Friday, April 29, 2011

Friday's Odds and Ends

First off, I did not get up at 4am to watch the royal wedding. I have no interest in it and will probably not even turn on the TV today as I know most network channels will be filled with stories revolving around the wedding and royalty and everyone's fascination with all that. I don't get it.

To me, the only good thing about the royal wedding is it will take the attention away from Donald Trump for a day or so. Can you believe that people are actually getting serious about a presidential bid by the Trumpster? And one of the reasons cited for the seriousness is the fact that of all the possible contenders he has the most money.

What? Being rich is the strongest qualification for the job?

I did find something else in the news this week more interesting than who is going to run for president, and that was a story about school police issuing tickets to students. I didn't know they could do that. And I didn't know the fines could be so high,  up to $500. The fines are for such infractions as cussing, disorderly conduct, fighting, assault, disruption of class, abusive language, and trespassing on school grounds.

I think the fines are pretty steep, especially for kids who come from families that live at the poverty level. One boy in Dallas was fined $280 for cussing. Yikes, I remember when such an infraction earned a demerit and some time spent after school cleaning the cafeteria.

What do you think? Good policy? Bad?

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Doug Corleone - On Writer's Block

 First, I want to thank Maryann for hosting me here today. I appreciate the opportunity to be a guest and share some thoughts on writer's block.

As an author I’m often asked: Is there such thing as writer’s block? There are two schools of thought on this. The more popular among published authors seems to be “no.” Authors frequently reply to this common question by saying, “Writing is a job, just like any other. A plumber doesn’t wake up one morning and decide he has a case of plumber’s block.”

I disagree. In addition to being a writer, I am a lawyer, and I do indeed occasionally wake up with a case of lawyer’s block (a term I first read in a David Rosenfelt novel). It’s not as though I’ve suddenly forgotten the law or how to argue. Lawyer’s block, like writer’s block, is a simple lack of confidence. It happens to all of us at some point in our careers, I believe, whether we argue motions, write novels, teach young children, or fix pipes.

Confidence is key to my own writing. On days I receive glowing reviews, I typically write until I fall asleep at the computer. Conversely, when my work is panned, I’m sometimes frozen for days or weeks. Maybe I’m hypersensitive; maybe in time, that will change. But when I lose my confidence – at the computer or in the courtroom – I tend to think of it as being blocked.

How to overcome writer’s block? That’s the question. More pointedly, how to regain your confidence once a critic or agent or editor has done some serious damage to it? I’ve tried a number of things, with varying degrees of success. First, you might try taking some time away from your current project. Not too long, or else you may never return to it. When I step away, I try to work on something fun, something that requires less concentration. I find that when I return to my former project days or weeks later I feel refreshed. Unblocked. 

Read. When I’m blocked I often read books in the genre in which I’m working. That often gets the creative juices flowing. I also go back and read my own work, published novels and short stories, articles and editorials. Reading work others have praised provides a shot of affirmation just when you need it most. 

Of course, you could also do what many writers do. Pretend that writer’s block doesn’t exist. Sit down at your computer, stare down that glowing white page, eye that blinking cursor, and simply start typing. Of course, when your confidence is down, you may not write your best material. Which may lead to further panning and rejection. Which may lead to even lower levels of confidence. Or writer’s block. If it exists, that is.    


Douglas Corleone is the author of the Kevin Corvelli crime series published by St. Martin's Minotaur. His debut novel ONE MAN'S PARADISE won the Minotaur Books/Mystery Writers of America First Crime Novel Award. A practicing attorney, Douglas divides his time between New York and Hawaii. NIGHT ON FIRE is his second novel. 

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Book Review- Night on Fire by Doug Corleone

Tomorrow I am going to have a guest, Doug Corleone, who writes a mystery series set in Hawaii, featuring attorney, Kevin Corvelli. Doug will be sharing some thoughts on writer's block that are pretty interesting. I hope you can come back to see what he has to say.

In the meantime, here is a short review of his book.

 In Night on Fire, hotshot Honolulu defense lawyer Kevin Corvelli narrowly escapes a deadly arson fire at a popular Hawaiian beach resort only to land the prime suspect - a stunning but troubled young bride charged with murdering her husband and ten others - as a client.

This is an entertaining read that really picks up momentum as it races to the end. There are some suprises at the end, so don't think the story is over until you read the last word. The book is set in Hawaii, and while some landmarks are mentioned, as well as popular restaurants, I wanted a little more of a feel for the island. I've been there and the sounds and smells and breathtaking beauty of the island was missing in this story. But maybe that was because the story is in Kevin's POV and that wasn't important to him.

The mystery is a good one as Kevin tries to get his client off and find out who really killed her husband. Also very enjoyable is the relationship Kevin forms with the young boy he rescued from the fire. It is strong and well defined in the story without being too predictable or sappy.

The official release date for the book is today - Happy Release day, Doug.

Douglas Corleone is the author of the Kevin Corvelli crime series published by St. Martin's Minotaur. His debut novel ONE MAN'S PARADISE won the Minotaur Books/Mystery Writers of America First Crime Novel Award. A practicing attorney, Douglas divides his time between New York and Hawaii. NIGHT ON FIRE is his second novel.

FTC Disclaimer: The author sent me the book in hopes of a review, and a favorable one at that, I'm sure. But I made no promises. While I did enjoy the book, I derived no compensation for reading it. I didn't even get to smell the wonderful perfume of the flowers on the island of Oahu. Why does Kevin not stop and smell the orchids? Maybe then he wouldn't need his special medicine. You have to read the book to figure that one out.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Monday Morning Musings

My day started late this morning. Woke up to some pretty good thunderstorms and had to unplug my computer until the sound and fury subsided. Not that I minded all that much. Here in Texas we are desperate for rain, but unfortunately, this morning's storm had less precipitation and lots more lightening and thunder. If we got even a quarter of an inch, that is a generous estimate.

As a result of the prolonged drought, almost the entire state is under a burn ban in an attempt to forestall any more wildfires. The Possum Kingdom Complex in North Texas and the Trans-Pecos Complex in West Texas are among several wildfires burning throughout the state. Since Jan. 1, wildfires have scorched more than 1.4 million acres and led to the deaths of two firefighters. So if it starts to storm again and I have to turn off my computer, I will do so gladly.

On another note, I read in yesterday's Dallas Morning News that the managers of the Texas teachers' retirement fund received over $8.2 million in bonuses this year. According to the story this is more than double what top employees in every other state agency combined have received since 2007. And while the managers have raked in large bonuses, thousands of retired teachers have not had a pension increase in ten years.

The rational for giving the huge payouts is that the bonuses attract the top talent in the investment business. That is the same rational given for the bonuses the top executives at Border's Books are receiving, while hundreds of stores close and thousands of employees are laid off.

One would think that a company that is in bankruptcy would be restricted by law from allowing some executives to plunder the business that way, but there is no such law.

Why does it always have to be this way? We decry those who loot during riots, so why don't we decry those who loot and plunder at the highest levels? All those bankers and mortgage experts who got us into the financial mess of 2008 are still in their expansive offices, raking in the dough.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Happy Easter Everyone who Celebrates the Holiday

All I need to know
I learned from the Easter Bunny!

Don't put all your eggs in one basket.

Everyone needs a friend who is all ears.

There's no such thing as too much candy.

All work and no play can make you a basket case.

A cute tail attracts a lot of attention.

Everyone is entitled to a bad hare day.

Let happy thoughts multiply like rabbits.

Some body parts should be floppy.

Keep your paws off of other people's jelly beans.

Good things come in small, sugar coated packages.

The grass is always greener in someone else's basket.

To show your true colors, you have to come out of the shell.

The best things in life are still sweet and gooey.

May the joy of the season fill your heart.

Happy Easter!

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Easter- He is Risen

Singer, songwriter George Gagliardi shares some thoughts about Easter every year with friends and family. When I was editing, the online magazine, George always let me use his articles. Even though is no longer in publication, I still thought George's missive worth sharing for all Christians. It is a bit long, but well worth the read. Enjoy....

Friends, Happy Easter
    This year’s contribution grew out of a passing comment from a minister about video proof of the resurrection. I trust you’ll find it worth reading.

Setting: Easter morning, shortly after sunrise, an empty tomb on the outskirts of Jerusalem. Two men are having a conversation, one has a video camera.

Tommy: (Obviously out of breath) Man, I can’t believe I missed it. I overslept. Got here as fast I could. Did you get it?

Pete: You better believe it. It was … I don’t know how to describe it. Thank God, I don’t have to. (patting his camera) It’s all right here on tape on this little camera of mine.

Tommy: Yeah, that’s great. But, I mean, you saw him, right? He really came out of there.

Pete: He is alive as you and me and that’s a fact. 

Tommy: I’m telling you I can’t wait to show this to those pious prudes and get right up in there face with it. What are they gonna say? Hm? How are they gonna justify what they did then? Those bastards will have to do some fast talking then, eh, Pete?

Pete: You better believe it. (Pause) You know, Tommy …

Tommy: Yeah?

Pete: I’m thinkin’ maybe we ought to show it to his guys first – you know, John, Matt – his followers. Can you imagine all the whooping and carrying on they’ll do once they see he’s alive again. I’m telling you it will be party time in old Jerusalem for sure.

Tommy: Yeah, what was I thinkin’. We’ll go and try and find some of them and invite them to the studio to see what you’ve got there. Of course it might be a bit tough – a lot of them went underground, trying to keep a low profile from “you-know-who”.

Pete: Can’t say I blame them. But once they see this – well, it will be a different story, to be sure.

Tommy: Yeah. (Long pause) You know, Pete, maybe we should watch it first before we show it to anybody else. Mind you, I’m not sayin’ you didn’t do your job but I think I’d feel better if we previewed it first just in case …

Pete: Just in case what … in case I didn’t get it?

Tommy: No, I didn’t mean that exactly. It just that …

Pete: Well what did you mean?

Tommy: Look, Pete, someone doesn’t come back from the dead everyday. This is ‘way beyond anything we’ve ever dealt with before and maybe … maybe there might be more going on with this than we realize.

Pete: Wait a moment. Do my ears deceive me? Are you talking about supernatural stuff? You, of all people. Mister “show me the proof” Tommy. You’re going to start talking about – dare I say it, miracles

Tommy: Okay, okay, it’s not my usual way of dealing with things but … well, this feels different. I’m just saying, what’s the harm in our looking at the footage first before we bring anyone else to see it – just to be safe.

Pete: Man, I never would have believed it. Okay, we’ll watch it first. To tell you the truth I’m anxious to see it and who knows how long it might be before we could find some of his guys.

Tommy: Hey, I think I hear somebody running, let’s skidaddle. See you back at the studio.

      (Back at the studio. The lights are off, the tape is rolling …)
Pete: See, there’s the stone, rolled away from the entrance. I mean, it just moved away by itself. When I saw that … wait a minute here it comes, see that bright light. Now it’s …


Pete: What happened? Where is He? This is the moment I saw him come out. Where the hell is he? He supposed to be there. He was there, I saw him. I swear I saw him come out.  I …

Tommy: (Stands up, turns on the light) I don’t doubt that you believe you saw him come out. Hell, for all I know, maybe he did. But there’s no proof. It’s not on the tape. You may have seen it but I didn’t’.

Pete: What are you implying?

Tommy: I’m not implying anything. I’m stating a fact, pure and simple. We have no proof, other than your word, that you saw Jesus alive again. Now that might be good enough for me, but not for anyone else. As your pal, I’d believe you because I know you don’t lie. But for you to claim that you saw a dead man alive again – well, it’s just too preposterous for anyone else to believe.

Pete: (Shakes his head) But I saw him. Dammit, I know I saw him walk out of that tomb.

Tommy: I’m sorry, my friend. I don’t what else to say. This could have been the biggest scoop since that water and wine thing down in Cana but … well, we can’t make up the facts.

Pete: So what do we do now?

Tommy: Well, what can we do. Just chalk it up to … bad timing, I guess.

(Long pause, then Pete stands up and heads for the door)

Tommy: Where you goin’?

Pete: You may call me a crazy man but as you say you didn’t see what I saw. But I did see it. I’m going to go find some of this guys and tell ‘em what I saw.

Tommy: Do you really think it will do any good?

Pete: A man who says he’ll rise from the dead and then does it? Yeah, I definitely think it will do a world of good.

Tommy: Well if you’re determined to tell your tale then I best go along and try and keep you out of trouble.

Pete: Me? Trouble? Just because I claim to have seen Jesus alive again, how could I get into trouble over that? ( Laughs and they both exit)

George Gagliardi, Easter, 2011

Thursday, April 21, 2011

New Stories

 The Wisdom of Ages - A Short Story Collection,  my new short story collection was just released by Books We Love Publishing Partners.

Three stories; four men whose lives take unexpected turns. Meet Samson who wonders what is down that country road that draws people so. Should he get in that old truck and go see? Mel and Rube have been having dinner at the Leavenworth Grill every Wednesday for years. One day the menu changes and so does life for Mel. Tom would give anything for his life to change. Can he beat back the effects of a crippling stroke by sheer force of determination? Growing old is not for the faint of heart.

"These three gems will make you think about time and how you use it. Maryann Miller has a rare gift for taking the pulse of ordinary lives and spinning that into extraordinary tales." -- Craig Lancaster, author of 600 Hours of Edward"and The Summer Son

"Miller shares her skills as a writer and her humanity in this inspiring glimpse into the realities of aging and the heartbreak of letting go." Paula Stallings Yost Editor/Author, What Wildness is This: Women Write About the Southwest

"Sometimes the best stories come at the end of our lives, and so do the strongest lessons. Read Maryann Miller's poignant vignettes about aging and let them tug at your heart-strings. They capture the very essence of our tender humanity." ~ Dani Greer, author, editor and Special Projects Coordinator for Little Pickle Press,

 I like working with a publisher who does all the work of getting a cover, ISBN number, and getting that all up on Amazon and other sites for e-readers. But I have also been experimenting with putting my own content up. That can be very time consuming for someone like me who has a steep learning curve when it comes to new technology, but I am learning.

Last Friday I announced that I have two new short stories up on Amazon for the Kindle. SAHM I Am and The Visitor  They are both priced at 99cents and make a good, quick read.

SAHM I Am is a humorous sci-fi story. Technology may be on the verge of having sophisticated home computers that run an entire household, but have the scientists taken into consideration the human factor? When SAHM, a Sensor Activated Home Manager, is field tested at the O'Neal home, he's up against the biggest challenge a computer has ever faced; one Shanna O'Neal.

The Visitor was first written as an assignment in a writing class to adapt a classic fairy tale, and I chose Goldilocks and the Three Bears. A camping trip in the Rockies becomes most interesting when a stranger shows up and the Cantrell family has to find out who has been sneaking into their cabin.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Sex is Not a Toy

... Or is it?

When I wrote the first draft of my woman's novel, Play It Again, Sam, one of the issues I wanted to address in the story was the growing cavalier attitude about sex. This was back in the early 90s, and I had a contract for the book from Kennsington for their To Love Again series, which they dropped just before my book came out. The book languished for a while, then came out as an e-book a few years ago.

In the story, the central character, Samantha, is divorced after 25 years of marriage and one of the myriad questions she faces is what is she to do about sex. The normal human desires are there, but she no longer has a partner. Her friend, Margaret, encourages her to find someone and just have fun, but Sam doesn't feel like that is something she can do. "I've been preaching to my kids about the dangers of casual sex. How can I be a hypocrite?"

In many ways that reflects my attitude about casual sex, and I was dismayed to read a recent article in The Dallas Morning News, Waiting to Wed by Mark Regnerus and Jeremy Uecker.  In the article they write that young adults, whom they keep referring to as emerging adults, are waiting longer and longer to get married, while pursuing active sex lives before hand. They quote psychologist Jeffrey Arnett, "Those who do not experiment with different partners are warned that they will eventually wonder what they are missing, to the detriment of their marriage."

Who hasn't played that what-if game about sex and about a lot of other things in life? But is doesn't have to be a detriment. Think about it, even fantasize a bit if you want, then get back to appreciating what you have. 

The article continues to support the benefits of exploring different relationships, "...there is value placed on flexibility, autonomy, change, and the potential for upgrading."

What? Is this like buying a car? Let's start with a GEO and end up with a LEXUS?

One of the major reasons cited for delaying marriage was a belief that getting married signaled the end of really good sex.  Hmmmm, most of my contemporaries would disagree. Just thinking about.... no, never mind.

My point is, sexual intercourse is one of the most important intimate acts we can participate in, and I sure wish the younger generation would not have such a casual approach to it. It is not recreation. It is not the same as playing video games or any of the other things we do to amuse ourselves. It is part of building a relationship, and that is not a casual affair.

What do you think? I'm sure younger readers are going to have plenty to say. LOL

Monday, April 18, 2011

Monday Morning Musings

"Screen-Free Week" Starts Today: What to Do without the PDA?
 Turn off your tablet, step away from the computer and pull the plug on the TV. Texans are being challenged to do that for a week in a nationwide campaign to alert families to the enormous amount of time they spend with electronic entertainment. Screen-Free Week, April 18-24, is an effort to encourage parents and their kids to get outside for some physical recreation, take in a community event or just stop texting all the time. Jaci Clement with the Fair Media Council admits it won't be easy. (contd.)  Podcast and entire story available:

While that is tempting. There is no way I could be away from the computer for an entire week right now. I have several editing jobs lined up that have to be taken care of before I go on a trip the end of May. Although I suspect this is aimed more at those who use the computer for games than at those who use it for business and for those who are at risk for health problems due to inactivity.

It is true that our sedentary lifestyles have a negative impact on our health. Individuals who are physically active during their leisure time appear to be biologically younger than those with sedentary lifestyles, according to a report in the January 28 issue of Archives of Internal Medicine, one of the JAMA/Archives journals.  Regular exercisers have lower rates of cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, cancer, high blood pressure, obesity and osteoporosis.

So what are we writers supposed to do to combat the bad effects of the hours we spend on the computer? I thought it was enough to start my day with a walk of a little over a mile, some work in my garden, and then throughout the day take short periods to work outside or do housecleaning tasks. But a recent study shows that might not be true. This is what I found on the Diet Blog
Scientists say the findings show the health benefits of exercise are not enough to cancel out the effects of sitting in front of a screen for too long; part of a sedentary lifestyle.
To help "Fight the Sedentary Lifestyle," the American Heart Association suggests tracking your daily physical activity and daily dietary intake, creating personal walking maps, keeping weekly summaries of your progress, and researching valuable information to help you achieve your lifestyle goals.
While I am not going to get as organized about it as the AHA suggests, I do think I will pay more attention to how often I get up from the computer and move around. If nothing else, walking from one end of my house to the other every hour on the hour might make a difference. And maybe another walk in the evening could be on the agenda.

What about you? How do you combat the bad effects of hours of working at the computer? Do you find it hard to stay motivated?

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Book Review: A Puree of Poison by Claudia Bishop

Thank you, Carl, for sharing another review. What would I do on Sundays if you didn't keep me supplied with new reviews? Oh, right, I'd have to write one myself. Enjoy...

A Puree of Poison
By Claudia Bishop
ISBN: 0425193314
Publisher, Berkley Prime Crime
December, 2003, 260 pgs.

This small-town cozy comes with two squabbling sisters, one a gourmand cook, the other an established painter.  They collide in a little upstate New York town called Hemlock Falls.  Aptly named.  Together the sisters Sarah, called Quill, and Meg, own and operate an inn on a perfect plot of property overlooking the namesake falls.  The novel comes with a list of the huge number of characters at the front and an unremarkable recipe at the back.

The 133rd anniversary of a minor Civil War skirmish is approaching and the town is planning big doings.  Things get rapidly complicated.  Reenactors are arriving to stage the battle, a poisonous couple of independent film-makers appear, and Quill, who cannot manage a business to save her soul, is trying out various practices on the Inn’s employees she is picking up from a business course at Cornell.  Cornell ought to sue.

Then people start dying.  They are old and not exactly in the best of health, but they weren’t at death’s door, either.  The one thing they had in common was the Inn.  All three victims had had meals at the Inn on the same
day.  The town doctor, who’s in love with Meg, the aforementioned sister, is mightily distressed.  He asks Meg’s sister, Quill, to investigate.  This of course adds to the number of subjects over which the two sisters can disagree.  As one might imagine, there’s a great amount of shouting, stomping about and door slamming.

Quill, of course, agrees to look into the deaths, if only to protect the reputation of the Inn and her sister.  It isn’t like she hasn’t enough to occupy her.  She has to deal with a twit of a receptionist who’s trying to
finish a PhD and her own inept efforts to force worrisome new business practices on her employees without any preparation.

All of this is handled with a light touch and there are several clever scenes, helped by some imaginative and interesting characters, but it all never quite comes off.  The sisters’ constant squabbling, the irritating front office receptionist who should have been fired for insubordination, and half a dozen other offenses, overshadow some strong writing and clever plotting.


Carl Brookins,
Case of the Greedy Lawyer, Devils Island,
Bloody Halls, more at Kindle & Smashwords!

Friday, April 15, 2011

Friday's Odds and Ends

 There is some talk of raising the speed limit in Texas to 85MPH. Silly me, I thought that was already the speed limit. If I'm driving 70 to 75 MPH, cars zoom by me all the time.

The Dallas Zoo was briefly charging a giraffe-greeting fee until enough patrons complained. Apparently the zoo was trying to boos revenue by charging people to walk out on a platform that allows them to see the tall beasts up close and personal. The charge was $5.00.

Zoo officials were smart in rescinding that charge. Imagine having to explain to a four or five year old child that he or she could not see the giraffe close up because Mommy didn't have the extra five dollars with her.

And now for some personal business. We're having a party at the Author Roast and Toast blog where I am the guest with Angel and Sarah from Open Season. Stop by if you get a chance. There are some other great guests, including Agatha Christie, and some wonderful food and drinks. We are solving the mystery of who killed the IRS agent, and one lucky person will win an ARC of Open Season.

Also wanted to announce that I have two new short stories up on Amazon for the Kindle. SAHM I Am   and The Visitor 

SAHM I Am is a humorous sci-fi story. Technology may be on the verge of having sophisticated home computers that run an entire household, but have the scientists taken into consideration the human factor? When SAHM, a Sensor Activated Home Manager, is field tested at the O'Neal home, he's up against the biggest challenge a computer has ever faced; one Shanna O'Neal.

The Visitor was first written as an assignment in a writing class to adapt a classic fairy tale, and I chose Goldilocks and the Three Bears. A camping trip in the Rockies becomes most interesting when a stranger shows up and the Cantrell family has to find out who has been sneaking into their cabin.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

The Food Police

I'm not a huge fan of the Civil Liberties Union. Like so many organizations and agencies their original purpose was noble, but they have taken too many issues to too many extremes. But I do wish they would get in a frenzy about the latest trends to help children eat healthy.

I heard on the news last night that school districts across the country are starting to ban chocolate milk from the school lunches because of its high fat and sugar content.

Is nothing sacred? Soda is already banned from most schools because it is not a healthy drink, but chocolate milk at least has some nutritional value. And it has been a staple of American dining for as long as I can remember.

Then I heard about schools in Chicago where students are not allowed to bring their own lunches. No more brown bags or cute little lunch buckets from home. Students must purchase a lunch from the cafeteria, and if they bring any snacks from home that are determined to be unhealthy, the snacks are confiscated. The logic behind this move, which apparently isn't limited to the Chicago area, is that the school is protecting the students from making poor food choices and giving them the alternative of a healthier food.

Where is it going to end? Will the food police come into our homes next and confiscate all our unhealthy food? No more Oreos and chocolate milk. No more ice-cream. Good-bye chips and salsa and Buffalo Wings.

Not that I eat all that, but it sure sounds good and we ought to be able to eat snacks without someone slapping our hands.

I understand that obesity is a major health issue, but those who are obese and continue to stay that way are making choices. We all ought to be able to continue to make choices. That is what freedom and democracy is all about. It's not about having the food police tell us what we can and cannot eat.

And they'd  better keep their hands off my pretzels, that's all I've got to say.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Book Review: Spring for Susannah

Since I have totally messed up my week here on the blog -- no review on Sunday, no Monday Morning Musings -- I decided to surprise everyone with a review today. Not sure what I will do tomorrow. Who says I have to be organized? LOL

Spring For Susannah
Catherine Richmond
 Paperback: 356 pages
 Publisher: Thomas Nelson (June 14, 2011)
 Language: English
 ISBN-10: 1595549242
 ISBN-13: 978-1595549242

Following the death of her father in Michigan, Susannah Underhill is left rootless, and she agrees to go west to the Dakota Territory to marry Jesse Mason, brother of Susannah's minister. At the urging of the minister's wife, Susannah has corresponded with Jesse for several months, but meeting in letters is nothing like meeting in person.

Susannah is quiet and shy, a stark contrast to Jesse's outgoing personality. She doesn't know what to talk to him about or how, and is often more comfortable talking to the dog. He is less threatening than this man who seems to overpower her sometimes just by his mere presence. And he is so confident about God and God's love. How can anyone be that confident?

Before her father died, Susannah helped him in his veterinary practice in Detroit, and that experience helps save Jesse's ox and twin calves. She also helps neighboring farmers with their animals, and Jesse realizes that she is an asset and a blessing in this land that challenges the strongest of men and women. For her part, Susannah starts to feel a part of this desolate land and begins to appreciate what made Jesse come out here to homestead. While it is harsh and stark with many challenges, the Dakota prairie is beautiful in spring.

As Susannah works through her awkwardness and feelings of unworthiness the bond that unites these two people grows stronger. This is a beautifully written story with language and descriptions that bring the prairie to life like the sun brings new growth in the spring. The characters are true and believable, and the testimony to faith is woven seamlessly throughout the story with a deft hand. As Susannah learns to trust the love of Jesse, she learns to trust in the love of God.

This is a book that will appeal to fans of inspirational fiction, but it also has a wider appeal because of the strength of the love story.
In the words of the author: I was busy raising a family, working as an occupational therapist, and trying to remember where I hid the chocolate, when a song sparked a story within me. The journey to publication has been long, but full of blessings. I couldn’t have done it without ACFW, RWA, and FHL, the inspirational chapter of RWA – and lots of chocolate! Catherine's Web site

FTC Disclaimer: The author sent me an advance review copy of the book, hoping that I would write a review. But she did say if I didn't like the book, I didn't have to write one. In keeping with full disclosure, I will also admit that I know the author, and I had the pleasure of reading this book in its infancy. For her sake and mine, I won't say how long ago that was. What I will say is that I was impressed with the writing then and am even more impressed now. I am not a fan of inspirational fiction. It is often too preachy for my tastes, but this one doesn't pound the pulpit.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Some Sunday Fun

No book review today. I am a guest at Lelia Taylor's  Creatures and Crooks Books Blog today. Well, that is not entirely accurate. One of our cats, Little John, is a guest there. If you have time,  hop over and see what he has to say.

I have done several blog pieces about our cats on the blog, and we have had so much fun with it, I will do at least one more. Then I run out of cats to write about.

Friday, April 08, 2011

Friday's Odds and Ends

Since I resigned as Managing Editor for, I am not as connected to the news as I used to be. Part of my daily updates at the online magazine included the latest news blurbs from several sources. Now I don't check those sources daily, and I don't watch very much broadcast news, either. In some ways it's nice to be disconnected, but that also means I am not finding those absurd news bits I like to comment on every Friday.

I did hear that the Federal Government is on the verge of shutting down because the elephants and the donkeys can't agree on a budget. Apparently on the pachyderm side it is the newly elected representatives that won with Tea Party support. And here I thought they had promised to put partisan politics aside if they got into office.

I guess you can't trust an elephant.

Doing a quick Internet search for bizarre news, I came across this from  Bizarre . A 13-year-old Norwegian boy avoided being attacked by wolves by playing a heavy metal song on his mobile phone. I knew there had to be one good use for heavy metal music.

I also found this on  The new official worlds tallest man is Sultan Kosen of Turkey. Standing at a giant 8ft 1 or 2.5 meters, Sultan Kosen is the newly crowned Guinness World Records worlds tallest man. With money he can make with special appearances, he hopes to be able to buy a car. “The first thing I want is a car I can fit into,” Sultan Kosen said. “More than that, I want to get married. It’s really difficult to find a girlfriend. They are usually scared of me.”

I'm reading The General and Monaville Texas by Joe G. Bax. So far, it is a good read and last night this line had me cracking up: "It was so quiet you could hear a mouse piss on a cotton ball."

Too bad my husband was already asleep when I started laughing.

That's it for me today. Did you run across any absurd or funny news stories this week?

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Drowning Ruth - a novel

I know this is not my normal book review day, but I just finished this book today and wanted to share some things about it, both from a reader's standpoint and a writer's.

First of all, Drowning Ruth, was an amazing story. It was published in 2000 and I am sorry that I didn't read it when it first came out.

It was hard to like the central character at first, and she only became truly endearing at the very end, but there was the mystery of what happened in the past that shaped her that kept me engaged in the story.

Writers are advised to make their central characters likeable so the reader can connect. Who wants to connect to someone who lies, is harsh and manipulative, and is very demanding? If we decide to go against this advice, we'd better make sure we can do it well. Christina Schwarz does it well. (Last week, Kathryn Craft wrote a two-part series on The Blood Red Pencil blog about unlikeable central characters.)

As a reader, I like books with multiple layers to the story and several strong characters who are tied together by plot elements. This novel has Ruth, Amanda, Mathilda, Carl, Clemment, and Arthur who all have a stake in each other and a connection that propels the story. They are all deeply affected by the secret that Amanda, Mandy, has kept for many years, and it is that secret that changes all their lives.

This is all beautifully written from various points of view, but all the threads are woven together in a smooth and seamless story.

Point of view (POV) is another hotly debated issue for writers. In genre and category fiction with narrow parameters, writers are told to stick to one or two points of view, and never switch POV in the middle of a scene. Mainstream and literary novels are not bound by those constraints, but if the POV changes are not handled well, they can still be jarring. Again, it takes a deft hand at the pen to write a book like Drowning Ruth and not jar the reader out of the story by awkward scene changes or POV changes.

I'm not sure my hand is quite as deft as Christina Schwarz's, but I do like to change the point of view in scenes. Because my books are categorized as mystery, sometimes my editor questions the fact that I will switch POV like that, and sometimes she is right and it is too abrupt. Other places in the story it just feels right to me so I campaign to keep them in. So far, I have not had a reader complain.

What about you? Do you like to read stores with multiple points of view and many layers to the plot? Is that what you write?

Monday, April 04, 2011

Monday Morning Musings

As I write this a storm is brewing here in East Texas and I will have to close down my computer soon. When we have lightening, I have to unplug everything electronic because we frequently have an unwanted visitor come through the wire.

Since I don't have time to write a blog this morning, I thought I would treat you to a piece from a wonderful writer, Slim Randles. He has written several books and is a syndicated columnist. He is also a cowboy and hangs out with his friends at the Mule Barn Think Tank where they solve world problems and trade stories. Enjoy....

Someday it would be interesting if social scientists would spend some of that grant money on finding out how some good things get started, as well as discovering sources of pestilence and plague.

It shouldn’t be all that difficult. The cookie thing wasn’t all that hard to figure out.

The cookie thing, we concluded, began with old Jasper Blankenship. He came down from his cabin at the diggin’s and brought with him an entire half pillowcase of cookies. He had found the recipe in one of those 30-year-old magazines he has up there, and since the snow was too deep to do anything else, he baked cookies.

Jasper walked into the Soup ‘R Market and handed a cookie to Annette. “We don’t often get to say how much we appreciate each other, Annette,” the old man said, “so here … have a cookie.”

She thanked him and talked about it for the rest of the day.

Jasper found Doc walking toward the Mule Barn and his daily cup of coffee and handed him a cookie, too.

“Doc … the way you took care of that … little problem of mine … well, I want you to know how much I appreciate it. Here, have a cookie.”

Before the day was over and Jasper headed back to the diggin’s, half the valley had been cookied, and the other half wished they had. Carla Martinez had been cookied and decided to carry on the tradition, so she whipped up a batch of biscochitos and began passing them out, along with compliments.

Herb Collins asked Maizie to make a batch of chocolate chip cookies, his particular favorite, and handed them out, along with compliments. Mickey Baker had store-bought cookies to hand out two nights later at the ticket booth at The Strand, where a Randolph Scott Western was playing for the first time in 60 years. Each cookie came with a compliment, too. This seems to be the most important element of Jasper’s new valley tradition.

Cookies and compliments. Not a bad way to say I love you.


Slim Randles lives in New Mexico and his books are: Sun Dog Days, Raven's Prey, Ol' Slim's View From the Porch and Ol' Max Evans The First Thousand Years    Web site

Sunday, April 03, 2011

Thanks to Carl Brookins for sharing another review. 

How to Survive A Killer Séance
By Penny Warner
Mass Market release in 2011
by Obsidian, 290 pages.

Party planner Presley Parker is back. In another delightfully cozy murder mystery, she’s got herself enmeshed with some high-roller, high energy, digital silicon-valley types who are nothing if not focused. The problem is they seem to have left everything resembling human values back at the starting gate. Compassion? Nowhere to be found. Fidelity? It is to laugh.

The women are sexy and high energy, the guys are bright and energetic, if often ill-tempered, and poor Presley is caught between some over-stressed corporate types, her own urges and career needs, and her flakey mother. It’s easy to see where Penny gets some of her idiosyncrasies.

A wide range of characters? You bet. Unusual ideas and offbeat characters? Absolutely. This author fully understands what her readers are looking for and in spite of having already produced a huge number of enjoyable books, she continues to plumb her creative muse to write stories that satisfy a certain risibility and belief in the quirkiness of human nature.

A fast read, well-plotted, with a setting to die for, and characters that are distinct. This is yet another of Penny Warner’s diverting, novels. Here there is no gloom or doom, just a murder or two in dark rooms, secret passageways, unreal emanations and a fast romp to a perfectly designed conclusion.


Carl Brookins,
Devils Island, Bloody Halls, Reunion, Red Sky
more at Kindle, Smashwords & OmniLit!

Friday, April 01, 2011

Friday's Odds and Ends

Say it isn't so: The comic strip Baby Blues had a story about the liltle girl, Zoe, being invited to a "shopping party" for a friend's birthday. For the party, everyone goes to a mall and the birthday girl gets to pick out presents which the guests then buy the gifts. Wanda, Zoe's mother comments, "So, it cuts right to the greed."

Thanks, Wanda, you said it all.

A flyer came in the mail with a coupon for a new water enhancer, MiO, for all those folks who need a flavor for their water.

Hmmm.... Why not drink soda, or Kool Aid, or some liquid that already has a flavor.  Water is just water.

Two teachers in the Dallas ISD have been charged with sex crimes and suspended. Letters were not sent home with students informing parents of this because officials thought that could interfere with the investigation.

Wouldn't officials want to know if these sex crimes involved any of the kids at the school where the teachers were employed? Seems to me the parents had a right to know about the investigation and have an opportunity to offer information that might be pertinent.

OMG- The Oxford dictionary has added some Internet-inspired expressions to its latest online edition.

In 2008 a district court in Texas declared Ben Spencer innocent. He had been tried and convicted on charges of murder and robbery in 1987 and has spent the last 24 years in jail. Despite the district court's declaration of innocence, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals has not started the process to release him.

Talk about a travesty. It is not like the district court judge simply ordered a new trial. Apparently there was sufficient evidence of innocence that the judge made a direct ruling. Certainly that should carry some weight with the Court of Criminal Appeals.