Saturday, July 30, 2011

Copious Cozy Mysteries

Is the hot weather getting to you? Or maybe it’s cold weather where you are.

Now’s a good time to beat the weather, no matter the temperatures, relaxing with a good book. Berkley Prime Crime/Obsidian has just what you need with a number of interesting new cozy mysteries out this month. Here are several I’ve found intriguing and hope you will too.


Chef Charlotte Caine has a fare for food and a most unusual clientele.9780451234070 She’s called “the Vampire Chef” because she cooks for New York’s burgeoning undead community even though she’s not a member. She and her vampire brother Chet run Nightlife, a Greenwich Village restaurant that specializes in “haute noir” cuisine for humans and their paranormal companions.

The restaurant isn’t a hit just yet but the city’s most influential food critic is suppose to give them a try. With a positive review the restaurant could be a big hit with the city’s after-dark crowd.

The night the food critic arrives, everything goes wrong. A drunk patron causes a scene, cast a spell and almost burns the building down. It make matters worse, the patron is found dead in the doorway with fang marks in his neck. Charlotte has to figure out who the killer is while working on the five star review for the restaurant.

TASTE OF THE NIGHTLIFE is a humorous murder mystery to keep you guessing.

Author Sarah Zettel’s website is

Taste of the Nightlife by Sarah Zettel, A Vampire Chef Mystery, Obsidian, @2011, ISBN: 9780451234070, Paperback, 320 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.

PIE A LA MURDER by Melinda Wells

9780425242216Della Carmichael has her hands full with Operation Pie, a bake sale contest to benefit a charity. Then her sweetie pie Nicholas drops a bomb—he has a teenage daughter, Celeste, who is coming to live with him. When the daughter’s friend is found murdered, the protective Nicholas is a suspect, and Della must find the real killer before they all get burned. You’ll also feel Della’s pain as she tries to bond with Celeste.

This is the fourth installment in the Della Cooks Mystery series, but is a stand alone book. This delightful and entertaining book also contains numerous recipes such as ‘Della’s Strawberry Cloud Pie.’ Other books in the series include: KILLER MOUSSE, DEATH TAKES THE CAKE, and THE PROOF IS IN THE PUDDING.

Author Melinda Wells’ website is

Pie a la Murder by Melinda Wells, A Della Cooks Mystery, Berkley Prime Crime, @2011, ISBN: 9780425242216, Paperback, 320 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.

Michael Westen is still in Miami, trying to survive as a spy without a9780451234094 country. Brent Grayson is a 19-year-old college kid who claims to own a company that doesn’t really exist. And Michael has to save Brent’s father from loan sharks and fend off sinister Russian businessman who see every takeover as an opportunity to be hostile. 

If you enjoy the TV series, you’ll love the book. This is the fifth installment in the Burn Notice series, but is a stand alone book. The other books include: BURN NOTICE: THE FIX, BURN NOTICE: THE END GAME, BURN NOTICE: THE GIVEAWAY, and BURN NOTICE: THE REFORMED.

Author Tod Goldberg’s website is

Burn Notice: The Bad Beat by Tod Goldberg, Obsidian, @2011, ISBN: 9780451234094, Paperback, 288 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.

LET’S PLAY DEAD by Sheila Connolly

9780425242209Nell Pratt is invited to a sneak preview of a new exhibit at the Philadelphia children’s museum based on the Harriet the Hedgehog book series. The new exhibit, Let’s Play, isn’t meant to be shocking—but when one of the installers is zapped with a fatal electrical charge, it’s up to Nell to put her detective skills on display. 

Nell is a witty and fun-loving character. This is the second installment in the Museum Mystery series, but is a stand alone book. The first book in the series is FUNDRAISING THE DEAD

Author Sheila Connolly’s website is

Let‘s Play Dead by Sheila Connolly, A Museum Mystery, Berkley Prime Crime, @2011, ISBN: 9780425242209, Paperback, 304 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.

HOW TO MOON A CAT by Rebecca M. Hale

Rebecca’s cat, Rupert, has successfully been sniffing out several tightly9780425242179 wrapped bundles of cash that her Uncle Oscar had apparently hidden throughout his apartment prior to his death. Now Rupert has found a dusty green vase with a toy bear holding a tiny paper flag inside. Could his be another clue to one of Uncle Oscar’s valuable hidden treasures?

The newly found object leads Rebecca; her two cats, Rupert and Isabella; and their nosy neighbor, Monty, on a trip to Nevada City. The road trip and the waiting crowd could put everyone in danger.

This is a funny and whimsical story that contains a good bit of history, a look at frog jumping, and a humorous ending. Cat lovers will especially enjoy this series as the cats play a major role in the storyline. This is the third installment in the Cats and Curios Mystery series, but is a stand alone. The other books in the series include: HOW TO WASH A CAT and NINE LIVES LAST FOREVER.

Author Rebecca M. Hale’s website is

How To Moon A Cat by Rebecca M. Hale,  A Cats and Curios Mystery, Berkley Prime Crime, @2011, ISBN: 9780425242179, Paperback, 304 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.

by Susan Wittig Albert

9780425241288Rumors are sprouting in Depression-era Darling, Alabama. The town’s newest visitors, Nona Jean Jamison and Miss Lake, may be the Naughty and Nice Sisters from the Ziegfeld Frolic, who specialize in dancing nearly naked. They’ve come to stay with Nona’s aunt, Miss Hamer, an elderly recluse.

The Dahlias suspect more than modesty when Nona denies her association. The ladies of the garden club, the Darling Dahlias, notice one lady changes her hair color and the other is never seen without a veil. They’ll have to dig through clues to get to the root of the mystery... 

The ladies of the garden club will keep you guessing, as well as laughing while you reach for your glass of iced sweet tea. The ladies also offer housecleaning tips and delicious recipes. This is the second installment in the Darling Dahlias series, but is a stand alone book. The other book is THE DARLING DAHLIAS AND THE CUCUMBER TREE.

Author Susan Witting Albert’s website is

The Darling Dahlias and the Naked Ladies by Susan Wittig Albert,  A Darling Dahlias Mystery, Berkley Prime Crime, @2011, ISBN: 9780425241288 , Hardcover, 304 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.


Maddie Cutler owns and operates the Vintage Magic boutique and deals9780425242223 with the consequences of visions she gets from certain pieces of fashion treasures. She agrees to plan her sister Sherri’s baby shower and mentor a design intern. But insteade, she finds the intern dead at the train station under suspicious circumstances. 

However, later a woman claiming to be the intern shows up on Maddie’s doorstep. With the help of some lovely vintage clothes, Maddie is determined to iron out the wrinkles of this mystery before the killer can return.

Maddie is an enchanting and fun character you’ll fall in love with. She will have you laughing out loud and wondering what it would be like to have her ‘gift.’ Each chapter begins with a delightful and witty fashion-related quote and vintage bag tips are included at the end. 

This is the fourth installment in the Vintage Magic Mystery series, but is a stand alone book. The other books include: A VEILED DECEPTION, LARCENY AND LACE, and DEATH BY DIAMONDS.

Author Annette Blair’s website is

Skirting the Grave by Annette Blair,  A Vintage Magic Mystery, Berkley Prime Crime, @2011, ISBN: 9780425242223, Paperback, 288 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.

So I hope  you find something here to interest you. What are you reading to keep the weather at bay?


Friday, July 29, 2011

Author Rebecca M. Hale: ‘A Fascination With Frogs’

I’m delighted to welcome author Rebecca M. Hale to Thoughts inIMG_5444-v1-for-web Progress as the special guest blogger as she tours blogdom with the latest release in her CATS AND CURIOS MYSTERY series.

The third installment in the series, HOW TO MOON A CAT, was released this month. Thanks to Rebecca and Kaitlyn at Berkley Prime Crime, I have 1 copy of HOW TO MOON A CAT to giveaway to a lucky visitor (please see the end of the post for details).

Here’s a brief synopsis of the book: When the first book in the series HOW TO WASH A CAT spent 2 weeks on the New York Times printed list and 4 weeks on the extended list—it became clear that readers had connected with fun-loving felines Rupert and Isabella. The cats return to the Green Vase antique store in a new adventure--this time the Jackson Square gang hits the road for a Gold Rush-era treasure hunt! When a mysterious man has hidden something in the Green Vase antique store it could lead Oscar’s niece to one of his greatest treasures yet. Eager to put the pieces of the puzzle together from various clues Oscar leaves behind—Rupert, Isabella and their human journey through several historical sites in Northern California to search for Oscar’s treasure and further unravel his mysterious past. 

Rebecca stopped by today to talk about some research she did for her book and ‘A Fascination with Frogs.’

As any reader of the Cats and Curios Mystery series will readily attest, I have a deeply seated and perhaps somewhat disturbing fascination with frogs. 

9780425242179I’ve had frogs scampering through the kitchen above the Green Vase Antique Shop, frogs filling the rotunda of San Francisco’s City Hall, frogs stalking the city’s Mayor from the balcony outside his office, frogs enjoying a performance at the historic Nevada Theatre, and, finally, frogs in downtown Sacramento as spectators to a professional cycling road race.

That’s a lot of frog action for a mystery series, so I thought I’d share an anecdote from my frog-related research for the third book in the series, HOW TO MOON A CAT

Last May, I set out in search of the Calaveras County Fairgrounds, the site of the annual Mark Twain Frog Jumping Competition. My route took me south along Highway 49, a wiggly corkscrew of a road, through the lower hills of the Sierra Nevada. 

It took a couple of hours and several map-checking stops along the way before I finally reached my destination, the setting for Mark Twain’s famous frog jumping essay, “The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County.” Based on Twain’s brief tenure in California’s Gold Country, the essay relayed the tall tale of Jim Smiley, a compulsive gambler, and Daniel Webster, his famous jumping frog. The piece launched Twain’s literary career; it was one of his first writings to gain nationwide recognition.

By the time I arrived at the fairgrounds, the frog jumping competition was well underway. Past the front gates, a vending area, and several placards posting humorous Twain quotes, I joined a long line of youngsters waiting for their turn on the main stage. 

I suppose it would be possible to bring your own frog to this event, but most participants relied on the ample assortment of standby frogs provided by the Department of Fish and Wildlife. Only a small portion of the overall frog contingent worked the stage at any given time, leaving the rest to lounge about in the cool damp area beneath the stage. After the festivities were completed, the frogs would be safely returned to their regular bog-like habitat – where they would no doubt kick back and regale one another with frog jumping stories – until it was time to round them up for next year’s return to Calaveras County.

The afternoon’s frog contingent waited in a large plastic tank in the shade near the stage as I leaned over the opening to make my selection. Trying not to think about the questionable brown smudges covering the container’s bottom, I wrapped my hands around the nearest slippery, squirming five-pound mass and lifted it up. 

For the record, I felt this particular aspect of the frog jumping experience required a bit too much frog-to-person interaction, even for a frog enthusiast like myself.

Gingerly, I walked up the steps to the stage and placed my frog on the designated spot at its center. Frog wranglers holding long poles attached to black nets manned the sides of the platform, ready and waiting to scoop up the frog once his jump was complete. 

Suddenly there I was, center stage with my frog, the full glare ofIMG_5432-v1-for-web the audience upon us. The emcee of the event readied the crowd with a quick introduction. At this point in the afternoon, the frog was well known to most of the onlookers; the increasingly squeamish author accompanying him, not so much. 

After having watched about half an hour’s worth of previous participants, I had a general idea of what was supposed to happen next. I crouched to the ground behind my frog and made what I imagined to be an encouraging frog sound, kind of a whirring chirp, accompanied by the wild waving of my hands.

The frog turned his head to look up at me, his expression decidedly unimpressed. After a few more seconds of watching my ridiculous attempts to spur him on, the frog gave me one last disparaging glance, frowned slightly, and then leapt a meager two feet from the stage’s center mark.

I’m not sure how well the frog-jumping scene in HOW TO MOON A CAT came out; I’ll leave that for you to judge. I do feel confident in saying that somewhere out there, in a dark secluded bog nestled within the Sierra Nevada, a group of frogs are sitting around, sharing a chuckle at my expense. 

Oh Rebecca, you do go to the extremes when doing research. LOL. Thanks so much for guest blogging. I think your frog-jumping scene turned out just fine. Wishing you much success with your writing and looking forward to the next installment in the Cats and Curios Mystery series.

Now for a bit of background on Rebecca. She worked as a patent attorney in the San Francisco Bay Area for several years before taking time off to her first novel: HOW TO WASH A CAT. The SF-based Cats and Curios series continued with the frog-infused NINE LIVES LAST FOREVER.
Rebecca and her cats, Rupert and Isabella, live in Western Colorado. To learn more about Rebecca, visit her on the web at:

I have 1 cope of HOW TO MOON A CAT to giveaway. The giveaway is open to U.S. residents only and addresses with post office boxes can’t be accepted. To enter the giveaway, just comment on Rebecca’s post between now and 8 p.m. (EST) on Friday,  Aug. 5. Be sure to include your e-mail address, if it’s not included in your profile.

What do you think of frogs? Have you ever enter a frog jumping contest before? Would you go this far for research? Thanks for stopping by.


Thursday, July 28, 2011

Author David Mark Brown: Power to the Wattpad

Please join me in welcoming author David Mark Brown as the specialdaveheadshotsmile guest blogger as he tours blogdom with his current release, FISTFUL OF REEFER.

Those who visit here know I read books in various genres, but David has a new one on me. His book is a dieselpunk, weird Western pulp featuring goats, guns and the camaraderie of outcasts. Marijuana was the plan, liberty the dream, revolution the result. Viva this! This debut novel is the first in a series David calls Reeferpunk -- an alternate history that explores the ramifications of an industrial revolution sans cheap oil.

Here’s a brief synopsis of the book: Set along the Texas Mexico border during the waning years of the Mexican revolution, FISTFUL OF REEFER focuses on a group of unlikely heroes and their equally unlikely foe as they stumble upon the fringes of a cabal bent on nothing short of redrawing geopolitical boundaries and world domination.

The anticipated release of this eBook exclusive is July 31st.

David is here today to talk about ‘Power to the Wattpad! (I hate you).’

Nothing beats sitting in front of a liquid crystal display all day long jamming my fingertips repetitively into alphameric and numeric buttons creating a splay of digital information from here to timbuk-twitter. Working in my pajamas. Rejecting routine hygienics. Watching matinees for research. It's the perfect life.

fistful_reefer_cover_v1.3_previewExcept now I'm supposed to forgo compensation. That's right. And I blame Wattpad. If WP still stands for the Washington Post or the Workers' Party of Singapore in your antiquated mind, then it is time for me to introduce you to the world's largest electronic reading application.

Reader, meet Wattpad
So what does it mean to be the world's most popular e-reader? Well, you've no doubt heard of a little thing called Kindle. Kindle is Amazon's electronic reader device. It is also an electronic reader application which can be downloaded on iPads or most other electronic readers. It allows you to read fiction on your device. Wattpad is bigger. Wattpad's application has more downloads than any other, including Kindle. is a social sight for writers and readers. With the flick of a wrist and click of a mouse a wattpadian can access one of millions of works of short fiction, poetry and novels -- all for free. Granted 75% of those works tend to fall in the vampire or werewolf genres recently created to unburden the rest of the genres of these more nuanced brands of speculative fiction (that is the vampirc and werific).

Snobs and Critics
Some snobbish novelists and critical readers may denounce Wattpad as
RP_WebBanner_Oil_150X45 an amateurish cloister of narcissistic wannabes of the sort that gain airtime during the first round of American Idol (for the love of all things holy, tell your friends they have a horrible singing voice before they make national fools out of themselves).

To this I say two things: 1.) these amateurish wannabes represent a large portion of the world's readers (as well as future professional writers). 2.) the majority of Wattpad users are strictly readers--voracious readers.
And the whole dang system is free. This is great for readers, but what about writers?

As For Me?
I write dieselpunk, weird-West pulps called Reeferpunk (novels and shorts). Will making my fiction available on Wattpad for free increase my sales, buy my children the wine the so desperately need? I don't know, but I'm giving it a shot. (Full disclosure: as of October, 2010 I officially became a Wattpadian @hachebrown.) Ten days before the official launch (Today!) of my novel,
FISTFUL OF REEFER, I started making it available for free on Wattpad.

In the years to follow this trend will only increase. Soon most readers will expect to find their fill of juicy beach romances for free. I can't feed my family on free. But maybe the free reads will result in paying customers. If not, the solution: return to a system of patrons supporting the arts. And I'm getting in before all the best ones are gone. I hear Oprah likes to read.

David, thanks for guest blogging. Thanks also for introducing me to dieselpunk and Wattpad. You have definitely given us something to ponder. Best of luck with your launch of FISTFUL OF REEFER.

Now a little background on David. As a little scamp he wrote his first award-winning story in 4th Grade, titled “The human bean.” It wasn’t a play on words. His profound piece about the human condition blundered into a mutant story about a human/legume crossbreed. (Curse you, phonics! But hello, commercial fiction!)

All grown up his first book, TAINTED LOVE: GOD, SEX AND RELATIONSHIPS FOR THE NOT-SO-PURE-AT-HEART (inspired by his soiled experiences) was published in 2002 by InterVarsity Press. After several years of retooling himself as a novelist (by drinking more and making less money), David reemerged in 2009 with two separate projects: GRIS-GRIS DAUGHTER and FISTFUL OF REEFER.

He and his lovely wife adopted their first child from Vietnam before producing a second through more traditional means.

For more on David and his writing, check out his websites and You can also find his profile on Wattpad @hachebrown.

Have you heard of dieselpunk before? What about Wattpad? Share your thoughts and help David launch his latest release. Thanks, as always for stopping by. 

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

A Memoir, A Cozy Mystery, And A Romance

Reading books of various genres keeps life interesting and can add a bit of spice.

Today I’d like to share my thoughts on three books that are listed in completely different genres. While the books have very little in common, I found each one to be entertaining and interesting. Today I offer you a memoir, a cozy murder mystery and a fiction romance.


When a person shares their experiences, good or bad, we can learn19 from them if we really listen.

I believe that is the case with FOLLOWING THE WHISPERS, a poignant memoir by author Karen Walker. One doesn’t have to have the same experiences or problems to relate. It’s a matter of understanding how the problems were overcome and then translating that into your own situation.

The author tells how she was sexually molested at a very young age. That molestation, coupled with a loveless home life, drastically effected her growth as a teenager and then as an adult. It also carried over into their ability to cope with sexual relationships, marriage, motherhood, and even jobs.

During her road to discovery, the author had two failed marriages and lost custody of her son. Learning to understand what had happened as a child wasn’t her fault or her responsibility, the author was finally able to develop a stable and loving marriage, as well as connect with her adult son bringing them closer as mother and child.

This book is a great reminder for those with children, as well as though around children, they adsorb much more than we realize. They are not mature enough to realize when a hateful phrase is said in jest. Also, they may not understand the meaning of some words, but they do understand the tone and the frequency of words.

Another thing this book reminded me of is that we often hurt those we love and care about without realizing it. Continues negative attitude can have a degrading effect. Remember to sprinkle some positive in with your comments.

While Karen’s book does deal with very painful and devastating issues, I also found it to be inspiring, uplifting, and insightful. Despite a difficult background, Karen has learned to listen to the whispers of hope, strength, love, inner peace, and self-acceptance.

FOLLOWING THE WHISPERS is a must read for anyone facing difficult issues in their life or know someone else who is.

Author Karen Walker blogs at author karen walker…following the whispers.

Following The Whispers by Karen Walker, Bascom Hill Publishing Group, @2009, ISBN: 9781935098157, Paperback, 172 pages

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


9780425242186This is the first installment in the new Library Lover’s Mystery series by Jenn McKinlay, author of the Cupcake Bakery Mystery series.

Lindsey Norris, the new director of the Briar Creek Public Library, is beginning to settle into small town living where her best friend, Beth Stanley, is also the children’s librarian.

When a vacationing New York editor comes to town, it seems the perfect opportunity for Beth to present her children’s book manuscript for consideration. However, Beth’s author boyfriend, Rick, tries to discourage her for meeting the editor. When she disagrees, Rick breaks up with her.

When Beth and Lindsey present the story to the editor, they find out the real reason Rick didn’t want her selling her book. They go to confront Rick and find him dead. Beth becomes the main suspect and it’s up to Lindsey to sort through the events to find the real killer before she and Beth are the next victims.

Author Jenn McKinlay has created a warm and inviting place with the Briar Creek Public Library and the members of the crafternoon club. The cast of characters are intriguing and sometimes a little zany. BOOKS CAN BE DECEIVING is a delightful read that includes a number of great extras. There is a reading group guide, a knitting pattern, recipes, and a preview of the next installment in the series, DUE OR DIE

Author Jenn McKinlay’s website is

Books Can Be Deceiving by Jenn McKinlay, A Library Lover’s Mystery, Berkley Prime Crime, @2011, ISBN: 9780425242186, Paperback, 304 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.

A GOOD HARD LOOK by Ann Napolitano

The central character of this story is author Flannery O’Connor and the20110714__20110717_E08_BK17GOODB~p2 many peacocks that live with her and her mother at Andalusia, the family farm in Milledgeville, GA.

Crippled with lupus, Flannery returned to her hometown. Author Ann Napolitano uses that to create her own unique story of how Flannery may have interacted with townspeople. As with most small towns, the lives of several people are connected in various ways.

Cookie Himmel has a dislike for Flannery and her writing. Cookie is the poster child for Southern womanhood. She spends some time in New York and returns with a rich fiancée. However, Cookie’s new husband, Melvin Whiteson, becomes fascinated with Flannery and her peacocks. 

Decorating her new home, Cookie hires seamstress Lona Waters to make the curtains. Lona’s husband, Bill, is a local policeman hoping to one day be police chief. Their 15-year-old daughter spends the afternoons with Flannery’s neighbors, the Treadles, giving Lona some time to herself. The Treadles’ only son, Joe, is in his senior year at high school and a bit withdrawn. ’Miss Mary’ asks Lona to hire Joe as her assistant for the summer hoping to draw him out of his shell.

As these people begin to interact, you realize an unforeseen tragedy is going to happen. The characters draw you in and author Ann Napolitano describes the scenes so vivid you can almost smell the magnolia blossoms and hear the peacocks’ calls. A tragic afternoon changes the lives of all involved and makes them take a good hard look at where they are and where they want to go.

A GOOD HARD LOOK will keep you spellbound from beginning to end.

Author Ann Napolitano’s website is

A Good Hard Look by Ann Napolitano, Penguin Audiobooks, @2011, ISBN: 9781101494103, Unabridged Digital, Listening Time App. 11 hours 30 minutes

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

Hope you enjoy the different genres. What are you reading now?


Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Highlighting Author Emily Kimelman

Author Emily Kimelman was scheduled to guest blog this month butEmily2 due to unforeseen circumstances and my crazy blogging schedule of late, I was unable to participate in her blog tour.

Still I wanted to let you know about Emily and her latest murder mystery/suspense book - UNLEASHED: A SYDNEY RYE NOVEL, BOOK 1.

Here’s a brief synopsis of the book: Joy Humbolt is not a huge fan of people and after getting fired from her latest stint as a barista she is becoming dangerously close to unemployable. So when Charlene Miller offers Joy her dog-walking business on the exclusive upper east side of Manhattan, Joy is happy to accept, despite a suspiciously quick transaction. But Joy’s world is turned upside down when she discovers one of her clients murdered and Charlene gone. Joy cannot help but become caught up in the drama and danger of her new employer’s lives.

With the help of a rogue Police Detective Joy enters her clients sphere of power and influence searching for the killer. Usually a loner, Joy is disturbed by how much she likes it in their world. These people make the rules but are not bound by them. Joy realizes too late that only one kind of justice makes it this far uptown: vigilante. When Joy let’s go of  what little respect she had for the human race she become unstoppable, unleashed, and is reborn Sydney Rye.

Here’s an excerpt to entice you a bit more:
"The rest of the day went by without me. I was in my head Unleashed book coverwondering how a toupee joins a dead body after the fact. I wanted to talk to Jacquelyn. I wondered if she could remember if Joseph wore his toupee jogging. Maybe he went back to the house, and Michael didn't notice. Or maybe, like this morning, Michael left his post before his replacement arrived. And what about the blond woman in the emergency exit? Was it Jacquelyn? I needed to ask Julen what time they left his house. These questions continued to roam through my head all the way home, through my take-out Chinese and the laugh-tracked sitcoms, right into Blue's walk.

I found us wandering not to the park but toward the Brooklyn Bridge. The night, sticky from the day's heat, made me sweat as I walked through Caroll Gardens. The windows of brownstones flickered with the reassuring light of the television. Walking down Brooklyn Bridge Avenue we passed Family Court, a hideous building with a flat facade and barred windows. Across the street an ancient-looking armory sat dark and deserted.

We walked over the Brooklyn Bridge on the wooden pedestrian path that hangs above the roaring traffic. We followed the thick steel cables under the massive granite towers. To my left, glass skyscrapers mixed with turn-of-the-century stone houses perched on the tiniest tip of Manhattan. A gaping hole in the sky where the towers used to be made the island look off-balance. The Statue of Liberty glowed small but still impressively in the distance."
Emily Unleashed Nurture Book Tour Banner
Now let me give you a little background on Emily. She was born in Philadelphia in 1980. Her family quickly moved to Texas and from there onto Moscow. It was in Russia that Emily had her first memories, her first dreams, and learned language. Emily’s father, Donald, read to her every night and so she learned story telling too.

But Emily could not learn how to read or write. She had to repeat Kindergarten and it took many years, and a specialized education before she finally read. Emily was 12, and back in Philadelphia when she read for the first time. It was a sign on the side of the road that said “dozen roses, $5.99”. It was an epiphany.

From then on Emily read everything. What she loved most was mysteries. But she never thought that she could write. Then Emily read a terrible book about cat detectives where the culprit turned out to be aliens! And she thought, Jesus, I think I can do better than that. So she wrote UNLEASHED and then she wrote it’s sequel.

At the urging of her amazing husband, her brother, and her best friend, Emily published UNLEASHED in April of 2011, after her agent valiantly had tried to sell it to NY publishers for 3 years. Now Emily works with her husband, Sean Gilvey, in their glassblowing business, writes novels, and plays with her awesome dog, Kinsey.

NURTURE Tour Hosting Team Member badgeFor more on Emily and her writing, drop by her website, find her on Tumblr, or check out her Facebook profile. UNLEASED can be purchased at – Kindle, – Kindle, Smashwords, and Barnes & Noble – NOOKBook.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this highlight of UNLEASED and the introduction to Emily. Thanks so much for stopping by.  

Monday, July 25, 2011

Author Annie Rayburn: Are Authors Like Nest Builders?

Please join me in welcoming author Annie Rayburn as the special guestdsc_0052ac1 blogger today as she tours blogdom with her latest release, BITTERSWEET OBSESSIONS.

I must admit I knew nothing of Annie or her work until Carol at Under the Tiki Hut gave an introduction. That’s one of the things I love about blogdom - I get to met such interesting new authors and their great work. I was also fortunate enough to win a copy of Annie’s latest release that I’m enjoying reading.

I asked Annie (the pseudonym of Carol Burnside) if she would drop by so I could introduce her to y’all. She agreed and is here to talk about how authors build their stories.

This Spring, the small lanai between my house and pool became a constructBittersweet zone...for a pair of Phoebe’s. They built a mud and organic matter nest on a tiny half-inch ledge. It looked to be an impossible feat, but they blithely accomplished it and set about enlarging their family. It wasn’t until their fledglings had left the nest that I realized how a correlation could be built between their behavior and that of a writer.

Often a story idea is like that half-inch ledge, the barest premise on which to build. But we delve into the minds and hearts of our characters, finding the glue-like mud which will hold the chunks of moss and blades of grass that are our plot threads. Separately, neither would become a fully realized nest or story. Together they create magic where there was nothing.

We write the draft (lay our egg) and at this stage, there is a tendency for the newbie writer to shove it from the nest. The savvyinsight_finalcover writer sits on it until it is fully hatched. Even then, it’s only a good first draft.

The Phoebe nourished her baby and cleaned the nest, preparing him to leave her care. A writer cleans up the plot threads, omits wordiness and bad grammar and typos until the manuscript is indeed ready to leave the nest.  

I’ve had several babies leave my nest, the latest of which is BITTERSWEET OBSESSIONS, the third of my published contemporary erotic romances with paranormal and sci-fi elements. 

ar_phantomsandfantasiesAnnie, thanks so much for guest blogging. I enjoyed your correlation. A story really is built a layer at a time and without those foundations it never makes it. Wishing you much success with your writing.

Now let me tell you a bit about Annie and then about her work.

As I mentioned earlier, Annie Rayburn is the pseudonym of Carol Burnside, whose works have placed and won several romance writing contests. Whatever her muse, she grew up with scenes playing in her head and imaginary playmates taking over the show while she patted out mud cookies dotted with Chinaberries. 

The stories she crafts today are decidedly more adult than the ones that involved Ken and Barbie. Annie has Indie published her backlist, INSIGHT (a short story) and PHANTOMS & FANTASIES (a novella) which introduce her world of Crainesians living among us. Annie also writes for Red Sage Publishing. Her first release with them is BITTERSWEET OBSESSIONS, an erotic romance with sci-fi and paranormal elements. 

Learn more about Annie and her books at

Now for a little insight into her writing.

INSIGHT: What's a strong Crainesian woman like Sela to do when Jonavon, her half human life-mate, is too clueless to follow when beckoned? Seduce him with his own desires, of course!
PHANTOMS & FANTASIES: Passion too hot to ignore: a romance between a Crainesian rape victim, the life-mate she denied and the intense pheromone heat drawing them together. Can Zeenie leave phantoms of her past behind and embrace her fantasies, or will she reject Turk once again?
BITTERSWEET OBSESSIONSWhat if you were taught that there was only one life mate in the universe for you, and then you learned that person was lost to you? Would you have the courage to put aside the hurt and your ingrained beliefs to stubbornly search for happiness? Teriza and Paul find themselves facing this dilemma. I hope you’ll enjoy their rocky journey to happiness as much as I enjoyed telling their story.

Annie’s books can be purchased at the following sites:
Red Sage,
Amazon, Diesel e-books,, and Smashwords (where P&F is on sale 50% off through the end of July.)

Do you see the comparison of writing to building a nest? Share your thoughts. Thanks for stopping by.


Friday, July 22, 2011

Author Curtis Hopfenbeck On Creating Characters

Please join me in welcoming author Curtis Hopfenbeck as thecurtis special guest blogger as he makes a stop on his virtual book tour with the release of THE LIQUID CITY.

Here’s a synopsis of the story: Shadoe Kilbourne is the consummate intellectual assassin, with an impressive arsenal of both wit and weaponry at his disposal.  Though he is Seattle’s most famous and flamboyant restaurateur and nightclub owner, he is also a man of great resource, humor and humanity.  His lethal charms and deadly ideologies are a devastating double-edged sword, brandished at will to put the bad guys in their place and get the good girls back to his.  Driven by vengeance, derived from a painful and poignant past we can only speculate on, his ties to the highest echelons and lowest corridors of humanity also make him the perfect middleman for those who seek to solicit his fervor and favor in the hunt for his brand of justice, both inside and outside of the law.
The jewel in Kilbourne’s corporate crown is the Liquid City, a high-tech, nautically themed, three-tiered bar/restaurant/nightclub that is considered to be among the finest on the planet.  It is also his base of operations where he and his equally lethal lotharios, Gio and Deity, determine the finality and fate of the nation’s most notorious criminals …when the courts fall short of their mortal mandate.  But Shad doesn’t just tip the scales of justice; he topples it with vigilantic impunity and acerbic wit.
In this first book in the series, Senator Robert Marcum, Seattle’s presidential hopeful, retains Shad to locate his long, lost daughter who has slipped into the oldest profession and beyond.  Seattle’s sadistic side unfurls before Shad and his overly competent cohorts as they track her downward spiral along the city streets and backroom sheets.  But every avenue dead-ends, and every lead dies almost upon emergence.  His usual sources for information are reluctant to talk, and those that do mysteriously disappear.  But within each frantic conversation is intimated a location and a lasciviousness whispered through trembling lips, an underground atrocity mythically referred to as the Devil’s Playground.
A name is rendered by a friend, of a woman who assists the dire and the downtrodden, who captures Shad’s already partitioned heart with both her strength and vulnerability, as well as with her equal wit and ample wisdom.  One connection leads to the next until the Devil’s Playground’s existence is ultimately confirmed
Along the way, obstacles and individuals abound in the form of mensches and mobsters, as Shad deals with not only the nation’s criminal element and Seattle’s sadistic city beneath the streets, but with three formidable femme fatales and a petulant police chief.  Fortunately, humor prevails at all levels, as Shad and his elite mercenary unit not only rescue the hopeful presidential progeny, but elude the feminine fray that tip-toes too closely to the lost love that continues to haunt his hollow existence.

Curtis was kind enough to answer some questions for me about his writing. I asked in what order do your characters come to life - name, physical description, personality? Of these three elements (name, physical description, personality), which is the easiest to develop and which is the hardest?

A great question, I will toil mightily for a great answer!  

The-Liquid-City-199x300I, unfortunately, am incapable of planning and premeditation in relation to my writing. Inspiration only comes during the physical act of writing. So, as my characters dictate their own fate, I am merely a scribe or a silent voyeur denoting their actions from pen to page. 

In my mind, the earliest inklings of new characterization begin with the personality that the character’s role needs to encapsulate and fulfill; once that personality is established the physical manifestations of that personality emerge and are carved out of theoretical stone. That being accomplished, I provide the character with an appropriate name. (Or at least a name that I feel is appropriate; name connotations, much like beauty, are very much in the eye/ear of the beholder/reader!)
In my book(s), that engineering process is reversed and revised. The name typically comes first in order to accommodate my readers in the assimilation of role characterizations and placement of hierarchical structure. Nebulousness and ambiguity within a fictional novel can be frustrating for me, so I like to provide as much literary structure and character scaffolding as I can, and the name is typically the first link in that chain. (And, by definition, light fiction should not purposely intellectually bankrupt the reader, it should be a fun ride with few cognitive speed bumps!).  

With that style in mind, the physical description comes next so that the new character can actually be ‘seen’ by the readers and a ‘face’ can be mentally superimposed upon that name.  

The third and final piece of that triangulation is the personality, which, I feel, develops complexly with time, and is somewhat situationally conditional based upon the task at hand or the writer’s intent. (Not to be confused with the reader’s perception, which can often run opposed to the author’s intent!)
In my extremely humble opinion, the physical description is the easiest aspect of those three characterizations to portray, it is merely the author’s visual representation of an empirical impression, …’it is what it is’, so-to-speak, and readers rarely take umbrage.  

The personality on the other hand is so deep and broad in scope, and yet so intrinsically personal to each individual reader, that readers will instantly excoriate you if they feel you’ve violated their personal opinion of what that character would or would not do in any given situation. The characters in the book are no longer your abstract creations, they are the reader’s friends/enemies and in many cases ‘real’ to them on an ethereal level.   Names and physical attributes are relatively one-dimensional and empirical by definition and design. Personalities are a three-dimensional abstract and dynamic in nature.

The name is probably the most difficult for this writer because you want it to be as character-specific and personality-appropriate as possible. It’s like naming your kids, and if they are main characters, you can’t go back and change them. Personalities and physical appearances can change at the wave of the written wand if wanted or warranted, but names, good or bad, remain the same and live on in perpetuity.  

In essence, I could never hope to surpass the canvases that are painted in the readers mind, and so I strive to provide the literary brushes and paint, and let my readers’ unlimited intellect and infinite imagination take them to places unknown, undiscovered, and quintessentially …their own!

My thanks as always, and much success to you all on your own literary journey, Curtis J. Hopfenbeck.
Liquid City
Curtis, thanks for guest blogging. I always enjoy learning about authors create their characters or I should say how the characters create a life of their own.

Now for a little background on Curtis. He garnered accolades for his writing at an early age. Grade school brought with it awards and recognition for both his innate skills and his immense humor, high school garnered ‘Feathered Pen’ and ‘Ink Slinger’ awards, and college brought about the coveted ‘Young Hemmingway Award’ for national excellence in writing, among others.

His Shadoe Kilbourne series evokes an “urban Bond’ mystique, suspense and humor” that have the critics in stitches and the public clamoring for more. GQ Magazine named his first book, THE LIQUID CITY, as “One Of The Best Books Of The Year” in 2010 along with John Grisham and Stephen King; and as “One Of The 10 Books You Must Read In 2011” by a United Nations awarded international website for the youth, along with Salman Rushdie, Ayn Rand, Jonathan Franzen, Ralph Ellison and Erich Segel.

His second book in the Shadoe series, REIGN DANCE, due to be released Fall of 2011, continues the humorous, yet vigilantic journey of Shadoe Kilbourne. Curtis is outlining a new Western series in 2012 as well, to fill the void left by Louis L’Amour and his Sackett series. He resides in Salt Lake City, Utah with Natalie, his wife of 20 years and their two children, Taylor and Caeden.  

How do your characters come to life? Which of the 3 elements is the hardest for you to create? As a reader, which of the 3 elements do you feel needs the most attention? Thanks so much for stopping by and for sharing your thoughts.