Sunday, February 28, 2010


How are you at spring cleaning? If you’re organized, it’s probably a breeze. If you’re unorganized like me, it’s a monumental task.

With the thought and hope of spring just around the corner, I decided to was time to do some spring cleaning in my mind. Don’t panic and leave, this isn’t going to be gruesome or messy. I just need to start being more organized in my thoughts. Clean out the cobwebs so to speak.

Now that I’ve got you totally confused and wondering what is wrong with me today, let me get down to some business at hand.

I have a winner to announce for the signed copy of “The Cougar Club” by Susan McBride. The winner is Helen of Straight from Hel. Congratulations Helen and thanks to everyone who stop by and commented on Susan’s post.

Next I haven't been able to acknowledge some wonderful bloggers who graciously passed on awards to me recently.

Michele at Southern City Mysteries awarded me the "Sugar Doll" award on Saturday, Feb. 6. Be sure to check out Michele’s blog. She recently changed themes and the new one looks very professional and she’s always got something interesting going on.

Jemi at Just Jemi presented me with the “From Me to You” (Picasso) award on Friday, Feb. 12. Jemi has a wonderful blog with very enlightening posts. Be sure to see what’s she up to since today is the last day of the Olympics and she will be leaving the TV. (Sorry couldn’t resist Jemi). :)

Terry at Romance Author, Terry Spear also presented me with the “From Me to You” (Picasso) award on Sunday, Feb. 21. Terry has a wonderful werewolf series that I adore. In addition, she creates teddy bears. Stop by her blog and then check out her website.

Carol at Under the Tiki Hut awarded me the “From Me to You” (Picasso) award on Monday, Feb. 15, and on Wednesday, Feb. 24, she also presented me with the Prolific Blogger award. Carol blogs on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. Her posts will keep you entertained and informed. Stop by to see.

Diane at Spunk On A Stick presented me with the "You Are My Sunshine" award on Friday, Feb. 19. Diane has a great blog, but her Sunday Sillies are a “must see” each week. Be sure to drop by to see what unusual photos she’s found.

Karen at karen...following the whispers  graciously awarded me the "You Are My Sunshine" award on Monday, Feb. 22. As many of you know, Karen is going through a difficult time with the recent passing of her mother-in-law (whom she and her husband had been caring for). She has been a pillar of strength and is now getting back to her writing and singing. Stop by and say hi.

Thanks to each of you for these terrific awards. I greatly appreciate them, I’m touched by your thoughtfulness, and I’m honored to consider each of you my friend.

Some of the awards came with rules, others didn’t. I’d like to be different and not attach any rules or conditions with the awards. I’d like to offer one or all of these beautiful awards to each and everyone who drops by Thoughts in Progress. I truly enjoy my blogging experience thanks to all the wonderful bloggers I’ve meet. This may not be the correct way to pass the awards on but there are so many great blogs that I visit I’d feel bad that I’d missed someone. So, please take an award or two and know I truly enjoy your visits and your friendship.

One other bit of business, I have a new giveaway to announce. Remember I’m expanding my reading genre experience.

"Just Let Me Lie Down" by Kristin van Ogtrop. This hardcover
biography/autobiography (ISBN: 9780316068284 is 272 pages and will be published April 1.

Here’s a brief synopsis:   Kristin van Ogtrop knows she's lucky--fulfilling career, great husband, three healthy kids, and, depending on the hamster count, an impressive roster of pets. She also knows she is tired. Always.

Using stories and insights from her own life, she provides a lexicon for the half-insane working mom. Anyone who has left a meeting to race to the Halloween parade immediately understands van Ogtrop's definition of "Kill the messenger" as "The action you must take in order to forget about the office for a time--that is, to remove your Blackberry/Treo/iPhone/whatever from your person and store it as far away as your neurotic self will allow." Filled with essays, lists, and resonant observations, JUST LET ME LIE DOWN establishes van Ogtrop as the Erma Bombeck of the new millennium.

Thanks to Anna and the Hachette Book Group I have three copies to giveaway. The giveaway is open to residents of the U.S. and Canada only and no post office box addresses can be accepted. To enter, send me an e-mail with “Win Just” in the subject line and include your name and address in the body of the e-mail. The giveaway will end at 8 p.m. on Sunday, March 21.

Since we’re talking about giveaways let me tell you about a new page I’ve added to the blog. Thanks to a link Diane at Spunk On A Stick posted on Friday, Feb. 26, I check out Morgan at Double M. The information was very helpful and I decided to see if I could add a page for giveaways.

At the top of the blog on the left sidebar under the welcome you will see a bar CURRENT GIVEAWAYS. Under it is a link “Click Here For Info.” Clicking on that link will take you to another page that has all the current giveaways and the rules for each. Thanks Diane and Morgan for helping me with this.

I know today’s post is a bit lengthy, but there was a lot I wanted to share. Check back tomorrow for a lineup of great authors that will be dropping by in the coming days. In addition, I have a question that has been plaguing me for sometime. I hope you can provide answers or suggestions.

Now, how’s your spring cleaning coming? Are you also cleaning out the cobwebs from your mind? Any tips you’d like to share to make either task easier?

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Eternal on the Water by Joseph Monninger

“Eternal on the Water” is a delightful, intriguing, heart-wrenching story of two soul mates and a devastating disease.

This novel doesn’t begin as most story do - the beginning of a budding relationship between a man and a woman. This novel begins at the tragic end of he couple’s relationship.

Knowing this story didn’t have a “happy ever-lasting” ending, I was apprehensive about reading it. Being tenderhearted was also a disadvantage to my willingness to read.

Once I began reading, however, it was hard to put it down. This timeless love story will hold you in its grip.

Cobb and Mary met on the Allagash River in Maine. It was Cobb’s first kayaking adventure and Mary was an old pro at it. Their chance meeting before going down the river changed their lives forever.

It was love at first sight for both. It was also the beginning of a journey that took the couple to Indonesia, Yellowstone National Park, and rural New England. The story is told in a flowing detail description. You can almost feel the mist from the river as the two kayak down the Allagash. You come to understand Mary’s love of the river and of life itself.

Cobb learns that Mary has  a life threatening disease but it doesn’t change his feelings for her. They go after life with a sense of adventure from their first encounter on.

When the end draws near for Mary, she enlists Cobb to fulfill her last request. They return to the Allagash River where it all began for them and ends for Mary. This is an inspiring story of adventure, humor, strength, pain, and undying love. “Eternal on the Water” addresses the question, “How far would you go to help the one you love?”

This is a novel that will stay with you long after you put it down and wipe away the tears.

JOSEPH MONNINGER, twice a recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts fellowship, has published award-winning fiction and non-fiction. He is currently a college professor living with his family in New Hampshire. For more information on Monninger, check out his website at

Thanks to Sarah and  Simon & Schuster, I have one copy of "Eternal on the Water" to giveaway. The giveaway is open to U.S. residents only and no post office box addresses can be accepted. To enter this giveaway, send me an e-mail with "Win Eternal" in the subject line and include your name and address in the body of the e-mail. The giveaway ends at 8 p.m. (EST) on Friday, March 5.

Eternal on the Water by Joseph Monninger * Gallery Books * @2010 * ISBN:9781439168332 * 368 pages * Paperback
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FTC Full Disclosure - This book was sent to me by Simon & Schuster in hopes I would review it. Receiving the complimentary copy did not influence my review.

Friday, February 26, 2010

The Bride Collector by Ted Dekker

New York Times bestselling author Ted Dekker is on a pre-pub blog tour to promote his new thriller “The Bride Collector.” Thoughts in Progress is hosting the tour today.

Dekker’s latest book is scheduled for release April 13.

“The Bride Collector” is a fast pace suspense/thriller from beginning to end. Once you begin reading, it will be hard to put down before you reach the end. FBI Special Agent Brad Raines is on the trial of a serial killer who is targeting beautiful women.

The book begins with the discovery of the fourth victim. Like the ones before her, the latest victim is discovered in an abandoned building. The manner in which the women are killed and left is the puzzler. The killer appears to be collecting brides. Each victim is semi-nude, glued to the wall in a crucifixion-style, drained of blood, and left wearing a wedding veil.

Brad attempts to figure out who the killer is and his next move while trying to understand his own demons. Brad, attracted to his beautiful colleague Nikki Holden, won’t allow himself to show her any emotions.

The killer leaves a note in the heel of the victim. This leads Brad and Nikki, a forensic psychologist, to The Center for Wellness and Intelligence. They believe the killer has a connection to the center.

Brad enlists the help of four residents at the center to help with the case. Cass, Andrea, and Roudy each have their own unique gift, as well as mental problems. However, it’s Paradise that draws Brad back again and again. Paradise has been diagnosed with schizophrenia but can also see ghosts when she touches a dead body.

The hunt for the ritualistic serial killer intensifies when he targets Nikki as the next bride for God.

The story is a mix of mystery, suspense, action, hope, forgiveness, and a touch of romance. Even though there is a fair amount of internal dialogue going on with both Brad and the killer, the story flows smoothly from one twist and turn to the next.

“The Bride Collector” is a book that I would recommend as a good read if you‘re looking for a mystery/thriller. However, I won’t recommend you read it at night if you’re home alone. The killer’s method of taking a bride will have you re-examining just how secure your home really is.

Ted Dekker is the author of more than 20 novels. He is known for thrillers that combine adrenaline-laced plots with incredible confrontations between good and evil. For more information on Dekker check out his website at, on Twitter at and his Facebook page at He also offers a couple of short stories at

The Bride Collector by Ted Dekker * Center Street * @2010 * ISBN:9781599951966 * 448 pages * Hardcover

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FTC Full Disclosure - This book was sent to me by the Hachette Book Group as part of the blog tour in hopes I would review it. Receiving this complimentary copy did not influence my review in anyway.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Q & A With Michael & Kathleen Gear

Please join me in welcoming renowned archaeologists and authors W. Michael Gear and Kathleen O’Neal Gear to Thoughts in Progress today to answer some questions about their upcoming release.

“Coming of the Storm” is the first book in an exciting new series (Contact: Battle for America) from the husband and wife writing team. With 23 internationally bestselling novels, this writing duo is regarded as the definitive authors of pre-Columbian Native American history.

With the release of “Coming of the Storm” they bring to life the clash between Native Americans and Europeans for the first time. Hernando de Soto landed in Florida in 1539 with a thousand soldiers, horses and slaves, and proceeded to march through 16 American states forever changing the face of America. “Coming of the Storm” follows his journey through Florida, as told through the eyes of a Chickasaw trader named Black Shell.

Thanks to Sarah at Simon and Schuster I have one copy of “Coming of the Storm” to giveaway. However, this contest is only open to U.S. residents. The contest will run through 8 p.m. on Thursday, March 4, and the winner will be selected from those making comments on this post.

Now the Gears have graciously answered some questions about working on a book together, as well as give a little background on the book and the new series.

How difficult is it to work on the same book? 

We’ve been co-authoring for about twenty-three years, so we pretty much have it worked out. In the beginning it was simply editing each other's work. Nothing leaves this house--even if it only has one of our names on the title--until it has suffered a critical line edit, numerous revisions, and a unanimous "ok" from the two of us. We employ the same process with books that have both of our names on the cover. One of us will have more of an expertise in a give cultural period, or with a particular archaeological tradition. That individual will write the initial draft--perhaps two or three hundred words in length. Then we pass the story back and forth, all the while sharing ideas, criticisms, and revisions, re-writing each other's work until we’re both happy with it.

Our goal is to make the novel seamless for the reader. We want you to fall into that world so completely that you don't come out until the last page is finished.
Is it difficult? Sometimes. We get into some impressive arguments about the archaeological and cultural data. There are often gaps in the data that we have to fill in, interpret, or take an "educated guess" about  before we can reconstruct a functional prehistoric or historic culture. 

An example: Net sacks that date back to 9,000 years ago have been recovered from Great Basin dry caves. Is it reasonable that they were in use 11,000 years ago on the Pacific Coast? Or, the historic Calusa believed humans had three souls. Can we legitimately project that concept back to the Windover Pond culture in Florida 8,000 years ago? 

What we do not squabble over is the actual writing. Mike has been known to produce such profound and intense prose that it was going to redefine Western literature and rock the Pulitzer committee back on its heels. Kathleen has been known to mark said passages up in large red letters stating something to the effect that it was "real...fecal material?" 

Okay, she used a shorter four letter word with Teutonic origins. Here's the thing: If Kathleen had trouble with the verbosity, so would some of our readers. Therefore, we go back, smooth, polish, and make the prose

understandable. We want you in the story with the characters, not puzzling over hidden levels of abstract meaning.
The end result is that we trust each other implicitly, and respect each other's instincts for story, characterization, dialogue, and pace. 

What inspired the CONTACT: BATTLE FOR AMERICA series? 

Individually we have written other Contact era novels, including THIS WIDOWED LAND, MORNING RIVER, and COYOTE SUMMER, but the  opportunity to co-author a critical Contact story like the Hernando de Soto entrada was too good to pass up. 

Why de Soto? Because most Americans think he was a hero. We have counties, parks, even elementary schools, named after him. Yet he was one of the most vile, disgusting, and evil human beings to set foot in the Americas. 

Another reason to tackle Contact is that we like overturning commonly held myths--especially the one that portrays the native peoples as pathetic victims of an overwhelming White onslaught that flattened the native peoples. Despite de Soto’s steel armor, guns, horses, and war dogs, in the end, our native peoples won. They destroyed his army and drove it out of the country in rags. And HOW they did it makes for fascinating reading.

COMING OF THE STORM is set during the truly the Heroic Period of native resistance to the European invasion of America, and while Black Shell and Pearl Hand don't exactly rock de Soto back on his heels in book one--it took the native peoples four years to destroy the bad guys-- in the end, well... Read along as the novels come out.

How many books will there be in the CONTACT series? 

That will depend entirely on the readers. We are just beginning our relationship with the good folks at Pocket Books and Simon & Schuster and really hope that CONTACT is but the first of many projects. Currently we are under contract to write three de Soto novels. We would really like at least four. After all, it's a four year story that crosses half of America and deals with hundreds of different cities, peoples, and polities.

Do you write about Native Americans in modern times? 

Yes. Many people have read our Anasazi Mystery series, THE VISITANT, SUMMONING GOD, and BONE WALKER; they keep  asking us to write more Dusty and Maureen books. After ten years, the books have developed a cult following, and perhaps a third of our fan mail asks when the next novel is coming. 

Actually, it's out. But there's a hitch. Das Ende Aller Tag is a thriller published only by Bastei Lubbe in Germany. Oh, and Maureen may or may not have a new man in her life. His name is Skip Murphy, and he'll be back in the next German thriller, the English title of which is: CARBON CAULDRON

Why no American edition? First, publishing--like every other industry--is tightening its belt. Second, the editors who buy thrillers aren’t familiar with the Dusty and Maureen books, or how they could market the latest thrillers to that audience. Meanwhile, the Germans are on it!

Finally, we’re looking forward to a great many NEW writing projects. PEOPLE OF THE LONGHOUSE comes out in July, followed by PEOPLE OF THE FOREST in 2011. 

The sequel to COMING OF THE STORM, currently titled THE FIRES OF MABILA is finished, and we’re starting on the third book which will take Black Shell and Pearl Hand to the Chickasaw country in eastern Mississippi and a battle that came within a breath of destroying de Soto’s army. 

In the meantime, we wish you happy reading, and don’t forget to visit our website at! We love to hear from readers!

Thanks so much Kathleen and Michael for giving us a look at what it’s like to be a husband and wife writing team, as well as background on your latest book.

What are your thoughts on de Soto and/or Native Americans. Do you think Native Americans have been portrayed correctly in books and movies?

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Guest Blogger, Judi Fennell

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

Judi’s latest book “Catch of a Lifetime” was just released this month. Here’s a brief synopsis of it: She’s on a mission to save the planet…  
Mermaid Angel Tritone has been researching humans from afar, hoping to find a way to convince them to stop polluting. When she jumps into a boat to escape a shark attack, it’s her chance to pursue her mission, but she has to keep her identity a total secret…  

When he finds out what she really is, they’re both in mortal danger… For Logan Hardington, finding a beautiful woman on his boat is surely not a problem—until he discovers she’s a mermaid, and suddenly his life is on the line… The third novel in Judi Fennell's mermaid series, a fresh, exciting, and different entry in romance fiction!

Judi and Danielle at Sourcebook are graciously offering a copy of “Catch of a Lifetime” to two lucky people who comment on this post between now and 8 p.m. on Wednesday, March 3.

Judi has stopped by today to answer some questions for me about how she got started writing and what advice would have helped her.

Have you had other careers before writing?

Before I had kids, I was a corporate meeting and convention planner. I loved that career. Worked my way up from an assistant to the planner for a large insurance company. I did meetings in Hawaii (2 weeks!), Marco Island/Naples Florida, Nevis/St. Kitts, Vegas, Nashville, Australia… I love to travel and that job went a long way toward fulfilling that desire. I wish I could have gone to Europe with it, but that wasn’t in the cards.

Next career was a stay-at-home mom. Anyone who doesn’t call that a job has never done it. You’re on call 24/7 and you have to take your “boss” with you – even on vacations. You can’t reason with that boss, you don’t get a raise and time off is laughable. Yet it’s the best job in the world and the most rewarding.

Until they’re teenagers. Then you’re an idiot.

What inspired you to change careers and become a writer?

It wasn’t so much as change careers; I was kind of marking time when my youngest went to kindergarten. Those afternoons were filled with cleaning and cooking and laundry and food shopping—I shudder just thinking about it. I so admire people who can do all of that and like it; to me, shopping is the devil’s work. Any kind of shopping. I just missed that girl gene when they were handing them out. As for cleaning—ugh. My mom made us clean every Saturday morning and I know it traumatized me. Oh, I definitely understand why she did, but I utterly hate to clean. The ironic thing is, I’m good at it. But I hate it.

So, anyway, there I was with the kids gone, my house spotless and one morning I remember thinking, “I wonder what room I should clean today.”
That was it. I was done. I needed to do something for me and I’d always wanted to write. I also went out and got a part time job, which I absolutely loved – I worked in the construction trailer for a custom home builder (million dollar + homes), with all the guys. It was great and if it weren’t for the economy, I’d still be there. It was actually fun to go to work and with the need to adhere to a schedule, I got a lot of writing done. So, I started writing with the part time job and my husband, who’s always urged me to start writing again, found Romance Writers of America for me and my local chapter, made me go to a meeting, and that was it. I was hooked. He’s supported me every step of the way, including somehow finding the money for my first conference; now it’s just part of the budget.

But once the story floodgates opened, that was it. I had no choice BUT to write.

What advice do you wish someone would have given you when you first started writing?

Considering I wrote my first romance in 9th grade, which was about 1979, I wish they would have said, “Hey, there’s going to be this great organization starting in a few years. You need to join it and not stop writing.” I have to wonder if I would have been published a lot sooner. I know I would have had a lot more stories and been further along the learning curve of craft and industry. But would I have had the life experience? *shrugs. Who knows. I have to believe that it’s all worked out like it was supposed to.

The life of an author is believed by most to be mostly play rather than work. What's your take on this?

Ha! Sit down and write one and then talk to me. I know people think it’s fun and glamorous, and at times it is fun. When the story flows out of your fingers faster than you can type, and you start laughing to yourself over something you came up with, yes, that is fun.

But when the story isn’t working and you have to go back ten chapters and rip something out and rearrange, and re-write, and remove and redo…. See all the “re”s? That part isn’t fun.

I joke and laugh at the image of me with a tiara on my head. I have one; my brother-in-law bought it for me for Christmas, complete with Cinderella on it. It’s perfect and I love to play up the stereotype, but, really, writing is a solitary career filled with long hours just staring at a blank screen or the same paragraph over and over and over. Most readers don’t realize how we agonize over every word. I know I never did before I started pursuing this seriously.

Yes, book signings are fun and we love meeting our readers and hearing from them, but if you took the hours we put into this (not including all the promotion and blogs and giveaways), and divide it by an average royalty statement… let me tell you, very few people get rich doing this. That’s why you really have to love it; it needs to be your passion. And it’s definitely my passion.

For the reader unfamiliar with your books, could you give us a brief overview?

I write tongue-in-cheek, light-hearted paranormal romances, a la Bewitched and I Dream of Jeannie. I love puns and word play and they are peppered throughout my stories. My current series is about Mermen and Mermaids, and the Humans they fall in love with. The third book, Catch of a Lifetime, is in stores now (In Over Her Head came out June 2009, and Wild Blue Under came out November 2009), and I’m hoping to be able to write more in the series. It’s a big ocean out there and I’ve got lots of ideas.

What other books and series do you have in the works?

My next series (January 2011) is about genies and was pitched to my editor as, coincidentally, “I Dream of Jeannie meets Indiana Jones.” I Dream of Genies is the first book and that’s with my editor now. I just got the cover but am waiting for final approval before posting it anywhere. The blurb: A genie on the lam finds the man who can make her wishes come true—if only they can outrun the beast, outthink the baddie, and keep her out of the bottle.

Where can readers find out more about you?

My website: has excerpts, reviews, and deleted scenes, as well as the information for my contest where I’ve raffled off two romantic beach getaway weekends, and have the drawing for the third and final one at the end of this month. is my blog and I’ve got pictures of cover models from the Romantic Times Convention (including me with Fabio), plus pictures of other authors from various conferences. And on March 25th, I’ll be hosting the Rita/Golden Heart nominee announcement “squee” party – where you can stop by and party with your friends (or your!) finalist announcement. That’s always a good time.

Thank you Judi for stopping by today and answering these questions. It’s always fun to learn more about authors. I think a lot of readers do visualize the life of an author as more “party-time” than it really is. I know it amazing to me the number of hours that are put into writing per day for so many weeks and months to meet a deadline. Wow.

Now a little background on Judi. Her romance novels have been finalists in's First Chapters and First Chapters Romance contests, as well as the third American Title contest. She spends family vacations at the Jersey Shore, the setting for some of her paranormal romance series. She lives in suburban Philadelphia, PA.

For more information, and a chance to win a romantic ocean getaway, visit Judi also blogs at Casablanca Authors and Wickedly Romantic.

Now what are your thoughts on Mermen and Mermaids?

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Guest Blogger, Susan Jane Gilman

Join me in welcoming bestselling author Susan Jane Gilman as the special guest blogger here today at Thoughts in Progress.
Susan is touring blogdom this week talking about her latest release, “Undress Me in the Temple of Heaven." Susan’s new memoir is a hilarious and harrowing journey, a modern heart of darkness filled with Communist operatives, backpackers, and pancakes. 

In 1986, fresh out of college, Susan and her friend, Claire, yearned to do something daring and original that didn’t involve getting a job. Inspired by a place mat the International House of Pancakes, they decided to embark on an ambitious trip around the globe, starting in the People’s Republic of China.

Susan joins us today to talk about why she recommends youth today in their 20’s go on a journey such as she did. And where she recommends them to go and why.

Absolutely: Go! Travel! See the world! And do it now! Certainly, it’s likely to be cheaper than the cost of living in a major American city for six months – especially if you’re unemployed. Never again in your life will you be so unencumbered, nor think it’s great to sleep on the flea-ridden floor of a youth hostel in Bangkok for only $6 a night.

You will have the rest of your years to build a career, harness yourself to a mortgage and kids, use guest soaps, and settle down. At this stage, you should have a magnificent combination of morbid curiosity, energy, and innocence, combined with a heightened threshold for physical discomfort and insomnia.  
Exploit this. As soon as you get a job promising a whopping two weeks’ annual vacation, you’re screwed. So get a backpack, defer the student loans, and carpe diem
As for where to go, I’d say go anywhere, barring war zones and places for which the State Department has issued serious travel warnings. Figure out what your comfort zone is, then step outside of it a mile or two.
That said, do some homework beforehand. Be smarter than I was in Undress Me in the Temple of Heaven. Read about the culture, history, and current political system of wherever you’re going.  

Women in particular: be aware of how we’re treated and regarded there. (Generally, it’s a good idea to leave the shorts at home and get some gauzy cotton blouses to throw over the tank tops). Leave the astrology books and collected works of Friedrich Nietzsche at home, too (trust me on this), though if you play the guitar or harmonica, kudos. Take ‘em along. 

Above all else, learn a few words of the local language. Please and thank you alone work wonders. Making any effort to communicate -- no matter how foolish or entertaining it appears to the locals -- will be enormously appreciated as a sign of respect. 
To be a traveler is to surrender. To go abroad is to forfeit control over your environment and your ability to navigate it. This always creates great anxiety within me – and it might with you, too. (Or not. Everyone reacts differently.) 

But if you find yourself freaking out, know that this is normal and it’ll pass. If you “go with it,” as they say, you may find yourself feeling more liberated than you ever did before. Certainly you'll become smarter, gutsier, saavier, and more thoughtful than you ever dreamed. Above all, keep a sense of humor. You’re in for the ride of your life.
Thank you Susan for guest blogging here today. Your recommendations sound intriguing and very helpful for anyone thinking of traveling abroad.  For more information on Susan, visit her website at and you can also listen to an except of "Undress Me in the Temple of Heaven" here.

What are your thoughts on traveling abroad? Have you gone on an adventure similar to Susan?

Monday, February 22, 2010

Guest Blogger, Susan Kearney

Please join me in welcoming bestseller author Susan Kearney as the special guest blogger here today at Thoughts in Progress.

Susan is beginning a Blog Tour today for her latest release, Jordan.” The tour will conclude on Friday, March 5.

Thanks to Susan and the Hachette Book Group, I have five copies of Susan’s latest release to give away. The giveaway will deadline on Friday, March 5. To enter, simply send me an e-mail with “Win Jordan” in the subject line and include her name and address in the body of the e-mail. The giveaway is only open to U.S. and Canadian residents and no post office boxes will be accepted.

Susan joins us here today to talk about the authors and books that inspired her to become a writer.

I was always a reader. I stole books from my mother’s nightstand and put them back after devouring them in a day. I took Playboy Magazines from my dad’s stash and secretly read them (and probably ruined my eyesight reading by a nightlight). I grew up reading science fiction, Asimov, Heinlein, Clark, EE Doc Smith, and to me a library was heaven.

But I never considered being a writer—not even after my grandmother gave me my first romance and I started devouring them. I didn’t like English. Didn’t like reading the classics and graduated the University of Michigan with a degree in business.

After I’d had children and they were on a swim team, I continued readings during practice. I read a book by Johanna Lyndsay, Warrior’s Woman, a futuristic romance set on another world and loved it. She’d combined my
two favorite genres, science fiction and romance. And I wanted to read more books like it . . . only there weren’t any. So I decided to write one.

I knew nothing. My first book had no commas. It was six hundred pages and had no chapters. I didn’t know how to type. And every thought was in

quotes. No it didn’t sell—at least not then but THE CHALLENGE was my 38th book published. My road to publication was a little sidetracked by the market. I couldn’t sell my first love—futuristic romance. There simply wasn’t a publisher buying them back then—not unless the writer was famous already.

But I was bitten by the writing bug and sold romantic suspense for a few years, then contemporary romance, even a Star Trek, book but finally, finally, finally, I got to write what I love. 

And JORDAN is one of my all time favorite books. It’s one of my best covers, too. But it’s the characters who I love. A warrior who’s lived for centuries. Men and women who can shift into dragons. And lots of adventure and romance. 

All of my books stand alone. You won’t be lost if you haven’t read Lucan and Rion before you read Jordan. Oh . . . did I mention the stories are tied to Arthurian legends?  If you’d like to read an excerpt they are posted on my site at

Susan thanks so much for joining us today. It seems funny for you to talk about a book with no commas and no chapters. I’m glad to know that you did finally get your first book published.

Susan’s 50-plus books include contemporary, romantic suspense, historical, futuristic, science fiction, paranormal novels. She resides in a suburb of Tampa with her husband, kids, Boston terriers and iguana. Currently Susan is plotting her way through her 52nd work of ficton.

Here a brief synopsis of “Jordan” - Vivianne Blackstone devotes herself to her career, putting her love life on hold. Her latest project is a spaceship designed to protect Earth from the deadly Tribes. But its engineer, the alluring Jordan McArthur, now threatens both her job and her wary heart . . .

Jordan's past goes back to King Arthur, and he must find the ancient artifact that can save the galaxy. Vivianne's ship is his best hope, but convincing the fiercely independent beauty won't be easy. Especially when the passion flaring between them burns through their defenses - and love is the last thing they need to survive.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Sunday Salon: The Teaberry Strangler, A Tea Shop Mystery by Laura Childs

Award-winning author Laura Childs brings tea shop owner Theodosia Browning back for another exciting adventure in “The Teaberry Strangler.”

This is the 11th installment in the Tea Shop Mystery series. Don’t let that scare you from reading it as it is a stand alone book and can be read without having read the previous books. However, once you get started, you’ll want to read every book in the series.

Theo organizes a “back-ally crawl” where the shop owners dress in historic costumes and open their back doors to customers. The cobblestone street of Church Street filled with visitors and the event was deemed a great success.

But after everyone leaves and store keepers start closing, Theo decides to take a basket of goodies to her friend, Daria Shand. Daria is the owner of the Antiquarian Map Shop located just a few doors down from Theo’s Indigo Tea Shop.

Starting down the alley, Theo spots Daria with someone. She thinks at first it’s a romantic encounter and then she quickly realizes someone is strangling Daria. Theo screams and rushes to her friend. The intruder flees, but Theo is too late and finds Daria laying dead on the cobblestone.

Feeling she should have done more, Theo agrees to look into her friend’s murder for Daria’s mother and sister.

While questioning possible suspects, Theo also caters a tea for a Bed and Breakfast Tour, as well as for a book signing at the Heritage Society. In addition, the tea shop hosts a children’s “Alice in Wonderland” theme tea party. She does have the help of Drayton, her master brewer and right-hand man; and Haley, the tea shop’s creative baker.

Throw into the mix the return of her former boyfriend, Jory Davis, along with his ex-fiancée  Beth Ann, who is now stalking Theo. Add in that Theo’s attempting to move into a carriage house when her faithful dog, Earl Grey, brings her a human bone. Now the backyard of her new home has turned into an archeologist dig.

Along the way Theo meets the new owners of the fragrance shop “Jardin Perfumerie” located next door to Daria’s map shop. The owners - Cinnamon and her aunt, Miss Kitty - seem just a little off to Theo. The duo is in a big hurry to buy out Daria’s shop from her estate.

Laura Childs will take you on a roller coaster ride of adventures with twists and turns you can’t image. Just as you think you’re closing in on who the killer is, a new lead takes you in a different directions.

Shattered throughout the book are references to wonderful flavored teas, tasty sandwiches and delicate desserts. An added bonus to the book is several of the dessert and sandwich recipes are included in the back, along with tea time tips.

If you’re not a tea lover, you will still enjoy the mystery and not be overwhelmed with tea talk. But by the end, you may be reaching for a cup of freshly brewed Teaberry Tea or maybe Oolong. I wanted to drink tea the entire time I was reading “The Teaberry Strangler” and I’m mainly a coffee drinker. The Tea Shop Mystery series has lead me to understand and appreciate tea much more. This is a great cozy murder mystery to curl up with on these last cold days of winter.

For more on Laura Childs, the Tea Shop Mystery series and other series by Laura, go online to

The Teaberry Strangler, A Tea Shop Mystery by Laura Childs * Berkley Prime Crime * @2010 * ISBN: 978-0-425-23245-3 * Hardcover * 320 pages

* * * * *
Now for the winner of "The Last Surgeon" by Michael Palmer is Marjorie R. of Woodstock, Ontario. Congratulations Marjorie.
* * * * * 
Thanks to Anna and the Hachette Audio Book Group I have three new audio books to giveaway. To enter this giveaway, send me an e-mail with "Win" and the book title in the subject line. In the body of the e-mail include your name and mailing address. You can enter for one or all of the books, but I need a separate e-mail for each book giveaway. The deadline for the giveaways is Wednesday, March 17. The giveaway is open to U.S. and Canadian residents. No post office box addresses allowed. I have three copies of each audio book to giveaway.

"BLACK HILLS" by Dan Simmons and read by Erik Davies and Michael McConnohie. (Fiction, unabridged, ISBN:9781600247866)

In "Black Hills," Dan Simmons weaves the stories of Paha Sapa and Custer together seamlessly, depicting a violent and tumultuous time in the history of Native Americans and the United States Army. Listen to an Excerpt and visit
"ON THE BRINK," The Race to Stop the Collapse of the Global Financial System by Henry M. Paulson Jr. and read by Dan Woren. (Business and economics, unabridged, ISBN:9781600249129)

Former Secretary of the Treasury Hank Paulson -- who was at the epicenter of the crashing financial markets -- provides his first person account of what really happened. Listen to an Excerpt
"WORST CASE" by James Patterson and Michael Ledwidge and read by Bobby Canavale, John Glover and Orlagh Cassidy. (Fiction, suspense and thrillers; unabridged, ISBN:9781600247842)

One by one, children of New York's wealthiest are taken hostage. But the criminal doesn't crave money or power--he only wants to ask the elite if they know the price others pay for their luxurious lifestyles. And, if they don't, he corrects their ignorance--by killing them.

From the bestselling author who brought you the "Alex Cross" novels comes James Patterson's most action-packed series yet. With the heart-pounding suspense that only Patterson delivers, "Worst Case" will leave you gasping for breath until the very end. Listen to an Excerpt, view the Video and visit

Have a great Sunday. Grab a book, find a comfortable spot, relax for awhile and enjoy reading.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Guest Blogger, Margot Kinberg

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

Margot’s latest release B-Very Flat, a mystery. Since mystery writing is her genre, Margot is going to expand on the different types of mysteries available on the market. In addition, she has a treat to share with those commenting on this post.

Thanks, Mason, for giving me the opportunity to guest blog. One of the most exciting things about being part of the mystery novel community is that there’s such a variety of crime fiction out there.

Mystery fans can choose from cozies, spy thrillers, psychological thrillers, police procedurals, noir fiction, and much more. The real beauty of this is that most people can find a mystery novel that they like, almost no matter what mood strikes them. That’s probably one reason that the mystery novel is so popular.

What is it, though, about the mystery novel, that keeps people reading them? One thing is that they keep our attention. We want to know whodunit, so we keep turning pages. Of course, different kinds of mystery novels do that in different ways, but mystery novels keep our attention. Well-written mystery novels also have real-life characters with whom we can identify. We can imagine ourselves in the situations that the characters in the story face, so we have connections to the story.

Some mystery novels also have the ability to transport readers to another place and time. Historical mysteries are especially enjoyable on that score. Whether it’s Ellis Peters’ 12th Century England, Deanna Raybourne’s Victorian England, Lindsay Davis’ Ancient Rome or Walter Mosley’s post-World War II Los Angeles, those novels teach us about the past while we’re solving the case.

Other mystery novels appeal so much to us because they speak out about important social issues. Mystery novels have covered topics such as pollution, racism, sexism, alienation and much more. We care about those issues, too, and mystery novels explore them. Donna Leon’s Guido Brunetti series, Elizabeth George’s Inspector Lynley/Sergeant Havers novels, Rita Mae Brown’s Mrs. Murphy series and even Agatha Christie have dealt with social issues. When they’re well-written, this kind of mystery novel invites the reader to think about the social issues without preaching.

Mystery novels also give us the chance to experience another culture. That’s the beauty of series like Tony Hillerman’s Jim Chee/Joe Leaphorn series, Alexander McCall Smith’s No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series, and Colin Cotterill’s Dr. Sriri Paiboun series. All of these series are based in a culture that we might not know a lot about. The authors teach us about those cultures through the mysteries that the sleuth solves, and the characters we meet.

Since mystery novels are written in so many different languages, we can also learn about another language as we read. That’s what’s so interesting about work like Georges Simenon’s Inspector Maigret series, Paco Ignacio Taibo II’s Héctor Belascoarán Shayne series, and Jo Nesbø’s Harry Hole series, among many others.

So why do I write mystery novels? Because I’m curious. I want to know whodunit, too, and as I write, I get to find that out. I also write mystery

novels because they have such broad appeal for so many people. I admit, too, that mystery novels are my own favorite genre. My background is in higher education, but I’ve been reading mysteries since I was in my early teens, and that was a very, very long time ago. In fact, my biggest influences – Agatha Christie, Dorothy Sayers, Tony Hillerman, Rita Mae Brown and Colin Dexter – all created memorable mysteries.

So here’s to the mystery! I’m very proud to be a member of the fabulous group of people that creates them and the wonderful group of people that reads them.

Now it’s your turn.  What is your favorite type of mystery? Do you like cozies best? Spy thrillers? Noir Fiction? Maybe your favorite kind of mystery is the police procedural?

Think about your favorite genre, and leave a comment telling me what your favorite genre is and why. I’ll pick one winning comment to receive a signed copy of my new release, B-Very Flat, which features my sleuth, Joel Williams, former police detective-turned professor of Criminal Justice.

Here’s the synopsis of the story:

Is anyone really safe? Not necessarily. At nineteen years old, Serena Brinkman, an undergraduate violin major at Tilton University, seems to have a very secure future; she's got good looks, money, people who love her, and rare musical talent. She's also got a coveted Amati violin, a musical rival, friends whose secrets she knows, and an obsessed fan.

Serena's dreams are shattered when she suddenly dies on the night of a major music competition. Serena's partner, sure that her death was not an accident, asks for help from Dr. Joel Williams of Tilton's Department of Criminal Justice.

Williams, a former detective, becomes convinced that Serena was murdered, when he learns how unsafe her world really was. As he works with the Tilton Police Department to uncover the truth, Williams finds that Serena's looks, money, and talent, far from securing her future, made her a target

Leave a comment by midnight EST, Saturday, 27 February. I realize that there are mystery fans all over the world, so even if you don’t live in the U.S., fear not. You can still enter.

Thanks again, Mason, for letting me visit your blog!!

Margot, thank you so much for guest blogging today. I tend to just say mystery and group everything together. But there is a mystery suited for any mood you’re in.

For more information on Margot, be sure to check out her blog Confessions of a Mystery Novelist... Her latest book is available at

Now what’s your favorite genre?

Friday, February 19, 2010

Guest Blogger, Misa Ramirez

Please join me in welcoming author Melissa "Misa" Ramirez as the special guest blogger here today at Thoughts in Progress.

Misa’s latest release in the Lola Cruz Mystery series is “Hasta la Vista, Lola!”
She will drop back by today to answer any questions you might have.

Misa is here today to talk to us about how we like our mysteries - straight up or with a splash of romance and fun. 

You don’t know me, but I’m a mystery writer. I’m the author of the Lola Cruz Mystery Series. “Living the Vida Lola” came out last January, and “Hasta la Vista, Lola!,” was released on Feb. 2nd. I’m still celebrating and thrilled to be here at Thoughts in Progress. Thank you for hosting me, Thoughts in Progress!

When you aren’t a regular on a blog, it can be hard to know what to write, and how to present it to a brand new audience. Should I be funny, like in my books? Serious, because murder is serious business? Or some combination of the two, perhaps? 

The truth is, I’m no stand up comedian (not by a long shot), but I am funny--in my books. Like any fleshed out character, I’m a combination of things. I love a good mystery (cutting my teeth on Nancy Drew, graduating to Agatha Christie, and branching out from there), read the occasional romance (Julia Quinn makes me laugh), but stick mostly with women’s and/or literary fiction (The Help is my new favorite book).

How, then, did I come to write mysteries, and why aren’t my mysteries serious instead of sexy and sassy? The short answer is, I like the mystery device. What better way to propel a plot forward than to have a crime to solve? The little-bit-longer answer is that crafting a puzzle that the sleuth and readers need to piece together is challenging--and fun; watching characters you love to spend time with grow and discover themselves--and each other--is rewarding. 

Having humor and wit in a book is icing on the cake. For me, then, the mystery is only half the story. Lola Cruz came about long before the framework of “Living the Vida Lola.” She came to me as a character who was at once sassy, smart, sexy, determined, strong, feminine, Latina, black belt in kung fu, idealistic, American, sister, daughter, friend, and so much more. 

When it was time to figure out how I was going to tell her story, it made perfect sense to put her into an investigative role. Elements of the mystery, I knew, could pit Lola against external conflicts, as well as internal conflicts, of which she has many. It would force her to evaluate her life, her choices, her dreams, her desires, and her future (all in a funny, light way).

Balancing her drive to be a detective, her traditional Mexican family, cultural expectations, her American sensibilities, and her love life is no easy task. Add in a mystery, and it’s a wild ride!Lola Cruz Mysteries are character driven more than anything, but the mysteries really interest me. They’re ‘ripped from the headlines’, twisted, redefined, and Lola-fied. 

The mysteries shape, form, and/or enlighten Lola in her personal life or with her decision-making. They are equal, then, to Lola’s own story, which spans the arc of the series (we’re only on book 2, so have a ways to go yet).

I’m always curious to find out from readers if you like your mysteries straight up, or do you enjoy the zany, romantic elements which are in many series like the Lola Cruz Mystery Series?

On another note, I’ve just launched a brand new site for book lovers! It’s called Books on the House
(, and Books on the House for Kids and Teens ( Great authors are giving away books every Monday. I hope you book lovers will stop by and enter to win! Thanks again for hosting me today!

Misa, thank you so much guest blogging here today. It’s interesting finding out about how Lola developed. In addition, your new site for book lovers is wonderful. It’s a great site to visit.

Misa’s Lola Cruz Mystery series: “Living the Vida Lola” (January 2009) and “Hasta la Vista, Lola!” (2010) is from St. Martin’s Minotaur. A former middle and high school teacher, and current CEO and CFO for La Familia Ramirez, this blonde-haired, green-eyed, proud to be Latina-by-Marriage girl loves following Lola on her many adventures.

Whether it’s contemplating belly button piercing or visiting nudist resorts, Misa’s always up for the challenge. Misa is hard at work on a new women’s fiction novel, is published in Woman’s World Magazine and Romance Writers Report, and has a children’s book published. For more on Misa, visit her website at

Now, how do you like your mysteries?