Thursday, September 30, 2010

The Hypnotist by M.J. Rose

If you’ve ever wondered about living a past life or if you enjoy a suspense thriller, then THE HYPNOTIST is for you.

Lucian Glass was an aspiring artist when his girlfriend was brutally murdered in his father’s framing shop. Even though he was attacked and died briefly from his injuries, Lucian feels guilty. Some 20 years later Lucian is a criminal art investigator for the FBI’s Arts Crime Team having given up his desire to be an artist.

The current case involves the 8-foot-tall statue of the Greek god Hypnos, god of sleep, housed at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. Iran wants the statue back saying it was stolen from their country over 100 years ago by a French archaeologist.

The Greek government also wants the statue returned saying it is of Greek origin and is a national treasure. In addition, hypnotist Malachai Samuels wants the statue too. He believes it’s part of the ‘Memory tools’ which will allow users to see clearly all of their past lives proof of reincarnation.

The Met had received the chryselephantine sculpture when an American collector died and left it to the museum, along with the rest of his collection.

Lucian is brought into the case when The Met receives a destroyed Matisse painting and threats of more unless the statue is surrendered. Lucian realizes the painting is one that was stolen from his father’s shop when his girlfriend was killed.

Author M.J. Rose weaves thrills, terrorism, smuggling, suspense, twists and turns into this tale of past and present colliding. It will make one wonder if past lives effect the present. It will also bring into question, who really owns the art treasures of the world.

This is the third installment in the Reincarnationist series, but it is a stand alone book.

M.J. Rose’s website is www.mjrose.com

The Hypnotist by M.J. Rose, The Reincarnationist Book 3, Mira, @2010, ISBN: 978-0778326755, Hardcover, 416 pages


FTC Full Disclosure - 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.

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In another note I want to take a moment to make mention that author Kate Collins’ husband passed away yesterday (Wednesday, Sept. 29) from a heart attack. The coming days were to be happy times for her as her latest installment in the Flower Shop Mysteries, DIRTY ROTTEN TENDRILS, is schedule to be released Oct. 5. Please keep Kate and her family in your thoughts and prayers. This is a last minute add. Jennifer at Cozy Chicks has a post about Kate and if readers would like to send cards. Check out Jennifer's post for more information.


Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Guest Blogger, Sylvia Dickey Smith

It's my pleasure to welcome award-winning author Sylvia Dickey Smith as the special guest blogger here today at Thoughts in Progress.

Sylvia’s World War II historical novel, A WAR OF HER OWN, was just released the first of this month. The book focuses on a Texas version of Rosie the Riveter and her search for happiness during the early 1940s.

With that in mind, Sylvia stopped by to answer some questions for me.

What inspired you to write this story?

Life, I suppose. I grew up in the 40s, coming out of what my husband calls the amnesia stage around the time the war ended. So much of my childhood memories have to do with life during that decade. The war had a serious impact on the small town of Orange. Before the war, the population was around 7,000. By the end of the war, the population had soared to near 70,000. Can you imagine what that kind of growth does to a small town?

When I was 6 years old (just after the war ended) we moved into the war housing called Riverside Addition and lived there until I was 12. So I know of what I describe in the book! Streets perennially flooded with stinky rainwater. Dull, ugly houses. But for those people who came to town still starving to death from the Great Depression because of plentiful jobs—paradise—running water, electricity, flush toilets, refrigerators, natural gas stoves. And SAND—everywhere, sand, pumped in from the river bottom as a foundation for the cheap duplexes.
I remember my mother working nights at the shipyard because my father had left her for another woman—common during that time. I recall sitting in the lap of my maternal grandmother on the screened in front porch late one night waiting for Mother to walk home from the shipyard. While a couple house down, on the corner, a house burned. I still remember Granny and my older cousin talking about how glad they were that our house had a tin roof.

And of course, family secrets my sister and I have talked about all these years, often coming up with our own answers to questions left unanswered. These are the roots of this story.

Very impressionable years—years I’ve longed to write about—powerful stories worthy to be told, stories waiting for someone to write them.


How did you go about doing research for your book?

Personal interviews with people whose family members lived and worked there during those years. Also, there are several historical non-fiction books written about those years in Orange. They were of tremendous help in grasping a reflection
of the times and what life was like for those living and working there.  

One such book is an oral history called, They Called It The War Effort by Louis Fairchild. I inhaled that book and the stories in them, many of them told by people who were parents of my childhood friends growing up.
Then there is the book Picturing Orange, which has fantastic photographs. Another publication was Gateway to Texas, by local historian Dr. Howard C. Block. Then, the fabulous website of historian W. T. Block, now deceased.


Do you have a writing schedule that you follow or a particular place you write?

I wish I could say yes to both of these questions. I did, but life tends to bend back in on us sometimes doesn’t it?

I used to get up early, say 5 or 6 a.m., sometimes even earlier. I love writing while the house is quiet and my mind is fresh. Then, guess what. My husband decided he wanted to get up when I did. So now, it doesn’t matter what time I get up, he just gets up when I do. If I sleep in late, so does he! I’ve tried asking him to stay in bed, but… (LOL) So now, I do as much work as I can in the mornings like posting on my blogs, emails, marketing, and such. Then, while he’s taking his nap in the afternoon, I put on my ear buds, turn on soft music and write—UNDISTURBED!

As far as a particular space—I now create my own space with those same ear buds and music! I move all over the house, bringing my “space” with me. You do what you can, eh?


What has been the greatest impact on your writing?


The greatest? That’s a tough question. I guess I would have to say my education and training as a licensed professional counselor, along with my undergraduate degree in Sociology. I learned how to observe, how to watch, how to interpret, how to identify perceived differences, moods, opinions, gestures. I learned personality disorders and the symptoms of each. Varying mood disorders, hair cuts, fingernail chewing, nervous tics. I also learned cultural differences and also those of subcultures. How to identify influences in a person’s background such as family, work, stress, pressures. All of these help, I think, as I build and reveal character.


Any advice you would give a novice writer?

I have two:
One, find and become part of a good critique group. These groups teach us so much. We get their feedback, and we also learn from the feedback we give them. As in life, it is so much easier to see the mistakes of others than it is our own.


The other, I advise, is to read your work out loud—all of it! That’s where the power is. That is where you can identify problems in flow, in cadence, in awkward sentence structure and the over use of certain words. With my last book, I used my computer to read the whole thing, chapter by chapter, out loud to myself. After that, I sat on my bed and read the whole manuscript out loud, all the way through again, chapter by chapter. You will be surprised at what you learn.


What's next for you and your writing?

My WIP is: The Swamp Whisperer, the tale of a strong woman of a different age.

Medicare recipient Boo Murphy is more at home in the swamps behind her house than she is on dry land.  One morning Boo paddles her pirogue through mosquito-infested swamp, the taste of stewed squirrel on her tongue when she maneuvers around a bend and discovers an Atakapa-Ishak settlement.

The Paleo-Indian tribe, believed to be extinct for centuries, not only survives but also thrives, and seeks to rebuild a lost civilization under questionable circumstances. But when Boo takes persnickety Sasha, her second-cousin-once-removed, out to the site the next day to prove what she’s seen, a storm comes up, marooning them in a deserted house along with a dead man, a strange woman, and a long-deceased Atakapa chief.


Is there anything you'd like readers to know about you or your work that we haven't covered?

One thing that many people are surprised to learn about me is that I lived on the Caribbean island of Trinidad, W.I. for six years, in the 1970s. This was one of the greatest, most eye-opening periods of time I’ve experienced. Living in another culture really opens up a person and causes one to question their own way of life, beliefs, morés. It made me more tolerant of people’s differences, less judgmental, more accepting of those with a way of life I didn’t understand.


Sylvia, thanks so much for answering these questions for me. Finding out background on a story is always interesting to me. I think A WAR OF HER OWN gives us a look at life around World War II that hasn’t been talked about much.

Now for a little background on Sylvia. She was born in Orange, Texas, and grew up in a colorful Scots-Irish family living in the midst of a Cajun culture. Her curiosity about the world took on a whole new dimension when at mid-life she lived on the Caribbean island of Trinidad & Tobago. Awed by the differences in customs and cultures, particularly as they related to the lives of Trinidadian women, set her on a journey of self-discovery.

At 40, she started college and didn’t stop until she achieved a degree in sociology with a concentration in women’s studies and a master’s in counseling. A strong advocate for women, her writing features women who recreate themselves into the persons they want to be.

Sylvia has written her way through life as a student, a pastor’s wife, a psychotherapist, an adjunct professor, regional director of long term care facilities—and now as an author of mystery and historical fiction, along with self-help non-fiction essays. For more information on Sylvia, drop by her site at http://sylviadickeysmithbooks.wordpress.com/



Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Guest Blogger, Louisa Edwards

Please join me in giving a warm welcome to author Louisa Edwards as the special guest blogger here today at Thoughts in Progress as she makes a stop on her virtual blog tour.

Louisa’s latest release is JUST ONE TASTE, the third installment in her Recipe for Love trilogy. She stops by today to talk about “a day in the life of a culinary romance author” and to also offer a special giveaway gift to one lucky visitor commenting on her post - a copy of her book + culinary swag.

It’s not an alarm clock that wakes me up; nothing so calm and peaceful. Instead, my eyes pop open to the heartrending moans and whimpers of my starving, abused, neglected Border Terriers, Hunter and Oscar, who need to be fed nownownow, well, okay, after we go outside.

Some mornings I can get back to sleep, but most days, when I’m in the thick of a writing project and I make the mistake of thinking about it while I’m pouring dog food, that’s it for sleep. Once the characters are awake in my head, they’re hard to shut up. The best days are ones where I can take my mug of coffee into my office, shut the door, and open up the laptop for a quick look at the book-in-progress. I love the read through what I wrote the day before—there’s always something surprising, either a line I don’t remember, and laugh at, or something to polish and tighten, as I think about the day of writing ahead.

Lots of days, however, see me doing chores in the morning. I’m lucky enough to claim writing as my full-time job and career,
but life still manages to intrude. So mornings are often for household tasks like laundry and dishes, but on the days when I at least got to open the document first? I find that I spend all that time at the sink thinking about the book and the characters, and sometimes having productive ideas. So it’s not wasted time; plus, clean dishes and clothes make my family happy.

The afternoon, though, is all about writing. I like to put in a good four hours after lunch, on average, and I try to write between 1,000 and 3,000 new words in that time. It varies a lot, because sadly, not every read-through of the previous day’s work yields giggles and progress—sometimes, it reveals a problem that has to be solved before I can move forward. They say all writing is rewriting, and even though there are times when I’d love to know who “they” are so I could go smack them right in the mouth, I’m always glad when I take the time to get a scene exactly right before writing the next one.

Then dinner, which for me is always a relaxing break, especially when I cook. Cooking is research for me, since my books are culinary romances with chef heroes and recipes in the back, but it’s also a stress reliever, something I do for fun. I love to experiment in the kitchen; I’m as adventurous there as my characters are on the page!

I’ve also always loved to read before bed—these days it’s either the latest from one of my favorite romance authors, like Suzanne
Brockmann, Julie James, Roxanne St. Claire, or Eloisa James, or it’s a chef memoir or some other culinary nonfiction. Both research, in their own ways!

Then I go to sleep to dream about my characters until my dogs wake me up, and I do it all over again.


Louisa, thanks so much for guest blogging here today. ‘A day in the life’ is interesting. For me, my day begins with a little furry paw from Little One (the cat in my photo). She taps me with her paw lightly and if I don’t get up as quickly as she thinks I should, she pats a little harder. LOL We do love our pets don’t we?

For more information on Louisa and her Recipe for Love trilogy, visit her website at www.LouisaEdwards.com .To read an excerpt of JUST ONE TASTE click here.



Monday, September 27, 2010

Guest Blogger, Joanne Kennedy

Please join me in welcoming author Joanne Kennedy as the special guest blogger here today at Thoughts in Progress.

Joanne’s latest release is ONE FINE COWBOY. Thanks to Joanne and Danielle at Sourcebooks, I have two copies of ONE FINE COWBOY to giveaway (open to U.S. and Canada only, sorry) to two lucky visitors commenting on this post between now and 8 p.m. (EST) on Monday, Oct. 4.

Joanne’s book is about sexy cowboys and cowgirls so she’s stopped by today to talk about “A Lifelong Love,” but it just may not be what you think.

ONE FINE COWBOY was inspired by a lifelong love affair—not with cowboys, but with horses.

Despite the fact that my parents wouldn’t buy me a pony when I was a kid, thereby scarring me for life (or so I argued at the time), I was a horse-crazy tween, taking riding lessons, reading Marguerite Henry and Walter Farley, and playing with other people’s horses whenever I could.


Once I moved out on my own and had the space, I finally got my own horses. I wasn’t a very wise judge of horseflesh and all those horse stories had taught me to romanticize wild, intractable stallions, so I always chose critters that were a little on the difficult side. As it turned out, that was a good thing; the scenes in ONE FINE COWBOY with Nate’s feisty stallion were all written from personal experience.


I don’t have horses now, but I’m still fascinated by horse training because it teaches us so much about both animals and people. Training methods have changed over the years, and if they’re any indication of a change in human nature, we’re getting more enlightened every day. Back when horses were an essential mode of transportation, the emphasis was on quickly getting the animals to submit and training could be brutally cruel. Now, trainers use the horse’s natural responses and instincts to build a two-way partnership.


That’s one reason I decided to write a romance that focused on a horse trainer. There are so many parallels between achieving partnership with a horse and building trust in a relationship. I wanted my city-girl heroine to start from the beginning of the process, so I decided my cowboy hero would teach a “Green Horse, Green Rider” clinic where the students trained mustangs.


But I couldn’t write the mustang auction scene without experiencing one for myself. This was the first time I used my new credibility as a published author, talking the Bureau of Land Management into letting me attend a mustang sale at the
Canon County Correctional Facility. The BLM holds over a thousand wild horses at this Colorado prison, where inmates train the horses and prepare them for new lives. I’m sure the horses train the prisoners in return; you can’t work with horses without empathy, sensitivity, and compassion.

So not only did I get to go to a mustang sale—I got to go to prison!


I have to admit that the thrill faded a little after I filled out my paperwork and got on the bus that would take me “inside.” I couldn’t help thinking of how many other people had ridden the same bus for a far different reason, and I have to admit it was a little chilling to enter those gates. My romance writer’s mind was creating one scenario after another: what if I’d been convicted of a crime I didn’t commit? What would it be like to enter those gates and know you might never come out?


But all that was forgotten as soon as we crested a hill and I saw the holding facility for the first time. Dozens of enclosures were filled with horses of every color, from typical wild grullas and duns to flashy paints and bays.


There were a number of things that surprised me about the experience. First and foremost was the horses’ curiosity and friendliness. This is partly because they’ve been fed by humans for the months they’ve lived in the facility—but they’ve also been captured and the stallions have been gelded, so I didn’t expect them to be so trusting.


Another surprise was their silence. Rounding up horses for loading is chaotic and stressful. They naturally want to stay with their herd, but the horses at Canon City barely made a sound throughout the process. I found out later that whinnying isn’t a preferred method of communication for horses in the wild; it’s an adaptation to being stabled and unable to see each others’ body language.


The sale was an amazing experience, but sadly, only one horse found a home that day. Most of the animals I saw will remain in holding facilities the rest of their lives. There’s a lot of controversy surrounding the wild horse issue, and no one has been able to implement a solution that pleases everyone. Meanwhile the populations on the range increase and the challenge continues.


Are you a horse lover? What have your experiences been with horses?


Joanne, thanks so much for guest blogging here today. The love of horses is something I can relate to. I’ve loved and wanted a horse since I was a kid. I finally got my first horse shortly after I met my DH. It was a Quarter Horse gelding named Canyon Son and he was perfect for me, very gentle and never in a hurry. It was always a joke (but I think he was probably serious) if we broke up, DH got custody of the horse.


Here’s a brief synopsis of ONE FINE COWBOY (in stores now): He’s got a way with horses…and with women...
Nate Shawcross is perfectly content to spend his days training wild horses. So when a beautiful greenhorn unexpectedly shows up for a seminar from the famous “Horse Whisperer” of Wyoming, all Nate wants to do is send her packing…
The last thing she expects is a lesson in romance…
Graduate student Charlie Banks came to the ranch to learn about horse communication, but when she meets the ruggedly handsome cowboy, she starts to fantasize about another connection entirely…
Nate needs to stay focused if he’s going to save his ranch from foreclosure, but he can’t help being distracted by the brainy and breathtakingly sexy Charlie. Could it be that after all this time Nate has finally found the one woman who can tame his wild heart?


For a little background on Joanne. She has worked in bookstores all her life in positions from bookseller to buyer. A member of Romance Writers of America and Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers, she won first place in the Colorado Gold Writing Contest and second in the Heart of the Rockies contest. Joanne lives in Cheyenne, Wyoming. For more information, please visit http://joannekennedybooks.com/.


Sunday, September 26, 2010

Sunday Salon - Review, Review

It’s that time once again to sit back, grab a cup of delicious coffee (or beverage of choice), prop our feet put on the console tables in front of us, and relax as we review a couple of intriguing reads.

Today’s Sunday Salon features two books about murder, but in different categories. One I consider a cozy murder mystery and the other is more a thriller mystery or crime drama.

A DEADLY ROW by Casey Mayes

Enjoying a good puzzle from time to time and finally trying my luck at sudoku last fall I was delighted when I received a cozy murder mystery featuring a math whiz as the protagonist.

A DEADLY ROW is the first installment in the Mystery By the Numbers series. However, you don’t have to like puzzles or math to enjoy this adventure.

Savannah Stone creates math and logic puzzles for a living, while also filling in as her husband Zach’s assistant when needed. Zach, retired Charlotte (NC) Police Chief, does police consulting work from the couple’s home in Parson’s Valley.

The Stones are called back to Charlotte by the new police chief when their friend, Mayor Grady Winslow begins receiving threatening and cryptic notes from someone who has apparently already killed two people.

Arriving back in the city, the couple find they are staying at the plush Belmont Hotel thanks to the owner whose assistant was one of those killed.

As the husband and wife team try to fit the pieces of the puzzle together, they begin to wonder how much their friends have changed. The mayor, it seems, looks more like the killer than his next victim.

Meanwhile, Savannah is learning some new and intriguing information about family members she never knew.

Author Casey Mayes weaves just enough twists and surprises to keep you guessing until the last piece of the puzzle falls in place. But will Savannah figure it out in time to discover the mystery surrounding her own family?

Casey Mayes website is www.caseymayes.com

A Deadly Row by Casey Mayes, A Mystery By The Numbers, Berkley Prime Crime, @2010, ISBN: 978-0-425-23641-3, Paperback, 304 pages


FTC Full Disclosure - 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 POSTCARD KILLERS 
by James Patterson and Liza Marklund

A killer is targeting young couples all across Europe. The killer is a charming American couple, Sylvia and Mac Randolph, who have a twisted secret besides being murderers.

The killers send a postcard to a newspaper followed by a letter with a photograph of a dead couple and then the police have to locate the bodies. So far the killers have left no clues nor evidence for the police to work with.

The killers arrive in Sweden followed closely by NYPD Detective Jacob Kanon. The detective is on a personal mission since the Randlophs killed his daughter, Kimmy, and her boyfriend six months earlier in Rome.

In Stockholm the postcard is sent to journalist Dessie Larsson. Dessie reluctantly teams up with Jacob to search for the killers.

The story is told in short, fast-pace paragraphs. Authors Patterson and Marklund take you into the world of bizarre killers, as well as those trying to stop the madness. Just when you believe it’s about over, the rug is pulled out from under you and you start wondering how is that possible. The twists, turns and surprises will hold you captive as you try to figure out who the real POSTCARD KILLERS are.

This was an audio book. Had it been a print book I probably wouldn’t have read it just because so much of the action takes place in Sweden. I would have been lost trying to interpret the language. I would have missed a good story. Listening to the dialect of the three wonderful narrators enhanced the story more for me helping put me in the area where the events were taking place. It also gave the main characters more depth.


James Patterson's website is www.jamespatterson.com

The Postcard Killers by James Patterson and Liza Marklund, Read by Katherine Kellgren, Eric Singer and Reg Rogers, Hachette Audio, @2010, ISBN: 978-1-60788-382-1. Unabridged, 6 CDS, Approximately 7.5 Hours


FTC Full Disclosure - I requested this audio and it was sent to me by the publisher in hopes I would review it. However, receiving the complimentary copy did not influence my review.


Saturday, September 25, 2010

From Tattoo Shops to Renaissance Faires - Reviews

The world of cozy murder mysteries can transport you to any time and place, give you insight into various occupations, and have you home in time for dinner (you just have to remember to put the book down). Here are two very diverse occupations, but both lead to interesting and entertaining reads and oh, of course, murder.

Driven to Ink by Karen E. Olson

You know right from the start this is going to be an intriguing book when a body is found in the first paragraph.

Las Vegas tattoo artist Brett Kavanaugh loaned her red convertible Mustang to her friends Sylvia Coleman and Bernie Applebaum so they could get married at That’s Amore Drive-Through Wedding Chapel.

The couple goes off on their honeymoon and Brett discovers the body of a Dean Martin Impersonator from That’s Amore in her car trunk the next day. The body has a clip cord from a tattoo machine wrapped around his neck. As it so happens, a clip cord has been stolen from Brett’s business, The Painted Lady, an upscale tattoo shop. Then the newlyweds vanish.

Brett begins to do a little snooping on her own despite the fact that her brother, Tim, is the police investigator. To get to the heart of the case, Brett even gets help from her main competition - Jeff Coleman at Murder Ink. Besides, he is Sylvia’s son.

The reader doesn’t have to be a fan of tattoos to enjoy this fun series. DRIVEN TO INK is the third in this interesting new series, but is a stand alone book.

Author Karen Olson will keep you on ‘pens and needles’ from the time the body is found until the killer is finally caught. In addition, readers get a sneak peak at the end of the book as to what Brett’s up to next in an excerpt of INK FLAMINGOS coming in June 2011.

Karen E. Olson’s website is www.kareneolson.com

Driven to Ink by Karen E. Olson, A Tattoo Shop Mystery, Obsidian, @2010, ISBN: 978-0-451-23157-7, Paperback, 320 pages


FTC Full Disclosure - 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.


DEADLY DAGGERS by Joyce and Jim Lavene

Jessie Morton returns to the Renaissance Faire to serve as an apprentice to Daisy the master swordsmith. It’s the summer solstice and Jessie is also there to work on her dissertation for her real job as an assistant professor of history at the University of South Carolina at Columbia.

Jessie is looking forward to spending time with her boyfriend, Chase Manhattan, who serves as bailiff of the Village.

Jessie learns that Master Armorer Daisy is to have a fake duel with Alastair the Great, one of the best-known swordsmen in the modern-day Renaissance world. She also learns that Daisy and Alastair have a past history as lovers.

If things weren’t bad enough, Jessie finds outs Chase’s ex-fiancée and his brother are at the Village. They want Chase to come back home with them. Then the unthinkable happens and Alastair is murdered. Jessie has to find the killer and find a way to keep Chase from going home and back to his ex-fiancée.

For those who love the Renaissance, you will feel you are there again. DEADLY DAGGERS also includes Renaissance recipes and wonderful facts about the event. For those unfamiliar with the festival, this will be an added treat - an intriguing cozy murder mystery and a look at the wonderful world of the Renaissance Faire.

This is the third installment in the Renaissance Faire Mystery series, but it is a stand alone book. The husband and wife writing team of Jim and Joyce Lavene will transport you to another time and place in history while keeping you in suspense until the killer has been caught.

Joyce and Jim Lavene’s website is www.joyceandjimlavene.com

Deadly Daggers by Joyce and Jim Lavene, A Renaissance Faire Mystery, Berkley Prime Crime, @2010, ISBN: 978-0-425-23644-4, Paperback, 304 pages


FTC Full Disclosure - 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.


Friday, September 24, 2010

Guest Blogger, Mary Jane Maffini

It’s my pleasure to welcome award-winning author Mary Jane Maffini as the special guest blogger here at Thoughts in Progress today.

Mary Jane’s latest Charlotte Adams book is CLOSET CONFIDENTIAL (Berkley Prime Crime, July 2010) and it’s the fourth in the series. She says she’s grateful for all the tips she gets from Charlotte. During her visit here today she’s going to talk about, well I’ll let her explain.

Oops, she’s out of the books and into my head!

It’s a beautiful September day. The sun is filtering through the trees and I am thinking about all the things in life that make me feel lucky. I was fortunate to have parents who had a house full of books and encouraged me to love books and reading. I hit the jackpot in my friends and family and colleagues who are fun and supportive. They’re quite booky too, now that I think about it.


I also feel blessed in a being part of a community of readers who share book information, opinions and friendship. Naturally, I’m grateful to Mason Canyon for inviting me to Thoughts in Progress, another wonderful community of book people. Of course, all these people (and you) are real.  But I am also lucky to be connected to some folks who are not quite so real.

When I say not real, I mean figments of my imagination. That’s right. In particular I am talking about Charlotte Adams, professional organizer, amateur sleuth and general busybody, a creation of my fevered brain.  I suppose this is a good time for me to confess that I am not naturally organized although I do have a organizer sleuth who has solved murders in four – soon to be five – mysteries.

There’s a reason we came together. I am a naturally chaotic
person and could easily leave a trail of debris, but I’m also a person who can’t create unless things around me are reasonably serene. I can’t have the stress of tripping over clutter, searching for lost papers, and missing appointments. That is why over the years I have purchased every organizing book and magazine I could get my mitts on, as well as watching shows such as Clean Sweep and Neat.  The tips and techniques have done wonders for me. I will always be a natural Little Miss Messy, but now my house is in reasonable shape, I am not ashamed to open my closet door, I can write two books a year and I maintain a pretty effective To Do list.

Things aren’t perfect, but they are under control. I owe all of that to organizers. When I realized just how much an organizer learns about clients from helping with their homes, offices and lives, I thought this would make a perfect job for an amateur sleuth. And, sure enough, Charlotte Adams has never let me down. From the beginning in ORGANIZE YOUR CORPSES she has foiled criminals, solved storage problems and bumped heads with the police. Of course, she does tend to get arrested wearing her frog jammies and pink fluffy slippers, but we wouldn’t her to get too conceited, would we?

Charlotte has dealt with overall organizing in a hoarding situation in ORGANIZE YOUR CORPSES, with out of control collections in THE CLUTTERED CORPSE, with office chaos in DEATH LOVES A MESSY DESK and most recently, closet chaos, in CLOSET CONFIDENTIAL. Coming soon will be THE BUSY WOMAN’S GUIDE TO MURDER and, you guessed it, time management.

Charlotte is organized and kind. She offers an organizing tip at the beginning of each chapter. I have tried and benefited from each of these tips. They’re a little extra treat for my readers who
One way to stash yarn
are free to enjoy or ignore them. We are, after all, adults. We know what we need.  Here’s a little sample that hasn’t appeared in a book yet: recycle those plastic boxes that prewashed salad mix or spinach come in and use them to store yarn or other craft supplies. They’re nicely stackable, FREE, and you can see the contents at a glance.

Now, if only Charlotte would confine her opinions to her books. I have to confess that she can get to me. For instance, now, after I’ve taken three trips in rapid succession, my desk is piled with business cards to be filed, notes to follow up on, email addresses to be added to my mailing list, that kind of thing. I hear her imaginary voice telling me to ‘get at it’. And I will as soon as I finish talking to you.  Never mind, it’s a good thing I hear that
Charlotte's new shoes!
voice. I still need Charlotte, but I think she’s lucky to have me too. Who else would bail her out of jail and give her all those fabulous shoes and the cute little dogs?

Am I the only one with a relationship with a fictional character? Is there someone in a book who has an impact on you? Or is there information that has changed your life? Over to you, readers … Thanks for being with me today!


Oh, M.J., thank you for stopping by today and sharing these thoughts with us. I, for one, am glad you have Charlotte as a figment of your imagination so that we can also get to know her.



Since we know a little about Charlotte, now let me tell you a little about Mary Jane. She is a lapsed librarian, a former mystery bookstore owner and a lifelong lover of mysteries. She is a former President of Crime Writers of Canada and served two terms on the board of directors of the Canadian Booksellers Association. In addition to the four Charlotte Adams books, Mary Jane is the author of the Camilla MacPhee series, the Fiona Silk adventures and nearly two dozen short stories. She has won two Arthur Ellis awards for best mystery short story as well as the Crime Writers of Canada Derrick Murdoch award and was nominated for a Barry Award in
Daisy and Lily in pearls.
2006.

Mary Jane is a frequent speaker on crime fiction, Canadian mysteries and the writing process. She lives and plots in Ottawa, Ontario, along with her long-suffering husband and two princessy dachshunds. For more information on  Mary Jane and her writing, visit her website at www.maryjanemaffini.com

I also have a book trailer of CLOSET CONFIDENTIAL to share. Enjoy!




Thursday, September 23, 2010

Guest Blogger, Libby Sternberg

It’s my pleasure to welcome author Libby Sternberg as the special guest blogger here at Thoughts in Progress today as she makes a stop on her virtual blog tour.

Some may know Libby as Libby Malin. But, she's here today as Libby Sternberg and her latest release is SLOANE HALL. Libby’s offering a copy of her new release to one visitors today. Be sure to see the guidelines at the end of her post. She’s here today to tell us.....….hush, a secret about SLOANE HALL.

My fall historical, SLOANE HALL, was inspired by one of my favorite novels, JANE EYRE. But in SLOANE HALL, I wanted to tell a fresh story so that readers would encounter the tale as if they’d never read it before. It was a challenge, one I’ve blogged about on several occasions hither and yon. As I observed on one of those blogs, I didn’t want to write a point-by-point retelling of Bronte’s classic because if readers want to read JANE EYRE….they’ll read JANE EYRE.
So in SLOANE HALL, the setting is shifted to 1929 Hollywood  where chauffeur John Doyle falls in love with his employer, Pauline Sloane, a starlet about to make her first talking picture. Before they can claim happiness, he is repulsed by secrets she hides from the camera and the world. Although it’s inspired by JANE EYRE, SLOANE HALL tells a new story of obsession and forgiveness.

Readers who are familiar with JANE EYRE and who pick up SLOANE HALL should be able to recognize what I call “benchmark” moments from the original—the first meeting of Jane and Rochester, Jane’s departure for her aunt’s house, the
wedding and its horrible revelations, Jane’s heartbreak and self-exile from Thornfield Hall, and eventually her return after hearing Rochester calling her back from afar.

For me, these moments (along with several other key scenes) represent the emotional high and low points of Bronte’s original. They, I believed, would be the scenes JANE EYRE fans would eagerly await if they were reading a retelling, or a book such as SLOANE HALL, one that was inspired by JANE EYRE.

Each of those moments contains an element of surprise, however. And for readers familiar with the original story, creating that sense of surprise was a tremendous challenge. In some instances, I relied on the change in setting and tone to help me. Other times, I let my fresh characters lead me down slightly different paths.

When John visits his dying grandfather (as Jane visited her ailing aunt), for example, he wrestles with his obsession with Pauline Sloane, his employer, hoping a deathbed will rid him of his desire for her. But he also uses the visit to learn more about her past since she grew up in San Francisco, where his grandfather now resides.

Later, after John has left Sloane Hall following his discovery of Pauline’s secrets, he lands at a distant cousin’s house in Montana. There, he eventually “hears” Pauline calling to him for help, but I hope it is in an unexpected way—even if readers suspect they know how it will happen, I hope it still surprises them.

And, of course, the “lunatic spouse in the attic” scene in JANE EYRE is handled differently in SLOANE HALL as well. There are secrets that sicken John and drive him away, yes, but a lunatic spouse? Well….I can’t give that away here, but I hope this scene packs the emotional punch of the original.

One secret I will reveal here, though, relates to Pauline Sloane’s name. In the novel, her real name, before the studios changed it, is Eleanor Brickman. Astute observers will remember that Rochester’s first wife was Bertha Mason. Mason…Brickman…yes, I wanted Pauline to be an amalgam of both Rochester and Bertha, embodying the fierce independence and gruffness of Rochester and the torment and madness of Bertha.

I hope I succeeded. I’ve been heartened to receive some lovely reviews of SLOANE HALL so far. Romance Reviews Today says it’s “well worth reading,” while Fresh Fiction reports that “Sternberg never loses sight of the story she's re-telling, but this novel is definitely her own. Readers have things to figure out and look forward to. Her prose flows beautifully with vivid descriptions of people and places, bringing to life a Los Angeles of times gone by. Fans of historical fiction and JANE EYRE in particular will relish this novel, and readers who enjoy a love story should definitely pick this one up.”
Those who comment on this blog within the next 24 hours will have their names entered into a random drawing for a free copy of SLOANE HALL.

Libby, thanks so much for stopping by today and sharing some secrets with us. SLOANE HALL sounds most intriguing and a very interesting read. I’m looking forward to it.

Libby is the author of YA mysteries (the first of which was an Edgar nominee) and women’s fiction. As I mentioned earlier, she also writes as Libby Malin (MY OWN PERSONAL SOAP OPERA). You can visit her blog at www.LibbysBooks.wordpress.com (where she blogs about SLOANE HALL, old Hollywood, JANE EYRE and more), or her website at www.LibbysBooks.com . You can friend her on Facebook at Libby Sternberg, or contact her to get on her mailing list at Libby488 (at) yahoo (dot) com.



Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Oops!

Sorry for being tardy. Due to some unforeseen circumstances author Allie Larkin isn't going to be able to guest blog here today at Thoughts in Progress.

Hopefully we can reschedule her post for a later date. I would like to share the book trailer for her debut novel STAY with you. Please enjoy.



Author Libby Sternberg will be here tomorrow to share a secret with us and giveaway a copy of her latest release, SLOAN HALL. Hope you'll join us.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Guest Blogger, Diana M. Raab

Please join me in welcoming author Diana M. Raab, MFA, RN, as the special guest blogger here today at Thoughts in Progress as she makes a stop on her WOW Virtual Blog Book Tour.

Diana's current release is HEALING WITH WORDS, her second memoir. Having survived two scares with cancer, she joins us today to talk about how journaling saved her life.

On more than one occasion, journaling has saved my life. The first time was when at the age of ten, my grandmother committed suicide in my childhood home. In an effort to help me cope, my mother handed me a red leather journal to pour my grief out onto it pages. The journal not only became my lifeline, but it also became my best friend and confident. Writing in my journal transformed me from a broken-hearted, shy ten-year-old to someone who was able to express her profound pain and sense of loss. For many years after, I turned to journaling during turbulent times, such as coping with the angst of adolescence and the loss of friends and parents.
 

In 1983, while pregnant with my first daughter my obstetrician prescribed bed rest and during my seven months in bed, I chronicled my pregnancy. This evolved into a self-help book for other women encountering similar experiences. Last year the book was updated in collaboration with Dr. Errol Norwitz from Yale University, under the title, YOUR HIGH-RISK PREGNANCY: A PRACTICAL AND SUPPORTIVE GUIDE.
 
When diagnosed with early breast cancer (DCIS) in 2001, I once again  turned to my journal for solace. Then in 2006, when diagnosed with yet another seemingly unrelated cancer, I again turned to writing. In fact, my second memoir, HEALING WITH WORDS: A WRITER’S CANCER JOURNEY was born on the pages of my journal. It’s not only a memoir, but another self-help book with blank journaling pages for others to share their stories.
 
Keeping a journal has many advantages, but I think the most important is that the journal listens and doesn’t talk back. Sometimes when we’re not feeling good, we might not even want to talk to other people, but we can always turn to our journal to pour out our feelings. Regular journaling also brings us answers as we write through our problems. If I’m not feeling up to par, I typically begin by writing the words, “I feel,” and then see where my words go. 
 
Learning to open up about personal issues even in a journal, does not happen over night, but it’s a part of the healing process. Whether affected by trauma, change, loss or pain, finding the time to write is vital for mental health. 

 
To summarize, there are many great reasons for keeping a
journal or notebook, including:
* it is a companion and best friend
* it is a place to work through an illness
* it witnesses the healing process
* it increases awareness
* it is empowering
* it clears the mind
* it builds self-confidence
* it improves communication skills
* it improves mental health
* it is a safe place to vent bottled up emotions
* it is a vehicle for letting go of cloudy thoughts
* it encourages reflection

Good luck and may you be inspired to write!


Diana, thank you for guest blogging here today and sharing your story with us. I can understand where writing in a journal can be a lifeline and help during difficult times.



Monday, September 20, 2010

Maintenance and Reviews

Does that urge to clean, re-arrange, and fix-up only strike you in the Spring?

For me, it strikes off and on and only last a short time. So today is one of those days. It’s a day to ‘take stock’ so to speak and make mention of a few things going on, changes I hope to make and upcoming events. And, I also have reviews to share.

First up, today is the day for the TOP 10 TV SHOWS BLOGFEST hosted by Alex at Alex J. Cavanaugh. Be sure to stop by and check out his look at TV shows past and present. At last glance there were almost 70 blogs participating in this blogfest. Should be lots of fun.

Second, have you noticed the cute little pumpkin widget on the left sidebar? I’m participating in NaBloWriMo Challenge. Basically it’s a challenge to blog everyday in October. With the help of a number of wonderful authors lined up to guest post and numerous great books I’m scheduled to review, I should be able to handle this challenge. If you’re interested in participating, just click on the pumpkin (or the name above) and it will take you to the sign up site.

Next, I’d like to say ‘THANK YOU’ to all my followers and say HELLO to the newest ones. I’m sorry to say I haven’t gotten by everyone’s blog yet. Life has been crazier than usual lately. So if you have a blog and I haven’t drop by to say hello and follow you, please just leave a comment with your site link and I’ll drop by as soon as possible. I really appreciate each and everyone of you. Thanks!!!

I’d also like to thank Cassandra at Cassandra Jade for awarding me the Versatile Blogger Award earlier this month. Much appreciated. If you haven’t
stopped by Cassandra’s blog before, be sure to do so you won’t be disappointed. She offers helpful and inspiring posts, as well as entertaining. Thanks so much Cassandra. Fellow bloggers have been so sweet and wonderful to present me with numerous awards this part year. I want to display all of them so I’m thinking of creating a page just for that purpose. As my blog roll increases, it along with the awards makes for a very long sidebar. So we’ll see if I can get a new awards page to work.

I want to share with you a new item we got this past weekend. It’s a large iCrate Double-Door Dog Crate. We got it from the csnstores.com (they have the neatest stuff).
 

This isn't Brisco. It's just a stock photo of the crate.
We got the crate for several reasons. It’ll be great when people visit who are allergic or afraid of dogs. Brisco, our 90-pound English Shepherd sometimes scares people even though he's just a sweetie who is spoiled rotten. We can take the crate with us on day trips when Brisco goes. And it will also work great for the cats. It’s very durable and has both a front and side door. It also has a plastic pan on bottom that can be removed and a divider panel if you wanted to separate two small animals in the same crate.

The crate was a breeze to put together. No tools required, just a few minutes and snapping several latches in place. It dis-assembles just as easy and lays flat for carrying or storing when not in use. I placed the order Tuesday and received it Friday. Now that’s quick service.

Okay, time for a book review. I can’t help myself. I have another cute children’s book to share.

QUEEN VERNITA MEETS SIR HEATHYBEAN THE ASTRONOMER by Heath Rhoades and Dawn Menge

This is a wonderful book that takes Rhoades’ expertise in astronomy and combines it with Menge’s storytelling skills to entertain and educate youth about the planets, asteroids, and comets, as well as the days of the week and the months of the year through repetition.

Sir HeathyBean the Astronomer and Cora the Teacher visit Queen Vernita at her castle in the land of Oceaneers. Queen Vernita quickly invites 12 friends to visit and learn from the pair. Each friend visits for an entire month.

In January Austin learns about the Sun, in February Daniel learns about Mercury, in March Odessa learns about Venus, in April Sophia learns about the Earth, in May Jake learns about the moon, in June Javier learns about Mars, in July Micah learns about Jupiter, in August Balint learns about Saturn, in September Ally learns about Uranus, in October Jaime learned about Neptune, in November Glen learned about Pluto, and in December Joseph learned about asteroids and comets.

The book is listed in the juvenile fiction category. It is a great way to encourage youngsters to learns about astronomy while having fun. The beautiful illustrations by Bobbi Switzer will add to the learning experience. This is the third installment in the Queen Vernita series.

Queen Vernita Meets Sir Heathy Bean the Astronomer by Heath Rhoades and Dawn Menge, Illustrations by Bobbi Switzer, Outskirts Press, @ 2010, ISBN: 978-1-4327-3120-5. Paperback, 34 pages.


FTC Full Disclosure - I requested this book and it was sent to me by the authors in hopes I would review it. However, receiving the complimentary copy did not influence my review.

Well that’s all for today. I have a number of wonderful authors guest blogging this week and I’ll have some cozy murder mystery reviews to share as well. Hope you’ll stop in again. For now, have a safe and happy Monday and remember to take time to read.