Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Author Meredith Mileti: Creating Characters And A Giveaway

MeredithMileti_1170It’s my pleasure today to welcome ‘new-to-me’ author Meredith Mileti as she tours blogdom with her latest release, AFTERTASTE: A NOVEL IN FIVE COURSES.

Here’s a brief description of AFTERTASTE: Ruth Reichl meets Nora Ephron in AFTERTASTE, a funny, sexy and appealing debut. Mira Rinaldi lives life at a rolling boil. Co-owner of Grappa, a chic New York City trattoria, she has an enviable apartment, a brand-new baby, and a frenzied schedule befitting her success. Everything changes the night she catches her husband, Jake, "wielding his whisk" with Grappa's new waitress. Mira's fiery response earns her a court-ordered stint in anger management and the beginning of legal and personal predicaments as she battles to save her restaurant and pick up the pieces of her life. 

Mira falls back on family and friends in Pittsburgh as she struggles to find a recipe for happiness. But the heat is really on when some surprising developments in New York present her with a high stakes opportunity to win back what she thought she had lost forever. For Mira, cooking isn't just about delicious flavors and textures, but about the pleasure found in filling others' needs. And the time has come to decide where her own fulfillment lies - even if the answers are unexpected. 

Thanks to Meredith and Darlene, I have a print copy of AFTERTASTE to giveaway to one lucky visitor who comments on this post between now and 8 p.m. (EST) on Thursday, Dec. 8. The giveaway is open to U.S. residents only. Be sure to leave your e-mail address if it’s not included in your profile.

Now, Meredith is here to tell us “In what order do your characters come to life—name, physical description, personality? Of these three elements, which one is the easiest to develop and which is the hardest?”  

I definitely start with personality. Maybe it’s an artifact of my having been a developmental psychologist, but I usually start with a certain character and then see how they develop when faced with various challenging life circumstances. 

When I was writing AFTERTASTE, my protagonist, Mira Rinaldi came to me pretty fully formed. She interrupted me one afternoon when I was minding my own business eating my lunch and proceeded to nag at me until I told her story. I know some writers do in-depth character studies and analyses, but I feel like my psychology training and experience gives me an advantage there, especially in terms of how the different characters are likely to react to their circumstances.    

122328611For example, in AFTERTASTE it is clear that Mira has to have an intense personality—she’s a chef, so she’s a creative type to begin with and perhaps because of the intensity of their work lives chefs are often prone to flares of temper—when was the last time you prepared dinner for 200 people without losing your cool? You’ve got to have a strong emotional constitution to be a chef. You know what they say –if you can’t stand the heat... So what does she do when she catches her husband in flagrante delicto with the mâitresse d’ on the restaurant office couch? With that opening scene, we were off and running.  

Physical descriptions also come pretty naturally. I’m a visual learner, so as the character is forming in my head, I usually have a pretty clear picture of what he or she looks like, not only physical attributes like hair and eye color, stature and body type, but often even the kind of clothes he or she might wear. Some writers I know think of their characters in terms of actors or actresses, which I suppose is handy if you are ever shopping the movie rights to your book. 

Recently my agent and I were discussing the possibility of shopping the movie rights to AFTERTASTE and she asked me to come up with a list of actresses who I thought might resemble Mira. It’s been a fun exercise—and it’s been interesting to hear which actresses other people seem to think would make a good Mira. Some of them have been surprising to me—petite blonds when I’ve written Mira as tall, dark-haired and a little on the voluptuous side. But that kind of thing happens all the time in movies. I understand that Tom Cruise is now playing Jack Reacher in an adaptation of one of Lee Child’s novels. In the books Jack is 6’4” and well over 200 pounds, and his size and stature are important to many scenes, but I guess they think that Tom Cruise-- despite being only about 5’7”-- is a good enough actor to make it work.

For me, the hardest of the three elements are the characters’ names. For a charity event, I recently auctioned off the naming rights to a character in my next novel and it was quite a relief that I had one less character to name! I’m notorious for changing names multiple times mid-way through my stories and it can be a real hassle when you have to go back make a change like that. 

In the beginning I tried to come up with a system. There are name books out there that list traits associated with particular names, but you also have to make sure that you don’t have names that are too similar to each other and invariably, I’d find that if I changed one character’s name, I’d end up changing more than one.   

I also try to avoid using someone’s real name, although this happens inadvertently all the time. Shortly before AFTERTASTE went to press for the final time, I was leafing through my college alumni magazine when I saw, to my horror, that one of the characters in AFTERTASTE had the same name as a guy I went to college with. I hadn’t known him personally and had apparently forgotten his name over the last 30 years. It wasn’t like he was an ax-murderer in the story—in fact he was one of Mira’s love interests in the book. I called up my husband, who is a lawyer and asked him if I could get in trouble. He then cross-examined me to confirm that I really hadn’t known this guy in college. I ended up changing that last name anyway—on the off chance that this guy reads my book I don’t want him to think that I’ve been nursing a secret crush on him for the last 30 years!

Meredith, thanks so much for guest blogging. Naming characters would be hard. Books where all the characters have similar names is difficult to get through. I love the story about the guy from your college days. 

When asked about your background, Meredith had this to say: “Since pulling my first (tiny) batch of gluey homemade brownies from my Easy Bake oven, I've loved to cook. Was it the taste that got me hooked? Probably not. (Hasbro isn't known for its recipes and, let's face it, the little light bulb didn't exactly make for a piping hot eating experience.) No it was, as much as anything, for the blissful look on my little sister's face. I still love cooking for my family and friends. Every meal is a reason to celebrate.
I'm an adventurous and eclectic diner and appreciate any well-cooked meal. It can just as easily be from afriggitorie in Naples or a beachside lobster shack in York Harbor, Maine as a Michelin-starred restaurant in Paris; best yet, anything cooked by my friends Kathy, Grant and Holly and shared with them and the rest of our gang over a great bottle of wine (or three).

I am a reader, writer, cook, wife, mother, eater--not necessarily in that order. As priorities shift, the order or emphasis may change, but that's pretty much me. Best is when I can combine all of them. Hard to top sipping tea and eating digestives (McVities are the best!) in bed, while pouring over a cookbook and jotting down notes for my next dinner party for family and friends. "Next up: Food from the South of France." Saturday night.

I live in Pittsburgh, which is, to the surprise of many, a terrific food city and dining destination. When I'm not in active pursuit of my next meal, I can be found in my office, where I am probably writing about food, trolling my favorite food blogs, and planning my next meal.”

For more on Meredith and her writing, visit her website at

Do you enjoy books that combine food in the storyline? As a reader, do you want the author to go into great detail about the characters’ descriptions or leave a little for your own imagination? Thanks so much for stopping by today. 

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Author Kathryn Leigh Scott On Writing And Dark Shadows

KathrynIt is with great excitement and delight that I welcome multi-talented author Kathryn Leigh Scott to Thoughts in Progress today to talk about her latest release, DARK PASSAGES.

My first knowledge of Kathryn came some years ago with her portrayal as Josette, the long-lost love of vampire Barnabas Collins on the television series Dark Shadows. Now I have the pleasure of knowing Kathryn as a talented writer and book publisher.

In her first work of fiction, DARK PASSAGES is a coming-of-age story encapsulating the romance and innocence of JFK’s Camelot era and the tumultuous “dark passages” of Meg Harrison. Arriving in New York City to pursue acting, Meg is a beautiful ingenue who also happens to  be a vampire. She joins the cast of the cult hit “Dark Passages” only to face her nemesis who is bent on destroying her and those she loves.
Thanks to Kathryn and Darlene, I have one copy of DARK PASSAGES to giveaway to a lucky visitor who comments on this post between now and 8 p.m. (EST) on Wednesday, Dec. 7. The giveaway is open to U.S. residents only. Be sure to leave your e-mail address if it’s not included in your profile.

Kathryn graciously answered some questions for me about her writing, publishing and of course, Dark Shadows.

Mason - How, if any, do you think people's perception of vampire stories changed since the 60's and Dark Shadows?
Kathryn - I think Bram Stokes ruled until Jonathan Frid came along to create his iconic "reluctant vampire" in Dark Shadows. Jonathan sparked a new generation of vampire that introduced entirely new elements into the traditional menacing creature consumed with blood lust. 

Barnabas Collins is a reluctant vampire, who despises the curse that forces him to harm others to satisfy his own needs. In the character Jonathan created, one sees  human emotions (self-loathing, guilt, regret, as well as desire, tenderness, longing) that inform the present vampire generations in  stories  that involve family drama and romance. 

We really have to give credit to Jonathan for "humanizing" the vampire, investing him with a skewed set of moral principles that give him sufficient vulnerability that he could invade living rooms at 4 pm with impunity. Housewives, nurses, college professors and hordes of kids found Barnabas Collins irresistible. 

Mason - What inspired you to write DARK PASSAGES?
118584701Kathryn - I've written so many nonfiction books about Dark Shadows that tell the real behind-the-scenes stories, but it's always amused me to imagine different scenarios and relationships among the actors than the actual ones. We really are a close-knit family and it was fun to toss in some intrigue and hissy fits that I could only imagine. 

Even at the time I was playing Maggie and Josette, it occurred to me how fun it would be if the ingénue was a real vampire and no one knew it. I think after 45 years it was time to write the fictional version! 

Mason - You've become a publisher of Pomegranate Press. What lead you down that path?
Kathryn -  In 1985 I was asked to write a magazine article about two beloved Dark Shadows actors I adored, Joel Crothers and Grayson Hall, who had passed away that year. I wrote . . . and kept on writing. I realized I'd written a book. When I wrote MY SCRAPBOOK MEMORIES OF DARK SHADOWS, "memoirs" weren't all that prevalent, and there was no market for books on TV series. Yet I wanted to write about my memories of Dark Shadows and knew how to reach the fans still yearning for the series they'd grown up with. 

I had the stories and photographs . . . at some point it occurred to me that it would be easier to publish the book I envisioned than hand the materials to a big NY publisher, and I was right. Hence, I founded Pomegranate Press to publish that book. So much of the success of that book had to do with its format. Soon, other publishers were bringing out "companions" to popular series. I loved publishing so much that I continued doing it . . .  I'm now in my 26th year! I publish a whole catalog of nonfiction books on entertainment subjects. 

Mason - What can fans expect next?
Kathryn - I am writing a major book on the new Dark Shadows movie (Warner Bros, May 11, 2012) and the entire 45 year history of Dark Shadows. I said I'd never do another book on the show . . . and clearly I lied! 
DARK SHADOWS: RETURN TO COLLINWOOD! The new book will be available by May 2012, and will present a look back at nearly five decades of Dark Shadows and will include stories and photographs about the new film starring Johnny Depp and directed by Tim Burton. Jonathan Frid, David Selby, Lara Parker and I have cameo roles in the new production! 

Kathryn, thank you so much for guest blogging today. I’m one of those fans that always rushed home from school to watch Dark Shadows each day and yes, I think I had a crush on Barnabas too. In fact, I have several Dark Shadows DVDs that I watch from time to time. The Dark Shadows theme music has always been a favorite of mine, it just sounds so mysterious.

Now for a bit of background on Kathryn. She is best known for creating four characters, including Josette du Prés, vampire bride to Barnabas Collins, on the cult soap opera Dark Shadows. She was also Maggie Evans, Lady Kitty Hampshire, and Rachel Drummond. Kathryn's first work of fiction, DARK PASSAGES is an affectionate nod to her years on that ‘60s series. 

Kathryn is also the author of THE BUNNY YEARS, a memoir covering her years as a bunny in the New York City club. It was optioned for potential use for the NBC series "Playboy Club" and Simon & Shuster released the paperback version Fall 2011. 

As a publisher, Kathryn founded Pomegranate Press which offers non-fiction and entertainment titles. One of their many titles is the audio THE DARK SHADOWS COMPANION, where members of the cast recall great moments and personal memories of the enduring classic. For more on Kathryn and writing, visit her website at

Were you (or are you) a big fan of Dark Shadows? Which character remained with you after all these years? Thanks so much for stopping by today. 

Monday, November 28, 2011

Celebrate With Books

‘Tis the season to celebrate and a wonderful way to celebrate is with books. Today I want to highlight several books that feature a Christmas theme and one that doesn’t. All of these books, however, would make great gifts for any occasion.

A HOLIDAY YARN by Sally Goldenbaum

9780451232878In Sea Harbor the scent of snow fills the salty air, and at Izzy’s Seaside Studio, the Seaside Knitters feast on cookies, knit their gifts, and plan their gatherings. And Mary Pisano is transforming the estate she inherited from her grandfather into a bed-and-breakfast. 

But then Mary’s cousin Pamela is found dead on the B and B’s snowy back porch, and as the holiday draws nigh, the four friends will need all their crafty know-how to solve the crime. 

The national bestselling series that “will draw readers to return time and again to Sea Harbor.” (Carolyn Hart)
This is the fourth installment in the Seaside Knitters Mystery series.

Author Sally Goldenbaum’s website is

A Holiday Yarn by Sally Goldenbaum, A Seaside Knitters Mystery, Obsidian Trade, @2011, ISBN: 9780451232878, Paperback, 272 Pages


9780451234834A Christmas killer has been icing Phyllis Newsom’s friends in THE GINGERBREAD BUMP-OFF, the sixth installment in the Fresh-Baked Mystery series. 

Not only will Phyllis' house be featured in the annual Christmas Jingle Bell Tour of Homes, she also has a Christmas Eve bridal shower and a New Year’s Eve wedding to bake goodies for. But like her tasty treats, she rises to the occasion. 

Before the tour gets under way, Phyllis hears a crash on her front porch and makes a gruesome discovery. Someone has broken a decorative gingerbread man over Georgia’s head, trying to kill her. As Santa’s naughty list gets longer, Phyllis tries to catch a half-baked killer. 

THE GINGERBREAD BUMP-OFF is the 6th installment in the Fresh-Baked Mystery series, but is a stand alone book. There are delicious recipes added at the end of the book for a tasty bonus.

Author Livia J. Washburn’s website is

The Gingerbread Bump-Off by Livia J. Washburn, A Fresh-Baked Mystery, Obsidian Trade, @2011, ISBN: 9780451234834, Paperback, 304 Pages

HERALD OF DEATH by Kate Kingsbury

9780425243350A dark spirit threatens the Pennyfoot’s shiny and bright Christmas... The Christmas Angel is a welcome sight during the winter season—but not this year. 

A killer is afoot in Badger’s End, cutting a lock of hair from his victims and sticking a gold angel on their foreheads. Cecily Sinclair Baxter already promised her husband that she’d take a hiatus from sleuthing. But three killings have created a blizzard of bad publicity—and guests are canceling their hotel reservations. 

Cecily does some checking but all seems unrelated. Then the killer claims a fourth and fifth victim, obviously not slowing down for the holidays. So Cecily will have to find the angel of death before he strikes again, leaving murder under the tree... 

This is the 19th installment in the Pennyfoot Hotel Mystery series.

For more on author Kate Kingsburg, check out her page at Berkley at

Herald of Death by Kate Kingsburg, A Special Pennyfoot Hotel Mystery, Berkley Trade, @2011, ISBN: 9780425243350, Paperback, 304 Pages

9780425243572Ring in the season with another Mrs. Jeffries tale of holiday homicide. 

She keeps house for Inspector Witherspoon…and keeps him on his toes. Everyone’s awed by his Scotland Yard successes, but they don’t know about his secret weapon. No matter how messy the murder or how dirty the deed, Mrs. Jeffries’ polished detective skills are up to the task proving that behind every great man there’s a woman and that a crime solver’s work is never done.

Under a bundle of mistletoe, art collector Daniel McCourt lies with his throat slit, a bloody sword next to his body. Inspector Witherspoon is determined to solve the case—preferably before the eggnog is ladled out on Christmas Eve—but of course he will require assistance from the always sharp-witted housekeeper, Mrs. Jeffries, who has a few of her own theories on why McCourt had to die by the sword. 

This is the 29th installment in the Victorian Mystery series.

Author Emily Brightwell’s website is

Mrs. Jeffries and the Mistletoe Mix-Up by Emily Brightwell, A Victorian Mystery, Berkley, @2011, ISBN: 9780425243572, Hardcover, 272 Pages

JOURNEY TO DIE FOR by Radine Trees Nehring

2370002787888A day trip to a quiet historical community on an excursion train sounds like the perfect way to celebrate an 8-month anniversary.

Are at least that’s what Henry and Carrie King were hoping for. The retired couple boarded the restored train in Springdale and headed for Van Buren in hopes of a fun trip of shopping and sightseeing. But when the couple discovers a dead body floating in the river in Van Buren, it becomes a murder mystery. Henry, a former cop, and Carrie are soon caught up in the hunt for a killer.

As the investigation gets underway there’s greed, corruption, and even a treasure hunt. This is an action-filled, fast-pace read that will keep you entertained and guessing from the first whistle blow until the end.

Author Radine Trees Nehring does a wonderful job blending historical facts about trains and Arkansas with the cozy murder mystery. Her protagonists, Henry and Carrie, are realistic and refreshing. Nehring shows that retirees can be very active and lots of fun.

JOURNEY TO DIE FOR is the 6th installment in the Something To Die For Mystery series, but is a stand alone read. An added bonus, a number of yummy recipes are included at the end of the story.

Author Radine Trees Nehring’s website is

Journey To Die For by Radine Trees Nehring, A Something To Die For Mystery, Wolfmont Press, @2010, ISBN: 9781603640206, Paperback, 290 Pages

FTC Full Disclosure - This book was sent to me by the author’s publicist in hopes I would review it. However, receiving the complimentary copy did not influence my review.

**Author Joanne Kennedy was scheduled to guest blog today, but due to unforeseen circumstances wasn’t able to. Hopefully we’ll be able to re-schedule her post at a later date.**

Do you enjoy books about travel or with Christmas-themes? Thanks so much for stopping by today. 

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Sunday Salon: Stories of Love

TSSbadge1It’s time for Sunday Salon again where we relax and share information about the wonderful books we’ve read and/or listened to during the past week.

The stories I share today have been out for awhile, but have been re-released in audio form thus introducing them to a new audience. Re-fill your cup, sit back and relax as I tell you about two very different books that the same central theme - love.

5-B POPPY LANE by Debbie Macomber

978-1-4418-6318-8Christmas stories don’t always have to involve Santa and presents. Sometimes the best Christmas stories are the ones about families coming together.

That’s the case of Debbie Macomber’s 5-B POPPY LANE, a Cedar Cove Book. This is a story of Helen Shelton who receives a Christmas visit from her granddaughter, Ruth, and Ruth’s husband, Paul.

However, before they arrive Helen’s neighbor, Charlotte, asks her to re-tell how Ruth and Paul meet and came to be married. In telling the story, Helen also recounts her own breath-taking adventures during World War II.

This is a heart-warming story of love, devotion, strength, courage, and compromise. 

Sandra Burr does a lovely job of narrating this delightful story. She brings emotion to the characters giving them greater depth. Her interruption of Helen as she recounts her ordeals during the war is heartbreaking.

Author Debbie Macomber makes the holidays special with a visit to Cedar Cove and its intriguing residents.

Author Debbie Macomber’s website is

5-B Poppy Lane by Debbie Macomber, A Cedar Cove Book, Read by Sandra Burr, Brilliance Audio, @2010, ISBN: 978-1441863188, Unabridged, 3 Discs, Listening Time: 3 Hours 11 Minutes

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

THE BRONZED HAWK by Iris Johansen

THE BRONZED HAWK is about danger and romance, outlaws, rugged terrain, fiery passion, and misunderstandings.

Kate McKenna is a photojournalist who enjoys daring assignments. Nick O’Brien is a brilliant inventor who avoids the press as much as possible. When Kate blackmails her way into an experimental hot air balloon ride with Nick, the sparks begin to fly.

As the pair’s desire for one another ignites, so does the balloon. They are forced to crash land, face ruthless bandits, and bargain their way to safety.

While the story line is fun, Nick’s character seems a bit too overbearing at times. Kate is described as fearless and independent, yet she seems to coward to Nick’s every demand and order. But then love does tend to make one do things they wouldn’t normally do.

The misunderstandings between the two where their true feelings are concerned leads to bouts of humor.

The narration by Christina Traister adds depth to the characters and makes for a pleasant audio. The mannerisms she includes throughout the read enhances the story.
THE BRONZED HAWK is filled with passion and adventure.

Author Iris Johansen’s website is

The Bronzed Hawk by Iris Johansen, Read by Christina Traister, Brilliance Audio, @2011, ISBN: 978-1455832521, Unabridged, 5 Discs, Listening Time: 6 Hours 7 Minutes

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

Thanks so much for stopping by today. What did you read or listen to this past week?

Saturday, November 26, 2011

A Bride And An Inn

I have a couple of wonderful books to share with you today. While one of the books has been out for awhile, it’s just now coming out as an audio book. I’m still encouraging you to give a listen to audio books, if you don’t already. It’s a great way to ‘read’ while you’re busy doing other things.

KEEPER OF THE BRIDE by Tess Gerritsen

Nina Cormier was looking forward to getting married. She never imaged her life would be in danger when she was left at the altar on her wedding day.

Not long after Nina leaves the church, it explodes. Detective Sam Navarro with the bomb squad is called in to investigate. The sparks between Nina and Sam are electrifying as both try to deny it.

As the investigation continues, someone tries to run Nina off the road making it apparent she is a target. Nina and Sam try to uncover who or what she knows that is endangering her life and how it’s connected to a recent warehouse bombing.

Nina’s dysfunctional family is little help, but add another layer to the story. Her ex-fiancé is prime suspect until he becomes a target too.

Author Tess Gerritsen does a wonderful job keeping you guessing. She adds enough twists and turns to heighten the suspense and intrigue, while fanning the flames of desire between Sam and Nina. There’s plenty of action too.

The narration by Montana Chase brings these characters to life giving them great depth. Her mannerisms will have you feeling all the emotions these characters encounter. Her interruption flows smoothly from one character to the next, giving each one their own unique voice.

KEEPER OF THE BRIDE is filled with suspense, action, and moments of tenderness and passion. There’s just the right combination to keep you on the edge of your seat until the climactic end.

Author Tess Gerritsen’s website is

Keeper Of The Bride by Tess Gerritsen, Read by Montana Chase, Brilliance Audio, @2011, ISBN: 978-1441875952, Unabridged, 7 Discs, Listening Time: 8 Hours 38 Minutes

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

THE NEXT ALWAYS by Nora Roberts

I was thrilled when I saw that author Nora Roberts had a new trilogy out. I’ve read and listened to a number of her trilogies and always find they are centered around strong bonds of family, friendship, loyalty, and hope. The family core (whether blood or otherwise) plays an essential element in these trilogies and I find that a wonderful feature.

THE NEXT ALWAYS, the first book in the Inn Boonsboro Trilogy, has this family-related core. In fact, there are multiple units in the story that come together as one including the close-knit atmosphere of a small town.

Clare Murphy Brewster returns to Boonsboro (Maryland) to raise her 3 young boys near her parents after her husband is killed in service. Clare is busy caring for her boys and operating her bookstore, Turn The Page. She barely has time for herself much less a love life.

Meanwhile, the Montgomery brothers - Beckett, Ryder and Owen - are renovating a historical inn on Main Street across from Clare’s store. The brothers have the help of their fun-loving, eccentric mother, Justine, to restore the inn to its original grandeur.

Beckett has carried a torch for Clare since they were teenagers. He has given her time and space since her return. The renovation gives him an excuse to get reacquainted. As there relationship beings to grow, a stalker has other plans for Clare.

In addition, since the inn s over 200 years old there’s apparently a ghost haunting it. She makes her presence known to only a few, including Beckett, and plays a key role near the end.

While Clare and Beckett’s relationship moves slowly, it’s realistic. Both have time-consuming jobs and Clare has 3 small boys. Dates have to fit around hectic schedules and sick children. The time Beckett spends with Clare’s boys is humorous and hear-warming. Clare’s friends, Avery and Hope, also play major roles in her life, as Beckett’s brothers play in his.

Roberts goes into great detail describing the renovation progress. She gives vivid descriptions of the inn’s look and atmosphere. The rooms, each named after literary lovers, are beautifully described. Writers are encouraged to write what they know. Well, Roberts knows this inn (it really exists) and she’s able to put the reader into the inn because of that.

Macleod Andrews does an amazing job narrating the story. His voice has just the perfect blend of shyness and sexuality when he portrays Beckett. His interruption of Clare brings out her vulnerability while putting on a brave front. His vocals as Clare’s boys will make you smile and laugh out loud. He does a wonderful job bringing the supporting characters to life. His mannerisms throughout the story are an added bonus.

THE NEXT ALWAYS is more than a romance story with a hint of suspense. It’s about the bond between brothers, the loyalty of friendship, the compassion of small towns, pride in history, and the strength of family.

There really is a Inn Boonsboro and Turn The Page book store. Roberts and her husband, Bruce Wilder, renovated the inn which matches the one in the book. In addition, Wilder owns the book store across the street from the inn. For more on these and other elements related to the book, visit

Real life agendas fall by the wayside as you get absorbed in Clare and Beckett’s world. I don’t think I’ve done the story or the narration justice here today so give it a listen (or read) for yourself.

The next installment in the series, THE LAST BOYFRIEND, is slated for release in May 2012.

Author Nora Roberts’ website is

The Next Always by Nora Roberts, Book One of the Inn Boonsboro Trilogy, Read by Macleod Andrews, Brilliance Audio, @2011, ISBN: 978-1455806843, Unabridged, 10 Discs, Listening Time: 11 Hours 26 Minutes

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

Thanks so much for stopping by today. Have you read (or listened) to either of these books? What are your thoughts on them?


Friday, November 25, 2011

Author Karen Jones Gowen On Writing And A Giveaway

9 fin cropped(1)The multi-talented Karen Jones Gowen wears many hats, but today it’s my pleasure to welcome her to Thoughts in Progress under the cap of author as she tours blogdom with her current release, HOUSE OF DIAMONDS.

Here’s a brief summary of her book: In this sequel to Gowen’s debut novel, UNCUT DIAMONDS, she follows sisters Cindy and Marcie as they reach a crossroads in their lives. HOUSE OF DIAMONDS tells the story of two women, one facing opportunity the other tragedy. Can their bond endure? 

Marcie pursues her dream of becoming a published writer while Cindy must deal with a terrible tragedy. In this gripping story of faith, loss and the transcending nature of sacrifice, Gowen gives voice to a beloved baby who has none. She shows the incredible power that comes to families when they pull together to overcome challenges. It is at these times that a house of pain can become a house of diamonds. 

Thanks to Karen and WiDo Publishing, I have 2 print copies of HOUSE OF DIAMONDS to giveaway to 2 lucky visitors who comment on this post between now and 8 p.m. (EST) on Sunday, Dec. 11. Be sure to leave your e-mail address if it’s not included in your profile.

Karen joins us to explain what inspired your books.

My first book, FARM GIRL was my mother’s story. My second, UNCUT DIAMONDS, based on my husband and me (thinly disguised as Shawn and Marcie McGill), and our experiences as a young couple going through rough times. HOUSE OF DIAMONDS is largely the story of my sister’s baby, who had a brain tumor. It is also about my own ambitions (thinly disguised as Marcie McGill) to write while trying to raise a large number of young children.  

House of Diamonds-cover(1)My current work in progress, LIGHTING CANDLES IN THE SNOW, is about addiction and divorce, not based on myself or anyone I know. I guess I had to get all the autobiographical stuff churning inside of me out onto paper before I could move on. But I’m pretty sure my husband will be very embarrassed when CANDLES is published, as people are used to me writing from and about my own life (thinly disguised as the McGill family.)

I enjoy writing from personal life experiences while embellishing things, adding events and characters that never existed except in my imagination. And then my family reads it and says, “I remember  when that happened,” and I say, “Really? Because that scene was entirely made up!”  Haha! 

After reading HOUSE OF DIAMONDS, my husband said, “You never told me about what happened with you and that Professor Yardley character in the Kmart.”  And I said, “It didn’t happen. I write fiction not memoir.” He looked confused and said, “But it sounded so real.”

Good! That means I did my job!

Karen, thanks so much for guest blogging. I love the fact that you can make your husband believe your stories are true. That’s priceless and says volumes for your work. Way to go.

Now for a little background on Karen. Born and raised in central Illinois, the daughter of a Methodist minister from Indiana and a school teacher from Nebraska, Karen has down-to-earth Midwestern roots. She attended Northern Illinois University in DeKalb, then transferred to the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana. After converting to Mormonism at the age of 20, she transferred to Brigham Young University in Provo, UT, where she met her future husband. She obtained her degree at BYU in English and American Literature.

Karen and Bruce have lived in Utah, Illinois, California and Washington, currently residing near Salt Lake City. They are the parents of 10 children. Not surprisingly, family relationships are a recurring theme in Karen's writing.

For more on Karen and her writing, visit her website at and her blog, Coming Down the Mountain: A Writer's Blog

Preorder print book HOUSE OF DIAMONDS from the publisher's website and get UNCUT DIAMONDS for free! HOUSE OF DIAMONDS is also available for the Kindle and for the Nook. In addition, HOUSE OF DIAMONDS is now available on the new online bookstore,, in all formats. 

Thanks for stopping by. Do you enjoy stories that have a touch of ‘real life family issues’ included? Remember you have until Dec. 11th to comment for a chance at 1 of 2 print copies of HOUSE OF DIAMONDS.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving And 2 Giveaways

719785zlq3jkr7yqToday is a day to stop, reflect, and give thanks, but then everyday should be like that. HAPPY THANKSGIVING!

There is much to be thankful for even though times are difficult and there is sickness all around us. I have discovered through all the wonderful people I’ve met in blogdom that hope, compassion, and caring is still much a part of our lives. For that, I’m most thankful.

Today I want to say thank you to you - the awesome people who stop by here. Thanks to all the terrific followers. Thanks to the wonderful authors who guest blog. Thanks to the generous publishers who provide books and audios for reviews and giveaways.

Mere words can never express how much y’all mean to me. A simple THANK YOU doesn’t seem like enough, but I hope it let’s you know you are greatly appreciated.

Now in the spirit of giving. Thanks to the lovely Anna and the great folks at Little, Brown and Company I have 2 intriguing books to tell you about and offer as giveaways. Please see the giveaway guidelines at the end of each book feature.

9780316133777_388X586Category: Fiction
Format: Trade Paperback
Publish Date: Dec. 1
ISBN: 9780316133777
Pages: 368
Size: 5-1/2" x 8-1/4

Here you'll find a mesmerizing tale of a man who introduces himself as Abu Saheeh and whose past is gradually uncovered in this enigmatic tale, unfolding in the streets of Safwan, Iraq.
Ben Buchholz, who was stationed in Oman from 2010 to 2011 with his family, paints a rich picture of the Middle East and bring his readers ever closer to Abu Saheeh's story.
Here’s a brief synopsis of the book: After 13 years in America, Abu Saheeh has returned to his native Iraq, a nation transformed by the American military presence. Alone in a new city, he has exactly what he wants: freedom from his past. Then he meets Layla, a whimsical fourteen-year-old girl who enchants him with her love of American pop culture. Enchanted by Layla's stories and her company, Abu Saheeh settles into the city's rhythm and begins rebuilding his life. But two sudden developments--his alliance with a powerful merchant and his employment of a hot-headed young assistant--reawaken painful memories, and not even Layla may be able to save Abu Saheeh from careening out of control and endangering all around them.

A breathtaking tale of friendship, love, and betrayal, ONE HUNDRED AND ONE NIGHTS is an unforgettable novel about the struggle for salvation and the power of family. 

You can visit Ben's blog at for a fascinating juxtaposition of Middle Eastern culture and the perspective of an American author and soldier. You can also follow Ben on Twitter @MiaLaylawaLayla. The author explains "Mialaylawalayla, is the transliteration of the Arabic for 101Nights, a nice pun actually, since it is Mia Layla wa Layla and can be read One Hundred Nights and Layla."
An extra attraction for ONE HUNDRED AND ONE NIGHTS is @LittleBrown will be hosting a tweet chat for Benjamin Buchholz on Friday, Dec. 9, from 1 p.m. until 4 p.m. There will be Q&As, giveaways, and fun facts. All posts will be hashtagged #101Nights. Everyone is very much invited to participate. 

For the giveaway, send me an e-mail ( and your subject line should read, “Win 101 NIGHTS.” Your message should include your name and mailing address. The contest is open to residents of the U.S. and Canada only and Canadian residents must include their phone numbers. No post office box addresses can be accepted. Just so you know, I don’t share this information or use it for any other purpose. The deadline to enter this giveaway for a chance at one of the 3 copies of ONE HUNDRED AND ONE NIGHTS is 8 p.m. (EST) on Friday, Dec. 9.

QUEEN OF AMERICA by Luis Alberto Urrea

Category: Fiction
Format: Hardcover
Publish Date: Nov. 28
ISBN: 9780316154864
Pages: 496
Size: 6" x 9-1/4"

The remarkable heroine of THE HUMMINGBIRD’S DAUGHTER returns in this epic novel of love, loss, and miracles in a restless America.
Here’s a brief synopsis of the book: After the bloody Tomochic rebellion, Teresita Urrea, beloved healer and "Saint of Cabora," flees with her father to Arizona. But their plans are derailed when she once again is claimed as the spiritual leader of the Mexican Revolution. Besieged by pilgrims and pursued by assassins, Teresita embarks on a journey through turn-of-the-century industrial America-New York, San Francisco, St. Louis. She meets immigrants and tycoons, European royalty and Cuban poets, all waking to the new American century. And as she decides what her own role in this modern future will be, she must ask herself: can a saint fall in love?

At turns heartbreaking, uplifting, and riotously funny, QUEEN OF AMERICA reconfirms Luis Alberto Urrea's status as a writer of the first rank. 

You can find out more about Urrea at, like him on Facebook, and follow him on Twitter @Urrealism.

For the giveaway, send me an e-mail ( and your subject line should read, “Win QUEEN OF AMERICA.” Your message should include your name and mailing address. The contest is open to residents of the U.S. and Canada only and Canadian residents must include their phone numbers. No post office box addresses can be accepted. Just so you know, I don’t share this information or use it for any other purpose. The deadline to enter this giveaway for a chance at one of the 3 copies of QUEEN OF AMERICA is 8 p.m. (EST) on Saturday, Dec. 10.

Do you like having the additional information about the books? Thanks so much for stopping by today. I hope everyone has a safe and Happy Thanksgiving. Those who aren’t celebrating the holiday, I hope you have a safe and wonderful day too.