Saturday, March 28, 2015

Saving Marilee from an Infinite Sum of troubles, with dog

The world is full of books! Good books too! I'm not sure how or why anyone would ever find my books with so many others to read, but I'm pleased to spotlight someone else's good book today - Saving Marilee's theme of a wounded woman rebuilding her life must surely have some things in common with my soon-to-be-released Infinite Sum. And there's a dog (just like there is in Infinite Sum!). So, read on, enjoy the cover reveal, and don't forget to scroll to the end for a great giveaway.

Coming May 1, 2015 - Saving Marilee by Annette K. Larsen



Marriage wasn’t bliss—not for Marilee. Instead of finding contentment with the handsome son of a sovereign duke, she found betrayal and neglect. And fear. A fear that finally lifts when her husband dies, freeing her from his domineering hand. But freedom alone can't give her peace, and she must battle to regain her love for life, rebuild her happiness, and reclaim the ability to trust. When her charming neighbor intrudes on her quiet life, offering his friendship (and a dog, of all things), she must determine whether his interest is genuine, whether he is a friend or foe, and whether he deserves the fragile bit of trust she has managed to scrape together.

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I was born in Utah, part of a crazy, fun family of nine. I grew up in Flagstaff, AZ and St. Louis, MO before striking out on my own college adventure in Virginia. I decided to try my hand at writing novels after I was married and living in Idaho. I write clean romance because it’s my favorite genre, but often difficult to find.

I have Charlotte Brontë to thank for the courage to write novels. After being bombarded with assigned reading about women who justified abandoning either their families or their principles in the name of love, I had the great fortune of reading Jane Eyre. And that was it: finally, a heroine who understood that being moral and making the right choice was hard, and sometimes it hurt, but it was still worth it. After rereading it several years later, I realized that if I wanted more books to exist with the kinds of heroines I admired, then I might as well write a few myself. My books are about women who face hard choices, who face pain and rejection and often have to face the reality of sacrificing what they want for what is right. The consequences are often difficult or unpleasant, but in the end, doing what’s right will always be worth it.

I believe there is no substitute for good writing or good chocolate. Fortunately, one often leads to the other.

Ah..... Chocolate!
$25 Amazon Gift Card or Paypal Cash
Ends 4/8/15

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 the author. VOID WHERE PROHIBITED BY LAW.

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Friday, March 27, 2015

And I don't even wear Mascara!

Today I get to welcome Jessica Landmon to my blog. She's the author of All Mascara is Not Created Equal, and the founder of Women Get Real. It's not the sort of book I'd usually pick up, but I learned the author had written it originally to help her daughter cope with today's social media absorbed world, so I found myself intrigued. If you are too, please draw up a chair, put some coffee on, and listen in on our conversation.

So, Jessica, Could you start by giving us us a brief summary of  All Mascara is Not Created Equal?
All Mascara is Not Created Equal is intended to present lighthearted, witty, and spiritually sound advice to young women and girls in “tweet-like” form to help them live a life God would approve of.

Ah, the joys of tweeting, but I'm sure twitter's not really where you go the idea to write from. is it?
I actually started writing the book specifically for my tween daughter and intended to give it her as she entered middle school. Those years can be tough. As a parent, I’m very concerned about the message culture is marketing to our youth. It contradicts the way God has called us to live.

That sounds a pretty serious message. How did you come up with the playful title?
Anyone who knows me, knows that I love mascara. I had tried several brands over the years and finally discovered a fantastic mascara that I just loved. It was full of minerals and actually nourished your lashes. Plus, it created a very full lash. I would always joke with daughter, saying that if you remember anything I tell you remember that ‘All Mascara Is Not Created Equal.’

Speaking as someone who has never worn or dreamed of wearing mascara (can you tell I don't have daughters?) that sounds kind of fun. Maybe I'd have to tell my sons something like all modeling kits aren't created equal. But how long did it take you to write the book? Do you have any stories you can share of how you gathered specific quotes or advice?

You could say the book took most of my life to write, as my experiences growing up and parenting are what shaped it. But, in actuality, it only took about a year to record them and fine-tune them. Most of them wrote themselves. I would be having a conversation with my kids, and all of a sudden I would give some advice. If I liked it, I would later record it. In fact, as I was compiling the tips, my kids would remind me of the things I had told them through the years.

Some of the tips are just reflections of the advice my mother and father passed on to me. Of course, they needed a little tweaking. I didn’t have to deal with the pressures of  social media and cell phones when I was growing up.

But we had our own different pressures didn't we? Did you have any challenges when writing this book? If so, what were they?

The only challenge I really faced was stopping. At some point, I had to say, this is enough. I will most certainly continue to give my daughter (and son) advice as they continue to mature, but there definitely needed to be a stopping point for the book.

And those kids really do mature don't they? So, time now for me to ask if you can give readers some information about the woman behind the book. How would you describe yourself? 

Practical. Organized. Planner. These are some words that my close circle of friends and family would use to describe me. And I can’t argue with that.  But, when the Holy Spirit asks me to do something, all that goes out the door. Jesus’ love for me is the most important thing in my life. My goal is that everyone would experience this type of love, which is why I am so quick to abandon my plans and do what God wants me to do. 

On a fun note, I am married to my high school sweetheart. I was only 16 when we started dating. He was a football player and I was a cheerleader. You don’t get any cuter than that! God has blessed us with two beautiful children who are my absolute joy.

Also, I just love Yorkies, which is why you see them all throughout the book. One day, when the timing is right, I will add one to our family.

Nice!  What do you hope readers take away from All Mascara is Not Created Equal?
I hope women learn that pop culture shouldn’t define the kind of women we become. I hope that they see that life is hard, but Jesus will be your comforter and strength. I hope that every woman sees her beauty, even before she puts on her mascara. Our inner beauty is so much more important than anything on the outside.

 Can you tell us more about the ministry behind the book, Women Get Real?
Women Get Real Ministries is all about “getting real” with other women. All too often, women put on the façade that everything is just perfect. But, in reality, they are silently suffering with issues like fear, anxiety, depression, body image, and faith. We break the   rules about what is and is not acceptable to talk about, to try and reach the hearts of  women providing them with hope and healing.

And finally, where can we find you online and purchase the book?

Books are available through my website, and on Amazon. It is also being sold at many boutique stores in Connecticut.

Thank you so much Jessica. I really enjoyed "talking" with you.

And here, for our readers, is a cool introduction to the book:

Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and other social media are sending mixed messages about the way we, as women, are to live our lives. Catch phrases like “YOLO” and “swag” are distorting the ideals that we should strive for. Women have more to contribute to society than being sexy, and we certainly shouldn’t attach our worth to how many likes we get on a selfie.

As a mother to a tween daughter and a teenage son, I have learned a few things about life along the way. This book is full of valuable tips or bits of wisdom that I have learned, or heard from my parents, while growing up.

Some of them are quite spiritual and have helped me through some difficult times. Some of them are practical and certainly would have helped me to avoid some major overreactions to the silliest of things. Some are just plain amusing. They stem from those eureka moments where I was like “That is so true!” Like, who knew that the thread count of sheets really does make a difference?

This is not just another book where a mother and her daughter walk hand-in-hand in the garden as the mom passes along life lessons. This book is more of a woman-to-woman guidebook for life.

Now about many of you look at celebrities and are like, there is no way their lashes can be that full! You’ve tried to layer coat after coat with your mascara and wonder why your lashes still look like, well, your lashes. You think, am I applying this wrong? Maybe I need a special brush? No.

All mascara is NOT created equal! This was news to me. I don’t care how much your current mascara costs, it still might not be good. There ARE mascaras that are superior to others. You just need to find the right one.

So, as you read through the pages of this book, grab a cup of tea, and let these tips sink in. Don’t get distracted by what society is trying to tell you to become; walk in the plan God has for you. You are God’s beautiful creation, and He has a wonderful plan for your life.

 With thanks to PRBytheBook for introducing me to this book.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Struggling with fate, and trying to add to my novel

So, what do you when inspiration strikes like lightning, setting field and forest both aflame at once?

I started editing Part 1 of my novel, Subtraction. I knew Part 2 was missing (did that mean it was subtracted?) and hoped I might soon figure out where it belonged. So Part 1 grew, and grew longer, and I liked it very much. Then I got stuck. Which is what I meant about flaming fields and forest.

Part 1 is my forest with branches interwined - Andrew is teaching math to a special needs class (yes, he's teaching them subtraction) and a ghost/stranger/predator/murderer/or prowler hides under the trees of Paradise Park. Part 1 ends when... well, I think it ends when the reader works out who the stranger is. And the missing Part 2 will explain who he was, so Part 3 can follow on with how he changes into who he will be. Which makes part 2 the field of past dreams I suppose, and I'm ready, inspired by lightning, to start writing it. The problem is, I keep shifting where it begins. Where do I split the tale half-told, leaving the rest to Part 3 (and 4 I suppose...).

Once upon a time, Part 3 was a post-graduate Cambridge math exam. Okay, now I'm really digressing (and yes. I passed). It must be time to drink coffee and post book reviews.

I'll start with two novels from Aaron Paul Lazar's Gus LeGarde series. Double Forte and Upstaged are reissued versions of the first two books in the series. At least I think they are. Which makes them especially satisfying for me, as I'd never read them before, and they introduce me to different aspects of characters I've grown to love, fill in gaps in their stories, and remind me just how enjoyably different this cozy, familial, natural, scenic and musical mystery series is. Pour yourselves some well-balanced, smooth, full-flavored coffee, and enjoy an almost perfect blend of sweet family life, scary danger, gorgeous scenery, and wonderfully seasoned food.

Double Forte is actually one of a great collection of books found in an e-boxed set called At Odds With Destiny, so if you're not sure if you'd like the author, there's a perfect way to try his writing and that of other authors. You'll find part 1 of Uvi Poznansky's David Chronicles there, plus part 1 of J.J. DiBenedetto's Dream series too - both complete novels in their own right, together with many many others. I'm not sure how to recommend coffee for so many novels in one set, but make sure you have plenty brewing and you can't go wrong.

Outview, by Brandt Legg, is another book from this collection. Told in a nicely believable teen voice, it starts with a fascinating premise of reincarnation, then runs from place to place throughout Oregon and beyond as the protagonist strives to save his brother, change the world, and learn how his father died. Long and complex, this is one to enjoy with lots of bold, dark, intense five-star coffee.

The protagonist of Dan Berne's beautiful novel, The Gods of Second Chances, might be said to be at odds with his destiny too, as he plies Alaskan waters while caring for a granddaughter who maybe needs a mother. But her mother left long ago, and rubbing a native god's belly may or may not bring the right sort of luck. Sue-happy modernity meets tradition, legalism meets faith and hope, and the ocean gives and takes as the gods might choose. Enjoy this richly complex tale with a rich, elegant four-star coffee.

Blackmail at Wrigley Field, by Christopher Geoffrey McPherson, offers another interesting character struggling with his destiny. Young James Murray has had some impressive success writing mysteries in previous novels, but now he's suffering writer's block, mourning the loss of the girl he planned to marry, and turning to drink. How will all this lead to another cool mystery? You'll have to read it and see. Depression era Los Angeles comes to vivid life, and the blend of James' recovery with the fiction he writes is as intriguing and enthralling as ever. Plus, James is a really great character. Enjoy with with some rich, elegant, complex four-star coffee.

In Ryder on the Storm, by Violet Patterson, protagonist Storm struggles against her fate as a seer and more, while strange Ryder struggles against a command to murder her. The fact that they're falling in love with other might be part of the struggle, but there are Seraphs and more to contend with in this fast fun tale. Enjoy with a bright, lively, easy-drinking two-star coffee.

Finally, for a serious change of pace, here are two children's picture books, with no scares, no agonized fighting against fate, and no Parts 1, 2 and 3 either. A Day With Jack, by Steven Lioy, reminds me of books shared with my sons when they were small; nice pictures of a lovely jack russel enjoying an ordinary day; sweet and fun to share. Springtime, by the same author, is nicely illustrated with bright computer-style images, and might even introduce small children to the idea that studying science could be fun. After all, even bees are good for you. Enjoy these two with some mild, light, crisp-flavored one-star coffee.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Grit in your Craw saves Dreams

Today I'm delighted to welcome Christian author Robert Luckadoo to my blog with a book that offers advice I could probably well use. So if you're kind of struggling to achieve your goals, if you feel like the world keeps offering chances only to snatch them away, and if frustrations feel like "grit in your craw," read on to enjoy a slightly different point of view.

Thank you for visiting my blog Robert, and I wish you every success with your book, as you offer opportunities to reach for success to other readers.

“Diligence, Tenacy and a Little Grit In Your Craw will help you achieve your goals on life’s carousel of success”

(An Excerpt from Grit In Your Craw:  The 8 Strengths You Need to Succeed in Business and in Life)

Success is achievable!
Whatever your personal definition of it is, success in life is right there for the taking. God wants you to be successful. He’s given you opportunities in your life, some of which you’ve accepted and made the best of. Maybe you’ve intentionally ignored other opportunities or didn’t see them for what they were, diamonds in the rough, opportunities hidden in an opaque shell.
I’ve always thought our opportunities for success are like a series of windows on a rotating carousel, windows that open and close as the carousel of life rotates past us. Some of these windows of opportunity are hung low, where they’re easy for us to reach. We may be able to walk up and peek into them, testing the waters in a sense before we take the leap of faith inside.  Other windows are hung higher, reachable with a little effort. Most of us believe we can reach them, but others don’t take advantage of the opportunity. They don’t make the effort required to reach that level of success.
Still other windows are hung much higher on the carousel, so high that they look almost impossible to reach.  But even these can be reached. It just takes a better plan and a little grit in your craw.
As we stand and watch the carousel, our success is right there in front of us, waiting just behind those windows of opportunity.  Though some of them are harder to reach than others, they’re all right there, inviting us in before they close.  And the choice is ours—a choice very similar to the choice we make when we walk into our offices every day. Will we take advantage of the window that’s beckoning to us, regardless of how high it’s hung, or will we watch it pass by, never to open to us again.   
Sure, it will take a little effort on your part to climb up onto that carousel and seize that brief moment of opportunity, but like my mother said, when you turn the corner on any hardship, the blessings on the other side far outweigh the pain and suffering you endured to get there.  And like Proverbs 13:4 says, “The soul of the sluggard craves and gets nothing, while the soul of the diligent is richly supplied.”
If the window you aspire to reach is the one at the top of the carousel, the one that seems so far out of reach, all you have to do is embrace the eight qualities I’ve focused on in this book and make them a part of your daily routine. Success doesn’t come easily—it comes through a calculated, deliberate, mode of operation in your daily life—and these eight qualities will act as a foundation for that success. If exercised diligently and with a tenacious spirit, they’ll take you to the next level in your career and in your personal life. They’ll take you to the top of the carousel, where you can jump through the window that’s offering you the opportunity to achieve your greatest ambitions.
I wish you the very best in your pursuit of the success you desire in life. I hope the values and lessons I’ve shared with you will play a role in your daily life and help you to focus on your true purpose and live it. Success can be yours—God has given you the opportunity—so don’t miss the window. Climb up there on that carousel and seize your success!

Sadly, I'm nervous of heights, scarcely ever dared jump onto a moving carousel, and I can't help imagining those windows falling closed just as I grab, and slashing off my fingers. I think I just a warped imagination. But I do have faith, and I am trying to reach where my fingers are guided. Thank you for this excerpt, and I hope my readers have enjoyed it as much as I have.


Robert Luckadoo  is an author, motivational speaker, business consultant, and Corporate Estate Planning Specialist.   His new book “Grit In Your Craw:  The 8 Strengths You Need To Succeed In Business and Life” is available on Amazon (paperback and eBook), Ingram Spark and wherever books are sold.

Do you have confidence, discipline and a sense of purpose? Are you diligent, resilient, tenacious, optimistic and flexible? If so, you’ve definitely got “a little grit in your craw”, as they say in the South. In other words, you have what it takes to succeed! 

Find the author at

Monday, March 23, 2015

Romantic House Divided, with Lies and Intrigue

House Divided (1)

Today I'm delighted to spotlight Jennifer Peel's House Divided on my blog. As part of her I-Am-A-Reader blog tour, I'm hosting an intriguing sweet romantic excerpt from her novel. Plus there's a great giveaway, so don't forget to read the whole post!


house dividedThere is a law irrevocably decreed in the state of Alabama that you must choose a team. You're either an Auburn fan or an Alabama Fan. There is no fence sitting or waffling. It’s one or the other. However, it doesn't mean that you can’t fall in love with someone from the opposing side. They even have a name for it ... House Divided.

Ellie Eaton and Brady Jackson were just such a couple, but unfortunately they were separated by more than just their loyalty to a university. Against the odds and against the rules, Ellie and Brady dove right into the forbidden current of friendship and then love. Their sweet, innocent romance was one for the storybooks, but old rules and family prejudices ultimately tore them apart, just as they were each ready to depart to their beloved universities, Ellie to Auburn and Brady to Alabama. But years later, when near tragedy strikes, they're brought together again and given a second chance at love, this time with help from some very unlikely sources.

House Divided is a sweet romance filled with southern charm, a dash of humor and, for good measure, a pinch of lies and intrigue.


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So... Let me ask the author to introduce herself...


Jennifer Peel HeadshotI'm a Colorado native who currently calls Alabama home. I'm the mother of three amazing children who have grown up way too fast. I enjoy the mountains, vacations at the beach, date night with my husband, late night talks with my kiddos, touring model homes, and pink bubblegum ice cream.

I grew up on the Western Slope in the Colorado Rocky Mountains. I learned to love the beauty of the outdoors, but not camping--unless staying overnight at the Marriott counts. I met my husband while living in Denver and then several years later we traded the beauty and majesty of the Colorado Rocky Mountains for the art and culture of Chicago, Illinois. My family and I enjoyed living near this world class city, despite the crazy cold winters, but new adventures awaited in Northern Alabama--just six hours away from Orange Beach, Alabama. These three magical places (the Colorado Rocky Mountains, Chicago, and Orange Beach) are the inspired locations used in several of my books.

She's got plenty more than one book to her name, but see below for what readers have said about this one...

Jennifer Peel


"House Divided was one of those books that made me want to ignore my children, my to-do list, my need for food, and pretty much anything else that would keep me from reading. Jennifer Peel has a real gift for depicting first love, heartbreak, and hope."

"A tender, soft, story that truly is a gem to read."

"Ms. Peel has created a story that stands as a tribute to true southern gentility, it's foibles and strengths. Truly a beautiful read that gives heart and meaning to true devotion. She truly knows how to weave a story that has beauty and true southern charm."

And now for the excerpt, but don't forget to read on for the giveaway too!

EXCERPT - Time to meet Brady and Ellie

He kept pace with me nicely and reached for my hand. There were too many people around for me to pull away from him. I wouldn’t embarrass him like that. He grinned at me. He knew me too well. On the elevator, I refused to look at him, but I knew he was looking at me. I could feel it. Before we reached the ground floor, he leaned over. "Ellie, you’re so pretty when you try to ignore me."
I was ready to turn and look up at him with my icy glare, but he had the sweetest, sappiest smile on his face and I just couldn’t. I couldn’t help but smile back at the fool, but I did shake my head at him. As we walked off the elevator, he leaned in again. "You’re even prettier when you smile at me."

I lightly elbowed him.

He chuckled.

As soon as we made it to the parking lot and were alone, I tried to let go, but he anticipated. He pulled me to him and wrapped his arms around me.

"Let go of me, Brady Jackson."

"Ellie Eaton, I have no intention of ever letting you go again, and I’ll pick you up and throw you over my shoulder if I have to."

"You would do no such thing."

"That sounds like a challenge, darlin’."

"Don’t you dare, Brady! I’ll scream."

"Even better," he said as he scooped me up without any effort and threw me over his shoulder. He apparently still worked out like an athlete. I could feel his muscles, which kind of made me forget that I was completely furious with him for taking such liberties with me.

"Brady Jackson, put me down! I’m not seventeen anymore and I’m not your girlfriend!"

"No, you’re definitely not seventeen anymore," he responded salaciously. "The last ten years have done your body good. You filled out quite nicely. And as far as you being my girlfriend, that’s just a technicality I plan on fixing.

"I can’t believe you just said that. Does your momma know you talk like that?"



$25 Amazon Gift Card or Paypal Cash - Ends 4/12/15

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 the author. VOID WHERE PROHIBITED BY LAW.

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Thursday, March 19, 2015

When angels sing for their dinner

Today I get to introduce an intriguing YA novel, I'll Sing for My Dinner, by BR Kingsolver. It has a great cover, revealed today, and a truly intriguing plot, with a cowboy angel and a young girl singing for her dinner, so read on, enjoy the cover picture, and enjoy a bonus excerpt from the book as well, with thanks to Juniper Grove!

 photo Ill Sing for my Dinner Banner.png

 photo BR Kingsolver.jpg
About the Author:

BR Kingsolver is the author of the Telepathic Clans series (The Succubus Gift, Succubus Unleashed, and Succubus Rising) and Broken Dolls, a paranormal thriller.

BR grew up in Santa Fe, New Mexico, among writers, artists and weird Hispanic and Native American myths and folklore. BR has lived all over the U.S. and earned a living doing everything from making silver and turquoise jewelry, to construction to computers. BR currently splits time between Baltimore and Albuquerque.

BR made silver and turquoise jewelry for almost a decade, ended up in nursing school, then took a master’s in business. Along the way BR worked in construction, as a newspaper editor, and somehow found a career working with computers.

 photo Ill Sing for my Dinner.jpg

Title:  I’ll Sing for my Dinner

Author:  BR Kingsolver

Published:  April 1st, 2015

Genre:  Romantic Suspense

Recommended Age:   17+

About the Book:

When Cecily Buchanan walks into the Roadhouse Bar and Grill and offers to sing for a meal, ex Marine Jake McGarrity can’t say no. Some say Jake is too soft hearted for his own good. But letting the waif with the cover girl face and the voice of an angel walk away would be more than he could stand.

Cecily’s sweet nature, bubbly personality and obvious talent endear her to everyone she meets, and Jake soon knows his heart is lost.

Cecily has secrets and won’t talk about her past, one so dark that she has nightmares and clutches a knife while she sleeps.

When those who are chasing her close in, she faces the decision of whether to run again or to trust her life to the cowboy angel who has taught her the meaning of love.

Excerpt from I’ll Sing for my Dinner by BR Kingsolver:

A pickup truck pulled up in front of the bar and stopped. It looked like Luke Sowers in the driver’s seat. The door on the other side opened, but I couldn’t see who got out. Then the truck pulled out again, the tires throwing gravel, and sped off.

What was left, standing in the parking lot, looked like a hippie. A girl, with a backpack and something else. She shouldered the pack and picked up what I now could see was a guitar case, and headed for the door. Apparently, she was a hitchhiker and he dropped her off at my place. Thanks, Luke.

Making her way through the door, she came straight toward me instead of taking a seat at one of the tables. The sign by the door said ‘Seat yourself.’ I wondered what in the hell this was all about.

Stopping in front of me, she looked up into my face and asked in one of the most beautiful voices I’d ever heard, “May I speak to the owner, or the manager?”

The voice was a surprise, like a flower blooming in the desert. Her face was a shock. For all the grime, she was beautiful. Not pretty, but the kind of beauty you see on the covers of magazines. Long, stringy, greasy hair fell past her small breasts. She was thin, too thin, with a look in her gray eyes I hadn’t seen since coming back to the States, a combination of shell shock and hunger. The overall impression she projected was fragility. She came up to about my shoulder and I wasn’t sure she was old enough to be in a bar. What in the hell was she doing hitchhiking alone?

“I’m the owner, and the manager,” I replied. “I’m Jake McGarrity.”

“I’m Cecily,” she said. Turning, she looked around the room. The Roadhouse is a pretty typical bar with a bandstand at the end opposite the door and an area cleared for dancing. It was six-thirty in the evening, and we had two families with kids, about half a dozen couples, and two groups of four cowboys, all eating dinner. On a Wednesday night, that was pretty good. On a weekend, we did a lot better, and lunch was usually packed.

Turning back to me, she licked her lips and then said, “You have live music in here.” It was a statement, not a question. I nodded. The bandstand with the microphones and amplifiers made that pretty obvious.

“We have a band start at nine on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights,” I said.

“Do you ever have live music for your dinner guests?”

I gestured to one of the speakers on the wall. “We use canned music.”

“Mr. McGarrity, I don’t have a red cent to my name, and I haven’t eaten in two days,” she said. “I’ll play for your guests in exchange for a meal.”

My God. The raw, naked hope in her face was almost too much for me. My eyes blurred a little bit. People tell me sometimes that I’m a soft touch. I figure that charity never hurts the giver. I was going to feed her. There was no way I was going to turn someone away after they approached me like that.

“What kind of music do you play?” I asked.

She shrugged. “I can play anything. For dinner music,” she gestured toward the customers sitting at the tables, “something soft and relaxing, loud enough to be noticed, but not so loud that people can’t carry on a conversation. People’s behavior is different with live music, you know. They stay longer after they finish their meals, and order more drinks.”

In addition to the beauty of her voice, her accent was cultured. This girl was raised with money, or at least well educated. And she hadn’t been on the streets long enough for her vocabulary to degenerate. She didn’t even speak like a normal kid.

I took a deep breath, and then she said in a rush, “Let me just play a couple of songs. Okay? Before you decide. Please? And then, if you don’t think it’s a good idea, I’ll go.”

Go where? Go out and stand beside the highway with her thumb out? Just the thought of her hitchhiking, getting in strangers’ cars and ending the night raped and dead in a ditch, scared the hell out of me. If I read about her in the newspaper tomorrow, I’d never be able to forgive myself.

Nodding, I said, “Let’s hear what you’ve got.” I pulled a menu out from under the bar and pushed it across to her. “Give me your order, and you can play until your food is ready.”

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Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Inspired by Criticism, but will it change my book reviews?

There's always something scary about submitting a story for critique. Last month I submitted a scene from Subtraction to our local critique group. Subtraction is the novel I'm supposed to be writing while I set up blogposts and book reviews instead. It had kind of stalled at 45,000 words. I knew how it was going to end. I even knew how to get there. But something was missing and I didn't know what.

Since I couldn't give our critique group 45,000 words to critique, I gave them 2,500 from near the end of chapter one. They...
  • liked the writing style - I hadn't put my name to it, but several members said they knew it was mine.
  • recognized the symbols, but thought something else was a symbol that wasn't meant to be; note to self, if repetition implies symbol, be careful what you repeat.
  • disliked a character's name; Becky doesn't work for a hard-smoking film-noir landlady.
  • thought I switched pov too much - maybe just two povs in a scene - I was experimenting, and this feedback definitely helps.
  • hoped one of the characters was introduced earlier - she was.
  • hoped they'd learn more about her later - she kind of disappears, but... that's what was missing! She shouldn't disappear! And now I know exactly what to work on.
So, with thanks to my critique group, I will now get back to adding and subtracting words. But first, please find a coffee mug, fill it with an appropriate brew, and enjoy these book reviews:

I'm going to start with a serious, and seriously good little book, Dance with Jesus, from Grief to Grace, by Susan B. Mead. I had no idea what to expect with this book. It's written for those who are mourning, and I'm not, but the title intrigued me, and the book really drew me in. The scenes start with simple, just slightly unsettling recollections from the author's life. The questions start with simple, just slightly thought-provoking questions about the reader's life. And the whole leads up to grief, loss and hope, beautifully described, beautifully guided, and achingly honest. Drink some well-balanced 3-star coffee and enjoy this beautifully balanced, inspiring read.

Next is a sweet middle-grade novel which also deals with grief (among other things). Picture Imperfect, by Susan Thogerson Maas, presents a twelve-year-old girl with the chance to win a wonderful camera. Meanwhile she's sharing her bedroom with a somewhat unwelcome aunt, her cat keeps escaping, and her beloved grandmother's struggling to keep up. Enjoy this bright,lively tale with some bright lively two-star coffee, and share it with your pre-teen.

Finding His Home, by Adam Walton, starts in junior high school too, with a cruel prank gone wrong. But this one is written for older readers, and the protagonist's life continues to fall apart in dark and frightening ways. Wracked with anger at God and disbelief, the protagonist goes from success to failure to despair, and it's hard to see how any hope can be found. But it's an oddly absorbing, thought-provoking, and even, maybe, inspiring tale, dark and intense, best enjoyed with a dark, intense 5-star coffee.

Grief is important in Forgiving Maximo Rothman, by A. J. Sidransky as well. It's a truly beautiful novel, spanning geography and cultures, as a Jewish detective investigates a brutal crime against an elderly Jewish man. Different shades of faith, different traditions, different wounded pasts, and different memories of fathers all collide in a tale that brings past and present worlds vividly to life, while never losing sight of its characters or its mystery. Enjoy a rich, elegant 4-star with this truly elegant tale.

The Reluctant Midwife, by Patricia Harman, is set in America during the Depression. The displaced here are young men working in camps, a middle-aged woman down on her luck, and a middle-aged doctor who seems to have lost his mind after losing his wife. There's mystery, perhaps; plenty of well-researched history; enjoyable characters and relationships; and hope for the future. It all plays out appealingly and any fans of Call the Midwife will love the medical scenes. Enjoy with some well-balanced, full-flavored three-star coffee.

Anywhere but Here, the Starborn Ascension #1, by Jason D. Morrow, is a tale of the future set in a similarly bleak, unforgiving world. But this time the bleakness is caused by a virus. Some people have turned into flesh-eating monsters. Others rebuilt their societies in walled towns. And still others find they have unexpected powers. The story's told with pleasing immediacy in the voices of teen protagonists. It's filled with twists and turns, build to unexpected revelations, and sets the stage for more while still being a pleasing, satisfying read. Enjoy with some bold, dark, intense 5-star coffee.

Then there's Written in Ruberah, by P. Christina Greenaway, science fiction set in present day Cornwall, with roots in the very distant, very mythical, mystical past. It's a sometimes awkward mix, with past lives, sacred futures, crystals and memories, plus rich Cornish food and some American french fries, and more. Bold, dark and intense in places, enjoy with some dark five-star coffee.

Finally, on a totally different note, here are Maya and Filippo in the very real world of Hawaii, learning the real meaning of Aloha through bright lively pictures, pleasing text, and a neat little story. Maya and Filippo show Aloha is highly recommended for the tinies in your life; enjoy it with some bright, lively, easy-drinking two-star coffee.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

All Work or All Play in Writing?

I reviewed Charles Davis' Standing at the Crossroads a couple of years ago, and soon I hope to read and review his upcoming Pilgrim of Love. If it's anything like Crossroads, I know I'll love it. 

Featuring mad monks, alchemy, and illicit love on Mont St. Michel in the early seventeenth century, Pilgrim of Love is a ludibrium or capricious game, a classic adventure story informed by riddles, myths and conspiracies. It is the eve of the Enlightenment, magic and mysticism are enjoying their last great flowering. When a young pilgrim is entrusted with an enigmatic emblem suggesting something occult is afoot at the Mont, he believes he is on the brink of uncovering a great esoteric secret. Instead, in seeking to decrypt the riddle, he discovers more compelling mysteries concerning love, life, illusions, folly, farce, and the fatal absurdity of human being

The author creates incredible characters, sets them in glorious scenery, and weaves a wonderful web from the result. In my humble opinion, he's an excellent writer, and I'm delighted to welcome him to my blog today to discuss where his writing comes from. (To find where he comes from - an he's seriously well-traveled - please visit!bio/c1ktj and enjoy!)

Toy Soldiers – What Makes A Writer?
What makes a writer? Apart from a writer’s mother, that is, and I don’t mean that in a Freudian sense. But what persuades thousands of people that sitting in a room on their own telling themselves stories, a carry on that could have you put away with a rubber wedge between your teeth in any other walk of life, is a sensible pastime for somebody who claims to be a mature and coherent adult?
As it happens, I wouldn’t claim to be a mature and coherent adult myself, nor would I claim that for anybody else I know. We all carry a large chunk of childishness inside us, one that surfaces all too often, and it’s just a question of whether the chunk of childishness that persists is appealing or not. Enthusiasm, generally good. Volatility, generally bad. Buoyancy, admirable. Petulance, a royal pain in the arse. Even so, we’ve got to pretend to maturity and coherence, otherwise we might as well pack it all in and apply for a berth in the Big Brother house. But make-believe aside, where does a writer come from?
I wouldn’t venture an answer for anyone else, but here are a few of the many reasons I became and then remained something akin to a writer:
a. Play. You know what it’s like when you’re a kid, how you can spend hours on end lying on your tummy in the garden messing about with your toy soldiers telling yourself stories. I’m 54 now, bald, bearded, a bit baggy looking, pouchy about the eyelids, not noticeably infantile in my physical characteristics. You can imagine what the neighbours would say if I was lying on my tummy in the garden with my toy soldiers. Tell them I’m ‘a writer’ though and everything’s lovely -- some of them might even be impressed.
Yet what do writers do but mess about with toy soldiers and rag dolls and coloured crayons and any variety of building block game you care to name? We’re at it all the time, orchestrating battles, dressing up Barbie, constructing new worlds, colouring in our picture books, unknotting the knotty business of existence by working things out in the stories we tell ourselves, imposing some order on the incomprehensible chaos that seems to surround us. Writers just keep on doing what other people would like to keep on doing but feel obliged to give up because some fool has sold them the maturity myth.
b. Portray. When I was a kid (there’s a bit of a theme emerging here, but nonage isn’t strictly relevant in this instance), I used to draw cartoons for which I was much praised and of which I was mightily proud. In adolescence, I stopped drawing, my artistic career curtailed by faint praise from an art master I admired and by the realisation that I wasn’t really that talented after all. There was, however, a lingering desire to represent the world in some manner, to look around and recreate what I saw, and it was that need to portray things that eventually pushed me into writing. My facility for cartoons still surfaces sometimes, betraying me into caricature and burlesque, but I wouldn’t mind betting most writers could tell a similar tale, a sort of Neanderthal urge to daub the shape of a bison onto the cave wall, leaving our mark and showing what we have seen.
c. Pontification. Had a sort of epiphany when I was seventeen years old. Been reading Herman Hesse. I know, I’m sorry, it’s horribly clichéd, but I was seventeen and he was Herman Hesse and we were made for one another. It was just one of those things. Flung into a turmoil of emotion, I sat up all night writing down my adolescent lucubrations, and come the rising of the sun, I found myself thinking, “By god, this is better than working”. I don’t for a moment believe the word ‘ideas’ would be appropriate for the feeble maunderings I produced that night, but that doesn’t matter. What I had discovered was the overpowering and uncontainable joy of just sitting down and telling people what one thinks, which leads us onto . . . .
d. Lack of brain. What do I think? I’ve always admired people who can extemporise on a subject, who can play with ideas, juggle with thought processes, throw out startling notions that may well be contradictory but still stimulate. I wish I could do the same, but my brain doesn’t function like that. It takes me dark ages to work out what I think about something, and, often as not, I need to tell myself a story about a subject before I know precisely what my values are and how they accord with the topic to hand. It’s sad, really, several hundred pages and I’ve produced what a pundit would toss off in a couple of pithy soundbites, but there you go.
In short then, the answer to my original question is: playfulness, parody, self-importance, and stupidity. Why oh why can they not frame these things like that in the Careers Advisory Office? All that guff about talent and ability and aptitude and opportunity. It would have saved me years of angst if they’d got to the point directly. “Right, Davis, you are puerile, prehistoric, pretentious, and more than a little dim. Here’s your pencil, get on with it.”
What skills you need to be a writer is another matter altogether. I’ll tackle that in another blog. In the meantime, I’m going to play with my toy soldiers, in a way that is at once reductive and vainglorious, and I’m going to do it at great length.
Frivolous? Fatuous? Fat-headed? Affected? Get on with you, I’m a writer.

 At which point I stop reading and thank you, Charles, for visiting my blog. I also utter a slightly awe-struck "Oh..." because I'm the one in our family who takes forever to answer a simple question, playing with stories and scenarios before I can say what I think, and frequently getting accused of not thinking in the meantime. So maybe I'm a writer. Light-bulbs flash and I think it's time to get back to that manuscript, freshly inspired by you.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

No Robot Dogs in This Garden

Today I'm delighted to welcome author Jane Yates and eleven-year-old Aberdeen from her steampunk novel,  Garden. Jane is touring the internet with b00k r3vi3w tours, and Aberdeen tagged along. She must have heard I have good virtual treats on my blog. So find a virtual coffee, pick your favorite virtual gluten-free cookie, and meet Aberdeen. But first, please excuse me while I pet Jane's dog!

Hi Aberdeen. I read online that you kind of like dragons. Why is that?
I love all dragon, but I guess if I had to choose, I’d pick green and red ones. Maisy has told me loads of stories about dragons. There is a painting in my playroom of two dragons under a tree which I love. Also my family have an old heraldic shield which has two dragons blowing fire. How cool is that?

Very cool indeed! I read that you like castles too. Have you ever lived in a castle? 
Oh, sadly I have never been to a castle. But my uncle’s house here on Earth is as big as one, plus it has a secret tunnel that goes underneath it, with spiders! Very scary and creepy.

Ummm. Spiders? No thanks! So, how do you know you like castles?
My cousin Lenard has lots of old books and there are some great pictures of castle in them. Maisy got out the old family suit of armor once. She told me that’s what people used to wear around castles. When I am older I and going to travel around the world with Maisy and visit all the castles. But don’t tell her as I have not asked her yet.

Okay, I won't. What was your life like before you went to live on earth with your uncle? No castles I'm guessing...

It was completely different. We lived in deep space on a large ship. My mother always held lots of parties. She sent me to school, but the kids were mean to me, so I got sent back.
I love my life now, I have friends and a garden.

Ah, hence the book. Was it easy to meet people and make friends on earth?
Maisy is my best friend, she is so kind, and at first I was worried she was going to be like all the other girls I had met at school and on the halfway station. At school the other girls teased me, so I hit them hard, that shut them up, but I got sent back home. My mother was not pleased. At the halfway station the children teased me there. So I was worried at first about Maisy but she was always nice.

That's good. Friends are important. Thinking of which, do you like dogs?

I have not met any real dogs. My mother had a robot dog, but it was shut down when people started dying. My friend Peter made a dog, FRANK. Frank is really clever, I read about a famous detective in Lenard’s books called Sherlock Holmes, and I think frank is as clever as he is.

I think all dogs are clever. What about cats? Did you ever have a cat? Or a sister?

No nothing like that. I have a robot snake, but I never gave it a name. When we had to get off the spaceship I made sure I took it. It was the only possession I was worried about. Maisy has lots of brothers and sisters - her mother lets me come around on her day off with her sometimes. Oh they are a handful but I do envy Maisy having them all to play with.

What do you miss most about home, and what do you like most about earth?

I have to admit I do occasionally miss my guardian robot - it did everything for me, whatever I wanted 24/7.
But in a way it’s kind of fun doing things for myself.
The best bit is the garden on Earth. I was excited to see my first bio-dome close up, and snow. Oh snow was the most wonderful thing ever.

But mostly all my new friends and the adventures we have. 

Well, I hope you continue to have many adventures Aberdeen, and thank you so much for visiting my blog. And thank you so much for letting Jane Yates write about your adventures.

About the Author:
Jane lives in the historic city of Oxford, England with her two spaniels. She works at the Pitt Rivers museum there too and is amazed and inspired by its wondrous array of objects. Being a museum of anthropology and world archaeology, Jane often finds herself influenced by its exhibitions. And indeed it has helped Jane write a trilogy for children – the Paradox Child series.

Jane is not only a mother, artist and storyteller, but dyslexic too, which only highlights her success even more. Jane refuses to allow the disorder to halt her dreams and continues to enjoy her favourite hobbies. Jane is a lover of steampunk, adventure and children’s stories, which often play a huge role in her own books.

 About the Garden:
Inspired by the classic novel The Secret Garden, Jane Yates introduces us to a steampunk world of bio-domes, robots and mysteries. Eleven-year-old Aberdeen is so used to being by herself that all she has to fill her thoughts are stories of mighty dragons and grand castles. But Aberdeen’s world is soon thrown into disarray however; her parents murdered.
Having no choice, Aberdeen is sent to live with her uncle back on Earth where her fascination into her new surroundings begin to take hold. It isn’t long before Aberdeen befriends three other children – Maisy, Peter and Lenard.
Oh, and there’s Frank too, Peter’s robot dog, who completes this special circle of friendship.
Garden is a journey of self-discovery, of trials and friendship. With adventure boundless, Jane Yates follows up her acclaimed Paradox Child trilogy with a new tale for young fans of steampunk and science fiction, and for interested readers, here's a Smashwords code so you can download a copy at a discount:

Here is the code: EN36V
Here is the Smashwords link for Garden -


Jane Yates Links –

 Garden Links –

Autumn Orchard Links –