Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Guest Post: Writers Are People, Too

By Cynthia Gail, author of WINTER’S MAGIC

If you asked a room full of authors, ‘What makes the perfect book blog?’, you would get a room full of varying answers. Some authors are targeting other writers, so they teach through their postings. Others focus just on books, interviewing publishers, editors and writers, and reviewing new releases. There’s not just one right answer.

For me, the perfect book blog is one that talks about more than just books. It engages readers about life.

I’m not just an author. My writing career is a result of my love for reading. I have hundreds of books on my iPod and eReader. But that’s just a small corner of my life. I love to cook, entertain, get out on the lake with friends on a hot summer afternoon. I want to learn how to play golf. I like movies. I love shoes, purses, and accessories. I’m a Kentucky Wildcat fan, I cheer for the Steelers, and I spent a dozen years volunteering as scorekeeper, team-mom, or fund-raiser for my son’s baseball and football teams.

And my followers aren’t just readers. They’re wives, daughters, sisters, mothers, community leaders, shoppers, coupon-clippers, room-mothers, college students, bankers, house-wives, lawyers, daycare workers ... the list goes on.

Our connection is books, but books are only a piece of who we are. I post What’s New Wednesday every other week and interview an author or talk about a new book I found. On alternating weeks, my column is called Fantastic Fridays, and the subject is random—I share recipes, talk about shopping, poems, things in life that make me smile.

I want my followers to look forward to seeing my weekly post in their inbox, knowing that they can read it fast and get something useful out of it. They may even laugh and share it with a friend. Don’t we all need a few more moments like that in our week?

Regardless of the content and target audience, I think every author would agree that the perfect blog is engaging, provides information or entertainment, and forms a connection between the author and followers.

WINTER’S MAGIC Tour Information:

Winter’s Magic Tour Page:

About the Author:
My husband and I live in the suburbs of Nashville, Tennessee with our teenage son and three dogs. Life is busy, but when I have free time, I love to read. A math/science girl at heart and a retail analyst by trade, I never thought I’d be writing romance. But one day, a story popped into my head and I had to write it down. The fantasy, escape, and wonder of just reading multiplied by ten-fold and I couldn’t stop my fingers from typing my own fairy tales.

I hope you enjoy my stories. Each one touches on modern day issues, fears, and challenges that women face every day. And each one illustrates that love is within reach if you let down those walls and allow your heart to open. Our lives and experiences are so much more meaningful when we have someone to share them with.

Cynthia’s latest book is the contemporary romance, Winter’s Magic (Book 1 in the Music City Hearts series).

Visit her website at

About the Book:
Beth Sergeant and Nick Chester come from opposite ends of the social food chain. While he sees a beautiful woman without an agenda, she sees a wealthy playboy. Can he convince her to let go of her insecurities and take a chance on love, when challenges from his past force her to reveal her most guarded secret?

Owner of La Bella Vita, a five-star day spa nestled in the affluent suburbs of Nashville, Tennessee, Beth Sergeant knows her elite clientele first hand. She attended their private schools. She was even engaged, although briefly, to one of their most recognized bachelors. But she never fit in to their social-elite world.

After losing his parents to a car accident at a young age, Nick Chester was raised by his grandfather, the wealthiest man in Nashville. When he chooses to socialize, he has a never-ending list of exclusive events and beautiful women vying for his attention. Yet he never lets himself forget that everyone has an agenda.

Beth can’t resist Nick’s charm and accepts an invitation to dinner, despite her deep-seated insecurities. She proves she’s nothing like other women Nick’s dated and learns to trust him in return. But just as the last of their resistance crumbles and true love is within reach, challenges from Nick’s past threaten to destroy everything and force Beth to reveal her most guarded secret.

Rafflecopter Code:

Below is the Rafflecopter code to insert the giveaway on your blog. If your blog does not support the Rafflecopter, tell your visitors to leave a comment on your blog then head over to the author’s tour page to fill out the form.

Review: Winter's Magic

Winter's Magic
Winter's Magic by Cynthia Gail

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is the story of a rich young man meeting and falling for a hard working young woman.

Beth Sergeant, while not from a rich family, grew up in Nashville's elite social circle. Now she has opened her own 5-star spa catering to the people who she grew up with. Nick Chester is from the wealthiest family in Nashville, but even though he can have whatever and whomever he wants, he doesn't take anything for granted and is working hard to build his own business. When these two meet, they both need to overcome their personal issues before they can find happiness, with Nick's grandfather willing to play their fairy godfather.

This was a well written story with characters who had depth. The story itself, rich boy meets girl, they fall in love but face issues before finally getting together is an old one and sometimes, not well done. Ms. Gail wrote a book that took a familiar story line and made it fresh. I enjoyed reading it.

FTC Notice: I received an electronic copy of this book from the author.

View all my reviews

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Review: Heroes and Lovers

Heroes and Lovers
Heroes and Lovers by Wayne Zurl

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Heroes and Lovers is the second Sam Jenkins book that I have read. I enjoyed this book as much as I enjoyed reading my first Sam Jenkins novel, A Leprechaun's Lament.

What starts out as a simple investigation of a crooked repair shop by Police Chief Sam Jenkins, of Prospect, TN, turns into the kidnapping of Sam's favorite news reporter and eventually leads to a drug bust in Prospect. Life is never simple for Sam and his friends.

Sam took this case very personally since the victims were his friends and in one case, while not his friend, someone that Sam could understand where his head was. This is very different from how he investigated other crimes in Prospect and prior to that, New York.

I really enjoyed reading this book. It was a good mystery that kept my attention from start to finish. I wasn't expecting it to end the way that it did. Always a good sign! I loved all of the old detective references that Sam was making. I was happy to return to Prospect to visit with everyone.

FTC Notice: I received a copy of this book from the author.

View all my reviews

Review: Heroes and Lovers

Heroes and Lovers
Heroes and Lovers by Wayne Zurl

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Heroes and Lovers is the second Sam Jenkins book that I have read. I enjoyed this book as much as I enjoyed reading my first Sam Jenkins novel, A Leprechaun's Lament.

What starts out as a simple investigation of a crooked repair shop by Police Chief Sam Jenkins, of Prospect, TN, turns into the kidnapping of Sam's favorite news reporter and eventually leads to a drug bust in Prospect. Life is never simple for Sam and his friends.

Sam took this case very personally since the victims were his friends and in one case, while not his friend, someone that Sam could understand where his head was. This is very different from how he investigated other crimes in Prospect and prior to that, New York.

I really enjoyed reading this book. It was a good mystery that kept my attention from start to finish. I wasn't expecting it to end the way that it did. Always a good sign! I loved all of the old detective references that Sam was making. I was happy to return to Prospect to visit with everyone.

FTC Notice: I received a copy of this book from the author.

View all my reviews

Guest Post: Wayne Zurl - WRITING WHAT YOU KNOW and Getting Inspiration From the World Around You

Picture a half-dozen old cops sitting around a table. The waitress just removed the dishes, but each man still holds a drink.

The former ranking man of the group takes a sip of single-malt scotch. “We laughed when it was over,” he says, “but for a few minutes, we were all sweating.”

“I remember,” another retired detective says. “Came close to soiling my knickers there.”

A third man at the table speaks, “They shoulda made a TV movie outta that one.”

The six people looked around at their colleagues, nodded, and sampled more of their beverages.

The guy with the single-malt whisky retired and eventually tried his hand at a new occupation. Today he’s writing police mystery novels—only because of the old author’s maxim: ‘Write what you know.’

Suppose you’ve never been a cop? Can you still write mysteries? Why not?

Let’s look at the TV series LAW & ORDER. It ran for almost twenty years and at most utilized one technical advisor with police or prosecutor’s experience. How did the writers knock out so many quality episodes? They looked at the world around them, used real-life drama as a basis for their script, and filled in the blanks.

Every episode came with the disclaimer, ‘Any similarity to an actual event or real persons living or dead is purely coincidental,’ or words to that effect. But as any fan will tell you, that statement is pure hogwash. A blithering idiot could draw parallels with actual events recently in the news; the premise, at times, was blatant.

The show’s producer made a fortune with that show, and anyone can cash in on the same idea. Life is full of good stories, just change the names to protect the innocent—and keep yourself out of civil court.

I often say my stories are based on actual incidents. That’s true, but no fiction can be totally unembellished fact or it would be a report and not a novel—probably boring to read. I claim to have a better memory than imagination. That’s true, too, but some imagination is always necessary in fiction. My second novel, A LEPRECHAUN’S LAMENT, was based on an actual case, but I couldn’t resist inventing a beautiful Irish girl and a few other touches just to make fiction better than fact.

Really don’t have the imagination to conjure up an epic fantasy novel, but still feel the call of writing? What’s the problem? What do you do for a living? UPS driver? Server in a posh restaurant? Bank teller? That last one comes with oodles of possibilities for good drama.

Hear about a hostage situation on the 6 o’clock news? How about a UPS driver walking into the middle of that? You’d get all the details of the package delivery business correct and with a little research, fake your way through the police procedures.

The local papers run a story about employees finding a body in the parking lot of a classy restaurant. Okay, server, embellish that event front and back with your knowledge of the food business and what you’ve seen happen in the dining room or bar.

And let’s not waste words on what kind of excitement can come from the customers and staff in a bank.

Look around you. Read the newspapers. Watch the news. Use Life as a basis for a story that becomes uniquely yours when it smacks you between the eyes like a 2x4. It’s not plagiarism unless you rewrite someone else’s work. Draw inspiration from . . . who knows what!

Almost every interviewer has asked, “Where do you get the inspiration for what you write?” The actual plots may come from my past or what I see down the road. The inspiration may come from anything. Often it hits me while driving at 70 on an Interstate. Sometimes my eyes click open at 2 a.m. and I remember something that might make an exciting story. Or I may hear an explosion while sitting on the porch. Like a cop in a street-crime unit who doesn’t get complaints to answer, you have to go out there and drum up your own cases. Writers can’t look for stories in someone else’s books. The world is like a take-out menu waiting for you to select something and go with it.

Heroes & lovers Tour Information:

About the Author:
Wayne Zurl grew up on Long Island and retired after twenty years with the Suffolk County Police Department, one of the largest municipal law enforcement agencies in New York and the nation. For thirteen of those years he served as a section commander supervising investigators. He is a graduate of SUNY, Empire State College and served on active duty in the US Army during the Vietnam War and later in the reserves. Zurl left New York to live in the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains of Tennessee with his wife, Barbara.

Fourteen (14) of his Sam Jenkins mysteries have been produced as audio books and simultaneously published as eBooks. His first full-length novel, A NEW PROSPECT, was named best mystery at the 2011 Indie Book Awards and First Runner-up from all commercial fiction at the 2012 Eric Hoffer Book Awards. A second novel, A LEPRECHAUN’S LAMENT, is available in print and eBook.

His latest book in the Sam Jenkins mystery series is Heroes & Lovers.
For more information on Wayne’s Sam Jenkins mystery series see You can read excerpts, reviews and endorsements, interviews, coming events, and even see photos of the area where the stories take place.

Visit Wayne on Twitter at
“Like” his Facebook page:
Pick up your paperback copy of Heroes & Lovers at Amazon:

About the Book:

Sam Jenkins might say, “Falling in love is like catching a cold.  It’s infectious and involuntary. Just don’t sneeze on any innocent people.”

 Getting kidnapped and becoming infatuated with a married policeman never made TV reporter Rachel Williamson’s list of things to do before Christmas.  But helping her friend, Sam Jenkins with a fraud investigation would get her an exclusive story.  

Sam’s investigation put Rachel in the wrong place at the wrong time and her abduction by a mentally disturbed fan, ruined several days of her life.

Heroes & Lovers Tour Page:

Review: Heroes & Lovers

Heroes and LoversHeroes and Lovers by Wayne Zurl
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Heroes and Lovers is the second Sam Jenkins book that I have read.  I enjoyed this book as much as I enjoyed reading my first Sam Jenkins novel, A Leprechaun's Lament.

What starts out as a simple investigation of a crooked repair shop by Police Chief Sam Jenkins, of Prospect, TN, turns into the kidnapping of Sam's favorite news reporter and eventually leads to a drug bust in Prospect.  Life is never simple for Sam and his friends.

Sam took this case very personally since the victims were his friends and in one case, while not his friend, someone that Sam could understand where his head was.  This is very different from how he investigated other crimes in Prospect and prior to that, New York.

I really enjoyed reading this book.  It was a good mystery that kept my attention from start to finish.  I wasn't expecting it to end the way that it did.  Always a good sign!  I loved all of the old detective references that Sam was making.  I was happy to return to Prospect to visit with everyone.

FTC Notice:  I received a copy of this book from the author.

View all my reviews

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Guest Post: Helga Stipa Madland - Stay At Home Moms

I am fascinated by and a little afraid of Stay At Home Moms who have computers and blog. They seem to have so much power! I feel insignificant by comparison. In my days, when I was a mom who stayed at home for a while, I bought an old typewriter that was very noisy; so I got up at four in the mornings during the summer and typed my novel on the patio where I did not wake anybody up. The novel was never published. I can’t even remember its name.

It seems to me that blogging takes a lot of courage; I think you have to be very sure of yourself and know exactly what you want. When you write novels, you can have different characters be and do different things and not settle for one point of view. I like that. I guess I want to be a writer and am not cut out to be a blogger.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Review: Turtle Bay

I saw this book and since I loved visiting Hawaii and want to go back at some point, I had to read this book.  I'm glad that I did.

Turtle Bay by Helga Stipa Madland was a fun read.  The characters were enjoyable and kept me entertained.  I loved the twins who obviously enjoyed trying to be detectives and "helping" their dad solve the case.

Detective James Kahamala has two cases to solve.  The first involves the theft of a painting and the second involves the disappearance of an English professor who is attending a conference at Turtle Bay resort.  While he investigates that theft of the painting, his precocious twin daughters, Maya and Myra, as well as their honorary aunt, Beatrice, and the family dachshund, Questor, accompany him to the resort and although told not to, also investigate the lost painting.  As Detective Kahamala investigates the art theft, an English professor from his alma mater, who is attending a departmental conference at the resort, goes missing on the last night of the conference.

Ms. Madland did a wonderful job of writing a fun mystery that kept me intrigued throughout the story.  I enjoyed reading about Hawaii and Washington state.  I'll be looking for more form this author in the future.

FTC Notice:  I received a copy of this book from the author.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Guest Post: Greg Messel - Danger Lurking in the Fog

Many people enjoy reading as they go to bed at night. I had a friend who said she loves to be reading a book that makes her anxious to go to bed each night.

I’ve also had that experience while commuting to work on a bus. I loved riding the bus because I got to trade reading for driving in heavy traffic--a good swap on any day. However, there were times when I was at a suspenseful point in the book I was reading and I could see that my stop was just a few blocks away. 

“Nooooooo! I can’t stop now,” I would think.

That is one of the great joys of reading and it’s one of the premier goals of a writer, especially when your novel is a mystery.

I am now working on a series of mystery novels with recurring characters and generating suspense is one of the greatest challenges. I’ve always thought that the unknown is more threatening that the known. It is true in building suspense in your story as well.

When you are alone in your bed late at night and hear strange noises it immediately builds “suspense” in your life.  Upon investigation you could discover that  something harmless is causing the noise. However, as you lie in bed your imagination runs wild about what it could be. Generally, you imagine the most terrifying of possibilities to be the source of the strange noise.

As you get out of your bed to try to find the noise in the darkness, there is true suspense and terror. We should keep this in mind as we build suspense in our writing.

It’s not necessarily the shark attack but the anxiety that comes when a shark fin suddenly appears in the water and has not yet been sighted by the protagonist.

There are a few things that can be done to amp up the suspense. One is don’t take it too easy on your main characters--put them in peril. The stakes need to be continually raised so that there is some urgency. Nothing builds suspense like a race against the clock. It helps to have an powerful, ruthless villain that you are convinced will stop at nothing. This adds to the sense of foreboding.

As an example, in the upcoming second installment in the mystery series--Deadly Plunge--the two main characters are investigating a creepy old house. The house has signs of a lot of strange activities but at the time it is unoccupied. It is a multi level old house and I established that it has very creaky stairs between the levels. This sets up a chance to build suspense later.

As the characters are quietly searching through the house for clues, they hear creaking sounds on the stairs a couple of levels below. Someone is coming! Who could it be? Are the protagonists in the story in danger? What will happen next?

The main characters were nervous about poking around in the strange house. That last thing they wanted to hear was footsteps on the stairs.  As the footsteps get closer and louder, the protagonists must decide what action to take--and quickly.

The creaky stairs provide what the great Alfred Hitchcock referred to as a “McGuffin.” A “McGuffin” is a plot element that drives the story. Sometimes Hitchcock used “McGuffins” as a diversionary tactic to throw us off of the trail of his mystery.

I rewrote the entire last half of my new book “Deadly Plunge.”  I did so with the intent to generate more suspense. For instance, I put chapter breaks in different places in the story which would leave the reader hanging.

There is a plot in “Deadly Plunge” where the main female character, Amelia Ryan is being stalked by a creepy guy who has become obsessed with her. His intent is to kidnap her. 

In this case, the reader knows this stalker is after the female protagonist but the main characters don’t. This adds to the suspense because they are doing things which will--unbeknownst to the main characters--put themselves in danger.

I concluded one chapter with the kidnapper watching Amelia’s bedroom window waiting for the light to go out so he can strike. One another occasion Amelia is taking French lessons and listening to tapes through a set of headphones. This makes her vulnerable to the attacker as he creeps closer to her without detection.

In “The Last of the Seals” the main characters, Sam Slater and Amelia Ryan, are being secretly observed and tracked by some mysterious figures. Sam is still uncertain about why these people are stalking him and his girlfriend. 

One night, as Sam is running down a pier in the fog to escape one peril, there is something in the fog that he fails to see. It is two men sitting in a car watching him. They are obscured by the shadows and fog. What do they want and what happens next?

Fog is wonderful. San Francisco fog practically becomes a character in the story. Fog conceals people and events and prevents a clear picture of what’s occurring. It adds to the creepy feeling where at any moment something can suddenly appear out of the fog.

It is exhilarating to read a story like that and it is exciting to write a suspenseful story, especially when it works.

One of the tag lines I’m using to promote my book sums up the feeling I’m going for in my mystery novel.

“Danger lurks just around the corner in foggy San Francisco.”

Sam Slater mysteries (last of the Seals & deadly plunge) blog Tour Information:

About the Author:
Greg Messel has written four novels and three unpublished memoirs. He published his premiere novel “Sunbreaks” in 2009, followed by Expiation in 2010 and The Illusion of Certainty in 2011. Last of the Seals is the first in a series of mysteries which are set in 1957 San Francisco. The second book in the series Deadly Plunge will be published around Christmas of 2012. Greg grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area and has had a newspaper career as a columnist, sportswriter and news editor. He won a Wyoming Press Association Award as a columnist while working for a daily newspaper in Wyoming. Greg also spent many years in the corporate world as a Financial Manager. He now devotes his energies to writing at his home in Edmonds, Washington on the Puget Sound just north of Seattle, where he lives with his wife, Carol.

Visit Greg’s website at

About the Book:
Last of the Seals:

The year is 1957 in San Francisco. Sam Slater is a lifetime minor league baseball player for the San Francisco Seals. The Seals have just one more season left as San Francisco is about to become a major league city. The Giants are coming to town in 1958 and the Seals will be displaced. Sam has come to the end of his baseball career and is going to join the private detective agency of his best friend. When his friend is brutally murdered, Sam must go it alone and try to find out why. Along the way he is swept off of his feet by a beautiful Elvis-obsessed TWA stewardess named Amelia Ryan. Sam and Amelia try to unravel the mystery together. Sam’s best friend, Jimmy inadvertently saw something he shouldn’t have. Sam and Amelia have pictures in their possession that have crime families in San Francisco and Chicago very worried. Then a young woman Sam has been searching for is found dead on the beach. Suddenly, Sam and Amelia find themselves in danger. On dark and foggy San Francisco nights, trouble is lurking just around the next corner.

Deadly Plunge:

Former baseball player and newly-minted private investigator, Sam Slater is hired to find out why a rich, politically-well connected San Francisco man, Arthur Bolender,  suddenly ended his life by plunging off of the Golden Gate Bridge. All those who know Arthur say unequivocally that he did not commit suicide.  However, Bolender’s body was found floating in San Francisco Bay and his car was abandoned in the traffic lane of the bridge.  Meanwhile, Sam’s romance with glamorous TWA stewardess Amelia Ryan continues to blossom and deepen. She is now his secret fiancee. Amelia also eagerly helps Sam solve his cases when she’s in town. The key to unraveling the mystery seems to be a strange old Victorian-style house. Bolender’s widow, a rich, seductive socialite named Maggie Bolender, was not even aware that her husband owned the house. What is really going on behind the doors of the mysterious house?  Finding the answers will plunge Sam and Amelia into a dangerous world of political intrigue in the exciting sequel to “Last of the Seals.”

Book Trailer Link:

Last of the Seals:

Deadly Plunge:

Book Trailer Code:

Last of the Seals:

Deadly Plunge:

Sam Slater Mysteries Tour Page:


Review: Deadly Plunge

I found another author that I like!  I really enjoyed reading Mr. Messel's Deadly Plunge, the latest in his Sam Slater series.

Sam Slater is a former baseball player turned private investigator in 1958 San Francisco.  He's been asked to investigate the death of a wealthy San Francisco businessman, Arthur Bolender, by Bolender's widow.  Everyone whom he talks to about Bolender's death says that he would never have committed suicide.  So why was his car found running on the Golden Gate Bridge and his body found in San Francisco Bay and why did Bolender own a Victorian style house that no one knew about?

Together with his TWA stewardess girlfriend, Ameila Ryan, Sam investigates Bolender's death.  As he digs into Bolender's past and politics, Sam finds that the house was being used for political meetings and that the people involved may be planning to do more than hand out flyers.  Sam also becomes involved in the death of a Russian diplomat as he works to piece together why Bolender died.

In the midst of this, Sam and Amelia's romance heats up and they become secretly engaged.  With Amelia helping Sam with his investigation, she is soon targeted by a stalker and barely escapes being kidnapped.

The secondary characters were also well written and their involvement in the story was well thought out.  I loved the dynamics of both Sam and Amelia's families.  Mr. Messel did a great job of bringing 1958 San Francisco to life for me.

I also enjoyed the lead in to the next novel in the series, San Francisco's Secrets, and can't wait to read it.

FTC Notice:  I received a copy of this book from the author.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Review: Ice Cold

Ice Cold
Ice Cold by Cherry Adair

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I had never read any Cherry Adair books and find that I am now hooked! I couldn't put this book down. Now I can't wait to go back and read the earlier books in her T-FLAC series.

When bomb expert, Rafael Navarro, first meets cyber specialist, Honey Winston sparks fly and it's not just because they are fighting in the dark and pretty well matched! As Rafael and Honey race to stop a group of terrorists from destroying the world's banking community, they find themselves falling for each other. In the midst of their race to track down the terrorists responsible, they realize that this goes further than the banking community and is aimed at T-FLAC itself.

I loved the interaction between Rafael and Honey. Honey doesn't want to let anyone in because of her past and Rafael just won't take no for an answer. As the intrigue around them deepens and they see that Honey is being set up, Rafael becomes very protective of her. He doesn't want to see her in any dangerous situation, even though that is the business that they are in.

FTC Notice: I received an electronic copy of this book via the author's publisher.

View all my reviews

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Review: Better Than Chocolate

Better Than Chocolate
Better Than Chocolate by Sheila Roberts

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I've been trying to read more books by new authors and am glad that I decided to read "Better Than Chocolate" by Ms. Roberts. I found myself thoroughly enjoying my visit to Icicle Falls, WA and visiting all of the interesting characters who live there.

I had a good time following the trials of Samantha Sterling and her sisters as they struggle to find a way to save the family business, Sweet Dreams Chocolate Company. They have just found out that their recently deceased step-father has brought the family business to near ruin and the bank is getting ready to call in the bank note that will spell the ruin of both the company and the town. Now Samantha and her sisters are racing time to find a way to stop the unthinkable from happening.

In the midst of this, Samantha falls for the bank manager, Blake Preston, who is getting ready to call in the note. Watching Samantha deal with her growing attraction for Blake, especially since he may be taking her company away from her is fun.

There is a host of other quirky characters who make visiting Icicle Falls, WA a fun place to visit. I enjoyed meeting everyone and can't wait to see what other adventures are in store for the Sterling sisters and the town of Icicle Falls.

FTC Notice: I received a copy of this book from the author.

View all my reviews

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Review: Dream Lover

By: Suzanne Jenkins

I'm going to make this short since my computer died last week and my old pc is giving me fits as well.  I'll try to update this post when I get my good computer back.  :)

I wasn't sure when I read the description for this book if I was going to like it or not, but I decided to give it a try.  I'm glad that I did.  The book was well written and the characters were "real", if you know what I mean.  I haven't read the earlier books in this trilogy so I am having to play catch-up with the characters.

Pam is having to adjust to the difficult situation that she has found herself in following her husband's death.  She is now paying for the consequences of his actions in so many ways.  There are many who, in this same situation, would have reacted in the negative, would have raged against the world.  Pam is gracious and kind to all of the people who come to her after his death.  She also has to handle the sticky family situations regarding her sister's long term affair with Jack and telling her children that she is sick.

This book just pulled me in once I started it and I couldn't put it down until I was done.  I am going to have to make some time to read the earlier books and discover how this story unfolds from the beginning. 

FTC Notice:  I received a copy of this book from the author.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Guest Post: Alicia Singleton - Holding On By Your Toenails When Your Dream Goes South

Did you have dreams when you were a child?  What about now?  What are your dreams?  I want to do back to school.  Sticking my toes in the blue waters of Bora Bora would be wonderful.  I’ve always dreamed of owning a business.  A home that’s mine is something I’ve always wanted.   

Well, you’re not alone.  All of us have dreams.  Some dreams happen quickly, some take time.   All legitimate, passion-driven dreams deserve to be pursued.

The years, 1995.  The event, The Romance Writers of America Conference.  As I sat there, in the front row at the editor’s panel session, feelings of excitement, contentment and peace danced a jumbled mix in my stomach.  Throughout the conference, I’d asked questions about different publishing houses and editor then scoped out the editor that I was going to write for.  After the session, I walked up, waited my turn and pitched my novel.  She smiled and said, “Send it to me.”  Send it to me!!!  I thanked her, walked away cool, head held high.  Inside, my mind yelled, ‘Yeah, baby!’ 

I called home that night and told my husband that I’d have a book contract in 6 months tops.   Well, 6 months came and went.  6 more months, another year, five years then ten, still no book contract.

What do you do when your dream seems to go south?  Don’t give up!  Here’s what I suggest:

•  Set your goals.  Make a plan.  Work the plan.  If the plan doesn’t work, re-tweak the plan. 

•  Get a mentor, someone who is where you want to be.  Someone who is living your dream and willing to share their expertise with you. 

•  Surround yourself with level-headed, go-getter, dreamers.  (If you don’t take action to actively pursue your dream, you’re dead in the water.)

•  Stay connected to the related industry of your dream.  Attended conferences, workshops, join professional organizations and network with like-minded people.  Some of the people that I’ve met along the way have become my closest friends.

•  Your dream is yours.  Do it for yourself.  (If you’re pursuing your dream for someone else, then is it your dream or an obligation?) 

• When it gets hard, take a step back, take a deep breath then get back in the game. 

•  Say positive affirmations.  One of my favorites is: I refuse to accept the possibility of the death of my dreams. 

What happened to your dream of becoming an author with a major publishing house, you ask?  Well, that dream came to fruition17 years later. 

I’m not going to lie and say waiting for that day was giggles and roses.  Some days were so tough that I wanted to give up.  Being strong for the people that believed in me wasn’t always easy either.  Outside, I was the constant optimist, but on many days my mind was screaming, ‘What the hell!’  Then, I’d think about not accomplishing what I’d set out to do, all of the time and effort I’d put into bringing the dream to reality and letting down those people who had faith in the dream, then I’d exit my pity party and get back to work.

The only way you will see your dreams come true is if you never give up on them.  You might think that 17 years is a long time.  A lifetime of regrets is even longer.  Don’t quit.  Your dream is waiting!

About the Author:
Born and raised in Philadelphia, the Howard University graduate embraced the written word at an early age. She credits this to her loving, older sister whom, while they were youngsters, made the author eat lotion on a regular basis. Realizing the need to sound-out the ingredients on the lotion label, Alicia stopped the lotion-eating practice, but continued to read the labels of the concoctions her sister brought for her to try. This early necessity to read flowered to a passion; hence, a writer was born.The award winning author resides in Maryland with her wonderful husband and son.  Still an avid reader, label or otherwise, Alicia is hard at work completing her next suspense novel.Her latest book is the suspense novel, Dark Side of Valor.
Visit Alicia’s website at

Child advocate Lelia Freeman saves children for a living. As the director of ChildSafe Shelters, she ventures to abandoned squats and crackhouses to rescue teens from the hellish streets of Los Angeles. When she is summoned to Washington to serve on a committee that aids the children of a war-torn African nation, Lelia is kidnapped and becomes a political pawn in a sinister conspiracy. Oceans away from everything she knows, she must trust a mercenary to save her life, or die in the clutches of a psychopath.
Hunting, combat and staying alive are Elijah Dune’s specialties. Vengeance is his passion. Haunted by past demons, he’s travels to the Motherland to collect a debt. A debt that demands one payment. Death.
Caught in the crosshairs of a madman, Lelia and Elijah must survive the jungles of Zaire and the horrors of their pasts or be forever consumed by the DARK SIDE OF VALOR.

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Friday, August 10, 2012

Guest Post: Wayne Zurl - Putting a Dialect into Dialogue

Writing dialogue with a dialect can generate controversy and debate, and on occasion, even animosity among writers and readers.

I write about a former New York detective working as a police chief in rural east Tennessee. The accents he’s been exposed to are about as similar as a Venezuelan and a Glaswegian both attempting to speak understandable English. Sorry, Scotland.

I live in the same area where my protagonist works. Coincidently, I’m also an ex-New Yorker. And through thirteen novelettes and two full-length traditionally published novels, I’ve used, in varying degrees, east Tennessee accents.

To my ear, there are three separate and distinct accents in and around the Great Smoky Mountains and I write them all. And occasionally I have a “Nu Yawkah” visit Chief Sam Jenkins and we hear them ask for a “cuppa kawfee” or tell him to “open a windah” or cut the grass with a “mowah.” I do that so the residents of southern Appalachia can’t accuse me of picking on them exclusively when some of my characters use the universal greeting of the region, “You doin’ aw rot t’day?” or any of the other appropriate colloquialisms I hear all the time.
Honest folks, I don’t make this up. I only write what I hear—and I have always had a good ear for languages. That’s why I can speak English fairly well, am semi-fluent in two other languages, and can swear and order a beer in five more.

Okay, let’s look at what the experts say. In his book THE 38 MOST COMMON FICTION WRITING MISTAKES (And How to Avoid Them), Jack M. Bickham wrote a   2 ¼ page chapter called Don’t Mangle Characters’ Speech. Jack says NEVER deviate from the King’s English; it may tend to confuse a reader. Prior to his death, Bickham published about 75 novels and taught English at the University of Oklahoma.

Since I didn’t like Jack’s answer, I looked further. Everyone’s heard of Stephen King and may have read one or more of his sci-fi/horror novels. I think we’ll all agree Stephen has done well for himself in the publishing business. I’m not a fan of horror stories, so I don’t read his fiction, but I liked and recommend his book ON WRITING (A Memoir of the Craft). The first half tells the story of a young Stephen King teaching high school English in Bangor, Maine, near poverty, and in danger of having his utilities turned off before he finally sold the famous CAREY. The second half is pure advice on how to write fiction King’s way.

Stephen’s take on writing dialect is, “Write it the way you hear it.”
And he’s got a unique accent to duplicate in “Down East” Maine.

Steve, however, goes on to say, “Don’t substitute apostrophes for the letters you leave out of the words.”

Example: writin’ rather than writing, should simply be writin, according to King.

So, I was looking at a stalemate, one for and one ag’in.

While working on my first full-length novel, A NEW PROSPECT, I hired Bill Greenleaf, a retired editor, book doctor, and author of nine novels.

Bill agreed with King and said, “Write it as you hear it; it’s more authentic when dealing with characters who speak with a unique accent.”

He further stated that new writers probably shouldn’t just omit letters without using the substitute apostrophe as suggested by King. That may only confuse editors, thinking you may be submitting a manuscript with typos.

Sad but true—a guy like Stephen King can get away with much more than you or I.

A NEW PROSPECT was published and the publisher/editor accepted all the dialect without question.

Since I’ve mentioned that book twice and at my age, I no longer have any modesty, I’ll tell you it was named best mystery at the 2011 Indie Book Awards. It is currently a finalist at the 2012 Eric Hoffer Book Awards and has been nominated for a Montaigne Medal. So, I guess the dialect hasn’t been too troubling to the judges who read the review copies.

My second novel, A LEPRECHAUN’S LAMENT, being handled by a new publisher, not only features characters with thick east Tennessee accents, but several with Irish brogues. The folks at Iconic Publishing are comfortable with the accents written as they would like the reader to “hear” them..

Additionally, both the publisher and editor at Mind Wings Audio where they’ve produced my novelettes as audio books and simultaneously published them as eBooks have accepted everythbing written with oodles of Tennessee dialect. The actor who reads the text says he has fun shifting voices. (A novelette is defined as something between 7,500 and 17,500 words.)

Some readers or reviewers of my works say, “I’m from the south and I don’t speak like that.”

Understandable. Someone from Charleston, South Carolina or Paducah, Kentucky sounds nothing like someone from Cocke County, Tennessee. Someone from Nashville in middle Tennessee doesn’t remotely sound like someone from the Smokies.

To these complainers I say, “If you’ve never been in my neck of the woods, don’t comment on how my neighbors speak.” Not only can I state with authority how a resident of east Tennessee sounds (I’ve been here for twenty years) but I lived in New York for forty-six years and know first-hand someone from Brooklyn speaks nothing like a resident of Buffalo and both possess distinct accents.

Recently, a reviewer said, “Writing in dialect never works.”

I’m suspicious of someone who uses absolutes like always or never. When I hear that, I tend to wonder where they derive their expertise on the subject upon which they commented.

This reviewer claimed, “It would be enough to state that the character spoke with a heavy accent.”

Isn’t that telling and not showing? Just the opposite of what good writers are supposed to do.

George Peleconos has written a successful series of novels featuring Derek Strange, an African American private detective working in Washington DC. Peleconos extensively writes dialogue in Ebonics. And it only makes sense. The jive-ass, hip-hop, gangsta-rapping, young drug dealers Derek encounters during his adventures do not speak like little old men from Cedar Rapids, Iowa. In my opinion, it would not sound authentic and it would detract from the story if he omitted the dialect.

And I should mention an old book with lots of dialect and a pretty fair track record: THE ADVENTURES OF HUCKLEBERRY FINN by a guy who called himself Mark Twain.

Some readers have told me, “Reading dialects makes me slow down.”

So what? What’s the hurry? Do you want to absorb and understand a novel or just knock out another book and add one more to your “I’ve read” list?

Shifting from one writer’s voice to another causes me to slow down until I pick up the cadence and get in tune with a different style. In only a few pages most readers should clique with something new.
Sometimes, I think semi-professional readers (self-styled, unpaid reviewers) cruise through books so fast they really can’t write an honest or intelligent review.

Another opinion (mine), “Everyone should savor a good book. Slow down and smell the printer’s ink.”

Wayne Zurl grew up on Long Island and retired after twenty years with the Suffolk County Police Department, one of the largest municipal law enforcement agencies in New York and the nation. For thirteen of those years he served as a section commander supervising investigators. He is a graduate of SUNY, Empire State College and served on active duty in the US Army during the Vietnam War and later in the reserves. Zurl left New York to live in the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains of Tennessee with his wife, Barbara.

For more information on Wayne’s Sam Jenkins mystery series see You can read excerpts, reviews and endorsements, interviews, coming events, and see photos of the area where the stories take place.

Amazon link:
B&N link:
Mind Wings Audio link:

Review: A Leprechaun's Lament

A Leprechaun's Lament
A Leprechaun's Lament by Wayne Zurl

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is the first book that I have read in the Sam Jenkins Mysteries and I really enjoyed it. The characters were believable and entertaining. I enjoyed getting to know that members of the Prospect PD and the people of Prospect, TN.

The story begins with Chief Sam Jenkins, and members of his staff, doing background checks on the city's employees who interact with the police department. Once he starts looking into them, he starts to find that things don't add up with one particular employee, Murray McGuire. Soon after, McGuire is found dead. Now, Chief Jenkins needs to find out why McGuire was killed and what secrets he was hiding when he died.

The book was well written and I look forward to reading more of the Same Jenkins books as well as other books by Wayne Zurl.

FTC Notice: I obtained a copy of this book from the author.

View all my reviews

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Guest Post: Suzanne Jenkins - This Makes Me Uncomfortable

As I began writing in earnest two years ago, the inspiration to tell a story about an older woman who discovered her beloved husband’s infidelity after he died came from out of nowhere.  Pam of Babylon simply appeared in my consciousness and I wrote it as I thought of it.  Later, a quote by E.L. Doctorow would confirm my writing style was not unusual.  He said, “Writing is like driving a car in the dark.  You only see as far as the headlights go, but you can make the whole trip that way.”  Those words validated me.  An encounter with an editor who did not like my story line made me doubt the wisdom of spending another second writing.  She asked me to do an outline before I began to write, which I found nearly impossible to do because of the way the book was coming to me as I went along.  She referred to the story as triple-x rated because it contained a depiction of child abuse.  Child abuse transcends the rating system.

Later, I learned from a fellow author that sometimes a writer/editor relationship may not be a good fit and it is acceptable to move elsewhere.  Once I found the courage to move on, I found a new editor.  She was a barracuda who demanded revisions and rewrites, but she also loved the story and wanted it to be the best I could make it.  I felt totally comfortable deferring to all of her suggestions and to this day wish I had used her from the onset.  However, once the story was published, I would encounter readers who felt the same way my former editor did.  My books are not for everyone.  I can’t say I enjoy writing about topics that many people find repugnant and some that are downright disgusting like the child abuse and marital infidelity.  But it’s something that I find compelling for whatever reason and the stories wind through the tragedy and horror that normal people sometimes encounter.

After a book is finished, I suffer from insomnia for months.  I’m in that mode right now.  The Greeks of Beaubien Street will be released this summer, and although I love the story, there is a portion of the book that worries me because it depicts the seamier side of life in a most grotesque way. Even the perpetrator is disgusted with the crime. I know there will be those readers who are offended by it in spite of a warning.  I almost didn’t write the book until my son, a filmmaker and writer told me not to censor myself. I have tried censoring in the past and once I began, I found I was putting up so many parameters I could no longer write.  The question I had to ask myself over and over confirmed that the story line was important.  What is my purpose in writing about this topic? It isn’t to titillate, or to be sensational.  In The Greeks, the horror story is in contrast to the gentle Greek father who prepares his homicide detective daughter’s breakfast every morning.

Regarding Pam of Babylon’s adult content, I tried to write so that it would be the least offensive as possible.  If a writer is going to have child abuse as a topic, there is little that can be done to clean it up.  It’s deplorable, and the consequences are usually tragic. The Kirkus Review said about the third book in the series, Dream Lover; “A gritty, realistic portrait of the aftermath of deceit.”  In order for the resolutions to take place, I must first describe the conflict.

My friend Dan Georgakas, author of My Detroit, Growing up Greek and American in Motor City (Pella Publishing Company, NY, NY, 2006) wrote when I confided my concerns, “….people are embarrassed by this [content] and want to project a perfect family image: a stereotype no one is going to believe anyway.  I have always believed in showing warts whenever possible.”  Some of character’s warts are painful to look at, but exist in real life.

The final book in the series may be finished this fall and has some of the characters achieving positive resolutions.  Fans of Pam will be relieved that she is triumphant in the end.

About the Author

Suzanne Jenkins lives at the west Michigan lakeshore with her husband, two dogs and two sheep.  Her latest books are Pam of Babylon, Don’t You Forget About Me and Dream Lover.

About Pam of Babylon:
Pam Smith lives a charmed life as a well-to-do Babylon, N.Y., homemaker in a large house by the water. In her 50s with her children grown, Pam is happy with her exemplary husband Jack. After he has a heart attack on the subway, however, she finds out more than she ever wanted to know about Jack. Pam must confront a series of revelations that unmask a life she realizes she only thought she knew, and the losses and disappointments she discovers give color and understanding to a man markedly different than he appeared. Uncovering secrets and betrayals far worse than her most vivid nightmare, Pam retreats to their meticulous Babylon beach house, the one refuge she has to put the pieces of her life together and move toward ultimate forgiveness.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Guest Post: Kevin Burk - Mind Your Own Business

Byron Katie is an author and speaker who created a powerful process called “The Work.” In her first book, Loving What Is, Katie suggests that there are three types of business in the world: “My Business,” “Your Business” (“Other People’s Business”), and God’s Business. She points out that anytime you find yourself in “Other People’s Business” or “God’s Business,” you feel stressed. Why? Because you don’t have any business in “Other People’s Business” or “God’s Business.” When you’re in “Other People’s Business,” or “God’s Business,” you have no control and no influence. In fact, when you’re in “Other People’s Business” or “God’s Business,” you are powerless.[1]

Put another way, when you’re in “Other People’s Business,” or “God’s Business,” you’re in Victim Consciousness, so any action you take will only make things worse.

You may find it difficult to grasp the difference between “My Business,” and “Other People’s Business,” so here’s some helpful advice. If you can’t seem to find the line that divides “My Business” from “Other People’s Business,” look behind you.

Anytime you find yourself feeling angry or stressed, chances are, you’re in Victim Consciousness. All you have to do in order to step back into integrity is ask yourself, “Whose business is it?”

Now, I like to think that I can spot an idea for a good game show a mile away. I did, in fact, have a chance to pitch my idea for Whose Business Is It? to Howie Mandel’s people at NBC Universal. Unfortunately, they said “No deal.” I remained undaunted by their obvious lack of vision (after all, these are the same people who, all evidence to the contrary, still believe that “America’s Got Talent”), and filmed an episode anyway. You can watch it online at Meanwhile, I’ll teach you how to play the home version.

In order for something to be “My Business,” it has to meet three criteria:
1. It must affect you, personally, right now.
2. It must be your responsibility.
3. You must be able to do something about it.

Unless a situation meets all three criteria, it is none of your business.

Remember, just because you’re involved in something doesn’t mean it’s any of your business!

Most people get hung up on #3, so let me take a moment to elaborate. Your being able to do something about a situation means that you are able to adjust, change, modify or alter the circumstances in some way. Note that if changing, adjusting, modifying or altering the circumstances requires that you get other people to change their behavior, you’re wasting your time. There is nothing you can do to get anyone else to behave the way you would like them to behave. (If you don’t believe me, ask my father.) If you can accept that you have no power to change anyone else’s behavior, you’ll save yourself a tremendous amount of suffering, and significantly reduce the amount of time you spend in Victim Consciousness.

When you discover that you’re involved in a situation that is not your business, stop, take a step back, say, “This situation is none of my business,” and then drop it.

For example:

“The economy is none of my business.”

“The government is none of my business.”

“Other people’s marriages are none of my business.”

“What my mother thinks of me is none of my business.”

When you drop the story and step back into “My Business,” you’ll no longer feel angry; however, you will still have all of the energy of your anger available to you. It’s important that you use this energy yourself—otherwise, other people will steal it from you.

Take this extra energy and work it off at the gym. Use it to clean your garage, do your taxes, or remodel your kitchen. Whatever you do, don’t take any action that has anything at all to do with the story that was making you angry. The more you practice this, the more comfortable you will become using your own energy. In time, you’ll be able to store this extra energy and use it to become truly, completely happy. This is the first step towards mastering your anger.

About the Author:
Kevin B. Burk has been helping people around the world to improve their lives and relationships since 1996 through his astrological counseling and relationship coaching practice. His humor, wisdom and compassion are always present, in his books (ten so far, including Astrology: Understanding the Birth Chart, The Relationship Handbook: How to Understand and Improve Every Relationship in Your Life, and his newest book, Anger Mastery: Get Angry, Get Happy), his classes and workshops, and his interactions with his clients and students. Kevin’s focus is always on the practical, exploring how we can actually use astrology and spiritual practice on a daily basis to transform our lives.

In the astrology world, he is best known for making Classical Astrology accessible to everyone, taking complex and abstract concepts and showing how they can be used to create concrete, specific and practical interpretations. Kevin’s website, The Real Astrology with Kevin B. Burk is one of the premiere astrology resources on the Internet. His book, Astrology: Understanding the Birth Chart is a textbook used at Kepler University in their Undergraduate Astrology Degree program, and has been translated into Russian, and is currently being translated into Bulgarian. Kevin’s articles have appeared in The Mountain Astrologer, the Australian publication,Well Being Astrology, and in Llewellyn’s Moon Sign books.

In the non-astrology world, Kevin is best known for his unique approach to understanding and improving all human relationships through The Relationship Handbook andThe Relationship Workshops.

Kevin has released a series of DVDs of his Law of Attraction workshops: the self-contained Prosperity & The Law of Attraction, and Astrology & The Law of Attraction, a series of 7 DVDs recorded live in Houston, TX at a weekend workshop for the Gulf Coast Chapter of NCGR.

Kevin has developed a revolutionary program for spiritual growth called Archetypal Astrology: The Hero’s Journey. This intensive program guides participants through the process of meeting and moving into Right Relationship with each of the seven Astrological Archetypes (you may know them as the seven personal planets).

Kevin is currently synthesizing astrology and spirituality into his next series of books: Astrology & The Law of Attraction, Prosperity & The Law of Attraction andRelationships & The Law of Attraction.

You can visit Kevin’s website at

To get your paperback copy of  ANGER MASTERY by Kevin Burk:

To purchase a copy of ANGER MASTERY at Barnes & Noble:

Buy the book directly from the author at

Like Kevin Burk on Facebook:

Author Kevin B. Burk wants to make you angry. Burk believes that getting angry is the first step to happiness, and his newest book, Anger Mastery: Get Angry, Get Happy shows you how.
“Anger is like fire,” says Burk. “When you master it, it’s a powerful source of energy. If you don’t master it, however, it can be dangerous and destructive.” More importantly, Burk asserts, until you master your anger, other people will steal your energy, your power, and your ability to be happy.
The Anger Mastery Process has three phases. In Phase 1, you learn how to use more of your own energy, which makes it harder for other people to steal it from you. (This involves going to the gym at least five times a week.) You also learn how to leave Victim Consciousness and move into integrity by answering the question, “Whose business is it?”
Phase 2 of the Anger Mastery process helps you to stay out of Victim Consciousness by learning how to feel Safe. You meet your Safety Needs with a tool called the Present Moment Awareness Safety Meditation, available for free at
By the time you complete Phase 2, you will already notice significant changes in your life. In particular, you will have considerably more energy. Phase 3 shows you how to use that energy to become truly, completely happy.
Anger Mastery is not your typical book on anger. Not only is Burk’s approach unique, but also the book itself is laugh-out-loud funny. “Humor is a powerful tool to shift consciousness,” said Burk. “Laughter instantly transforms anger. Plus, funny sells more books.”


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[1] Byron Katie, Loving What Is: Four Questions that Can Change Your Life (New York” Harmony Books, 2002), 3.