Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Wednesday's Guest - Cat Connor

Cat Connor is a thriller/suspense writer and the author of the _byte series - a series of FBI thrillers starring SSA Ellie Conway. Ellie shares various cases and escapades that make her life a little more interesting and a lot more difficult than she would like.
Cat with her dog, Romeo
1. How did you come to write in the genre you chose?
        I didn’t make a conscious decision to write thrillers or suspense, it just happens to be what falls out of my fingers as I type. It’s been noted that I have a fairly scary mind with lots of dark corners. Fabulously scary thoughts hide in dark corners. I guess you could say it’s a natural genre for me.
2. What is your family's favorite story to tell on you?
       The day I licked Jon Bon Jovi. Yes, that sounds bad. It sounds a whole helluva lot worse when it comes out of the mouth of a 3 year old, and it’s a story she loved to tell, even though it really was totally innocent. We were eating dinner, I think it may have been lasagna (if not it was something else with red sauce). I was wearing my favorite Bon Jovi tee shirt. Sauce cascaded from my fork and down Jon’s face. Without thinking, I grabbed the front of my shirt and licked the sauce off. (Why I didn’t go get a cloth I do not know!) Everyone at the table erupted in howls of laughter.
        Later, while I was having a coffee with our neighbor, my daughter, Miss Breezy, (who was then 3) piped up, “Mummy licked Jon Bon Jovi.”
        There is no way back from a statement like that.

3. What was the first thing you ever had published?
        A short story in an anthology back in 2002 that I hope, I really hope, no one ever sees. It was borderline fan-fiction and makes me cringe just thinking about it. My husband also had a story published in the same anthology. So did a friend and fellow Rebel. It happened way before we were Rebels and is probably best forgotten. And no, I’m not telling you the name of the anthology!

4. If you could go anywhere in the world, where would it be and why?
        Back to northern Virginia. I love it there. It feels like home but flatter. Also, having access to so many amazing museums in one place is like heaven - not to mention gorgeous cops with guns. Really, what’s not to love? So, given the opportunity I would go back to Virginia and happily live in Fairfax. It’s close enough to Washington for my liking, and I’d get to ride the Metro. I really miss the Metro. It’s how trains should be. Reliable, clean, and comfortable. (Not at all like trains here in Wellington!)

5. What gives you the most pleasure in writing?
       The final two words - The End. I love writing, or I wouldn’t be doing it. But I especially love finishing a book.
      Well, actually, what gives me the most pleasure is hearing from readers. Listening to their views on my characters and their insights. Such a thrill for me and so very interesting to hear how other people view Ellie and the rest of Delta.
       I tweet a lot, and so does my main character. So I get to talk to readers as Ellie, which is so much fun. (And really helpful to my writing, because she gets asked all sorts of questions and I need to provide the answers.)

6. Where do your stories begin? With character or plot?
      My stories begin with a character who then tells me the story. I find it works better if I just let the characters take over. In the past I have tried to manipulate the story to where I wanted it to go, and I now know that doesn’t work. I am being held hostage by my main character!

7. What is the most unusual or interesting research you have done for your books?
      I spent a month in the US, last year which was mostly a research trip. It was a lot of fun. I was with my Admins. We took well over 5000 photographs as we walked all over Washington DC. We found ourselves in some places we shouldn’t have been - the less said about that the better. Also, turns out, carrying a hidden camera is a pretty good idea. I have a pen that (is very similar to one my main character uses in flashbyte) records video, audio, and still photos.
       Very handy thing to have!
       In New York we had dinner with the very talented Lorenza Ponce who had helped me round out my rock star character in exacerbyte and flashbyte. I had no clue about the life of a touring rocker, so her insight was incredibly valuable and much appreciated.
       Earlier this year, with a new character just emerging, I needed to find an actor - not just any actor - I needed someone who’d been around a while and who had a diverse career, preferably on TV. After much thought and utilizing some skills I'd acquired while doing private investigation papers I found the perfect actor. Much to my surprise and delight Mark Valley said he’d help, and he was fantastic at answering my questions.
       So, I now know something about life as an actor and how Mark does what he does which will help round out my new character. (This character appears in as yet unnamed-byte.)
       Without the help of various experts I wouldn’t have the confidence in my characters to let them evolve the way they need too.
       I don’t sit down and spend weeks/months researching for a book because I don’t know how the story will unfold until I write it, so, it’s a research as I go deal.

New Zealander Cat Connor is the author of The_byte series of FBI thrillers published by Rebel ePublishers. So far the series contains killerbyte, terrorbyte, exacerbyte, and flashbyte - her latest thriller about the life of SSA Ellie Conway. killerbyte, was a finalist in the 2010 EPIC awards.
Cat spends her days writing with her rescue greyhound - Romeo, keeping her company.

Buy links for flashbyte: Amazon kindle  -- Smashwords

Visit Cat on her Website or her blog and find her on Twitter and Facebook 

Monday, May 28, 2012

Book Review - Flashbyte by Cat Connor

You know what they say about the best laid plans. My schedule for this week was totally fractured due to a very busy weekend. It was fun - hosting a troupe of traveling actors who brought a show to our Art Center - but it did keep me away from my computer most of the weekend. So, let's pretend it is Sunday and the regular day for a book review. Cat Connor will be my guest this Wednesday, so I hope you will come back to see what she has to offer.

Today, I am over at The Blood Red Pencil with a post about writing short stories. Come on by if you get a chance.

And let's also take a moment to acknowledge that it is Memorial Day. A day that we stop and honor those who have made the ultimate sacrifice in military service.

Cat Connor
Rebel ePublishers LLC
(March 7, 2012)

When this story rocks, it holds nothing back. Ellie Conway is a tough FBI agent who has been around the world, and then some. She is also talks to her dead husband and has music that plays in her head. In an instant she can transpose from this kick-ass field agent to a woman confused and uncertain when a piece of music or a flash of memory totally disarms her.

The main story line revolves around somebody who is sending body parts to Ellie, and a few other people she knows, and someone from her past that obviously wants her dead. Women that share her last name are being killed in Washington D.C., as well as in places connected to Ellie's past. Could the two be connected?

In the course of just a few days, Ellie is shot at. Her house explodes. And she is shot at again. This is nothing new for the agent who survived similar attacks when she worked undercover for the CIA. The action is superb and the pace relentless at times.

I liked this lady. She is the fantasy alter-ego for any woman who has harbored a secret desire to be a superhero. Load up that Glock, and march out to face the scumbags who threaten hearth and home. She also came across as totally believable as the lone female on a team that has worked together for years.

What didn't work quite so well for me were what I thought at first were flashbacks. Then I finally figured out that Ellie was literally stepping back in time. That really didn't become clear until toward the end of the book, which is why I found those scenes disconcerting. Granted, some of the history of what Ellie experienced in that undercover operation needed to be included in the story, but I found the jump into a full scene jarring. It always took me a moment to figure out that we had gone into the past. Perhaps instead of having her go into the past so often, some of those instances could have been handled with a very short narrative summary of the memories a certain name or place evoked.

The scenes that involved her seeing and talking to her dead husband worked better for me, and I could sense that her grief was a big part of some of the nonsense that went on her head.

While I am not normally a fan of paranormal elements in a mystery, this seems to be the month for me to jump into the sub-genre. First it was the Dead Detective story and now this one. The key to making this work for me is to give me a character that I can connect with and I will suspend my disbelief to go along for the ride.

And this was quite a ride with some characters I would be happy to take a trip with again.

Cat lives in Upper Hutt, New Zealand (slightly north of the capital city, Wellington), with her husband and children. They share their home with Missy the cat and Romeo - a retired Greyhound.

FTC Disclaimer: The author sent me this book for possible review, but she knew that I would only write a review if I liked it. If I don't care for a book, I do not post a review. This is because I really don't like to be snarky about another author's work. Now, when I reviewed professionally, I could be as snarky as I wanted to be, but I have mellowed in my old age. Since this is not a professional publication and I am not getting paid, and the author isn't either because I didn't buy the book, nobody is benefiting in any material way from this review.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Friday's Odds and Ends

Talk about super sensitivity. I know we do have to be respectful of other people in how we act and what we say, but this recent item made me wonder if we have gone too far.  Texas State Representative Rafael Anchia  demanded that a candidate running for the Texas congress apologize for calling a rival candidate an "errand-boy" for big county employers. Anchia said, "Describing a 41-year old African American male as a boy in any context is unacceptable and offensive."

First of all, the word "boy" in that context does not have the same meaning or implication as when it was used as a derogatory term when white people said that to black people out of bigotry. Secondly, being called an errand-boy is equally insulting to any successful white, brown, black, purple person in the world. If we keep nit-picking like that, pretty soon we won't be able to say anything without fear of being called out for insulting some group.

"My endorsement evolved," says Herman Cain in explaining why he is now supporting Mitt Romney as the eventual GOP nominee for president after his earlier endorsement of "the American people" and Newt Gingrich.

That makes a good soundbite. And apparently a number of political PR people are on the same page as we have heard lots of "evolving" from lots of politicians, even the president whose stand on gay marriage "evolved." However, the bottom line is that "evolving" is simply a way to do what is most beneficial politically. In the case of Herman Cain, should Romney win the nomination and then go on to win the White House, think of the favors  owed back to Cain. So much for the concern for "the American people."

And now on a lighter note. We are preparing for the Nite of Comedy at the art center where I am the Theatre Director. I work with an incredible troupe of actors, and my young players are terrific. Last night we had a brainstorming session to write some skits, and the kids came up with some great stuff. It made me think of those neighborhood shows my friends and I used to put on in my basement and how much fun we had doing that. Remember those?

Our show will include one-liners that the players will pop on stage and deliver - "Laugh-In" style for those who remember that show. Here are just a few:

If man evolved from monkeys and apes, why do we still have monkeys and apes?

 What was the best thing before sliced bread?

 Why is the alphabet in that order? Is it because of that song?

Why is there an expiration date on sour cream?

How is it possible to have a civil war?

 If the "black box" flight recorder is never damaged in a place crash, why isn’t the whole airplane made of that stuff?

Have a great weekend.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Creating Time: Using Creativity to Reinvent the Clock and Reclaim Your Life

Today's guest is  Marney K. Makridakis, who wrote an interesting new book and created a whole program around the concept of time.

For writers and other creative people, Creating Time: Using Creativity to Reinvent the Clock and Reclaim Your Life, is right up there with The Author's Journey and other books that inspire and gently nudge us to stay on track, or maybe get on the track in the first place.

However, the book is not just geared toward the artistic types. People in all walks of life and with many other careers can find inspiration and some good, practical advice in this book.

The sections of the book take us from exploring our relationship with time and how we measure it through various ways we can create time through gratitude, love, ritual synchronicity, visualization, and my favorite, stillness. Each section is illustrated with lovely art work by the author or by readers who have used her concepts for "creating time."

Among all the jewels of wisdom I found in the book, this one resonated with me. Perhaps because I have less years left in my life than I have lived, and also because of family and friends who have made drastic changes in their lives after receiving a diagnosis of cancer or some other terrible disease that had the potential to end their time all too soon. "The truth of the matter is that life is a 'life-threatening diagnosis' for all of us. We have no way of knowing how much time we have. So we might as well realize how precious each and every moment truly is. We can create time by creating our own urgency to live as if every moment counts, because it does!"

Lest you think that the book is all about stopping to smell the roses or ticking things off a bucket list, be aware that it is much more than that. The chapters present ideas and suggestion for helping us make  a mental shift in how we relate to time, and they all have real-life examples, step-by-step introspective processes, and powerful creative projects that inspire a new sense of time.   

Karen Karsten, a prosperity coach and teacher had an interesting concept of time. "When I think about time as one day, I think of it like a lake, with connections to the earth and the universe. There's total joy in diving into the lake: no waiting for the weekend here!" For her ARTsignment she painted a picture that featured a lake with the hands of a clock in the middle and one swimmer was diving off one of the hands, while a kid was swinging on another. She also had several skeleton keys in the picture because she said the ARTsignment "offered a little key to unlocking time. Come with me to this lake, swim in the stardust, surf with the music of time, unlock time for yourself."

I learned a long time ago how important images are to me for reflection and reminders of things I need to be mindful of, so the idea of creating artwork as I move through the chapters and concepts in this book is not alien to me, although my artwork will not compare to some of the pictures I have hanging above my computer. That's okay, though. Nobody is expected to turn out great masterpieces of visual art. The point is to make something that will remind you of what you learned and want to remember as you complete each section.

Now, just a few words from the author:
Why did you write Creating Time? Like most people, time has been a big challenge for me throughout my adult life, but it escalated after I gave birth to my first child in 2008 and struggled to find the time to “do it all”. I devoured every time- management book I could get my hands on, but found that I was still chasing time. I finally put myself on mission to find a new solution and explored ways that I could apply my best resource (imagination) to my biggest problem (time).

What are the main challenges with time that you've identified, and how does this book address them? To personalize the reader’s process, Creating Time contains a “Time Diagnosis Chart” which identifies 14 of the most popular time complaints and recommends which of the book’s tools are most effective in addressing them. I find it interesting that, while everyone’s specific time complaints are unique, they usually boil down to one very primal theme: I don’t have enough time to live the life I want to live.

What do you most hope that readers take away from this book?I hope that readers will come away with a new sense of a time, as well as practical tools to put this new approach into action, both in their day-to-day lives and into their fuller spectrum of meaning and purpose in life.

If you would like to purchase a copy of the book, click on the cover image on my right sidebar.

CREATING TIME by Marney K. Makridakis
April 17, 2012  Personal Growth/Creativity •  288 pages • Trade Paperback in Four Color
Price: $22.95 • ISBN 978-1-60868-111-2

Monday, May 21, 2012

The Family Dog

When our kids were young we had a dog, Ruffy, who was part German Shepard and part wolf. He was a cute little fuzzy puppy who grew up into a good-sized dog, and he stayed outside. Except for the time something scared him and he crashed through the window on the French door leading into the house from the patio.

This is not Ruffy, but he looked a lot like this.
I was in the kitchen cleaning up from supper when I heard the commotion. Our oldest daughter ran in bubbling over with excitement and announced, “Ruffy came in?”

“Who let him in.”

“Nobody. He came through the window.”

“What window?”

“The window in the door.”

“But he’s huge and that window is small.”

By then, Ruffy had come into the kitchen and was checking under the table for scraps. I went into the living room, and sure enough, one pane of glass was broken out of the French door. Luckily, it had come out clean so there were no jagged edges that could have cut the dog, but still, I had to wonder how that great big dog fit through an opening about 8 inches by 12 inches.

Ruffy was quite fierce when storms weren’t scaring him. One time when the kids were out in the back playing and a neighbor tried to come through the gate, Ruffy sat like a growling sentinel and wouldn’t let the neighbor in. I had to tell my neighbor to always come to the front door when she wanted to visit.

When he wasn’t loose to play in the yard, Ruffy had a large pen and loved to run the perimeter while one of us squirted him with the hose. That was especially refreshing in the heat of a Texas summer, but it did have one downside. The weeds and grass grew like Jack’s beanstalk inside the pen.

Ruffy was always good for a romp or a walk, and it was undeniable that he wormed his way into all our hearts. Never was that more evident then when the kids did a survey at the dinner table and decided they all liked the dog better than me.

There was a time I liked animals more than people, so I was not terribly insulted. (smile)

Do you have a pet that your kids like more than they like you? 

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Book Review - Moonlight Mile by Dennis Lehane

Moonlight Mile
Dennis Lehane
2010 release

First, I have to admit I am a bit biased when it comes to books by Dennis Lehane. He is one of my favorite authors, and he is one heck of a nice guy. At least he was when I met him at a writer's conference many moons ago. This was before Shutter Island - in fact he was writing that book at the time - and when Mystic River was in production for film. He's had a lot more success since then, so that may have puffed up his ego, but I suspect not.

Moonlight Mile does not have the depth of character and storyline as Mystic River, which is my favorite Lehane book, but it does bring back Patrick Kenzie and his wife, Angie Gennaro, as well as a bit of their past they would like to forget.

Twelve years ago when Patrick located missing 4-year-old Amanda McCready and returned her to her neglectful mother, even though she would’ve been better off with her kidnappers, he was sure he was doing the right thing. (this was the case featured in Gone, Baby, Gone) Angie disagreed with his decision and that case tore the couple apart.

Fast forward to present time and Patrick is barely scraping by as a freelance PI, with a daughter of his own. When Patrick learns that Amanda McCready has gone missing, he is pulled into a case that involves the Russian mob and some very nasty people. Again, Patrick and Angie are faced with having to make tough decisions and ask themselves if it is possible to do the right thing, yet still be wrong. 

As a fan of Patrick and Angie through all of the previous 5 books that featured them, I enjoyed reading their banter, and I smiled when I read some of Patrick's funny lines. The little bits between him and his daughter, Gabby, were priceless.

Those who have only read Mystic River or Shutter Island might be disappointed that this is a much lighter read on some levels, but it does have enough danger and suspense to keep a reader engaged. And the tough decisions Patrick has to make can't help but make us stop and think about tough decisions we all have to make. Granted, most of us are not doing that facing life and death situations, but the ethical question of what is the right thing on legal levels that can be so terrible wrong is one that applies to many situations.

While this may not the best work Lehane has done when compared to his bigger novels, it is certainly some good work and a thoroughly enjoyable read.

FTC Disclaimer - I purchased this book, so Dennis does not even know I had it or planned to write a review. He probably does not even remember me or the conversations we had at the bar in Omaha, either. So there was no money slipped under any table to prompt me to write a favorable review. 

Friday, May 18, 2012

A Lesson From Cats

When I saw these two cats sharing the same space the other day, the sight stopped me for a moment. These two female cats have hated each other ever since Daisy, the silver tabby, came to live at our house. Prior to that, Misty, the calico, was the queen. She was top cat and ruled the other cats with an iron paw.

Daisy is the cat that I found injured in my barn last fall. At the time, we did not plan to have one more cat. We had just adopted the two black kittens I've written about before, but my husband and I decided that we would not leave Daisy to be dinner for a coyote. Misty had accepted the kittens with only minor upset. Maybe because she had had several litters of kittens, and a maternal instinct kicked in, but she did not like Daisy from day one.

Ever since, the two cats have had a hate-relationship. If they get within a few feet of each other, great bouts of hissing usually erupt. Still, there have been moments that hinted that maybe the hostilities would not last forever. Over time, the cats made tentative approaches toward peace, occasionally walking past each other without the sound effects, and once even looking at each other as if thinking, "Maybe she could be okay."

Then once I saw them outside, and they were actually playing a little game of chase. At least it looked like a game of chase. Unless it was just Misty saying, "get out of the flowerbed. I was here first." But I'd like to think that they had decided they could have a little fun together if they stopped being so nasty to each other.

Anyway, whatever differences they have had were obviously put aside the day they decided to sleep back-to-back on the card table where I work jigsaw puzzles. When I got the camera, of course the perfect picture was no longer there. Daisy, always on alert, heard me turn on the camera and sat up. Misty was so sound asleep, she didn't even move.

I snapped a couple of shots anyway and stood there for a few moments just watching. Seeing the cats together like that in relative peace made me wish that people could resolve their differences, or at least put them aside long enough to discover that we can get along.

What if the groups of people who have battled each other for decades, maybe centuries, just stopped and tried to walk within a few miles of each other without violence erupting? What if people who harbor ill-will toward people of a different race or culture or religion, stopped and just looked at each other and thought, "Maybe she could be okay."?

What if some cultures that arm young children to go fight the "enemy" would give them bats and balls and tell them to go play with the other kids in the park?

What if we all just learned to get along?

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

A Dead Guy Talks To You - Guest Peg Herring

First, thanks to Maryann for hosting me on It’s Not All Gravy!

Schedule: Peg Herring’s Blog Tour for May (and one post in June) consists of a mix of interviews with Seamus, the Dead Detective, and posts on writing. Yesterday’s stop was at The next stop will be on May 21 at
A full schedule is posted at my blog
When the tour is over (June 11th), the complete Seamus interview will be posted on there as well.

Prizes: People who comment on any blog post on the tour will be entered in drawings for several prizes: Dead Detective T-shirts, copies of The Dead Detective Agency and Dead For the Money (paperback or e-books available), and the chance to be a character in the third of the series Dead For the Show. Multiple winners will be drawn.

 A Dead Guy Talks about You -Part 6

Interviewer: It’s been very informative to talk with you, Seamus. I just have a few more questions for you to complete our interview.

Seamus: Sure.

Interviewer: I’d like to know why you do what you do. Why do you keep coming back to earth?
Seamus: I like helping the clients out. You know, giving them answers that make things easier for them.

Interviewer: But what do you get out of it? You said it’s painful, and you’ve said it isn’t easy to operate here. Yet you’ve been at it for a long time.

Seamus: (after some thought) I guess I like it here better than there.

Interviewer: (incredulous) But Seamus, you died and went to heaven!

Seamus: Technically It isn’t heaven. I can’t talk about that. Let’s just say I like it here.

Interviewer: But you’ve told us how heavy the human body is, how hard it is to read a person’s mind, how different your hosts’ perceptions are from what yours were.

Seamus: Yeah, yeah. All that’s true. I can’t explain it, but I want to be here, even if it’s tough.

Interviewer: Tough to know you don’t belong here anymore?

Seamus: Yeah. It’s hard to see what you left undone. Hard to think you might have done lots of things better. Hard to admit that you aren’t going to get any more chances. (A pause) You know, all your life you tell yourself “Tomorrow I’m going to—whatever.”

Interviewer: Lose weight? Take a chance? Be nicer to others?

Seamus: Exactly. Then one day there isn’t any tomorrow. You didn’t do it, and now you can’t. Ever.

Interviewer: I see.

Seamus: That’s what’s bad about dying, knowing you can’t do those things you said you’d do tomorrow. You had a chance, just one chance, to be who you are—who you were. When it’s over, you can’t fix any of it.

Interviewer: “The Moving Finger writes; and, having writ,/Moves on: nor all thy Piety nor 
Wit/Shall lure it back to cancel half a Line,/Nor all thy Tears wash out a Word of it.”

Seamus: What?

Interviewer: It’s from Gibran’s The Prophet. It sums up what you were saying. (Tiny laugh) 
Sorry, that’s my degree in world literature talking.

Seamus: Oh. Sure. I guess he said what I said, only better.

Interviewer: I’d like to thank you for being our guest over the course of these interviews.

Seamus: I guess it wasn’t too bad. You didn’t ask anything too embarrassing.

Interviewer: Oh, that reminds me. Would you please tell us about hosting with a rat?

Seamus: You said the interview was over. If they want to know about that, Peg covered it in The Dead Detective Agency. Now, I have to get back to work. See you around.

Peg Herring lives in Michigan and writes two series, the critically acclaimed Simon & Elizabeth (Tudor) Mysteries (Five Star Publishing) and the award-winning Dead Detective Mysteries (LL-Publications). When not writing, Peg enjoys directing musical groups, gardening, and talking about writing.

Dead For the Money  (e-book) 

Monday, May 14, 2012

Every Day Should Be Mother's Day

I thought this excerpt from my humorous memoir might be fun on this the day after Mother's Day. Yesterday mothers were treated like "Queen for a Day" and today it is back to business as usual. Enjoy....

Since we can’t have Mother’s Day every day, over the years mothers learned not to expect to much out of life - a kind word every other year or so; now and then a big night out on the town, starting at McDonalds and ending up in a whirl of recklessness at Dunkin' Donuts for dessert; and occasionally, a small sign of gratefulness on the part of our kids for all we do for them.

"Did you wash my soccer uniform?"



The gratefulness is found in tone and inflection, and may be a matter of interpretation.

Early on I learned to take my joys in little things, since the big things like Mother’s Day, Christmas, and my birthday only came once a year. Some days it was a thrill to take seven forks out of the silverware drawer and find them all clean. You may think that’s a bit pathetic, but you have to understand that it might have been year and a half since I’d taken a single clean fork out of the drawer and finding seven was like winning a Lotto jackpot.

Other days it was a thrill to tell the kids to start cleaning their rooms while I made a quick trip to the store and come home to find them actually doing it.

Another universal thrill for all mothers is to discover some random afternoon that we have fifteen full minutes to ourselves to do anything we want. As any experienced mother can tell you, there are all sorts of things one can accomplish in fifteen minutes. You can take half a bath. You can read twenty-two and a third pages in a book. You can start that letter you've been promising your sister for the last two years and hope that none of the news becomes ancient history by the time you finish it.

Or how about when we ask our kids who ate the last piece of cake, and one of them answers, "I did."
 If and when this ever happens to you, be very careful how you react. If your husband comes home from work and finds you wandering around the house in a daze with a silly grin on your face, he may lock the liquor cabinet, reserve a room in your name at the nearest mental hospital, or both.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Book Review - Dead For the Money by Peg Herring

Peg Herring
LL Publications

Had I known the concept of this Dead Detective series, I might not have agreed to read the book for possible review. When I was telling my husband what the book was about, he gave me this one-eyebrow-raised look. "A dead guy is a detective."


"Okay…" with that he went back to reading the newspaper.

This is the second book in the series that debuted with The Dead Detective Agency and introduced Seamus, a man long-dead, who doesn't care to go to whatever awaits him beyond the portal. He'd rather go back to the living and solve crimes. So that is what he does. The concept sounds a bit too far-fetched when simply explained like that, but in this series the concept works. I was surprised to discover how well it works.

One key to effective reader engagement is to give her a character that she can like and relate to. Now, I can't relate to the dead aspect of Seamus, but his desire to do right and seek justice is something that resonates with me. And Seamus is just enough of a quirky sort of guy that you want to stick with him to see what he is going to say or think next. He is a bit of a philosopher and shares bits of wisdom like this, "That's what  it's like to get old, Seamus thought. Tiny victories over a rebellious body. Small achievements that help you believe it isn't over."

Cases to investigate spring from an issue that a newly "departed" person has with thinking his or her demise was not an accident or due to natural causes, and that person is given the opportunity to talk to Seamus to see if he would be able to determine who did the dastardly deed. To accomplish this, Seamus travels back to earth, or his spirit does, and enters a "host" body. He can move from one host to another, so he becomes privy to thoughts that can help solve the puzzle.

Again, that seems to stretch believability to the breaking point, but if a reader simply enters into this with a spirit of fun and adventure, it works. This is a well-written book, fast paced, and filled with interesting characters.


My regular followers know that I am a tough reviewer and very hard to please. I've probably spent too many years editing and have a hard time overlooking mistakes in books I am reading. If I had a rating system here, like some review sites, I would rarely give a book five-stars. For me to do that, the book has to be outstanding and without a single flaw. On Amazon, I will give a four-star rating to a book that is very good, definitely a cut above the average and also without any problems with craft or editing.  A three star rating is for books that are good and well worth someone's time to read, but there may be a few flaws. I would give this book 3 and a half stars, because some of the plot points were just a little too convenient and not set up as well as they could have been. Keep in mind, though, that is a subjective opinion, and should not keep a reader from trying this fun book.

I hope you can come back on Wednesday when Peg Herring will be my guest and will answer some questions from Seamus. I'm sure it will be very interesting. How many people get to talk to dead guys?

Friday, May 11, 2012

Friday's Odds and Ends, Obama, Gay Marriage and More

This has been a crazy upside-down day for me. Instead of being in my office first thing to do my blog and take care of other writing-related tasks, I was headed to town to do some publicity for a show coming to the Winnsboro Center for the Arts at the end of this month. This is the first theatrical production that I have not directed or had a role in, although I might do tech. Since I am so technically challenged, I'm holding out for other volunteers.

The Out-of-Pocket Players from The Pocket Sandwich Theatre in Dallas is taking one of their shows on the road, and Winnsboro is hosting the debut performance of "The Attack of Killer Mutant Leeches." Here is a link to a review of the show when it played in Dallas. This is just silly stuff in the vein of Animal House, and has no pretense of being great theatre. Just fun, and we all need to just have fun sometimes.

So now it is mid-afternoon and I am just now getting to my blog. I almost just posted an excerpt from my humor book, but then I decided that I just had to comment on the latest nonsense in politics.

First the media challenged Obama to make a statement about his stand on the issue of same-sex marriage following Biden's comments last weekend. Before Obama finally held his press conference mid-week, the question bandied about on the news waves was what was he waiting for? Was he refraining from taking a stand for some political reason?

Then we finally got the word from the President himself, "I think same-sex couples should be able to get married," and now pundits are all over him like fleas on a dog for using this as a political maneuver.

Maybe if the media would just stop all this speculation, except in editorials which is where speculation belongs, and politicians would talk about what they are going to do if they get into office instead of the endless attacks on opponents, the average Joe could make an informed decision.

A local political ad from Tom Leppert, who is running to represent Texas in the Senate, is one of the most absurd I've seen in a while. He goes through a rack of suits, all the while talking about each of his opponents and their shortcomings. Then he gets to the last suit and pulls it off the rack saying something like, "And we all know what happened the last time we sent an empty suit to the White House." All the suit coats have campaign buttons, and the last button reads "Obama."

This ad tells me nothing about Leppert's qualifications to represent our state in Washington. It does tell me he has a less than stellar campaign manager who came up with this "empty suit" of a campaign ad.

Wednesday, May 09, 2012

Love in the Country

My friend Slim Randles is here again with an update on the wooing of Miss Emily Stickles by Dewey Decker with the help of Marvin and his Fly Tying Love Center. Enjoy....

The newly-formed love firm of Dewey Decker and Emily Stickles (she of the incredible cheekbones and watchful county eye) began yet another sensation here in the valley.

Ever since Dewey told Emily he was actually in the manure business and not just enamored of the stuff itself, and ever since Emily admitted to Dewey that she liked him as a man and not as a subject for a doctoral dissertation on rural nutty people, there has been a difference in the community. The sun seems to shine a little more golden on us all, the cattle in the pastures seem cleaner and happier, the kids seem to catch more fish down in Lewis Creek, and the Farmer Brothers coffee at the Mule Barn truck stop has a certain Starbuckian finish to it.

Dewey and Emily are in love and we’re in love with the whole idea.

Marvin Pincus, he of the Fly Tying Love Center, immediately took credit for yet another happy romance when he learned that the stonefly nymph on a number six that he’d tied for Dewey to help his love life actually pinned the two together after one of Dewey’s “accidents.”

Marvin’s only fear was his fly tying might become so popular and effective that there would be no more lonely people left and he’d have to go back to tying flies just to catch fish.

The guys at the Mule Barn raised their cups in a porcelain salute as the newly-in-love couple drove past in Dewey’s pickup. Dewey and Emily grinned and waved back. We noticed Dewey’s sign, Environmental Enrichment Services, was proudly back on the truck’s doors again.

“Do you suppose,” Doc asked us, “Dewey will get Emily her own shovel for her birthday?”

We nodded. “That’d be ol’ Dewey all right,” said Steve.

In the truck, Dewey was one of those two-headed drivers because Miss Emily had laid her head on his shoulder as he drove.

“Honey?” said Emily. “Do you realize the two of us are driving around the valley aimlessly in a manure truck?”


“And I think it’s great, Dewey.”

“Well, you’ve certainly enriched my environment, Sweetheart. Is it okay to say that? Good.”

Need a good book? Check out what’s new at

Monday, May 07, 2012

What are we Doing to our Military Men and Women?

Last night on Sixty Minutes Leslie Stahl interviewed two pilots who fly the F-22 Raptor fighter jet, who have chosen to stop flying the F-22 because they say during some flights they and other pilots have experienced oxygen deprivation, disorientation, and worse. The F-22 is the most expensive fighter jet the Air Force has, and it has been plagued with problems. It was grounded a year ago while the problems with the oxygen delivery system were being investigated, but was put back in the air with no specific problem identified and fixed. Pilots are are concerned about their safety in the air, as well as the long-term health consequences. The Air Force has no plans to ground the planes again as further investigations are carried out.

My question is why not? Why is the Air Force Command risking pilots' lives like this? It is bad enough that the pilots face death every time they fly in combat, so why should they be put in this kind of high risk in training? And what about the danger of one of these planes crashing into a heavily populated area when a pilot gets disorientated in flight?

In another example of what I consider thoughtless decisions by those in command of the military is what I read in this column by Thomas Friedman that I read recently in the Dallas Morning News.  He reported that post traumatic stress disorder among U.S. troops has jumped from 0.2 percent in 2002 to 22 percent in 2008. According to information that Friedman obtained from the military, the cases of  PTSD are not just caused from the perilous combat environment that soldiers face in these prolonged wars, but could be exasperated by drugs that soldiers are given.

The military routinely gives troops Ritalin and Adderall, common stimulants prescribed for people with ADHD.  According to Friedman's report, the number of prescriptions written for those two drugs for active -duty service members increased by nearly 1,000 percent in five years from 3,000 to 32,000.

The connection between these drugs and PTSD is made based on the fact that the drugs enhance learning, and PTSD is a form of learning known as fear conditioning. When a soldier is taking the drugs and experiences a traumatic combat situation, the memory of that is strengthened by the drugs and can lead to severe consequences. The suicide rate in the military is rising at a staggering rate, as well as incidents of military personnel losing control and committing atrocious acts of violence.
What amazes me is that military doctors continue to prescribe the drugs despite these startling research results. It's bad enough that we are asking our young people to go off to these countries to fight wars we probably should not even be involved in, now we are adding to their long-term problems.

Ending on a lighter note today, I just got the cover art for the next book in The Seasons  Series, Stalking Season. What do you think? The book will be released in November in hardback.

Sunday, May 06, 2012

Book Review - Murder Unscripted by Clive Rosengren

I really appreciate all the reviews that my writer friend, Carl Brookins, so generously shares. Although at times I wish he would not be recommending so many books that are hard to resist. He has no idea how long my list of books I want to read is. (smile)

Murder Unscripted
by Clive Rosengren
ISBN: 9781935797197
2012 release from Perfect Crime Books
111 pages, Trade Paper

Eddie Collins is a sometime Hollywood actor and a part-time investigator. He’s cast in the old style; a loner, divorced, he views the world through plain, cracked lenses. Nothing rose-colored here. He’s an authentic character, one you’d be likely to encounter on Sunset Boulevard. If you made the connection and bought him a drink, Eddie might tell you a story. Like this one.

 When the story opens, Eddie Collins is costumed as a cowboy, perched on a fake rock, chewing on yet another piece of chicken. He’s doing a TV commercial for an enterprise called Chubby’s Chicken. A telephone call to his office sends him, on behalf of his client, a bonding company, to the set of a murder. It turns out the deceased actress is Eddie’s former wife.

 The novel benefits hugely from the author’s background. He’s a  former theater, film and television actor who has appeared in numerous theatrical films and television dramas. Rosengren uses his considerable experience to infuse the novel with authenticity, but he never slides into the bitterness or the whining of too many journey-actors who made a living but never reached starring level. Eddie Collins has come to terms with his career and that’s why he’s become more of an investigator than an actor.

 “Murder Unscripted,” is a short, fast, read, well-plotted and intrinsically solid. The characters are enjoyable to follow and the final emotional twists are logical and just right for the character and the tone of the story. I hope to see much more of Eddie Collins in the near future.

Carl Brookins  BLOG:  -BOOKS:  Case of the Great Train Robbery, Reunion, Red Sky

Friday, May 04, 2012

Friday's Odds and Ends

Have you heard about the New Jersey mother who was arrested for allegedly bringing her 5-year-old daughter into a tanning booth, where the little girl was reportedly burned? It is still not clear whether the girl was actually put in the tanning booth or she did just get sunburned playing outside. What is truly bothersome about the story, however, is the fact that the woman is apparently addicted to tanning to the point that her skin has turned the color of mahogany. That is scary on so many levels for her health and the future health of her daughter. Is she telling the daughter that is is okay to expose herself to harmful UV rays just so she can look like a piece of furniture? 

Last week my blogger friend, LD Masterson, gave me the Kreativ Blogger Award. I was honored to be listed with some other bloggers, all who have terrific blogs. LD had a great blog, and I hope you will pop over to visit her. She has an interesting post up right now with some tips on effective blogging for writers that she picked up at the Erma Bombeck writer's workshop.

According to the rules of the Kreativ Blogger Award, I am supposed to list ten things about myself that most folks might not know. Hmmmm...... Since I have been blogging for a long time and am pretty much "out there" when it comes to sharing, I'm not sure I can come up with ten things.

Not to worry, though. I doubt the world will come to a crashing end if I bend this rule just a bit. (smile)

1. I hate wearing dresses. Once I no longer had to dress up for my job, I abandoned most of my dresses and suits.

2. I spent a number of years as a hospital chaplain. Hence the dresses and suits.

3. I have a hard time making a decision. A fact that will not surprise my family and close friends.

4. When I first started writing, about age 9, I only wrote about animals.

5. That trend continued into high school and my first boyfriend wondered if there was something wrong with me if I preferred animals to people.

6. I got over it. And him.

Now I need to pass this award on, so I will pass it to a few of the new friends I made via the A to Z Challenge.

Susan Flett Swiderski, with her blog I Think, Therefore, I Yam - who shares artwork and quotes that inspire and amuse.

Dana from The Daily Dose - whose blog takes me back to the days when I was a 30 something mom trying to write in the midst of chaos.

Huntress who writes at Spirit Called about urban fantasy and things in general about being a writer.

Thelma from Widowsphere who loves yellow and offers quotes, lovely pictures, and other items to uplift your spirit.

If you are not already familiar with these blogs, I hope you have a chance to stop by for a visit. You can even go visit if you are already familiar with them. (smile)

Thursday, May 03, 2012

Join me on the Radio

If you'd like...

Romance is in the air - Thursday night, May 3rd on The Author's Corner where I am going to be on from 8-11 PM eastern time With a number of other authors and our terrific hostess Elaine Raco Chase. We will be talking about love and romance and what we especially love about our books and characters. Call in and join the fun! You can listen to the show: click on blog talk radio silver bar and that brings you into the outer studio and a red lite says ON THE AIR  Listeners can call in with comments and questions at   (949) 272-9578

I am going to be on from 8 to 8:30 to answer reader questions about my romance, Play it Again, Sam, and my romantic suspense, One Small Victory. Stop by if you get a chance and would like to know how these stories came to be, as well as a fun time I had doing an event at a nursing home.

Here are links to the websites of the other authors who will be on the show with me:

Mary Campisi   who like me writes of second chances at love 

Jean Joachim   Who writes sweet and spicey romance novels 

Coralie Jenson   Who writes historical romances 

Shayna Gier   Who writes humorous romance 

Candy Little  Who writes Christian romance 

I can't wait to hear about their books, too. The story behind the story is often most interesting.

Wednesday, May 02, 2012

Wednesday's Guest - Slim Randles

Today is my regular humor feature at The Blood Red Pencil Blog and my guest there is humorist, Tracy Farr. It's a bit serendipitous that Tracy is guesting there, and Slim Randles is guesting here. Both were regular contributors to the online magazine that I ran for many years,, and shared their wit and wisdom to the delight of my readers. I am so grateful that they continue to let me feature their work here and at The Blood Red Pencil.

Slim has a new book out, Home Country; Drama Dreams and Laughter from America's Heartland, that is a compilation of his nationally syndicated column, "Home Country." This is a wonderful book that is a joy to keep on the coffee table to read and read again. The following column was originally was printed May 2009. Enjoy....

It was Doc who first noticed Dud's strange behavior.

I was too busy trying to put an elk-hair caddis fly on a size 16 just beyond that big smooth rock on Lewis Creek. I know there's a big rainbow trout in that hole there, you see, and there is nothing more important, on a May morning like this one, than enticing that big rascal into delivering himself to my waiting hands.

But Doc noticed that Dud had laid his fly rod down in the bushes and was doing strange things with his hands. Finally, Doc got my attention, pointed to Dud, and we both stopped fishing and walked over to see what our long-time pal was up to.

Dud would look around in the air, then make a one-handed grab at the air. After several grabs, he'd take two fingers of his other hand, put them in his clenched fist, and wiggle around. Then he'd smile and open his fist and look in the air again. Doc and I looked silently at each other, wondering how long it would take from our day of fishing to get Dud delivered to the nervous ward in the city.

"Dud," said Doc, "how's the fishing?"

"Huh? Oh hi. Not fishing right now, Doc. Experimenting."

"Experimenting?" I said. Of course, I said this automatically, forgetting for a moment how time consuming it could be to start Dud explaining things of a scientific nature.

"Natural selection," Dud said, proudly. "Survival of the fittest. Yes, I decided to spend my morning in Darwinian pursuits, making the world a safer place for mankind."

Doc looked at me. "He's talking like that again," he said.

"Well, Doc," said Dud, "you, of all people, should be able to appreciate what I'm doing. After all, you're a man of science and a healer. I'm going to rid the world of dangerous diseases. Observe."

Then Dud made another grab at the air, and this time we could see he was snatching a mosquito out of the air. Again he used his other hand to do something to the mosquito, and then he released it.

"I'm pulling out their drillers," Dud said. "I figgered if I pull out enough drillers, then sooner or later two drillerless mosquitoes will get married and have pups and then we'll have a family of drillerless mosquitoes here on Lewis Creek. Without drillers, they won't be able to pass along yellow fever or malaria to fishermen."

Doc looked at him in a strange way. "Dud, there's never been anyone get malaria from these Lewis Creek mosquitoes."

"See?" Dud said, brightly. "It's already working."

Brought to you by Sun Dog Days, a novel by Slim Randles. Check it out at