Tuesday, December 31, 2013

It’s That Time Again

The days have passed by with lightning speed for some, while trickling slowly by for others. Either way, we come to the last day of 2013.

Happy-New-Year-2014As we look back on what 2013 brought us, we also look forward with anticipation to what 2014 has in store for us.

It’s that time of year when we make resolutions or set goals for the coming year. The trick is to strive for things that are reachable with maybe one or two that are a bit harder to accomplish.

I hope in the coming year I can continue to share wonderful books and great authors with you. I hope I can continue to offer delightful giveaways from time to time. I also hope I can offer you thought provoking guest posts from authors, as well as share my thoughts from time to time. I want to offer posts on reading, writing and enjoying life in general. Most of all, I hope I have more opportunity to visit with everyone.

Thanks for all your support and for making 2013 a fun year to blog.

toastI wish each of year a safe and HAPPY NEW YEAR filled with love, laughter and much success. 

I raise my virtual glass of champagne in a toast to your health, happiness, and prosperity.

HAPPY NEW YEAR everyone!!!!

Monday, December 30, 2013

The Conspiracy Kid, E.P. Rose and Questions Answered

You know finding new authors is one of the highlights of this site. Finding new intriguing stories to entertain, new characters to enjoy and new authors to follow is always a delight. 
So it’s my pleasure to welcome author E.P. Rose to Thoughts in Progress today to talk about writing and his newest release, THE CONSPIRACY KID. E.P. lives in London, England, with his restaurateur wife, various daughters, a dog called Frank and a cat called Wednesday.

For more on E.P. and his writing, visit his website and find him on Facebook and Twitter: @tweeteprose.

Here’s a brief synopsis of THE CONSPIRACY KID:

      A sonnet is penned and, lo, the Conspiracy Kid Fan Club is born. Beware. To read this sonnet is to join the Club. Membership is automatic and irreversible.
      This is the story of the earliest unwitting Conspiracy Kid Fan Club members: Edwin Mars (poet), Joe Claude (billionaire), Walter Cornelius (werewolf), Muriel Cohen (chef), Ewan Hoozarmi (artist), to name but a few.

THE CONSPIRACY KID can be found on Amazon, Table Thirteen Books, and other bookstores.

E.P. has graciously answered some questions for me about his book and writing. Welcome, E.P.

Mason - What inspired you to write The Conspiracy Kid?

I think it’s not totally impossible that the Conspiracy Kid inspired me to write THE CONSPIRACY KID. I think that’s the kind of thing the Conspiracy Kid does. Is there all that much difference between inspiring and conspiring? Hard to say. Not sure. Who conspired with my fingers to type what I just typed? 

Actually, you know what, I am not a conspiracy theorist, although I am aware that many of the poor unwitting members of The Conspiracy Kid Fan Club are certainly that way inclined. 

The kind of conspiracies I like are the gentle Keatsian kind, in which Autumn (or Fall, as you say) conspires with the sun to load and bless with fruit the vines that round the thatch eaves run. Who conspired with my brain to think what I just thought? It’s a wonder, really, that I’m not paranoid. But no, I’m not paranoid. I do though have a good deal of justifiable concern. And so should you.

Mason - How much are the characters based on people you know? Would any of them recognize themselves?

The character on whom Joe Claude is based has never knowingly read a novel in his life, so I think we’re safe there. Actually, that’s not entirely true. He had to read Silas Marner, when he was at school, which put him off literature for life and set him on the path of becoming a billionaire. I, on the other hand, survived Silas Marner and subsequently fell in love with books. 

I think that all the characters are based in varying degrees on people I know or know of, but this is not a roman à clef – and whether or not they would recognize themselves is moot. They might. They might not. I have observed that people tend to recognize their good points and fail to recognize the bad. And the thing is that a real person may step onto the pages of a book, but if the story works, it takes over and characters become themselves. 

Obviously, the name is different – but, if I put you into a story and then something happens to you that is quite different from anything that ever happened to youTCK_cover_full_FINAL-1 website before, you would cease to be you, would you not? And then, I suspect, you would cease to recognize yourself.
Edwin Mars, for example, is a strangely fictionalized version of one of my other alter egos – and I don’t recognize him at all. Do you know Kurt Vonnegut’s wonderful The Sirens of Titan? It has a brilliant dedication, which goes something like this: “No attempt has been made to protect the innocent, as the Almighty does this as a matter of heavenly routine.” Mind you, who decides who is innocent and who is not?
Mason - Hamburgers and string… and a werewolf. That’s an odd combination for a book…
THE CONSPIRACY KID is divided into three parts – Fan Club, Hamburger and String. 

Part One, Fan Club, kicks off with the Edwin Mars sonnet in which the Conspiracy Kid first appears – and if you read this sonnet, you are automatically and irreversibly enrolled in The Conspiracy Kid Fan Club. 

Part Two, Hamburger, revolves around a new restaurant called Red, White and Blues, which features the best fictional hamburger you’ll (n)ever eat. 

And the centerpiece of Part Three, String, is an art show by probably the world’s most successful artist – featuring thousands of miles of string. Needless to say, it’s also about string theory and string-pulling and all that other kind of conspiracy kiddish stuff. 

As for poor Walter Cornelius, my benighted werewolf, well, obviously he’s not a werewolf, because, as you ought to know, werewolves are not actually real. However, Walter was the innocent victim of one of the CIA’s mind control drug experiments, as a result of which he behaves like a werewolf, when the moon is full – and his sad story is part of this book.

Mason - The strap line for THE CONSPIRACY KID is ‘you don’t have to be kiddish but it helps’ – how important do you think it is for us all to be a bit ‘kiddish’ in our lives? How kiddish are you…?

My father had this record at home when I was small: You Don’t Have To Be Jewish – by Bob Booker and George Foster, the guys behind The First Family. It’s very funny. For some reason, in what remains of my mind, I always remember it as You Don’t Have To Be Yiddish – and the “but it helps” somehow became attached. 

When the Conspiracy Kid came along and the concept of Kiddishness transpired, it seemed like a good slogan to adapt and adopt. Picasso said: “It took me four years to paint like Raphael, but a lifetime to paint like a child.” I think that’s the kind of thing I’m after here. How do you access the inside infant? Kiddishness does not involve being infantile. You have to be responsible. You have to take care of biz, but ……… listen, childhood is no joke. It is a time of terror as well as joy. 

There you are, totally in the present, in the land of the giants, because that’s what giants are – grown-ups – and your life is intense. Well, I think, that kind of here-and-nowishness, it’s good to be in touch with that. Sense of wonder too. Hang on to that, if you can. The excitement of infinite possibilities. Don’t give up. Keep on growing. As Edwin Mars says in one of his Unsung Songs: “Don’t you know, when you stop growing, that’s when you start to be dead.”
How kiddish am I? I lurk somewhere between first and second childhood, as I guess most of us do.

Mason - What is your writing process? What system do you have to keep you focused and on-track?

I seem to have a tripartite writing process. The first part involves reading, swimming, walking the dog, watching
movies, cooking, even mowing the lawn – anything, in other words, rather than write – and this section of the process is called Research. 
The second part is very slow and laborious and is a combination of decision-making and actual typing – and this section of the process, this uphill struggle, we can call Momentum Building.
And then the third part of the process, this happens when you’ve reached the top of the hill, momentum has been built and yee-hah, it’s downhill all the way – and this we call Fantastically Good Fun, which is what makes the first two parts worthwhile.

Mason - This is your second published novel, your first being ‘Beyond the Valley of Sex and Shopping’ – what was that book about?

Beyond is about what you find “Beyond the Valley of Sex and Shopping” – death, divorce, prison, bankruptcy, boredom, remorse, regret, redemption. So, obviously, it’s a comedy. 

Beyond is a miniature middle-class saga, spanning 30 years of London life, which tells the story of a brother and sister, one of whom lives and one of whom dies. Susan Perry falls in love with and marries Victor Abrahams, a more than somewhat conflicted and muscle-bound writer of unreadable novels. George Perry, her brother, makes a lot of money and manages to lose it all. As a matter of literary interest, it is a geographically displaced, anachronistic prequel to Chekov’s wonderful Uncle Vanya, from whom the cast of characters has been nicked. It seems to make people laugh and cry. I laughed and cried while I was writing it.

Mason - Which author (living or dead) would you most like to have dinner with and why?

Hmmmm. That’s a tricky one. I think there’s an implication in the question that an author with whom one would wish to have dinner is ipso fact an author whose work one admires. Well, of course, one would not wish to dine with someone whose work one disliked, as one would either have to lie or avoid the subject, neither of which eventuality would be conducive to congenial gastronomic intercourse.
Rex Stout might be fun, especially if his fictional chef, Fritz Brenner, could be called upon to man the stove – I fancy Brenner’s squab – and perhaps Rex could invite his good friend P.G. Wodehouse to join the party. Mind you, Rex and P.G. are both at the somewhat dubious end of the political spectrum, and I don’t think they’d take kindly to disapproving mutterings from me. 

Agatha Christie? I always wanted to meet her, but just to say hello, not for dinner. Proust? Tea, not dinner. Hemingway? I sat at his table in Botin in Madrid earlier this year. That’s enough. Cervantes, perhaps? That’s a definite maybe. I know. I know who I’d like to have dinner with. 

I’d like to have dinner with Matthew. Ideally, I would like to have dinner with all four of them, if that’s allowed – Matthew, Mark, Luke and John – but Matthew will do, if the others are unavailable. Let’s face it, when all is said and done, The Greatest Story Ever Told is, well, The Greatest Story Ever Told – and I have enough questions to ask about its writing easily to keep us going from soup to cheese and back again.

Mason - If your book were made into a film – who would you like to play whom?

I don’t really see THE CONSPIRACY KID as a film. I see it more as a soap. That’s my genre – literary soap. I would like Alfred Hitchcock to play Joe Claude, the bereaved billionaire. I know Hitchcock usually only plays brief cameos, but as he’s coming back from the dead, I think it’s only fair to give him a starring part. Tippi Hedren can play Ursula, his wife. That would give us a nice dramatic underplot. Jim Furyk, the golfer, can play our werewolf, Walter Cornelius, as the latter is described as looking like the former – but can Jim Furyk act? And the two sisters, one so beautiful, one so bubbly? I don’t know. Edwin Mars? Me? No, I’m not doing it. In fact, I can’t do this at all. I know! It could be a competition. Send in your suggestions – and, as per the previous question, dinner with me for the best Conspiracy Kid cast list. How about that?

Mason - What are you working on next?

I once spent a couple of years working with Lionel Bart on his life story, but he didn’t like talking about the past, which isn’t all that helpful for a biographer – so we abandoned the biography and wrote a musical instead, but it never got made. Then we drifted apart. Then Lionel died. The book I am writing at the moment is inspired by this relationship. Working title: “Mee and I”. It is written in the first person and “I” is a girl – Kitty Kaye Carr – which is an interesting challenge. And that’s as much as I’m prepared to say at this juncture. I am in the foothills of the uphill struggle phase right now – and everything could change tomorrow.

Mason - Finally tell us a secret…

No. Sorry. I won’t. If I tell you a secret, it won’t be a secret any more. Apart from which, if I tell you a secret worth keeping, who knows what might happen? That’s not paranoia. That’s justifiable concern. Alternatively, suppose I have no secrets. Wouldn’t that be terrible secret to keep?

E.P., thanks for joining us today and answering these questions – even if you won’t tell us a secret. J Alfred Hitchcock as John would make for an interesting part to watch.

Thanks everyone for stopping by today. Which author would you like to have dinner (or tea) with?

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Pedal Forward by Trey Hall

Author Trey Hall has overcome life-threatening injuries and offers inspiring thoughts for living from that experience in his new book.

PEDAL FORWARD: THE 10 LIFE AND BUSINESS LESSONS I HAVE LEARNED ON MY BIKE is Hall’s pedal coverextraordinary story of determination after surviving a near-fatal cycling accident. Hall offers inspiration for both on and off the bike.

What started out as a typical morning bike ride ended in a gruesome head-on collision with a car. Hall and his friend and office neighbor, Ken Calwell, were riding their bicycles on Greenwich Road in Wichita (Kansas). They soon collided head-on with a 1978 Olds Cutlass driven by a sleeping woman who suffered from narcolepsy and was on her way to work. The speed of the car and bikes at collision was estimated at 75 miles per hour.

Hall and Calwell suffered devastating injuries of shattered bones and ripped joints, but both survived after numerous surgeries and physical therapy. Drawing on what happened, as well as his many years of marketing experience, Hall developed 10 life lessons that inspire a positive life whether on a bike or not.

The lessons are simple and grounded such as ‘Focus Keeps You Whole,’ ‘Celebrate The Pain,’ ‘Communication Helps Avoid the Potholes,’ and ‘Find the Joy.’ The lessons can be applied to all areas of life – home, work and play.

The story is told in an appealing manner and focuses on many aspects of Hall’s life, not just bike riding. The book is written in a storytelling manner that makes it easy to read with a smooth, flowing style.

PEDAL FORWARD is an empowering story of overcoming extreme measures to find happiness and success. This is a motivating story whether or not you enjoy riding bikes.

Pedal Forward: The 10 Life and Business Lessons I Have Learned on my Bike by Trey Hall, Cairn Publishing Denver LLC, @2013, ISBN: 978-0989093507, Paperback, 136 Pages 

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

Thanks so much for stopping by today. Are you a bike rider? If so, what lessons of life have you learned from riding?

Friday, December 27, 2013

Off The Shelf: Songs of Three Islands by Millicent Monks

Hope everyone is recovering well from the holiday rush. Today I have an interesting book relating to the legendary Carnegie family that I’d like to take off the shelf and talk to you about. 

It highlights a topic that once was not dealt with in the public eye – mental illness. Thankfully today more is known about the problem and people understand that it is a disease.

Songs of Three Islands
A Story of Mental Illness in an Iconic American Family
By Millicent Monks
Published by Prospecta Press 
Paperback: 264 pages
October 8, 2013; $18.95 US; 9781935212447

SONGS OF THREE ISLANDS is a striking look into the cover Songs of Three IslandsCarnegie’s struggle with mental illness combined with a charming induced reflection on motherhood. This heartfelt account highlights the struggles and frustrations felt by Millicent as she watched the slow destruction of her loved ones.

In her own words "People, they say, are divided into two kinds: those who have known inescapable sorrow and those who have not. Because sorrow cannot be changed, one's lifestyle and feelings must be changed to accommodate it." 

Here’s a brief description of this stunning memoir:

        In describing five generations of mental instability in the female line of her family, Millicent Monks attempts to bring mental illness out of the shadows and comfort those who are suffering from thoughts and feelings they don't always understand.
        This heartfelt account highlights the struggle and frustration felt as you watch those you love being destroyed by mental illness. It's easy to presume that having riches beyond your wildest dreams automatically means you have it all, but being blighted by mental illness is something many families, rich and poor alike, struggle to come to terms with.
        This memoir will not only leave the reader feeling positive and enlightened, but filled with enormous admiration for and gratitude towards Millicent Monks for sharing this unique story about her legendary family.
        This frank account highlights her own personal struggle and determination to survive against many odds.


Millicent Monks was born into the legendary Carnegie family, in which serious mental illness has affected four generations of women. Mental illness has played a prominent and overwhelming part in her life. Her search for answers led her to Jungian analysis, meditation and sutras, which have helped her to find a delicate peace amid the devastating mental illness in her family. 

She shares her story in the hopes that it will help other families. "If I can do something worthwhile to help people with children who are mentally ill," says Millicent, "I would think that was something worth accomplishing in my life."

Here are what others have to say about this fascinating story:

        " . . . a brilliant, hauntingly beautiful, melancholy memoir that is must reading for all who have been brushed by the wing of mental illness." -- William S. Cohen, Former US Secretary of Defense and author of Love in Black and White

        "Courageous and beautiful." -- Ralph Nader

        "Enthralling . . . is a testament to the importance of family love and of the saving power of a strong marriage." -- Charles Handy, author of The Empty Raincoat

        "Songs of Three Islands is a multi-layered weave of family memoir, myth and Jungian premonition that reads at times like a gothic novel." -- The Guardian

        ". . . lyrical memoir, which tells the physical journey of a family from one island to the next. It also explores, for the first time publicly, the thread of mental illness woven through the seemingly glittering tapestry." -- The New York Times

SONGS OF THREE ISLANDS is available at Amazon, Powell's Books, and Barnes and Noble.

Thanks for stopping by today. I hope I’ve enticed your reading taste buds a bit with this captivating memoir dealing with struggles and inspiration. Have you read any stories dealing with mental illness and how those involved handled it?

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Merry Christmas One and All

Can you believe it? It’s Christmas Eve. My, oh my, where did the time go to? Just yesterday it was July or was that June?
Well, either way it’s here if we’re ready for it or not (which I’m not). I just wanted to take today to wish each and everyone of you (and your families) a very MERRY CHRISTMAS

If you’re not celebrating Christmas, I wish you a wonderful day instead.

In case I don’t get a chance to get by your blogs to tell you in person (so to speak), please know that y’all are very important to me and I hope you find everything you wish for under under your tree.

I’ll leave you now with a video of some of my favorite Christmas songs. Sorry I couldn’t get the music widget to work this year for Christmas music. 

If I don’t see you tomorrow, I hope to be back on Thursday. Until then, y’all are the BEST!!

Monday, December 23, 2013

Sketcher in the Rye on Tour and a Giveaway

I’m delighted to be participating in author Sharon Pape’s Great Escapes Virtual Book Tour for SKETCHER IN THE RYE, the latest installment in her Portrait of Crime Mystery series.

As part of the tour, I want to tell you about the author and share my thoughts on the book. Thanks to Sharon and the lovely Lori at Great Escapes Virtual Book Tour, I have an e-copy of SKETCHER IN THE RYE (or a gift card) to giveaway to a lucky visitor. Please see the end of the post for the details.

SKETCHER IN THE RYE: A Portrait of Crime Mystery (InterMix; $4.99; 978-1-101-63527-8; December 17, 2013) by Sharon Pape.

      "Pape has a sure-handed balance of humor and action."—Julie Hyzy, New York Times Bestselling Author

In her new job as a private eye, former police sketch artist Rory McCain has a spirited partner: Old West marshal Zeke Drummond. He may be a ghost, but when these two combine their skills, they reap justice…

      Trouble has sprouted at Harper Farms. Top secret info has been leaked to the competition, and now there’s serious sabotage cropping up. So the farm’s beleaguered owner, Gil Harper, has called on Rory to dig up some dirt. But what Rory discovers raises a new field of questions…
      Someone shucked Harper’s accountant and left his body in the farm’s corn maze. While Gil is quick to hire Rory to solve now not one but two crimes, the sketching sleuth isn’t so sure why the farmer wants her to focus her attention on his own family.
      Regardless, Rory and Zeke will need to put their hands to the plow and solve this case before someone else is planted six feet under…

Sharon tells about herself . . . . . . 

I started writing stories as soon as I learned how to put letters together to form words. From that day forward, writing has been a part of my life whether it was my first attempt at a novel in seventh grade or the little plays I wrote for my friends to perform for neighbors and family. After college, when I was busy teaching French and Spanish to high school students, I was also writing poetry — some of it in French.

great escape tour banner small SKETCHER IN THE RYEAfter several years, I left teaching to be a full time mom, and when my two children started school, I went back to writing. To my delight I found that the muse was still there, still waiting patiently for me to come around. My first novel, Ghostfire, was published at that time. It went on to be condensed in Redbook magazine (the first paperback original the magazine had ever condensed.) Then came The God Children and The Portal. Redbook also published my first short story, which was subsequently sold to several foreign magazines. With two great kids, a golden retriever and a loving, supportive husband (whom I’d met at the beach when I was fourteen — but that’s a story for another day), I felt like I was exactly where I was meant to be in my life. But fate had another plan for me, and it went by the name of “breast cancer.”

Looking back, I realize how fortunate I was that the cancer was discovered at such an early stage, but at the time it was all very overwhelming. Once I was back on my feet, I wanted to help other women who were newly diagnosed, worried and afraid. I became a Reach to Recovery volunteer for the American Cancer Society and went on to run the program for Nassau and Suffolk Counties on Long Island. A number of years later, with the help of my surgical oncologist and two other volunteers, I started Lean On Me, a nonprofit organization that provides peer support and information to breast cancer patients. When Lean On Me celebrated its tenth anniversary it no longer required as much of my time, and I once again found myself free to pursue my first love — writing.

For more information on Sharon and her writing, visit her website at http://www.sharonpape.com/index.html


913x7thh3AL._SL1500_Incorporating a ghost into a modern-day mystery can sometimes be a tricky plot. Author Sharon Pape pulls it off seamlessly in her Portrait of Crime Mystery series and her latest release, SKETCHER IN THE RYE, is a prime example.

A former police sketch artist, Rory McCain now operates her own private eye business with a silent partner. It’s not that her partner doesn’t have input into the business – he does – it’s just that no one else knows about him. Her partner is Marshal Zeke Drummond, a ghost from the old West.

When top secret information from Harper Farms is leaked, owner Gil Harper hires Rory to find answers. As she begins her investigation, Rory discovers Harper’s accountant and friend dead in a corn maze. Now it’s up to Rory, with Zeke’s help, to find out who the killer is before another victim is added to the maze.

Pape has a knack for blending mystery and suspense with humor for a well-balanced story. The plot moves between past and present with ease. Readers are drawn into the setting through Pape’s vivid details and descriptions.
The characters are zany and likable. The interaction between Rory and Zeke is fun with Zeke’s old-fashion outlook on Rory’s modern lifestyle.

SKETCHER IN THE RYE is the fourth installment in the series, but can be read on its own. However for a better understanding of how Rory and Zeke became partners, the series should be read in order.

This is a delightful cozy mystery that will have readers experiencing a range of emotions and looking forward to Rory and Zeke’s next adventure.

Sketcher in the Rye by Sharon Pape, A Portrait of Crime Mystery, InterMix, @2013, ISBN: 978-1101635278, e-Book, 260 Pages, 1421 KB 

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

Check out the other blogs participating in Sharon’s tour for additional information and chances to win.

December 11 - Chloe Gets A Clue - Interview
December 12 - readalot blog - Review
December 13 -
Cozy Up With Kathy – Interview
December 14 -
Melina's Book Blog - Review, Guest Post
December 15 -
Christa Reads and Writes – Review
December 16 -
Books-n-Kisses - Review
December 17 -
Socrates Book Review Blog/Socrates Cozy Cafe – Review - Giveaway
December 17 -
Mochas, Mysteries and More – Interview - Giveaway
December 18 -
A Chick Who Reads – Review
December 19 - rantin' ravin' and reading - Review, Guest Post  - Giveaway
December 20 -
Queen of All She Reads - Review, Guest Post – Giveaway
December 21 -
Escape With Dollycas Into A Good Book - Review
December 22 -
My Devotional Thoughts  - Review, Guest Post  - Giveaway
December 23 –
Dru's Book Musings – Guest Post


This giveaway is for one e-copy of SKETCHER IN THE RYE or a gift card to cover the cost of the book (winner’s choice).

To enter this giveaway, please send me an e-mail (mcbookshelf@gmail.com) with the subject line, “Win Sketcher in the Rye.” Your message should include your name, the email address you’d like the gift sent to and which format you want (e-copy or gift card). The deadline to enter this giveaway for a chance to win a copy of SKETCHER IN THE RYE is 8 p.m. (EST) on Monday, Dec. 30.

Thanks so much for stopping by today. Have you ever thought about what it would be like to live with a ghost?

great escape tour banner large sketcher in the rye448

Saturday, December 21, 2013

A Different Kind of Post

Can you believe that this time next week Christmas will be over and we will be looking forward to the New Year’s holiday?

I thought I’d feature a different kind of post today. I have some photos that I’ve been wanting to share with you and today seem like a good time. Only one set is Christmas-related, but I thought you might enjoy non-Christmas images as well.

moonThese first two photos were taken this past Monday night. It was a full moon and from what I read on the internet, it was the smallest full moon of the year. 

I caught a glimpse of it through these trees with the halo around it and couldn’t resist. It just looked like a mystery moon to me. It looks of mystery, mayhem and murder. What do you think?

moon 2
The next photo was taken back in October. It was such a beautiful morning sky. It’s another photo that spoke to me of mystery and intrigue. Any thoughts from you?
blue sky
I had to share a photo of our three English Shepherd puppies. And yes, they are still puppies. This photo was taken last month when they were nine months old. They won’t get much taller, but they will fill out a bit. 

After we lost Brisco, we had to have another English Shepherd and decided that one puppy would be lonely so we should get two. We found these – two brothers and a half-brother.
the gang
It was hard to leave one behind thus we brought all three home. They are (left to right) Eli (from Eli’s Coming), Sundance (from Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid) and Jeremiah (from Jeremiah Johnson). Eli and Jeremiah are the brothers and Sundance is the half-brother.

Finally I will close with the only Christmas-related photos I have. These are Christmas cactus that began blooming earlier this month and are still blooming.
Christmas catcus
Christmas catcus 3
Christmas catcus 2
Hope everyone is have a safe and productive Saturday before Christmas. Thanks for stopping by today.

Friday, December 20, 2013

CJ Lyons: Writing About Medical Conditions

Author CJ Lyons makes an electrifying YA debut with her new thriller, BROKEN, and I’m delighted to welcome her to Thoughts in Progress today as part of her BROKEN Blog Tour.

BROKEN (Sourcebooks Fire, November 2013, ISBN: 9-781-4022-8545-5, Hardcover/$16.99, Ages 12+) is a fast-paced thriller sure to keep readers guessing until the very last page!

For Scarlet Killian, every day is a game of Russian roulette—she has a 1 in 5 chance of dying

      Fifteen-year-old Scarlet Killian has one chance for a normal life. Only problem? It just might kill her. Diagnosed with a rare and untreatable heart condition, Scarlet has never taken the school bus. Or giggled with friends during lunch. Or spied on a crush out of the corner of her eye.
      Scarlet has come to terms with the fact that despite the best efforts of her doctors and parents, she's going to die. Literally of a broken heart.  So when her parents offer her a week to prove she can survive high school, Scarlet knows her time is now... or never.
      Scarlet can feel her heart beating out of control with every slammed locker and every sideways glance in the hallway. But for the first time in her life she makes real friends. She also makes new discoveries about the truth behind her illness... a truth that might just kill her before her heart does.
I was curious when it comes to writing about medical conditions so CJ answered the following question for me.

How do you write about a medical condition without making the information to technical for readers, but yet give them the information that is needed?

Great question! I’ve found the easiest way is to use the point of view of my characters. 

Broken cover If they understand the medical condition, then they can feed that knowledge to characters who know nothing about it through dialogue. That way the characters who wouldn’t be expected to have medical knowledge can make use of it and the reader learns at the same time without me resorting to “lectures.”

For instance, in BROKEN, Scarlet knows a lot about medicine — especially about the disease that’s killing her. She knows everything about dying but nothing about living, or being a normal high school sophomore. This makes her both very smart and very naïve. And it allows her friends the chance to help her learn how to be “normal” while she can teach them about medicine.

CJ, thanks for joining us today and explaining this. Learning about a medical condition in this manner makes it more understand and very realistic. As a reader, we’re not weighed down by too much medical descriptions.

Now let me share a bit of background on CJ. 

New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of twenty-one novels, former pediatric ER doctor CJ Lyons has lived the life she writes about in her cutting edge Thrillers with Heart. 

Winner of the International Thriller Writers’ coveted Thriller Award, CJ has been called a "master within the genre" (Pittsburgh Magazine) and her work has been praised as "breathtakingly fast-paced" and "riveting" (Publishers Weekly) with "characters with beating hearts and three dimensions" (Newsday). The author of thrillers such as the Lucy Guardino FBI series, she has sold over 1 million books in the last year.

When not writing, she can be found walking the beaches near her South Carolina Low country home in Columbia, SC, listening to the voices in her head and plotting new and devious ways to create mayhem for her characters. 

To learn more about CJ and her writing, visit her online at www.CJLyons.net

Thanks for stopping by today. Do you enjoy reading medical thrillers or do you find them too hard to get through due to too many medical terms?

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Times They Were A-Changing and a Giveaway

Being born an Aquarius, I couldn’t resist participating in the WOW Tour for the anthology, TIMES THEY WERE A-CHANING, written by Linda Joy Myers with Kate Farrell and Amber Lea Starfire.

Linda Joy Myers joins us today to talk about the "Age of Aquarius." In addition, thanks to the ladies at WOW and the authors, I have a copy of the book to giveaway to a lucky visitor. Please see the end of the post for the giveaway details.

Here’s a brief description of TIMES THEY WERE A-CHANGING:

     Just in time for the holidays, Linda Joy Myers, Kate Farrell and Amber Lea Starfire launch their anthology Times They Were A-Changing: Women Remember the '60s and '70s. The book is the perfect gift for opening discussions with friends and family members and illustrating what a powerful time the '60s and '70s truly were.
      Forty-eight powerful stories and poems etch in vivid detail breakthrough moments experienced by women during the life-changing era that was the ’60s and ’70s. These women rode the sexual revolution with newfound freedom, struggled for identity in divorce courts and boardrooms, and took political action in street marches. They pushed through the boundaries, trampled the taboos, and felt the pain and joy of new experiences. And finally, here, they tell it like it was.
      Through this collection of women’s stories, we celebrate the women of the ’60s and ’70s and the importance of their legacy.

TIMES THEY WERE A-CHANGING: WOMEN REMEMBER THE ‘60s AND ‘70s (Paperback: 354 pages, Publisher: She Writes Press, Sept. 8, 2013, ISBN-10: 1938314042, ISBN-13: 978-1938314049) is available in print and as an e-book at Amazon, Barnes & Noble and She Writes Press and Indie Bound. You can also find out more about the book online at Facebook, blog and Twitter: @womensmemoir60s.

Now here’s Linda Joy to talk about the ‘Age of Aquarius.’ Welcome, Linda Joy.

I grew up in a Baptist-conservative-small-town world and, for me, the ’60s and ’70s was a time of shocking change. Though I was caught in the Midwest version of the Age of Aquarius—a watered down version compared to what was happening on both coasts—the ideas filtered through in newspapers, intimate discussions in coffee houses and during peace marches. Everywhere, young people were breaking from traditional religion and challenging the patriarchal ideas from previous eras, saying, “There has got to be a better way to live.”

TimesTheyWereChanging_BkCovrAs detailed in my story, “Baptist Girl,” out in the Midwest we were under a lot of pressure to maintain the status quo and stay faithful to the values of the past, to be a good "Christian," which meant you should follow the party line all the way to a (martyred) death in Viet Nam. To sacrifice yourself for your country was the highest calling. Still, we discussed the ethics of killing as the global impact of war was broadcast nightly, in full color, into our living rooms. And as I forayed out into college, the first thing that happened was the assassination of our president, cracking the world as I knew it open—though I wouldn’t realize it for a while. 

Now, when I hear the phrase "The Age of Aquarius," like many in the Boomer Generation I experience a flash of auditory memory—the lyrics of the song "Age of Aquarius" from the rock musical "Hair." Phrases in the song name the qualities that the Age of Aquarius will bring us: harmony and understanding, sympathy and trust, dreams, visions, revelations, the liberation of our minds. Those of us who grew up bound by the rules and expectations of the ’50s yearned for that promised liberation, for a new consciousness. 

As a generation, we grappled with questions of role and identity: how do you become a man or a woman? Do you have a soul and spirituality even if you let go of your traditional, mostly Christian, roots? How do you define yourself as a sexual person; what is right and wrong? And shouldn’t we care for Mother Earth? We believed that we were creating a "higher consciousness" that would cure the earth and the world of its ills. After all, won’t love do more good than hate? Isn’t that what Jesus taught? We wanted a consciousness that would liberate us from the uptight old ways—which included organized religion.

A great age is supposed to fracture the old to make way for the new. The ’60s and ’70s was that kind of age: an era of fracturing and rebuilding, especially for women. We found that we could fight alongside men for justice, and that we could speak without permission from authority figures. We chanted and put our bodies on the line in demonstrations for peace, believing that we were the embodiment of this new age. We helped to change the world—and in so doing, we changed ourselves. We grew, we stretched into worlds we could not have imagined. The legacy of the Age of Aquarius shows that positive change is possible, though it comes with a cost, and that we are all, body and soul, part of it, all of us connected in the human community.

Linda Joy, thanks for joining us today. I enjoyed your look at how the Age of Aquarius made way for the new. It was a time for change.

Now here’s a little background on Linda Joy. She is president and founder of the National Association of Memoir Writers, and the author of four books: Don't Call Me Mother—A Daughter's Journey from Abandonment to Forgiveness, The Power of Memoir—How to Write Your Healing Story, and a workbook The Journey of Memoir: The Three Stages of Memoir Writing. Her book Becoming Whole—Writing Your Healing Story was a finalist in ForeWord Magazine's Book of the Year Award. 

A speaker and award-winning author, she co-teaches the program Write Your Memoir in Six Months, and offers editing, coaching, and mentoring for memoir, nonfiction, and fiction. www.namw.org

For more on Linda Joy and her writing, visit her blog at http://memoriesandmemoirs.com.


This giveaway is for one copy of TIMES THEY WERE A-CHANGING. The giveaway is open for residents of the U.S. only or an e-Book international.

To enter this giveaway, just send me an e-mail (mcbookshelf@gmail.com) with the subject line, “Win Times They Were A-Changing.” Your message should include your name and mailing address if a U.S. resident wanting the print copy or your name, email address and e-Book format for other entries. The deadline to enter this giveaway for a chance to win a copy of TIMES THEY WERE A-CHANGING is 8 p.m. (EST) on Thursday, Dec. 26.

Thanks everyone for stopping by. What are your thoughts on the Age of Aquarius?

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Maxine Nunes On Tour With Dazzled

I’m delighted today to welcome author Maxine Nunes, a newcomer to the mystery scene but no novice at writing for the LA Times, television or books.

Maxine joins us to talk about her new release, DAZZLED (ISBN-10: 1432827308, ISBN-13: 978-1432827304, Five Star, Hardcover: 256 pages, November 13, 2013, $25).

Here’s a brief description of DAZZLED:

      During a brutal L.A. heat wave, four people are murdered in the Hollywood Hills and Nikki Easton's best friend Darla Ward has disappeared. The police think she might be one of the victims.
      No stranger to life's rough side, Nikki survived the streets as a teenage runaway and now brings that edge to her acting roles. But she has never seen anything like the battered girl on the gurney. Could this really be Darla, her beautiful face so damaged it looks barely human, her path to stardom ended in the county coroner's morgue?
      In her relentless search for the truth, Nikki discovers the hidden side of her friend's life, laying bare secrets buried before Darla was born, and uncovering widening layers of corruption that reach far beyond Hollywood to the highest levels of government.

Maxine has graciously answered some questions for me. 

Mason – Welcome ,Maxine. In what order do you create your characters — name, physical description, personality…

Nikki — and the idea that her best friend had gone missing — came to me all in one piece, and the original first chapter (which eventually became the somewhat different second chapter) just poured out in about an hour. Her voice and personality were pretty much all there, and her first name too. The details of what she looked like became clear a little bit later. And as a character, I think facets of her kept evolving until the last draft.
Mason - Which is the most fun to work with?

For me it’s seeing the other characters in the book — and Los Angeles — through Nikki’s eyes. But when I first started writing DAZZLED, my mother, who in life and reading liked to get to the action, told me, “Just don’t put in a lot of description. People don’t read it.” I definitely took her advice and tried to use it sparingly, and I think it kept things tight.
Mason - When you finished your book what surprised you the most about its development?

DazzleCover hiOh, gosh. More than you’d think. You have an idea from your outline what’s needed to move the story forward. But how it actually plays out is almost always a surprise. It’s what keeps writing interesting. And hopefully, what keeps the reader interested. I had an idea how it might end — but I wasn’t sure until the words were actually on paper. And it came so naturally, I knew it was right.

Mason - If you could collaborate on a book with any author (living or dead), who would it be and what would the book be about?

Wow. What a tough question! Because I think one of the reasons people still read novels when it’s so much easier to turn on the TV is the narrator’s voice and the intimacy of the experience. And the writers I most admire, from Philip Roth to Megan Abbott — have such strong voices, you can’t even conceive of collaborating. 

But okay — if only because Double Indemnity has the most exquisitely engineered plot I’ve ever seen — I’d love to collaborate with James M. Cain. And it would be about how we all see ourselves as innocent, yet pushed to a certain point, would be capable of treachery, even murder.

Mason - What lead you to writing and to this genre in particular?

I’ve been addicted to reading since I was a child, and I think the desire to write fiction had its origins almost that early. As for why the mystery genre, what book is more fun than one you can’t put down? The compulsion to turn the page is built into the genre. Murder is always a high-stakes game. And the motives for murder can take us as deep into human experience as a writer cares to venture — without putting the reader to sleep (one hopes!).

Mason - Anything about your protagonist you'd like for us to know about that we wouldn't learn reading this book?

In the book you learn that Nikki’s parents were both orphans who married the same week they met. As the series progresses, there will be some surprising revelations about them. Nikki also mentions that at 19 she was briefly married to a man from another country. He will resurface in her life and draw her into another mystery.

Mason - What can readers look forward to next from you?

Nikki’s acting career will take her “on location,” and we’ll go along. The next two books are set in Paris and New York respectively. I’m also playing with a standalone mystery that takes place in the world of TV and publishing in Manhattan around 1968, one of the strangest and most interesting times in our history.

Maxine, thanks so much for joining us today and sharing a look at how Nikki came to be. I agree, mysteries are a page-turner.

Now for some background on Maxine. 

Like her heroine Nikki Easton, Maxine grew up in New York did a bit of wandering and some fascinating odd-jobs before the allure of glamour drew her to Los Angeles with the idea of launching an acting career. Instead of waitressing like most of her peers, though, she lucked into a gig writing romance novels — quickie potboilers, which she wrote at the rate of one a month to make her rent. 

While Maxine did have a role in one feature film, Seasons in the Sun with Terry Jacks (alas, it went straight to video), she found herself much more interested writing. And writing seemed much more interested in her. She wrote game shows, produced programming for Game Show Network, co-authored What’s Really Wrong With You, a book on muscles and health, and currently writes for several publications, including the L.A. Times. Her satiric parody of a White House scandal won the Pen USA West International Imitation Hemingway Competition. 

For more on Maxine and her writing, visit her online at maxinenunes.com.

Here is what one reviewer had to say about DAZZLED:

      "Maxine Nunes crafts an outstanding tale of friendship, murder, love, and betrayal in her impressive debut, Dazzled....Nunes' writing is top-notch from start to finish, and the increasingly suspenseful plot comes together with meticulous precision." - ForeWord Reviews, Fall 2013

Thanks so much for stopping by today. If you’re a mystery writer, what complies you to write in that genre? As a reader, why do you know reading mysteries?

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Welcome Back to Apple Grove and a Giveaway

Note: The winner of this giveaway is Glenda M. Congratulations, Glenda and thanks to all that enter the giveaway.

I’m delighted to welcome author C.H. Admirand back to Thoughts in Progress as she tours blogdom with her new release, WELCOME BACK TO APPLE GROVE.

Thanks to C.H. and the lovely Danielle at Sourcebooks, I have one copy of WELCOME BACK TO APPLE GROVE to giveaway. Please see the end of the post for the giveaway details.

Here’s a brief synopsis of WELCOME BACK TO APPLE GROVE……

There's No Place Like Home...
      Grace Mulcahy thought she'd finally gotten Apple Grove, Ohio, out of her system. Then she's lured back for a family barbecue and spies a broad-shouldered hottie hanging out at the grill. He somehow seems utterly at ease, whether flipping burgers or horsing around with her hellion nephews. Why didn't her brother-in-law tell her he had such gorgeous friends? Suddenly her mouth is watering for more than her best friend's famous pie.
Some fires aren't meant to be fought…
      When firefighter Pat Garahan sees Grace, it's like a five-alarm bell goes off and he's the one ablaze. She says she wants to leave Apple Grove, but he will do whatever it takes to keep her around. The life of a firefighter isn't an easy one though, and he'll have to prove their immediate spark can have a lasting chance at love…

C.H. joins now and has graciously answered some questions for me about her new release and her writing.

Mason - What drew you to write about small town life in the beginning and did you realize it would be a series as those first few pages began to come together? 

My editor, Deb Werksman, asked how I’d feel about writing a small town contemporary series for them. At the time I was in LA for the RT Booklover’s Convention and working on edits for the second book in my contemporary cowboy series. I jumped at the chance because I had this idea about three sisters who were taking over the family business—a handyman business. I always think in terms of family, so it’s either: brothers, sisters, cousins, or close friends.

Mason - Do you do anything special to put yourself in the mood to write and release your muse?
Actually, I’m working on a new routine since I’ve been spending a big chunk of my time babysitting our grandson. I haven’t really worked that out yet, but I am on deadline with my new series, so I guess I’d better start figuring one out! LOL

Mason - Since writers also enjoy reading, what were the last two books you read?

I just finished reading DARK WITCH by Nora Roberts and loved it! It takes place over in Ireland and is about cousins…it’s that family thing, draws me in every time. DANGEROUS REFUGE by Elizabeth Lowell and loved this one too. It takes place out West—I’m a sucker for that locale in books. Smile
Welcome Back to Apple Grove Cover 
Mason - The cover of WELCOME BACK TO APPLE GROVE is charming and inviting. Are you able to have an input into the cover design of your books?
Not with my previous and current covers, but I will in my new series. I’m excited about that.

Mason - If I were looking to visit a real town that would be similar to Apple Grove, could you recommend a town that you feel has the same atmosphere?
That’s a tough one because Apple Grove was created from bits and pieces from my childhood neighborhood, the neighborhood we’ve raised our children in, and some of my favorite TV shows as a kid: Petticoat Junction, the Andy Griffith Show, Green Acres, Gunsmoke, Cheyenne and Bonanza. Smile

Mason - What can readers look forward to next from you?

I’m going to be re-releasing the first book in my Regency-era Historical series, THE THREE VICES: PATIENCE in the next month or so. Books 2 and 3: CHARITY and PRUDENCE are wips that I plan to have ready for 2014. Then there is the exciting new Historical Irish Western series that I’ll be writing for Sourcebooks, due to release in 2015. It’s going to be a busy around here for the next little while Smile

C.H., thanks for visiting with us again. It’s fun learning how this series came to be.
For those not familiar with C.H., let me give you some background.

C.H. was born in Aiken, South Carolina, but grew up in New Jersey. She has been delighting readers with her Secret Life of Cowboys Series, featuring three cowboy brothers with Irish charm, as well as the Small Town USA Series, with the quirky characters of Apple Grove, OH. 

She lives with her husband, who is the inspiration for all of her heroes’ best traits, in New Jersey. For more information on C.H. and her writing, please visit www.CHAdmirand.com

WELCOME BACK TO APPLE GROVE is available at the following locations: Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Books-a-Million, Chapters/Indigo, IndieBound, iBookstore, Sourcebooks, and Discover a New Love.


This giveaway is for one copy of WELCOME BACK TO APPLE GROVE. The giveaway is open to U.S. and Canada residents only.

To enter this giveaway, please send me an e-mail (mcbookshelf@gmail.com) with the subject line, “Win Welcome Back to Apple Grove.” 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. The deadline to enter this giveaway for a chance to win a copy of WELCOME BACK TO APPLE GROVE is 8 p.m. (EST) on Monday, Dec. 23.

Thanks everyone for stopping by today. Do you know a small town that would be similar to Apple Grove?