Sunday, March 31, 2013

Sunday Salon: Happy Easter And Reviews

It’s hard to believe this is already the last Sunday Salon Easter Basketin March. Where did the time go? Here we are once again ready to discuss the books we’ve read or discovered during the past week.

As you find a comfortable chair and fluff up the pillows, I’d like to extend a Happy Easter to each and everyone celebrating today. May it be a day filled with joyous fun, inspiring talk, laughter, and the love of family and friends. No matter how or why you celebrate, may it be a wonderful day for you and your family and the blessings you seek be rewarded.

Now, I’d like to share a couple of interesting titles I recently discovered, both set in small Texas towns.

61eonXAeciL._SL500_AA300_PIaudible,BottomRight,13,73_AA300_You can’t go wrong writing about cowboys, heroines in distress, and romance. Are can you?

Author Lori Wilde’s new Jubilee Texas series begins with The Cowboy Takes A Bride. Set in a small town, the story focuses on cowboys, cutting horses, lost love, broken hearts, good friends, and second chances.

Narrator C.J. Critt is what first drew me to this story. Her vocalization always bring the characters to life with their own personalities. The rhythmic flow of her voice has the right hint of southern charm to reel you in.

Joe Daniels is an ex-champion bull rider who now devotes all his time and attention to cutting horses. Joe’s wife died two years earlier in a rodeo accident and he just lost his cutting horse mentor Dutch Callahan. The last thing on Joe’s mind is falling in love.  

Mariah Callahan and her mother were abandoned by her father, Dutch, when she was young. All Dutch ever seemed to care about were cutting horses so Mariah and her mother moved to Chicago and started a new life. Mariah, fired from her wedding planner job and unable to find work, gets a call from Joe telling her Dutch is dead and he has left her his ranch in Jubilee, Texas.

With no other options, Mariah heads to Jubilee to settle her estranged father’s affairs and put her career back on track. If Mariah will hold on until Christmas, Joe will buy her ranch after he wins the Fort Worth Cutting Futurity. But will the growing attraction between Joe and Mariah be stronger than their career desires?

This is a fun romance that will tug at your heartstrings. Wilde has created well developed characters and gives great detail to placing the listener/reader in the middle of the setting. The secondary case of characters are zany and add to the story.

Overall the story is about believing in finding love a second time and trusting in love after being hurt. While I enjoyed the characters and the plot, I found the story to drag on too long. There was too much rehashing of the same feelings over and over again. I found myself wanting to fast forward past some of the internal bickering the characters had with themselves. However, at the same time I realized the author was just portraying the characters with real emotions and doubt one faces when falling in love.

For sexy cowboys, steamy romance, and loyal friendship check out The Cowboy Takes A Bride. This will be a fun series to follow.

Author Lori Wilde’s website is

The Cowboy Takes A Bride by Lori Wilde, A Jubilee Texas Novel, Performed by C.J. Critt, Harper Audio, @2013, ASIN: B00B296SBS, Digital Download, Listening Time: 10 Hours. 57 Minutes

FTC Full Disclosure - This digital downloadable audio 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 Shot of Sultry by Macy Beckett

Author Macy Beckett takes readers back to the quaint small Texas9781402270390 town of Sultry Springs in the second installment of her series, A Shot of Sultry, for another charming love story.

This time around Bobbi Gallagher, a documentary filmmaker, is trying to revive her ailing career after being fired and snubbed by the industry. Her comeback chance is riding on one assignment - to shoot ‘Sex in the Sticks’ a look at single life in rural America. She knows the best place to shoot, her hometown of Sultry Springs, Texas. It will also give her a chance to reconnect with her long-lost brother, Luke.

Hoping to help out his sister and keep an eye on her at the same time, Luke asks his best friend, Trey Lewis, to let Bobbi follow him with a camera. Trey, an ex-infantryman with less than stellar discharge, doesn’t have a problem with it. He’s planning on leaving at the end of summer for a defense contract overseas that will help repair his reputation. What he didn’t plan on was the hot attraction he feels for Bobbi.

Beckett does well creating a small town atmosphere and placing readers among the  characters. Her characters are well-rounded with the secondary cast adding spice to the mix. The story flows at a good pace and will have you feeling a range of emotions along the way.

A Shot of Sultry is a steamy read for a cool spring day. This is a nice addition to a feel-good, charming series.

Author Macy Beckett’s website is

A Shot of Sultry by Macy Beckett, A Sultry Springs Novel, Sourcebooks Casablanca, @2013, ISBN: 978-1402270390, Paperback, 352 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.
Thanks so much for stopping by today. Hope everyone is having a wonderful Sunday. Do you enjoy stories that feature small towns or big cities?

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Calculated in Death by J.D. Robb

I’ll say right up front that I’m a huge fan of the Eve Dallas series by author J.D. Robb.

978-1-4558-1839-6I remain a fan of this series because with each new installment the author continues to surprise me, keeps updating her characters, and engages me as a reader/listener. Calculated in Death, the 36th installment, is no exception.

The talented narrator Susan Ericksen brings the characters to life once again. Her unique vocalization gives distinct voices to each character. She expresses the raw emotions felt throughout the story, as well as highlights the feeling of friendship among the characters. Her interruptions lead you to believe there’s more than one reading the story.

In this installment, a young female accountant is found dead at the bottom of a brownstone’s basement steps. It appears at first glance to be a mugging gone bad, but Lieutenant Eve Dallas sees more. Marta Dickenson was a beloved wife and mother who doesn’t appear to have any enemies.

As Dallas and her partner, Peabody, dig deeper into the case they learn Marta was just assigned three new audits. Suspecting fraudulent dealings, Dallas enlists the help of her billionaire husband, Roarke, to make sense of all the figures. When the killer’s violent streak escalates, Dallas and Peabody become the bait to draw them out.

Calculated in Death has the usual highs and lows of a police procedure with a number of twists along the way. The story moves at a steady pace with a good blend of personal ‘down time’ woven in.

Robb continues to develop and expand the character of Dallas. She gives glimpses of a softer side of Dallas, yet keeps the hard edge cop fans love. The ever present love of Roarke is included, as is the zany antics of Peabody, McNab and the other members of the group.

New readers/listeners to the series can enjoy Calculated in Death as a stand alone story. There are numerous references to prior cases (stories), but not having the background won’t spoil this story. However, returning fans will appreciate how the story continues with the prior tie-ins.

Once again Robb takes a seemingly simple case, spices it up and takes fans of Eve Dallas on roller coaster ride. 

Calculated in Death by J.D. Robb, An Eve Dallas Novel, Performed by Susan Ericksen, Brilliance Audio, @2013, ISBN: 978-1455818396, Unabridged, 11 Discs, Listening Time: 13 Hours

FTC Full Disclosure - This audio book was sent to me by the publisher in hopes I would review it. However, receiving the complimentary copy did not influence my review.
Thanks everyone for stopping by. Have you read or listened to any of the Eve Dallas series? If so, do you have a favorite character?

Friday, March 29, 2013

Author David B. Seaburn Talks About Chimney Bluffs

I’m delighted to welcome author David B. Seaburn back to Thoughts in Progress to talk about his latest release, Chimney Bluffs, a gripping story that will tug at your heartstrings.

Here’s a brief synopsis:
    When their four-year-old son, Danny, dies suddenly, Mitch and Kate’s grief overwhelms them. Conflicted about going on with their lives, Mitch and Kate decide to leap from a cliff at Chimney Bluffs. When the couple is found by park rangers, Clancy and Bobby, Kate is still very much alive. What follows is a poignant and powerful story of three strangers, each facing a tragic loss, who together find friendship and healing. 

David has graciously answered some questions for me about his book and his writing.

Mason - Why write this book? What made this story so compelling to you that you had to tell it?

When I was in the final months of writing the first draft of my last novel, Charlie No Face, I read an online news item from England about parents whose young son had died unexpectedly. They were so bereft that they jumped to their deaths from a famous cliff. They carried two sacks with them; one had their son and the other had his toys. I couldn’t stop thinking about this story. I wondered what motivated them to take their own lives. Why did they have the sacks with them? I also wondered what would have happened if one of the parents had survived. 

I moved the location of the story to Chimney Bluffs State Park on Lake Ontario about an hour from where I live. Mitch and Kate Duncan are the parents of four-year-old Danny who dies of meningitis. Mitch and Kate resolve to go to Chimney Bluffs to jump from one of the cliffs. Their reasons are very different. Mitch believes in an afterlife and feels this is the only way for the family to be together. Kate doesn’t believe in an afterlife, but feels she should die because had she acted sooner perhaps Danny would still be alive. At the last moment, Kate decides not to jump for reasons that I will leave to those who read the book. 

She is found at the bottom of the cliff by Clancy and his assistant, Bobby, who work for the state park. In time, they will become unlikely friends, learning about each other’s losses and together finding both healing and a way forward.
Mason - How did you go about doing research for this book? Was it a process you enjoyed or just a necessary part of writing?

I read a lot about the actual incident that occurred in England, but, in the end, didn’t use any of that material because I wanted to tell a different story about loss and healing. I did considerable research about Chimney Bluffs, which are glacial towers that were formed during the Ice Age. This was fascinating, but as I often tell audiences when I do readings, all of the research was encapsulated in a single paragraph in the first chapter. 

Since Danny dies of meningitis, I had to research childhood bacterial meningitis, its causes, symptoms and course of Danny also has a surgery at the age of two for a PDA (patent ductus arteriosis). I was able to draw largely from my own experience since our youngest daughter, now twenty-seven, had the same surgery when she was a young girl. 

Since there are medical concerns throughout the book, I had to hone my ear for how physicians might talk to the parents about Danny’s illness. Luckily, much of my career in family psychology was spent in a university medical center where one of my roles was to teach physicians how to interview patients and families. This involved observing physicians seeing patients with a variety of problems.
Mason - With the book’s release, as you look back what was the biggest surprise that occurred in writing the story?

I don’t know if there were any “surprises.” The biggest challenge, though, occurred when I sent the first draft to a freelance editor that I trust very much; her feedback called for considerable restructuring of the story and massive re-writing. I took out almost 60,000 words from the original text, replacing much, but not all of it, with new material. In the end, this made Chimney Bluffs a better story, one I felt more confident in when I sent it to my publisher. But, at first, I thought, “Oh my God!”

Mason - What message, if any, would you like readers to take away from this story?

I think the key message is about how relationships in our lives play the most important role in how or whether we will heal when we experience loss. It is connectedness, however defined, that makes the greatest difference. There is a place in the story where Bobby has an amazing experience that helps him understand a loss that occurred when his family was in an automobile accident. He talks to Kate about it and, I think, captures something important for anyone who is struggling with the tragedy of loss:

    "Sitting there in my truck after the deer had made it to safety, I thought about that accident so long ago.  And I realized that while I got to go on living, I was left with a great big hole inside. And that hole bled and hurt and ached for years, and I couldn't figure out how to get rid of it. And people told me that it would go away, that time heals these things, but they were wrong. Time didn't close it up. I mean, it just wouldn't go away no matter how much I wanted it to." Bobby took a deep breath. "And after a while, because you've lived with it so long, it's like you say to yourself, 'You know, that hole isn't going away; in fact, maybe it shouldn't; because if it did, you'd stop remembering your brother'—and you don't want that to happen. And then you think, 'Life doesn't go away either, and you want to keep living, you know, because sometime you might be in the right place at the right time to see a buck jump over a car—or, even better, you might see yourself jump over that hole, even if it's one time out of a hundred. And you think, 'That just might be enough to keep me going.'"
    Bobby wiped tears on his sleeve.
    "Kate, I hope you don't take this wrong, but I think you have a hole inside you. And I'd like to tell you that's it's going to go away, but it isn't. You can't love someone and lose them and not have a hole for the rest of your life. But, you know what, you can learn how to jump over that hole; you can learn how to jump over that hole when you need to; you don't always have to fall in. It may take ninety-nine tries before you can do it, but once you do it, you'll be all right—not all better, but all right."

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

I am well into my next novel which has the working title “More More Time.” The central character of this story is a 62-year-old history teacher who, in the first chapter, has fallen down his basement steps. Subsequently, he starts hearing two words strung together over and over: endingworldendingworldendingworld. No, this is not an apocalyptic novel about the End of the World, but it is a story about time. There are six main characters, each one facing personal and relational problems that will raise questions about the time that life has given them and how to best use it.

David, thanks for joining us today and giving us a look at why you wrote Chimney Bluffs. This is definitely a tale that will stay with readers and your research pays off.

Now, for those of you who aren’t familiar with David let me give you a bit of background. David is the author of four novels. Charlie No Face (2011) was a Finalist for the INDIE Excellence in Books Award (2011). He lives in Spencerport, NY; is married and has two adult daughters and two granddaughters. David is also a retired family psychologist and Presbyterian minister. 

For more information on David and his writing, you can visit his website, email him at or find him at his publisher’s website.

Chimney Bluffs is published by Savant Books and Publications and is available at Amazon and can also be ordered through any bookstore.

Thanks everyone for stopping by today. Have you ever read about an event (tragic or otherwise) and wondered about the outcome of it?

Thursday, March 28, 2013

The March of Positivity!

I’d like to invite you to join me in the March of Positivity! What does that mean? 

Well, in honor of Garden book coverthe highly-anticipated April 16 publication of In The Garden of Thoughts by inspirational author Dodinsky, Sourcebooks is offering bloggers the opportunity to host a unique poster and bookmark giveaway this month.

About the Book:
In The Garden of Thoughts is a gift book that reduces the complexities of life into simple universal truths. It is a collection of short and poignant thoughts widely embraced by my readers and accompanied by whimsical and delightful illustrations to capture a reader’s imagination.

Here is the inspirational message from the book I’d like to share with you:
About Dodinsky:
His intent was simply to share his reflections about life in order to help heal the wounds inflicted by life’s troubles. At the time, the man known by his readers as Dodinsky had no idea that within months of starting his blog In the Garden of Thoughts, thousands of readers would find healing through the modest words he planted.

The focus of Dodinsky’s short writings–love, compassion, growth, tolerance, and self-worth–clearly resonate with his readers, whom Dodinsky calls “gardeners.” His page has become a community in which people from all walks of life share their own stories.

To learn more about Dodinsky and his writing, visit his website and find him on Facebook.

Now, thanks to Dodinsky and Liz at Sourcebooks, I have a Dodinsky poster and signed bookmark to give to one lucky visitors. To enter, send me an e-mail ( with the subject line, “Win The March of Positivity.” 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. And, just so you know, I don’t share this information with anyone other than the publisher nor use it for any other purpose. The deadline to enter this giveaway will be 8 p.m. (EST) on Friday, April 5.

Thanks so much for stopping by today. Drop by Dodinsky’s website. You’ll be delighted by the images and poetry found within.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Book Blast For Lakesha Monique Ruise's Thy Kingdom Come

After petitioning the Father for answers to basic theological questions about the universal church, she took an eight-year journey with the Holy Spirit to provide clarity for herself about His vision.

Thy Kingdom Come provides readers with that clarity. 

For anyone wondering what has happened to the Church, for anyone whose faith in God has been diminished, for anyone whose life has been destroyed by the yolks of bondage, Ruise offers new answers. She encourages her readers to follow along in the Bible itself to see how each of her lessons is validated by the Word of God. 

“We perish because we don’t know how to survive,” writes Ruise. Thy Kingdom Come offers not only an apt diagnosis of the problem, but equips readers with the cure, as well. It is an excellent source book for Biblical history and spiritual revelation and it prompts valuable internalizing and soul-searching for veteran Christians as well as for new converts. 

Link to book on Amazon:  
Link to book at B&N: 
Lady Ruise is a native of Thomasville Georgia. She is the First Lady of Emmanuel Church of God in Christ in Macclenny Florida. She medically retired from the U S Navy in 2007. Since her retirement, she obtained a degree in respiratory therapy and works as a Registered Respiratory Care Practitioner. She has a strong Christian background. She dedicated her life to the Lord at the age of 9 and became a minister at the age of 14. She has been licensed through the Holiness Church and the Baptist church as a minister for the past 24 years. She has been mentored by countless Pastors and Elders in the COGIC, Holiness Church, and the Baptist Church. 

She currently labors in ministry with her husband Pastor Joe Nathan Ruise as a praise team leader. She is also the president and founder of the Baker County Circle of Sisters in Macclenny, Fl. Lakesha Ruise is a prayer-warrior and intercessor, who is holy-ghost filled with an assignment from Jesus Christ to build his church!  

Website Address:  
Twitter Address:  
Facebook Address:!/lakesha.ruise.5 
Pump Up Your Book and Lakesha Monique Ruise are teaming up to give you a chance to win some fabulous prizes!
Here’s how it works: Each person will enter this giveaway by liking, following, subscribing and tweeting about this giveaway through the Rafflecopter form placed on blogs throughout the tour. This promotion will run from March 8 – April 8. The winner will be chosen randomly by Rafflecopter, contacted by email and announced on April 12, 2013. Each blogger who participates is eligible to enter and win. Visit each blog stop below to gain more entries as the Rafflecopter widget will be placed on each blog for the duration of the tour. Good luck everyone! a Rafflecopter giveaway 

If the Rafflecopter form doesn't load, please visit the THY KINGDOM COME TOUR PAGE to enter the giveaway.

Thy Kingdom Come Book Blast Schedule


Friday March 8th
Monday, March 11th
Tuesday, March 12th
Wednesday, March 13th
Thursday, March 14th
Friday, March 15th
Monday, March 18th
Tuesday, March 19th
Wednesday, March 20th
Thursday, March 21st
Friday, March 22nd
Monday, March 25th
Tuesday, March 26th
Wednesday, March 27th
Thursday, March 28th
Friday, March 29th – OPEN
Monday, April 1st
Tuesday, April 2nd – OPEN
Wednesday, April 3rd
Thursday, April 4th
Friday, April 5th – OPEN
Monday, April 8th

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

On Tour With The Abraham Man

It’s my pleasure to be a part of author R. Gregory Lande’s Pump Up Your Book Virtual Book Tour with his latest release, The Abraham Man: Madness, Malingering and the Development of Medical Testimony or Growth and Development of Forensic Psychiatry.

First, here’s a brief description of the American history of forensiccover psychiatry book:
    The mere mention of the insanity defense guarantees a lively debate. Opponents of the defense cite the loss of criminal culpability while proponents argue just as passionately that the insanity defense is the ultimate act of compassion. The protagonists would probably be quite surprised to learn that the same basic concerns consumed Americans in the nineteenth century. One factor – The Abraham Man – sowed the seeds of confusion and controversy that united the past with the present.

Here’s a short excerpt from The Abraham Man:

Some of the most celebrated civil and criminal trials in American history were argued under the shadow of The Abraham Man. Readers will delight in the detailed stories of long forgotten legal cases which bring the antics of The Abraham Man to life. Through the process, readers will follow the careers of notable Civil War surgeons whose post-war professional development shaped the future of modern mental health care. In addition, the reader will learn about the promise of the asylum movement, prominent practitioners of the era, the politics, and eventual decline of institutional mental health care.

Both readers and libraries will find The Abraham Man a refreshing, authoritative text replete with primary source documentation. The engaging narrative deftly weaves the history of science in the 19th century with evolving trends in legal practice. Throughout this period, the budding relationship between doctors and lawyers fashioned the foundation of modern medical legal practice. At every step along the path The Abraham Man sowed confusion and controversy, paradoxically contributing to more rigorous medical practice.

The book will clearly tap into the public’s modern fascination with forensic medicine. Professional readers, such as lawyers, doctors, and psychologists, will find The Abraham Man a valuable historical reference which still rings true after 150 years. Civil War aficionados will discover a fresh perspective and “the rest of the story” about some famous soldiers. Medical history buffs will be enlightened by the devices and stratagems doctors employed to uncover malingering, in many cases the forerunners of modern diagnostic technologies.

Now a bit of background on the author.
R. Gregory Lande, DO is a physician and retired US Army Medical Corps Officer. Dr. Lande completed his medical education at Kirksville College of Osteopathic Medicine. Shortly thereafter, he was commissioned an officer in the US Army. During his career in the military, Dr. Lande was active in a wide variety of clinical, academic and administrative positions. 

Upon leaving the US Army as a full colonel, Dr. Lande was awarded the Legion of Merit recognizing his career contributions. The next phase of his career involved administrative positions in hospital management, research, and teaching at various civilian facilities. 

Dr. Lande is the author of numerous medical and historical works. He lectures widely on both subjects. For more information on Dr. Lande, visit him online at
The Abraham Man is available for purchased on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Algora Publishing.
The Abraham Man new banner
Thanks so much for stopping by today. Are you fascinated by forensic medicine?

Monday, March 25, 2013

Douglas Jaffe - The Chinese Zodiac: Where’s Kitty?

It’s always a pleasure to meet ‘new-to-me’ authors and learn how they came to be writers. When those writers live in other countries, it makes me realize what an important role reading is to the world at large.

I’m delighted today to welcome one such author to Thoughts in Progress. Writer Douglas A. Jaffe is from Asia and recently published his first novel, Chasing Dragons. Here’s a brief synopsis of it:
    Sebastian is the owner of a bookstore café in Hong Kong who provides informal counseling services to an array of offbeat characters. His quiet life is suddenly upended when he meets Chloe, and their relationship takes a startling turn, as it begins to parallel the relationship of a pair of mythical dragons from Chinese history. The lovers struggle with questions of mortality and immortality, before a choice is made that could pull them apart.

Doug has an interesting story to share with us. 

Hi Mason. Thank you for the opportunity to blog on your wonderful site!

I notice that you’re a fan of felines and I’m guessing that many of your readers also share your love of four-legged mouse maulers! With that mind, I thought it might be interesting to briefly look at cats within Chinese culture. Being as Chinese New Year has recently come and gone here in Hong Kong, this is also a timely topic for those interested in the Chinese zodiac. As some of you may know, the year of the Dragon has ended and we are now in the year of the Snake.

For cat fans, a quick glance at the zodiac reveals that the domestic cat is not represented, just the tiger. This may seem out of sorts considering cats were revered by many ancient cultures, and in more modern times, have become Internet superstars. Nevertheless, they never made it into the zodiac and in the course of doing some research for one of my books; I actually dug around to see if I might find an explanation.

There are various myths and stories as to why cats were excluded, but here are two that I found pretty amusing. 

Story One: A long time ago, the cat and the rat were the best of BK00010691friends. They were inseparable and even shared their food. One day, the cat learned that the Jade Emperor was going to select twelve animals to represent the twelve calendar years, and invited all animals to a party. The cat suggested to the rat that both of them should attend. When the day finally arrived, the cat told the rat, 'I am going to take a nap so that I will be well rested for the party. Would you please wake me when it's time to go?' 'No problem.' the rat replied, ‘I will wake you up when the time comes.'

As you can expect, the rat failed to wake the cat and was thus excluded from the zodiac. Two reasons are commonly given for the rat’s treachery – A. He believed himself too small to make it into the zodiac and felt that eliminating the cat would help his chances. B. He was worried because the cat was so handsome and elegant while he was so small and unsightly.

Story Two: One day the Jade Emperor organized a race to decide which animals would be included into the zodiac. The race required all animals to cross a wide river and the cat and the rat were the worst swimmers in the animal kingdom. Although weak swimmers, they were both highly intelligent. They decided that the best way to cross the river was to hop on the back of the ox. The ox, being a naïve and good-natured animal, agreed to carry them across. 

However, overcome with a fierce competitiveness, the rat decided that in order to win, it must do something and promptly pushed the cat into the river. Because of this, the cat has never forgiven the rat, and hates the water as well. 

Sadly, rats do not have a comparable Internet fan base, so it is unlikely anyone reading this will have much sympathy for them. At least now, when your favorite furry feline decides to leave a dead rat at your doorstep, you will realize that this is not just a gift to a devoted owner, but the settling of a long and ancient score.
Doug, thanks for visiting with us today and sharing these stories. I’d say the second one would be may favorite as cat do hate water. It’s a shame cats aren’t included in the zodiac.

Now, let me give you a bit of background on Doug. He has been in Asia for most of the last two decades and originally came to the region from New York as a graduate student, studying in China and Taiwan. He has a dual Masters in Chinese Studies and International Affairs and speaks passable Chinese on a good day. 

In recent years, Doug has pursued his interest in writing fiction and has published his first novel, Chasing Dragons. A second book is currently in the works.

For more on Doug and his writing, you can find him on his Chasing Dragons Facebook page or on his Goodreads author page. Chasing Dragons is available for purchase at Amazon, Barnes & Noble and other online retailers. 

Thanks everyone for stopping by today. Which of the two stories is your favorite as to why the cat is not included in the zodiac?

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Sunday Salon: Author Shelly Reuben Visits

Here we are at another Sunday Salon with March just about over. It seems to me March has been more of a monster than a lion or lamb with all the crazy mixed up weather we’ve been experiencing throughout the country.
Settle back, relax, and make sure you favorite cup is filled to the brim with your most enjoyable beverage. Today I’d like to introduce you to Shelly Reuben, a ‘new-to-me’ author that I recently meet. Shelly had been scheduled to visit with us on Friday, but unfortunately my computer has been in the shop since Monday and only returned home late Friday afternoon (long story for a later post).
Shelly normally writes crime fiction, but has taken a bit of a side trip with her latest release, The Man With The Glass Heart, a fable. Shelly has graciously answered some questions for me about her latest book and her writing in general. But first, here a synopsis of The Man With The Glass Heart:

    Not since The Little Prince fell in love with a rose has a book captured the magic of a world where love longs for what it cannot have, recovers what it has lost, and the unimaginable flutters with luminescent wings out of crystal caves. 
    Panache, an exuberant road gypsy, is our guide to this world. With a sense of both mystery and wonderment, she introduces us to Benjamin Pencil, The Man With The Glass Heart
    “The first time I saw him, he was standing tall, straight, and handsome beside his wheelbarrow, with its enormous silver-spoked wheels gleaming like wet spider webs in the sun. Inside the wheelbarrow was a cushiony pillow of thick, luxurious blue velvet, and on that pillow, outshining both the silver wheels and the sun, was Benjamin’s glass heart.”
    Panache is on her way to the mountains. Benjamin has no use for mountains. But their paths cross, their lives intertwine, and Benjamin follows her up to where hills are smothered in poppies and a man can reach out and write his name in the sky.
    As they travel, they first encounter the beautiful but predatory Woman with the Breeding, a collector of hearts who tries to add Benjamin’s exquisite heart to her pitiable hoard. Next, they meet the Man who Laughs. Envious and malicious, he lives only to create fear and to kill dreams. 
    Unpredictably and often, by a stream or in the forest, Panache also bumps into her iconoclastic, unreliable, utterly irresistible father. Papa plays his saxophone with the same wild abandon with which he lives his life, and cautions Panache that if the mountains are in a man, he will go there…and that mountains are in the man with the glass heart.
    It is in those mountains that they meet the melodious laughing bird. Melody, with her irresistible song and aquamarine eyes, lures Benjamin to an Arabian Nights world of vast grottos and underground streams where hypnotizing creatures dance, sing, and party late into the night.
    At what peril does Benjamin Pencil follow the melodious laughing bird? To what end? Can a real heart be broken? Is a shattered heart the end of all love? Or can it be a new beginning?
Mason - Since you are primarily a crime novelist, why write this book? What made this story so compelling to you that you had to tell it?

I wrote this book at an age when just about everything that could happen to a person had already happened to me. I had been in love. Been dumped. Had jobs. Lost jobs. Had dreams. Lost dreams. Loved people who died. Been hurt. Survived. And, miraculously, I had come through it all with my joy intact. I wanted to fictionalize an affirmation of the exquisite value of being alive, taking risks, and allowing oneself to love.  

Over the years, this book has gone through many, many incarnations. The first draft was completed before I had even started to write crime novels. As a teenager, my hero was O. Henry, and my goal was to write short stories. But by the time I came of age, all of the magazines that published short stories were gone. The Man With The Glass Heart was born during my evolution from short story writer to novelist.  

Mason - With the book’s release, as you look back what was the biggest surprise that occurred in writing the story?

Two biggest surprises. The first was that men like my book and seem to identify both with Benjamin Pencil, the man with the glass heart, and Panache, the road gypsy.

THE MAN WITH THE GLASS HEART - Cover - FinalThe second was reader reaction to the fable genre. Several said that they don’t like fables, but that they loved The Man With The Glass Heart. When I responded that Benjamin, Panache, and all the people who populate my book seem very real to me and not at all like fantasy creatures, I am inevitably greeted with the response, “Oh. Right. I felt that way about them, too.”

Mason - Do you just jump right into a story or do you plan and outline?

Every once in a while, a story-idea comes to a writer, more or less full grown – like adult Athena popping out of Zeus’s head, without all the messy complications of childhood. The Man With The Glass Heart was like that. A magic experience where I held the pencil, let my hand do the work, and let my brain go along for the ride.

As to my crime novels, I always know how a book is going to end before I begin to write it. I generally write a plot description in paragraph form. As I work my way through the book, I scribble a “Don’t Forget” list of things that I want to include and loose ends that I want to tie up.

Mason - Who is your favorite character in the book?

That’s easy. Papa! Here is an excerpt from the book where Panache describes seeing her father after a short absence:

Trees began to rustle. Branches broke. Rocks rolled.  The earth trembled. And the entire commotion, I recognized happily, was being punctuated by vociferous oaths. Then Papa himself, as if in response to thunderous applause, erupted from behind a curtain of foliage in a glorious and sweaty explosion of rage.
    He thrust his saxophone under his arm, jammed his fists into his hips, glared at me, and bellowed “So?” 
    I jammed my fists into my hips, glared into gleaming black eyes beneath mangled, bushy eyebrows, and sang out happily, “So, what?”
    He threw back his head and laughed. “Darling Daughter of My Heart!”
    I threw back my head and laughed. “Miserable, unpredictable, unexplainable, unreliable, iconoclastic Papa!”
    He threw open his arms. “Come!” he shouted.
    And so, as though we had not seen each other in years instead of months, we lunged across the clearing into each other’s arms.
Mason - What was the very first book you remember that deeply affected your life and really loving, and why?

I don’t think that there was any one book. It was more the idea of books. When I was growing up, most adults were members of book clubs, so the variety and quantity of them on our bookshelves were wonderful! No book was ever off limits, and I could just pick anything that struck my fancy.

The fictional character who influenced me most, both as a writer and as a human being, is Cyrano de Bergerac by Edmond Rostand. I keep this quote from the play about him on my desk:

To Sing, to laugh, to dream,
To walk in my own way and be alone,
Free, with an eye to see things as they are,
A voice that means manhood – to cock my hat
Where I choose – At a word, a Yes, a No,
To fight – or write.  To travel any road
Under the sun, under the stars, nor doubt
If fame or fortune lie beyond the bourne –
Never to make a line I have not heard
In my own heart; yet, with all modesty
To say: “My soul, be satisfied with flowers,
With fruit, with weeds, even; but gather them
In the one garden you may call your own.”

Mason - Have you always wanted to write or was there an event that lead you to writing?

I was seventeen years old, all of my friend were picking colleges and deciding on careers, and I suddenly realized that I would have to DO something. All I had ever really wanted to do, though, was read. It dawned on me that if I became a writer, I could spend the rest of my life reading. So…I became a writer!

Mason - Did you design or have input into the beautiful cover of your book?

I am so pleased that you like the cover, because I am in love with it. Yes. I had huge input in the design. Here is how the cover came about.

For several years now, I have been writing short stories (the wheel goes round!) for The Forensic Examiner. Brandon Alms is the designer who does the wonderful artwork for my stories. After my third or fourth story was published, I said to Brandon wistfully, “I would love it if one day, you could design a book cover for me.”

Time passed, and … voilà. That is exactly what happened. Brandon came up with the original concept of the wheelbarrow and the glass heart with the mountains in the background, and we worked together to fine-tune it, making the heart larger. Changing the wheel. Deleting a waterfall. And so on. Toward the end of the process, everything was almost … almost perfect, but the cover seemed to lack a fairytale “feel,” so I said to Brandon, “Make it purple.”

As soon as he did that, the magic happened, and The Man With The Glass Heart had a permanent address!
Happily, when Blackstone Audio Books produces the audio version of my book later this year, they will use this same artwork for their book cover as well.

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

In the near future: More short stories. Another fable. Another novel. After that … who knows? All I can guarantee is more words, words, word. I love to write!!!

Shelly, thank you so much for visiting today and answering these questions. I enjoyed learning how the book cover came about. It’s quite lovely and catches your eye quickly.

Now, let me tell you a bit about Shelly. Her books have been nominated for Edgar, Prometheus, and Falcon awards. She is the author of Julian Solo, and five arson-themed novels including: Origin and Cause, Spent Matches, Weeping, Tabula Rasa, and The Skirt Man. Her new book, The Man With The Glass Heart, is her first fable, which she wrote “for no reason that I can think of, other than an uncontrollable burst of romanticism.”   

Shelly also writes a monthly column, “Tilting at Windmills,” for The Evening Sun, which is reprinted in HuntingtonNews.Net. Come Home. Love, Dad, a memoir about her remarkable father, Sam Reuben, was serialized in both of these publications. She also regularly contributes short stories to The Forensic Examiner.  

Other than writing, she leads a life of adventure as an IAAI Certified Fire Investigator, and has private detective licenses in New York State, New Jersey, and Illinois. For more on Shelly and her writing, visit her website at
Thanks so much for stopping by today. A special thanks to the delightful author/blogger Margot Kinberg for introducing Shelly to me. Do you have a favorite fable from your childhood?