Sunday, September 30, 2012

Sunday Salon: Primal by D. A. Serra

2011_10_03_2185_thumb[1]Fall is here. The leaves are beginning to turn, cool weather visits from time to time, September is slipping away, and October will be here in a blink of an eye.

As we wind down the month, we come to another Sunday Salon. This is the time where we can share the good books we’ve found during the past week. Prop your feet up, settle back, and enjoy another sip of your favorite beverage as I tell you about a suspenseful book I read by author D. A. Serra (who visited with us on Friday).

PRIMAL by D.A. Serra

While there are cases where mothers abandon their children, for the most part the bond between mother and child is stronger than anything on earth.

Author D.A. Serra taps into this emotion and creates a story that is a parent’s worst nightmare in her current release, PRIMAL. In this crimePrimal Cover thumbnail thriller, a mother is faced with decisions that will result in life or death for herself and her family.

Allison Kraft is a gentle, loving mother and teacher. She misses life in the city, but is content to live in a small town close to her husband Hank’s family for the sake of their son, Jimmy. For Jimmy’s 9th birthday, the family heads to a cabin in Northern Minnesota for a camping trip.

Meanwhile, psychotic killer Ben Burne escapes from prison and goes on the run with his three brothers. Circumstances brings the Burne brothers to the Kraft cabin where a hostage situation ensues. Allison finds herself on the outside trying to save her family inside. She does whatever is necessary to free them.

When the crisis is over, her family begins to put their lives back together. Allison, however, isn’t convinced the threat is over. Either her maternal instinct is working overtime or she has cracked from the stress.

Serra delivers a suspenseful thriller that is packed with fear, hope, family love, revenge, and desperation. The adrenaline rush will keep you on the edge of your seat anticipating the next move.

The characters are well-developed. Serra gives a sense of balance in both a functioning and dysfunctional family. She draws the reader in with a story that flows smoothly and at a steady pace filled with action and drama.

Serra also paints a beautiful, yet terrifying setting in the woods of Northern Minnesota. Her vivid descriptions places the reader in the scene as the action unfolds.

PRIMAL explores what lengths a mother will go to for her child (in both the Kraft and Burne families). This is a book that is hard to put down and will make you wonder at the same time.

Author D.A. Serra’s website is

Primal by D. A. Serra, Perry Street Pictures Inc., @2012, ISBN: 978-1478198031, Paperback, 222 Pages

FTC Full Disclosure - An eBook copy of this book was sent to me by the author as part of her blog tour in hopes I would review it. However, receiving the complimentary copy did not influence my review.
What have you read this past week? Thanks so much for stopping by today. Hope everyone has a wonderful Sunday and a great week to come.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Author Lisa April Smith Launches New Book

It’s a pleasure to welcome author Lisa April Smith back to Thoughts in Progress today as part of the official launch of her newest book, PARADISE MISPLACED.

Here’s a brief description of PARADISE MISPLACED:
All the unexpected twists and suspense, danger and crime, romance and sizzle, that kept readers of EXCEEDING EXPECTATIONS turning the pages long into the night, are back in PARADISE MISPLACED, along with Charlie, Jack and Naomi – three unforgettable characters.    

In Manhattan, being recently dumped by her soul mate becomes the least of Charlotte (Charlie) Morgan’s problems after she is shoved off a subway platform in front of an oncoming train. Her modeling career seems over and she may not walk again. Throughout her lengthy hospital stay the police have no success finding her assailant or determining a motive. A handsome detective recovering from similar injuries is assigned to be her physical therapy partner. Fearing that her unknown attacker will try again he urges her to draw up list of possible suspects – anyone she might have angered or rejected. Eliminating those who don’t fit a compiled description leaves just one possible suspect, an untouchable power broker with a famous art collection.    

In Buenos Aires, Jack, the loveable lothario/conman, in his quest for his next wealthy wife, is romancing wealthy women he meets at a fashionable hotel where he isn’t a registered guest. To finance these activities he ever-so-gently exploits tourists and the local land barons. But whether he succeeds, falls short or fails miserably, readers can rely on sexy Jack to be entertaining.      
In Israel, understandably bitter Naomi, working on an archeological dig, seeks temporary relief from her demons in hot casual affairs. Unwilling to be yet another in a series of her lovers, a rough-hewn widowed farmer relentlessly pursues her. 

Will Charlie, Jack and Naomi meet? Will a story that begins on three continents end in triumph or disaster? No predicable ending here. You’ll have to read the book to find out. 

Now Lisa has graciously answered some questions about her new book and her writing.

Mason - Great to have you here, Lisa.   

Lisa - Thank you for inviting me.  

Mason - PARADISE MISPLACED is the sequel to EXCEEDING EXPECTATIONS and I understand that fans have been begging you to hurry up and release it. I’m not surprised. Reviews for EXCEEDING have been amazing. If you haven’t read it, people, do it now!
Lisa - Reviews have been wonderful. Overwhelming! The book (EE) hadn’t been out more than a week or so before I received aGettyImages_dv764086 LR 2x3Paradise Misplaced Book Cover Facebook post telling me that she “LOVED” EXCEEDING EXPECTATIONS and that I should “not waste time.” I needed to “get busy and finish the sequel.” So many readers have been good to me – with reviews, e-mailing fun and fabulous comments. It’s a high better than chocolate.
Mason - The covers of both books quickly draws your attention. Great choices. Did you have input on the designs?

Lisa - Thank you. Frankly, I obsess over my book covers. Let’s just say that the graphics designer and I have many animated conversations over each cover before we finally agree.  

Mason - I hear you have another exciting announcement for us. Something for us the readers who prefer the paper-and-ink books we can hold and for those readers who don’t yet own a Kindle, Nook, iPad, etc.  

Lisa - I do. Very exciting! Keeps me up at night exciting. EXCEEDING EXPECTATIONS is now also available as a paperback on And if it isn’t available as a paperback at Barnes& today, it will be very soon.  

Mason - What about PARADISE MISPLACED? Will that be available in paperback too?
Lisa - Absolutely! We’re working on that as well. It’s all part of my grand mission to become America’s Next Top Author.   

Mason - Great having you here, Lisa.
Lisa - Many many thanks, Mason, and to your loyal followers – my favorite kind of people, people who enjoy reading.
Lisa, thanks for answering these questions. We’re all wishing you the best of luck on your goal to become America’s Next Top Author.

For those of you who haven’t read EXCEEDING EXPECTATIONS yet, I would highly recommend reading it first and then PARADISE MISPLACED. It’s always more enjoyable to read a series in the order. Plus now you have a choice of reading EXCCEEDING as either an eBook or paperback.

Before discovering a passion for writing, Lisa sold plumbing and heating, antiques, taught ballroom dancing, tutored, modeled, designed software and managed projects for IBM. She also returned to college multiple times to study anthropology, sociology and computer science, in which she holds degrees, as well as psychology, archeology, literature, history and art.

For more information on Lisa, her writing and her books, visit her website at

Don’t you just enjoy book series that grabs your attention and makes you want to read more and more about the characters? Thanks so much for stopping by today.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Author D.A. Serra On Time Management

Finding new authors and new books to read is one of the fun things about blogging. Without it I might not have found author D. A. Serra and her current release, PRIMAL.

I’m delighted to have D.A. (Deborah) visiting today as part of her Premier Virtual Author Book Tour to talk about her writing and her book, a crime thriller with a heavy psychological element.

Deborah was a screenwriter for twenty years and recognized by the Writer's Guild for her long term continuous employment. She has written ten TV movies, four feature films, and numerous TV episodes including two years as a staff writer for NBC. She worked for top producers, directors, and actors. 

In addition, Deborah has taught writing at the University of California, San Diego, Wofford College and at writers' conferences nationwide. She has now turned her attention to novels, and was honored as a recent recipient of the prestigious Hawthornden Literary Fellowship, and as a semi-finalist for the William Faulkner-William Wisdom Creative Writing Award given by the Faulkner Society in New Orleans, LA.

Here’s a brief synopsis of PRIMAL:
The most dangerous place on Earth is between a mother and her child... 

With everything at stake - what are you capable of? What if the worst happens and you're not a policeman, a soldier, or a spy with weapons training and an iron heart? What if you're a schoolteacher - a mom? In this gritty crime thriller a family vacation takes a vicious turn when a fishing camp is invaded by four armed men. With nothing except her brains, her will, and the element of surprise on her side, Alison must learn to kill or watch her family die.
And then, things get worse.

As a screenplay, PRIMAL was originally purchased by James Cameron.

Now Deborah shares what her typical writing day is like.

Immediately upon rousing, I roll over, stare bleary-eyed at my bedroom wall, reach for a cup of very hot coffee that has been sympathetically deposited on my nightstand by my husband, and open my computer. I sip the coffee and wait for clarity. 

I’m not a morning person, and my husband, who is, leaps out of bed at 5:30 smiling. I sit suspended and trying to recall where I’m living, whom I’m married to, and what my plans are. Initially, I am incapable of forming a sentence and take unkindly to anyone attempting discourse. That is why it is so odd that it is my best writing time.  

I go directly from sleep to words on the page. It is so easy for me to sink into a story when I’m just barely conscious and  before my Primal Pic Smallmind is battered by all the exigencies of the new day. As the day wears on, and interruptions (more commonly known as life) begin to chip away at my concentration, I always look back grateful I began the day early. I am simply not quite so grateful at the moment.

I remember being told once that Honore Balzac would work from midnight to six a.m., then sleep, and get up in the late afternoon to read and attend dinner or social events. I completely understand this schedule, although I could never emulate it. The best writing time is when the world is asleep because nothing is required of you. Sadly, I’m a regular human and need to sleep at night.

I usually write for about six hours or longer (not shorter) five days a week. With this schedule, I was able to raise three kids, and two dogs, while growing a successful writing career first in TV & film, and now in novels. It was a perfect situation for me as a woman, since I worked when my children were in school. I was a full-time writer and a full-time mother at the same time – a modern day miracle.  

There were the occasional times when I was shooting for TV, or when I needed to travel to research a particular assignment, or if an intransigent deadline approached, where more was required, but those times were manageable. I will admit that it wasn’t easy. With gregarious twins and another child just two-years younger, I did run around for about eight years with my hair on fire. And, yes, I was that wild women running through the grocery store at 10:30 at night.  

I think time management is the most important skill a writer must master. It is so easy to be distracted by the needs and desires of others. Once writers are sure where, when, and how they work best, then it really is all about time management and discipline. It means having to tell confused friends and school teachers over-and-over “I’m working ” – since they do not get it and think because you’re home you’re available -- but it can be done.

Now, as a novelist, it is easier for me as I no longer have the same immutable deadlines notorious in the TV & film world, and my children are older, so they drive themselves. My schedule is predicated only on what works for me, but those days in the work/mom/school/wife/homework/cook/shopper/chauffeur trenches really taught me how to glue myself down to a schedule. Even for the most prolific writers there’s nothing like a solid schedule.

Deborah, thanks so much for visiting and giving us a look at a typical writing day for you. I agree about time management, no matter what one does for a living.

For further information on Deborah and her writing, visit her website at

Do you use time management to make your days a little easier? Thanks so much for stopping by today.


Thursday, September 27, 2012

Kiss of Steel by Bec McMaster

I’m just venturing into the Steampunk genre and author BecBMcM_KissOfSteel McMaster’s debut release made me glad I am branching out to read new things.

McMaster’s first installment in the London Steampunk Series is KISS OF STEEL. It is a well-blended mixture of genres rolled into a tantalizing read. It gives you Steampunk, romance, paranormal and mystery all in one intriguing setting.

Honoria Todd has no choice but to take refuge in Whitechapel, the last bastion of safety for those who fear the rule of the mighty Echelon in the steam-fueled world of Victorian London. She cares for her two siblings while protecting her father’s research diary from the clutches of the Duke of Vickers. The diary is the key to a vaccine against the craving disease that turns its victims into vampires. For help she must turn to the only man the Echelon don’t dare touch - Blade.

Since infected with the craving, Blade is almost immortal. He is the master of the rookeries, but fears himself more than others. When Honoria seeks his help, he is torn between using her as bait against his enemy or giving in to his feelings.

McMaster has created a most believable world incorporating various gadgets of Steampunk with the vampire lore and blue blood nobility for a truly entertaining read. She weaves in suspense and mystery with a big dose of steamy romance.

The characters are well-developed and likable. Honoria is a spunky heroine who fiercely protects those she loves. Blade is a strong hero with a tender side. The cast of supporting characters add another layer to mix.

KISS OF STEEL flows at a steady pace with enough action and adrenaline rush to keep you on the edge of your seat as you quickly turn the next page. With this first installment in a new series, McMaster has put her mark on this fascinating genre and I look forward to what comes next.

Author Bec McMaster’s website is
Kiss of Steel by Bec McMaster, London Steampunk Series, Sourcebooks Casablanca, @2012, ISBN: 978-1402270277, Paperback, 448 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

Have you read Steampunk? Do you enjoy it? What intrigues you most about it? Thanks so much for stopping by today.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Author Tamara McClintock Greenberg: Surprises In Writing And A Giveaway

As someone providing care for a family member with Alzheimer’s Disease, I was interested to see the latest book by Author Tamara McClintock Greenberg, WHEN SOMEONE YOU LOVE HAS A CHRONIC ILLNESS: HOPE AND HELP FOR THOSE PROVIDING SUPPORT.

I’m also pleased to welcome Tamara here today as she makes a stop on her Nurture Virtual Book Tourz™.

Tamara, Psy.D., M.S., a licensed clinical psychologist, works with patients and family members affected by acute or chronic illness. She is an associate clinical professor and clinical supervisor at the University of California, San Francisco Langley Porter Psychiatric Institute. Tamara has written three books and numerous chapters and articles on aging, illness, as well as issues pertaining to women. She writes for Psychology Today online and The Huffington Post. She also speaks to medical, psychological, and public audiences on the impact of illness, caregiving issues, and dealing with the modern medical system as a patient or loved one. She is in private practice in San Francisco.

Tamara joins us today to talk about the writing process. In addition, thanks to Tamara and the great folks at Nurture, I have a print copy of WHEN SOMEONE YOU LOVE HAS A CHRONIC ILLNESS to giveaway. Please see the end of the post for the guidelines.

Now Tamara answers “What surprised you the most about the writing and publishing process?”

WHEN SOMEONE YOU LOVE HAS A CHRONIC ILLNESS is my third book, so I have been surprised for some time about the idiosyncrasies of publishing in general! 

Authors have a better experience when they try to figure out what a particular publisher aims for and then try to meet it. That does not mean giving up central ideas, but each publisher is a unique culture and I try to be sensitive to what the norms are. I am totally fine with compromising when an editor has questions; I just choose to argue about only points that I think are crucial. I never try to get overly attached to one idea. Editors and agents have much more experience in the writing world, so I work hard to incorporate feedback.  

Another surprise that I have experienced in the last couple of years is that of writers block. This was never an issue for me—I just felt passionate and wrote. Even if I changed a piece later, or realized it did not work, I felt kind of uninhibited about my writing.  

As I have aged and now am in mid-life, creativity takes on a different form. I work slower and more methodically. It takes me longer to write things, but I am often happier with what I write. IWhen Someone You Love Cover still look back at some of my writing and cringe, but I can usually try to be more sympathetic with myself about where I was coming from, even if I wrote something that I would change. This is the hard thing about blogging, by the way, because there is a quick ability to put stuff out there! Impulse control when blogging is often a good thing!

The biggest surprise is that publishing a book is not that difficult, though there are some caveats. 

For me, all it took was a good proposal, and regarding this current book, a good agent. To publish outside of academia, one needs an agent they can have a comfortable relationship with. I was lucky in that I found an agent who wanted to work with me on the development of the idea for the book.  

This is not often the case. After publishing for academic presses, I was surprised regarding how hard it was to find an agent. This seemed to be the hardest part of publishing for the popular press. So while agents can seem hungry, as authors, we need them more than they need us. They have people pitching them all of the time! Good agents are very busy. Spending the time to find someone who is really interested in your project means a lot. 

One final thing about this: it is really important to be willing to alter your ideas and plan for your book. Agents know this business really well; I think it is reasonable to trust them.

Tamara, thanks for visiting today and for this insight into the publishing field. I would have thought finding an agent wouldn’t be as hard as it once was.
When Someone You Love Nurture Tour Banner
For more on Tamara and her writing, visit her website, check out her blog or find her on Twitter.  

Tamara earned a bachelor's degree in psychology at Hamline University in Minnesota and was awarded the prestigious Jacob Markovitz Memorial Scholarship to continue in the doctoral program at the Minnesota School of Professional Psychology. She graduated in 1997 with a doctorate in clinical psychology with a specialty in clinical health psychology.

Thanks to advances in science and medicine the lifespan of the average American is now longer than ever and many illnesses that once would have proven fatal have become manageable, chronic conditions. Great news, right? Sure, but there is another side to the 21st Century health picture—and it is increasingly becoming part of the lives of Americans. Many more people are living with chronic illness and that means that more than ever family members, friends, and partners are needed to provide formal or informal support.

That’s why Tamara, a clinical psychologist who specializes in treating individuals with chronic illness and their families, wrote WHEN SOMEONE YOU LOVE HAS A CHRONIC ILLNESS: HOPE AND HELP FOR THOSE PROVIDING SUPPORT (Cedar Fort Books, ISBN: 978-1-59955-939-1, Trade Paper). In this groundbreaking book Tamara shows readers how to provide the best care for their loved ones, without losing themselves.

So, how can caregivers meet the demands of care giving without sacrificing self-care? Throughout WHEN SOMEONE YOU LOVE HAS A CHRONIC ILLNESS: HOPE AND HELP FOR THOSE PROVIDING SUPPORT Tamara offers compassionate, authoritative, and step-by-step help for striking this critical balance. At the end of each chapter readers find a “coping checklist” that provides helpful, no-nonsense guidance on how to best address their loved ones’ needs and their own.

To enter the giveaway for a copy of this book, send me an e-mail ( with the subject line, “Win When Someone You Love.” Your message should include your name and mailing address. The contest is open to residents of the U.S., U.K and Canada only. And, just so you know, I don’t share this information with anyone other than the publisher nor use it for any other purpose. The deadline to enter this giveaway for a chance at a copy of WHEN SOMEONE YOU LOVE HAS A CHRONIC ILLNESS will be 8 p.m. (EST) on Thursday, Oct. 4.

Tamara’s tour continues this week as she visits with the following bloggers:
Thursday, Sept. 27th - Tori Pe. @ Mommy’s Musings (an eBook giveaway will be included).
Thursday, Sept. 27th – Kristina Ha. @ Kristina’s Books & More (an eBook giveaway will be included).
Friday, Sept. 28th – Bobbie @ Nurture Virtual Book Tourz™ Blog.

Have you had to provide care for a family member or friend? Do you know someone who is a caregiver? Thanks so much for stopping by today.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Author Madeline Miller: The Relationships of Achilles

Author Madeline Miller’s 2012 Orange Prize for Fiction winning debut novel THE SONG OF ACHILLES was recently released in paperback. I’m delighted to welcome her here today to talk about her writing and why she decided to focus on the relationship between Achilles and Patroclus.

Madeline has a BA and MA from Brown University in Latin and Ancient Greek, and has been teaching both for the past nine years. She has also studied at the Yale School of Drama, specializing in adapting classical tales to a modern audience. 

Madeline grew up in New York City and Philadelphia, but now lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts. THE SONG OF ACHILLES is her first novel. More about Madeline can be found on her website at

SONG OF ACHILLES is a thrilling and unique retelling of the Iliad and the legend of Achilles; a tale of gods, kings, immortal fame, and the human heart – a dazzling feat of the imagination that is one of the most unusual debuts of the season. This is, at its core, a love story between Achilles, the “best of all the Greeks”, and Patroclus, an awkward, exiled young prince.  

Greece in the age of Heroes. Patroclus, an awkward young prince, has been exiled to the kingdom of Phthia. Here he is nobody, just another unwanted boy living in the shadow of King Peleus and his golden son, Achilles.

The “best of all the Greeks”—strong, beautiful, the child of a goddess and a man — Achilles is everything the shamed Patroclus is not. Yet despite their differences and the fury of Achilles’s mother Thetis, a cruel and deathly pale sea goddess with a hatred of mortals, the boys become steadfast companions, their bond deepening into love as they grow into young men skilled in the arts of war and medicine.

When word comes that Helen, wife of Menelaus, has been kidnapped, the men of Greece are called upon to lay siege to Troy in her name. Seduced by the promise of a glorious destiny, Achilles joins their cause, and Patroclus follows, little knowing that over the years the cruel Fates will test them as never before, and demand a terrible sacrifice.

When asked why she decided to focus on Achilles relationship with Patroclus, Madeline responded:
I have loved ancient Greece since I was five and my mother began reading me the Greek myths. I was enthralled: by the larger-than-life gods, the epic adventures, and most particularly by the stories of the Trojan War, with its noble and deeply flawed heroes. “Sing, goddess, of the terrible rage of Achilles,” begins The Iliad. The words resonated in me, lingering long after my mother had closed the book and turned out the light.

Years later, when I became a student of Greek and Latin, I immediately sought out The Iliad. The poetry and language were gorgeous, the story even more compelling than I remembered. I spent a summer in Greece working on an archaeological dig, and my copy of the The Iliad came with me. There, wandering in olive groves and swimming in the beautiful Aegean, I began to think of how I, too, could sing of these ancient tales.

I had always been especially moved by Achilles, and his desperate grief over the loss of his companion Patroclus. But who was Patroclus? I searched the ancient texts for every mention of his name, and discovered an amazing man: exile and outcast, loyal and self-sacrificing, compassionate in a world where compassion was in short supply. I had not thought The Iliad had a love story; I was wrong.

It has been the deepest privilege and pleasure to spend the last ten years sailing in Homer's wine-dark waters. I very much hope you will enjoy reading this book as much as I have loved writing it.

Now Madeline has graciously answered some questions about her writing.

Do the Greek myths really matter in our modern world of cutting-edge technology and tenuous global politics?
Madeline - It can be a cliché to call a story timeless. But the stories of ancient Greece—the Iliad foremost among them—are exactly what this cliché was made for. To borrow Ben Jonson, they are notSongAchilles pb c (2) “of an age, but for all time.” Human nature and its attendant folly, passion, pride and generosity has not changed in the past three thousand years, and are always relevant. And especially at this fractured and shifting historical moment, I think people are looking back to the past for insight. These stories have endured this long, moving generation after generation of readers—they must, still, have something important to tell us about ourselves. Every day on the front page of the newspaper is an Iliad of woes—from the self-serving Agamemnons to the manipulative, double-speaking Odysseuses, from the senseless loss of life in war to the brutal treatment of the conquered. It is all there, in Homer too: our past, present and future, inspiration and condemnation both.

I would also add, more specifically, that I think the culture is ready for the kind of love story that transcends gender and time. I did not deliberately set out to tell a “gay” love story; rather, I was deeply moved by the love between these two characters—whose respect and affection for each other, despite the horrors around them, model the kind of relationship we all can aspire to.  
How much of the Achilles story depicted in THE SONG OF ACHILLES is based on the classics and how much did you create in order to tell the story? And, can you explain how you did your research for the book?

Madeline - In some ways I feel like I’ve been researching this book my whole life! I have loved the ancient Greek myths since I was a child, and studied Latin and Greek throughout high school, college, and graduate school. My professors gave me an incredible and electrifying education in ancient history and literature, and all of it helped provide the foundation for the book—though at the time, of course, I had no idea that I would one day use it for fiction.

Once I started writing the novel, I inevitably discovered that I needed to know more: What exactly did ancient ship sails look like? What kind of flora and fauna does Homer mention? My background in Classics helped there too; I had a lot of the answers already on my bookshelf, or I knew where to go to find the information I needed. It was also extremely helpful that I had spent time in parts of Greece and Turkey.

It was very important to me to stay faithful to the events of the Homer’s narrative. The central inspiration behind the book is the terrible moment in the Iliad when Achilles hears about Patroclus’ death. His reaction is shocking in its intensity. The great half-god warrior—who carelessly defies rules, and condemns a whole army to death—comes completely unglued, desperate with grief and rage. I wanted to understand what it was about Patroclus and their relationship that could create that kind of crisis. Although Homer tells us what his characters do, he doesn’t tell us much of why they do it. Who was Achilles? And why did he love Patroclus so much? Writing the novel was my way of answering that question.

The biggest changes to the mythology came with the stories about Achilles’ life before he came to Troy, which the Iliad doesn’t cover. There are many, many variations on these, so part of what I was doing was figuring out which ones added to the novel’s arc, and which ones I should omit. 
Most people don’t know that much about Patroclus and his relationship with Achilles. How did you come up with your theory that their friendship grew into love?

Madeline - I stole it from Plato! The idea that Patroclus and Achilles were lovers is quite old. Many Greco-Roman authors read their relationship as a romantic one—it was a common and accepted interpretation in the ancient world. We even have a fragment from a lost tragedy of Aeschylus, where Achilles speaks of his and Patroclus’ “frequent kisses.”

There is a lot of support for their relationship in the text of the Iliad itself, though Homer never makes it explicit. For me, the most compelling piece of evidence, aside from the depth of Achilles’ grief, is how he grieves: Achilles refuses to burn Patroclus’ body, insisting instead on keeping the corpse in his tent, where he constantly weeps and embraces it—despite the horrified reactions of those around him. That sense of physical devastation spoke deeply to me of a true and total intimacy between the two men. 
What about the “Achilles Heel” legend? Where does it come from, and after all of your research, do you believe it? 

Madeline - Achilles’ most famous myth—his fatally vulnerable heel—is actually a very late story. Our earliest account of it is by a Roman author, almost a millennium after the Iliad and the Odyssey were first composed. During those thousand years a number of other stories popped up to explain Achilles’ seeming invincibility, but the Iliad and Odyssey contain the simplest: he wasn’t really invincible, just extraordinarily gifted in battle. Since the Iliad and Odyssey were my primary inspiration, and since their interpretation seemed more realistic, this was the version I chose to follow.

There are a number of fun myths about the heel, once that story became popular. The most famous one is that, in trying to make him immortal, his mother, the goddess Thetis, dipped him in the river Styx. The place where she held him—his heel—was the only place not made invulnerable. Every time I have told this story to my middle school students, they erupt into chaos:
“That’s so stupid!  Why didn’t she just switch heels and dip him twice?” 
“Or go back later, and do it again?” 
“The water would still have seeped in!” 

So that may have also influenced me on finding that a not-as-compelling reading. 

If one wanted to visit Greece and its surrounding countries now, and walk in Achilles and Patroclus’ footsteps, and “re-live” the Trojan War, what modern cities should they visit and what might they find there?

Madeline - The journey would begin in northern Greece, in the region of Thessaly. We aren’t sure where Peleus’ palace may have been (if it was a real place), but certainly Mount Pelion is still there. It is a gorgeous spot to go hiking, and there’s even a mountain train that runs on the weekends. Nearby, the major port town Volos is a wonderful place to visit and, given its excellent location, could very well have been a good Phthian settlement in antiquity.

Next up would be the island of Scyros, where the goddess Thetis hid her son Achilles from the war, disguising him as a woman. Scyros is in the middle of the Aegean, the most southern of the Sporades island cluster. It’s quite rocky, especially in its southern region, and also has some wonderful Byzantine and Venetian monuments, along with its stunning landscapes and beaches. If you want the full Achilles experience, cross-dressing is a must.

After that, it’s off to Aulis, (modern Avlida), in Boetia, due north of Athens. This is where the Greek fleet gathered before setting off to Troy. It’s quite a small town, but there are beaches, of course, and you can sit on them and pretend that you’re there waiting for that kid Achilles to finally show up so you can sack Troy already….

Though Achilles and Patroclus didn’t actually go there, now is a good time to take a quick detour to Agamemnon’s palace at Mycenae, in the northern Peloponnese. It’s one of the few Homeric-era ruins that we do have, other than Troy itself. You can see the famous “Lion-Gate” entrance to the city, as well as the circular graves where the golden “Mask of Agamemnon” and “Cup of Nestor” were found. As you tour the site, imagine that you’re the proud son of Atreus himself, and bully some subordinates. But don’t go too far: Agamemnon was killed with an ax in the bathtub by his fed-up wife.

Now, back to Aulis. After joining up with the fleet, Achilles and Patroclus would have made their way to Troy, stopping several times along the way. Since we don’t really know where they stopped (even in mythology), I think that this gives you the right to land at pretty much any fabulous Greek island that you wish. If you take the southern route, you can drop by Lesbos, where the famous poetess Sappho (whom Plato named the tenth muse), lived and wrote. Farther north is the island of Lemnos, which was infamous in ancient mythology as the home of the venomous snake that crippled the hero Philoctetes. Watch where you step!

Personally though, I would recommend choosing the most northern route, which takes you, with just a little detour, by the incredible city of Istanbul. I had the good fortune to visit Istanbul this past spring, and it is breathtaking. Everywhere you look there is some priceless piece of history, from the Hittites to the Ottomans, not to mention its many modern attractions. So, you heard it here first: Patroclus definitely went to Istanbul.

Last stop: Troy itself, perched just below the Dardanelles. The nearby city of Canakkale is a great place to stay and boasts the full-size prop of the Trojan Horse used by the 2004 movie Troy. Brad Pitt himself arranged the donation, the rumor goes!
A short bus ride south brings you to the ancient archaeological site. Stand amid the ruins of five thousand years of history, and look out over the plains where the Greeks and Trojans fought. Though not much is left but stones, the feel of the place is unmistakably epic. Be sure to bring a jacket: not for nothing did Homer call it ‘Windy Ilios.’  Find the highest point—all that’s left of one of the ancient city’s famous towers— and remember the Iliad’s immortal first line: Sing, goddess, of the rage of Achilles. 
What do you hope that readers will gain from reading your book? And, what do you say to folks that say, reading the Greek myths is just too hard and not very interesting? That kids in school should be able to choose their own reading materials (vampire novels, and the like) and not have to worry about these classics?

Madeline - For those who have dipped into an ancient epic—the Iliad, say, or the Aeneid— and found it boring, here is my answer: I understand.

As a teacher, I have often had students who would come to me at the beginning of the school year and confess, I read the Aeneid over the summer and hated it. It doesn’t worry me: the poems assume a lot of background knowledge—who the gods are, and what the back story is. They also assume that their audience understands epic conventions, like listing all the generals and their ships, or using frequent repetition. If you don’t have that knowledge, the book can feel like a confusing slog. But, if you go into it with a guide—a good introduction, a quick re-read of Greek myths, a friend who loves it—then it just comes to life in your hands. Every one of those students, at the end of the school year, declared that they loved Vergil and they loved the Aeneid.

One of my explicit desires in writing this book was to make it so that readers didn’t have to know anything about the Iliad to enjoy it. I wanted to give them everything they needed to follow the action right then and there, so that they could experience Homer just as his first audiences would have: as entertainment, instead of an object of study.

The good news is that even if someone doesn’t appreciate a Classic text in school, they might go back to it later and realize that they enjoy it after all. I read Toni Morrison’s Sula in tenth grade and it went completely over my head; I just couldn’t connect with it. Then I picked it up again a few years ago, and absolutely loved it. So there’s always hope. In the meantime, what’s wrong with vampires?

As for what I hope readers will gain: I certainly would love to hear that the novel inspired some interest in Greek mythology in general, and the Iliad in particular. I hope too that it might help to combat the homophobia that I see too often.

In writing this novel, I thought a lot about personal responsibility. Patroclus is not an epic person, the way Achilles is. He’s an “ordinary” man. But he has more power than he thinks, and the moments where he reaches out to others and offers what he sees as his very modest assistance have huge positive ramifications. Most of us aren’t Achilles—but we can still be Patroclus. What does it mean to try to be an ethical person in a violent world?

Madeline, thank you so much for this insight into Achilles and Patroclus. You do shine a new light on them. I also enjoyed your take on what can be learned from the two. Patroclus was indeed a powerful man in his own right.

Do you enjoy reading the Classics? What is your take on Achilles and Patroclus? Thanks so much for stopping by today. I know today’s post was a bit longer than usual, but there was so much wonderful information to cover and share with you. Hope you enjoyed it and was inspired as I was.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Lighting Candles in the Snow by Karen Jones Gowen

Being a mystery/thriller fan, I sometimes like to take a break to read something more soothing to my spirit. While heartache, loneliness, and despair aren’t soothing, it’s the redeeming qualities of these emotions that sooths and heals.

Lighting Candles in the Snow coverThe latest release by author Karen Jones Gowen, LIGHTING CANDLES IN THE SNOW, brings all these emotions into play for a rewarding story.

The story focuses on Karoline London and what she encounters during and after her six year marriage dissolves. Her ex-husband, Jeremy, has an addiction and she later learns he also has past secrets that have affected his life.

From the opening chapter where Karoline tries to prop-up her marriage, the author weaves a realistic story filled with the hopes and dreams of life together to the realization of promises crushed.

As Karoline’s marriage falls apart and she struggles to pick up the pieces, raw emotions are exposed. The love and support of Karoline’s sister and brother-in-law is a double-edged sword. Karoline appreciates them being there, but they can’t really understand. They have a loving marriage and seven kids. She has an ex and no children to love.

Gowen mixes the elements of divorce, Karoline’s feelings of self-worth, dating, and family into a story you won’t be able to put down. From heartache to hope, from trauma to triumph, Gowen has created a story that will bring you to tears and then lift your spirits with laugh-out-loud moments. 

LIGHTING CANDLES IN THE SNOW is a feel-good story of human nature overcoming hardships to find happiness. It’s filled with a dose of faith, hope, romance, family, and love. An added bonus is delicious surprise recipes at the end of most chapters.

The characters are well-developed and likable. The dialog flows smoothly and at a steady pace with an unexpected ending. It’s a delightful read.

Author Karen Jones Gowen's website is

Lighting Candles in the Snow by Karen Jones Gowen, WiDo Publishing, @2012, ISBN: 978-1-937178-22-2, Paperback, 286 Pages

FTC Full Disclosure - An eBook of this story was sent to me by the author in hopes I would review it. However, receiving the complimentary copy did not influence my review.
Do you enjoy books that lift your spirits? Thanks so much for stopping by today. Have a great Monday and remember to share a book with a friend.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Sunday Salon: DEAD RINGER by Allen Wyler

It's time once again for Sunday Salon where we can relax and talk about the wonderful books we've discovered during the past week.

As some of you already know, my computer crashed recently and I was away from blogdom more than normal. The book I have to share with you today, I had planned to post about last week. It's a gripping thriller I hope you will enjoy learning about.

DEAD RINGER by Allen Wyler
Writers are always told to ‘write about what you know’ and in the case of author Allen Wyler, that phrase hits its mark.
Dead Ringer_cvrWyler is an internationally renowned neurosurgeon and he has created a realistic and likeable protagonist in the form of neurosurgeon Dr. Lucas McCrae, the lead character in his latest release, DEAD RINGER. McCrae is a well-developed character with flaws and issues giving him a more ‘average guy’ feel that superior surgeon.

The story begins with a typical medical conference in Hong Kong where McCrae is scheduled to demonstrate his latest surgical techniques. When he removes the cloth from the cadaver to begin the procedure, however, he discovers the body of his best friend, Andy Baer.

Once back in Seattle, McCrae learns his friend is missing and may have been killed by a gang of body snatchers. The gang, operating a legitimate funeral business, is suspected of selling body parts to medical researchers.

Determined to find his friend’s killers, McCrae sets out to expose the body snatching ring that goes much deeper than he ever imaged. He’s helped in his endeavor by a feisty female cop and a gang member whose family was victimized by the body snatchers.

DEAD RINGER is a fast-action read that will hold you captive from the opening page to the unexpected ending. The gripping story is plausible and could have been taken from recent headlines making it a chilling read. Filled with suspense and tension, the story flows at a smooth pace. Wyler includes enough medical procedures to be informative but not so much to make it a medical journal. An eye for detail, Wyler keeps the action moving as he draws the reader in for this fascinating thriller.

Author Allen Wyler’s website is

Dead Ringer by Allen Wyler, Astor + Blue Editions LLC, @2012, ISBN: 978-1938231148, Paperback, 334 Pages

FTC Full Disclosure - This eBook was sent to me by the publisher in hopes I would review it. However, receiving the complimentary copy did not influence my review.
Wyler has earned an international reputation for pioneering surgical techniques to record brain activity. He has served on the faculties of both the University of Washington and the University of Tennessee, and in 1992 was recruited by the prestigious Swedish Medical Center to develop a neuroscience institute. In 2002, he left active practice to become Medical Director for a startup med-tech company (that went public in 2006) and he now chairs the Institutional Review Board of a major medical center in the Pacific Northwest.

Leveraging a love for thrillers since the early 70’s, Wyler devoted himself to fiction writing in earnest, eventually serving as Vice President of the International Thriller Writers organization for several years. After publishing his first two medical thrillers Deadly Errors (2005) and Dead Head (2007), he officially retired from medicine to devote himself to writing full time.

He and his wife, Lily, divide their time between Seattle and the San Juan Islands.

Do you enjoy thriller ripped from the headlines? Thanks so much for stopping by today.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Author Marilyn Meredith: TV Influences On Mysteries?

It’s always a pleasure to welcome award-winning author Marilyn
Meredith back to Thoughts. She continuously shares an intriguing look at the world of publishing and to our delight has a new release to share with us.

Marilyn’s latest release is RAGING WATER, the 12th installment in her award-winning Deputy Tempe Crabtree Mystery series from Mundania Press. She is the author of over thirty published novels. Writing as F. M. Meredith, her latest Rocky Bluff P.D. crime novel is No Bells, the fourth from Oak Tree Press.

With the release of RAGING WATER, Marilyn is sponsoring a fun and interesting contest. The person who leaves comments on the most blogs during her tour will have his/her name used for a character in her next book. The winner can choose if they want their name in a Deputy Tempe Crabtree mystery or a Rocky Bluff P.D. crime novel.

Marilyn joins us today to answer a questions for me - Are Readers Expectations in Mystery Novels Influenced by TV and Movies?

Mason asked me if I wanted to answer this provocative question and I decide to tackle it.

I suppose it is possible that some readers may expect the same kind of fast pace that most TV and movies follow. With a TV episode, they have a short period of time to set up the story and quickly bring it to a satisfying climax. A movie has a longer period, but one drawback, unless there is voice over or the star talks to him or herself, the viewer doesn’t know what is going on inside the stars head.

There is one TV movie based on a popular mystery series that seems slow because the writers/director are trying to follow the main character as he’s agonizes over his past with the help of alcohol. Though the star does a great job, I’m not sure it works well in a TV format. 

One thing I’ve discovered in movies that I can usually tell early on which character will probably be killed off. It will be someone the main character cares about, but isn’t necessary for the plot.

Raging WaterIn a book, the reader can follow the point-of-view character as he or she is challenged by the mystery at hand. The reader sees and hears everything through the POV character and knows the character’s thoughts. Because the reader is following along, sometimes the solution to the problem will be apparent even before the sleuth figures it out—which as a reader, I think is great fun. The reader is using his or her own brain right along with the main character.

Sometimes when a book that had a multi-layered plot is made into a movie,  the attempt to put everything into the movie makes it hard to figure out. 

In a good mystery novel, though the excitement will build, the clues will start to become visible and the main character will undoubtedly find him or herself in some peril, I think in most cases, the plots, even if they are multi-layered, are easier to follow and add enjoyment rather than confusion. 

Marilyn, thanks for joining us today and answering this question. As a mystery reader, I had wondered how authors looked at this. While it’s fun to follow along with a TV show or movie, a book does draw me in more.

Marilyn is a member of EPIC, three chapters of Sisters in Crime, Mystery Writers of America, and on the board of the Public Safety Writers of America. For more on her writing and her books, visit her at and follow her blog at

Marilyn borrows a lot from where she lives in the Southern Sierra for the town of Bear Creek and the surrounding area.

When asked about the order her Deputy Tempe Crabtree Mystery series should be read in, Marilyn had this to say, “I know there are some people who like to read a series in order, but let me reassure you that every book is complete. Though the characters grow through each book, the crime is always solved. Here is the order of the books for anyone who wants to know: Deadly Trail, Deadly Omen, Unequally Yoked, Intervention, Wing Beat, Calling the Dead, Judgment Fire, Kindred Spirits, Dispel the Mist, Invisible Path, Bears With Us, Raging Water.”

RAGING WATER continues the intriguing adventures of Deputy Tempe Crabtree in the town of Bear Creek.

As Bear Creek is plagued by a burglar sneaking into houses during the night while the residents are sleeping, a killer is also on the loose. Deputy Tempe Crabtree is faced with the investigation of the murder of two close elderly friends. Both ladies were killed in similar manners leading the deputy to question what their connection was to each other and the killer.

To add to her problems, a storm descends on Bear Creek with relentless rain causing Bear Creek to turn into a raging river. The endless rain causes mudslides, and power outages. Tempe has to help residents find safe shelter as their small town is cut off from the outside world. With supplies getting lower and tempers rising, Tempe has her hands full all the while trying to catch a killer before he strikes again.

Tempe Crabtree is a strong, yet realistic, protagonist. Her character continues to grow and evolve with each new story. Meredith shows that Tempe, faced with challenges in both her professional and private life, struggles with everyday problems too. Meredith has included well-balanced supporting characters that add another layer to the story. They are entertaining and likable.

Meredith has created a delightful setting in the town of Bear Creek and its residents. Her descriptions of the storm and its aftermath places the reader among the residents feeling their heartache and hope at Mother Nature’s wrath. 

RAGING WATER moves at a steady pace holding the reader spellbound from the first encounter with the burglar to Tempe’s last dramatic confrontation. The suspense and mystery will keep readers guessing as they work their way through the twists and turns of this intriguing read. A rainy day may just take on a new meaning.

Do you enjoy books where the protagonist evolves as the series continues? Have books made you think differently about circumstances such as a rain storm or snow storm? Thanks so much for stopping by today. Remember, share a book with a friend.

*FTC Full Disclosure - I requested this eBook as part of the author’s blog tour. It was sent to me by the author in hopes I would review it. However, receiving the complimentary copy did not influence my review.
Raging Water by Marilyn Meredith, A Deputy Tempe Crabtree Mystery, Mundania Press, @2012, ISBN: 978-1606593233, Paperback, 204 Pages