Monday, January 31, 2011

Gideon's War by Howard Gordon

Being a fan of the television series 24, when I had the opportunity to read a book by the executive producer I was intrigued.

Howard Gordon’s debut novel, GIDEON’S WAR, was all I thought it would be and more.

Special Presidential Enovy Gideon Davis is good at brokering deals and making peace between rival countries. But his latest assignment hits too close to home.

An Islamist insurgency is making war against the American-friendly government Sultanate of Mohan in Southeast Asia. They are lead by the ruthless leader Abu Nasir. The President is sending Gideon and his mentor, Assistant National Security Advisor Earl Parker, to bring Abu Nasir in.

He’s agreed to only talk to one person - his brother, Gideon. It seems Abu Nasir is really Gideon’s older brother, Tillman Davis, who has gone rogue. To make matters worse, they only have 48 hours before Abu/Tillman is a dead man and international war breaks out.

Meanwhile, in the South China Sea, the multimillion dollar state-of-the-art oil rig, the Obelishk, has been taken over by Abu Nasir and his terrorists. Rig manager Kate Murphy isn’t sure who will destroy her rig first - the terrorists or the raging storm headed their way.

Author Howard Gordon has weaved a story of intrigue and international terrorism. The stage is set for Gideon and Kate to meet as their two worlds collide in a breathtaking roller coaster of events.

This is a fast-pace, adrenaline-filled plot with numerous twists and turns including the kidnapping of Earl Parker. There are ambushes, betrayals, shootouts, and more weapons than you can keep up with. It’s a rush from beginning to end.

Gideon gets out of one hair raising situation only to find himself in another more death-defining all the while not firing a single shot until he is faced with his most shocking realization. 

Howard Gordon's website is

Gideon’s War by Howard Gordon, Touchstone, @2011, ISBN: 978-1-4391-7581-1, Hardcover, 336 pages

FTC Full Disclosure - I requested this book 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.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Plans Change

Image from Google
Do you ever start out to do one thing, but end up doing something else completely different?

I find myself doing that a lot lately. I’m not sure why. I guess I could blame it on age or just being blonde. For the most part, it’s probably because I usually have too many things going on at once. I don’t seem to finish one thing before I start another.

Case in point, I have two really good books I’m reading at the moment. I had thought I’d have one finished in time to do a review today, but that’s where the other things come into play.

It’s winter time and I can’t help but pull out yarn and needles. I mentioned earlier that I was finishing up crocheting a baby blanket. Well, I put the finishing touches on it yesterday. Now all I have to do is have it cleaned and blocked and it will be ready to wrap. (I’ll try to get a photo of it first.) So that cut into my reading time yesterday. But before I finished the blanket I got sidetracked earlier in the week by starting a scarf. I don’t know why I started the scarf. I don’t need another one, I didn’t have anyone in particular I was making it for. I just saw the yarn, liked the texture and color, bought it and decided to crochet a scarf. More time away from reading.

In my defense I will say winter is when I’ve always done all of my crocheting, knitting and cross stitch work. Last year when I first started blogging, I still had plenty of time to devote to it as I wasn’t following that many blogs and wasn’t reading that many books for review. A year later, things are different. I follow a lot more blogs and my TBR stack has tripled (if not more) so there is little time for crocheting. But still, the urge is there and I have to ‘scratch that itch’ so to speak thus my reading pays the price.

I’ve said all this to say I don’t have a book review to share with you today, but I do have a review of a different sort. BTW, in case you didn’t see yesterday’s post be sure to check it out for a discount to a major online store. No strings attached.

Now anytime I have the opportunity to review a product that I think my cats (Little One and Gum Drop) will enjoy, I go for it. Alexandra and the good folks at recently gave me the opportunity to review some items.

I selected an ‘ethical pet motion-activated cat ball’ and an 'Armarkat 61-inch ultra thick faux fleece cat tree in sky blue.'

First let me tell you about the motion-activated ball. It’s small and
Motion-Activated Ball
reminds me of a tiny disco ball. It has an on/off button you press and it flashes a rainbow of colors. Since Little One is more prone to playing with balls than Gum Drop, I gave it to her first with the light off. She began batting it around and was having a lot of fun. After I retrieved it from under the sofa the second time, I decided to turn the light on. She didn’t know what to make of it at first, but then it was time to play again. The ball really is motion-activated, the cats love it and it’s fun to watch.

Next the cat tree that is almost taller than I am. The tree came unassembled. Normally not one to read instructions, I decided it might be best if I did this time. Each piece was clearly marked. All
the bolts and even the wrench came in a cute little, cloth draw-string bag. I placed all the pieces on the floor and compared them to the instructions. Within a matter of minutes I had the tree completely assembled without any problems. The only thing I didn’t do was it came with a round tube (shown here above the white cat) that I decided not to attach. Since both of my cats are senior cats, I didn’t really think this small tube was something they would enjoy. Kittens on the other hand would probably love it.

As with anything new, Little One had fun playing in the box while I assembled the tree. Both cats are taking their time getting use to the new tree, but I think before long they will love it as much as they do their 3-foot one. Both items arrived within four days of ordering and were in great condition when delivered.

So this was another diversion from my reading. Like I said earlier, I tend to get sidetracked. Do you get mislead by the best of intensions? Do you have to keep a list of what needs to be done and when, just to keep you on track?

Today should be a nice, quiet day for me to get some reading done. But, it is almost the first of the month and I need to get a new slideshow ready for February authors. Oh, and I did have enough yarn left over that I could crochet a small toboggan (Southern for cap) for the baby to match his blanket. It wouldn’t take that long and then I could get back to my reading…………………… 

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Sharing Something With You

Image from Google
Do you look for bargains, sales or discounts when shopping? With today’s economy, it pays to shop wisely no matter what you’re looking for.

This isn’t a book or writing-related post today, but something I wanted to share with all of you. Though this blog has always been about books, writing and such - you know from time to time I veer off a bit.

That’s what I’m doing today. I’m always delighted when I can pass along good books or helpful information to y’all. Today I’m passing along a discount from a major online retailer. I’m sorry to say the discount is only available to residents of the U.S. I keep hoping I’ll run across a giveaway or some type wonderful promotion that is open internationally, but not yet.

The deal is recently contacted me about providing a
discount to you, my wonderful visitors, as well as to myself. Now honestly I’ve never shopped at, but have seen their ads on TV and it seems lots of people enjoy shopping there.

They offer a vast array of items. If you're looking for new" rel="nofollow">bookshelves to house your favorite books, there's all shapes and sizes; if you enjoy coffee, there's" rel="nofollow">coffee makers of various brands and colors; looking for a special Valentine's Day presents, there's" rel="nofollow">gift baskets; maybe you're expanding your work area and need" rel="nofollow">office furniture; or what about some new" rel="nofollow">table lamps to enhance your reading? These are just a few suggestions of the hundreds of items they feature.

Here’s how it works: you use the discount code 121745, which is good for 10% off Overstock products (excluding movies, books, and electronics). The discount code never expires, however, it can only be used once per e-mail address. Since this excludes electronics, there is a free shipping promo code you can use if you’re purchasing electronics. That code is 202234.

Now this is not an endorsement by me for purchasing items from This is just my way of passing along a discount that has graciously offered. You don’t have to be a follower of this blog or do anything special in order to use the code. Just enter the code when you checkout at There are times when new items for home and family are needed and other times things are just wanted. Hopefully this will help a little either way.

Hope everyone has a wonderful Saturday. Our temperatures are suppose to be in the low 60s today, but you never know. I’m planning to get caught up on reading the blogs I’ve missed the past couple of days and also get a review ready for Sunday Salon. Not sure where all the time has gone. How about you? What are your plans for today? Anything special or just relaxing and enjoying a good book?

FTC Disclosure: All the ideas and opinions expressed are my own. No monetary compensation was received for doing this post, however, I was provided with a discount code.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Guest Bloggers: Bette James Laughrun and Kathie Nelson

Please join me in welcoming the mother-daughter writing team of Bette James Laughrun and Kathie Nelson as the special guest bloggers here at Thoughts in Progress today as they make a stop on their virtual book tour.


They have stopped by today to discuss “Have you settled for less than your dream?”  According to them, “It is never too late to create an outrageous life.”
There is a time when every woman questions her existence. She wonders “Am I really making a difference?  Is this the way my life is always going to be?”   

At the end of the day, we only have one life to live. We are born wired to love, innately geared to thrive with a homing beacon that draws us to be more … to become that person we were created to be. The longing for significance, to contribute, and to have deep relationships is essential to our fulfillment factor. But somehow, along the way we hit some bumps in the road and life happens. The choices we’ve made, and those of others, impact our current state. We settle into routine or mediocrity.   

You have the power to make new choices that will re-chart your course. I flipped the switch at 62. What about you? 

Here are a few questions you can ask and answer for yourself:

1.  My Purpose:  Why am I here? How do I live my life with purpose? What should I be doing less of? More of? What is the current focus of my life? What do I want it to be? What legacy do I want to leave? If you don’t feel you know your purpose, find someone who is doing something you really believe in and partner with them until you feel your purpose beginning to surface. Just begin to make a difference somewhere.

2.  My Gift Mix – What talents or value do I bring to the world? (Besides my famous Jello salad?) What are my strengths? How do I use them in my life? It starts with you. The more you begin to recognize and take ownership of your uniqueness, strengths and the value of your experiences, you can in turn, reach out and offer this kind of encouragement to others.

3.  My Vision- Beyond what I can see today, what’s in store for the rest of my life? Is there something that stirs my heart but I am not sure I can accomplish it? Who is telling me I can’t? Why? You are never too old (or too young) to pursue what’s on your heart. I was recently inspired by the quote “If you can ‘see’ it you can have it” by Kong Hee. I began to imagine myself traveling, having amazing experiences, spending wonderful times with my family, writing my book and more. Put your ‘dream-maker’ side to work to have some fun imagining. Now is your day to start making new choices. 

You have the power to make choices that will move you toward your ideal life. The journey starts with a single step. An outrageous over-the-top life is not just for others, it can be yours too.

Bette and Kathie, thanks for blogging here today. Starting our life out in a new direction does start with that single step. After that, each step gets a little easier.

For more on Bette, Kathie and their book, check out their website.

What are your thoughts on creating an outrageous life? Do you stop and take stock of where you are and where you want to be?

Thursday, January 27, 2011

I Want What She’s Got! By Bette James Laughrun and Kathie Nelson

The title of this book caught my attention when I was approached about the authors visiting Thoughts in Progress on their virtual book tour.

One of the authors (Bette James Laughrun) was in her 60s when she wrote this book, along with her daughter, Kathie Nelson, who was in her 30s. The sub-title of I WANT WHAT SHE'S GOT! is THE SECRETS OF CREATING AN OUTRAGEOUS LIFE. As we grow older, we tend to look for ways to improve our life and this sounded interesting.

The book is about self-motivating, along with spiritual guidance. It follows Bette Laughrun’s life as she discovers that there is more to living than what she was experiencing. In her early 60s, Bette said she felt as though she was dying despite the fact that she was perfectly healthy.

At the end of each chapter, there are several questions that ask you (the reader) to think about your thoughts and feelings on what you’ve just read.

There are seven main questions the authors ask you focus on to assess your life. An example of these questions is: Relationships - How can I make the time I spend with friends and family count? Each of the seven questions are then broken down into several more questions to help you evaluate your life. In addition, there is a wheel exercise that helps you rate the different segments of your life to see where you’re at and where you want to be.

I WANT WHAT SHE’S GOT! is the story of one woman’s journey from having what she felt was no purpose to finding a fulfilling life through her faith.

I Want What She‘s Got!, The Secrets of Creating an Outrageous Life, by Bette James Laughrun and Kathie Nelson, PCG Legacy, @2010, ISBN: 978-0-9826665-8-6, Paperback, 130 pages

FTC Full Disclosure - I requested this book as part of the authors’ virtual book tour. The book was sent to me by the publisher in hopes I would review it. However, receiving the complimentary copy did not influence my review.

Side Note: Co-authors Bette James Laughrun and Kathie Nelson will be the special guest bloggers here tomorrow to talk about “have you settled for less than your dream?”

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Guest Blogger: W.S. Gager

Please join me in welcoming award-winning author W.S. Gager as the special guest blogger at Thoughts in Progress today.

W.S.’s latest book is A CASE OF ACCIDENTAL INTERSECTION (ISBN: 978-1-892343-70-3). Here’s a brief synopsis of it: “Mitch Malone hates hospitals, but when a suspicious traffic accident lands a comatose victim in the hospital, he must put that aside to find the truth. The surface looks smooth but the more the crime beat reporter looks the more bodies pop up, including a private detective and his own editor. Can he get to the truth before the surviving victim is murdered in her hospital bed and an elderly witness has a heart attack? Will he get his exclusive printed before he's the next victim?”

W.S. stopped by to talk about “creating mysteries in her head since second grade.”

I was asked recently about the first mystery I’d ever read and if that is why I write mysteries. I had to think a long time about that and realized the first mystery I remember was the “Boxcar Children” by Gertrude Chandler. I didn’t read it but my second-grade teacher read a little bit to us every day. I hated it when she finished for the day and always at a cliffhanger. It was the year I hated my new school and was mad at everyone because I’d left my best friend behind.

That book opened a new world to me to fill the void of my loss. I knew I could do just as well as those four fictional kids but where would I find a boxcar to live in? I went on to read every book in the Boxcar series and then went through Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys.

Why is this important? Is that why I write mysteries? Maybe, but I think the bigger reason is I have always looked for the mystery in life even when there wasn’t one. I’ve always created scenarios where I solved a crime because I was observant of some important fact. (Unfortunately, my observations were never needed in real life.) This was how I entertained myself when I didn’t have a book to read. To this day I still love to watch people and make up events that fit their actions.

I’ve told very few people how my mind really works because I
would scare them. I see something seemingly harmless and can create some crime or criminal to fit. That attention to detail that I used to keep myself occupied as a child is what I exploit to make my characters come alive in my books. It has helped me layer in clues and give suspects attributes that could make them appear guilty or not at my whim. I try to make the reader race to the end to see who the killer is.

My job as a mystery writer is to entertain and keep you guessing until the final reveal. I’ve done my job when the reader smacks their forehead at the end of the book and says: “why didn’t I think of that.” The best compliments I hear are “I couldn’t put in down until the end,” or “I stayed up all night to finish it.” That is when I know I’ve done my job.

My early creations of killing people off might have been therapy for a mixed up kid. I can now only be thankful for that set of circumstance that let my imagination travel down the road of crime solver and not criminal. I want to keep my readers guessing just like I sat on the edge of my seat in second grade waiting to see what happened to the Boxcar Children.

What authors do you remember making you crazy until you could get back to their story?

W.S., thanks for blogging here today and sharing this background with us. Mysteries like you described - the ones that hold you captive until the very end - are the best.

Now for a little more background on W.S. She won first place in the Public Safety Writers Association Writing Contest - Unpublished Novel - 2010.  She has lived in Michigan for most of her life except when she was interviewing race car drivers or professional woman's golfers. She enjoyed the fast past life of a newspaper reporter until deciding to settle down and realizing babies didn't adapt well to running down story details on deadline. 

Since then she has been honing her skills on other forms of writing before deciding to do what she always wanted with her life and that was to write mystery novels. Her main character is Mitch Malone who is an edgy crime-beat reporter always on the hunt for the next Pulitzer and won't let anyone stop him, supposedly.

The first installment in the Mitch Malone Mystery Series is A CASE OF INFATUATION. For more on W.S. and her writing, visit her website at or her blog at A CASE OF ACCIDENTIAL INTERSECTION is available for order at most bookstores, as well as in ebook for Kindle, Nook and other forms.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Guest Blogger: Sophie Gunn

It’s my pleasure to welcome author Sophie Gunn as the special guest blogger at Thoughts in Progress as she tours blogdom on her virtual blog tour.

Sophie’s latest release is HOW SWEET IT IS. Here’s a brief synopsis of it: “Single mom Lizzie Bea Carpenter learned long ago that no white knight was coming to save her. A hardworking waitress at the local diner, she's raising her daughter to be like the independent women in her "Enemy Club"--high school rivals turned best friends, promising to always tell each other the whole truth and nothing but!
Yet part of Lizzie wishes she did have a man's help, just for small stuff, like fixing up the house. Her fairy godmother must have been listening, because Dante "Tay" Giovanni soon appears. He's sexy, kind, and offering assistance--no strings attached.
Slowly, steadily, Lizzie's heart opens. But the grip of the past is fierce, and nothing in life is ever really free. Tay has his own tragedies to overcome, but if he can, he'll fix more than Lizzie's home. He'll show her just how sweet it is to be loved by him.”

Thanks to Sophie, Anna, and the good folks at the Hachette Book Group, I have 3 copies of HOW SWEET IT IS to giveaway. Please see the end of the post for the giveaway guidelines.

Sophie stop by today to talk about some of the advantages and disadvantages of creating her main character as a single mom.

The biggest advantage of making Lizzie, the main character from HOW SWEET IT IS, a single mother is that readers love books with kids. The biggest disadvantage is that readers hate books with kids.

Really! Both those statements are true. You can’t imagine how
split readers are on the issue of kids in romance novels.  Personally, I love them. I’m a mother of a fourteen-year-old girl, which is why I was very excited to include Paige, Lizzie’s daughter in HOW SWEET IT IS. But did I hesitate before I put her in? You bet! Because I know how much it turns off certain readers.  

But the truth is, kids in books is raise the stakes, which is a writer’s phrase for, “making stuff matter more so the story is more exciting.” For example, in HOW SWEET IT IS, Lizzie feels she must push Tay away, because her daughter’s father, the man who abandoned them fourteen years ago, is coming back. Lizzie doesn’t want to show her daughter that it’s okay to trust strangers, or rely on them. She is determined to be independent.

What do you think? Do you like kids in your romance novels?  

Thanks so much for having me on this blog today. If you want to find out more about HOW SWEET IT IS, stop by my website at

Sophie, thanks for blogging here today. I think putting kids in a romance story makes it more realistic. There’s a lot of single moms (and dads) out there.

For a bit of background on Sophie - she grew up in suburban Philadelphia, but raced to New York City as soon as she got the chance. After four years at Columbia University, she worked at several of Manhattan's top advertising agencies as a copywriter, penning ads for Pepsi, BMW, Sony, and other major brands.

When her husband got a job in a tiny town in upstate New York, she knew her ad career was over. So she opened a computer file and typed, "Chapter One." Now, she's back in Philadelphia, six blocks from where she grew up, with her two cats, two kids, and one husband, writing what she loves and wondering why she ever left. She loves to hear from readers, so visit to contact her and to find out more.

Now for the giveaway guidelines. To enter this giveaway, send me an e-mail ( Your subject line should read, “Win HOW SWEET IT IS.” Your message should include your name and mailing address. The contest is open to residents of the U.S. and Canada only and no post office box addresses can be accepted. In addition, Hachette is advising winners that they will be subject to the one copy per household rule, which means that if they win the same title in two or more contests, they will receive only one copy of the title (or one set in the case of grouped giveaways) in the mail. (Winners here have always be great about letting me know if they have already won the book somewhere else so another winner can be selected. However, this announcement is something that has to be passed along from Hachette). And, just so you know, I don’t share the mailing information or use it for any other purpose. The deadline to enter this giveaway for a chance at one of the 3 copies of the 416-page HOW SWEET IT IS (ISBN: 9780446561990) will be 8 p.m. (EST) on Thursday, Feb. 10.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Guest Blogger, Kimmie Thomas

Please join me in welcoming author Kimmie Thomas as the special guest blogger at Thoughts in Progress today as she makes a stop on her virtual book tour.

Kimmie’s current release is THIS SIDE OF CRAZY. Here’s a brief blurb about the book: “Maxine Payne’s poor self-esteem led her to marry the first man that showed any interest in her.  After five years of marriage and misery she has nothing to show for it.  Her sham of a marriage is falling apart and her dream of having a child is fading away each day. To make matters worst, she discovers that the people in her life are not there to love and help her as she has always believed. 
She struggles to come to terms with her failing marriage and her sick mother as she watches her chance at a happy home with children slip away.  Her two childhood girlfriends offer help and support but they have their own personal struggles.  The old saying, “what’s done in the dark will eventually comes to light” has never been more true. 
When tragedy strikes, Maxine will have to make the most important decision of her life.   But will the lies and secrets her husband and friends harbor bring Maxine’s life crashing down around her?”

Kimmie stopped by to talk about ‘encouragement to the aspiring author.’

I am frequently asked why I decided to write a book. I always enjoyed reading in a wide range of genres and often found myself writing short stories or poems in my spare time. When I think about it, I've always been a writer. I've maintained a journal all of my life. On a daily basis I use my writing as a way to relax and stay focused.

Another question I am asked by aspiring authors, is whether I can help them write their novel. I always feel bad because the actual writing of a book is usually a solo job or at least it was for me. There are something's that a new or aspiring writer can do to make the path a little smoother. The most important piece of advise I can offer is to write, write, write. Here are some additional tips that will help a new writer.

1. Use a outline. Writing is like taking a road trip with the family. It is a long and tedious ride that involves a lot bathroom breaks and you watch the scenery as it passes by going to your intended destination that seems to take forever. Like a road trip, your outline should plot out the story from beginning to end. The writer should have a clear idea of how the story would end. You wouldn't pack your car for a family road trip, get in and start driving without knowing where you were going would you?

2.  Know your characters. Each of your main characters should have a written bio, including a full name, address, occupation, marital status, hobbies, friends, general physical description, good qualities, bad qualities, motivations, etc. If you don't know your character how will the reader.

3.  Write what you know. It is always easier to write about what you know. Sure you can research any topic and write about, but will your readers actual feel you passion for it. Real life is much stranger than fiction, tell the reader what you know. There is always passion in what you know and believe.

4.  Keep  your writing relevant. Be careful to stay on task when you write. It is easy to wonder off the path while writing. Make sure that what you tell the reader is relevant to the story. Always ask your self is this relevant and would the story still move forward without this information. If you answer yes, copy and paste that information some where else, but delete it from your current story. Save it for later. You may be able to use it later.

5.  Find a good editor. It is true you only get one chance to make a good impression. There is nothing worst than unedited work. It is always a good idea to have a professional editor review your work before submitting it a publisher.

Most editors will give you a sample edit. This is very important because you need to make sure that you and your editor are compatible. Also be sure the editor you choose is familiar with your genre.

6.  Join a writing group. I belong to several writing groups. I have found it helpful and motivating. It helps to know that you aren't the only person with writers block and that there are other writers have problems with plot twist too.

7.  Don't give up!! My first piece of advise is still my best piece of advise.  Write, write, write. Keep writing. Never throw anything away. You never know when your creative juices will go into overdrive and propel you forward. You may find your self picking up a short story you wrote years ago and weeks later find you have produce a best selling novel.

Kimmie, thanks for being here today and sharing your tips for aspiring authors. These all sound very helpful.

For a little background on Kimmie. She is native Detroiter living with her husband and children. Her experience as a psychiatric nurse has given her the ability to create characters that display common personality flaws. She writes when she not working as a teacher and a nurse. To find out more about Kimmie or to learn more about THIS SIDE OF CRAZY visit or

What are your thoughts on advice for aspiring authors? Have any extra tips to add to Kimmie’s?

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Sunday Salon: Highlighting Books

It’s time again for Sunday Salon where we reach for that smoothing cup of coffee (tea or other favorite beverage), get comfortable and discuss the books we’ve read recently.

I must confess I haven’t read as much as I should have or wanted to. I’m trying to finish a baby blanket I’m crocheting. Because of this I find myself settling in with a bundle of yarn at night rather than a good book.

There are so many wonderful books that have been released this month. Since I don’t have reviews to share today, I thought I’d highlight several books that are in my TBR stack. In addition, I have a book giveaway to share.


This is the third installment in the Talk Radio Mystery set in Florida. A phony psychic comes to town and makes life difficult for Psychologist Maggie Walsh.

Madame Chantel claims to be able to talk to the dead. One of her ghostly chats results in two beloved old ladies being murdered. Meanwhile, Cypress Grove is gearing up for a celebration where the mayor is planning to unearth a time capsule dating back fifty years and WYME is promoting the event.

Maggie wonders if the contents of the time capsule could somehow be connected with the mysterious murders? People are dying to know what’s inside the capsule. Yes, literally dying! Stay tuned...

Stay Tuned for Murder by Mary Kennedy, A Talk Radio Mystery, Obsidian, @2011, ISBN: 978-0-451-23235-9, Paperback, 320 pages


This is the fourth installment in the White House Chef Mystery. Who ever thought cooking is boring has never meet White House executive chef Olivia Paras.

There’s a new First Family in the White House and executive chef can’t afford to make any mistakes. A box of take-out chicken mysteriously shows up for the First Family’s two young children. Refusing to serve the chicken to the children, Olivia gets the cold shoulder from the First Lady. When the chicken turns out to be poisoned, Olivia realizes the youngsters are targets. But are Olivia’s days numbered as executive chef when the First Lady brings the family’s personal chef to the White House to cook for them?

An added bonus is a selection of recipes for a complete presidential menu, as well as a number of kid-friendly recipes.

Buffalo West Wing by Julie Hyzy, A White House Chef Mystery, Berkley Prime Crime, @2011, ISBN: 978-0-425-23923-0, Paperback, 320 pages


This is the second installment in the Cupcake Bakery Mystery series and just in time for Valentine’s Day.

Melanie Cooper and Angie DeLaura’s Fairy Tale Cupcakes Bakery is gearing up for Valentine’s Day. However, Baxter Malloy has been murdered on his first date with Mel’s mother and now she’s a suspect. Mel and Angie need to find time around frosting to dig into the man’s shady past and discover who served him his just desserts.

An added bonus is a selection of cupcake recipes and a preview of the next Cupcake Bakery Mystery, DEATH BY THE DOZEN.

Buttercream Bump Off by Jenn McKinlay, A Cupcake Bakery Mystery, Berkley Prime Crime, @2011, ISBN: 978-0-425-23924-7, Paperback, 24o pages

GHOULS, GHOULS, GHOULS by Victoria Laurie

This is the fifth installment in the Ghost Hunter Mystery series.

When M.J. Holliday and the crew of her cable TV show, Ghoul Getters, venture to the haunted ruins of Dunlow Castle in Ireland, drawn by the legend of hidden treasure, they hope the road will rise up to meet them, that the wind will always be at their backs—and that the resident phantom won’t push them off a cliff.

Dunlow Castle has more spooks than turrets, including the long-dead lord in all his ghostly greediness, but they pale in comparison to the phantom. If they treasure their lives, M.J. and her ghost busters need to get the drop on the menacing phantom before they plunge headfirst into one cliff-hanger of an ending.

Readers also get a sneak peek at the next Ghost Hunter Mystery, GHOUL INTERRUPTED.

Ghouls, Ghouls, Ghouls by Victoria Laurie, A Ghost Hunter Mystery, Obsidian, @2011, ISBN: 978-0-451-23197-0, Paperback, 352 pages

FTC Full Disclosure - These four books were sent to me by the publisher in hopes I would review them. However, receiving the complimentary copies did not influence this posting about them.

These are just a few of the many wonderful books released this month. There’s sure to be something that will peak your interest.

With talk of these recent releases, I have a giveaway of a 256-page
hardcover book that won’t be released until Feb. 25. Thanks to Brianne and the folks at Hachette Book Group, I have 3 copies of DEATH OF A CHIMNEY SWEEP (ISBN: 9780446547390) by M.C. Beaton to giveaway.

In the south of Scotland, residents get their chimneys vacuum-cleaned. But in the isolated villages in the very north of Scotland, the villagers rely on the services of the itinerant sweep, Pete Ray, and his old-fashioned brushes. Pete is always able to find work in the Scottish highlands, until one day when Police Constable Hamish Macbeth notices blood dripping onto the floor of a villager's fireplace, and a dead body stuffed inside the chimney. The entire town of Lochdubh is certain Pete is the culprit, but Hamish doesn't believe that the affable chimney sweep is capable of committing murder. Then Pete's body is found on the Scottish moors, and the mystery deepens. Once again, it's up to Hamish to discover who's responsible for the dirty deed--and this time, the murderer may be closer than he realizes.

Now for the giveaway guidelines. To enter, send me an e-mail ( Your subject line should read, “Win Death of a Chimney Sweep.” Your message should include your name and mailing address. The contest is open to residents of the U.S. and Canada only and no post office box addresses can be accepted. In addition, Hachette is advising winners that they will be subject to the one copy per household rule, which means that if they win the same title in two or more contests, they will receive only one copy of the title (or one set in the case of grouped giveaways) in the mail. (Winners here have always be great about letting me know if they have already won the book somewhere else so another winner can be selected. However, this announcement is something that has to be passed along from Hachette). And, just so you know, I don’t share the mailing information or use it for any other purpose. Remember, I have 3 copies of DEATH OF A CHIMNEY SWEEP to giveaway. The deadline to enter is 8 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 25.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Guest Blogger: Jeffery S. Williams

Please join me in welcoming award-winning author Jeffery S. Williams as the special guest blogger here today at Thoughts in Progress.

Jeffery’s latest release is REDEEMER (ISBN: 978-1-60264-654-4). Here’s a brief blurb about the 218-page book: “For the past year, Detective Kristen Cauldron has been grappling with the disappearance of her 8-year-old daughter and the case has grown cold. Returning to work on the force after a year off, Cauldron finds herself working with a new partner and on a new case to catch a serial killer - an experience that will push her to the edge of sanity.

He calls himself "Redeemer." His religious delusions justify his elaborate murders. Using medieval practices, he takes the "lost causes" of the world and "redeems" them making their souls ready to stand before God. His motivation? Not vigilante justice or righteous judgment, but deliverance saving unknown future victims from cruelty, as well as redeeming the criminals from eternal damnation. 

Redeemer selects Cauldron, based on her previous background, to be his vessel for revealing the scheme behind his "ministry." When Redeemer discovers Cauldron's history, he boldly pledges to her that he can find out what happened to her daughter. Cauldron is secretly caught between duty and hope, concealing it even from Hawkins, her partner who she has come to trust. 

"REDEEMER" is a vivid examination of a man's toxic faith and hyper-religiosity, a mother's heart-wrenching loss and compulsion to discover her daughter's fate, a healing and often humorous bond between partners, and a riveting police investigation into this serial killer's psyche and symbolic crimes. When Redeemer and Kristen finally come face to face, the obsession to know the truth about her daughter threatens to destroy everything she holds close to her heart."

Jeffery has stopped by to answer some questions for me. He hopes to drop back by later if anyone else has any questions.

Mason - What inspired this gripping story?

Jeffery - One inspiration would have to be my favorite crime thriller Se7en. I was so impressed with the film’s plot arc, the villain and the crime scene depictions. For those who read REDEEMER, they will likely see some parallel, but will also see the villain delve much deeper into his motivations and logic for those he murders.

A second inspiration revolves around my having lived in Fresno, California since 1968. The central valley of California is a mini-Bible belt in an otherwise liberal state. Churches and fiery preachers proliferate here, and the possibility of some going off half-cocked is more not uncommon. As a city, Fresno is full of contradictions that seemed fitting for this story.

A third inspiration would come from my love of history, particularly the Renaissance and Reformation. Out of that time came the hysteria of inquisitions. Out of the inquisitions emerged some of the most haunting tortures devices known to humanity. Melding all those together  sparked the idea for the novel REDEEMER.

Mason - What was the easiest part of writing this story and what was the hardest?

Jeffery - The hardest part of writing the novel was working from the point of view of a woman in the third person. While I actually had some experience with that from my first novel
PIRATE SPIRIT: THE ADVENTURES OF ANNE BONNEY, where I wrote in the first person perspective of Anne Bonney of the 16th century, for some reason taking on a modern woman felt more problematic since there is a higher expectation of blunt honesty.

The easiest part of REDEEMER was writing the dialogue and point of the view of the villain. Isn’t that always what actors and writers say? I suppose we all have some capacity for evil, and while people of integrity keep those impulses in check, I felt a liberating feeling in being able to create a villain with no holds barred. Frankly, it was fun to let his twisted logic and maniacal character play itself out.

Mason - What type of research did you do for this book?

Jeffery - Having been a literature teacher for 24 years and a Sunday school teacher for nearly as many, my knowledge of Shakespeare, Dante and the Bible was more than adequate for what I intended with the story. Having lived in Fresno for more than 40 years, my life experience in this city made that part of REDEEMER more natural and instinctive as well. On the other hand, my study of medieval and Renaissance torture devices required a fair amount of research time.

Mason - What can readers expect next from you?

Jeffery - I cannot seem to land on one genre. My first novel PIRATE SPIRIT is a historical fiction based on the life of female pirate in the 16th century (which by the way is now in movie script form and being pitched in Hollywood…fingers crossed).

My second novel is literary comedy and whodunit based on HAMLET and ROMEO & JULIET. I created a sleuth team who investigated the tragedy and uncovered evidence that essentially changed the entire outcome of Shakespeare’s stories. Bold, I know. I call WHO’S TO BLAME? a kind of sequel/spoof/satire and pastiche to boot. I had a lot of fun writing it, allowing me to indulge in my love of wit, irony and sarcasm.

My third novel is REDEEMER — a psychological crime thriller.

So…what’s next? Harlequin Romance entitled LUST IN THE DUST? A Western? Science Fiction?

Actually, I am at work on another historical fiction novel set during the War of 1812 and America’s battle with Tecumseh and his Confederation. But I am in the early stages so I have time to change directions.

Jeffery, thanks for guest blogging here today and sharing the background on this gripping story.

Now for a little background on Jeffery. He worked as a journalist and freelance writer before becoming a high school and college English instructor. He lives in Fresno, California. He has previously written two award winning novels, PIRATE SPIRIT: THE ADVENTURES OF ANNE BONNEY and WHO’S TO BLAME? A LITERARY COMEDY.

For more on Jeffery visit his website.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Author N.R. Williams, Guest Blogger

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

N.R. “Nancy,” who is also a fellow blogger, has just released her novel, THE TREASURES OF CARMELIDRIUM. She visits today to talk about plot versus character-driven novels. Be sure to check the end of the post for guidelines because Nancy is giving away 3 e-books during her tour. Now Nancy’s thoughts on plot versus character.

I want to thank Mason for letting me visit all of you on my blog book tour for, “THE TREASURES OF CARMELIDRIUM.”
I remember the day that I began to think in terms of turning the stories that I crafted into actual books. That day, while I researched writing, I came across a book on “plot.” To me, that word meant nothing. I bought the book and as I read I realized yes, I did know what “plot” was, I just wasn’t used to saying the word “plot.”

Plot is a chain of cause-and-effect relationships that constantly create a pattern of unified action and behavior. 20 Master Plots and How to Build Them by Ronald B. Tobias available on Amazon and elsewhere.

Why do we say “plot-driven,” or “character-driven?”

There are some books that are clearly “plot driven.” They tend to have shallow characters that move upon a stage of events that will lead them to the evitable conclusion. Thankfully, they are becoming rare, because without compelling characters, why do we care?

I’ve had numerous readers and authors at many events say to me. “I don’t like fantasy because it is plot-driven.” This is an inaccurate statement. Who can forget, Gandalf in the Lord of the Rings, by J. R. R. Tolkien, or Frodo, to name only two? Aslan in the Narnia series by C. S. Lewis who represents God. Most recently, Harry Potter by J. K. Rowling. All these characters became very real to me and their journey mattered.

We identify with characters. If they are well crafted, we root for them. We strive to understand what motivates the villain so we can forgive him or even side with him. A good writer will endeavor to create multidimensional characters. In others words, deep.
Recently I came across a blog post written by Donald Maass at Writer Unboxed.

He said. A journey needn’t involve travel but it does enact a transformation. For a transformation to occur, two things are needed: outward events and inward change.
Great novels use both. Novelists talk all the time about their characters’ “journeys” but in manuscripts I rarely feel like I’ve taken one. Usually one part or the other is valued, but not both. In fact, so fundamental is this dichotomy that it’s embodied in two terms taken for granted in our business: A novel is said be either “plot-driven” or “character-driven”.
Why not both?

I must agree. In my high or epic fantasy, “THE TREASURES OF CARMELIDRIUM,” there is a lot at stake for my characters. Missie wants to go home, at the same time she is drawn to Gil-Lael with increasing force. Prince Healden (pronounced with a silent “a” like Hel-don), desires to protect Missie and more, but is also faced with a threat that could end his way of life and that of the people of Gil-Lael. The villain, Renwyk, believes he should rule the world. While that isn’t new, the method he uses is.

These characters are motivated by what matters to them. The “plot” drives them together with compelling force. I hope I have achieved what Donald Maass referred to. Why not both?

I will stop by all day to answer your questions. Thank you for reading.
N. R. Williams (Nancy)

Nancy, thank you for guest blogging today. It does take both plot and characters to make a story interesting and inviting.

Now a bit about Nancy. She lives in Colorado, U.S.A. with her husband. She is delighted to have two three-year-old grandchildren, cousins. She’s a long time member of Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers and has been privileged to attend conferences and workshops. Since her formative years, she’s been inventing fantastical stories and since she could spell she’s been writing them down. While she majored in art in college, she didn’t make a living at it. Now, she uses her skills of observation to create fantastical worlds, interesting characters and stories that touch the heart.

Now about the giveaway. Nancy is giving 3 e-books, to 3 winners who leave their e-mail along with their comment during her tour. The drawing will be held on Feb. 1 and will be posted on Nancy’s blog, N.R Williams, Fantasy Author.. She will also be e-mailing the winners. Winners will have a choice between kindle, iBookstore or Barnes and Nobles for the e-book. One book per winner.

THE TREASURES OF CARMELIDRIUM is available for $2.99 until July 1, when it will increase to $3.99. In the UK, the book is available for 2.23 pd sterling and will go up to 3.23.

Nancy continues her tour Monday, Jan. 24, when she visits Helen Ginger at Straight from Hel to discuss “Character Driven vs World Driven in Fantasy & Sci Fi.”

On Tuesday, Jan. 25, she’ll visit Dominic de Mattos at Writes of Passage where she will be playing the “What If” Game.”

On Wednesday, Jan. 26, she visits Clarissa Draper at Listen To The Voices to discuss “What inspired me to write about music as a power and why the flute.”

On Thursday, Jan. 27, she visits with Denise at L’Aussie Writing to talk about “What Elements are in the Story? (Romance, Suspense, Mystery?)”

On Friday, Jan. 28, she’ll visit Jeffrey Beesler at Jeffrey Beesler’s World of the Scribe to talk about “Why I Write Fantasy.”

On Monday, Jan. 31, she’ll make her last stop talking with Sherry Wachter who writes as Bodie Parkhurst at Magic Dog Press. She’ll talk about “Why You Should Hire an Editor & Professional Illustrator.” BTW, Sherry illustrated her book.

Be sure to leave your e-mail in your comments for a chance to win one of 3 e-books. What are your thoughts on plot versus character-driven novels?