Sunday, January 31, 2010

Guest Blogger, Marvin D. Wilson

Please, join me in welcoming author Marvin Wilson, better known to many bloggers as The Old Silly, to Thoughts in Progress today as the special guest blogger.

Marvin is the author of three published books, I Romanced the Stone (Memoirs of a Recovering Hippie), Owen Fiddler, and Between the Storm and the Rainbow.

Marvin has joined us here today to talk about “Freedom through Discipline.” Marvin, if you will. …

I was able to go to college on a music scholarship. My father was a poor Christian minister, and had I not been born with the gift of music, the advantage of higher education would have been denied me. Thanks to my God-given talents, I was able to go. I was a music major with a thespian minor at Central Michigan University.  

At age eighteen, I thought I knew everything. I had talent, intelligence, youthful bold confidence and a brash attitude, and a social/political/religious view of our world (this was the late 1960s, mind you) that was one of ‘I know everything.’ And anyone who disagreed with me (especially my parents and any authority figures in the older generation, those despicable leaders of the hypocritical oppressive ‘Orwellian - big brother’ government of the times), were dead wrong.

I was a ‘Free Spirit,’ venturing forth into a brave new world that me and my Hippie friends were forging with our new lifestyle, our drugs, sex and rock and roll religion of freedom.

In my first year at college, I met Professor Stephen Hobson. He was my choir director and my private lesson voice coach. He looked to me to be in his late sixties. He was (well, he seemed to me at the time) stodgy and stiff, and a strict disciplinarian. He demanded of me a level of self-discipline and rigorous diurnal practice regimen that I was completely without the ability to understand, let alone adhere to.

One little flutter in-between voice registers, any tiny slippage in tonal and/or pitch control when singing my assigned lessons in his torture chambers he called a ‘practice room’ every Wednesday, and he would stop playing his piano accompaniment. He would look at me with this ‘you know as well as I that that was not good enough’ expression and demand that I try it again. Over and over … until I got it perfect. Perfect according to his obnoxious elitist opinion.

I couldn't stand that man. He was asking way too much of me, and for no good reason. I did not see the need for such a tyrannical imposition of discipline on me and my life, my singing, my anything. I was writing songs about freedom and liberty, gigging at night in my rock and roll band, getting over to thunderous applause at the hands of my Hippie peers, why did I need discipline?


I was a one-of-a-kind talent; my uninhibited, serendipitous, wild and natural style was destined to become the standard for future generations. Professors in decades to come would teach their students how to emulate me!

Ah, but those of you with any substantial life experience can guess the rest of the story. I never ‘made it’ as a big impact famous rock and roller. I eventually wound up playing for modest money in little disco bars, playing live jukebox cover tunes for young people to get drunk to and screw each other. But I had learned something along the way.


I learned that in order to become ‘free’ with anything, any pursuit, any hobby, any career, any craft, any aspiration of great accomplishment, you had to go through the discipline first. I never made it as a big name musician, but I did learn how to play my instrument. To this day, I am free when I pick up a guitar. I can express emotions, elevate my consciousness, get all heaven-bound and glorified, and anyone around me will experience the same thing I am feeling.

It's a miracle I can produce, at any time, in any place, on any guitar of reasonable quality. But it took a long, strenuous time of discipline to reach that plateau. Years and years of overcoming sore fingertips and blistered split open calluses, learning the scales, studying the modes, practicing the positions, emulating the recordings artists, getting so familiar with the neck I owned it as an extensions of my hand.

Towards the end of my bar-playing nightclub career, Professor Stephen Hobson came out to see my band. I had called him, letting him know we were playing in his town that week. Even so, I was surprised to see him in the audience—remember, this is a classical musician, a prim and proper professor, a patron of the fine arts, someone who goes to operas and symphony performances. For him to go to a dance club and listen to a top forty band was rather impressive.


And you know what? He was impressed with our performance. I went and sat at the table with him and his wife after the second set and he was beaming. He had wonderful accolades to bestow upon my ensemble and me, complimenting the vocals, the arrangements, our use of dynamics, and our overall command of our instruments. It was then that I told him what I had wanted to say for several years.

I told him that I finally understood what discipline meant, what its value was. I knew, I told him, that undertaking the arduous discipline of any given art or craft was the necessary and only way to get free within that art or craft. I expressed to him that I finally appreciated what he had been trying to get through to my thick headstrong skull all those years ago. I knew I had been a special student to him, he had a great amount of belief in my talent, and I also knew I had been a disappointment to him, because he never ‘got through to me’ when I was under his tutelage. I apologized to him for that shortcoming and assured him that his teaching had stuck with me all these years and had now been realized in my life and practice.

The now retired Professor Stephen Hobson's eighty-year-old eyes filled up. He said, and I quote, "Then my life, my career, has been worth it!" We hugged. Long and sincere. That was the last time I ever saw him. He died a couple years later. I will never forget Professor Stephen Hobson and what he taught me about applying discipline to my life in order to get beyond boundaries and break free.

It applies to relationships and marriage, to any career, to any sport, to any hobby, to any life pursuit whatsoever. If you want to eventually be free, you must initially go through the discipline. It may sound like an oxymoron, "Freedom through Discipline," it did to me as a young Hippie, but it makes perfect sense to me now. God bless and keep you, Professor Stephen Hobson. Your legacy, your teaching, lives on.

Marvin, thank you so much for sharing this wonderful story with us. Sometimes it is hard for us to understand that we do need discipline in our lives to strive and succeed.

For those who haven’t meet Marvin before, let me share some of his background with you. Marvin is a family man, married for 34 years, with three adult children and six grandchildren. He has been around the block of life several times, through the ups and downs, and has survived in good enough spirits to desire to write about life, to write about living life on purpose. Marvin is a self-described “non-religious, dogma-free, Maverick spiritualist Christian.” He writes books that deliver spiritual and inspirational messages in an engaging, thought provoking, often times humorous, more than often irreverent, sometimes sexy and even ribald way, through the spinning of an entertaining tale.

In addition, Marvin is an editor with All Things That Matter Press and does freelance editing as well. He is a prolific blogger, posting daily on his internationally popular blog at The Old Silly’s Free Spirit Blog. Marvin’s novel, Owen Fiddler, received the prestigious AVATAR award for excellence in spiritual books. He also has had articles published in multiple Ezines, and has been interviewed on hundreds of blogs, radio and TV shows, both over the internet and on the airwaves. He can also be found on Facebook and Twitter.

Here's a book trailer for Owen Fiddler, please enjoy

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Guest Blogger, Terry Spear

I'd like to give a warm and fuzzy welcome to author Terry Spear as the guest blogger at Thoughts in Progress today.

Wondering why fuzzy? Terry is the author of a werewolf series, as well as the creator of Wilde and Woolly Bears. It seems appropriate for her to be here today on a full moon to discuss werewolves. The fourth book in her werewolf series, "Legend of the White Wolf," is slated for release on Monday, Feb. 1.

Terry will be giving away a copy of "Legend of the White Wolf" to one lucky person who comments on her post between today and 8 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 5. The giveaway is open to U.S. and Canada residents. In addition, Terry will be dropping back by during the day to answer questions and respond to comments.

Terry can you tell us how werewolves fall under the heading of  "a Cad or a Dad?"

Thanks so much, Mason, for having me, and letting me talk a little about werewolves and their world!!
 

Most women, when asked, love to read about cads in romance stories—the pirate wanderer, the Highland warrior, the cowboy rustler. There’s something intrinsically exciting about someone who is involved in high stakes adventures, a little rough around the edges, and not one to settle down, that make us—sigh. But in reality, in real life, what they really want is a nice stable dad kind of guy.

But what about a hunky werewolf? 

He’s a mixture of both, don’t you think? He’s not a womanizer. Wolf morality gives him the necessary qualifications to stick by his mate through thick or thin. Wolf drives create a bond with his family, his offspring, so that he makes a darned good dad.
 

Even if he’s a little overbearing—a little possessive—a lot self assured, well, he’s also terrifically protective, and sexy, and committed.

You know, we can’t have everything, and trying to tame a wild wolf, is not in the cards. So if you want one--really, really want one--you’ll have to be every bit of a wolf yourself. He’ll love it, make your wildest dreams come true, take you places you’ve never been before. You’ll be ecstatic, feel as though you’ve harnessed the moon, released the more primitive side of your nature, and found heaven.

 So though the thought of having a cad as a guy in your life might not be a very good idea, a werewolf hunk could be. If he’s the right kind of werewolf hunk. You see, just like with human types, some werewolves are cads—bad, no-good types, who are just wrong for a woman. But a decent kind of a werewolf, well, he’s worth his weight, and then some, in gold.
 
In "Legend of the White Wolf," the fourth book in the werewolf urban fantasy romance series, the hero and heroine start out trying to solve a couple of mysteries, only they find themselves immersed in an even bigger mystery—the stuff of legends and myths.Only they become part of that whole world with no easy way out.

If you’re looking for a romance and adventure with a wolfish kind of guy in the dead of winter, check out "Legend of the White Wolf." Beware, you might just fall in love!

So what do you think? Want a hunk of a wolf? Thanks again, Mason, for having me! J


Well werewolves do fall under both headings, some are cads and some make wonderful dads. Thanks Terry for sharing this insight about werewolves with us.

For more information on Terry, her werewolf series, and the adorable Wilde and Woolly teddy bears she creates check out her Website at www.terryspear.com. She also participates in the following blogs: Wickedly Romantic, Casablanca Authors, Fierce Romance, Shapeshifter Romance, and Romance Author, Terry Spear.
In addition, she can be found on Facebook.

Be sure to watch for werewolves tonight as there is a full moon and that sometimes brings them out. :) Do you think werewolves are cads or dads?

Friday, January 29, 2010

Guest Blogger, Elizabeth Spann Craig

Please join me in giving a warm welcome to author Elizabeth Spann Craig as the guest blogger here today at Thoughts in Progress.

Elizabeth is the author of “Pretty is as Pretty Dies,” a Myrtle Clover Mystery and the first installment in her barbecue series, “Delicious and Suspicious” is slated for release in July. Elizabeth will be giving away a copy of her book to one lucky person who comments on her post between today and 6 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 4.

When I asked Elizabeth to guest blog here today, I also ask her to select her own topic.  I wanted to see what creative avenue she would choose. She has chosen one that will not only entertain you, but also enlighten you in the ways of the mystery genre.

Now join me as Elizabeth tells us about, “Nancy, Trixie, Scooby, Miss Marple, and Me.”

Nancy, with her titian hair (I remember looking ‘titian’ up in the dictionary), snazzy convertible, cool friends…and even a boyfriend(!) was the coolest person in the world to the second grade me. She was persistent and smart, inquisitive and brave, loyal—and able to get out of the scariest jams.

I was seven when I started reading mysteries. After Nancy, I flew through the whole Trixie Belden series, before moving on to Agatha Christie’s books. 

Even my TV viewing reflected my pull to the genre…Scooby Doo anyone? Scooby was actually a pretty amazing sleuth with the right motivation (Scooby Snacks.) 

What I learned from my mystery solving gang:

Sidekicks make you stronger: Nancy Drew, Carolyn Keene.  Nancy had a nose for trouble.  Although she’d get herself into jams, George and Bess were soon on the scene with some help.  And her friends were always there to bounce ideas off of.

Settings are important.  Miss Marple, Agatha Christie.  The village provided the perfect backdrop for murder.   With a limited number of suspects, the murderer was bound to be someone

everybody knew. And the reader was always reminded—danger is everywhere.  Even in small towns.

Crime investigation makes you a target. Scooby Doo.  Someone or something was always after those meddling kids.  And the chase sequences made me tune in week after week.

Flawed protagonists are fun.  Trixie Belden, Kathryn Kenny
. Trixie had a temper. Trixie was impetuous.  Trixie didn’t follow directions.  Did I mention how many years I enjoyed hanging out with Trixie in books?


No forensics are required. Miss Marple, Agatha Christie. A sleuth needs only a well-developed knowledge of human nature to connect the dots and solve the crime.

An innocuous appearance doesn’t hurt if you’re a sleuth. In fact, you can fly under the radar a lot easier.  Nancy, Trixie, Scooby, and Miss Marple. So, would you take teenage girls, an elderly lady, or a Great Dane seriously?  Neither did the authorities or the bad guys…something they regretted later.


These series not only made me an avid fan, but  also motivated me to try writing the genre myself—and taught me a lot about the components of fun, successful mysteries.

Elizabeth, I would have never thought of putting those characters together in a group but they make a wonderful combination. They are also great inspiration for the mystery genre. Elizabeth will be dropping back by during the day to answer any questions you might have and respond to your comments.

Now for a little background on her. Elizabeth’s “Pretty is as Pretty Dies” book was released in August 2009 by Midnight Ink. “Delicious and Suspicious” (written under her pseudonym Riley Adams) will be released July 2010 by Penguin. Elizabeth can be found at her blog Mystery Writing Is Murder and she is also a contributed to Mystery Lover’s Kitchen, as well as several other blogs.

Did anyone inspire you when you were younger to write mysteries. What are your thoughts on this sleuthing group? Be sure to leave a comment or question for Elizabeth for a chance to win a copy of her book.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Guest Blogger, Jennifer (J.B.) Stanley

Please join me in welcoming author Jennifer (J.B.) Stanley as a guest blogger today at Thoughts in Progress.

Jennifer has a new book just out, “Stirring Up Strife.” It’s the first book in her new A Hope Street Mysteries series.  She will be giving away a copy of her book to one lucky person who comments on her post between today and 6 p.m. (EST) on Wednesday, Feb. 3.  Sorry, but the giveaway is open to residents of the U.S. and Canada only.

In “Stirring Up Strife” readers get an extra bonus with a recipe section in the back of the book. Since her books share recipes, Jennifer is sharing her thoughts on exercising. Jennifer, how do you really feel about exercising?

Exercise is Dangerous!

It’s January and the gyms are full. I’ve been trying to keep up with a routine. Lift weights twice a week and do cardio three times a week. Things were cruising merrily along until my last session on the treadmill.

First of all, I hate treadmills. I prefer to walk and clumsily jog along outside. I prefer fresh air and the ability to ignore people while I suffer. The gym is filled with the scent of sweat and too many super-fit women in tight clothes. I never feel like I belong there.


However, it’s been so cold in Richmond (really, I’m talking in the 20s, folks. We’re supposed to be the mild South, not frigid South Dakota!) that I haven’t been able to exercise outdoors.

So I hop onto a treadmill, get my headphones set up, and plug into some awful techno music, which is supposed to motivate me into moving my rear. It did for about 15 minutes and then I started getting bored. I also started smelling something odd.


Yes, it was the scent of burning rubber. That’s a very distinctive smell and I wondered where it was coming from.

The man on the next machine started giving me weird looks and I thought, “Hey, buddy, I’m not making that odor.” But guess what? I was! Or, my machine was.

You see, I’d dropped my towel onto the treadmill and it had whisked along to the end of the conveyer part and gotten jammed. My towel was melting onto the rubber part of the belt!

I stopped the machine, confessed my crime to the unhappy trainers at the front desk, and slunk away in shame.

I went home, opened a book, and ate some cookies. Exercise is dangerous. Reading cozies is safe. Give mine a try if you need a little January inspiration!


WELCOME TO THE HOPE STREET CHURCH…where good folks study The Good Book, but everyone loves a good mystery!

Cooper Lee can repair a copy machine—but can she repair her life? That’s one of the many Big Questions that lead this newly single Richmond girl to Sunrise Bible Study at the Hope Street Church. Cooper hasn’t attended church in ages, but after getting dumped by her long-time boyfriend—and moving in with her family—she could use some new friends, and a new outlook on life. Happily, the members of the Bible group are anything but cookie-cutter, which suits Cooper just fine. There’s a blind folk artist, a playboy meteorologist, an investment banker with a sweet tooth, an ambitious realtor, and a cute shy web designer
who just might be “the one” for Cooper. But the member of Hope Street Church who invited Cooper to join this motley crew—an office worker who got her wedding ring stuck in a copier—is something else altogether: She’s dead And her husband is suspected of murder!

The Sunrise gang jumps into action, vowing to solve this unholy mess—with God’s guidance—and Cooper’s snooping…Includes heavenly recipes from Mrs. Lee’s kitchen!




Oh, Jennifer I don’t think I will ever look at a treadmill quite the same again. However, I'll agree that reading a cozy mystery while eating cookies is a perfect way to spend a cold winter day.

Jennifer will be stopping back by during the day to answer any questions you may have and respond to your comments.

Just a little background on Jennifer.  She has a BA in English from Franklin & Marshall College, an MA in English Literature from West Chester University, and an MLIS from North Carolina Central University. She taught sixth grade language arts in Cary, NC, for the majority of her eight-year teaching career. Raised an antique-lover by her grandparents and parents, Jennifer also worked part-time in an auction gallery. An eBay junkie and food-lover, she now lives in Richmond, VA, with her husband, two young children, and three cats. More information on Jennifer can be found on her Website www.jbstanley.com. She also blogs with the Cozy Chicks.

Jennifer also authors a Super Club Mystery series, as well as a Collectibles Mystery series. The next book in her Hope Street Church Mystery series will be “Path of the Wicked," and is slated for an April release.

What are your feelings on exercise? Does a good murder mystery story and a little sweet snack hit the spot for you?

*****
I have two winners to announce:
A.F. Stewart is the winner of Kim Smith's electronic copy of "Buried Angel." Please send an e-mail to mcbookshelf@gmail.com with your name and e-mail address so I can forward it for the giveaway.
Peg Brantley is the winner of Robin Burcell's "The Bone Chamber" giveaway. Please send an e-mail to mcbookshelf@gmail.com with your name and mailing address so I can forward it for your book.
Thanks to everyone who commented on both of these posts.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Wench by Dolen Perkins-Valdez

Many books have been written about the South and slavery, but “Wench” puts a little different view on the subject.
“Wench” deals with fact-based history and adds the thoughts and emotions of someone who could have experienced it firsthand.

The story is set in 1852 at a resort in Ohio called “Tawawa House.” This resort is used as a summer retreat for Southern plantation owners and their slave mistresses. This part of the story is based on actual documented facts.

From this, author Dolen Perkins-Valdez weaves a fictional heart-wrenching tale of four slaves mistresses and their “masters.” She explores the complex relationship of each slave and their reactions to the people around them and the events unfolding at the time.

The story focuses on Lizzie, her interactions with two other slave mistresses, Reenie and Sweet, and their encounter with a fiery red-headed slave named Mawu their second summer at the resort.

Lizzie sees her situation different from the others. She believes herself in love with her “master,” Drayle, and that he loves her. She has bore his only two children, one a son that bears his name. Drayle has taught her to read, has moved her into his main house, he treats her kinder than any of his other slaves, and he takes her to Tawawa House without his white wife.

Lizzie believes he will one day set their children free and they won’t grow up as slaves. She holds fast to this belief and hasn’t considered seeking freedom for herself when at Tawawa House even though there are freed slaves nearby.

A series of events come about changing the lives of all who associate with Tawawa House. The reader is taken on a journey of suspension, betrayal, longing, and denial as the final days of Tawawa House play out.

Ms. Perkins-Valdez has done an excellent job of combining fact and fiction into this emotionally charged story. This debut novel could easily be turned into a series following the lives of Lizzie and her children long after Tawawa House.

On a historical note: The real resort was closed in 1855 and sold to the Cincinnati Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church. They opened  the Ohio African University here in 1856. Today Wilberforce University is located on the site of Tawawa House. Wilberforce is the nation’s oldest, private, predominantly African-American university.

"Wench" by Dolen Perkins-Valdez; HarperCollins Publishers @2010; ISBN: 978-0-06-170654-7; Hardcover, 293 pages.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Guest Blogger, Dolen Perkins-Valdez

Join me in welcoming Dolen Perkins-Valdez, author of "Wench," as the guest blogger today on Thoughts in Progress.

Dolen is joining us today to give some background information on how she came to write "Wench." 

Dolen, could you tell us how your novel came about? Explain your historical footnote? 

My debut novel "Wench" began when I stumbled upon a fascinating footnote of history. While reading a biography of W.E.B. DuBois, I learned that during the 1850s, there was a summer resort near Xenia, Ohio, notorious for its popularity among slaveholders and their enslaved mistresses. I was stunned to learn this little-known historical fact. 

I decided to do a bit of historical excavation and learn more. At the time, it was very popular among the country's elite to visit natural springs. This particular resort opened in 1852, and became popular among southern slaveholders and their enslaved mistresses. I knew that Ohio was a free state and many of the northerners were abolitionists. Yet I was fascinated to learn that because they did not enjoy vacationing with the southerners and their slave entourages, they stopped coming and business declined. The place closed in 1855.
  
Most slaves did not leave written historical records. Yet I found myself entering an imaginative territory that would prove to be much more fertile than documents.

I began by asking myself the following questions: If the women entered free territory, why wouldn't they attempt to escape? Is it possible that they actually loved the men? As I made my way through draft after draft, I discovered that these were not questions easily answered. 

Even the answers I thought I would find turned out to be much more complicated than I'd imagined. The attachments these women had to their masters had many layers.  A 

As I approached the end of the novel, I myself did not know how my main character Lizzie would end it all. The journey of writing the book was probably as emotional for me as it has been for the readers who have e-mailed me about their captivating reading experiences of it. 

One question many people have about "Wench" is whether or not my character Lizzie was in love with her master Drayle. 

I don't know the answer to this question. I believe that love in the context of slavery is very, very difficult to draw a box around. Not only is it complicated in matters between slaves and their masters, but also between slaves and other slaves.  

The Irish poet W.B. Yeats wrote, "O love is the crooked thing. There is nobody wise enough To find out all that is in it." If this is true in contexts outside of enslavement, surely it is even more so in the context of the "peculiar institution."

Dolen, thanks so much for sharing this background with us. Historical facts can be so intriguing.

Now for a little background on Dolen. Her fiction and essays have appeared in The Kenyon Review, African American Review, PMS: PoemMemoirStory, North Carolina Literary Review, Richard Wright Newsletter, and SLI: Studies in Literary Imagination. She is a 2009 finalist for the Robert Olen Butler Fiction Award. A graduate of Harvard and a former University of California President’s Postdoctoral Fellow.

Dolen splits her time between Seattle and Washington, DC. She is a faculty member of the University of Puget Sound where she teaches Creative Writing.  "Wench" is her first book of fiction. You can visit Dolen’s website at www.dolenperkinsvaldez.com, her blog at www.dolen.blogspot.com or connect with her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/dolen.

Monday, January 25, 2010

‘What’s in a name?’

"What's in a name? That which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet."
Romeo and Juliet (II, ii, 1-2)
William Shakespeare (1594)


This line from “Romeo and Juliet” says a lot about how we perceive things. Would a rose smell as sweet to us if we called it a turnip? Your mind automatically says no, but then think what if that was all you knew it by. Then turnip would represent something sweet and beautiful. (Not that a turnip isn't already to some people).

A name sometimes tells us a lot about a person or thing, while other times it tell us nothing.

An example, most who read this blog may think Mason Canyon is a male. The name sounds masculine so it must be, right? If you’ve looked at the profile, you know different. I’m a female.

Why the masculine name then? I really didn’t think about it being masculine when I decided on it. Mason comes from the love and enjoyment of watching "Perry Mason" when I was growing up. Until I was a senior in high school, I wanted to be a lawyer but got sidetracked by journalism and when that route instead. Now I collect old editions of Earle Stanley Gardner's "Perry Mason" books. Canyon was the name of my first horse, Canyon Son. I just like the way the names went together so I’ve used that pseudonym for years when writing book reviews.
I decided to use the pseudonym writing my book reviews because they were separate from the hard news I normally wrote. It was a different part of my writing, so thus a new name.

If you read the two previous posts here, you were introduced to the ladies of the Mystery Lover’s Kitchen and noted that they use various pseudonyms depending on what they are writing and for whom they are writing. I think most authors follow that tradition.

Another quick example is Nora Roberts. When she writes what I call romantic, light-hearted novels, she writes as Nora Roberts. But when she writes the hard crime thriller featuring Eve Dallas, she writes as J.D. Robb. Same person, two names, two different styles of writing.

Now I don’t use a pseudonym because I’m an author. I use it because this blog is where I review books, feature authors, and discuss reading and writing. This type writing is what Mason Canyon does. Mason’s domain.

You can’t always judge a person’s gender by their name. I know five people named Terry. Four spell their name Terry and one Terri. Of those five only one (Terry) is a male. There was a lady I knew all of my life by the name of Dean, when she passed away I found out her real name was Nadine, but no one ever called
her that. So names can be misleading sometimes.

Talking about names, how much emphasis should a writer put on a character’s name?

Think about Scarlett O’Hara. Would that character have grown to the image it is today if she had been called Betty Smith (not that there’s anything wrong with that name)?
 What about Rhett Butler? Would women have swooned over the name Carl Jones (nothing wrong with that name either? Or is it that these characters were so strong that our images are based on that and really has nothing to do with their names?

I’m sure you can think of numerous names that bring visions of various books to mind instantly. But which came first - the name or the character? Is it the same with every book that author writes?

I’ve often wondered if an author selects names for their characters and then builds their description from that or do they have an image of how the character will look and a name comes to them as they write. In that case, I guess you’d say the character created their own name.

How hard or easy is it to create names for your characters? Do your characters hide behind names that don’t suit them or names that make them appear to be someone else? What is your method of naming your characters? Oh, a rose by any other name ......

*****
Now for the winners of the recent book giveaways. The winners have already been notified, but this is to let everyone else know who has won which books.

LOVE IN 90 DAYS: Brenda R. of Madison Heights, MI; Heather S. of Georgetown, IL; Rebecca G. of Fayetteville, TN; Victoria S. of Houston, TX; and Judy P. of Midwest City, OK.
SEDUCED BY A ROGUE: Ann C. of Sioux Falls, SD; Renee G. of Valleyford, WV; Joyce S. of Conroe, TX; Susan P. of Pembroke Pines, FL; and Nancye D. of Louisville, KY.
A BLACK TIE AFFAIR: Karen K. of Monessen, PA; Carol K. of Schertz, TX; Jemi F of Marie, Ontario; Joy H. of Saint Peters, MO; and Carolyn Y. of Fort Collins, CO.
CORKED: Janel G. of Freeland, MI; Stacey B. of Goldsboro, NC; Eleanor H. of Greenville, PA; Emily L. of Forest Lake, MN; and Amy S. of Glencoe, MN.
FUGITIVE: LSU Reader is the winner, please e-mail me at mcbookshelf@gmail.com with your name and address so we can send your book.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Six Lovely Ladies of Mystery, Part 2



The lovely ladies of the Mystery Lover's Kitchen blog are a diverse group, but with a number of similar characteristics. The ladies all write cozy murder mysteries, they all enjoy good cooking, all enjoy sharing recipes, and all their mysteries have a food based theme.


Let me reintroduce the ladies to you and the series they each write: Krista Davis, author of the Domestic Diva Mysteries; Julie Hyzy, author of the White House Chef Mysteries; Avery Aames, author of the Cheese Shop Mysteries, (aka Daryl Wood Gerber, author of medical and paranormal thrillers); Riley Adams, author of the Memphis Barbecue Mysteries (aka Elizabeth Spann Craig, the Myrtle Clover Mysteries); Jenn McKinlay, author of the Cupcake Bakery Shop Mysteries (aka Lucy Lawrence, the Decoupage Mysteries); and Cleo Coyle (who’s really the writing team of Alice Alfonsi and her husband, Marc Cerasin) author of the Coffeehouse Mystery series (aka Alice Kimberly, the Haunted Bookshop Mysteries).

As you can see, these ladies write under a variety of pseudonyms. Avery pointed out they do this because they each write in different genres, as well as work through different publishers; and/or “a whole sea of reasons.”

Whatever name they are writing under, each lady has developed some very unique protagonists. Combining the various characters together in one setting could lead to a scene out of a Mel Brooks movie, with a whole lot of good eats on the side.

When the ladies combined to do the Mystery Lover’s Kitchen blog, a vast array of taste also came together. I ask them what has been the worst thing about participating in the blog with each other.

Krista
, “I’m cooking more and putting on weight.”
Cleo, “As with any group, when it comes to major decisions that involve all of us, we try to come to a consensus of opinion. This can be a problem only because we are all very busy and we live all over the country. We’re lucky to have Krista as our ring leader. She’s been a great moderator of our e-mail discussions so we can come to decisions, make choices, and get things done.
Elizabeth, “The worst thing are days when I thought I had all the ingredients for the recipe I’m posting the next day…and then realize a trip to the store is in order. I have a seventh grade son and my ingredients keep mysteriously disappearing.”
Jenn, “Remembering to put in the right date when I post. I’m such a potato head about this, I have reminder Post-it notes all over the place with my correct date and time. I live in fear that I might wipe out someone else’s post, which would be very bad form.”
Julie, “Having to cook. My family loves it. I’ve had to research, cook, and photograph items to post on the blog each Tuesday and I’m not used to coming up with that many “original” meals that often. LOL. But if I’m being honest, I have to admit I’m enjoying the experimentation in great deal.”
Avery, “If I’m going to be out of town, the hardest thing is to remember to do the cooking and photo work before I leave so I can upload everything for the blog. But truly, that’s not so hard. My husband is really enjoying the variety in our meals. He’s even getting into setting up the food right on the plates so I take a good picture.”

The Mystery Lover’s Kitchen blog offers readers a lot more than just a new recipe each day. Along with the recipe the reader is treated to photographs of the finished product and sometimes photos of the ingredients and steps in the preparing of the dish. There have even been a few videos to walk you through the dish preparation.

An added bonus is that each recipe has it’s own unique story. Sometimes the dish may be something that was past down through the author’s family, other times it’s one shared by a friend, or even an ‘original’ recipe. Occasionally the stories involve how the recipe was in peril  for a time due to the normal disasters cooks go through when preparing meals for the their families. Whatever the story, it’s something the reader will remember when preparing the dish themselves and can pass on to their family and friends. Thus, the chain of food and friendship continues. With this in mind I asked some of the ladies what else they wanted the readers of the blog to know.

Cleo, “From the start, all of us were concerned that our blog name reflect how we felt about our shared Interment home. We all agreed to call it ‘kitchen’ not just because we like to cook and post recipes, but because all of us have fond memories of family kitchens as gathering places. The kitchen is not a formal room, but one where friends and loved ones can gather, relax, laugh, feel comfortable, and just be themselves. I hope our site visitors think of our blog as a warm, cozy kitchen, a place to relax and enjoy themselves with friends. We also love comments. You’ll notice we always make an effort to personally acknowledge anyone who takes the time to leave a message on our posts. That’s how we feel about visitors who drop into our kitchen. We want to make you feel welcome around our table, and I hope anyone who reads this will not only drop by but become a regular follower.”
Elizabeth, “Our blog is for everyone - from novice cooks to epicureans. We’ve featured recipes with everything from gluten-free to vegetarian to down-home Southern cooking. We love getting comment, so please come by and visit.” 
Jenn, “The recipes are really, really good.”
Julie, “I think I would most like readers to know that we’re real. All of us. I’m sure they already know that from the personality that comes through on our posts, but we’re having fun, and hoping our readers have fun too.”
Avery, “This is a group of very talented writers as well as cooks. And they’re funny, kind, warm, intelligent. By the way, did you know that most people who read traditional cozy mysteries are college-educated people who enjoy puzzles? With our books, readers get to not only read a good puzzle, but read about things that taste good too. And they get recipes. What a match.”

The Sunday guest blogger slot has been filled by a diverse group of people as well. Each week the ladies take turns featuring a special guest. The guests have included: Sheila Connolly, Jennie Bentley, Annette Blair, Lesa Holstine, Jeri Westerson, Patricia Stoltey, Sally Goldenbaum, Kevin Cuddeback, JoAnn Carl, Joyce and Jim Lavene, Judy Alter, and Jessica Conant-Park, just to name a few.

With each one of these guest bloggers comes a wonderful story about their recipe, as well as a look at the books they write. Each Sunday morning I find myself poised with coffee cup in hand anticipating who will be there when I click on the link. What great new book or series will await for me to discover. I am never disappointed as an intriguing new friend is always there waiting.
The ladies themselves stay quite busy in other area of blogdom too as they have additional blogs and Website they participate in along with caring for their families, homes and (of course) writing great cozy murder mysteries.

Krista has an older blog, Domestic Diva Mysteries, that is still on the Internet although she says she no longer keeps it updated as much she once did. However, plans are in the works for a renovation of the site.

“I like to think that there’s a little bit of domestic diva in all of us,” Krista said. “Even if you’re a takeout queen, you probably want your children to grow up with warm memories of home. We don’t all have time to grow topiaries, make Beef Wellington, or embroider napkins for our guests, but we do all want to live in nice homes, eat delicious food, and create wonderful memories for our children.”

Krista’s latest book in the Domestic Diva Mystery series is “The Diva Paints the Town” and will be released on Groundhog Day, Feb. 2.

Cleo enjoys twittering under Cleo Coyle but largely directs her efforts toward her official Website, Coffeehouse Mystery.com. She originally started the site as an Internet scrapbook, a place to share some of the coffee and culinary information she gathers while doing research for her Coffeehouse Mysteries. She now runs the site as a “virtual” coffeehouse adding interviews, links to news about food and health, and holds random drawings every Monday for a free pound of her latest “coffee pick.” The site tells how visitors can participate in the coffee drawing.

Cleo’s latest book in the Coffeehouse Mystery series is “Holiday Grind” that came out late last year. Her next release will be “Roast Mortem” which is scheduled for release on Aug. 3.

Elizabeth is a very busy lady. You can find her daily at Mystery Writing is Murder. Her Website is www.elizabethspanncraig.com and she is a regular contributor on the Carolina Conspiracy blog, the Southern writers' blog, A Good Blog is Hard to Find, and InkSpot.

“Pretty is as Pretty Dies,” the first of the Myrtle Clover series was released August 2009 and “Delicious and Suspicious,” the first in the Memphis Barbeque series is scheduled for release in May.

Jenn is busy with her Website, www.jennmckinlay.com. “Stuck on Murder,” her decoupage mystery, was released in September of last year. The first book in her cupcake mystery series is “Sprinkle With Murder” and scheduled for release in March.

Julie has a personal blog at juliehyzy.blogspot.com. “State of the Onion,” the first book in the White House Chef Mystery series, recently won the Barry and Anthony Awards for Best Paperback Original. “Eggsecutive Orders,” the newest book in her series has just been released.

Avery stays busy with her Website (www.averages.com) where she shares tidbits about the history of cheese, as well as various recipes. In addition, she does numerous guest blogs. “The Long Quiche Goodbye,” the first in the Cheese Shop Mystery series is scheduled to be released in July.

All the ladies of the Mystery Lover’s Kitchen are busy but they take time for their readers and the visitors to their site. I know this from personal experience. Remember, I didn’t know a thing about blogs under I found their site. Having found it and become acquainted with them, I ventured into blogdom and created Thoughts in Progress with their encouragement and guidance.

All of the ladies have been very helpful, but I’d like to say a special thanks to Cleo for her step-by-step guide to joining and using Twitter. Without her help, I don’t think I would have given it a try so early on with starting the blog. She made it easy to understand. Thanks Cleo.

And Elizabeth, an extra special thanks to you. She guided me through setting up a professional Facebook account and even suggested various author friends “friend” me. She was my first “follower” on this site and has given me most invaluable information on blogging, as well as providing interesting and informative links. She has provided guidance and assistance for numerous other bloggers, as well. Thanks Elizabeth.

So you see these ladies have had a tremendous impact on this blog and I am most thankful for them and their many works of cozy murder mysteries.

Thank you for stopping by today. I hope I have enlightened you on the lovely ladies of mystery and the wonderful books they write. Now grab another cup of coffee (or beverage of your choice) and let’s go see who’s guest blogging today at Mystery Lover's Kitchen.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Six Lovely Ladies of Mystery

Today and tomorrow this blog will be focused on six widely diverse ladies of mystery, murder and mayhem.

This blog, in fact, became a reality due in large part to the encouragement and guidance of these ladies.

This time last year I didn’t have a clue what a post or a blog was. I had no reason to find out. I wasn’t one to venture into cyberspace. But the love a good book opened a door to a world of possibilities.

Reach for that cup of coffee or your favorite beverage of choice, get comfortable and let me tell you a story of how the ladies of Mystery Lover's Kitchen inspired me.

A number of years ago I found the Coffeehouse Mystery series by Cleo Coyle and have been a huge fan ever since. Last year I finally ventured into cyberspace to visit Cleo’s website, Coffeehouse Mystery. Her site is a “virtual” coffeehouse filled with great information about coffee, recipes and mysteries.

Cleo mentioned that she and five other mystery authors were getting together to start a blog called Mystery Lover's Kitchen where mystery authors cook up crime … and recipes.

I continued to read about it and decided to check it out. What would it hurt to visit a blog (whatever that is)?
The official launch date was Sunday, July 26, even though the ladies had been posting for a week to work out the kinks. I dropped by and enjoyed the post, went back the next day, the next day, the next ….. The ladies not only shared delicious recipes with beautiful photographs of their dish (and sometimes the preparing), but each recipe had a story with it.

Joining Cleo in the kitchen were Krista Davis, author of the Domestic Diva Mysteries; Julie Hyzy, author of the White House Chef Mysteries; Avery Aames (aka Daryl Wood Gerber), author of the Cheese Shop Mysteries; Riley Adams (aka Elizabeth Spann Craig), the Myrtle Clover Mysteries and the Memphis Barbecue Mysteries; and Jenn McKinlay, author of the Cupcake Bakery Shop Mysteries (aka Lucy Lawrence, the Decoupage Mysteries). Cleo (who’s really the writing team of Alice Alfonsi and her husband, Marc Cerasin) also authors the Haunted Bookshop Mysteries as Alice Kimberly.

I thought as well as the blog flowed that the ladies were all friends living nearby each other and had decided to combine their talents to create Mystery Lover's Kitchen. Wrong. Only a couple knew each other before they began and they live all over the United States.

The blog was the brainchild of Krista Davis. She organized everything, approached the various authors with invitations to join, and designed the blog.

When asked why and how the blog started, Krista said, “I was writing a blog called ‘The Diva Dishes.’ I really enjoyed it, but blogging every day was getting to be very time consuming. I’m a big fan of the Food Network and shows like Top Chef. It’s amazing to me that so many people are interested in food and cooking these days. Can you image what people would have thought in Julia Child’s heyday if someone had suggested a TV network devoted to cooking?

“So I talked to my critique partner, Avery Aames, whose Cheese Shop Mysteries will debut in July, and we thought it would be a great idea to put together a blog of mystery writers whose books have a food theme.”

I asked why she invited the authors that she did and she replied:

“Avery and I knew each other well. We met Julie and loved her, but the rest of us only know each other via internet so far. It’s funny, though, the blog has made us fast friends and we now know all kinds ofpersonal things about each other.”

I was curious about the group’s range in age, as well as where everyone was from.

Krista explained, “I watched a BBC program the other night in which they called women over 40 ‘Forever Forties!’ I love that expression. We range from almost 40 to creeping over 50, so I think we’re mostly in the ‘Forever Forties’ group. Quite by coincidence, we span the country - from the east coast to the west coast and points in between. From the north to the south, too. We’re spread out, but that keeps it interesting because everyone brings a different perspective to the blog. When it’s cold, snowy, hearty food weather in Chicago; it’s still warm, balmy salad weather in California.”

Krista said they considered having seven authors host the blog (one for each day), but decided they liked the idea of bringing in a guest each Sunday to keep the blog lively. The authors take turns choosing the guest blogger. The weekly line up of the blog is as follows: Avery on Monday, Julie on Tuesday, Jenn on Wednesday, Riley (aka Elizabeth) on Thursday, Cleo on  Friday, and Krista on Saturday.

A little background on each of the authors.

Krista writes the Domestic Diva Mysteries.  Her series has two contrasting divas - Sophie, who lives to entertain but keeps things simple, and Natasha, who never met a complicated craft she didn’t embrace. Growing up, her mother baked a cake every Saturday morning. She said her family baked and cooked everything from scratch.

Cleo writes the nationally bestselling Coffeehouse Mysteries for Penguin’s Berkley Prime Crime imprint. She also writes the Haunted Bookshop Mysteries under the name Alice Kimberly. Cleo said, “I felt honored  to be asked (to join the blog). In recent years, the culinary mystery has become an increasingly popular sub-genre. When Agatha Award-nominee Krista Davis approached me with the invitation, I jumped at the chance to blog with fellow foodie-loving mystery authors.”

Elizabeth, like her characters, has roots in a small, Southern town. She grew up in Anderson, SC, where she spent most of her childhood in the county library, staggering out with books by the armful. Her magazine articles have appeared in both England and the United States. She’s the mother of two and currently lives in Matthews, NC. Between juggling mom duties, refereeing play dates, and being dragged along as chaperone/hostage on field trips, she dreams of dark and stormy nights beside stacks of intriguing mysteries with excellent opening lines.

“Pretty is as Pretty Dies,” the first of the Myrtle Clover series for Midnight Ink was released August 2009 and “Delicious and Suspicious,” the first of the Memphis Barbeque books for Berkley Prime Crime will be released in May 2010.

“Originally I looked at it (joining the blog) as a great way to meet some fellow Berkley Prime Crime authors, discover some great recipes, and participate in a promotional opportunity that was a little different from the norm,” said Elizabeth.

Books are Jenn’s life. She discovered Nancy Drew at age 9, and has been a compulsive reader since. This lead to a career in the library science field. She has worked as a reference librarian in both public and private libraries from CT to AZ. Currently she is working with children and teens. Being surrounded by books, Jenn knew she had to write as well so she wrote Harlequin’s romantic comedy lines for a few years and then found a home with Berkley Prime Crime writing mysteries. She has two series in the works under the name Lucy Lawrence and one under Jenn McKinlay. Lucy’s books are set in a paper store in Massachusetts while Jenn’s stories are set in a cupcake bakery in Arizona. In addition to writing, Jenn is a wife, mother and pet owner. She loves to garden, cook, knit, go on long bicycle rides, and read.

“I had never blogged before and it seemed like a great opportunity to meet other writers and readers and talk about one of my favorite subjects: food,” said Jenn.
 
Julie was born and raised on the south side of Chicago (just like bad, bad, Leroy Brown) and has been writing since she could hold a pencil. She always knew she wanted to write, although she remembers wanting to be a movie star for a few years there too. She still lives in the Chicago area, but in the south suburbs. She and her husband have three girls, one of whom lives on the north side of Chicago near Wrigley Field and is a freelance artist. The middle daughter is a junior in college and the youngest recently submitted her applications for college. Julie says she’s not a ‘professional’ chef as everyone assumes, but has a ‘Ghost Chef’ create the recipes in her White House adventures.

Besides the White House series, Julie has four other books published. Three of the books feature Alex St. James, a news researcher in Chicago who gets into a lot of trouble. She’s busy working on the fourth White House book, “Buffalo West Wing.”

In addition to these books, Julie is writing a new series that will debut in June. This will be the Manor of Murder series and the first book is called “Grace Under Pressure.” Grace is a curator at a huge mansion/tourist attraction/museum. A murder occurs (of course) and pressure ensues. Julie said she is very excited about this particular series because “I drew on a lot of real-life experiences to write this. We always base things on our real experiences, but this one has more of it than most..”

Joining the blog Julie said, “I met Krista Davis and Daryl Wood Gerber (Avery) at Malice Domestic last year. Can I just say right now that I love these ladies. They came up with the idea of a recipe-based blog to help promote our books and asked me if I’d like to be part of it. I was thrilled.”

Avery is writing the Cheese Shop Mysteries and the first in the series is called, “The Long Quiche Goodbye.” Every book will have a reference to cheese in the title. Her protagonist is Charlotte Bessette.

She and her cousin Matthew have just taken over ownership of Fromagerie Bessette from her grandfather and grandmother. The Cheese Shop, as it’s familiarly called, is located in the fictional town of Providence, Ohio, set in the western half of Holmes County. The area draws huge crowds of tourists because of its proximity to the Amish. Charlotte has a passion for cheese and is devoted to family. The book comes out July 6 from Berkley Prime Crime.

Avery lives in Los Angeles with her husband and her adorable rescue dog, Max, who is almost 13 years old. She loves to cook, garden, take long walks, sing and read. She’s a amateur photography nut.

“I joined the blog because I was invited by one of the nicest gals in the world, Krista Davis, and a ‘foodie’ blog made total sense because my series is about cheese. As you know, blogging is important to get the ‘buzz’ out about a book, and since mine has yet to come out, blogging with established writers is a real boom to me.”

I asked each of the ladies what was the best thing about the blog and all their answers were similar.

Krista, “Great friends, lots of fun, and fabulous recipes.”
Cleo, “My fellow bloggers. They energize and inspire me. I truly enjoy checking the site every day to see what recipe, tip, or other interesting post my fellow authors have cooked up for the blog.”
Riley, “My fellow mystery writing cooks. They’ve made the whole experience on the blog even more fun than I’d originally anticipated. These ladies are warm, open, encouraging, funny, and fantastic writers. The e-mail threads for the group are just hilarious sometimes. There’s a true sense of camaraderie and support. And…I have to admit to being excited about the food aspect too. They’ve all shared some amazing recipes that I’ve enjoyed making for my family.”
Jenn, “Making new friends. I’d never met any of my blog buddies before and they are all so talented and helpful. I really cherish them. The followers of the blog have been a joy as well.”
Julie, “These women - Krista, Daryl (Avery), Alice (Cleo), Elizabeth (Riley), and Jenn (Lucy) are wonderful. The friendship I’ve developed with these woomen, even after such a short time, has been the absolute best. It’s just so great to have this group - we all work together and truly enjoy creating something cool and different. This is a blog I know we’re all proud of.”
Avery, “The six of us immediately got along. We have the same intentions, the same humor. I’m thoroughly enjoying it, and I’m learning a lot about other kinds of food and cooking and how to write “fun” stuff under a weekly deadline.”

For more answers to burning questions about these lovely ladies, their blog and their works; check back tomorrow for part two.

Now click over to Mystery Lover's Kitchen to check out Krista’s "Homemade Chocolate Pudding" recipe.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Guest Blogger, Sharon Lathan

I’d like to welcome bestselling author Sharon Lathan to Thoughts in Progress today.

Sharon latest release “My Dearest Mr. Darcy” is the third installment in her Darcy Saga sequel series to Jane Austen’s “Pride & Prejudice.”

As a special treat today, Sharon will be giving away a signed copy of “My Dearest Mr. Darcy” to one lucky person who comments on her post between now and 8 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 28.  The giveaway is open to U.S. and Canada residents only. Those wishing to be entered in the contest must include their e-mail address in their comments. Sharon will selected a lucky winner from one of those commenting.

Sharon could you tell us how you incorporate historical facts into your novels and how it came about?

I no longer remember when the idea of Darcy and Lizzy visiting the seacoast first occurred to me. Faint glimmers probably began with the numerous references to holidays at Bath and Brighton that are scattered throughout any article that even touches upon the Regency. Much like appearing in London for the Season, leisurely vacationing and socializing at a beachfront locale was an expectation among the ton.

Yet right off I knew they would not visit any of the popular resorts. I wanted to be unique! Finally, after exhaustive research, I settled on Norfolk. Combining historical facts about the fame of Great Yarmouth with creative license, the Darcys ended up a few miles north at a lavish resort on the bluffs of Caister-on-Sea. I became so immersed and fascinated by the history of the region, the wonders in nature by sea and land, and the wealth of possible activities that what I imagined being a one or two chapter jaunt ended up being six!

As I always do when writing of the Darcys living their life, I wove romance and healthy doses of drama with loads of historical information and enlightenment. Of course you must read My Dearest Mr. Darcy to learn of all the fun to be had, but let me share some tidbits to pique your interest.

Sea bathing: Personally I can’t fathom swimming in the frigid waters surrounding England. Yet, this is precisely what our hardy English ancestors considered prime recreation and a healthy pursuit. The concept of “taking the waters” – both warm mineral spas and cold ocean water – was deemed a cure-all for just about any ailment since the mid-1600s and rose in popularity in the 1750s and beyond. Resorts popped up all over the place and the bathing machine provided privacy for modest swimmers. All together now: Brrrr….

Silhouettes: Named for the despised French finance minister in pre-Revolutionary France who was so miserly and horrid at his job that anything cheap was labeled, “a la Silhouette.” Cutting shaded profiles from paper was an inexpensive, faster method of capturing a person’s image and grew as a popular art form in the late 1700s onward. Silhouettists gravitated to tourist areas, like Bath and Brighton, and were frequently invited to parties of the wealthy to trace the guests.

Nelson Monument: Lord Admiral Horatio Nelson was born in Norfolk and the first of this great Englishman’s several monuments was erected in Great Yarmouth. Luckily for me, the first stones were laid in 1817 upon land that had originally formed part of the Militia Barracks on the South Dene. Also lucky for me was the horseracing track at those barracks! Lizzy and Darcy were able to tour the foundation of Nelson’s monument and then have a bit of fun betting on the horses.

Hot air ballooning: In 1783 the first manned-flight of any kind took place in Paris, France in a balloon filled with heated air designed by the Montgolfier brothers. In 1785 a manned balloon crossed the English Channel and you might say the rest is history! It would remain an extremely dangerous undertaking for a long while to come, but brave souls like Englishman James Sadler paved the way for other balloonist like the one who takes off from Great Yarmouth while the Darcys are there to observe.

The Norfolk Broads: A network of navigable rivers and lakes, the Broads are utterly unique, and today a protected national park. The peat wetlands that span over 100 square miles are simply amazing with diverse wildlife, rich history, and stunning beauty. Writing the Darcys driving through this lush landscape was a must.

Touring Caister Castle, attending a magic lantern show, walking to the end of a classic wooden pier, dining in a new-fangled restaurant, and interacting with the other guests combined to keep the Darcys quite busy! Still, it isn’t a truly romantic holiday at the beach if the lovers do not enjoy the sunrise and sunset, right?

Nestling onto a blanket spread over the soft sand as the sun first shows her face and touches the rippling waves of an ocean in a blaze of glorious colors is a universal delight, and certainly an occasion I was not going to allow the Darcys to miss. J Additionally, the flat western horizon with an expanse of wide waterways means that sunsets in this area of Norfolk are nearly as spectacular as the sunrises. Indeed, a romance writer’s dream comes true.

So of course I wrote my somewhat clichĂ©d interludes near the surging surf! I figured we women never tire of that sort of ideal. In fact, I bet you can readily recall a beach-themed romantic scene from a book or movie – and From Here to Eternity is too easy! Any others?

Here's a book trailer video highlighting Sharon's wonderfully romantic, historically accurate series.


Sharon, thanks so much for guest blogging today and for sharing this information with us. The beach is a wonderful place to return to time and time again. I can see how the Darcy are drawn there. And adding historical facts to your novels is an extra bonus for your readers.

Don’t forget to leave your e-mail in your comments if you’d like to be entered in the giveaway for a signed copy of “My Dearest Mr. Darcy.” Sharon will also be stopping back by during the day to answer any questions you might have and respond to comments. For more information about Sharon and her novels, visit her Website at: www.darcysaga.net. She also blogs at Casablanca Authors blog.

Is there a spot your characters return to time and time again?

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Guest Blogger, Robin Burcell

Please join me in welcoming award-winning author Robin Burcell to Thoughts in Progress today.
 Robin’s latest release, “The Bone Chamber,” is a thriller about FBI Special Agent Sydney Fitzpatrick and the second book in the series. This is a stand alone book so readers who haven’t read “Face of a Killer” yet won’t be lost, but will want to read it after meeting the character of Sydney Fitzpatrick.

Robin will be giving away a copy of “The Bone Chamber” to one lucky person who comments on her post between today and 6 p.m. on Wednesday, Jan. 27.

Robin would you tell us how you came to write about Freemasons, a covert U.S. government agencies, the Vatican, and the FBI all rolled into a conspiracy theory sprinkled with historical facts?

When I wrote THE BONE CHAMBER, I never set out to copy The DaVinci Code, even though TDC had a small part in how my book came to be. My goal behind the book was about telling a story that had to do with my favorite topic: conspiracy theory. 

I am fascinated by the thought that big government, little government, secret societies or the local boy scout troop might be trying to take over the world or U.S. politics, which (to many it seems) is the same thing.

A couple of my favorite movies are CONSPIRACY THEORY, starring Mel Gibson and Julia Roberts, and ENEMY OF THE STATE, starring Will Smith and Gene Hackman.  What’s not to love? The thought that there are evil people in politics who will do anything to succeed? Take it a step further, that those same evil people will join forces with other evil people to take over world governments? It’s the stuff that great fiction is made from.  

And what if I wanted to put both conspiracy and history into one of my novels, maybe something about the Freemasons. Would I be compared to you know who? And would it matter? I’d heard authors stating how much they hated the comparison and recall discussing this very fact with author James Rollins right after his novel BLACK ORDER was released. Did the comparison bother him any?  I posed this question to him one afternoon as we shared a flight home from the International Thriller Writers conference (ITW).
 
His answer? It didn’t bother him at all. In fact, People magazine had made the comparison. According to Rollins, if it sells books, the reviewers could compare him to anyone they wanted. 

A healthy attitude, I thought. At the time I had recently finished my first FBI forensic artist book, FACE OF A KILLER, and was looking to start the second novel. I loved the thought of combining history and conspiracy theory. In fact, having been inspired by Rollins’s work, and the ITW conference we’d just attended, I told him that if I could figure out how to instill some of those same elements into my books, turning my police procedural novels into conspiracy thrillers, I’d do it in a heartbeat. 

To which Rollins said he could easily help. He whipped out a dollar bill, stating:  “The DaVinci Code meets Silence Of The Lambs.” He then showed me the back of the dollar bill, pointing out that the pyramid is one half of a six-pointed star, and that if someone were to complete that star, five of its points touch letters that form the anagram MASON.  He proposed a girl, murdered at the beginning of the book, perhaps with this star carved on her chest. And that was it. One sentence, the back of a dollar bill, and a murdered girl. The rest was up to me.

It was enough. I wrote a few chapters, contacted my editor, (who also happens to be Rollins’s editor) and told her it was Rollins’s fault that the police procedural I had promised her was now a thriller. I’ll admit to being a bit nervous, as I had made a near 180 degree turn on her. She gave her stamp of approval. 

Now all I had to do was think of a plot to go with that germ of an idea…  And finish the book, of course.

THE BONE CHAMBER is the end result. The book starts off with a murdered girl as Rollins suggested, but instead of a star carved on her chest, I took a more gruesome turn. 


Here’s the excerpt from the back of the jacket, so you can see for yourself how this morphed from a conversation on a plane to the actual end product:

“Mysteriously summoned to Quantico to help re-create the face of a murdered, mutilated young woman, FBI forensic artist Special Agent Sydney Fitzpatrick knows immediately this is no ordinary crime. The hit-and-run death of the forensic anthropologist assisting her—a close friend—and Sydney’s abrupt dismissal from the case by covert government investigators only strengthen her need for answers. Now her hunt for a killer is carrying her from Washington to Rome to the hidden chamber of a legendary tomb—on the trail of a fabled treasure of the Knights Templar…and a curse. 

Buried deep in the mysteries of the Freemasons and the Vatican’s Holy See is a secret that could rock the world. Suddenly an ancient map is pointing Sydney toward something the Templars wished to hide away forever—something that could unleash an unstoppable tide of blood and devastation.”

And there is a really cool book trailer video that gives a great feel for the book. I hope you’ll check it out.




So what do you think when you read reviews that compare a book to TDC?  Does it bother you? Or are you willing to decide for yourself, based on the books merits what it is or is not about?

Robin, thank you so much for sharing this background on the writing of “The Bone Chamber.” The book is hard to put down because it holds your attention from beginning to end. Robin will be stopping back by off and on today so if you have questions or comments for her to respond to.

Just a little background on Robin. She herself is an FBI-trained forensic artist who has worked as a police officer, detective and hostage negotiator, and recently retired to write full-time. "The Bone Chamber" is her latest international thriller about an FBI forensic artist. "Face of a Killer" received a starred review from Library Journal. She is the author of four previous novels featuring Kate Gillespie. For more information on Robin, visit her Website at www.robinburcell.com

What objects have inspired you to write?

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Guest Blogger, Kim Smith

Join me in welcoming author Kim Smith to Thoughts in Progress today on her on her Virtual Book Tour.

Kim is the author of the cozy mystery, “Buried Angel.” She will be giving away an electronic copy of her book today to one lucky person commenting on her post.

Here’s a brief description of her book: “Shannon Wallace is finding trouble in the most bizarre places these days, but not as bizarre as the ones her sidekick Dwayne Brown is finding. When his friend. Bubba, is found stuffed in a cooler in his flower shop, the hunt is on to find his killer. Could it be Bubba’s sister who is now his heir, or maybe one of the flower shop guys who works with Bubba? You can be sure the dreadful duo of Shannon and Dwayne won’t rest until they have South Lake’s police department, and the Hispanic hottie investigator, Sal Ramirez, find his man. Or was that woman?”

Kim with busy schedules and day-to-day activities, how do you find time to write?

Most of my writing friends ask at one time or another how I manage to turn out a whole novel and or several short stories and a novel over the course of a year. Time management I tell them. This is a crucial part of our job as a writer.

They usually tell me that finding time to write is what stops them from finishing a whole piece. There just isn’t enough time to do any writing. My short answer is: you haven’t looked hard enough at the clock.

No matter what you want to write, and there are a plethora of types of markets, you must sit down regularly and turn out work or you will fail. The formula, if you are one of those types is: butt in chair=finished product.


Note I didn’t say finished product on the same day. There is probably no way you will write an entire novel in one day, although I am sure someone has.

The main idea here is to cross off something on your list of daily chores. Either give it to another family member, or quit doing it. Now I bet I have your attention. If you say, but I have to feed my family, then I say yes, you do. But on one day can they have pizza a la delivery? The time you would have spent cooking you could spend writing.

If you do that once a week for 52 weeks and you write 1000 words each sitting, you will have two thirds of a book finished in a year. Now if you add to that number by just one day, say they eat hotdogs for dinner one night a week, then you could double the amount of writing you could do. You could justifiably have nearly two books written in a year.

Okay, I hear those of you out there saying but how on earth will I turn out a thousand words? That is a lot of stuff.


Well, let’s examine that. If you format your pages correctly, you know, two hundred fifty words per page, then one thousand words is how many pages? That’s it. Four. Can you write four pages a day? Still not convinced?

Okay here are a few other ways to cut out time waste and get into that chair.
       A.  Writing during your lunch hour or breaks when at work. Yes, it is perfectly okay to carry a notebook and pen in your briefcase, purse, or back pack. I mean what did writers do before computers?
       B.  Write when someone else is doing the driving. I do this every year when we take trips. It might only be a few hours to my family’s house or friend’s house, but I let my hubby drive and I write there and back.
       C.  Get up earlier. I get up at five thirty in the morning, work out for thirty minutes to an hour and write for fifteen minutes.  You know you want to. Didn’t that shower help loosen up the ideas when you took it this morning? Better to write two pages in the morning and two at night than none at all.

There you have it. It can be done. The only other thing I would suggest is to develop a nasty attitude. You really should become a stickler for your time. Make everyone understand that if you don’t get your time to write they will be very sorry. An unhappy writer is a terrible thing to behold.

Remember: talking about writing will never get a word on the page.


Kim, then time management can work. Thanks so much for stopping by today and sharing this information with us. It’s quite helpful.

A little background on Kim. She is the hostess for the popular radio show, Introducing WRITERS! Radio show on Blog Talk Radio. She is also the author of the zany, Shannon Wallace mystery series available now from Red Rose Publishing. You can visit Kim at her Website at www.mkimsmith.com

Remember to comment on Kim’s post today through 8 p.m. on Monday, Jan. 25, for a chance to win an electronic copy of her book.

Do you have a plan for scheduling your writing time? What could you give up once a week to make time to write?