Monday, May 2, 2016

Musing Mondays - May 2



Musing Mondays is a weekly meme now hosted at Jenn's new blog Books And A Beat that asks you to choose one of the following prompts to answer:
  • I’m currently reading…
  • Up next I think I’ll read…
  • I bought the following book(s) in the past week…
  • I’m super excited to tell you about (book/author/bookish-news)…
  • I’m really upset by (book/author/bookish-news)…
  • I can’t wait to get a copy of…
  • I wish I could read ___, but…
  • I blogged about ____ this past week…
THIS WEEK’S RANDOM QUESTION:  Name any 5 books from your “to be read” pile (even if it’s a “virtual” pile).

Happy Monday, everyone! Trying so hard to get back into the swing of things. Way too much real estate work these days.

Here are some of the oldest books (meaning the ones I've had the longest) in my TBR pile.


When the concierge of The Alexander, a historic Atlanta apartment building, invites his fellow residents to join him for weekly screenings of Downton Abbey, four very different people find themselves connecting with the addictive drama, and—even more unexpectedly—with each other…



Filled with smart history, treacherous rivalries, lavish clothes, and sparkling jewels, Becoming Marie Antoinette will utterly captivate fiction and history lovers alike.


An epic fairy tale with surprising twists, embracing the enduring power of love and faith.


There's always something to gossip about in Savannah, Georgia, and Reagan Summerside always seems to be in the middle of it. She's busy enough running her consignment shop, the Prissy Fox, with her vivacious auntie, KiKi, but now the gossip--and the sales--are about to pick up, after a gruesome discovery...


Eighteen years after the infants Kai and Mahri DuBois were separated and taken from La Foret de Chenes for their own protection, they are called to return. Appointed as Paladins, they receive their first charges from the Elders. The twins must overcome the devastating act of treachery that tore their family apart, restore the integrity of the treasure they guard, and beat back the encroaching evil of La Famille DeMauvaise.

What are some of the books in your TBR pile?

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Interview with Larry D. Thompson, Author of Dark Money

Larry D. Thompson was first a trial lawyer. He tried more than 300 cases throughout Texas, winning in excess of 95% of them. When his youngest son graduated from college, he decided to write his first novel. Since his mother was an English teacher and his brother, Thomas Thompson, had been a best-selling author, it seemed the natural thing to do.

Larry writes about what he knows best…lawyers, courtrooms and trials. The legal thriller is his genre. DARK MONEY is his fifth story and the second in the Jack Bryant series.
Larry and his wife, Vicki, call Houston home and spend their summers on a mountain top in Vail, Colorado. He has two daughters, two sons and four grandchildren.

For More Information


Can you tell us a bit about yourself?

I spent more than forty years as a Texas trial lawyer. I grew up In Fort Worth, the son of school teachers. Upon graduation from The University of Texas, I moved to Houston where my wife and I raised three children, all of whom developed into responsible and independent adults. After trying more than three hundred cases, I decided to write what I knew best, stories about lawyers, judges, courtrooms and trials. When not in Houston, writing and still working part-time with my law firm, my wife and I spend summers in Vail where my youngest son lives. We get out of the Texas heat and enjoy the beauty and weather in the mountains where we hike, I play golf with my son and I work on novels.

What is your fondest childhood memory?

I grew up in a different era when it was safe for kids to wander the streets of Fort Worth. At the age of six, my mother allowed me to walk a block to the bus stop, clad in shorts and a T-shirt, but no shoes, take the bus downtown and walk to the library. Every summer I would check out five books, read them in a week and go back to the library the next week to check the old ones back in and get five new (at least to me) ones. That’s where I developed my love of books and reading.

When did you begin writing?

About ten years ago my youngest son had graduated from SMU. With all of the kids out of the nest, I decided to try writing a novel. My last writing class had been freshman English at The University of Texas, but I figured that I had read thousands of books over the years and I could surely write one. So, I did.

Do you write during the day, at night or whenever you can sneak a few moments?

I usually write during the mornings for a few hours. Up until now, unless I was in trial, I wrote for two or three hours and then went to the office. On weekends I would expand that writing time to five or so hours. I firmly believe that it is hard to be creative for longer than that time. Others disagree and describe writing for eight or ten hours. That’s not for me. Besides, if I stick to my schedule, I can turn out the first draft of a legal thriller in about five months. Then, comes the hard part: editing and re-editing ten or fifteen times until I say it’s finished.

What is this book about?

It’s a legal thriller, a mystery and an expose’ of the corruption of big money secretly contributed to political campaigns in this country. In Dark Money murders occur at a political fundraiser in Fort Worth and Jack is appointed special prosecutor, charged with finding the killers. It leads him on a traill to an anti-government militia compound in West Texas, to New Orleans and New York until he finally gathers enough evidence to reveal the killer in a suspense-filled trial that climaxes the story.

What inspired you to write it?


As a lawyer, I have always followed the important decisions from our United States Supreme Court. I was dismayed when the court handed down the Citizens United opinion and followed it with Speech Now and McCutcheon. In the name of First Amendment free speech they opened the flood gates to corporations, billionaires and labor unions, telling them they could secretly fund any campaign they chose and no one would learn their names or how much they contributed. The Supreme Court has done this country a terrible disservice. I wanted to tell a good story and also educate the reader to this problem.

Who is your biggest supporter?

That’s easy. My wife and children.

Are you a member of a critique group? If no, who provides feedback on your work?

I have never worked with a critique group. Instead, when I have written and re-written a story, I send it out to about twenty family members and friends and, hopefully, some strangers who enjoy a good book. I ask for and usually receive very candid and sometimes blunt comments and criticisms.

Who is your favorite author?

That would be my brother, Tommy Thompson, who was the best of his generation. Currently, I look forward to reading Michael Connelly’s stories.

Do you have an agent or are you looking for one?

I have a very good agent, Ken Atchity. He lives and works out of Los Angeles.

Was the road to publication smooth sailing?

The short answer is “no.” This is my fifth novel. I now have an agent and a publishing and promotion plan. However, the road to getting So Help Me God, my first novel, published was so rocky that I even abandoned any hope of getting it done. Then my wife (who is my publicist) and I re-grouped and self-published. We promoted it heavily and after far too long a time, my agent, Ken Atchity, agreed to represent me. My first three books were with New York houses (Tor/Forge and St. Martin’s). Then I realized that they paid only a modest advance, did no promotion and took most of the profits. My agent had started his own imprint, Story Merchant Books, in conjunction with Amazon. I moved to Story Merchant and believe I have found a home.

Where can readers purchase a copy of your book?

It’s available on Kindle and can be ordered from any book store.

What is the best investment you have made in promoting your book?

The literary book tours where there are stops like this one are the absolute best bang for the buck (and I thank you).

What is one piece of advice you would like to share with aspiring authors everywhere?

Don’t ever give up. A few writers get lucky and hit it big with their first novel. Still, I know far more who write five, or six or eight books and finally “get discovered.”

What is up next for you?

This is interesting and somewhat different from what I usually write. My brother was a best-selling writer of true crime in the eighties. He died way too young. His best book was Blood and Money, the true story of murders in the ultra-expensive River Oaks section of Houston. Because it was true, the characters were real. He and Doubleday were sued for libel three times. I successfully defended all three cases. The trials were fascinating. Now, after 30 years Blood and Money is to be made into a television series (things move slowly in Hollywood).In conjunction with the series, I am going to write Blood and Money, The Libel Trials. It will read like fiction but will be completely true.


Friday, April 22, 2016

Book Spotlight: The Black Sheep Shadow by Ashley Terrell



The city lights blind your amazement. The sound of the traffic challenges you to be alive. Families ask bystanders to make magic and capture the moment with photographs. Newly engaged couples seal their union by kissing under shooting stars while loving by crossing their hearts.

But what if your heart was under arrest, wouldn’t want to embrace something to feel something like others?

Go inside the world of one courageous sheep as she discovers that her heart was under attack by darkness. As she travels on a spiritual journey to understanding her purpose, overcoming the understanding her purpose, self-acceptance, and the importance of inspiration, she rose against the odds with forgiveness and strengthening her faith.

Purchase here!



Ashley Terrell is the founder of Stella Bistro Foods and Black Sheep Inc. Terrell is the host and co-director of Cooking with Stella (2016) and Unaverage Ash (2016).  She resides on the East Coast where she enjoys blissful sunsets and sounds of ocean waves.
For More Information

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

"Waiting On" Wednesday: The More of Less by Joshua Becker



"Waiting On" Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating.

My pick for this week: The More of Less by Joshua Becker. I am definitely looking for less "stuff" in my life. How about you?



Don’t Settle for More
 
Most of us know we own too much stuff. We feel the burden of our clutter. We tire of cleaning and managing and organizing. Our toy rooms are messy, our drawers won’t close, our closets are filled, and we can’t fit our cars in our garages. The evidence of clutter is all around us.
 
Meanwhile, this constant accumulation of stuff slowly begins robbing us of life. It redirects our God-given passions. It steals our greatest potential. It consumes our limited resources. And it distracts us from the very life we wish we were living.
 
But it doesn’t have to be this way. 
 
One of today’s most influential minimalist advocates, Joshua Becker, used to spend his days accumulating more and more. But then he realized how his possessions were not only failing to make him happy, they were actually keeping him from the very things that do. Instead of bringing fulfillment, they brought distraction. In The More of Less, Joshua helps you…
 
•          recognize the life-giving benefits of owning less
•          realize how all the stuff you own is keeping you from pursuing your dreams
•          craft a personal, practical approach to decluttering your home and life
•          discover greater contentment, less envy, and more joy
•          recognize why you buy more than you need 
•          experience the joys of generosity
•          learn why the best part of minimalism isn’t a clean house, it’s a full life
 
It’s time to own your possessions instead of letting them own you. After all, the beauty of minimalism isn’t in what it takes away. It’s in what it gives. 

 
Make Room in Your Life for What You Really Want
 
“Maybe you don’t need to own all this stuff.” After a casual conversation with his neighbor on Memorial Day 2008, Joshua Becker realized he needed a change. He was spending far too much time organizing possessions, cleaning up messes, and looking for more to buy.
 
So Joshua and his wife decided to remove the nonessential possessions from their home and life. Eventually, they sold, donated, or discarded over 60 percent of what they owned. In exchange, they found a life of more freedom, more contentment, more generosity, and more opportunity to pursue the things that mattered most.
 
The More of Less delivers an empowering plan for living more by owning less. With practical suggestions and encouragement to personalize your own minimalist style, Joshua Becker shows you why minimizing possessions is the best way to maximize life.
 
Are you ready for less cleaning, less anxiety, and less stress in your life? Simplicity isn’t as complicated as you think.


What are you "waiting on" this week?

Monday, April 18, 2016

Musing Mondays - April 18



Musing Mondays is a weekly meme now hosted at Jenn's new blog Books And A Beat that asks you to choose one of the following prompts to answer:
  • I’m currently reading…
  • Up next I think I’ll read…
  • I bought the following book(s) in the past week…
  • I’m super excited to tell you about (book/author/bookish-news)…
  • I’m really upset by (book/author/bookish-news)…
  • I can’t wait to get a copy of…
  • I wish I could read ___, but…
  • I blogged about ____ this past week…
THIS WEEK’S RANDOM QUESTION:  Name your least favorite plot device employed by way too many books that you actually enjoyed, otherwise.

Happy Monday--well, it's actually Thursday and I am going back and posting the things I would have posted if I had the time earlier in the week. :)

Currently reading two books...or trying to in between spending time with the kids who are on school vacation and working.


This was supposed to be a simple summer for Billy; one more lazy expanse of time before college began. He'd fill the hours playing with Jimmy – his canine best buddy – going camping and doing all the things he promised Jimmy they'd do before Billy left.

But that was before the accident that shook the entire town.

It was before the summer job that turned into something so much more than a way to get a paycheck.

And it was before Vicki.

This summer was destined to be many things to Billy, things he didn't truly understand until now. But it was definitely not going to be simple.

An enormously touching, richly textured, deeply moving novel of new adulthood, THE CHANGING SEASON is an experience to savor.


One murder ignites the powderkeg that threatens to consume the Medici's Florence. Amidst the chaos, five women and one legendary artist weave together a plot that could bring peace, or get them all killed. Seeking to wrest power from the Medici family in 15th Century Florence, members of the Pazzi family drew their blades in a church and slew Giuliano. But Lorenzo de Medici survives, and seeks revenge on everyone involved, plunging the city into a murderous chaos that takes dozens of lives. Bodies are dragged through the streets, and no one is safe. Five women steal away to a church to ply their craft in secret. Viviana, Fiammetta, Isabetta, Natasia, and Mattea are painters, not allowed to be public with their skill, but freed from the restrictions in their lives by their art. When a sixth member of their group, Lapaccia, goes missing, and is rumored to have stolen a much sought after painting as she vanished, the women must venture out into the dangerous streets to find their friend and see her safe. They will have help from one of the most renowned painters of their era the peaceful and kind Leonardo Da Vinci. It is under his tutelage that they will flourish as artists, and with his access that they will infiltrate some of the highest, most secretive places in Florence, unraveling one conspiracy as they build another in its place. Historical fiction at its finest, Donna Russo Morin begins a series of Da Vinci s disciples with a novel both vibrant and absorbing, perfect for the readers of Sarah Dunant."

Vivid and evocative, Portrait of a Conspiracy offers a riveting portrait of the dangerous glamour of Renaissance Florence, where six enigmatic women of a secret Society find themselves plunged into the violent intrigues between the Medici and the Pazzi families. Such famous characters as Leonardo da Vinci and Botticelli stride across Morin’s bold tale of a group of women who must risk everything to save one of their own as a far-reaching blood feud threatens to engulf the city; this is a riveting page-turner unlike any historical novel you’ve read, weaving passion, adventure, artistic rebirth, and consequences of ambition into the first of a projected trilogy by a masterful writer at the peak of her craft .
-C. W. Gortner, author of The Confessions of Catherine de’ Medici and The Vatican Princess

What are you reading this week?

Friday, April 15, 2016

Interview with Meredith Allard, Author of When It Rained at Hembry Castle

Meredith Allard is the author of the bestselling novels The Loving Husband Trilogy, That You Are Here, Victory Garden, Woman of Stones, and My Brother’s Battle. Her newest release, the historical novel When It Rained at Hembry Castle, is a great read for fans of Downton Abbey.

Visit Meredith online at www.meredithallard.com. You can also connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, Google+Pinterest, and Goodreads.

When did you begin writing?

I began writing in college. I’ve always loved to write, even as a kid, but it wasn’t until college that I started writing short stories and I had my first attempt at writing a novel. After I finished college, I began writing historical novels, and all these years later I’m still at it.

What is this book about?

When It Rained at Hembry Castle is a love story set in Victorian England. The novel is about Edward Ellis, a rising author, and Daphne Meriwether, the American niece of the 9th Earl of Staton. Daphne is new to England and she must learn how to live in the Downton Abbey-like world her father’s family lives in.

What inspired you to write it?

I’ve been a fan of Charles Dickens’ since college, and about 20 years ago I came up with the idea of writing a novel set in Victorian England with a character who would be loosely based on Dickens’ early life. I loved the idea but kept it on the back burner while I was teaching and writing other novels. Finally, in 2014 I had finished my other projects and I was able to start working on this Victorian era novel. During that time I had become a big fan of Downton Abbey, and it so happens that Dickens’ grandparents were in service. Somehow, my active imagination managed to find a way to intertwine this character who was loosely based on Dickens with a Downton Abbey-like story, complete with upstairs/downstairs stories.

Who is your favorite character from the book?


I believe in that old adage about how writers have aspects of themselves in all their characters. Of the characters in When It Rained at Hembry Castle, it would be a tough call choosing my favorite between Edward and Daphne. Edward has a lot of me in him, especially since he’s a writer working hard to be successful. Daphne also has a lot of me in her because she’s the only American in the story. I think she represents how I might feel if I were suddenly living in the strict, rule-driven world of the English aristocracy.

Where can readers purchase a copy of your book?

When It Rained at Hembry Castle can be bought at any of the major retailers, including Amazon, Kobo, iTunes, and Barnes and Noble. The book is available as an e-book, which is on sale for 99 cents until April 30, and in paperback.

What is one piece of advice you would like to share with aspiring authors everywhere?

Keep writing! It took me 17 years from the time I began writing historical fiction until I had a bestseller with my Loving Husband Trilogy. When I first began writing and I was trying to get short stories published, it took me four years to get my first publication. If I had given up 3 ½ years into the process, I never would have become a published writer. Take the time to grow into the writer  you want to be.

What is up next for you?

Fans of my Loving Husband Trilogy will be happy to know that I’m writing the prequel to the story, called Down Salem Way. When I wrote the first book in the trilogy, Her Dear & Loving Husband, I did a lot of research about the Salem Witch Trials and I’m enjoying the fact that I get to revisit my research because the prequel is set in Salem during the witch hunts as well. 

Is there anything you would like to add?

When It Rained at Hembry Castle is a great read for anyone who loves Downton Abbey, but it’s also for fans of Victorian era fiction, or even Charles Dickens. I’ve been lucky because the novel has been well received so far. I think fans of my Loving Husband Trilogy will appreciate the romance between Edward and Daphne. While there are no supernatural elements in When It Rained at Hembry Castle, there is definitely true love.

Amazon US | Amazon UK | Barnes & Noble | iTunes | Kobo




Thursday, April 14, 2016

Interview with Susanna Calkins, Author of A Death Along the River Fleet (Lucy Campion Mysteries)

Susanna Calkins writes the Lucy Campion mysteries, set in 17th century England.  Her books have been nominated for several awards; her third—The Masque of a Murderer (Minotaur Books, 2015)—was shortlisted for the Mary Higgins Clark Award, the Agatha for Best Historical Mystery, and the Bruce Alexander Historical Mystery Award. Her fourth book—A Death Along the River Fleet—was released April 12, 2016. Born and raised in Philadelphia, she lives outside Chicago now with her husband and two sons. With a Ph.D. in British history, she works at Northwestern University. She also blogs about writing, history and mystery at www.susannacalkins.com and can be found on Facebook and Twitter (@scalkins3).


When did you begin writing?

I began writing when I was in second grade, and in fact started my first novel when I was eight years old (and its one that no one should ever read!) I worked on that novel off and on for several years, and it was heavily influenced by whatever I happened to be reading at the time (e.g. Narnia, Prydain, Alice in Wonderland). I wrote stories all the way through high school, but in college, the urge to write creatively was sort of beaten out of me. It was only when I working on my PhD many years later did that creative urge finally re-appear, although I did not start my first novel until several years after that period.

Do you write during the day, at night or whenever you can sneak a few moments?

Because I have a full-time job, two kids, and just a lot going on, I think I’m a very chaotic writer. I do grab time whenever I can; I definitely do not wait to have a three-hour block of time to write, because that rarely seems to materialize. But there are two benefits to my chaotic approach: (1) I’m completely thrilled if I even manage to write a single paragraph in a given week, given how busy I am; (2) I do not make myself guilty if I don’t write or meet some word limit; and (3) I don’t ever have writer’s block or stare at a blank page. I’m usually thinking about writing even when I’m not writing, so by the time I have those few minutes, I’m ready to put a scene down, or even a chapter. I also think that writing fast helps me write a better-paced mystery, so it works well for me all around.

What is this book about?

A DEATH ALONG THE RIVER FLEET opens with Lucy Campion, 17th c. printer’s apprentice and bookseller, on her way to deliver some books to a customer several miles from her shop. As she crosses the River Fleet and enters the vast wasteland created by the Great Fire of London of 1666, she encounters a strange woman who speaks of being chased by the Devil. The woman is barefoot, clad only in a shift, covered in blood that is not her own, and unable to remember her identity.  Worried that the woman will be set upon by fearful villagers, Lucy brings the woman to the home of a physician she knows. When they suspect that the woman may be a noblewoman, the physician does not wish to throw her out of her house and presses Lucy to tend the woman while the woman’s family is being located. To make matters more strange, the body of a murdered man is found in the ruins nearby, and the odd woman may well be the murderess.


What inspired you to write it?

My novels always start with an opening image—usually something very simple that triggers a number of questions for me. So for A DEATH ALONG THE RIVER FLEET, I had the image of a senseless young woman, running as if the Devil were chasing her. I was interested too in the medical questions of the day—on closer inspection, not only did this woman have odd wounds on her hands and an amulet of rosemary around her neck, but it was clear that someone had been doing bloodletting on her neck. As the questions arose, it became fun for me to answer them.


Where can readers purchase a copy of your book?

My books are available through bookstores across North America as well as online, through sites such as BarnesandNoble.com and Amazon.com.


What is one piece of advice you would like to share with aspiring authors everywhere?

Ironically, my advice is to ignore most advice by other authors—even those who appear to be very successful. Blanket statements like “Set a word quota every day and stick to it” or “Write at the same time every day,” or “Don’t watch TV while you write your novels” can set authors up for a sense of failure if they don’t follow the rule. [Okay, no one ever says the last one, which is good, because I sometimes write or edit while my husband is watching TV]. The thing is, authors need to figure out for themselves how to persevere and turn a collection of ideas and words into a novel. Sometimes the inability to move forward is about ‘butt in chair,’ but sometimes, its about the decision to set a manuscript aside. So I guess my advice is, Know Thyself.

What is up next for you?

I am working on some other novels—a Young Adult set in 19th century Paris which I hope to shop around soon, another mystery set in 1930 Chicago, and a contemporary.


Thank you so much for having me!


Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million | IndieBound | Kobo