lead studies after Easter on what I've learned. Accountability is wonderful! Thank you friends. For anyone wanting to read the Bible studies, I promise to post them, one a week, on my Bible Study blog--#1 coming tomorrow!

Meanwhile, I'm pulling weeds from the yard and words from my Infinite Sum. The novel really should be ready to submit to a publisher again soon, and hopefully the printer will be ready to print the submission. If not, there are always stores or friends that I can turn to for help.

And I'm reading. And drinking coffee. In fact, after crouching over weeds in the yard for three hours, I'm in desperate need of coffee. So pull up a chair, grab a cup, and let's talk books:

I'll start with the Merchant's Daughter, by Melanie Dickerson, since I've just been writing about Bible studies and the second part of the book contains plenty of quotes and conversations for the characters to study. A Christian, historical re-imagining of Beauty and the Beast, it creates an interesting version of England in the 1350s, where rich people read Bibles, poor people serve, and the new lord of the manor is cruelly disfigured and beastly in manner. The merchant's daughter has fallen on hard times, becomes a servant, and finds herself serving as Bible reader for her master. Meanwhile both characters learn that bad things can have good consequences if we just trust God. Enjoy this one with a dark intense 5-star cup of coffee for some violence and sexual threat.

Another Christian romantic novel is Spin the Plate by Donna Anastasi. I'm taking part in the author's blog tour and will post full-length reviews of this one on Friday. For now, suffice it to say it's a very different story, hard-hitting, unflinching it its portrayal of a woman wounded by childhood abuse, and beautiful in the telling of her gradual redemption. Enjoy a 4-star elegant complex coffee with this elegantly constructed novel. (But oh, how I wish authors didn't use chess to prove intelligence without first playing the game--still, it's only an offhand comment in one passing conversation.)

Another dark novel filled with beauty and redemption is Kent Haruf's The Tie That Binds. Told in the convincing voice of one of its characters, this novel feels makes you feel like you're sitting at the kitchen table and finding a new friend. The story's well-told, slowly, with genuine self-deprecating humor, great descriptions of scenery and place, and a warm concern for people, their hurts and their healings. Enjoy this elegant tale with a fine 4-star cup of coffee.

Just between Friends, by Donna Small, is a modern day tale of best friends in tangled relationships. Does being a friend mean you have to offer support even when it hurts? What about when it hurts someone else that you care for? Emma agonizes over her decisions but eventually all will turn out well. It's a slow read though so best have several cups of 2-star easy-drinking coffee to hand.

Finally, for a nice change of pace, there's a delightful children's story, Delilah Dustickle by A. J. York. A nice lesson hides under amusing thoughts of magical dusting and the tickling of suits of armour. All would be well if the maid hadn't got a crush on the master. But all turns out well in the end anyway, with just the right amount of wisdom and pleasing relationships. Enjoy with a 2-star lively easy-drinking coffee.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Printless and reading still

Ah, if only I'd managed to work my way properly into the paperless world. Then my coupons would go to my phone and I wouldn't have to try to print them from the internet. But here I am, neither one place nor the other, with coupons that don't come through the mail, and a printer that won't print the ones which come through email. Soon, I promise I'll buy a new printer. Meanwhile I've learned that black, while not technically a color, is a very important shade. It's not just the small-print that's invisible...

However, I've read several books in real print, where black on a pleasing shade of cream is so gentle on the eyes. So here are three reviews of real, paperback books and one kindle volume (though I'm sure you can get them all on kindle really). I've just drunk some coffee, but please find a mug for yourself before you sit down.

I went to an Oregon Christian Writers' Conference last weekend and happened to sit next to an author called Mesu Andrews for one of the workshops. My books actually sat next to hers on the sale table too--I hope she sold more than I. In fact, I know she sold more than I did, since I bought two and sold none, but then, I'd seen reviews for Love in a Broken Vessel, by Mesu Andrews all over the internet before the conference. I could never have imagined I'd actually meet the author! A wonderfully well-researched and well-told story of the prophet Hosea, this is one to enjoy with a perfectly balanced, smooth, full-flavored cup of coffee.

I won a copy of The Reason, by William Sirls, in a blog competition and finally got around to reading it. Rather like The Shack, it presents a tale of God interacting very closely with normal human beings, seeing and understanding their ills, and offering a deeper kindness than anyone imagines. Just believe. Just forgive. Just pray... and more. An interesting mix of serious doubt and convincing faith, it's a pleasing read to enjoy with a 5-star intense cup of coffee.

Next is Grave Matters (A Lord Danvers Mystery) by Donna Fletcher Crow, which I picked up from a sale at the same conference. I've read several of this author's books now and know I like them. The blend of history, true crime, fiction, and a touch of faith in the light-hearted Lord Danvers mysteries is enjoyable and fun, with just the right amount of thought-provoking faith and call for action to keep them pleasingly meaningful too. Enjoy with a well-balanced 3-star cup of coffee.

And finally, the book I read on my kindle is All Things Christmas by E. G. Lewis. I reviewed his All Things Easter recently and really felt I ought to read this too--besides which I'm planning to write some children's stories based on New Testament characters, and enjoying the fruits of this author's excellent research seemed a great place to begin. Nicely informative, including history, recipes, symbolism and more, with lots of surprising facts to intrigue all the family, this is a book I'd highly recommend you enjoy in Advent this year--or anytime if, like me, you just want to know more. Drink some 2-star lively easy-drinking coffee with this deeply researched but gently written book.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Mysteries, excitement, and adventures with a printer

My printer's still only printing in red and blue. Very patriotic I suppose on white paper, and I can color all my words purple, so they print like those old pre-photocopies all smudged in a dark smeary wash. I almost expect them to leave bruises on my fingers when I touch them. But I suspect any publisher I submit to would take one look and say no without reading the story. Ah well, at least it gives me time for a few more edits. My excellent beta-reader friend has already dropped some hints about where the story could be stronger. So Infinite Sum enters it's next, not yet infinite, editing cycle, while I'm still dreaming it will a) be complete and b) be published before an infinite time passes by.

I'm dreaming my printer might print in black before then too. I've taken the print head out again and I'm soaking it, again, in warm water. Then I'll dry it with the hairdryer. And then I'll put new inks in all the slots--I'd already bought replacements before it died, and it doesn't look like they'll fit in any other printer I buy so I might as well use or abuse them. And if this doesn't work... well, that submission may have to wait a while longer and the edits will grow.

I've been reading too, as well as writing, editing and failing to fix printers. And I'm much in need of coffee as the printer head soaks--no, I'm not soaking it in coffee, but perhaps that would help. So pull up a chair, grab a cup, add milk and sugar if so desiring, and here are some mysteries and action tales with more convincing conclusions than the saga of my printer.

First is The Hounding, by Sandra de Helen, a Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Watson style story starring Shirley Combs and Dr. Mary Watson, and set in Portland Oregon. The weather's perfect for the stories, as are the forests and streets. And the characters are pleasingly similar and different, providing a thoroughly enjoyable homage to their famous antecedents and a pleasing mystery filled with red herrings and curiosities. Best enjoyed with a well-balanced, smooth 3-star coffee.

Next comes Fangs Out, by David Freed. Flight instructor, and ex-military secret hero, Cordell Logan is short on cash again. Still striving for those Buddhist principals, still putting up with the cat that owns his own, still bantering with neighbors and friends and saying all the wrong things to his ex-wife, he finds himself taking on a simple investigation and ending tangled in death threats and a ten-year-old murder. Smooth, beautifully paced, enticingly cool, and just plain good reading, enjoy this elegant tale with a 4-star richly complex coffee.

Then there's Nothing Serious, by David Klein, where the mystery's more muted, the characters much louder, and the philosophy of immortality (through progeny, publication, prospects or preacherly pursuits) is balanced against the protagonist's gradual change from drug-induced haze to something resembling humanity. Crackling dialog, mind-bending argument, thought-provoking characters and situations--I love it! Enjoy with a 5-star intense cup of coffee.

Coldwater, by Diana Gould, offers a flawed female protagonist as the investigator of its mystery. While running from her past and trying desperately to lose herself, TV script-writer Brett Tanager is brought rudely back into the present when a young girl goes missing. The ex-step-daughter asks for help then disappears herself, and Brett has to clean up her act in order to see other people's actions for what they truly are. Dark and intense in places, pleasingly natural in others, this is a thinking woman's LA noir, best enjoyed with a 5-star dark intense coffee.

Finally Dellani Oakes' the Ninja Tattoo combines sexy romance with fast-paced action when ex-army guy Teague falls in love with a woman he met by chance in a coffee shop. Of course, the woman's family may prove at least as flawed as Teague's family is perfect, but fast action, in the bedroom, on the road, or fighting through the forest, will win through. Great fun, bright and lively, best enjoyed with a bright lively 2-star cup of coffee.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

A Nuh Mi Fi Like It, with Len Heymont

Today I get to welcome Lane Heymont to my blog. Lane Heymont is the author of The Freedman and the Pharaoh’s Staff, a time travel adventure set in post Civil War Louisiana. Born in Pennsylvania, he earned a BA in Liberal Arts with a focus on literature and history. He also holds a double minor in psychology and business. Currently pursing a Masters in Creative Writing at Harvard University, he has had several short stories published, one of which was recommended for a 2012 Bram Stoker Award.

For more info, visit:
Follow Lane on Twitter: @laneheymont 
Connect with Lane on Facebook:

And find The Freedman and the Pharaoh's Staff on Amazon and where good books are sold: Jeb, a former slave, rescues his brother-in-law Crispus from the Ku Klux Klan, pulling him into a world of Creole Voodoo, hatred, time travel, and redemption. The two brothers-in-law set out to stop Verdiss and his Klan followers from using the Pharaoh's Staff, a magical artifact from ancient Egypt. Soon, Jeb and Crispus learn Verdiss’ diabolical plan and discover that he is working for an even more evil force. In the end Jeb and Crispus must stop the eradication of an entire people and each must find redemption for his own past sins.

That blurb certainly grabs my attention and I'm eagerly looking forward to reading this novel, and to enjoying Lane Heymont's post, below.

A Nuh Mi Fi Like It

First, I’d like to thank Sheila for giving me the honor of writing a guest post on her blog. Thanks so much.

Not at all; I'm delighted to welcome you here.

For those of you who don’t know, the title of this blog post is in Jamaican Patois. It means, “I am not one to like that”.  Accents are usually frowned upon in writing, perhaps not frowned upon, but are often a cautionary tale. The proverbial “they” say one should not write accents in dialogue unless you are absolutely certain you can pull it off. Why? Because, it’s distracting and leaves people wondering what the heck is this character saying.
     Considering the title you might be able to tell I’m not one for accents when I read, which is ironic since my debut novel The Freedman and the Pharaoh’s Staff is rife with them. While writing the book I wrestled with the use of dialects, Southern, Jamaican, and Haitian—most of the character fall into one of these categories. So why did I do it? Authenticity is my answer.
     Writing from the perspective, or even about, another culture must be done so with care. Particularly when it comes to those such as the slave culture, which suffered oppression at every turn—mainly Imperialism, or “white-washing”.
     After much deliberation and numerous rewrites I finally decided I needed to incorporate dialect into The Freedman and the Pharaoh’s Staff. To do otherwise would be to commit that which I was writing against—inserting my personal mores into a different culture—of course this is all in a fictitious world, but it was the principal of the matter.
     I was not going to write a Voodoo priestess straight from Haiti in a way that she speaks perfectly grammatical American English. It would be an insult to the culture and those who come to America for whatever reasons and are judged for not speaking “proper English”. Nor was I going to do the same for the main character Jeb’s wife who is straight from Jamaica. Despite the fact it’s distracting, which believe me I understand completely. It was that very reason I decided some characters needed to be written in proper English in order to allow the reader to connect with them on a deeper level. The villain Verdiss is one, Jeb another, and Crispus, too.
     Another great thing about using dialect was the atmosphere it provided the world. The culture of Creole Voodoo wouldn’t have felt as real, to me at least, if its practitioners’ speech had been written in proper English.  The same goes for deep bayou Southerners without their drawls.
     My advice for others is to consider the consequences of using dialect in dialogues. Unless it serves the story in some impactful way I would advise against it. But, if you’re like me and feel the itch to be authentic as you can possibly be, be prepared to turn off some readers. So, for those buying The Freedman and the Pharaoh’s Staff, hopefully a lot of you, be warned: Dialects have their place.

Thank you so much for visiting my blog, Lane, and I'm really looking forward to reading The Freedman and the Pharaoh’s Staff, especially having just read a novel set in historical Scotland where the dialect blended so perfectly with the story that I just heard it in my head and knew it had to be that way--that's how I tell the kids Shakespeare should work once they're used to him. And I have a feeling that's just how this novel will feel.

I wish you every success with the book's release--and with pursuing your Masters at the venerable Harvard.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Opal's Song with SJ Byrne

It's a fun day today. I'm being interviewed over at, talking about Divide by Zero

and at the same time I'm delighted to welcome author SJ Byrne to my blog today with a cover reveal, teaser and blurb for her upcoming novel, Opal's Song. Only on the internet can we be in two places at once--how many places are you today? 

So, double your reading pleasure; read both posts and enjoy!

Living in the mountains of Western North Carolina, SJ Byrne is just trying to make her way through the insanity that comes with creativity. Writing is her passion - life is her muse. Keep an eye out for new books due later this year.

Connect with SJ via:

Read more about her books on:


A portion of all proceeds from Opal's Song will be donated 
to help children with disabilities...more information forthcoming.

Opal's Song

Coming 2013 - Release date to be announced

A horrific accident on a rain slicked mountainside and permanent paralysis from the waist down.

25 year old Lily Wade has to relearn simple, everyday activities just to live a seemingly normal life.

Opal—a precocious child in her rehabilitation group—teaches Lily about living joyfully after
surviving an immense tragedy and how to find peace within the pain.

To keep a promise made, Lily must dust off her once beloved cello and connect with the music she’s kept locked inside a velvet lined case for nearly a decade.

A Teaser

The headlights of Darren’s extended cab Chevy swung from left to right as he took the switch back curves much faster than normal. Lines of tension formed beside his mouth, and his usually relaxed hands clutched the black leather steering wheel in a white knuckle death grip. Something about the way he pumped the brakes wasn’t quite right, and the momentum of the truck was picking up instead of slowing down. 

Lily wanted to ask if everything was okay, but didn’t dare distract him from what was quickly becoming a dangerous situation. Deep ingrained reflex made her tug on the strap of her seat belt to ensure it would hold if the worst case scenario played itself out.

She’d ventured East with her boyfriend to explore and get away from the stifling rules of her parents. They had come into Western North Carolina via the Blue Ridge Mountains and immediately fallen in love with the place. Eclectic Asheville stole her heart with its combination of forward movement and backwards thinking. Only in that particular valley, surrounded by some of the oldest mountains in the world, could one community find the wherewithal to support so many varied lifestyle modalities. From the redneck–hillbilly descendants of the original Scottish settlers, to the new agers, dirty hippies, and flamboyant gays—Asheville catered to them all.

Lily wanted to share the exuberance of the area with her family, but suddenly feared the chance to do so would come at the cost of a glossy wooden box. Tears filled her eyes as she swallowed past a lump forming in her throat. She didn’t want to die.

“Aww, FUCK!”

Darren’s barely whispered expletive caught Lily’s attention as the tail end of the truck swung around. Suddenly they were facing the way they’d come. On any other day Darren would’ve calmly turned the wheel until the truck righted itself. For some reason the beast didn’t respond to his handling. The vehicle continued to spin until something in the front end snapped, and Lily stared in horror. One of the tires flew away from the truck, and in that instant she realized what people said was true—in the moments before death time slows down as the brain processes everything in minute detail. 

Bright headlamps illuminated the surrounding forest as the front end of the truck crashed down onto the road. Heavy metal screeching on asphalt filled Lily’s ears only to be replaced with the sound of trees snapping beneath the force of a full sized pick-up rolling down the side of a mountain.

Up became down, and Lily’s insides threatened to come out as she was jerked about behind the increasingly tighter band of her protective belt. If she’d been sitting next to Darren her head would’ve been spared the repetitive abuse of being tossed against the passenger window. Lily didn’t want to scream out her fear, but found she had no control over her vocal cords—her screeches of distress echoed in the confined space until the imploding windshield drowned her out. Shards from the window flew towards them, cutting her neck and face as they tumbled around inside the cab.

Everything stopped all at once. The crashing roll of the truck, the cutting of the glass shards, even Lily’s screams. The Chevy landed on its side with her hanging by her seat belt, staring down at the unconscious form of her boyfriend. The smell of gasoline filled the air and Lily felt the spike of adrenaline wash through her nervous system.

“Darren! Darren, wake up!” She yelled as loud as her constricted lungs would allow behind the crushing force of the nylon strap. “Darren, we have to get out of this truck!”

Darren remained unconscious, and Lily refused to give into the blind panic threatening to take over. Breathing deep she quickly surveyed her position and the quickest escape route. The windshield had completely shattered, making that the only way out of the wreckage as the door above her wouldn’t budge when she tried pushing it open. Grabbing hold of the oh-shit handle, she pulled the weight of her body off the belt and pushed the release button. Blinding heat zipped through her body as she crashed face first against Darren's side and was knocked out cold by the force of their skulls connecting.


Something wet trickled down the side of her face just before an excruciating pain exploded behind her eyes, and Lily knew she was about to have the mother of all migraines. She thought to press the heels of both hands against her throbbing eye sockets, but found her body remained motionless against the command. A soft moan beneath her was worrying, though she couldn’t think why. The muscle of her shoulder flexed involuntarily and a jolt of pain flashed down her spine, stopping abruptly in her hips. A deep breath meant to calm her frantic thoughts brought more pain and then the blessed blackness.


“Hang in there little lady. We’ve almost got you out.”

Lily whimpered as a sudden shock of agony rippled through her arms and torso, but the sound of someone talking eased her anxiety. She wasn’t alone—thank god. The voice became a life line she clung to with her mind until sweet oblivion pulled her back into its warm embrace.


“They rolled down the side of Mount Pisgah. From what I can gather she was pinned in place by her seat belt, until she managed to undo it and then fell against his side.”

The conversation felt a million miles away. Surely they weren’t talking about her. Before she could give it another thought, the air was filled with excited chatter and frantic movements. She wanted to open her eyes and see what was going on, but her lids were too heavy to lift. Moving the muscles of her body required a strength she didn’t possess and fear flooded her thoughts as she cried out in frustration. The air she pulled through her nose tasted strange on the back of her tongue. Oblivion stretched out its arms and Lily went into them without a fight.

Find out more about Opal's Song and it's release 

by visiting SJ Byrne or Opal's Song on Facebook

A portion of all proceeds from Opal's Song will be donated 
to help children with disabilities...more information forthcoming.