Monday, April 13, 2015

A Step Back in Time {+ Giveaway+}


Wicked Stitch by Amanda LeeIt’s a delight to welcome author Amanda Lee to Thoughts in Progress today to celebrate the release of WICKED STITCH, the eighth installment in her Embroidery Mystery series.

Here’s a brief synopsis of WICKED STITCH:

When murder strikes the small town of Tallulah Falls, embroidery shop owner Marcy Singer isn’t afraid of getting down to the knitty-gritty to clear her name.... 

        For most small-business owners in Tallulah Falls, the upcoming Renaissance Faire is a wonderful way to promote their specialty shops. For Marcy’s nemesis, Nellie, and her sister, Clara, it’s an opportunity to finally put Marcy and her shop, the Seven-Year Stitch, out of business. Apparently the sisters like to make grudges a family affair and have set up competing booths right next to Marcy’s at the Ren Faire.
        When Clara is discovered dead in her own booth—strangled by the scarf she had almost finished knitting—Marcy becomes the prime suspect. Now she has to do whatever it takes to keep her reputation from unraveling—and get to the bottom of a most deadly yarn....


Please join me in giving a warm welcome to Amanda who is here to talk about ‘A Step Back in Time’ and has a giveaway to share with us. Welcome, Amanda.

Have you ever been to a Renaissance Faire or a living history museum? I’ve been to both, and I find them fascinating. At the Renaissance Faire I attended with my family many years ago, my son was knighted Sir Scooby of Doo (because he was wearing a Scooby Doo shirt) by the queen. In lieu of a sword, she used a plunger. Minstrels played unusual instruments—one even played crystal water glasses. I talked plays with William Shakespeare, watched a chess match in which the playing pieces were human, and wandered through booth after booth of wares. The costumes were beautiful, fun, or both. 

The living history museum we visited was a working farm set in 1791. We learned about eighteenth century cooking tools and techniques in the log cabin’s kitchen. A costumed tour guide spoke of President Washington and asked what we thought of that upstart Andrew Jackson. I said I believed he’d become President one day, and the woman scoffed. We attended demonstrations of weaving, learned about the dye, medicinal, and culinary plants grown in the garden, and saw the Cotswold sheep.

In WICKED STITCH (an RT Top Pick!), embroidery shop owner Marcy Singer is thrilled to be taking part in a two-week Renaissance Faire. Tallulah Falls residents will be able to reside in the time of William Shakespeare’s Macbeth. The RenFaire’s attractions are centered around the play, even down to Hecate and the three witches who are on hand to divine the future for faire-goers. 

Clara, a petty woman who has opened a competing shop next door to Marcy’s shop, the Seven-Year Stitch, has been assigned the booth next to Marcy’s. When Marcy comes to set up her booth, she peeps into Clara’s spot and realizes that something isn’t right. Clara is lying on her side in an overturned rocking chair. She has been strangled to death with the scarf she’d been knitting. Now Marcy has to get to the bottom of this most deadly yarn.

GIVEAWAY:

Readers please comment below on your experiences in “stepping back in time” for a chance to win a signed copy of WICKED STITCH
International readers will have the chance to win an eBook copy of WICKED STITCH gifted from their retailer of choice.

Amanda, thanks for joining us today and sharing your experience stepping back in time. I’ve attended Renaissance Faires in both Georgia and Texas and enjoyed them very much.

Now for those who aren’t familiar with Amanda, here’s a bit of background on her.

Amanda Lee (also writing as Gayle Trent) writes the Embroidery Mystery series which features a heroine who recently moved to the Oregon coast to open an embroidery specialty shop. 

Marcy Singer left her home in San Francisco, along with the humiliation of being left at the altar, in order to move to Tallulah Falls and realize her dream of owning her own shop. She takes along her faithful companion, a one-year-old Irish wolfhound named Angus O’Ruff. She makes many new friends in Tallulah Falls, but she also makes a few enemies. Thankfully, her best friend Sadie MacKenzie and her husband Blake run the coffeehouse right down the street from Marcy’s shop, the Seven-Year Stitch; and Detective Ted Nash always has her back.

Publishers Weekly says, “Fans of the genre will take kindly to Marcy, her Irish wolfhound, Angus O’Ruff, and Tallulah Falls. This is a fast, pleasant read with prose full of pop culture references and, of course, sharp needlework puns.”

For more on Amanda and her writing, visit her website.

Now for my thoughts on this entertaining mystery……

Author Amanda Lee combines humor, suspense, murder, friendship, and a touch of romance for a well-blended story in her latest release, WICKED STITCH.

The small town setting adds charm and a touch of realism to the story. With vivid descriptions, Lee places the reader in the middle of the fun and excitement. The story flows smoothly at a good pace.

The characters are well-developed and likable. The bond among the friends is realistic and adds depth to the story. The pet tie-in is a wonderful touch readers can relate to.

While the story features an embroidery shop, readers don’t have to have a fondness for the hobby to enjoy the story. In addition, WICKED STITCH can be read as a standalone even though it is the eighth installment in the series. Lee gives just enough background new readers won’t be in the dark and returning fans won’t be bored with too much repeated information.

This delightful story will pull you in quickly and hold you spellbound for an entertaining read.

Wicked Stitch by Amanda Lee, Embroidery Mystery Book #8, Obsidian, @2015, ISBN: 978-0451467409, Paperback, 336 Pages 

FTC Full Disclosure – A copy of this book was sent to me by the publisher in hopes I would review it. However, receiving the complimentary copy did not influence my review. The thoughts are completely my own and given honestly and freely.

Thanks so much for stopping by today during Amanda’s visit. Be sure to comment about your experiences in “stepping back in time” for a chance to win a signed copy of WICKED STITCH.


*This post contains affiliate links.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

The Black Widow by Wendy Corsi Staub


coverIf you have every considered using an online dating service, author Wendy Corsi Staub’s latest novel may have you reconsidering that option.

Staub’s release, THE BLACK WIDOW, is the third installment in her Social Media series, but is a standalone book.

Narrator Allyson Ryan does a superb job giving distinct voices to all the characters. Her inflections and varied pace enhances the tension and emotions of the characters as the story is told.

Gaby Duran is trying to come to terms with the loss of her child and the divorce from her husband Ben that followed. At the urging of her cousin, Gaby decides to try an online dating service. At the same time, Ben has also decided to try the same service. 

The couple, who still has feelings for one another, cross paths through the service. Meanwhile, Alex is on the same site and has a definite agenda when it comes to meeting someone new.

As the story unfolds, a number of men who have used the service simply disappear. It seems the disappearances occur every three months on a Friday. Mix in a pregnant woman, a couple of dedicated cops investigating the disappearances, and several unique dating service clients and you have a story filled with suspense, twists and turns, and intrigue.

When Ben is seen with a woman under suspicious circumstances and later can’t be reached, Gaby is determined to find answers and put her life back on track.

Staub blends suspense, modern culture and technology, romance, and heartbreak into an electrifying thriller you can’t put down or turn off. The story will keep you guessing as it holds you spellbound.

The characters are well developed and realistic. They embody people you may know and have traits you can relate to.

THE BLACK WIDOW will have you looking at things differently as you wonder ‘what if?’ The story flows smoothly and quickly with heart-stopping results.

The Black Widow by Wendy Corsi Staub, Social Media Series Book #3, Narrated by Allyson Ryan, Harper Audio, @2015, ISBN: 978-1481533355, Unabridged, Run Time: 11 Hours and 5 Minutes 

FTC Full Disclosure – A copy of this audio book was sent to me by the publisher in hopes I would review it. However, receiving the complimentary copy did not influence my review. The thoughts are completely my own and given honestly and freely.

Thanks for stopping by today. Hope you’re having a wonderful Saturday. Have you ever used an online dating service or known someone who did? If so, were the results good or a bad experience? 

*This post contains affiliate links.

Friday, April 10, 2015

A Heart Revealed by Josi S. Kilpack


A Heart Revealed by Josi S. KilpackI’m delighted today to be participating in the Shadow Mountain Publishing virtual book tour for author Josi S. Kilpack’s new Proper Romance, A HEART REVEALED.

For years, Josi has taken readers on an adventure as they followed Sadie Hoffmiller through a series of murders, secrets, and escapades. With the completion of her twelve-book culinary mystery series she’s decided to take readers on a new adventure. Set in Regency England, Josi explores the complicated family life of Amber Marie Sterlington and her romantic path to a man who offers her unconditional love.

Here’s my thoughts on it …….

When it comes to Regency Romance novels, readers have a pretty good idea how the story is going to go. However, author Josi S. Kilpack blends a couple of new twists into her latest release, A HEART REVEALED.

Amber Marie Sterlington knows exactly what she wants in a husband – a title and a fortune. She isn’t concerned about love. Being the Rage of the Season in London, Amber has her pick of men and lets everyone know it.

Meanwhile, Thomas Richards, the lowly third son of a country lord, has come to London to find a proper wife. He’s looking for a woman that can carry on a decent conversation with him about events of the day. He sees Amber at several events, but knows she would never look twice at him.

When Amber’s social standing is threatened and she’s exiled to Yorkshire, she begins to see life in a different way. Befriended by Thomas, life for both begins in change in ways they had not imaged.

Kilpack has crafted complex characters that are realistic and show great depth. The Regency-era setting of London quickly draws you in. The author brings the setting to life through her vivid descriptions and character activities.

A HEART REVEALED moves at a steady pace to hold your attention. The romance is sweet and the story will have you smiling.

A Heart Revealed by Josi S. Kilpack, A Proper Romance, Shadow Mountain Publishing, @2015, ISBN: 978-1609079901, Paperback, 336 Pages 

FTC Full Disclosure – A copy of this book was sent to me by the publisher in hopes I would review it. However, receiving the complimentary copy did not influence my review. The thoughts are completely my own and given honestly and freely.

About the Author:

Josi S. Kilpack is the award-winning author of more than twenty novels, including the twelve-volume Sadie Hoffmiller Culinary Mystery Series.

For more on Josi and her writing, visit her website.

Thanks for stopping by today. I hope I’ve enticed you to check out A HEART REVEALED. Do you enjoy a good romance from time to time?

*This post contains affiliate links.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

WRiTE CLUB 2015


WRiTE CLUB 2015 Logo DFW
I’m thrilled today to welcome author DL Hammons to Thoughts in Progress to talk about a wonderful event that has just begun – WRiTE CLUB 2015. This is an amazing opportunity for authors and those wishing to break into writing.

Please join me in welcoming DL as he tell about WRiTE CLUB. Welcome, DL.

Thank you for giving me the opportunity to hijack your blog today Mason, and talk about WRiTE CLUB. It’s a contest that’s near and dear to my heart, and as soon as I introduce it to your readers, it will be to them as well. This year the contest turns wooden – and goes syndicated! 

That’s right, it’s the five year anniversary of the “little contest that could”. But more importantly, a rumored association with the DFW Writers Conference is happening! That means lots of exciting changes which I’ll be detailing below. 

First off, let me explain what WRiTE CLUB is? What started off as a modest writing competition, whose inspiration was loosely derived from the movie FIGHT CLUB, has grown into a writing community sensation. There are numerous versions of this concept floating around the internet, but nothing like we do it here. This unique approach, combined with visitor participation, continues to set it apart from the other writing competitions and is responsible for its phenomenal growth. Its essence embodies simple, good-natured competition, with lots and lots of fun sprinkled on top.

Over the course of ten weeks I hold bouts in which the winners will advance to elimination rounds, and then play-offs, which will ultimately lead to a single champion. Bouts between who…or what…you ask? Anonymous 500 word writing samples, submitted under a pen name by anyone who wishes to take part, that’s who. The writing can be any genre, any style (even poetry) with the word count being the only restriction. It’s a way to get your writing in front of a LOT of readers, without having to suffer embarrassment or the agony of exposure. How cool is that?

And the winners of each bout are determined by WRiTE CLUB readers!

So what’s at stake…other than exposure? In previous years the most exciting part was the winner of the final round was chosen by a panel of publishing industry professionals! Agents, Editors, Publishers, Marketers, and well-known Authors! Check out their bios on my website (in alphabetical order by last name). But that was before. Now, the WRiTE CLUB Champion will be announced during the DFW Conference, receive a three-chapter critique of their work by several of the judges – and – FREE ADMISSION TO THE DFW CONFERENCE IN DALLAS FOR 2016. That is a $400 value and an experience that cannot be missed! Wait, that’s not all – both finalist will also receive a $75 Amazon gift card!

Are you bouncing up and down with excitement, wondering how to submit your sample? Just visit my blog - http://www.dlhammons.com/2015/03/write-club-2015.html -- and all the rules and procedures are there.

How do I maintain the anonymity? My wife is the only one monitoring the email address where submissions are sent she logs in every entry and assigns a number – then remove the writer’s name.

Submissions are open from now until April 30th. After that date a panel of a dozen judges will read all of the entries and pre-select 40 of the best writing samples to climb into the ring.

You are allowed to enter up to three different writing samples – all in separate entries under the same pen name – but only one will be eligible to become part of the 40 contestants. 

Last year we had 168 entries, so just getting selected to participate in the contest is reason to celebrate in itself. 

The 40 participants will then be randomly matched to compete beginning on May 18th (see the schedule below), with everybody hoping to make it into the play-off rounds and moving towards the ultimate goal – WRiTE CLUB Champion. No one (other than my wife)…not even the judges being used to pre-select the 40 contestants, will see the true identity of any sample.
schedule
Here’s the list of our celebrity judges this year:
Lauren Oliver, Russell C. Connor, Sarah Negovetich, Christopher Rhodes, Dawn Frederick, Marisa A. Corvisiero, Ella Kennen, Shannon Hassan, Michelle Johnson,Lydia Mo√ęd, Katelyn Detweiler, Cheryl Pientka, Laura Maisano, Tex Thompson, Dan Koboldt.
 
Are you willing to WRiTE for what you want? Then crack those knuckles and get ready to flex that imagination. And whatever you do, tell your friends!

WRiTE CLUB – The contest where the audience gets clobbered! 

Thanks again, Mason!

DL, thank you for stopping by and sharing this wonderful opportunity with the readers of Thoughts in Progress. This is a fun event for writers and readers.

Thanks everyone for stopping by today. If you’re an author or would like to give writing a try, be sure to sign up now.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Challenges of a Long-Running Series {+ Giveaway}


Bittersweet by Susan Wittig AlbertIt’s a delight to welcome one of my favorite authors to Thoughts in Progress today to talk about her latest release, as well as the series I have followed from its start.

Author Susan Wittig Albert joins us to talk about the challenges of writing a long-running series such as her China Bayles Mysteries and to talk a bit about her latest release, BITTERSWEET.

Thanks to Susan and the lovely Danielle at Penguin Group, I have a print copy of BITTERSWEET to giveaway. Please see the end of the post for more details. Now please join me in giving a warm welcome to Susan. Welcome, Susan.

Writing a long-running series is a long-running challenge—an interesting challenge.

I’m sure that there are those of you who already know this and won’t be surprised. But when I began writing Bittersweet, I happened to look at the list of China Bayles mysteries and was shocked to notice that the book was #23 in the series. I mean, I knew that, at some level—after all, I wrote them. But still, twenty-three? Oh my gosh!

Thinking about this has reminded me, all over again, of the biggest challenge involved in creating a long-running series: creating familiar characters but keeping their stories fresh and unfamiliar.

Series mysteries have changed since I wrote China’s first mystery, back in 1991. Then, series characters, like Nancy Drew or Travis McGee, didn’t grow or change, even though the series had been going on for decades (the first Nancy was published in 1930). But by the time I wrote the fifth and sixth China mysteries, I had already decided that the series would have an arc: China would change. She would grow older, get married, gain a family, and rebuild her relationship with her mom. Ruby, China’s best friend and business partner, would change too, meeting a Wild Child daughter she didn’t know, falling in love with a dangerous guy, and becoming more comfortable with her psychic skills.

Now, in Bittersweet, China’s and McQuaid’s son Brian is a freshman in college, their daughter is twelve, and China’s relationship with her recently-remarried mother is secure enough so that she can look forward to a family Thanksgiving. Ruby is babysitting with her granddaughter, Baby Grace, so that her Wild Child daughter can get away for a few days.

But while China’s and Ruby’s relationship arcs help to provide stability, familiarity, and continuity in the series, too much of the same thing can get boring—for the author and (I suspect) for readers, too. To meet that challenge, I like to vary the settings of the books, add new central characters and new conflicts, and explore new themes.

In Bittersweet, China goes with her family to South Texas ranch country, for Turkey Day dinner at her mom’s Uvalde County ranch. There, she runs into an old friend, Mackenzie Chambers, a Texas Parks and Wildlife game warden. Mack is dealing with a new job assignment, an on-the-job mystery (involving a dead veterinarian, deer smuggling, and murder) and an off-duty romance with a hunky fellow lawman.

And, naturally, there’s the signature herb, American bittersweet, which has an evil twin (Oriental bittersweet) and an interesting story all its own. And there are recipes, too, of course.

I know that many series readers enjoy the familiarity of their favorite characters. But at the same time, I hope they’re challenged by the things that challenge me: getting involved in new conflicts, traveling to new and different places, exploring current issues, discovering new things about the plants we live with on this planet of ours. Bittersweet does all of that for me—I hope it will for you, too.

And I hope you’ll join me in looking forward to yet another China Bayles mystery, Blood Orange, in 2016. That will be #24.

Oh, my gosh.

Susan, thanks for joining us and sharing this look at writing a series. I have enjoyed how China has developed from book to book. It makes her, as well as the other characters, more realistic to me that she grows older right along with me.

Now for those who aren’t familiar with Susan, here’s bit of background on her:

New York Times bestselling author Susan Wittig Albert has written mysteries in four series: the China Bayles series; the Darling Dahlias; the Cottage Tales of Beatrix Potter; and a series of Victorian-Edwardian mysteries with her husband, Bill Albert, under the pseudonym of Robin Paige. 

She is the author of A Wilder Rose, the true story of the writing of the Little House books, two memoirs, and other works for adults and young readers. 

For more on Susan and her writing, visit her website.

Here’s a brief synopsis of BITTERSWEET:

This Thanksgiving, be grateful for China Bayles—who teams up with an old friend to solve a complex case of theft and murder in a South Texas ranching community…
        It’s Thanksgiving in Pecan Springs, and China is planning to visit her mother, Leatha, and her mother’s husband, Sam, who are enthusiastically embarking on a new enterprise—turning their former game ranch into a vacation retreat for birders. She’s also looking forward to catching up with her friend, game warden Mackenzie “Mack” Chambers, who was recently transferred to the area. But Leatha calls with bad news: Sam has had a heart attack.
        How will Leatha manage if Sam can’t carry his share? She does have a helper, Sue Ellen Krause. But China discovers that Sue Ellen, who is in the process of leaving her marriage to the assistant foreman at a large trophy game ranch, is in some serious trouble. Before Sue Ellen can tell China the full story, her car veers off a deserted road and she is killed.
        Meanwhile, when a local veterinarian is shot in what appears to be a burglary at his clinic, Mack Chambers believes his murder could be related to fawns stolen from a nearby ranch. As Mack follows the trail, China begins to wonder if Sue Ellen’s death may not have been an accident, and if there’s a connection to the stolen animals. But their search for the truth may put their own lives in danger…
 
Now for my thoughts on this entertaining book:

Author Susan Wittig Albert takes numerous elements and blends them together for an entertaining and suspenseful mystery that will keep you guessing until the end.

Albert combines mystery, murder, humor, friendship, and family with interesting herb tidbits and delicious recipes for a well-blended story. Her eye for detail and rich descriptions brings the Texas setting to life. Her knowledge of herbs enhances the story.

The characters are well-developed and continue to evolve with each new installment making them realistic and likable. The secondary characters add depth to the story.

Flowing at a steady pace, BITTERSWEET is filled with twists and turns. The suspense makes the story intriguing and hard to put down. The story can be read on its own without leaving new readers to the series in the dark.

Bittersweet by Susan Wittig Albert, A China Bayles Mystery Book #23, Berkley (Prime Crime), @2015, ISBN: 978-0425255629, Hardcover, 304 Pages 

FTC Full Disclosure – A copy of this book was sent to me by the publisher in hopes I would review it. However, receiving the complimentary copy did not influence my review. The thoughts are completely my own and given honestly and freely.

GIVEAWAY DETAILS:

This giveaway is for one print copy of BITTERSWEET. The giveaway is open to U.S. residents only and will end at 12 a.m. on Wednesday, April 15.

To enter, just click on the Rafflecopter widget below and following the instructions. The widget may take a few seconds to load, so please be patient. The winner from this giveaway will have 72 hours to respond after being contacted or another winner will be selected. The email will have ‘Thoughts in Progress Susan Wittig Albert’s Tour’ in the subject line, just so you know what to watch for (in case it goes into your spam folder).

Thanks so much for stopping by today during Susan’s visit. What are your thoughts on a long-running series? Do you enjoy that a protagonist changes and grows with each new book or had you rather they stay the same?

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Blessed Are Those Who Weep by Kristi Belcamino


Blessed Are Those Who Weep by Kristi BelcaminoOpening with a gut-wrenching scene, author Kristi Belcamino quickly pulls readers into her latest release, BLESSED ARE THOSE WHO WEEP, the third installment in her Gabriella Giovanni Mystery series.

Seasoned journalist Gabriella Giovanni finds more than she bargained for when she goes for an interview. She discovers five dead bodies and a baby sitting in the blood.

When the baby girl is taken out of Gabriella’s care by a social worker, she is determined to get to the heart of the tragedy. She follows leads to the end despite placing herself in danger in more ways than one.

Once again the author takes a riveting plot and places the reader in the middle of the action. The story is adrenaline-fueled, fast pace, hold you on the edge of your seat action from beginning to end. The author’s vivid descriptions and eye for detail brings the settings to life.

The characters are well-developed with flaws and desires readers can relate to. Gabriella is a strong protagonist with a heart for family and friends. The secondary characters add depth to the story.

Belcamino captures the conflicts of the journalist in Gabriella, as well as in her personal life. The author blends and weaves the storyline for an entertaining, suspenseful ride you won’t soon forget. 

BLESSED ARE THOSE WHO WEEP isn’t a book you can easily put down once you begin. This thriller will tug on your heartstrings as the action pulls you in deeper. New readers won’t be left in the dark if they start with this installment, but may find they want to know more about Gabriella and her life to the point they seek out the earlier installments. 

Blessed Are Those Who Weep by Kristi Belcamino, A Gabriella Giovanni Mystery Book #3, Witness Impulse, @2015, ISBN: 978-0062389398, Paperback, 320 Pages 

FTC Full Disclosure – A copy of this book was sent to me by the publisher in hopes I would review it. However, receiving the complimentary copy did not influence my review. The thoughts are completely my own and given honestly and freely.

BLESSED ARE THOSE WHO WEEP is slated for release May 19th, but can be pre-ordered now.

Thanks so much for stopping by today. I hope I’ve enticed you to check out Kristi’s new release, as well as her earlier books if you haven’t already read them. What would be your first reaction if you found a baby surrounded by dead bodies?

*This post contains affiliate links.