Thursday, March 15, 2018

Beyond the Books - St. Patrick's Day

Beyond the Books is a weekly feature hosted right by Kissin Blue Karen. Beyond the Books is a weekly writing prompt where she throws out a topic (mostly non-bookish) and others blog about it.

I won't have much to contribute to this week's theme because I don't really celebrate St. Patrick's Day. I grew up Catholic, so patron saints were a big thing, but even back then it was just another day for me. Holyoke, MA holds a large parade. I was talking to someone from Holyoke today and she said the city would pretty much be shut down this coming Sunday because of the parade and all the corresponding events. I recall many years ago--before my girls were born--going to someone's house on the parade route early in the morning for breakfast and we hung out there until the parade was over. That's probably the closest we've ever come to celebrating St. Patrick's Day.

If you want a history of the holiday, you can visit

Do you celebrate St. Patrick's Day? What are some of your favorite traditions?

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Book Review: Caroline by Sarah Miller

Every Laura fan is going to want to own a copy of Caroline: Little House, Revisited by Sarah Miller.

This novel is the story of the Ingalls family's journey from the Big Woods of Wisconsin to their settlement in Kansas told from Caroline's perspective. By the time the Ingalls family leaves home, Caroline is pregnant with their third child. She faces isolation with her family no longer close by. She fears the danger that settling in Indian Territory could present. As Caroline struggles against the hardships of pioneer life and rises to the challenges, the reader appreciates this story in a new way that makes Caroline Quiner Ingalls more than just Ma.

I cannot even express how much I loved this novel. From the opening pages, Miller's fine descriptions combined with her touching and real portrayal of Caroline, pulled me in and held me fast until the last page was done. As a wife and mother, I relate much more to Caroline than the young Laura who first shared her stories.

One thing the reader needs to be aware of is that this novel may include some scenes you wouldn't expect in Laura land. Caroline is married and already a mother of two with another baby on the way. She and Charles obviously enjoy some alone time. There are a few moments when the author explores Caroline's feelings on this subject. Part of the story delves into her attraction to Charles, how she feels when he looks at her a certain way, and there is a tastefully done sex scene. It's not vulgar or obscene but it is descriptive of how he makes her feel while performing her wifely duties and how her body reacts. Truly, this took nothing away from the story for me, but it was surprising.

Caroline is a book that was way overdue. It captures how amazing a person Caroline Quiner Ingalls was to follow Charles from place to place, how she worked alongside him, how what her mother taught her prepared her to be a good wife and mother, and how she envied the freedoms and rights Charles had because they were denied to her as a woman in the 1800s. All these things make this a timely story for women today. My admiration of Caroline has grown as a result of reading this novel. It's definitely a must read for Little House fans.

Paperback: 400 pages
Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks; Reprint edition (June 12, 2018)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 006268535X
ISBN-13: 978-0062685353

I purchased a copy of this book for my Laura Ingalls Wilder collection. This review contains my honest opinions, which I have not been compensated for in any way.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Top Ten Tuesday: Books That Surprised Me (in a good or bad way)

Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and the Bookish in June of 2010 and was moved to That Artsy Reader Girl in January of 2018. It was born of a love of lists, a love of books, and a desire to bring bookish friends together.

Books That Surprised Me (in a good or bad way)

I've never seen myself as a fan of dystopian fiction. Lord of the Flies ruined that genre for me. When my daughter was gifted The Hunger Games by a teacher in the fifth grade, I decided we should read it together in case I found it objectionable. We quickly ordered the next two books and were thrilled when they were made into movies.

I knew I would read Harry Potter one day. The series had too much of an impact on children's literature to ignore. I'm simply not a follower. So, I waited until I wanted to read them. Then I was hooked and realized why everyone was so crazy over them.  

This is a book I shouldn't have liked at all: time travel steampunk sci-fi. Could the author toss any of my other least favorite genres in there? But it worked. Charlie was a great protagonist. The action and adventure were wonderful. Romance a bit too adult for a ninth grader as far as I am concerned, but loved everything else about it.

You won't catch me running to read zombie books, but this steampunk sci-fi was another great one. It's gruesome, but hilarious. 

A dragon detective, a magical nun, and a Mensa convention--who knew that could be so funny? Probably one of the funniest books I've ever read. Great story. Nothing not to love. 

This true crime novel surprised me in how sensationalized the press coverage became, that the all male jury had to decide if they would put Mary Alice Livingston to death, and how Joseph Pulitzer put together his own jury of "twelve well-known, brainy New York women" who would follow the case and pronounce a verdict. A story ahead of its time. 

Though I like many books with a Laura Ingalls Wilder connection, I can't say a novel focusing on life of immigrants and how they assimilate into American culture is my first choice of reading material. Though the mention of the gold-leaf brooch possibly belonging to Rose Wilder Lane is what made me agree to review the book, a masterfully told, heartrending and inspiring story of one woman's journey to find her place within her family and to boldly embrace the future is what kept me reading.

I opted to review this book because I've loved other books by Rhett DeVane. But a vampire spoof? What could I expect from such a thing? I should have expected a lot since DeVane has an outstanding talent for bringing characters to life. Here is how I opened my review: "If Fantasy Island was set in Florida and hosted by a flamboyant party planner turned reluctant vampire, you might just get a taste of what Evenings on Dark Island is like." This fang-in-cheek novel is a superb read.

This is an excellent story. One day the main character wakes up and is a totally different person. Once a bully, he's undergone a transformation that impresses everyone...except Scott Beckett. This new Bryan Dennison is attracted to Scott, but he has no recollection of the way he used to treat him. I've never read a story like this before. It has a unique plot and an inspiring message. 

I can honestly say this is the first book I've ever read--and finished--where I didn't like a single character. The story is an engaging and edgy look at life in a small town during World War II. The multiple points of view tell a story that is both riveting and tragic. But I didn't like--at times despised--every character in the story. The main character garnered some occasional sympathy, but it pretty much was a book filled with shifty, unethical people who you wouldn't want to call your friends.

What books have you read that surprised you in some way?

Monday, March 12, 2018

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? - Mar 12

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? is a place to meet up and share what you have been, are and about to be reading over the week. It's a great post to organize yourself. It's an opportunity to visit and comment, and er... add to that ever growing TBR pile! So welcome in everyone. This meme started with J Kaye's Blog and then was taken up by Sheila from Book Journey. Sheila then passed it on to Kathryn at the Book Date.

Gosh, it was a long week. Thought last week would never end. Thankfully, I got some reading time in...and not just in the bathtub. Expecting another snowstorm this week, so maybe more reading time for me.

I'm almost done with this book:

I had started this one on vacation, but dropped it to read Caroline, because I've been dying to read it. Need to finish The Pirate Bride. 

I've got to finish Hot Mess too. The review isn't coming up for a while, but now that I started it I want to get it done.

I'll have to start this one soon, because I have a review coming up mid-April.

What are you reading? Hope you have a great week. 

Friday, March 9, 2018

First Chapter Review: Stumbling into Happiness by Michael Schoenhofer

The author of this self-published memoir contacted me to review the first chapter.

BLURB:  The true story of how, as a young priest is sent to Zimbabwe, falls in love and finally finds himself and happiness. He doesn’t know what he’s getting himself into—but finds himself on a journey that goes far beyond anything he could have expected.

Tasked with building a mission from the ground up—literally—Mike Schoenhofer quickly realizes that he still has a lot to learn about life, work, and love. In a totally unfamiliar place, with an unfamiliar people, Mike has to learn a new language, a new culture, and connect with the Tonga people, while managing his own difficult team. But even as the success of the mission grows, and the Tongas embrace him as one of their own, he still feels something is missing. When he meets a pretty, funny young nun, he is finally forced to re-examine everything he’s believed, including his own struggle with his commitment to the priesthood.

Part adventure, part romance, part coming-of-age, author Michael Schoenhofer takes readers on his journey through the often funny, sometimes painful, and totally relatable tale of how he finally stumbled into happiness.

Stumbling Into Happiness has the self-discovery and adventure of Cheryl's Strayed's Wild and Elizabeth Gilbert's Eat Pray Love. Each memoirist is on a journey to find herself, and traveling to unfamiliar places and shaking up their lives in a huge way is the catalyst to soul-searching and self-discovery that sets them down a new path. What sets Stumbling into Happiness apart is the added layer of struggle with religious faith, and more significantly, that it's told by a male narrator. The religious theme could be played up or down, depending on the market we decided to focus on. In any case, our main character Mike Schoenhofer is a likable, honest narrator sharing a universal story - the search for self, and the search for happiness, a common human goal whether the searcher is a recent divorcee or a young priest not sure he made the right choice by entering the clergy. Schoenhofer's easy, detailed but passionate prose has a Garrison Keillor-like appeal.

COVER: Smart choice because it is of the couple and speaks to the places he's been.

FIRST CHAPTER: The reader meets Michael Schoenhofer, who even before taking his vows was doubtful of his commitment to the priesthood, and whose life is about to change when he finds himself chosen to go on a mission trip to Africa.

KEEP READING: Definitely. While I believe an editor could trim up this first chapter so it has less backstory, overall the opening chapter reads well and ends in a way that encourages the reader to continue. The story is fascinating in many aspects and will be of interest to those who like to read about romance, adventure, and figuring out this thing called life.

I received a copy of the first chapter from the author. This review contains my honest opinions, which I have not been compensated for in any way.

Book Showcase: The Fix by Robert Downs

Professional gambler, Johnny Chapman, plays the hand he’s dealt, but when he’s dealt a series of losers, he decides to up the ante with more money than he can afford to lose. Just when he thinks his life can’t get any worse, it does. The loan shark he owes the money to demands that he pay up and sends his goons after him. The man offers Johnny one way out—fix a race by fatally injecting the dog most likely to win. A piece of cake, Johnny thinks, until he looks into the big brown eyes of the beautiful dog, and the price suddenly seems too great to pay. Now Johnny’s on the run and the goons are closing in…



The taste of liquor still lingered on his lips. Six months without a drink, and he had the chip to prove it. His eyes were downcast, the table was green felt, and his wooden seat jammed the lower part of his back. The overhead light was dim, and he had his hat pulled down over his eyes. Johnny Chapman had lost three hands in a row, and he didn’t want to lose a fourth.

The Indian sat across from him with his hands folded across his chest, wearing dark sunglasses in a dark room, his hair shaved close to his head, and a tooth missing near his front. He cracked his knuckles between hands and even once during. The sound bounced off the walls in the closet of a room.

“Well, what’s it gonna be?” Thomas Kincaid asked. “I ain’t got all night.” His lips formed a sneer before he took a long pull on a dark drink. His eyes flicked in every direction except straight ahead.

“Don’t rush me.”

“If you move any slower, we’ll both be looking up at the daisies,” Thomas replied. He looked at his two cards for what must have been the third time.

Johnny sucked his lip between his teeth, flashed his eyes once toward the ceiling, and flipped a chip onto the deck. The roar in his ears nearly pulled him away from the hand, but the click of the ceiling fan managed to hold his attention. The darkness helped with his focus as well.

The girl sat across from him, dark hair drifting to-ward her shoulders and even a bit beyond. Teeth as white as a bowl of rice. A drop of moisture near her upper lip entered the equation. Her T-shirt bunched out at the front, and her eyes were as cold as Alaska. She played her cards close to her chest, and her bets were even. For the most part. She managed to toss in a few extra chips when she had a hand. But she was a straight shooter and hadn’t bluffed once. Johnny knew it was coming, though. He just didn’t know when. Even if he managed to run like hell, she’d probably still clip him at the ankles. Her chip stack sat more than a third higher than his own.

She had a good smile. That one. Not too much of the pearly whites, but just enough for a man to take notice. The words on her chest accentuated her assets. Tight, clean, and turquoise—the T-shirt, not her breasts.

Johnny’s eyes flicked to his watch, and his phone buzzed in his pocket. The alarm. His leg vibrated for a second more and then it stopped.

It was almost time. The medication. It took the edge off, and stopped his mind from racing off to infinity and beyond. The man with the dark rims and the white lab coat prescribed it in a room bigger than the one he was in now. If he didn’t take his meds in the next ten minutes, the headaches would start soon after.

The ceiling fan whirred again. The backroom was stale and damp, the casino out on the edge of the reservation with nothing but tumbleweed and small trees for over a mile. Diagonally opposite from the little shithole that he called home for the past several years. The run-down piece of trash with the broken Spanish shingles, cracked stucco, and clouded windows.

Seconds turned over, one after another, and still there was no movement from the Indian to his right. Lapu Sinquah flipped his sunglasses up, and dragged them back down, but not before his eyes looked around the table. The Indian made a face and flipped two chips onto the green felt.

The girl was next. She scratched her forehead. Her expression remained neutral. When Caroline Easton flipped her head, her hair remained out of her eyes. Her look resembled cold, hard steel. She followed the Indian with a two-chip flip.

Thomas tossed his cards away, and it was back to Johnny. He felt it: an all-consuming need to win this hand…and the next one…and the one after. Desire consumed him, after all. Or maybe it didn’t.

The hand that got away. The hand that consumed him, pushed him over the edge, and had him calling out in the middle of the night. One voice. One concentrated effort before the moment passed him by. He couldn’t imagine losing, ending up with nothing. Bankrupt.

This minute reasoning had him playing cards night after night, hand after hand, reading player after player. Moment after moment. Until the moments were sick and twisted and filled with jagged edges and punctured with pain. Or left him dead and buried on the side of the road in a ditch with half of his face missing.

The winning streak wouldn’t last. It’d be gone again. Like a sound carried away by the breeze in the middle of a forgotten forest. This time, he wouldn’t fold too soon. This time, he’d play it differently.

The one that got away. The pot in the middle that would have covered three month’s rent. But he tossed his cards aside, even though he’d been staring at the winning hand for damn near three minutes.

His eyes flicked to each of the three players before he once more peeled his cards back from the table and slid the two spades to the side.

The Indian glared at him through the darkness and his dark sunglasses. “Well?” Lapu asked. “What the fuck, man?”

Johnny tossed his shoulders up in the air. “I’m out.”

“Just like that?” Caroline’s long dark hair whipped around her head.

“Sure, why not?”

The Indian rubbed his shaved head. “You’re one crazy motherfucker.”

Johnny shrugged. “I never claimed to be sane.”

The ceiling fan whirred faster, clicking every five seconds. The air was heavy and suffocating, and he yanked on his collar with his index finger. Two drinks were drunk, and a glass clinked against a tooth. One chair slid back and another moved forward.

“There’s over two grand in the pot,” Lapu said.

Johnny gave a slight tilt of his head. “And I know when to walk away.”

The Indian jerked to his feet and extended a finger away from his chest. “It was your raise that started this shitstorm.”

“True,” Johnny said. “And now I’m going to end it.”

Caroline combed her hair with her fingers. “You haven’t ended anything.”

“I’d rather have that as my downfall than lose it all to you nitwits.”

Caroline smirked. Her white teeth glinted against the light overhead. “Who made you queen of the land?”

“I’d like to think it sort of came up on me,” Johnny said. “It sort of took me by surprise. Existence is futile.”

The Indian smirked. His stained teeth were nearly the color of his skin. “Futility won’t help you now.”

The hand was between the girl and the Indian. Her assets versus his. One smirk versus another. The sun-glasses were down, and both the movements and expressions were calculated. Chips were tossed, and the last card was flipped. Caroline took the pot, and her cold expression never wavered.

A ten-minute break ensued. Johnny used the bath-room, washed his hands, shoved two pills into his mouth, cupped his hands underneath the spout, sucked water from his palms, dunked his hands underneath the liquid once more, and splashed the water on his face. He grimaced at his own reflection, the dark, sunken eyes. He sucked in air and dried his hands. His shoes clicked on the broken tile on his way out the door.

His chips hadn’t moved, and neither had the table. The stack of chips was smaller than when he started this game. As the losses mounted, his amount of breathing room decreased. His longest losing streak was thirteen hands in a row.

The blinds were doubled, and his mind numbed. Compassion was a long forgotten equation, and sympathy wasn’t far behind.

The conversation picked up again, and the Indian perfected a new glare. “I never heard so much chatting over a game of cards.”

“It’s not just a game,” Thomas said. “Now, is it?” One dark drink was replaced with another, and the man’s eyes glazed over.

The girl tapped her wrist with two fingers and flipped her hair. “I think we’re already past the point of sanity.”

“If there was ever a point, it was lost—”

“I had a few points of my own that were somehow hammered home.” Johnny flipped three chips into the pot in one smooth motion. He had a hand, and he was determined to play it, even if he had to stare down the girl and the Indian at the same time.

“The game of life succeeds where you might have failed,” Lapu said.

Thomas knocked back the remainder of yet another drink. “I don’t accept failure.”

Johnny’s eyes flicked to his wrist. “You don’t accept success either.”

“Why do you keep looking at your watch?” Thomas asked. “Are you late for a date?”

The girl called and tossed three chips into the pot with only a slight hesitation. She had a hand, or she wanted to make it appear as such. Her lips moved less and less, and her eyes moved more and more. Her features were clearly defined.

Johnny kept his expression even.

“You’re not late for anything that I’ve seen,” Caro-line said.

Both the Indian and Thomas folded.

“I’d like to take you out back and shoot you.”

“Would that somehow solve the majority of your problems?” the Indian asked.

Johnny nodded. “It might solve a few.”

“Or,” she said, “then again, it might not.”

The last card was flipped, and bets were tossed into the center of the pot. Johnny raised, and Caroline countered with a raise of her own. He called, flipped his cards over, and his straight lost to her flush. Half of his stack disappeared in one hand. He ground his teeth and chewed his bottom lip.

“I don’t like you,” Johnny said.

Her expression was colder than Anchorage. “You never liked me.”

“There might have been mutual respect, but that ship sailed out into the great beyond and smacked an iceberg.”


“Does not equal acceptance,” Johnny said.

“It will keep you up most nights,” the Indian said.

Determined not to lose again, Johnny kept his eyes on the prize and his dwindling stack of chips. The girl to his right had never flashed a smile, and now her stack of chips was nearly three times the size of his own. His eyes flicked to his wrist once more, and he grimaced.

For several moments, the ceiling fan took up all the sound in the room.

His breath hiccupped in his chest, and he swayed in his chair. The wood jammed against his lower back, and the angry green felt kept an even expression. His mouth moved, but no sound escaped from between his lips.

He fell out of his chair and cracked his head on the carpet. For the next few minutes, he drifted in and out of consciousness.


“Did his heart just stop?” Lapu asked.

Thomas leaned across the table. “What the hell are we talking about now?”

Lapu stood up. “I think that fucker passed out.”

“Which fucker?” Caroline’s chest pressed hard enough against her shirt to slow down her blood flow. Her eyes narrowed, but her hand was steady.

“The one that was losing.”

“That’s all you fuckers.” She tapped her tongue against her upper lip. “You’re all losing.”

Lapu shoved his chair back. “I don’t like losing.”

“But you do it so well.”

Thomas’s body shifted in his chair. “Not on purpose.”

The ceiling fan stopped, and the walls trapped all remnants of sound. One beat of silence was followed by another.

Lapu moved first. He slapped two fingers to Johnny’s wrist and checked for a pulse. The heartbeat was low and weak and arrhythmic.

“What do we do now?” Caroline asked. “Have you got a plan?”

Thomas stood up and sat back down again.

“Cayenne pepper and apple cider vinegar,” Lapu said. “Both have the potential to reduce the effects of arrhythmia.”

She pointed. “Or maybe he has pills in his pocket.”

Lapu nodded. “That is also an option. Check his pockets while I prop up his head.”

“I need another drink,” Thomas said. “I’d rather not be sober if a man is going to die.”

Caroline rolled her eyes. “Don’t be so melodramatic.”

Lapu had watched his father die with a look on his face not that far from the one Johnny wore now: the lost eyes and the still body, with his spirit on the verge of leaving this world for the next. Lapu poked through his pockets in a methodical fashion and found a prescription bottle with a half-peeled label. He popped the top, poked his finger through the slot, and removed two pills. He peeled Johnny’s lips apart, shoved the pills inside his mouth, and forced him to swallow. Minutes later, his life force had altered considerably, and color had returned to Johnny’s cheeks.

Lapu nodded his head. “There’s a purpose to every-thing.”

Thomas leaned over and slapped Johnny on the cheek. “I believe in the possibilities of a situation. Those moments that lead from one into the next, filled with passion and compassion and equality, and some other shit.”

Caroline smirked. “Which is what exactly?”

“Not losing another hand.”

Johnny inched his way to a sitting position and slapped his forehead. “Fuck me—”

“Not likely,” Caroline said. “It neither looks enjoy-able nor promising, but that’s a nice try, though.”

“Your perspective has gotten skewed,” Thomas re-plied.

“That’s certainly possible,” she said, “but I wouldn’t be so sure.”


More hands were played, and more hands were lost. Johnny’s stack of chips diminished faster until he was left with two red ones and half a drink. His even expression had vanished long ago, and his feet had started tap-ping during the last three hands. The Indian had six chips to Johnny’s two, and the rest were distributed between Thomas and Caroline, with the girl staring above a tower nearly level with her chin. Her expression hadn’t changed, and neither had her methodical approach to playing cards.

The barrel of a gun dug into Johnny’s lower back-side after he expunged the last two chips he had to his name. He didn’t have time to move or breathe, and he hadn’t even noticed Thomas shift his weight and remove the pistol from somewhere on his person. But the digging did further enhance Johnny’s focus and destroy his moral support. “Cuff him.”

“What the fuck?” Johnny replied.

“It’s time you realized the full extent of your losing.”

Johnny couldn’t see Caroline’s expression, but her voice was filled with menace and hate and exhibited more force than a battering ram.

“Stand up, you piece of trash.”

The gun shifted, and Johnny rose. The room spun, and he considered passing out all over again, but he pulled himself back and inched his way toward the metal door that was a lifetime away.

The barrel against his back never moved or wavered.


She hated cards. Had hated the act and aggression of gambling most of her life. The thrill of winning and the heartbreak of defeat neither moved nor motivated her. Tossing chips into a pot, calculating the odds in her head, reading players around the table, and playing the hands of the other players instead of playing her own made her head throb from the weight of the proposition. But she did it, over and over again. If she thought about it long enough and hard enough, Caroline might have called herself a professional gambler, but that was a term she hated even more than the act of taking money from unsuspecting souls who had a penchant for losing. But if her two choices were paying the rent, or living on the street, she would choose rent every time and worry about the consequences later.

She couldn’t change her fate, or her odds. All she could do was play the hand she was dealt, match it up against what the other guys and gals had around the table, and study the ticks and idiosyncrasies that made each player unique. Over-confidence and euphoria were concepts she knew well, and she could smell it coming like a New Mexican thunderstorm. Even though she understood what she needed to do, she hated her hands even more than she hated long division. With each passing second, her trepidation grew, and the calm she exuded on the surface was a thunderstorm underneath the shallow exterior. It had gotten to the point that it was totally out of control, and probably would be for the rest of her life. It wasn’t satisfying, or even mesmerizing, and yet here she was week after week, going through the motions. The same types of players sat around the table with the same types of expressions painted on their uneven faces. The voice in her mind echoed in time, and she did her best to keep the whispers at bay. But the plan backfired, just as all good plans did that were built on a foundation of lies.

“What the fuck do you think you’re doing?” Caroline asked.

“Trying to win,” Johnny said. “What does it look like I’m doing?”

“Losing,” she said. “And not even admirably. You really are one stupid bastard.”

She had been called to test him, to see if he would break and crumble beneath the weight of a bad hand or two or ten, and he had folded faster than a crumpled handbag smashed against a mugger’s face. She had chipped away steadily at his chips, until two red ones were all he had left, and a tower of multicolored circles stood in front of her.


Johnny had a hand that was planted in his lap by the gods, or maybe it was Julius Caesar himself. He couldn’t remember the number of times he’d lost in a row. Six or maybe it was seven. The torment and punishment continued unabated, and he licked his lips more with each passing second. The hands played out one after another against him, and the gates of Hell had opened before him. The girl to his right was methodical, and the jabs kept on coming, one right after another.

Her hands were probably her best feature. The way her fingers slid across the table, shoving chips and poking at her cards, and prodding the weaknesses of those around her, only made him long for her even more.

But this was it. His moment. And he wasn’t about to let it pass him by. Two minutes later, though, the moment passed, his chips were gone, a gun was shoved against his backside, and he was escorted out of the building.


Excerpt from The Fix by Robert Downs. Copyright © 2017 by Robert Downs. Reproduced with permission from Robert Downs. All rights reserved.



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Robert Downs aspired to be a writer before he realized how difficult the writing process was. Fortunately, he’d already fallen in love with the craft, otherwise his tales might never have seen print. Originally from West Virginia, he has lived in Virginia, Massachusetts, New Mexico, and now resides in California. When he’s not writing, Downs can be found reading, reviewing, blogging, or smiling.

Visit Robert's website or find him on Facebook.

Thursday, March 8, 2018

Beyond the Books: March is Women’s History Month

Beyond the Books is a weekly feature hosted right by Kissin Blue Karen. Beyond the Books is a weekly writing prompt where she throws out a topic (mostly non-bookish) and others blog about it.

These are some of the shirts my oldest daughter, the Lil' Diva, currently owns.

March is Women’s History Month. You can read, here, about the National Women's History Project, which led a coalition that successfully lobbied Congress to designate March as National Women’s History Month, which is now celebrated across the country. 

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Interview with M.K. Scott, Author of Requiem for a Rescue Dog Queen

M. K. Scott is the husband and wife writing team behind The Painted Lady Inn Mysteries and The Talking Dog Detective Agency. Morgan K Wyatt is the general wordsmith, while her husband, Scott, is the grammar hammer and physics specialist. He uses his engineering skills to explain how fast a body falls when pushed over a cliff and various other felonious activities. The Internet and experts in the field provide forensic information, while the recipes and B and B details require a more hands-on approach.  Morgan’s daughter, who manages a hotel, provides guest horror stories to fuel the plot lines. The couple’s dog, Chance, is the inspiration behind Jasper, Donna’s dog. Overall, both are a fun series to create and read.



Where did you grow up?

Since we are a writing team, we both have different back stories. Scott grew up in Battle Creek, Michigan and his father was an engineer at Kellogg.

I, Morgan, grew up in rural Indiana. The child of a farmer and his devoted wife, who later became a nurse. 

What is your fondest childhood memory?

It was riding my half broke pony, Flicka.

When did you begin writing?

Morgan- I started writing at the advanced age of six since the school reading books was so deadly boring. The teacher didn’t appreciate the alternative endings created for Dick and Jane stories.

Scott started writing about two years ago to help his wife create a cozy mystery series. 

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

Morgan-Usually early morning-anywhere from 4am to about 2pm in the afternoon.

Scott- I write at night.

What is this book about?

Requiem for a Rescue Dog Queen is about an extreme dog lover who is being threatened. It is assumed her harasser must really dislike dogs and her. Nala and Max, her talking rescue dog, step in to investigate when a fire is set near the kennel.

What inspired you to write it?

Morgan- People at the Indiana Historical Society Signing because they kept asking why I never set a book in Indiana.                                                          

Who is your biggest supporter?

Morgan-My biggest supporter is my husband, then my daughter, Sarah. 

Who is your favorite author?

Mary Higgins Clark and Nora Roberts

Was the road to publication smooth sailing or a bumpy ride?

Morgan-It was wildly bumpy! At the tender age of fifteen, I had my first poem published in a national magazine. After that, I was published in regional magazines, newspapers, liturgical papers, and anthologies. My articles/stories even appeared in Ladies Home Journal, Guideposts, and True Confessions.

About eleven years ago, I had an agent take my story, Act Your Age with a promise to promote it. She went out of business and forgot to tell me. I found out two years later from another writer. I had a publisher hold onto my story, Escaping West for another two years with the promise they wanted exclusive rights to the story. When the editor that chose it left, my story came back. I wasted four years waiting to hear from people.

I’ve had two publishers go bankrupt. So, I guess you can say the path to full scale novels has been rocky. I have published thirty books under four different pen names. Five are currently out of print. Nine are cozy mysteries and another two are waiting for release. 

If you knew then, what you know now, is there anything you would have done differently?

I would have stayed with one pen name.

Where can readers purchase a copy of your book?

Requiem for a Rescue Dog Queen is available on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, iTunes, Kobo and Smashwords.

Do you have a website and/or blog where readers can find out more?

 Website    Amazon   Facebook   Twitter  Goodreads    

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

Never give up on your dreams and try to write 1000 words every day.

What is up next for you?

The third book in The Talking Dog Detective Agency, Bark Twice for Danger, which is set in my hometown, Noblesville will be available in April.

The eighth book in The Painted Lady Inn Mysteries, The Skeleton wore Diamonds, will go on sale early March.

Is there anything you would like to add?

Much of my social media is under Morgan K Wyatt, my initial pen name.

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Interview with Diana Forbes, Author of Mistress Suffragette

Diana Forbes is a 9th generation American, with ancestors on both sides of the Civil War. Diana Forbes lives and writes in Manhattan. When she is not cribbing chapters, Diana Forbes loves to explore the buildings where her 19th Century American ancestors lived, loved, survived and thrived. Prior to publication, Diana Forbes’s debut won 1st place in the Missouri Romance Writers of America (RWA) Gateway to the Best Contest for Women’s Fiction. A selection from the novel was a finalist in the Wisconsin RWA “Fab Five” Contest for Women’s Fiction. Mistress Suffragette won 1st place in the Chanticleer Chatelaine Award’s Romance and Sensual category, and was shortlisted for the Somerset Award in Literary Fiction. Mistress Suffragette won Silver in the North American Book Awards and was a Winner of the Book Excellence Awards for Romance. Mistress Suffragette was also a Kirkus Best Indies Book of 2017. The author is passionate about vintage clothing, antique furniture, ancestry, and vows to master the quadrille in her lifetime. Diana Forbes is the author of New York Gilded Age historical fiction.



Can you tell us a bit about yourself? 

My name is Diana Forbes. I am passionate about the Gilded Age, untold stories, and Old New York. Mistress Suffragette is my debut novel, and I am writing the sequel now. 

Where did you grow up?

I grew up in Manhattan. So did my many of my ancestors. When I walk down the streets of Manhattan, I picture how it used to look during the late 1800’s—the sights, the sounds, the chocolate-dipped brownstones. Then, I try to capture that on the page.

What is your fondest childhood memory?

Probably when I asked by an English teacher to start the school newspaper. I was always a writer.

When did you begin writing?

I began writing when I was six years old. I wrote poems, diary entries (just like Harriet the Spy), restaurant reviews, and articles. When I was in high school, I wrote my first novella. I always knew that I would be a writer when I grew up. I was lucky because my parents encouraged me to do it.

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

No. I believe that writing is a habit. The habit needs to be enforced. I write from 9 a.m. until 3 p.m. or so every weekday. On Saturdays I take a break and write for only two hours. On Sunday, I frequently write for eight hours. In the afternoons, after I have written, I work on marketing my debut novel, Mistress Suffragette. I also like to read for about an hour every night.

What is this book about?

Mistress Suffragette is about a young woman who believes that she will get married and live a traditional life. Her young life is supremely comfortable. She’s not rich, but she has a great lifestyle. Due to an unforeseen circumstance, her lifestyle is whisked out from under her. Now she is distressed and searching for sanctuary. She ends up taking a paid job in the early women’s suffrage movement as a paid public speaker. Unfortunately elements from her past catch up to her, and her love life threatens to undo everything she’s fighting for.

What inspired you to write it?

I studied history and politics in college, and I thought the women’s suffrage movement wasn’t really taught correctly. I also felt that the way it was portrayed in movies was one-dimensional. I wanted to change that. I also am fortunate to possess a box of letters and photographs, passed down to me by my ancestors who were living in the U.S. dating back to before the Civil War. I had ancestors on both sides of the Civil War. Part of writing the novel was a journey for me as an author. I combed through their stories and tried to capture a tiny bit of what they went through.                                                                

Who is your biggest supporter?

I have had some wonderful writing teachers and mentors. I take two writing classes a week, every week.

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

I was a member of two writing groups, but I had to take a break from it when my debut novel, Mistress Suffragette, got published.

Who is your favorite author?

Edith Wharton is my favorite. I love Jane Austen as well.

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

I am agented.

Was the road to publication smooth sailing or a bumpy ride?

It is hard to get published today, no question. That said, each time I rewrote my story, I got to know my characters a little better. 

If you knew then, what you know now, is there anything you would have done differently?

No. All you can do as a writer is keep at it. One page at a time, one day at a time.

Where can readers purchase a copy of your book?

Amazon (paperback and Kindle); Barnes and Noble, Apple iTunes, Kobo Books, Smashwords.

Do you have a video trailer to promote your book?  If yes, where can readers find it?

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

Keep at it. Keep writing. And above all, believe in your project.

What is up next for you?

I am writing the sequel now.

Monday, March 5, 2018

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? - Mar 5

Looks like Musing Monday is on hiatus, so this week I'm featuring a different blog meme.

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? is a place to meet up and share what you have been, are and about to be reading over the week. It's a great post to organise yourself. It's an opportunity to visit and comment, and er... add to that ever growing TBR pile! So welcome in everyone. This meme started with J Kaye's Blog and then was taken up by Sheila from Book Journey. Sheila then passed it on to Kathryn at the Book Date.

These are the books I read while we were away on vacation...

These books I have started...

I'm loving Caroline, which is a story of the Ingalls family's trip from Wisconsin to settle in Kansas told from Caroline's point of view. It's interesting to witness this well-known journey evolve from a wife and mother's perspective instead of that of a young girl. I can relate to it told this way better now than Laura's version.

What have you read recently? What books are coming up?

Thursday, March 1, 2018

Book Review: Revision is a Process by Catherine E. McLean (Giveaway)

Self-editing got you down? Think it's dreadfully more boring than writing the first draft? Maybe it's time you look at it a bit differently. You'll find out how in Revision is a Process by author and instructor Catherine E. McLean.

In this short guide, McLean shares her years of experience and offers secrets, advice, and some nifty cheat sheets to systematically review the nuts and bolts of your manuscript and turn it into a reader-friendly and marketable piece of work.

I'm one of those crazy little people who enjoys revising more than writing the first draft, but for the rest of you writers out there who would rather cross the Sahara desert on your bare knees than edit your manuscript, Revision is a Process will definitely help. Broken down into twelve bite-size sections, you'll swiftly learn the tools you need to polish your work after that first draft is done.

McLean breaks the process down into manageable pieces that make sense. She speaks with authority, but also in a style that is welcoming and encouraging. I discovered in some ways her approach is similar to mine, but she provided tips that would make my own process better. Those cheat sheets are a great idea. It's also smart that she dedicates an entire section to "Grammar Glitches & Punctuation Pitfalls." We can all get tied up with those. She also includes a little bonus at the end.

If you're a writer, self-editing is part of the game. Learn how to play it right. Revision is a Process by Catherine E. McLean can show you how.


From Section 9 - Said is not Dead

One of the most controversial aspects of writing dialogue is the use of said as a speech tag. Some think using said is pedestrian and boring, others pepper every line of dialogue with said for fear the reader won't know who is speaking. The fact is that said is nearly invisible to a reader. However, overuse is a common problem, so delete as many as possible without jeopardizing clarity or use beats. (Revisit the Oubliette example on the previous page. Said was not used. Beats were.)

In your review to minimize using said, watch for LY or ING ending speech tags like: "Drop dead," she said dramatically. That tells (and does so poorly). Instead show with a beat: "Drop dead." The anger in her voice was unmistakable. You should avoid such tags as "Of course," he said knowingly (which has an ING and an LY). You may catch the LY and ING tags in the passivity check, which is discussed in Section 11. However, don't mistake the ING words when they're necessary, such as "Oh, that dialogue speech tag has a participle added to it," Marsha said, squinting at the underlined word on the page.

Yes, that's right, squinting is part of a participle phrase, which can be useful in speech tags.

Paperback: 122 pages
Publisher: Rimstone Concepts LLC; 1 edition (April 26, 2017)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0988587440
ISBN-13: 978-0988587441

Barnes & Noble:

I received a copy of this book from the author through Goddess Fish Promotions. This review contains my honest opinions, which I have not been compensated for in any way. 

Catherine E. McLean's lighthearted, short stories have appeared in hard cover and online anthologies and magazines. Her books include JEWELS OF THE SKY, KARMA & MAYHEM, HEARTS AKILTER, and ADRADA TO ZOOL (a short story anthology). She lives on a farm nestled in the foothills of the Allegheny Mountains of Western Pennsylvania. In the quiet of the countryside, she writes lighthearted tales of phantasy realms and stardust worlds (fantasy, futuristic, and paranormal) with romance and advenure. She is also a writing instructor and workshop speaker. Her nonfiction book for writers is REVISION IS A PROCESS - HOW TO TAKE THE FRUSTRATION OUT OF SELF-EDITING.

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