Friday, December 31, 2010

It's New Year's Eve

With 2010 ending and thoughts turning to the coming of 2011, are you making New Year's Resolutions?

I don't make resolutions anymore because I usually don't keep them. I do, however, try to think of goals and projects I want to accomplish so I guess that's making resolutions in a way.

As always I want to be better organized. I'm slowly working on that and hope to improve even more in 2011. One thing I want to work on is a way to keep a record of the books I read during the year. I will probably use a spreadsheet, but I'd like to use something where I could also include a photo of the book cover. I hadn't really thought about how many books I had read during the year until several other bloggers mentioned how many they had read. I think it would be fun to keep a record to compare year to year.

I want to say a big 'thank you' to everyone who stops by and for those who follow this blog. I hope that I can continue to provide posts that will entertain, enlighten and inspire you in the coming year. My wish for each of you for the coming year is that it brings good health, happiness, success and fulfillment in whatever your dreams are. If you're out celebrating this evening, please be safe.

I'm ending today with a cartoon that Suzanne from Chick with Books featured on her blog earlier this week. Since there's so much talk about e-books, this says it perfect for me. Have a great New Year's Eve!!!

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Good Cozy Reads

Have you read all the books you wanted to this year? Has your TBR stack lost some of its height yet?

For me, the answer would be no and no way. I never seem to have enough time to read everything I want to. And I continue to add more books to the pile, planning on getting to each and everyone of them in time.

As December and 2010 draws to a close, new January releases will soon be out. Before that happens I want to feature four great cozy mystery books that were released this month by Berkley Prime Crime.

The first one is from a series that I thoroughly enjoy. The protagonist is one you can’t help but like and wish you lived down the street from. Even though this book has a Christmas theme, it’s a great read anytime.


It promises to be a jolly holiday for Sophie Winston until a Scrooge steals the Christmas gifts from her family and neighbors. The evil elf even pinches their Christmas dinners! Sophie quickly ends the neighbors’ finger-pointing by organizing a toy swap for the kids, restoring the spirit of Christmas. But not for long...

When her sister-in-law’s father shows up to the Christmas celebration with a diva girlfriend just a month after his separation, more than one person is thinking of murder. With relatives and friends under suspicion for the deadly deed, and Sophie’s detective boyfriend Wolf out of town, it’s up to Sophie to chase this goose and cook it. Nobody ruins her Christmas!

This is the four installment in the Domestic Diva Mystery series, but it’s a stand alone book. It includes entertaining tips throughout the book, as well as delicious recipes.

Author Krista Davis blogs at Mystery Lovers' Kitchen and her website is

The Diva Cooks A Goose by Krista Davis, A Domestic Diva Mystery, Berkley Prime Crime, @ 2010, ISBN: 9780425238257, Paperback, 304 pages

Next up is a new Orchard mystery set in the fall.

A KILLER CROP by Sheila Connolly

When Meg Corey’s mother arrives unannounced in Granford, Massachusetts, Meg’s sure it’s not just to pay a surprise visit to the apple of her eye. The timing is terrible—it’s harvest season and Meg is understaffed in the orchard. Plus Elizabeth Corey is clearly hiding the real purpose of her trip from her daughter.

After an English professor from Amherst—and an old friend of her mother—is found dead on the floor of a cider house, Elizabeth is interrogated by the police, and then grilled by her daughter. She is indeed keeping a secret—but could Meg’s own mother really have committed murder? One thing is clear: someone decided to teach the prof a lesson. And the key to unlocking the mystery may lie with a poet who could not stop for Death...

This is a stand alone book even though it is the fourth installment in the Orchard Mystery series. The book offers several yummy recipes.

Author Shelia Connolly’s website is

A Killer Crop by Sheila Connolly, An Orchard Mystery, Berkley Prime Crime, @ 2010, ISBN: 9780425238264, Paperback, 304 pages

The third book will not only challenge you to find a killer, but you can also sharpen your pencils to try and solve number puzzles.


Maiden’s Bay is a small, scenic town on the Oregon Coast where citizens get their number fix thanks to Liza Kelly—Sudoku Maven with the Oregon Daily. Her challenging puzzles sharpen the mind, and her deductive skills unravel even the most enigmatic clues...

Liza finds herself in the spotlight as she’s hired for celebrity week on a hit show, D-Kodas. She’s their celebrity Sudoku expert creating puzzles for the celebrities to decode. But jetting to L.A. for more televised exposure is not her idea of fun...

When the B-listers’ supersized egos gather on set, Liza has more problems than any Sudoku puzzle. Then an earthquake rocks the studio—and the cattiest of the celebs goes missing. But when she’s found dead—and not because of the quake—they realize there’s a killer among them. Now it’s up to Liza to catch the killer before he strikes again...

This is the sixth installment in the Sudoku Mystery series, but it is a stand alone book. There are also a number of Sudoku puzzles to solve (with the answers in the back), along with fun solving techniques.

Celebrity Sudoku by Kaye Morgan, A Sudoku Mystery, Berkley Prime Crime, @ 2010, ISBN: 9780425238271, Paperback, 224 pages

The last book is the first in a new series.

IF WALLS COULD TALK by Juliet Blackwell

Melanie Turner’s plan to move to Paris to get over a painful divorce was derailed when her mother passed away and Mel stepped in to take over Turner Construction from her distraught father “for a few weeks.” Weeks turned into two years, and Mel is still running the business in San Francisco, specializing in remodeling historic homes.

But after Mel finds a man fatally injured on a worksite, her business is threatened, a friend is a suspect in the death...and Mel is being followed around the Bay Area by none other than the ghost of the dead man himself.

Was the deceased trying to pull off a scam that led to his death? Could an old box Mel found in the walls hold deadly secrets? Mel had better find out before she’s the next to experience a construction site “accident.”

This is the first installment in the Haunted Home Renovation Mystery series. The book also includes a sneak peak at the next Haunted Home Renovation Mystery coming next year.

Author Juliet Blackwell’s website is

If Walls Could Talk by Juliet Blackwell, A Haunted Home Renovation Mystery, Obsidian, @ 2010, ISBN: 9780451231819, Paperback, 336 pages

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

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Guest Bloggers: Theresa Talbert & Leigh T. Moore

Author Leigh T. Moore
Author Theresa Talbert
It’s my pleasure to welcome two special guest bloggers here at Thoughts in Progress today - the mother/daughter duo of Theresa Talbert and Leigh T. Moore.

Theresa’s latest release is THE KISSES OF HIS MOUTH, A REVELATION OF THE SONG OF SOLOMON. Leigh is currently at work on her next young adult romance novel, SHADOW CREEK, and blogs at That’s Write.

Since both mother and daughter enjoy writing, I thought it would be interesting to have them answer a few questions about their work.

Mason: Theresa, what inspired you to write your book?

Theresa: I was invited to speak at an Aglow Women’s Conference in Gulfport, Miss. I was asked to speak on “Intimacy with the Lord." I prayed and the Lord led me to the Song Of Solomon. He began to speak to me about the crucified life in Galatians 2:20 as I studied the scriptures in the SOS. The teaching was the most requested after the conference had ended. I knew by the Spirit that the Lord had more plans with this revelation and from that the book was birthed.

Mason: Which one (mother or daughter) started writing first?

Theresa: Leigh started writing when she was around 8 years old, so I would say she started first. Her favorite book in the Bible was the book of Esther. She read this book several times and wrote a paper about it. She also read “Little Women” during this time period and wrote a 12-page paper on that book. She loved to read and I think she might have read every book in our small library at the Christian school she attended.

Leigh: It's true that I've been writing since I was little, but Mom's been teaching ladies Bible studies since *before* I was 8 years-old. In my opinion, it makes sense that she eventually started writing down her thoughts and turning out books.

Mason: Do you write together?

Theresa: No, we have not had this experience as of yet. I think this could be something in the future for us. We have always been very close and we share a lot of the same likes.

Leigh: It's an interesting idea, but for now we pretty much write different things. Mom's book is strictly Bible study, her insights on particular religious ideas and in this case, a specific book in the Bible. My writing is strictly young adult fiction. So for now, we're working in different genres. 

Mason: Do you edit each others writing?

Theresa: Leigh edited my book for me and was a great help in setting it up. I have read her books, but I have not edited any of
them; I have given her some feedback on what she has given me to read. I think she has a very good style and her books keep you interested.

Leigh: I used to work as an editor, so I provided the initial edit of Mom's book several years ago, right after she'd written it. She wanted to have something to give the ladies who came to her meetings and requested books. Mom's always had a following. (grin) But that's been the extent of our collaboration so far. 

Mason: Have you or do you plan to write a book together?

Theresa: This too is something we have not talked about. It could possibly be in our future. We both love children’s books, and that is a great place to market new material. I think children need books that have a moral tone to them today.

Leigh: Well, not yet. Mom has a real gift for examining the Bible and getting insight on religious issues and ideas, and that's where her writing interest flows. At the moment, I'm more into creative writing and exploring fiction writing--creating and telling new stories. So that's more where I see my path going. But paths have a way of twisting and turning, so you just never can tell.

Mason: What are each of you working on now?

Theresa: I am pondering a lot of new things the Lord has been showing me. One thought could possibly become a new book.

Leigh: I currently have a book I'm shopping that's a commercial YA romance. I'm also working on a historical YA novel set in a cabaret in New Orleans before the turn of the 20th century. It's a bit darker, and I actually see the possibility of writing a sequel to it. Another work in progress I have could be a companion to the first commercial YA romance I'm shopping. My ideas tend to run the YA gamut.

Theresa and Leigh, thanks so much for guest blogging here today. It’s interesting to learn how writing runs in your family.

Now a bit of background on Theresa and Leigh. Theresa is an anointed author, teacher and worship leader who has ministered now for nearly forty years. She has spoken at women’s retreats, workshops, women’s conferences and at many churches. Theresa has a marked prophetic gift and an anointing to teach the Word. She is also a serious intercessor for the Body of Christ and has written a Prayer and Intercession Manual as a tool to help establish churches and individuals in their prayer ministries. She considers prayer to be our greatest weapon. Theresa and her husband Glenn are licensed by the well known and respected Bethany World Prayer Center in Baker, Louisiana. They now make their home in Liberty, Mississippi. For more on her book, visit

Leigh lives on the Gulf Coast with her husband, Richard, and two young daughters. An avid writer, she spends her days freelancing for various news publications, and is contributing editor for Baldwin County Living magazine. She also maintains her blog “That’s Write” at

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Guest Blogger: Michelle Nicole Martin

Please join me in welcoming children’s author Michelle Nicole Martin as the special guest blogger here today at Thoughts in Progress.

Michelle’s latest release is PRINCESS AND MISSY’S MAGICAL ADVENTURE. She joins us today to talk about her writing.

Hello Mason Canyon! Thank you for interviewing me on your blog. I appreciate the exposure. I hope everyone had a great Christmas!

Mason: Thanks for being here Michelle. What inspired you to write this book?

Michelle: I had a poodle that inspired me. She had such character. I went into my bath room and saw butterflies that were on a plaque that a friend game me. It was if a light bulb came into my head. PRINCESS AND MISSY’S MAGICAL ADVENTURE was written differently in the beginning, but after repeadly rewriting, I realized my book was ready to be published. My mentor Don, Grandmother Imogene, and children’s author Louise Munroy Foley edited and corrected my work. All three of them helped me immensely with this project.

Mason: Do you have a writing schedule?

Michelle: I usually write the most at night time. I have been working a lot in the afternoon lately so that I can relax at night. When I go on trips, creative thoughts enter my mind. I write a lot when I am out of town. When I come home, I edit the work in my office space in my home.

Mason: What type of research did you do for the book?

Michelle: I went to bookstores to see what books were similar to my book. I read many children’s books. I realized PRINCESS AND MISSY‘S MAGICAL ADVENTURES is most similar to the
Magic Tree House series. I also needed to do research on the places in my book. At the last chapter, is a game that has the child decide whether the place is real or fantasy? On the real places, there is a description and a little information. On the fantasy places, I put how I thought of it.

Mason: What was the best/worst thing about writing?

Michelle: For me, the initial ideas about a new project always excite me. It is like opening a big present that I didn’t know I was going to receive. I think the worst thing about writing is that I need to rewrite, rewrite, rewrite and then have a professional edit it. Guess what happens after that. Yeah, more rewriting. 

Mason: Did you encounter 'writer's block?' If so, how did you overcome it?

Michelle: I do get writers block. I take many different road trips that unblock my mind. I love going to the ocean and relax while starring at the waves or playing in the water. I have visited friends in and out of California. I have traveled to Japan, Mexico, and Niagara. I get inspired when I am outside or somewhere new.

Mason: What message would you like readers to take away from your book?

Michelle: Never give up hope! No matter how hard things may seem, life can always get better!

Mason: What can readers expect next from you?

Michelle: PRINCESS AND MISSY’S MAGICAL ADVENTURES does not seem to be selling that well. If this changes, I will self publish the second series. If not, I will try to get one of my picture book manuscripts published by a traditional publisher.

Michelle, thanks so much for guest blogging here today. PRINCESS AND MISSY’S MAGICAL ADVENTURES is a cute book for youngsters and beautifully illustrated. Wishing you much success with it.

Now a little bit about Michelle. She grew up in California. She started writing poetry when she was thirteen years old, and began writing children’s stories at the age of thirty-one. Michelle and Richa Kinra (the book’s illustrator) collaborated to bring Princess’ story to life with a perfect combination of story and images that will delight readers of all ages.

To learn more about Michelle and to see what she and Princess are up to, visit her at

Here’s a delightful book trailer to tell you more about PRINCESS AND MISSY’S MAGICAL ADVENTURES. Enjoy.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Author Terry Spear Visits

It’s my pleasure to welcome award-winning author Terry Spear back to Thoughts in Progress today as the special guest blogger.

Terry’s latest book is WOLF FEVER. Here’s a brief synopsis of it: “She may be his destiny, but she's not his first choice…
Hospital nurse and newly turned red werewolf Carol Woods is being pressured by her pack leader to find a mate, but he's the only guy in the pack who remotely attracts her… Why is he playing so hard to get?

The fate of the pack rests on his shoulders…
Gray pack leader Ryan McKinley doesn't want anything to do with Carol unless she's willing to embrace her wolf nature—no matter how beautiful she is.

But when a virus infects the local lupus garou pack, Ryan realizes just how wrong he's been not to seize the moment with the woman he's come to love. And now, it may be too late…”

Thanks to Terry and Danielle at Sourcebooks I have 2 copies to giveaway to 2 lucky visitors who comment on today’s post between now and 8 p.m. (EST) on Tuesday, Jan. 4. Be sure to leave your e-mail address in your comments if it’s not included in your profile.

Terry stopped by today to answer a few questions for me about her writing and WOLF FEVER.

Mason: What inspired you to combine your werewolves with a flu virus outbreak?

Terry: The World Health Organization was warning about a possible epidemic. And I kept thinking what could be the worse thing that could happen if the flu hit a werewolf pack? How would it affect them?

Mason: How did you go about doing research for WOLF FEVER?

Terry: I did research on how scientists come up with vaccines, and what some of the cures were for being a werewolf. :)

Mason: What do you hope readers come away with after reading WOLF FEVER?

Terry: I love these questions, Mason! Okay, deep down, I want readers to delve into their own psyche, to recognize that no matter how different we are from others, we’re important in the scheme of things. We all have talents to offer and we should use them to do the most good.

Mason: New Year's Eve is just a few days off. What New Year's resolutions would your main characters make?

Terry: lol, okay, I probably shouldn’t make them have New Year’s resolutions if I don’t make any myself, but here goes:

·    Carol’s New Year’s resolution is to embrace her wolf half with enthusiasm, and to believe in her psychic abilities, to use them to help others, and not to worry about naysayers.
·    Chester’s resolution is to not take life so seriously and to have a much more open mind. Who knows? He might have some latent psychic abilities himself!

·    Devlyn needs to make the resolution to heed Carol’s predictions or face the consequences.
·    Lelandi’s New Year’s resolution is to provide the pack with the alpha pair’s triplets! She’s sure that’s all she’ll have time for. Oh, and to have a few more all girl parties too!
·    Jake needs to find a mate next year, and believe in his family’s history of dream mating before it’s too late.

·    Tom’s New Year’s resolution is to stand up for himself, and not act like he’s the youngest triplet.
·    The barber vows to find a mate who likes him just the way he is.

Mason: If WOLF FEVER became a movie, who would you like to see play the main characters?

Terry: Any hunky man will do, and any spunky woman will too!

Mason: What can your readers expect next from you?

Terry: HEART OF THE HIGHLAND WOLF is coming June 2011, and DREAMING OF THE WOLF, Fall, 2011. Then THE WOLF AND THE SEAL, and THE HIGHLAND WOLF IN PARADISE in 2012. And more!

Thanks so much for having me, Mason! I hope you enjoyed WOLF FEVER!

Terry, it’s always fun having you stop by. And yes, I did enjoy WOLF FEVER very much. You may be listed as a paranormal romance writer, but you also weave a lot of mystery into your stories too.

Now for a bit of background on the multi-talented author. With almost 70,000 copies sold, Terry is a retired lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Army Reserves. She received her MBA from Monmouth University. An eclectic writer, she dabbles in the paranormal as well as writing historical and true life stories for both teen and adult audiences. Terry lives in Crawford, Texas. For more information on her and her writing, visit her website at

Ever thought about a werewolf catching a virus or even a cold?

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Sunday Salon: One Grave Less by Beverly Connor

This isn’t a cozy Christmas story, but it is a story of hope, courage, determination, strength, and love.

I picked up ONE GRAVE LESS just to skim a few pages. When I put it down, I was already into chapter 5. The story grabs you, draws you in, and keeps you enthralled until the very end. It’s a fast pace thriller even as two stories are unfolding to come together as one.

Forensic anthropologist Diane Fallon has her hands full as the director of the River Trail Museum of Natural History in Georgia. She’s preparing for a new international exhibit, dealing with a museum board members who loves to gossip and expand on what she’s telling, and her friends are planning her upcoming wedding.

Diane is also haunted by her past. While she was working with a human rights organization in the Amazon there was a massacre and she lost her adopted daughter.

Late one night just prior to the exhibit opening, Diane finds a strange man hurt in the museum as well as a former co-worker from the human rights organization. Before collapsing, the co-worker gives Diane a cryptic message - “It was one of us.” Then there’s a fire. Examining the museum after the fire, Diane discovers a backpack containing a number of suspicious items including a human bone.

Meanwhile somewhere in the Amazon, another forensic anthropologist - Lindsay Chamberlain - has been kidnapped after being mistaken for Diane. Lindsay is held captive in a cage until she is rescued by Diane’s lost daughter, Ariel. They pair have to fight the jungle and Lindsay’s kidnappers to get back to the U.S.

When mother and daughter are finally reunited, the problems continue. The museum is surrounded by mercenaries. It’s a nail-bitter as Diane combats the super soldiers, as well as a storm brewing outside.

Author Beverly Connor has created three amazing protagonist in the characters of Diane, Lindsay and little Ariel. These are determined ladies who strive to do what is right, but protect what they love at the same time.

The author weaves the two stories back and forth only giving readers a chance to catch their breath before the next ordeal begins. The transition between the two story lines is smooth and flows well.

This was my first introduction to the Diane Fallon Forensic Investigation series, but it won’t be my last. This is the ninth installment in the series, but is a stand alone book.

ONE GRAVE LESS may not be a Christmas story, but it’s a story to inspire and remind us not to give up hope. This is a mystery thriller with a lot of heart.

One Grave Less by Beverly Connor, A Diane Fallon Forensic Investigation, Obsidian, @2010, ISBN: 978-0451231802, Paperback, 368 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.

Saturday, December 25, 2010


It's here, Christmas 2010 and I'm still wondering where the month has gone to. Hope everyone is having a wonderful holiday and enjoying time with family and friends. For those not celebrating Christmas, I hope you're having a wonderful time with family and friends anyway. 

My plan is to get a little time today to visit around blogdom. I've missed visiting with everyone. The weathermen say we have a chance of some snow or at least some some flurries today. If so, it will make for a good day to catch up with everyone and enjoy a little reading.

Thanks so much for the wonderful comments yesterday. It was a long, busy day but a lot of fun too. Now I'll close by wishing everyone a VERY MERRY CHRISTMAS!!!

Friday, December 24, 2010

It’s Christmas Eve

I can’t believe Christmas Eve is already here. Time just gets away before you know it.

I just want to wish everyone a very Merry Christmas and say thank you for being a part of my blogging family. I really appreciate everyone who stops by and all the wonderful authors who have been kind enough to guest blog here during this past year. Thanks to everyone for stopping by and commenting even though I haven't been around much lately. Y'all are the best.

We’re doing our family get-together today so it’s another day away from blogdom for me.

May your day filled with fun, laughter, joy, family, friends, good health, great food, and peace. May these gifts go with you and your loved ones throughout the coming year.

Hope Santa brings all the gifts you wished for.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Change of Plans

I had planned to have a review today, but I had the opportunity to host a unique giveaway and couldn’t help myself.

First, thanks for all the wonderful comments yesterday on my day of playing hooky. I did get a little caught up, maybe. Today is going to be another day away from the computer as the deadlines at work have changed due to the holidays so I hope everyone has a great day on the eve of Christmas Eve.

Now the giveaway. Thanks to Brianne and the great folks at Hachette, I have 3 copies of THE SCIENCE OF KISSING, WHAT
OUR LIPS ARE TELLING US by Sheril Kirshenbaum to give away. This 272-page hardcover book (ISBN: 9780446559904) has a release date of Jan. 5.

Here’s a brief description of the book: “From a noted science journalist comes a wonderfully witty and fascinating exploration of how and why we kiss.

When did humans begin to kiss? Why is kissing integral to some cultures and alien to others? Do good kissers make the best lovers? And is that expensive lip-plumping gloss worth it? Sheril Kirshenbaum, a biologist and science journalist, tackles these questions and more in THE SCIENCE OF KISSING.

It's everything you always wanted to know about kissing but either haven't asked, couldn't find out, or didn't realize you should understand. The book is informed by the latest studies and theories, but Kirshenbaum's engaging voice gives the information a light touch.

Topics range from the kind of kissing men like to do (as distinct from women) to what animals can teach us about the kiss to whether or not the true art of kissing was lost sometime in the Dark Ages. Drawing upon classical history, evolutionary biology, psychology, popular culture, and more, Kirshenbaum's winning book will appeal to romantics and armchair scientists alike.

Here’s a book trailer on THE SCIENCE OF KISSING

Now for the giveaway guidelines. To enter, send me an e-mail ( Your subject line should read, “Win The Science of Kissing.” Your message should include your name and mailing address. The contest is open to residents of the U.S. and Canada only and no post office box addresses can be accepted. In addition, Hachette is advising winners that they will be subject to the one copy per household rule, which means that if they win the same title in two or more contests, they will receive only one copy of the title (or one set in the case of grouped giveaways) in the mail. (Winners here have always be great about letting me know if they have already won the book somewhere else so another winner can be selected. However, this announcement is something that has to be passed along from Hachette). And, just so you know, I don’t share the mailing information or use it for any other purpose. Remember, I have 3 copies of THE SCIENCE OF KISSING to giveaway. The deadline to enter is 8 p.m. on Friday, Jan. 7.

As a writer do you include kissing scenes in your work? Do you write it as a science?

Have a wonderful day and enjoy the season.


Wednesday, December 22, 2010

What Day Is It?

Well, I'd love to say this is a photo of where I am today since our weather has been so cold and we have a chance of snow this week. However, that would just be a dream. 

Today I'm just off trying to catch up (and will be happy if I get caught up to Dec. 1).

Where, oh where did the time go? I turned around and Christmas is knocking on the door. Is it just me or did it seem like only yesterday was Thanksgiving?

I do want to say a great big 'THANK YOU' to three wonderful bloggers who were each kind enough to award me with the Versatile Blogger Award. Thanks Emma @ Ema Winters, Terry @ Romance Author, Terry Spear, and Monti @ Notes Along The Way. If you haven't stopped by these lovely ladies' blogs, please do so. They are entertaining, informative and inspiring. In the spirit of the holiday season, I'd like to pass this along to all who stop by today. 

Tomorrow I hope to have a review or two for you. But for today, I'm just

I do want to leave you with a video that Sia featured on her blog last week. This is one of my favorite Christmas songs and this couple does a great job. Thanks Sia for sharing this.


Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Guest Blogger, Jack Caldwell

Please join me in welcoming debut author Jack Caldwell as the special guest blogger here at Thoughts in Progress today.

Jack’s first book, PEMBERLEY RANCH, has just been released. He takes a new look at PRIDE AND PREJUDICE with a western flare and a bit of Southern charm. Here’s a brief  synopsis of it: “When the smoke has cleared from the battlefields and the civil war has finally ended, fervent Union supporter Beth Bennet reluctantly moves with her family from their home in Meryton, Ohio, to the windswept plains of Rosings, Texas. Handsome, haughty Will Darcy, a Confederate officer back from the war, owns half the land around Rosings, and his even haughtier cousin, Cate Burroughs, owns the other half.

In a town as small as Rosings, Beth and Will inevitably cross paths. But as Will becomes enchanted with the fiery Yankee, Beth won’t allow herself to warm to the man who represents the one thing she hates most: the army that killed her only brother.

But when carpetbagger George Whitehead arrives in Rosings, all that Beth thought to be true is turned on its head, and the only man who can save her home is the one she swore she’d never trust…”

Jack stopped by today to answer a few questions about his book and his writing. Thanks to Jack and Danielle at Sourcebooks, I have 2 copies of PEMBERLEY RANCH to giveaway. Be sure to check at the end of the post for the giveaway guidelines.

Mason: How does a man come to write historical romance?

Jack: Men have been writing romances for centuries. Abelard and Heloise is a true story, of course, but Romeo and Juliet is not. Sir Walter Scott wrote Ivanhoe in 1819. How about James Fenimore Cooper’s The Last of the Mohicans? Of course, when a man writes it, it is a historical novel; a woman, and it is historical romance.

Much of history is driven by the relationships between men and women. Cleopatra and Mark Antony come to mind.  It is reasonable to use this kind of relationship to tell the tale the author really wants to say. It’s a vehicle. Besides, I like historical romance.

Mason: Did you ever consider using a female pseudonym to pen your book?

Jack: No. I know there are men who do (and women who use male pseudonyms in science fiction), but I feel modern readers don’t buy books based on the sex of the author. What they are looking for is a good story. I hope I delivered that. Besides, it would be real hard to do book signings, as I look terrible in a dress (or so my wife says).

Mason: Your book is like Jane Austen meets Gone With The Wind in the Old West. What inspired you to take this direction with your book?

Jack: I am a child of the South, born and raised in Louisiana.
We were taught about the Civil War in school, just like every child in the country. But we also learned about Reconstruction, the fourteen-year occupation of the former Confederacy by Federal troops, which ended only because of the disputed Presidential election of 1876. Louisiana and South Carolina were the last states occupied, so this is a subject familiar to Cajuns.

My deeper interest began during a visit to the Vicksburg Battlefield. I had relations on my father’s side that served in the Louisiana regiments that fought at Vicksburg. Also, my mother is related to General Sherman of the Union, famous for his March to the Sea through Georgia. It was at Vicksburg that I found out that Sherman’s troops attacked the very bulwarks defended by the Louisiana soldiers. So, it can be said that my ancestors literally fought one another during the war.

I wanted to tell the story of Reconstruction, but not just the stealing of votes by the carpetbaggers and the lynching of former slaves by the KKK. The miracle of the United States is that we recovered and came together again as a nation, and a stronger nation than we ever were before. It wasn’t as rapid as Abraham Lincoln would have wanted, and the blacks in the South would continue to struggle for equal rights for a hundred years, but it did happen. It is a miracle because in many places in the world, ancient hatreds and conflicts are recalled in great detail and lead to unrest and even terrorism today, hundreds of years after the fact.

The story I wanted to tell would talk about healing the country, how Yankee and Rebel can come together. That is the story of PEMBERLEY RANCH.

Mason: Did you base your characters on anyone you know or were they a combination of people and imagination?

Jack: Well, most of my characters were defined by Austen herself. I tried to take their basic characteristics, put them in new situations, and see what they do.

However, I do have some original characters I like to use. My key “go-to-guy” is John Buford. He’s like Darcy, except darker and rougher. A lot more for ladies to fix.

Mason: You have 3 grown sons, do they share your interest in Jane Austen?

Jack: My middle son does. The other two—let’s just say not yet.

Mason: What would you say to teenage boys to encourage them to read historical romance?

Jack: Good writing is good writing, no matter the genre. I’ve been trying to convince my eldest, who enjoys science fiction, to try westerns and historical romance. What is Dune but a historical romance set in the future? Star Wars can be described as Zane Grey with laser beams.

If that doesn’t work, tell them it will help them get dates (same reason they go to chick flicks).

Jack, thanks for guest blogging here today. I enjoy your take on historical romance (novel).

Now for a bit of background on Jack. He’s a native of Louisiana living in the Midwest and is an economic developer by trade. He has been an amateur history buff and a fan of Jane Austen for many years. PEMBERLEY RANCH is his first published work. He lives with his wife in Minnesota. For more information, visit his website at and he can also be found on, where he regularly contributes.

Here’s what another author had to say about PEMBERLEY RANCH: “It’s Pride and Prejudice meets Gone with the Wind—with that kind of romance and excitement.”  —  Sharon Lathan, bestselling author of In the Arms of Mr. Darcy

Now for the giveaway. Be sure to comment on today’s post between now and 8 p.m. (EST) on Tuesday, Dec. 28, and include your e-mail address if it’s not included in your profile. Two lucky visitors commenting on Jack’s post will be selected by

What’s your take on men writing romance? BTW, Happy Winter Solstice!

Monday, December 20, 2010

Guest Blogger, Lou Belcher

Painting of Max by Susan Kessler
It’s my pleasure to welcome author Lou Belcher as the special guest blogger here today at Thoughts in Progress.

Lou’s latest release is THE ZEN OF MAX (A MEMOIR OF GREAT WISDOM AND MANY NAPS). Here’s a brief synopsis: “It's the story of an ordinary cat and the extraordinary difference he made throughout his life. In addition to recounting the many noteworthy events of their life together, THE ZEN OF MAX conveys the many universal lessons Lou learned from Max.

As a memoir, it shows the humorous and touching sides of life over the almost two decades they spent together. As a book of personal growth, it will touch your heart and offer words of wisdom from an unexpected source.”

Lou is also a fellow blogger and she joins us today to answer some questions about her writing.

Mason: How did you come up with the idea of writing a book about Max?

Lou: Max just had such a big personality, as a writer I couldn't resist writing about him. Toward the end of his life, I felt an urgency to put the highlights together while he was still with me.

Mason: Did you finish then?

Lou: No, the book was unfinished when he died in 2008. He was 18 1/2  when he died and had been with me for 16 of those years. I just couldn't work on the book for quite a while. I don't know if you have experienced it or not, but when you lose a pet, it takes quite a lot out of you. Anyway, I put the book aside for about a year.

Mason: What prompted you to finish it? 

Lou: In 2009, I started working on it periodically, but just couldn't get back into it fully. I always intended to finish it but wasn't in a great hurry. So, I wrote the Twitter book as many of the local folks who followed my blogs were having trouble getting up and going on Twitter.

When I signed up to participate in a two-day book fair during the ArtWorks Festival in Eau Gallie, Florida, I intended to take
the Twitter book to that. With the Twitter book obsolete, I suddenly had all the motivation I needed to finish Max's book. I threw myself in gear, spent many late hours and finished THE ZEN OF MAX with just enough time to send it to my designer and to the printer.

Mason: What has surprised you the most about the reaction to THE ZEN OF MAX?

Lou: Everything. I'm having great fun with it. Other pet bloggers have been very supportive and have blogged about the book. I'm certainly grateful for that. It went over well at the book fair. And, I've had a couple of signings since then. At those, people not only want a signed copy of the book, but requested to have their pictures taken with Flat Max (a life-size image of him I take with me to signings) too. 

I guess I'm most pleasantly surprised that people don't think I'm the crazy cat lady, but they have embraced the purpose of the book... to spread a smile or two and to tie those smiles to a few lessons learned.

Mason: Can you give us an example of a Lesson Learned?

Lou: Well, sure. As the title of the book hints, Max was devoted to his naps. So, here's a Lesson Learned regarding naps: Embrace life—the conscious and the unconscious parts—fully. That was Max. He did everything with full gusto.

Another Lesson Learned that is one of my favorites: Sometimes there is no perfect answer. You just go with the most logical solution and hope for the best.

Lou, thanks so much for guest blogging here today. And yes, I do understand the heartbreak and loss one suffers from losing a family pet. It does take a lot out of you.

Now for a bit of background on Lou. She started her writing career through editing. Initially, she worked as a book editor for an on-line publishing company and then began working on her own as a freelance writer, editor and photographer. Lou has written four non-fiction books. Most recently she wrote READY, SET, TWEET: A SPEEDY GUIDE TO TWITTER. The book was well-received, but she would not recommend writing a book about current technology. READY, SET, TWEET was published in February 2010 with detailed screenshots and detailed instructions to illustrate how to get up and going on Twitter. A mere six months after publication, Twitter changed its format, making the new book obsolete.

Lou began blogging several years ago. Two of her blogs are specifically designed to help artists and writers. Brevard Art News ( is devoted to bringing attention to the works of the artists and their organizations in Brevard County, Florida. The other blog is Florida Book News ( It is devoted to helping Florida writers get the word out about their books or about their organizations.

Lou also has two personal blogs: Writer's Creative Studio where she blogs about the writing process and inspiration and Lou Belcher Gallery where she participates in several on-line photo challenges and displays her photography.

It's only logical that when Lou set up a blog for Max (, she ensured that it supported animal adoption efforts through periodic posts about animals needing homes and through donating a portion of the proceeds from THE ZEN OF MAX to agencies devoted to finding forever homes for pets.

THE ZEN OF MAX is is available through The link for that is:
If people would like more information about Max, they can visit his website at