Monday, December 31, 2007

January 2008 Book Reviews/Interviews

Here's what is coming up this month.

  • Review of Blogging Heroes by Michael A. Banks - 1/1
  • Interview with Michael A. Banks - 1/3
  • Review of You Are More Than Enough Achievement Journal by Judi Moreo - 1/7
  • Interview with Judi Moreo - 1/9
  • Review of September Dawn by Carole A. Schutter - 1/14
  • Interview with Carole A. Schutter - 1/16
  • Review of Bad Girls Club by Judy Gregorson - 1/21
  • Interview with Judy Gregorson - 1/24
  • Review of Silent Prisoner by Amanda Young - 1/28
  • Interview with Amanda Young - 1/30

Friday, December 28, 2007

Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time Series will be completed!

-----Press Release----
Tor Books announced today that novelist Brandon Sanderson has been chosen to finish writing the final novel in Robert Jordan's bestselling Wheel of Time fantasy series. Jordan--described by some as Tolkien's heir--died Sept. 16 from a rare blood disease. The new novel, A Memory of Light, will be the 12th and final book in the fantasy series which has sold more than 14 million copies in North America and more than 30 million copies worldwide. The last four books in the series were all #1 New York Times bestsellers.

Harriet Popham Rigney, Jordan's widow and editor, chose Sanderson to complete A Memory of Light--which Jordan worked on almost daily for the last few months of his life--and will edit it. Rigney said some scenes from the book were completed by Jordan before his death, and some exist in draft form. "He left copious notes and hours of audio recordings," she said. He also revealed details about the end of the series to close members of his family.

Sanderson, who acknowledged Jordan as an inspiration to him as a writer, has established a loyal fan base as the author of three fantasy novels: Elantris, Mistborn and The Well of Ascension (Tor), as well as a YA novel, Alcatraz Versus the Evil Librarians (Scholastic Press). Sanderson said, "I'm both extremely excited and daunted by this opportunity. There is only one man who could have done this book the way it deserved to be written, and we lost him in September. However, I promise to do my very best to remain true to Mr. Jordan's vision and produce the book we have all been waiting to read."

A Memory of Light is scheduled for publication in fall 2009.

America's Most Literate Cities

According to a study by Central Connecticut State University, I live within an hour drive of two of America's most literate cities - Minneapolis being first and St. Paul, third. If you'd like to know more, click here and here. And if you read nothing else about this, read what the St. Paul Pioneer Press has to say about it.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Achieving Dreams

Every step I take brings me closer to the realization of my dreams...

It's interesting how every action we take leads to results we may not expect. I received a journal from my sister-in-law for Christmas. It is red with an inkwell on the front. I sat down earlier today and wrote my first entry. It was a recap of what I'd accomplished in 2007 regarding my writing career, and what I intend to achieve in 2008. Then I received an email that brought the above journal to my attention.

Back in January of this year, I decided I was ready to pursue writing, something I've always wanted to do, but with raising my children, had to be put on the back burner. I bought books about freelance writing, I joined a couple of writers forums and I started talking to people about writing. I basically decided "I WILL BE A WRITER!"

Since then, I've written a feature article, been quoted on the back of a book, started a blog about freelance writing which then took on a life of its own to become a book review/author interview blog, guest blogged and been a beta-reader (once).

As I said earlier today, I've been getting things in order, while the kids are on break. Come January 2nd, I don't want to be doing household chores. I want to use my time for writing. I have ideas for query letters to editors, I have blog posts to do, I have books to read.

The way I make my dreams come true is to go for it! I may not be an overnight success, but I will make it happen!

The New Year is about to begin.

I hope everyone enjoyed their Christmas holiday. Ours was quiet, but good.

I did get through all the books I needed to read for review. I have more coming in the mail.

I took some time yesterday to get my calendars for 2008 in order. My husband thinks I am a little obsessed with scheduling, but as I get older, I'm finding it more difficult to rely only on my memory. I have a planner for writing deadlines, a PDA that goes everywhere with me, a kitchen calendar for family events, and a wall calendar I can see from my desk.

Today, I'll be setting up my files for 2008. I've been terrible about filing, so my New Year's resolution is to be better about it. I'll also be taking down the Christmas decorations and cleaning my kitchen. It looks like a dessert bomb went off on my countertops.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Interview - Lynn Brittney, author of Christine Kringle

Today's 5 Q&A is with Lynn Brittney, author of Christine Kringle

1.) Who are you?
Well, I've been a professional writer for about thirty years *(gosh that makes me sound old!) but my career seems to have gone in definite phases. In my twenties I was a journalist; in my thirties I wrote about thirteen non-fiction books for both adults and children; in my forties I wrote plays for adults and children and, now, in my fifties, I write novels. I guess I can only spend about a decade in one particular genre before I have to move on! I still write plays (see but, maybe, in my sixties, I'll try my hand at screenplays - who knows? Anyway, I wrote my first YA novel Nathan Fox: Dangerous Times (a historical spy thriller) when I hit fifty (it was cheaper than plastic surgery or a fast car) and Christine Kringle is my fourth novel to date.

2.) Where did the idea for Christine Kringle come from?
Oh I was depressed by the death of Christmas in the UK. Readers of the book may think that a town in England banning Christmas is far-fetched, but it isn't. Every year, for the past five years (at least) the Government and the local authorities have tried to eradicate Christmas as much as possible. It has started here again this year. National newspapers ran stories last week about nativity plays not being performed, even in faith schools; if they are performed, then wings have been banned on angels as they are a fire hazard (!! How we managed for a hundred years doing school nativity plays without any fatalities is a mystery to me); one town has banned Christmas lights from being strung across the street; several Santas have been told that they will not be insured if they don't have seat belts on their sleighs - and on and on. It's become so Bah! Humbug! in the UK that I felt moved to write something that would point out the stupidity of it all. And, also, writing Christine Kringle books is a) a way of putting myself in a Christmassy frame of mind and b) its a bit of light relief from my other books which are quite dramatic and require a lot of research.

3.) What is your favorite thing about Christmas?
My favourite thing about Christmasses past was the creativity of it all. When my son was small we would make lots of decorations and other bits of craft work for his school Christmas fair. It was all about the lead-up to Christmas really. The excitement of children and, of course, I was working as a drama teacher when my son was small and I was always doing the school nativity play. Now he is a man really (17) but my daughter, who is 11, and I manage to sew a few Christmas decorations, make cookies and do cakes etc. I am grimly determined to keep the spirit of Christmas endeavour alive! I expect that, even when I'm an old lady, I will still feel the need to make a Christmas pillow every year, or something.

4.) What are you asking Santa to leave under your tree?
I think that I am going to ask Santa to leave me a little commonsense and tranquility this year. I think I really over-extended myself in 2007. Nathan Fox was published in the UK in January 2007 and it was promptly nominated for the Waterstone's Prize, which was very exciting. A US publisher and German publisher bought the book and are releasing it next year. I wrote two other novels and decided to self-publish Christine Kringle, as well as adding some more plays to my catalogue for children. Add to that the emotional rollercoaster of family life (I have two teenagers - daily life is a drama!) and I feel a little exhausted now as I wind down to the end of the year. Of course, I find it difficult to stop writing (so many ideas - so little time) but I shall pace myself better next year. So, if Santa leaves me a nice little note saying "Thanks for the PR work on behalf of the Yule Dynasty, now put your feet up for a bit", I shall be more than pleased.

5.) What's next?
Well, Nathan Fox 1 comes out in the US and Germany; Nathan Fox 2 comes out in the UK in March; my agent is nagging me to finish Nathan Fox 3; and the many friends of Christine Kringle will be expecting a sequel. I have also, recently, re-acquired the rights of some of my adult plays from Samuel French and I am thinking of setting up an adult play website where amateur societies can purchase plays. I'm sure that somewhere in there I will finish another novel I have been working on. Oops! There I go again - we haven't got to 2008 and I'm already overbooked (no pun intended).

I would just like to say thank you to all the literary bloggers who have been so supportive of my books during 2007. I hope that I have thanked you all personally for the great reviews - if I haven't then it's a terrible oversight on my part. But I hope you all have a wonderful Christmas and you can congratulate yourselves on doing such a wonderful job for the world of books.

--Lynn xx

Monday, December 24, 2007

Book Review - Christine Kringle by Lynn Brittney

Christine Kringle
Lynn Brittney
BookSurge Publishing
ISBN # 978-1419675546

“I think that people really carry the Christmas spirit in their hearts all year round and all they need is an excuse to bring it out. It’s a shame that Christmas only happens once a year, because it would be nice if people were happy, kind and thoughtful every day. But, sometimes, life gets in the way, and people get down and frustrated. So, we should never ban the one time in the year when we can guarantee a good feeling, should we?”
-- Christine Kringle

Christine Kringle is an imaginative new twist on Santa Claus and his family. In learning about Santa, Mrs. Claus and their daughter, Christine, you'll also learn about Christmas traditions in other countries. Did you know that the Santa of Italy travels by Ferrari? Lynn Brittney has taken a little artistic license here, but the book is absolutely magical!

I received it a little too late this year, but next December, I'll be reading it out loud to my children.
(October 3, 2007, pp 180, $13.99)

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Christmas Meme

I've been tagged by Kate at Finding Boddie. I'm supposed to tag seven people, but as far as I'm concerned, anybody who wants to play along is welcome.

Merry Christmas!

1. Wrapping or gift bags? I love gift bags!
2. Real or artificial tree? Live, green and smelling of conifer!
3. When do you put up the tree? The weekend before Christmas.
4. When do you take the tree down? New Year’s Day
5. Do you like eggnog? What’s Christmas without Eggnog? We go through at least three gallons a season in this house.
6. Favorite gift received as a child? A Gund teddy bear when I was 13.
7. Do you have a nativity scene? Absolutely not.
8. Worst Christmas gift you ever received? I don’t think I’ve gotten a bad present. Gifts that taught me important life lessons, yes – bad, no.
9. Mail or email Christmas cards? Mail, with stamps, even.
10. Favorite Christmas movie? I don’t have one.
11. When do you start shopping for Christmas? Usually the week after Christmas.
12. Favorite thing to eat at Christmas? Fondue.
13. Clear lights or colored on the tree? It doesn’t matter, as long as the tree smells good.
14. Favorite Christmas song? The Christmas Song
15. Travel at Christmas or stay home? Stay home.
16. Can you name all of Santa’s reindeer? Yep, and the seven dwarves, too.
17. Angel on the tree top or a star? A cardinal (red bird)
18. Open the presents Christmas eve or Christmas morning? One on Christmas Eve, the rest Christmas morning.
19. Most annoying thing about this time of year? Expectations.
20. Do you decorate your tree in any specific theme or color? Minimalist is always good.
21. What do you leave for Santa? Cookies and Eggnog
22. Least favorite holiday song? We Wish You A Merry Christmas
23. Favorite ornament? Uhmmm, all of them?

Friday, December 21, 2007

All work and no play...

All right, folks, the crunch is on. Four days until Christmas and I have lots to do - still.

Today, I have to bake, paint (don't ask), clean and organize. I also have to start an article I was just assigned with a deadline of Jaunuary 5. I have three books for review that I need to read. And somewhere in my day, I need to eek out some time to take a nice, long, hot shower - if only because I tend to do my best thinking with hot water streaming over my head.

Christmas Eve day I'll be posting a review of Christine Kringle by Lynn Brittney and then an interview with her the day after Christmas.

That is all.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Book Review - Preaching to the Corpse: An Advice Column Mystery by Roberta Isleib

Preaching to the Corpse: An Advice Column Mystery
Roberta Isleib
ISBN # 978-0425218372

"The holidays have arrived in postcard-perfect Guilford, CT, but someone's taking the joy out of the season...

Psychologist/advice columnist Dr. Rebecca Butterman gets a call in the middle of night from the minister at her church. He's in custody after going to a fellow parishioner's home and finding her dead. The murdered matron was the leader of a search committee charged with finding a new assistant pastor after the previous assistant left in a rush. The minister begs Rebecca to intervene.She learns that the committee was divided--has someone tried to eliminate the competition? Rebecca puts her analytical skills to work to do her own search--for a killer--all while resisting the urge to break the seventh commandment with a very married detective, and praying she's not the next victim."

I really enjoyed Preaching to the Corpse. It was the first mystery I've read in years and years where I didn't know "who done it" until the very end. I literally said "OH!" out loud when the killer was revealed.

The book is well written, well paced and the characters are fleshed out perfectly. Roberta Isleib is a masterful mystery writer. I'm looking forward to the next adventure!
(December 4, 2007, pp 256, $6.99)

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Interview - Roberta Isleib, author of Preaching to the Corpse: An Advice Column Mystery

Today's 5 Q&A is with Roberta Isleib, author of Preaching to the Corpse: An Advice Column Mystery

1.) Who are you?
I'm a clinical psychologist and the author of seven mysteries, the latest just out this month: PREACHING TO THE CORPSE. The first five books starred a neurotic lady golfer. The new series features a psychologist living in Connecticut who writes an advice column--not that she's an expert on her own life! DEADLY ADVICE was published this past March.

2.) Have you always known you wanted to be an author?
No. I've always been a voracious reader. And having spent half a lifetime in school, I've had a ton of experience writing. But the last time I wrote fiction was probably a short story in junior high school about the English rock group, the Monkeys! Somehow everything intersected in my forties and I began to realize that I'd like to "take a stab" at writing.

3.) Did you intend to be a mystery writer or is it something that naturally evolved?
I've always read mysteries--I enjoy the puzzle, but especially the evolution of the characters. So when I sat down to peck away at my first manuscript, writing a mystery seemed quite natural to me. I don't think I even considered anything else!

4.) Do you know "Who done it?" from the beginning?
I have a pretty good idea about the bad guy from the start. That gives me something to point toward as I write. And I'm finding that a more detailed outline makes for easier writing, something my husband has been nagging me about for years! But it's hard work to figure out the story before writing it, so I do a little of each. Outline, write, outline, write... And of course, storylines and characters evolve as the book takes shape.

5.) What's next?
I have just finished and mailed off the third book in the Rebecca Butterman advice column series. The working title is LINE IN THE SAND, though I have a feeling that will change. Rebecca's good friend, a social worker who does sandplay therapy, is found beaten and left for dead. Rebecca searches for clues in the sand trays to track a would-be killer. The book should be out next September. Then I'll try to take the month of January to think about what the next project will be. I'm looking forward to that! I will keep updating my website about what's coming and when:

Thanks for hosting me Lynn!

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

The Golden Compass

There has been a lot of press about the movie The Golden Compass. It was released to theatres on December 7. The movie is based on the book of the same name, written by Philip Pullman.

Pullman is an atheist, and some clergy have been telling people not to see this movie, as its agenda is to turn children away from God. I finished reading the book this weekend, as part of the three books in the series.

It's an amazing story. Once upon a time, in an alternate world, there was a little girl. This little girl was "chosen" to save her world from destruction, and by default, every other world. Her adventures lead her to her biological parents, new worlds, new friends and new understanding. I had tears in my eyes toward the end of book three.

What I came away with is that faith is never a terrible thing, but when people use the power of religion for evil, it's still evil, no matter whose name you invoke to justify the action.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Another link in the blog chain...

The Absolute Write Blog Chain # 13

Kate talked about how having a dog is better than having children. I'm not really a dog person, but more a cat person. To each their own, I suppose.

Which brings me to my own post for the chain.

My mother-in-law is a media-specialist (librarian) at an elementary school. She attended my son's Kindergarten Holiday concert last Thursday night. I met her in the lobby of the school when she arrived. She looked around at the Christmas tree, the huge cardboard Candy Canes suspended from the ceiling and said, "I'm so jealous."

She went on to explain that at her school, Christmas has been banned. No one says "Merry Christmas!" - they say Happy Holidays. There are no Chistmas trees, no angels, nothing. They're not even having a holiday concert. She said, "It's as if they're trying to eradicate anything that isn't politically correct."

This made me feel sad. I am all for cultural diversity, and respecting someone else's beliefs. But, in ignoring life long cultural traditions, doesn't that nullify cultural diversity. If we don't talk about and express ourselves through traditions, it would seem to me that learning about other people comes to a very abrupt end.

As my dad used to say, "If everybody was the same, the world would be an insufferably boring place."


Merry Christmas!
Happy Chanukah!
Happy Kwanzaa!
Happy Yule!

The chain continues with Random Acts of Unkindness.

A Thoughtful Life

Gillian's Food History

Getting Confused and Coming All Undone

Life in the Middle

So You Want to be a Chic Chick


Twisted Fantasies

It Had To Be Said

Finding Boddie

Virtual Wordsmith

Random Acts of Unkindness

Chocolate for Your Brain

Virginia Lee: I Ain't Dead Yet!

Friday, December 14, 2007

Bedside Table Books

Well, it's Friday. Wait, where did the week go?!

My plan for the weekend is to get caught up on reading. I have a stack of magazines to get through, and two books to read for review.

The books on my bedside table are as follows...

  • Blogging Heroes - Michael A. Banks
  • Bad Girls Club - Judy Gregorson
  • His Dark Materials - Philip Pullman
  • Eclipse - Stephenie Meyer

I hope to finish Blogging Heroes tonight, and His Dark Materials tomorrow morning. I expect six more books to trickle in via USPS over the next week or so. There will be book reviews and author interviews every week through March 1, 2008. At least, that's what is scheduled so far.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Terry Pratchett

Author Terry Pratchett has Alzheimer's

Sad, sad news.

As far as I know, the only thing I've ever read of Pratchett's work was Good Omens co-written with Neil Gaiman. Loved it!

If you'd like to see Terry Pratchett's words about his diagnosis, click here.

One Writer's Wish List

So my father-in-law called the other day to ask me about the kids' wish lists for Christmas. We discussed many options - from electronics to gift cards to (gasp!) books.

And then the dreaded question came, "What would the mommy like for Christmas?" I get terribly uncomfortable when people ask me this. For some reason, it feels like begging, even though I know it's not.

As I was sitting here drinking my coffee this morning, reading through the new issue of Writer's Digest, I realized I can be an absolute dunce sometimes. I should have said my subscription to a writing magazine I love is about to expire, I'd love to have it renewed. I should have said a giftcard to Walmart so that I can buy new ink cartridges for my printer. I should have said lots of things to fund and/or support my habit,

Along with every thing else I'm keeping track of these days, I'm going to start a file in Word entitled My Writing Wish List. As I find things I'd like to have, but aren't affordable or an immediate need, I'll add them to the list. Then, when someone asks what I'd like for my birthday or Christmas, I'll have answers right away.

And in case you're wondering, I told my father-in-law I'd like a gift card to Barnes and Noble. (A girl's got to have fun sometimes.)

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Interview - Holly Fretwell, author of The Sky's Not Falling!: Why It's Ok to Chill About Global Warming

Today's 5 Q&A is with Holly Fretwell, author of The Sky's Not Falling!: Why It's Ok to Chill About Global Warming

1.) Who are you?
I am an Adjunct Professor of Economics at Montana
State University where I teach economic principles,
microeconomics, and natural resource and environmental
economics. I am also a research fellow at PERC, the
Property and Environment Research Center. I attended
Montana State University earning a bachelor's degree
in Political Science and master's degree in resource
economics. I worked with Northwest Economics
Associates in Vancouver, Washington, examining timber
export regulation in the Pacific Northwest and have
consulted for organizations including Plum Creek
Timber and the Center for International Trade in
Forest Products (CINTRAFOR). As author and co-author
of numerous articles on natural resource issues, my
current emphasis is on public lands management and
climate change policy. My research has been published
in professional journals and the popular press
including the Wall Street Journal, Journal for
Environmental Economics and Management, Duke
Environmental Law and Policy Forum, Journal of
Forestry, and Consumer's Research. In addition, I have
presented papers promoting the use of markets in
public land management and have provided expert
testimony on the state of our national parks and the
future of the Forest Service.

My interest in global warming came from an economic
policy investigation that was getting really scary as
I realized the implications and huge costs that would
arise if we were to attempt to prevent global warming
through government intervention and regulation on CO2
emissions. My expertise is not in climate science,
rather in the economic and policy implications of a
warmer earth.

Think about it, if we assume that the earth is
warming, it is human caused, and we can do something
about it the potential actions, as we’ve seen in many
proposals are extremely costly. The real catch,
however, is the benefits from those costly actions are

2.) Why did you write this book?
Like so many other people I was confused about the
information I was hearing about global warming. The
popular press says it's human caused, there is far
less concensus in the scientific journals where a
multitude of factors that influence climate are
examined. That confusion followed by the costly policy
recommendations encouraged me to look further. In that
search I found lots of great material, and some not so
great. Some of the most disappointing material I found
was propaganda to scare our children into making
uninformed choices. There is so much information
available today, via internet, TV, radio, etc., that I
believe it is vitally important to teach our children
how to think critically and be able to decipher fact
from fiction. That is why I wrote The Sky's Not
Falling, and that is why I wrote it in simple enough
terms for children, parents, and all adults to read.

3.) Have you experienced any negative reactions regarding your book?
I have been pleasantly surprised by the small amount
of negative criticism. There are certainly those that
say I have been funded and influenced by industry; if
only I could be so fortunate as to have some financial
backing for the time investment I have put into my
studies on global warming. My only earnings are
royalties from the book. I wrote the book from my
heart and for the children, their parents, and others
interested in a better understanding of climate
change. I wrote the book because I was worried about
the grave problem that I was hearing about. I am now
relieved to know the facts. Readers of "The Sky's Not
Falling" will feel that same relief by understanding
what is really happening around the Earth.

4.) What do you do to be more "green"?
For starters I live in Montana because I love the
wilderness and the outdoors. And I do those typical
things we were all taught as kids to help conserve the
environment -- like turning off the lights when
leaving the room and the water off when brushing teeth
-- we are also conscious of the power we use for heat
in our home and have remodeled our home to take
advantage of solar energy. Most importantly, perhaps,
is my efforts to help people better understand the
value of property rights and incentives for
environmental protection. As a professor of economics
I try to teach students the value of resources and
help them develop a sense of how we can better protect
the environment.

5.) What's next?
I have recently finished a book on public lands
management, though I am still awaiting its
publication. I have, in the past, thought of other
middle-school aged books about the environment. The
success of this book will be a good indicator of the
likely acceptance of others.

Thank you so much, Holly!

Thank you. I hope everyone enjoys the book and shares
it by instigating more discussion about what is really
happening in our world and the possible responses to
those constant changes. It is freedom and markets that
will help spark the innovative ideas that solve the
many problems we meet.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Book Review - The Sky's Not Falling!: Why It's Ok to Chill About Global Warming by Holly Fretwell

The Sky's Not Falling!: Why It's Ok to Chill About Global Warming
Holly Fretwell
World Ahead Publishing
ISBN # 978-0976726944

"You've heard the claims that the earth is warming up because of cars, light bulbs, factories and the many other wonders that human ingenuity has created. But is it really true?

Sure, our planet is changing, but it has before and will again. There's lots more to the climate change story than you may have heard! Can we really adapt to a changing world in ways that help animals and the environment while keeping people working and countries growing strong? Of course we can!"

Holly Fretwell has provided an excellent resource for kids who may be frightened by what they're hearing through various forms of media about Global Warming. If your children aren't at an age to read the book themselves, read it to them. It's a superb conversation-starter!
(September 18, 2007, pp 128, $17.95)

Holly is on virtual book tour now. To read what other people are saying, click here.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Students reading for pleasure and paying to be in a book club

At a high school in Minnesota, students are paying a $15.00 activity fee to be part of a book club. You read that right, paying to discuss books. The art of reading is NOT dead, folks!

Edina High group likes to talk books

According to the article, other Metro schools are following suit. Hopefully, high schools in other states will start book clubs, as well.

Raising readers, one good book at a time.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Rare Weekend Post

This is how we cooked dinner tonight - burgers and brats and grilled onions.

Temperature: 5 degrees Fahrenheit
Snow depth: 1 foot

Keep in mind that 10 days ago, my roses in the front garden were still blooming.

It smelled like summer for about 30 minutes in my house tonight. Tomorrow is more seasonal fare with venison stew for supper.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Living Ahead - Freelance Writer's Idea Journal

As a freelance writer, I have to be thinking about ideas four to six months ahead, to keep articles and/or essays timely to publication months. I have a hell of a time with this. When the muse strikes with an idea for a Christmas story, it's usually in December - too late to submit a query for this year.

So, in order to stay on top of thinking ahead, I've begun a three-ring binder that starts with May, which is four months from now. Every time something pops into my head that is a seasonal idea, I will write it down in the section that corresponds to when I should query the idea. I guess you could call it a freelance writer's idea journal.

I'm also thinking of starting a photo album with four sections - Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter. I'll fill it with inspiring pictures of each season, so that I can get myself into how I feel during the seasons, to remind me of story ideas.

Aren't people going to think I'm strange when my office is decorated with tinsel and holly, Christmas carols playing in the background, in August?

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Dark Chocolate, soldiers and Iraq...

My daughter's best friend's mom is stationed in Iraq. I asked him if there was anything I could send along to her when her family sends care packages. He asked her via IM or email, I'm not sure which, and she said, CHOCOLATE!

The temperatures are cooler in Iraq now, so chocolate doesn't melt. In the summer, people don't even bother to send chocolate. So, after Christmas, I will be sending bags of dark chocolate and also some brownies and chocolate chip cookies, because she asked for those, as well.

Ask around, I'm sure someone you know, knows someone serving in Iraq. Random acts of kindness, in the form of chocolate bars, are very good Karma.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Productivity - or a lack thereof...

This post will have little to do with writing or reading. It's more of a public service announcement than anything else.

I am suffering from a migraine headache hangover this morning. For those of you who have experienced migraines, you know what I mean. My head still hurts, but not as terribly as it did last night, when I threw the kids and the evening chores at my wonderful husband, and crawled into bed around 7:30.

I've learned what causes my migraines. Anytime I ingest MSG (Monosodium Glutamate) I develop a horrible headache within 12 hours. It lasts for a little over 36 hours and pretty much prevents me from getting anything accomplished. My head hurts, my eyes hurt and I feel sick to my stomach. Anyone making noise around me is intolerable.

I read labels religiously to avoid eating MSG. I didn't, however, read the label of the soup I used in the beef stroganoff I made on Monday night. My bad, and I mean really, really bad.

If you want to know more about migraines and MSG, you can Google it. I have actively been avoiding MSG as much as possible, and have cut down my migraine headaches to one every couple of months instead of one every week.

If anyone benefits from this information, I'll be very pleased.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Books, gifts and snow... oh my!

Well, as I type this, it's snowing outside my window. Six inches fell over the course of the day Saturday, and we're expecting at least three more out of this clipper. You may be thinking "It's winter, of course there will be snow.", but winters haven't been particularly snowy around here for a few years now. It's looking as if it may be a truly white Christmas for 2007.

And, oh yes! Christmas! There are 20 shopping days left. I saw this today in an email from Barnes and Noble. If you have writer or avid reader friends, it may be something to consider. And I saw this mentioned on the Absolute Write Water Cooler forums. Pretty nifty, eh?

As for books, I wanted to mention I received an email, a month or so ago,from Dorothy Thompson at Pump Up Your Book Promotion. She wanted to know if I'd be interested in reviewing books for the Virtual Book Tours she arranges for authors. I, of course, said yes! So, some of the books I review I have the extreme good fortune to pick and choose from the authors she's working with, and some I find on my own.

When I review a book for Pump Up Your Book Promotion, I'll be linking to, so that you can read the other blogs hosting the authors/books. I'll also be interviewing Dorothy about Pump Up Your Book Promotion here, soon.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Marketing - One Author's Experience

As any writer (who intends to make money) knows, a great majority of time is spent marketing your work and yourself. I asked Jim Melvin, author of The Death Wizard Chronicles, what’s been happening with him since the first book, The Pit, was released on September 3, 2007. His answer follows….

“As you and your readers know, most authors who have signed with a small- to mid-sized publisher are responsible for the majority of their own marketing. To say the least, I am no exception. What have I been doing since Sept. 3? Marketing, marketing, marketing … both in-person and online.

In no particular order, here are some highlights:

* I made a featured appearance at the Times Festival of Reading in St. Petersburg, Fla.
* I appeared in six bookstores.
* I did one video interview here.
* I did five audio interviews here, here, here, here, and here.
* I received an excellent review in a major newspaper here.
* I received another excellent review in a popular blog here.
* I was featured in a major newspaper here.
* I was featured or mentioned in at least a dozen other newspapers.
* I was featured or interviewed on several popular blogs.
* And in December, I’ll be starting a “virtual tour” that will have eighteen stops and that will culminate in a free book giveaway.


Of course, I’m not claiming to have set any records. I know there are many authors out there who have far surpassed this in quality and quantity, but at least I’m giving it my best.

How has this affected sales? The first shipment to Amazon already has sold out. Hopefully, the next several shipments will do the same. And my publisher reports good sales on its site. Plus, my series is beginning to appear in selected bookstores, though there’s still a long way to go before it sees the kind of distribution routinely provided by the larger houses.

My hope is that a lot of small steps eventually will add up to big gains.”

-- Jim Melvin

Friday, November 30, 2007


That was quite the barrage of reviews and interviews, wasn't it? I've read a lot lately, as you can see. And there's more reading to be done. I have a stack of magazines about two feet tall to catch up on, and at least three books on my bedside table to polish off.

There will be no book review next week, but there will be at least one each week, after that, through the month of December.

This weekend is looking to be a little bit busy. We are expecting our first major snowstorm tomorrow, here in Minnesota. So, we'll be shoveling, and baking, signing Christmas cards and trying to stay warm. Hot Chocolate and red nosed kids, here we come!

Maybe if it looks like Christmas outside, it'll feel a little more like Christmas inside?

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Interview - Diana Holquist, author of Sexiest Man Alive

Today's 5 Q&A is with Diana Holquist, author of Sexiest Man Alive.

1.) Who are you?
I love to write. That's pretty much all I do. Ask my family about the undone laundry, the un-bought groceries, and the fact that I rarely find time to get dressed in the morning. Actually, if you train your family right, they won't notice any of these things. "Popcorn for dinner again, mom! Cool," say my filthy children. God bless them, they don't know what panty hose are.

Oh, my poor husband.What else do you want to know about me? I love kids. I love cats. I love chocolate. (Not necessarily in that order.) I live outside of Philadelphia now with my husband, two kids, and one cat.

2.) The main character of Sexiest Man Alive is cripplingly shy, at least when it comes to breathtakingly handsome men. Are you shy?
I can be shy, but not around sexy men. I do have a bit of a phobic shyness around a certain kind of person just like Jasmine does, so I understand the panic. I won’t tell you who or what, though; it’s too personal. But if you know me, and you’re that kind of person, you think I’m INSANE. If you’re not that kind of person, you think I’m completely normal. (Hah!) It’s a kind of phobia—like of snakes or heights…only for Jasmine, it’s sexy men. It’s actually surprisingly common.

3.) How did you come to write romances?
I lived in New York City with a great job and wild life…and then my husband got a job in Ithaca, New York. Well, I wept when I saw the place—a tiny town. No work. But after a while (and two kids), I grew to love Ithaca. The town is packed with writers, so writing a novel seemed like something that was no big deal, everyone was doing it. Then, by chance, I picked up Susan Elizabeth Phillips’s First Lady, and that was it. I knew what I wanted to do: write something as fun as that. I’m still working on it!

4.) Who is your sexiest man alive?
Oh, that’s easy, Sexiest Man Alive was inspired by my husband. Hi, Honey!

Okay, is he gone?

Right then. Sexiest Man Alive was really inspired by a famous guy whose name I will not mention. I used to work for his father. Famous guy would show up in the office every now and then and stroll about and we’d all swoon and try to catch him bending over the water fountain in the hall….

5.) What's next?
Hungry for More will be out next fall. It’s Amy’s story, the Gypsy psychic who has been messing up everyone else’s lives with her soul mate prophecies in Make Me a Match and Sexiest Man Alive. She loses her power and has to take a job in a restaurant to support herself. Wouldn’t you know, the chef is one sexy dude….

Thank you so much, Diana!

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Interview - Dyan Garris, author of Voice of the Angels Cookbook - Talk to Your Food! - Intuitive Cooking

Today's 5 Q&A is with Dyan Garris, author of Voice of the Angels Cookbook - Talk to Your Food! - Intuitive Cooking.

1.) Who are you?
For many years Dyan Garris has been counseling clients in order to help them positively move forward in their lives. She is clairvoyant, clairsentient, and clairaudient. In addition, Dyan is also what is known as a voice recognition psychic and trance channel. This means that she can help her clients via phone, which is how she conducted her readings throughout her career. Dyan became aware of her clairvoyance, and other gifts, at a very young age. She spent years learning how to use these gifts to help others.

In 2005 she created a CD series of music and meditation for self-healing, relaxation, chakra balancing, and vibrational attunement of mind, body, and spirit. While sitting at the piano, she heard specific songs and titles coming from her psychic connections. Writing them down as fast as she could, the result was “A Healing Journey – The Voice of the Angels” CD. This is the first in the series. There are six CDs in the series (all available separately) plus two radio version music-only compilations and two meditation-only compilations. The radio version music compilation “Spiritus Sanctus” Volume 2 was a 2006 NAR Lifestyle Award qualifier in two categories and is still charting well over a year and a half later.

Her new CD of instrumental relaxation music sprinkled lightly with the angelic vocals of award winning recording artist Amber Norgaard titled “Release” was released in late September 2007.
Dyan’s music can be heard nationally and internationally on numerous radio stations and was recently in the top ten on Music Choice’s “Soundscapes” cable TV channel.

Dyan is the author, developer, and artist of “Voice of the Angels-A Healing Journey Spiritual Cards.” These are a thirty card deck of angel cards based upon scenes from “A Healing Journey Guided Fantasy,” which is the guided meditation found on the last track of her first CD. Each card has its own channeled message in verse from the Angels and free card readings are available on her website.

Dyan writes a “Daily Channeled Message” which posts on her website. Recently, she authored “The Book of Daily Channeled Messages,” which is a compilation of uplifting, inspirational angelic messages to be used for daily guidance.

Her new book “Voice of the Angels Cookbook-Talk To Your Food!-Intuitive Cooking” is available at the author’s website and This is an adventure in opening the creative centers and communicating with your food so it can transform from raw ingredients into what truly nourishes you on every level. The book includes twelve food-related channeled messages such as “Ode to Popcorn” and “The Measure of Success” plus several “Intuitively Speaking” paragraphs which explain how to prepare the recipe using one’s own unique creativity. For more information visit

2.) What prompted you to write a cookbook?
I believe we should take everything we have and blend it into our own special recipe of life. I don’t believe in labels or limiting myself to one particular category in life. That would be like living just one chapter in your whole book over and over. The first thing anyone ever asks upon meeting is, “What do you do?” And then from there a conclusion is drawn based upon what the inquiring person’s frame of reference is. I want to read, live, and experience my whole book without limitations and with no regrets. It’s a journey. I wrote the cookbook for several reasons, but a main reason is because it goes along with my body of work which is transformation of energy. My work is about taking what you have – raw ingredients — and transforming them into the best they can be. My work is about balance of mind, body, and spirit. I teach people how to do that. My music and meditations are about that, and the cookbook is simply an adjunct to that. I love to cook. I love to have people over for dinner. My heritage is Greek. My family had restaurants. It’s where I grew up. My grandmother lived with us and did most of the cooking. I learned to cook from her and it was fascinating to watch her. She didn’t measure anything. I know she must have been talking to her food. One of the goals for the cookbook was to keep things simple, yet elegant. We’re all busy. I put a lot of recipes in the book that are easy. I put some in there that are more complicated. The main idea is to make what your physical body says it wants and do it in a way that you are opening up creatively and entirely present in the “now.” It’s a simple way to achieve balance and harmony on more than just one level.

3.) What’s your favorite food to eat?
I don’t think I eat like most people eat. I need my body to perform in a way that most people don’t. So there is a conscious effort on a daily basis to take care of the physical body. By the nature of my work, I need to be able to hold consistently a high degree of very focused energy for a long period of time. Most people don’t need to do that. So I never eat anything with chemicals or unidentifiable ingredients. I make everything from scratch. I don’t use convenience products. I don’t eat “fast foods.” I believe that everything our bodies need for optimum health was put here on the planet. If it isn’t in its whole and natural state, I don’t eat it. I love a good mystery, just not with my food. So many things get diluted and distorted in the name of “convenience.” Right now I’m enjoying plain yogurt and a lot of fish and salad. If you listen and tune in, the body will tell you what it wants and needs. Here is what I had the other day and also an example of cooking intuitively:

Open Face Tuna Melt

1 pound fresh raw Ahi Tuna (Sushi grade)
1 T olive oil
1 T onion powder
Dash or two of garlic salt
Seafood spice blend
¼ cup Monterey Jack cheese
¼ cup sharp cheddar cheese
2 to 4 slices rye (or other) bread

In food processor pulse tuna with olive oil and spices. Stir in cheeses. Shape into patties. In skillet fry in olive oil until tuna is cooked rare, medium, or well done. (To your taste). Place on toasted rye bread and pour cheese sauce over top. (Note: The recipe for cheese sauce is in the book).

Now, here is the intuitive cooking part: I’m on vacation and I don’t have a food processor here. So I chopped the tuna up and put it in a bowl. I added some olive oil – a little more than the recipe calls for - about 2 T, and some seafood spice and a little salt. I didn’t want any onion that day; so I omitted that. However, I was feeling a taste for a nice juicy tomato, so I chopped up a little bit of that and stirred it in. Intuitively I felt I needed some additional “zing.” So I added in a little hot spice. I wasn’t feeling the love for garlic that day; so I left that out. Since I only had American cheese here, I chopped up one slice and threw that into the mix. Because this was looking a little soupy, I tossed in a bit of Parmesan cheese. I wasn’t in the mood for the bread or cheese sauce; so I left that part out too. When the tuna was cooked to my liking, I ate it with my salad. The whole thing took less than ten minutes. It was delicious! And here is something on another level to contemplate while you’re cooking:
Salt Water (Channeled message from the book)
“What is at the root of our perceptions of limitation? Fear. Let go of fear and limitation dissolves and disappears like salt in water. You can then choose to see the transformation as a small pot of salty water on the stove or as an ocean you can swim in, fish in, or sail a boat upon.” © 2007 Dyan Garris - Daily Channeled Message.

4.)What’s your favorite meal to cook?

My favorite thing to cook is Cinnamon Chicken. It smells fabulous and tastes even better. It’s a delightful marriage of tomatoes, garlic, onion, cinnamon, cloves, and allspice and there is a secret thing to do with the butter at the end that makes the whole dish sizzle! It’s a fast and easy recipe and incorporates a hard, salty Greek cheese called Mizitrah, which is available at most grocery stores now. I make this when I want the whole house to smell warm, spicy, comforting, and completely inviting.

5.)What’s next?
I’m in the process of writing a book about money and manifesting. So many people have challenges in this area. Money is very basic and very “root chakra” as is food. And a lot of people don’t know how to manifest. So this next book is a recipe for “making” money. Money is simply energy and we work with that in the same way as we do with anything that resides in the root chakra. We transform the lower into the higher. We don’t “make” money. We open pathways to creating a flow of abundance in our lives. I’ll also be doing a lot of promotion for the CDs and I have plans to host some live meditation events. I’ll be doing another CD in the Spring. But, I’ll always be talking to my food and may even open a restaurant. Come over for dinner sometime.

Thanks so much, Dyan!

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Book Review - Voice of the Angels Cookbook-Talk To Your Food!-Intuitive Cooking by Dyan Garris

Voice of the Angels Cookbook-Talk To Your Food!-Intuitive Cooking
Dyan Garris
Journeymakers, Inc.
ISBN # 978-0977614028

This past summer, my son asked for scrambled eggs for lunch. Simple, easy and quick - I'm all over that when cooking for a five year old. He helped scramble the eggs, and he sat on my hip while I fried them. When he was done eating, I heard him say "DELICIOUS!" - then he looked at me and asked, "Did you put two teaspoons of fresh ground love in my eggs?"

That's what cooking is all about and Dyan Garris has perfectly illustrated it in Voice of the Angels Cookbook. This book is visually beautiful, with over 100 easy to follow recipes, and the pages are peppered with commentary about love, relationships and food.

Oh! and be sure to read the story about Johnny and Susie at the end of the book!
(August 22, 2007, pp 157, $19.95)

Monday, November 26, 2007

Book Review - Sexiest Man Alive by Diana Holquist

Sexiest Man Alive
Diana Holquist
ISBN # 978-0446617987

"Jasmine Burns’s One True Love as destined by Fate is named Josh Toby. Of course, he might not be THE Josh Toby, the biggest movie star of the decade. After all, a shy girl like her could never be loved by a movie star like him? Could she?"

You should never judge a book by its cover. If I had to guess what would be found in the pages of Sexiest Man Alive, I would assume shallow characters and lots of sex, and I would have been terribly mistaken. I would have missed out on a great story, as well.

Jasmine and Toby are polar opposites when it comes to personality, but not so much regarding their core values. Add in a quirky, supposedly psychic sister, a patient and kind librarian, and a manipulative wanna-be girlfriend - and an ecclectic romantic comedy is born. This book is a terrific study of people's insecurities and the confusion that ensues when fear gets in the way of honesty.

I'll probably be stuffing someone's stocking with this deliciously funny book!
(October 1, 2007, pp 352, $6.99)

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Interview - Michael Simon, author of The Last Jew Standing

Today's 5 Q&A is with Michael Simon, author of The Last Jew Standing: A Novel.

1.) Who are you?

Born in Levittown, Long Island, the birthplace of mass-produced housing, Michael Simon is a former actor, playwright, and Texas probation officer. He has taught at Brooklyn College and New York University.

In 2004, Viking published his first novel, Dirty Sally, which introduced Dan Reles, a half-Jewish, New York Mafia-born Texas homicide detective. Dirty Sally was lauded by The Chicago Tribune as “A bloody and intriguing delight for noir aficionados.” The Seattle Times called it “the finest crime-novel debut since Dennis Lehane’s A Drink Before the War in 1994.” It was named one of the Top Ten Thrillers and Mysteries of the Year by

In 2005, the second book in Simon’s Texas series, Body Scissors, was published, also to critical acclaim. The Rocky Mountain News called it, “Fast paced and suspenseful from start to finish.”

Viking signed on for two more Dan Reles thrillers, Little Faith (2006) and Last Jew Standing (2007).

To date, Simon’s works have appeared in Swedish, French, Italian, Japanese, and on audio tape.

He lives in New York City.

You can read more about him and his books at

2.) What do you like best about crime/thriller/mystery writing?

Paul Edwards wrote that I use “the conventional form of detective fiction as a platform for social satire and an often grotesque vision of human behavior.” While there’s plenty of room for variation within these forms, once you introduce a detective, there are certain expectations, beginning with a corpse at the beginning and a solution at the end. Working within these expectations, meeting them, varying them, delaying gratification, gives me a lot of freedom in other areas, such as those Edwards describes.

3.) Have you ever considered writing in a different genre? Horror or Sci-Fi, maybe?

In spite of the level of violence in my first book, Dirty Sally, I can’t imagine writing horror. Sci-fi is a possibility. Working in the realm of the future, or a place just beyond the edge of scientific likelihood, opens up dramatic (and comedic) possibilities you don’t find in the natural world. Think of the TV show “Third Rock from the Sun,” my favorite work of science fiction.

4.) Who are your favorite writers?

Raymond Chandler, Dashiell Hammett, James Cain, Jim Thompson, Vladimir Nabokov, Grace Paley, Kevin Baker. In no particular order.

5.) What's next?

An extended break.

Thank you so much, Michael!

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Book Review - The Last Jew Standing by Michael Simon

The Last Jew Standing: A Novel
Michael Simon
Viking Adult
ISBN # 978-0670063246

"Lieutenant Dan Reles has a new house, a wife, and a son, and a great career as head of Austin Homicide, but it’s funny how your past catches up with you. When Dan’s deadbeat father Ben Reles, a Mafia legbreaker who’s spent the last twenty years on the run, shows up on Dan’s doorstep with an escaped prostitute in tow, trouble is sure to follow."

The opening paragraphs of this book are amazing! Michael Simon hooks the reader from the first word and demands your attention until the very last page. I saw the entire story in my head as if I were watching one of the old black and white detective movies. You know, the ones where the door has the P.I.'s name etched into the frosted window glass, the door opens and some gorgeous dame walks in asking for help.

The Last Jew Standing reminded me of the old saying "Live fast, die young and leave a great looking corpse." - it's a fast paced, action packed piece of work. Fasten your seatbelts, it's gonna be a fantastic ride, oops, read!
(August 16, 2007, pp 304, $25.95)

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Interview - Sheila Roberts, author of On Strike for Christmas

Today's 5 Q&A is with Sheila Roberts, author of On Strike for Christmas

1.) Who are you?

I am a writer and a musician (played in bands for years, had a singing telegram company - if there was an unusual way to make money I found it). I am a happily married woman with a great family and very cool and fun friends. I love to dance, play volleyball, and have company over to play cards and crazy party games. And I love the holidays. I am the prototype for Joy in On Strike.

2.) What was the impetus behind the idea for On Strike for Christmas?

Actually, it was a naughty husband. My hubby was not showing the proper Christmas spirit one year so I threatened to put him in a book. He is the prototype for Bob Robertson, aka, Bob Humbug.

3.) Do you have a Christmas horror story? Forgot to turn on the oven, dropped the mashed potato bowl just before you got to the table, that sort of thing?

We have enjoyed many memorable Christmases. Probably the best one was when our car got stuck in second gear as we were leaving my brother's house on Christmas eve. We had to drive 25 miles at 20 miles an hour - every back road known to man. I was not a happy camper. I still had stuff to do!!! Anyway, we got home around two in the morning. It was the only year the kids slept in on Christmas Day.

4.) What will you be asking Santa to bring you this Christmas?

A healthy and happy new year for my family and friends. And, if there's room to fit it in the sack, I'd love a Wii game. I hear they've come out with a version of Dancing with the Stars. Sadly, gaming may be the closest I ever come to getting on the show. I really think they need an author on there, don't you?!

5.) What's next?

Look for my next book with St. Martin's Press, BIKINI SEASON, which will be out this coming May (2008). I should have an excerpt up on my website in January. Meanwhile, anyone who has read ON STRIKE FOR CHRISTMAS is welcome to pop on over to my website ( and enter the contest we've got going. Winner will get Godiva chocolates. So, that's probably it in a nutshell. Thanks again so much for having me. Happy holidays.

Thanks so much, Sheila!

If you'd like to know more about Sheila Roberts and her book, please visit Sheila's Place.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Book Review - On Strike for Christmas by Sheila Roberts

On Strike for Christmas
Sheila Roberts
St. Martin's Griffin
ISBN # 978-0312370220

Even if you can't do it better, do it yourself!

The members of the knitting group come to this consensus after a bitch fest about the monumental task of preparing for Christmas. They throw in the reindeer motif tea towel, and leave all of the details to their husbands. Many times the strike almost ends, due to the womenfolk desperately missing years long traditions, and the men feeling lost and incapable. The hilarity - and clarity - that ensues will have you laughing out loud, tearing up a little and recognizing yourself in at least one of the characters.

If you're feeling overwhelmed by the holidays, and a little less than jolly, make some time to read On Strike for Christmas. Sheila Roberts reminds us that Christmas is not about getting, it's about giving. Sharing our talents, our gifts, and our love with others is what life is all about.
(October 30, 2007, pp 352, $13.95)

Friday, November 16, 2007

In Review

Yesterday, I finished reading the last of four books for review. I'll have two reviews posted next week, and two the following week. I'm hoping to have interviews with the authors, as well.

I've been fortunate to receive good books to review. I've been even more fortunate to work with awesome people who happen to be authors. Every one of them has been gracious, kind and forthcoming with their answers to my questions.

I'm curious. Do those of you reading like what I've been doing with this blog? It started out as a push to write something (anything) five days out of seven. It's turned into a book review - author interview - place to write about what I love most - reading and writing.

Is there anything else you'd like to see here? Please let me know.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

It's a conspiracy, I tell ya...

I very seriously considered applying for a job, a month ago, with our local police department. Decent pay, no commute costs (I could have walked to work) and I would've sported a sharp looking police type uniform. The week I planned on dropping off my application, four people in my house came down with Strep Throat.

I am incredibly happy I decided not to put my name in the hat. I have had at least one kid home from school, once a week, since. With four kids, keeping a "real", out of the house job seems to be an impossibility.

The reason I bring this up is my youngest son was home yesterday. He woke up with a queasy tummy. He never vomited once during the day, but last night was a different story. He was sick, off and on, from 12:30 until 3:00 this morning. We both finally settled down to sleep about an hour before my husband got up for work.

He's feeling better this morning, but I couldn't send him to school. He'll be exhausted by noon, and the school doesn't want my little darling back until 24 hours after the last "vomiting episode" - which wasn't at seven this morning.

I'm heading to the kitchen to search for toothpicks, to hold my eyelids open until mid-morning. Then, my littlest boy and I will crawl into my warm blankets, snuggle up together and sleep (hopefully) for a couple of hours before the rest of the troops show up around three.

Faith, family, career.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Book Sales Up In September

According to Publisher's Weekly, bookstore sales rose for the third consecutive month in September, increasing 2.7%, to $1.56 billion, according to preliminary estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau.

This is good news!

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

And you can quote me...

Jim Melvin asked me if he could use part of what I said in my review of The Pit, Book One of The Death Wizard Chronicles on the back of Book Three. Who am I to deny a good man a small favor?

So, if you click on the above image, you can see my words and name on the back of Jim's book, entitled Eve of War. It'll be available for purchase in a few more days.

Monday, November 12, 2007

That's all she wrote.

It's been cold here at night. We held off on using the furnace until the very end of October. When we woke up to a 58 degree house, we fired her up.

I walked into the bathroom Saturday night and discovered the window was open. Not a big deal in and of itself, but I realized it was quiet. No crickets chirping, no cicadas screaming, no kid voices drifting on the breeze. It's over, folks. No matter how warm the days are, Summer is gone and Autumn is damn close to climbing on the bus, too.

It was a great run here in Southern Minnesota. A long growing season provided an excellent harvest. We had more than enough produce for our family, and our friends, and our friends' get the picture. We pulled the last carrots and harvested the herbs a couple weeks ago. The gardens are now covered in a gentle blanket of golden straw, soon to be insulated with snow.

This time of year always finds me torn. I know, that like us, nature needs to rest. A quiet time to breathe and rejuvenate. But, as the days grow shorter and people begin to cocoon in their homes, I feel melancholy and a little lonely.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Still here, lots of reading and gifts from the muse

Lots happening here over the last few days.

We were gifted with a quarter of a deer. This is not a lot of meat, but more than we expected. We helped with the butchering and it brought back memories of hunting season when I was a girl. I'll probably write upon that sometime in the coming week.

I have more books going right now at one time than I ever have. Reading them, not writing them. I should be caught up with the required (book review) reading by Wednesday and then I'll dive into the chosen reading. I found a few books at Goodwill yesterday that I've been dying to read.

Husband and kids were home Thursday and Friday, so it's been a long weekend. Busy, productive and chaotic.

I'm looking forward to the silence that will descend tomorrow at about 8 a.m.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Interview - Owen King, author of We're All In This Together: A Novella and Stories

Today's 5 Q&A is with Owen King, author of We're All In This Together: A Novella and Stories.

1.) Who are you?

I'm a graduate of Vassar College and I hold an MFA from Columbia University, but above all I'm a proud product of the Maine public school system! In 2005 I published my first book, WE'RE ALL IN THIS TOGETHER, a novella and short stories. I live in New York.

2.) Is writing a compulsion or a choice for you?

This is a tough question. I guess writing is a compulsion for me in the sense that because I've never been particularly good at anything else, I feel compelled to do the one thing that I'm reasonably capable at in order to justify my place in the universe. By the opposite token, every time I write I have to make a conscious decision to sit down and really dig into it. That's not always easy.

3.) Do you feel that - like any other talent (singing, acting, dancing, painting) - the ability to write and/or tell stories is genetically passed down through generations?

Genetics is completely beyond my purview, I'm afraid! I can say that I believe that stories are necessary for every generation, to try and make sense of the way we live, and to entertain, and to pass the time.

4.) How do you like to spend your spare time?

I read a lot, and when it's baseball season most of my spare time is dedicated to following the Red Sox. Ooops. I mean, THE WORLD CHAMPION BOSTON RED SOX!

5.) What's next?

I'm co-editing (with the novelist, John McNally) an anthology called, WHO CAN SAVE US NOW? It's a collection of stories about brand new superheroes by literary writers and it's due from the Free Press in the summer.

Thank you so much, Owen!

To learn more about Owen King, and his book, please visit his website at

Monday, November 5, 2007

News Flash!!

The first flurries of the winter are falling as I type. When I walked to the bus stop to meet my son, I could smell it on the air. I had told my husband we'd get our first snowflakes right around my birthday. I was right!!!

I love the first snows of the season. By February, I've had quite enough, but right now, I'm giddy!

Book Review - We're All In This Together by Owen King

We're All In This Together: A Novella and Stories
Owen King
Bloomsbury USA
ISBN # 978-1582345888

George is the 15-year-old son of a single mother. Al Gore has just lost the 2000 election, at the mercy of the Electoral College. His mother is planning to re-marry and his former union organizer grandfather is waging a paintball war against the local paperboy, whom he assumes is defacing a huge poster of Al Gore on his front lawn. George tries to prevent the wedding and help his grandfather catch the neighborhood vandal.

Obviously, there's more to this story - so much so, in fact - that this novella feels like a full length novel. King has a way of drawing you in, and then throwing in a small detail capable of bringing about a huge revelation. It's almost as if he's checking to see if you're really paying attention.

The short stories are good in their own right, but will leave you wanting more.

It's tough to be an adolescent, but even harder when every member of your family has an agenda, and you find yourself going with the flow, not quite sure how it will all turn out. Owen King, in an elegantly understated style, has shown what it is to be a teenage boy on the cusp of manhood, trying to navigate a world gone mad and a dysfunctional family.
(July 2006, pp 242, $13.95)

Friday, November 2, 2007

Paid Reviews

From what I've been reading, there has been some controversy regarding paid reviews on blogs. I thought I'd talk about how and why I do book reviews.

For the record, I do NOT get paid to write book reviews. I usually receive an ARC (Advanced Reader Copy) or a .pdf file. I read the book, I think about it for a day or so, and then I give my opinion. If I have a not-so-great opinion, I talk (via email) with the author and leave it up to them as to whether they want me to review it, or not.

I've been lucky. Most of the books I've read for review have been good, some very good. But, I am always honest. I do not give great reviews for a mediocre book. It smacks of false advertising, and I would be angry if someone did it to me.

I write book reviews because I love books. I read book reviews because I love books. Reading is like eating, sleeping and breathing to me. I don't know if I could live without books. I do the follow up interviews with the authors who have time, because I'm curious about the people who wrote the story.

So, all that having been said, it would be nice to make some money for the work I do. But, it won't be coming directly from reviewing books.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Freelance writing work - patience and keeping things close to the vest

So freelance writing requires many things...

ideas, lots and lots of ideas
did I mention patience?

I have some irons in the fire, but I can't really talk much about them until, oh, say, December. These are really exciting things and I want to sing about them from the rooftops, but until they actually come to fruition, I have to keep my mouth shut. I'm good at keeping secrets (ask any of my friends), but this is testing the limits of my sanity.

Just know that I continue to read and write and research, and I will share my accomplishments when I can.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Interview - Donna George Storey, author of Amorous Woman

Today's "5Q&A" is with Donna George Storey, author of Amorous Woman

1.) Who are you?

Hmm, I’ve been trying to figure this out for about forty years now, but I seem to be getting closer to an answer every day!

I was born in 1961 in tiny Elizabethtown, Pennsylvania, the youngest of three daughters. We moved around a bit for my father’s job, but finally settled in Washington, D.C. where my friends were the children of Congressional aides, Vietnamese “farmers” who somehow got important jobs at the State Department, and a lot of Korean and Taiwanese immigrants. That was my first taste of Asian culture. When I was a junior Princeton, I happened to see a bulletin board outside of my
Renaissance Poetry class advertising opportunities to teach English in Japan. As an English and creative writing major, I didn’t feel particularly employable, so I thought this might be a chance to see the world and support myself, at least temporarily.

I’d always been a rather timid, teacher-pleasing child, but my hidden adventurer came out after graduation when I bought a one-way ticket to Tokyo and set off with nothing but a year’s Japanese study and a wallet full of traveler’s checks. However, I think the Japanese gods were watching out for me, because I quickly found work at a small language school in Kyoto, started taking lessons in traditional Japanese dance with a wonderful sensei and made lots of friends of all ages. My “still waters run deep” personality seemed to suit the culture very well. I stayed for two wonderful years, then returned to the States to study Japanese literature at Stanford. I met my (American) husband in Japanese class there—sometimes we still speak to each other in Japanese when we don’t want the kids to understand!

My priorities shifted a bit when my first child was born. By then I had a Ph.D. and a translation of the work of an obscure Japanese writer under my belt, but the academic life didn’t seem as appealing as it once had. I started trying my hand at essays and short stories during my son’s naps and quickly discovered that writing was the most compelling work I’d ever done. Also the most challenging! Sending out
work and collecting rejections is hard on the ego, but eventually it paid off. I’ve been writing for ten years now and have about sixty publications. My first novel came out this fall. I’m finally allowing myself to say I’m a writer—for many years I felt unworthy to claim that title. I hope this is an inspiration for writer soccer moms everywhere. It can be done with persistence.

2.) Were you hesitant to write erotica, or did you jump in with both feet?

I’d have to say that I walked gingerly to the pool, but once I got there I plunged right in. I’ve always been interested in what happens after the love scene fades to the burning candle. That’s when the really good part of the story begins, right? When I started writing fiction, erotic themes seemed to creep into every story in spite of myself. I really did try to resist. I wanted to write “literature”
not dirty stories. But even my literary stories tended to focus on sexual relationships and many of those did get published in serious journals. So eventually I began to look at my natural tendencies in a different way. There’s much debate about the distinction between erotica and pornography—some insist there is none. I’d argue that just as literary fiction encourages readers to question the status quo and
genre fiction soothingly confirms expectations, erotica tends to make us think about sexuality on a deeper level, while porn offers consequence-free escape. If we take a look at some of the most meaningful, dramatic, and exciting moments in our lives, sex is involved in many of those experiences. Yet it’s not something we can yet talk about freely in our society. Fiction is a place where we can slip inside someone else’s skin and work through our own issues through the character’s choices and conflicts. So, telling my “truth” about the female sexual experience through fiction isn’t something to be ashamed of—quite the contrary, it’s what literature is all about. I’m glad that more mainstream writers are tackling that theme—Barbara Kingsolver and Jane Smiley both recently published novels that deal more openly with sexuality and I hope there will be many more.

3.) What do you enjoy most about being an author?

For the first ten years of my writing life I’d say the part I loved most was bringing new characters and scenes to life in my head. I’d snatch a bit of dialogue from a conversation I overheard at a coffee shop, get back at an old boyfriend with an embarrassing (and untraceable) detail, convince my husband to act out a portion of a scene to make sure it was physically possible--the background research was fun, too. Eventually my creations would take on a life of their own and refuse to follow my plot and insist the story had to end a different way. But I’ll admit I liked ‘em feisty. Several of the characters in AMOROUS WOMAN refused to follow my plot outline and they earned my respect for it!

However, since my novel was released in September, I’ve discovered a new aspect of the writing life I really enjoy—connecting with my readers. I’ve occasionally received a note of appreciation for one of my stories in a journal or anthology, and that’s been wonderful. But AMOROUS WOMAN is all mine. When a reader tells me s/he enjoys and says s/he’s learned things about Japan, I am thrilled beyond words. I
realize now that before I was mainly focused on gaining an editor’s approval. What happened afterwards was beyond my control and I didn’t let myself worry too much about it. Now I’m very aware of my relationship with my readers. They’ve given me hours of their time in their busy lives and I’m very grateful for that.

4.) What do you like to do in your spare time?

With two young kids and several stories to attend to at any given moment, it doesn’t feel like I have much spare time! I do make time to take a brisk walk almost every morning before dawn. It’s really a form of walking meditation. I work out some of my life’s dilemmas and as well particular problems with my stories. That’s when I often get flashes of inspiration—a good ending line comes floating up in my head
or I realize a certain scene needs fleshing out and I figure out how to do that. I also enjoy cooking—my way of transforming drudgery into pleasure, perhaps. I recently signed up to get a weekly box of organic vegetables from a local farm and I’m really enjoying figuring out how to use each week’s goodies in our menu. It’s encouraged me to make up my own recipes, which is a lot like writing: scary, but when it works out, it’s pretty cool. My real specialty is cookies. In December I
make six different kinds—most of them multi-layered with almond paste and apricot jam or Dutch speculaas spices and brown sugar—and give oxes to my kids’ teachers and friends. They usually get good reviews but it takes three full days of baking! Absurdly time-consuming for what you get, but that’s rather like writing, too.

5.) What's next?

I’m brewing an erotic romance novel tentatively titled THE SECRET HISTORY OF LUST about a woman who meets a charming antique dealer with a mysterious room in the back of his shop that is open only to special customers. Her initiation into his secret vintage erotica club leads to a different kind of journey from AMOROUS WOMAN. This time it’s a trip to the past in America--Bettie Page photo clubs, Hollywood sex
scandals, the super-heated forbidden sex of a more repressed age. I’m having fun with the research and I hope that passion comes through in the novel. I think the author’s enthusiasm for her work does show.

Thank you so much, Donna!

If you'd like to know more about Donna and her book, Amorous Woman, please visit her website.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

55 Days 'til Christmas...

My husband and I have been discussing the Holidays. And that got me to thinking, books are a fantastic gift. Which then had me pondering what books would I get for my kids if they weren't already avid readers?

I made a list of the books I loved when I was a kid, and I thought I'd share it here.

In no particular order...

The Great Brain - a series of 8 books by John D. Fitzgerald.

My fifth grade teacher read aloud to us from this series of books. As soon as she started reading, everyone in the room paid attention.

Anne of Green Gables by L. M. Montgomery and Jennifer Lee Carroll - there are 8 in this series, as well.

Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder - 9 books in the series.

The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C. S. Lewis - a series of 7 books.

The Dark Is Rising by Susan Cooper - 5 book series.

Other books you might want to consider...
Junie B. Jones
Nancy Drew/Hardy Boys
The Babysitter's Club
Lemony Snicket

There's some terrific new YA fiction out now and coming soon. Keep your eyes open. If you're not sure what your kids, grandkids, nieces and/or nephews or your friends' kids would like to read, buy them a gift card to or Barnes and Noble. Check out the book club fliers that come home from school. You can find some amazing deals on books through Scholastic. I know there's another company that sells through school book clubs, but I can't think of it just now.

Let's raise some readers.